Once free agency begins in the NFL, it's often times a good time to start your fantasy football rankings for the upcoming season. Many players saw their value skyrocket. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman became a fantasy football sleeper and he didn't even have to do anything. That's what one signing, this being Vincent Jackson, will do to a player and an offense.
However, many times we will see a player's value go from "top notch" to "questionable" in the blink of an eye. Last year, Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart looked primed for a breakout season. That was until Caroline decided to bring DeAngelo Williams back in the fold. This year is no different. Below are two players who possibly went from being ranked in the top 10-12 amongst fantasy running backs to seeing their value dip in the first round or maybe even further.
Jamaal Charles - For me, Charles was a bit of a wildcard even before free agency as he is currently rehabbing from a torn ACL injury from Week One of the 2011 season. The good news is that since the injury was so early in the year, Charles should be ready by the time training camp begins. The bad news is that we could see a committee backfield after the Chiefs signed former Browns headcase Peyton Hillis to a one-year, $2.8 million contract on March 14. The move makes sense since both Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle are free agents, but it hurt Charles' owners since Hillis is an immediate upgrade at the backup spot over both Jones and Battle and could take a fair share of the carries. Another thing Hillis has going for him is that he is reunited with OC Brian Daboll, who was the Browns' offensive coordinator when Hillis had his breakout season (1177yds/11tds) in 2010. HC Romeo Crennel revealed that Hillis' role will be "game-plan specific" this season. It's too early to say what the Chiefs will have in mind, but this is definitely a situation I would rather avoid. As of now, Charles still has the most fantasy value. But if I am stuck with Charles, you better believe I am going to be making roster room for Hillis as his handcuff.
Matt Forte - The Bears thought enough of Forte to place the franchise tag on him this offseason after he racked up close to 1500 all-purpose yards in 2011, but they one upped the PPR stud by signing former Raiders RB Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million contract. Not only does this give the Bears leverage in contract negotiations, but it also muddles up Forte's future as a Bear past the 2012 season. Bush isn't your ordinary backup. He is a strong between-the-tackles runner and excels as a pass catcher when given the chance. Forte has been PPR gold in his four years in the league, averaging over 55 catches a season. But as a rusher, his numbers have been less-than-stellar after his 1238-yard rookie season. With the acquisition of Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler now has someone else to throw to instead of constantly checking down to Forte. And with Mike Martz out and Mike Tice in as offensive coordinator, we could see a drop in receiving production from Forte this year. In PPR leagues, Forte still has value as a low-end RB1. He is still "the guy." But Michael Bush will get his carries, especially near the endzone. This makes him a strong fantasy prospect in touchdown-heavy league. Forte tweeted frustration after the Bush signing, saying "Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last...." It's hard not to disagree with that assessment.