By: Nicholas Kaminski
On Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. EST, free agency began in the NFL, and many big name players found new places to call home. As a result, there is a great impact on the fantasy values of a number of players. Mike Wallace, Martellus Bennett, and Jared Cook are some of the more prominent players on the move that should have significant fantasy implications.
Mike Wallace Signs with the Phins
The Miami Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to a 5 year, $65 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. Those are some hefty numbers for a receiver that has had long stretches in which you can barely notice him on the field. He is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL and has amazing potential, but questionable hands and inconsistency have been an issue. Given these precautions, what should you expect to get from drafting Wallace?
If you go into the season expecting him to perform at a $65 million level, you will be sorely disappointed. Wallace is a serious threat when running deep routes or screens, but he is limited when you put him in the middle of the field. Despite being targeted more times in 2012 than in 2011, his production fell way off. This should come as a concern to fantasy fans, as he will likely be faced with similar targets with the Dolphins. They don’t have much at receiver outside of Brian Hartline, who has only had one truly productive season, which puts Wallace in a situation not unlike what Brandon Marshall faced while his was with the Dolphins. Even more so that with the Steelers, Wallace will have a ton of responsibility and will see constant double teams. Therefore, as a receiver that is still limited when he’s not running straight down the field, it will be tough to expect a big jump in production. For now, he sits in the middle of the WR2 category and shouldn’t be drafted until the 5th or 6th rounds.
Someone that this addition does help is Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill showed both good and bad at the quarterback position with the Dolphins in 2012, but things are looking up. Despite a limited supporting cast, Tannehill threw for almost 3300 yards and competed almost 60% of his passes. Mike Wallace gives Tannehill someone to throw to deep and open up space for the rest of the offense. Once the Dolphins find a quality tight end to replace Anthony Fasano, who recently left for the Chiefs, Tannehill’s stock should increase even further. Although he showed progression over the 2012 season, there is incredible depth in the NFL at the quarterback position, so Tannehill is still only a late round flier, but could work in to many lineups as a waiver pickup if he continues to improve.
Martellus Bennett leaves New York for Windy City
The Bears had a mediocre season in 2012, but a good receiving tight end could help turn that around. Martellus Bennett was great in New York Giants in 2012 with his reliability in both receiving and blocking. Blocking is a huge need for Chicago, so Bennett will make an immediate impact on the team.
Although the Bears traditionally didn’t utilize their TEs as receiving options under Lovie Smith, new coach Marc Trestman is an offensively minded head coach who will take advantage of Bennett’s skillset. He finished last season as the 14th best TE in fantasy after a season of 626 yards and 5 TDs, and could even push the top 10 this year as the second best receiving option behind Brandon Marshall.
This addition also adds value to Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler. Giving him a security blanket at the tight end position and an effective blocker to help in pass protection will only allow Cutler to become more comfortable in the pocket. Cutler had a very tough year in 2012 in which he was virtually unplayable because of the tremendous inconsistency. For 2013, the addition of Bennett moves Cutler to around #20 among quarterbacks, but with a revamped offensive line he could even move into the mid-teens.
Jared Cook Finds a New Home in St. Louis
The Rams have officially started making strides towards giving Sam Bradford the weapons he needs to flourish. They made it clear that he was their man when they passed on Robert Griffin III, but have never really put much around him. He had a collection of mediocre receivers in 2012, but the addition of Jared Cook seems to be a sign of things to come.
After a solid 2011 campaign in which he caught 49 passes for 759 yards, Cook struggled in 2012 as his role declined and the Titans underutilized him. He is a special physical specimen, and clearly has the talent to be an elite tight end in this league. With Bradford, the best QB he’s had throwing to him in his NFL career, Cook could be a major breakout candidate.
Sam Bradford has the potential to realize the promise that made him the #1 pick in the 2010 draft, but is not worthy of a starting job in fantasy yet. Many of you may be surprised to know that Bradford was actually the 16th best QB in 2012. He needs some more protection around him and a #1 receiving option, expect them to find improve those positions in the draft. He is primed for a solid fantasy season and is a quality backup QB with upside.