Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
First lets start with Part One: the AFC East. Make sure to check back for Part Two-Eight as I cover the details of all 32 teams over the course of the next several days.
To add more weapons to aid in the progression of QB E.J. Manuel, the Bills moved up in the NFL Draft and selected WR Sammy Watkins out of Clemson. To make room, the Bills traded WR Stevie Johnson to the 49ers for a 2015 fourth-round pick. With Johnson gone, HC Doug Marrone says Watkins and Robert Woods will both get a shot to man the slot. For now, Watkins is only worth a late-round flier as his quarterback is still iffy.
The Bills also traded for RB Bryce Brown from the Eagles for a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick after missing out on the opportunity to trade up for (49ers) RB Carlos Hyde. Fred Jackson is 33 years old and has one year left on his deal. C.J. Spiller could be on the outs as he has had trouble clinging to the featured back role. Plus he has a chance to opt out of his current deal once the 2014 season is over. For fantasy owners in dynasty leagues, Brown could be a strong sleeper option to target now for a low price. I doubt owners make the same mistake and draft Spiller as a top-5 option. His time is running out.
After failing to live up to his preseason hype in 2013, Lamar Miller now has featured running back competition after the Dolphins signed former Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno to a one-year deal. It appears we have a dreaded running back by committee, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Moreno eventually out-touch Miller as the season goes on. I'd stay away from this situation. But if I absolutely had to choose, I'd draft Moreno in the teens as the upside is there for him to continue his success.
QB Ryan Tannehill's outlook appears bright after the team made changes to the offensive line, signing former Chiefs OL Branden Albert to a five-year, $46 million contract and drafting 6'6/311 pound OL Ja'Wuan James with their 19th overall pick in the first round. Will these movies make Tannehill a QB1? Hell no, but we could finally see him flirt with higher QB2 status.
Miami also made a splash in regards to their receiving corps by drafting LSU WR Jarvis Landry in the second round. There have been rumors that Miami coaches "aren't big fans" of Mike Wallace. And this could be a sign that the Dolphins are planning to opt out of Wallace's contract after 2014 and save money against the cap. Wallace will need to prove himself this year since 2013 was an obvious bust. Wallace is nothing more than a WR4 until he can prove the money he got last year was worth it. As for Landry, stay away from him for now. While he will battle Brian Hartline for playing time and maybe even Hartline's position, rookie receivers simply aren't worth drafting unless their situation is clear as day before the season. These guys make for better waiver wire options instead.
New England Patriots
After rumors spread that the Patriots were ready to trade backup QB Ryan Mallett to the Texans before or during the draft, the news was put to rest as Mallett is still listed as the No. 2 behind QB Tom Brady. There is still the possibility Mallett could have a new home soon after New England used a second-round pick on Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Mallett becomes a free agent after this season, meaning he could be a nice grab dynasty option if he can land a starting job in 2015. The Texans might now be biding their time much like the Dolphins did with Albert and the Chiefs in 2013.
The Patriots shook up their backfield by allowing LeGarrette Blount to enter free agency, eventually signing a two-year, $3.85 million contract. The team made up for the loss by drafting Wisconsin RB James White in the third round. White has never played as a featured back in college, doing most of his damage with Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. He likely won't be anything more than a change-of-pace back. However, owners should keep in mind that both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are in contract years. So White could be valuable in 2015. Vereen is the better option between he and Ridley, especially in PPR leagues, for this season.
After a disappointing 2013 season in terms of the receiving corps, the Patriots settled on signing former Panthers WR Brandon LaFell to a three-year, $11 million contract. He's expected to compete with Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins for snaps. The team also re-signed last year's hero WR Julian Edelman to a four-year deal. Despite the fact that no contract has been signed and nothing appears imminent, the Patriots still appear to be interested in signing former Jets and Dolphins TE Dustin Keller to play the No. 2 tight end spot behind TE Rob Gronkowski. So far the only two tight ends on the depth chart behind Gronk are D.J. Williams and Michael Hoomanawanui. If Danny Amendola can stay healthy, that cuts into Edelman's fantasy production. Meaning neither are worth more than a WR3 spot until we see one of them pop out from the mix. Don't even bother with LaFell. A change of scenery isn't going to improve his status in an already crowded receiving corps. As is the case every year, Gronk appears to be the only real pass-catching fantasy option if he can stay healthy.
New York Jets
After a less-than-stellar performance as a rookie (and that's putting it lightly), QB Geno Smith will be contending with former Eagles QB Michael Vick, who was signed to a one-year deal. Smith still sits at No. 1 at the depth chart. The Jets have not anointed either player the Week One starter, but HC Rex Ryan said Vick "definitely has a chance to win the job." Stay away from both of these guys at your draft.
With Chris Ivory averaging just 55.5 rushing yards a game in his debut last season, the Jets wasted no time in signing RB Chris Johnson. Johnson, coming off another 1,000 yard season with the Titans, is expected to add a "1-2 punch" with both he and Ivory in the backfield. In regards to fantasy, Johnson could be a sleeper option in PPR leagues. There is also a chance he could push Ivory for the starting job outright.
Making headlines at both the quarterback and running back position, the team made the biggest splash at their receiving position by signing top free agent WR Eric Decker to a five-year, $36.25 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. Decker and David Nelson are currently penciled in as the starters, with the team losing patience in Stephen Hill. The Jets also filled a glaring need for a pass-catching tight end by drafting Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro with the No. 49 overall pick. Amaro recently signed a four-year deal on May 16th. Amaro caught 87.5% of his passes from the slot. Amaro will push Jeff Cumberland for snaps and should land the starting job fairly quickly due to his talent. Amaro is one to keep an eye on near the end of your draft. Decker has the talent to be a WR1, but he comes with a few question marks. Mainly did his value hinge on QB Peyton Manning? How will he fare with such a downgrade at quarterback? I would draft Decker as nothing more than a WR2 as these questions persist throughout the summer. His value could plummet due to his surroundings.