2015 Fantasy Football Sleepers Part IV

Finding Fantasy Football Sleepers

Part IV

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will look at how personnel changes can increase or decrease the value of players.

I recently came across an article online that stated that you can quit searching for the next fantasy sleeper at your draft because since everyone does it, there are basically no sleepers available anymore.

I beg to differ with this opinion, not in the fact that the true fantasy sleeper no longer exists, but that the research necessary to locate sleepers has changed. I am almost begrudgingly writing this article since I know that some of my fellow fantasy competitors read my work and this will provide insight into where I look to find value in the upcoming fantasy football draft, but this is the type of information that separates the good teams from the playoff teams come December.

The question you should be asking is how new additions improve the players around them? You can use this type of rationalization when it comes to free agent additions as well as defections that can have positive effects on player statistics.

In Part I we examined how the arrival of Jameis Winston will affect the players around him on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and in Part II examined how Marcus Mariota will impact the value of his fellow Tennessee Titans. Part III of this series analyzed 2015 draft picks Amari Cooper, Kevin White and Todd Gurley and how they may benefit their new teams.

Today we will look at free agent wide receivers and the impact they may have on their new team. We will only examine players who have signed with new teams as when a player resigns we expect similar numbers to the previous season if the other members of the offense remain intact.

  • Jeremy Maclin – Kansas City Chiefs

Maclin leaves a system in Philadelphia where he was the primary beneficiary of an offensive system that wanted to move the ball down the field on every play. As the primary WR for the Eagles last season he was targeted 143 times, caught 85 balls for 1,318 yards and 10 TD’s. He also had 21 receptions for 20 yards or more. He is moving into a system where 2014 WR1 (Dwayne Bowe) was targeted just 96 times. Bowe caught 60 balls for 754 yards and ZERO TD’s. Only 9 of the 60 receptions went for 20 or more yards.

Maclin was a product of the system in Philadelphia and he also benefited from the departure of DeSean Jackson which made him WR1 by default. He parlayed last season’s success into a 5 year $55 million dollar contract with the Chiefs, but his arrival will not turn Chiefs quarterback, Alex Smith, into a better passer. A 200 yard passing day is a good day for the Chiefs who concentrate on the run with Jamal Charles. Expect to see a decline across the board from Maclin in all categories for the upcoming season. We would have him as a low WR2 on our board.

  • Torrey Smith – San Francisco 49ers

Smith left the Baltimore Ravens to join another former Raven wide receiver, Anquan Boldin, in San Francisco. Smith never fully living up to his potential with the Ravens, and is entering a situation where he is likely to see a further decrease in his value as a fantasy wide receiver.

Last season with Baltimore Smith was targeted 93 times and caught 49 balls for 767 yards. What made Smith valuable as a fantasy receiver was the fact that 11 of those 49 balls (22%) went for touchdowns. He is now entering a team that could be on the verge of a rapid decline from last season. Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh, left for Michigan and was replaced by former Defensive Line Coach, Jim Tomsula. Tomsula has never been anything but a Defensive Line Coach at the NFL if you remove his one-week interim head coaching experience when Mike Singletary was fired near the end of the 2010 season. He was a defensive assistant as well as a Defensive Coordinator for NFL Europe before a one-year stint as Head Coach with the Rhein Fire. We don’t look for Tomasula to turn quarterback Colin Kapernick into Payton Manning, or even Eli Manning.

The 49ers not only lost their fiery Head Coach, but also their leading rusher when Frank Gore signed with the Indianapolis Colts in the offseason. Gore will be replaced by 2014 2nd round draft pick Carlos Hyde but as you can see this is an offense that struggled in 2014 and now faces a number of defections and changes going into the 2015 season with a coach who is offensively challenged. None of these factors lead us to believe that Smith will make a positive impact on the 49ers, and most likely will have less value for 2015 as his TD figures will not approach the 2014 number with the Ravens. Smith is a WR3 at best for 2015 with San Francisco.

  • Andre Johnson – Indianapolis Colts

Johnson, now entering his 13th NFL season, shows no sign of slowing down. For his career he has 1,012 receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns playing with David Carr, Matt Shaub and Ryan Fitzpatrick at his quarterback. Mr. Johnson, we would like to introduce you to Andrew Luck.

The 6’3”, 230 lbs. Johnson has been a beast throughout his career putting up good fantasy numbers every season with a rotation of less than NFL caliber quarterbacks throwing him the ball. He now enters a situation at the end of his career that could make him a more valuable fantasy wide receiver.

Andrew Luck is a rising superstar in the NFL who averaged almost 24 completions per game last season. Luck threw for 40 touchdowns in 2014, and Johnson, who has never been a huge red zone threat, could definitely see an increase over his 2014 total of 3 TD’s with Luck as his quarterback. We expect to see an increase in all of Johnson’s numbers over the 2014 season and believe he could surpass his career-high of 9 receiving TD’s set in 2009 playing with Andrew Luck. Another plus for Johnson and Luck in 2015 is the addition of Frank Gore at RB who should further allow the Colts to open up their passing game.

In part five of the series we will continue to examine how personnel changes will affect the value of fantasy players for the upcoming season. Our next article will address the addition of Gore to Colts as well as other running backs that are joining new teams in 2015.


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Sports Cheetah has been using analytics, game theory, and his Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology to profit from betting football and basketball for several years. He’s made multiple appearances on ESPN1100 and other radio shows throughout the nation to discuss his expertise. High-volume bettor. Sound practitioner of bankroll management.

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