Earlier in the week, we spotlighted some of the players whose fantasy value was on the rise thanks to free agency, but unfortunately not everyone was so lucky.
Here’s a look at five players whose fantasy stock is taking a hit due to the moves (or lack thereof) that have happened around them.
Thomas Rawls, Seahawks
Despite the great return on investment the Seahawks have received with the undrafted Rawls, they clearly felt the need to add more talent to their backfield. After kicking the tires on the veteran running back market, the decision was made to sign former Packer and P90X enthusiast Eddie Lacy to a one-year deal.
Lacy now appears to be the favorite to take over as starter in Seattle, a role he could excel in, if dedicated. The plus-sized back averaged a career-best 5.1 yards per carry last year, during an injury-shortened season in Green Bay. Reports of him weighing 267 pounds at one of his free agent visits aren’t as big of a concern as many are making them out to be. There’s a long way to go before the season.
Even if Rawls somehow manages to retain lead back duties, he’ll still be forced to split touches with Lacy and passing-game specialist C.J. Prosise, while playing behind a questionable offensive line. All three backs will represent high-risk, high-reward picks in this year’s fantasy drafts. Lacy should best be viewed as an RB3/flex, while Rawls has gone from a potential RB2 to a mid-to-late round stash. Prosise is only worth consideration in PPR leagues.
Projected stats for 2017: Lacy – 204 carries, 938 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 12 catches, 111 receiving yards
Rawls – 88 carries, 360 rushing yards, 3 TDs, 5 catches, 37 receiving yards
Jordan Howard, Bears
Unlike Rawls, Howard isn’t suffering from new competition. Instead, he’s dealing with a feeling of loneliness after the Bears failed to re-sign Alshon Jeffery and didn’t add any true impact players to the offense in free agency.
Chicago did replace Jay Cutler with Mike Glennon, but there are no guarantees the former Bucs passer is an upgrade. The team also inked deals with receivers Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright, as well as tight end Dion Sims, who are all intriguing low-risk investments that could exceed expectations, but aren’t likely to power the offense.
That puts all the pressure on Howard to continue to carry the load, something he did for most of his rookie year en route to 1,611 total yards and seven touchdowns. The problem is that defenses will have an offseason to prep for the Bears attack, and without a real threat in the passing game or an improvement at offensive tackle, Howard faces a much more difficult challenge in 2017. It’s enough to drop him from a top-five fantasy back to a low-end RB1.
Projected stats for 2017: 268 carries, 1,286 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 22 catches, 219 receiving yards
Andy Dalton, Bengals
This section really could be reserved for the entire Bengals offense, which now has to operate without the help of a beefed up set of blockers. Stud linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler signed elsewhere, turning one of Cincinnati’s biggest strengths into a glaring weakness.
The losses on their front line will be noticeable in the stat lines of all their offensive weapons, in large part due to the looming regression from Dalton. One reason a quarterback with limited arm talent like Dalton has been able to succeed is the steady protection that’s been afforded to him. With a comfortable pocket removed from the equation, the Bengals signal caller might struggle to get the ball downfield.
Dalton, who finished as a fantasy QB1 in three of the last five seasons, should be completely avoided in 2017. You may even want to break ties against Bengals weapons like A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, if a comparable player is also available in that round.
Projected stats for 2017: 336 completions, 541 attempts, 3,857 passing yards, 18 TDs, 16 INTs, 39 carries, 119 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3 FUMs
Malcolm Mitchell, Patriots
Some may view Julian Edelman as the player most affected by the Brandin Cooks trade, but the long-time Patriot will remain one of Tom Brady’s favorite options even if his new teammate siphons a few targets away.
The real fantasy victim will be the breakout potential of the sophomore Mitchell, who flashed down the stretch in 2016, including a six-catch, 70-yard effort in Super Bowl LI. The fourth-round wideout will find himself fighting with Chris Hogan for scraps behind the trio of Edelman, Cooks, and Rob Gronkowski.
Unless he can soundly beat out Hogan for the No. 3 receiver job, Mitchell will need an injury to someone above him on the depth chart in order to fulfill the second-year leap that appeared possible before the trade. We can put this sleeper back to bed, for now.
Projected stats for 2017: 51 targets, 33 catches, 445 receiving yards, 3 TDs
Zach Ertz, Eagles
The Eagles revamped receiving corps spells trouble for Ertz, who will have a hard time replicating his top-10 fantasy finishes over the last two seasons.
Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith joining Jordan Matthews gives Carson Wentz one of the league’s best receiving trios. Jeffery and Matthews should pace the offense in targets, while Smith serves as a periodic deep threat stretching defenses. Ertz will remain involved, but his days as a fantasy TE1 with 100 targets per season have come to an end.
Ertz has never scored more than four touchdowns in a season, so his chances of making up the fantasy points by increasing his red-zone production can almost entirely be ruled out. Even in the later rounds, he’s best left for another fantasy owner to deal with.
Projected stats for 2017: 82 targets, 61 catches, 634 receiving yards, 3 TDs
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