Free Agency Day 2: fantasy winners and losers

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Liz Loza
Free Agency Day 2: fantasy winners and losers
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While not as frenzied as day 1, free agency continued to bring plenty of surprises in its second day. The tight end landscape experienced a lot of movement and some previously hopeful situations look a bit more grim just 24 hours later. My fantasy take on the offseason action is below. Feel free to send me your thoughts via Twitter or take to the comments section on the bottom of the page. Have at it!

WINNERS:

Coby Fleener, TE, New Orleans Saints
In an attempt to fill the vacancy left by Ben Watson, Andrew Luck’s teammate of seven years is heading to the Big Easy. Signing a five-year deal worth $36 million, Fleener will become the starter in a system that heavily favors the middle.

Last year Watson garnered 101 looks, which was more than Jason Witten or Travis Kelce. Regarded as a “catch-first” tight end, Fleener averaged 52 receptions and 625 yards over his last three seasons. No longer in a timeshare with Dwayne Allen, Fleener’s assumed up-tick in opportunities should vault him into top-twelve fantasy contention.

While I think Fleener’s talents are grossly overrated, Brees’ history of elevating the position (Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, and Jimmy Graham) increases the former Colts’ appeal. My worry is that fantasy owners won’t take into account Brees’ potential decline and the probability of an upgraded defense, which may limit the tight end’s production. Yes, Fleener’s situation is much improved, but due to his brand name landing spot, there exists the potential for an inflated price tag.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts
A much better all-around athlete than Fleener, Allen will be staying in Indy for four more years. Signing a contract worth $29.4 million, Allen has a chance to make a fantasy splash in proportion to his 6-foot-3 and 265 pound frame. No longer forced to block while Fleener lets balls bounce off his hands, the 26-year-old has been promised a larger piece of the passing pie.

The biggest obstacle for Allen will be staying healthy. Having battled hip, knee, and ankle issues over the past three seasons, his upside comes with obvious risk. Still, his eight scores from 2014 prove that he’s a talent worthy of being relied upon. Assuming Luck also bounces back and with Fleener out of the equation, Allen has a shot at a 10 TD campaign in 2016.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Tennessee Titans
The Titans have hogged much of the offseason spotlight, extolling the virtues of exotic smashmouth and trading for DeMarco Murray. Today they made another move, signing WR Rishard Matthews to a three-year and $15 million deal. With DeVante Parker shelved at the start of last season, Matthews capitalized on the opportunity and emerged as the Dolphins No. 2 receiving option. A rib injury coupled with Parker’s return to health, however, halted the 26-year-old’s rise, and tenure in Miami.

Now in Tennessee, Matthews will compete for targets with TE Delanie Walker, WR Kendall Wright, and Green-Beckham. While his value is likely to remain static as a plug-and-play option, DGB’s has improved.

Due to a limited route tree, the ultra-green wideout was barely utilized in 2015. However, in examining his targets, it’s interesting to note that 10 of his 67 total looks were in the red zone. At 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds his TD appeal is obvious, and with Matthews available to draw coverage, he should have an easier time converting on those opportunities. The Titans are a hard team to trust, but the addition of Matthews could be key in aiding Green-Beckham’s breakout, potentially doubling his rookie season stats and vaulting him into WR2 territory.

LOSERS:

Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Yeah, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be as rosy as most had initially suspected. Fueled by the excitement of a Forte and Brandon Marshall reunion, Twitter was swollen with optimism over the ex-Bear’s landing spot. Since then, however, Bilal Powell was re-signed and Khiry Robinson was added.

The RB1 in a crowded backfield, Forte is absolutely still a fantasy starter. Yet, coming off a career-low campaign, in which he missed three weeks due to injury, the 30-year-old’s days as a 20 tote per game workhorse are behind him. Possessing a versatile skill set, Forte’s career can be extended, but let’s not forget Powell lit it up as a pass-catcher, averaging over 5 receptions per contest between Weeks 11 and 16 last year. Additionally, Robinson is a bruiser who averaged over 4.0 YPC during his three seasons in New Orleans. A capable RB2, Forte remains a top-twenty option at the position, whose overall stats from last year should regress slightly heading into 2016.

Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
When the Lamar Miller to Houston news broke yesterday, Ajayi supporters celebrated with wild abandon. The confetti ceased to fall today, however, when it was discovered that C.J. Anderson would likely land in South Florida. The Broncos currently have five days to match the Dolphins offer, but if they don’t then Anderson will head to warmer climes.

This bodes well for the (almost) former Bronco, as he’ll reunite with Adam Gase, who coached him to a 1,173 all-purpose yard and 10 TD season in 2014. Averaging 4.7 YPC in back-to-back campaigns, Anderson should continue to excel in Miami, but he’ll share the load with Ajayi. Separate from each other they have RB1 potential, but on the same team their value is capped. Both adequate pass catchers with enough power to dominate at the goal line, their opportunities should be nearly even.

I’d give a slight edge to Anderson since he has history with Gase and expect the 25-year-old California native to put up high-end RB2 numbers. Ajayi is more of a wild card. He’ll have to prove his 1a potential to Gase during camp, but should still carry the rock 10-12 times per contest and could conservatively finish with upwards of 900 total yards and 5 TDs. Ultimately, this is a reflection of the muddiness at the running back position, driving up the price on players like David Johnson and the aforementioned Miller.

Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF