FA Expectancy: Marshall & Decker

Updated: July 24th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Like the Raiders of the 2000’s, the Jets might be the worst place for NFL talent to go this decade. Despite having career years in 2015 Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were unable to propel the Jets back to playoffs for the first time since 2010. Then last year, an injury ended Decker’s season before October and Marshall’s stats came crashing back down due to the poor quarterback play of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. Both receivers were released and the Jets are once again in rebuilding mode. Both players are over 30 years old now (Decker 30, Marshall 33) but still have fantasy value for the right price and while the Jets are expected to have an awful record they do have some interesting young receivers that could benefit from garbage time points and be savvy plays week to week.

Marshall to New York 2.0

It made sense that Brandon Marshall would want to stay in New York with his frequent appearances on Inside the NFL and luckily the Giants are trying to keep their playoff window open. Therefore, it was a mutually beneficial acquisition. The Giants are looking to build on their playoff appearance last year but needed more than just Odell Beckham Jr. to beat the Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys. Marshall is no stranger to playing in an offense that features a #1 and 1A receiver, though he’s usually been the first option so it will be interesting to see what his role will be as the #2. There shouldn’t be a decline in production from Odell’s standpoint and much like Mike Evans the addition of another passing option should help keep safeties from shading one side of the field. Expect another top 10 fantasy production season in 2017.

Probably the player that has been most affected by this addition is sophomore receiver Sterling Shepard who looked like he may be coming into his own during the final games of last season. While the Giants have been one of the more consistent teams to run 3 WR sets their WR3 the last two seasons has not been fantasy relevant scoring only 101 PPR points. Shepard may be one of the better buy-low candidates because of his long term upside but for RSO owners it would be difficult without there being an injury to Marshall. Because of the RSO rookie contract format, he was likely a 1st round rookie pick last year which means that he will be under contract for as long as Marshall is in town. He may have the opportunity to regain his WR2 role after 2 years but then he will be back in your auction in 2018 or 2019. If you think he will be a great receiver moving into the next decade or you do not trust Marshall to stay healthy he should be easy to acquire. It will also be unlikely that he asks for a large salary with the new resign feature so it would be possible to hold him for another 5-7 years. Otherwise, if you drafted him last year and you want to have value now it’s probably best to get at least a 2nd round return for him before he loses more value.

Eli Manning should benefit from having another weapon to get the ball to in the end zone as they lacked a running game to finish off drives last year. Marshall has been one of the better targets in the end zone having 8 or more touchdowns 4 out of the last 5 years. Any given week Manning has the upside to be a QB1 but often manages to disappoint owners in easy matchups and therefore can be a headache to start. There are several other QBs that would cost the same or slightly less (Taylor, Rivers, Stafford) that I would rather pick up in the auction. Let others be frustrated with the highs and lows a typical Eli season.

Decker’s Move to the Music City

Decker Titans

Much like Marshall’s ties to New York, it made sense that Eric Decker would move to Nashville to be closer to the country music scene where his wife, country singer Jessie James works. It probably also helped that the Titans are shaping up to be a pretty good team in the AFC South and could be the sleeper team to win the division this season.

There are two pressing questions that are holding down Decker’s fantasy value for owners in 2017. The first is his health and whether at 30 years old he will be able to continue to play at a high level coming off of shoulder and hip surgeries. Adam Schefter reported that he was medically cleared back in June and the Titans would have done their due diligence before signing him. Still, they only signed him to a one year deal which could suggest that he was brought in to see what’s left and act more as a mentor to their young receiving core of Corey Davis, Taywon Taylor, and Tajae Sharpe.

The second question is what Decker’s role will be in the “smashmouth” offense of Head Coach Mike Mularkey and whether Corey Davis/Rishard Matthews can be the primary receiver. When Decker was able to operate as the second option behind Demaryius Thomas (2012, 2013) and Brandon Marshall (2015) he was able to take advantage of the coverage and averaged 84 catches, 1100 yards and 12 touchdowns in those three seasons. His 2014 season with the Jets he had to function as the primary receiver and he only had 5 touchdowns and less than 1,000 yards. In an offense that has two powerful redzone RBs and another receiver (Matthews) that also operates as a redzone threat, it might be difficult for Decker to accumulate the scores that he has been known to do over the last 5 seasons. Luckily, no one should be drafting Decker to expect his 2012-2013 stats but his 2015 season (less a few touchdowns) could be a reasonable expectation. He presents WR2 upside so he should be a value in auctions between $4-8MM. Just don’t get carried away and offer more than 1 year as we don’t know what his situation will be this time next year.

Low Flying Jets

The Jets cleaned house after a 4-12 season letting go of several key players on both sides of the ball. The team is unlikely to have a lot of wins in 2017 but luckily for fantasy, there are always garbage points. With the top two options gone the depth chart is also wide open for a receiver to accumulate these points. Quincy Enunwa is thought to be the first choice for fantasy owners as he played the most snaps last year of the remaining receivers and he showed fantasy value for deeper leagues. He has the size and athleticism (6’2”, 225lbs) that you would want from an X receiver which is where most people think he fits best. Playing opposite to Marshall last season he didn’t have to face many double teams and blanket coverages which could be a problem if he is unable to win off the line or create space for himself. WR3 is probably a ceiling for Enunwa but he also has the highest floor of any Jet receivers. I acquired him in my first auction of the season for $14MM/4yr and he earned $17.5MM/3yr in my home league. I expect at least one owner in each league to value him in about this range. Depending on how late in your auction he is nominated he may go for even less.

For those who don’t want to spend the same money on Enunwa, you can add Robby Anderson who I also got at the end of the auction for $1MM. Anderson is the opposite of Enunwa, a lighter receiver (190lbs) that is likely going to be playing mostly out of the slot. Depending on whether the QB that wins the starting job likes to press the ball downfield or wants to throw short, underneath routes will likely determine whether Anderson has any fantasy value in 2017. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jets games where Anderson gobbles up curl and drag route catches in the 4th quarter to turn 3 point games into 10 point games in PPR. Predicting these games will require a little bit of luck but for what is essentially a free player you can see what he has and then move on during the season if need be.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

Should We Retire D/ST Position?

Updated: July 8th 2016

#NoMoreDefST

Where did the D/ST position come from? I understand that, like prop bets, it’s fun to have action on every aspect of a football game, but I believe the D/ST increases the randomness of weekly contests and makes fantasy football a less fun and skillful hobby. I’ve long believed the scoring outputs are too matchup and touchdown dependent, and are often aided by fluke, unpredictable plays. The quality of the defense matters less than it does at any other position. This has been a theory of mine for years, but I wanted to dive into the data and see if my theory was actually true.

There has been a movement to get rid of the kicker position, which has even been adopted by DraftKings and MyFantasyLeague. Why isn’t there much of a push to retire the D/ST position? Let’s examine why there should be #NoMoreDefST.

Weekly Matchups Impact D/ST Outputs More Than Any Other Position

Through analyzing ESPN’s 2015 Points Against Data, I discovered that defenses (D/ST) were affected more dramatically by weekly matchups than any other positions. Defenses facing the Tennessee Titans‘ offense averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game. Cleveland‘s offense was just behind Tennessee at 10.4 fppg. Ranking as the 32nd best matchup, defenses facing the Arizona Cardinals‘ offense averaged only 1.6 fppg. Teams facing the best matchup, Tennessee, scored 719% more points than those facing Arizona, the worst matchup. Looking at that same metric, it’s clear that other positions are far less affected by weekly matchups – QBs 197%, RBs 216%, WRs 196%, and TEs 260%. As unpredictable as the NFL, do we really want our weekly contests being decided by whichever defense is lucky enough to face a team like Tennessee or Cleveland?

How Does The Season Schedule Impact The D/ST Scoring Leaders?

Since we’ve found that weekly matchups matter greatly to fantasy D/STs, I wanted to determine if the frequency of good matchups dramatically impact the season long scoring leaders. To test this theory, I tallied how many top 10 matchups (using the aforementioned ESPN Points Against Data) each of the top 10 and bottom 10 fantasy scoring defenses faced in 2015. Teams that finished in the top 10 in scoring, according to ESPN’s 2015 Scoring Leaders, averaged 5.8 top 10 matchups during the season, while bottom 10 teams averaged only 4.1 top 10 matchups. A difference in nearly 2 top 10 matchups per team appears to have impacted the standings. This isn’t to say the quality of the D/ST doesn’t matter, but to explain that factors outside of their control impact their scoring outputs more than any other position.

Are TDs Too Heavily Weighted For D/STs?

The Philadelphia D/ST scored 7 TDs in 2015, tied for the most of any team. This aided the Eagles D/ST into becoming a defense that warranted consideration from many fantasy owners. On the season, Philadelphia finished 16th after a poor final month. Of the top 23 D/STs in 2015 scoring, no D/ST had more zero or negative point games than Philadelphia. Philadelphia had 5 such games. 7 plays  –Darren Sproles return TDs, a blocked punt, a fumble, and several interceptions caused the Eagles to swing several matchups in 2015. I’d argue that the randomness and unpredictability of these TDs required little preparation and skill from their fantasy owners.

Verdict

Fantasy football has never been more popular than it is right now. Major networks such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and NFL Network now produce weekly shows to help fantasy owners set lineups before kickoff every Sunday. Fantasy football platforms with unique offerings like Reality Sports Online are rapidly growing in popularity. With all of this growth in the industry, the widely accepted standard roster positions and scoring have mostly remained intact. With more resources for preparation and news information available than we have time to read, we should also aim to optimizing the experience on Sundays. Nothing is more frustrating than watching your season end as a defensive lineman runs into the endzone for a TD on a recovered fumble. You saw that coming? Me neither.

Join me in retiring the D/ST position on Twitter (@DaveSanders_RSO) by using the hashtag #NoMoreDefST!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

Will DeMarco Murray Thrive in TEN?

Updated: March 28th 2016

DeMarco Murray, a Tennessee Titan?  That will take a few preseason games to get used to.  Will the polarizing running back now thrive away from Chip Kelly?

Scheme-fit

MurrayThe popular narrative surrounding DeMarco Murray’s dreadful 2015 was that he was misused by the Eagles coaching staff as he turned out to be a poor scheme fit for Chip Kelly’s offense.  Utilized out of shotgun on nearly 85% of his runs, Murray stumbled in Philadelphia – averaging 3.6 yards per carry out of the shotgun, after averaging 5.3  yards per carry on just over 100 carries out of the shotgun in Dallas according to Mike Clay of ESPN.  His declining performance eventually led to Murray being phased out of the offense as the season progressed.  After letting go of Chip Kelly, Eagles Interim Head Coach Pat Shurmur ran Murray frequently under center in the Eagles Week 17 win over the New York Giants.  Aside from a 54 yard touchdown run where Murray ran untouched straight through the Giants defense, Murray only gained 15 yards on the other 11 carries.  Excluding the long run on a missed assignment, Murray wasn’t effective in this game even with Bradford under center.

DeMarco Murray should see a more consistent workload in Tennessee

DeMarco Murray should see a more consistent workload in Tennessee

In Murray’s introductory press conference, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey stated that Mariota will be under center more than he was last year, likely more frequently than in shotgun.   At first glance, that would appear to be good news for Murray as nearly 91% of his 2014 carries came with the quarterback under center.  Mularkey’s strategy runs contrary to the league wide trend of increasing shotgun snaps every year since 2011.  Across the NFL, 62% of snaps in the 2015 season came out of shotgun, a number that’s grown every year since 2011 when only 41% of snaps came under center according to Jared Dubin of CBS Sports.  The reasoning for this makes perfect sense as shotgun snaps have resulted in between 0.9 to 1 MORE yards per play EACH SEASON than snaps under center.  Moving under center more frequently could hurt the Titans offense enough to limit his workload due to negative game flow.

Impact of 2014 Workload

DeMarco Murray record 497 touches for Dallas in 2014

DeMarco Murray recorded 497 touches for Dallas in 2014

497 – That’s the number of touches DeMarco Murray had in 2014.  Coming into 2015, many wondered what toll this workload would take on the then 27 year-old running back.  Aside from not adapting well to the Eagles’ offensive scheme, Murray looked like a player in decline as he lacked explosiveness, seemed a step slow, and wasn’t able to cut upfield when there was an opening in the Eagles’ zone read attack.  His decline is best quantified through Pro Football Focus’ running back grades.  According to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Murray went from the 2nd best running back in 2014 to the 2nd worst running back in 2015.  Murray also broke significantly fewer tackles in 2015 as he averaged one broken tackle per 8 carries in 2015 vs. 5 carries in 2014, according to John Breitenbach of Pro Football Focus.  After weeks of low production, Murray slipped significantly on the depth chart, even at times falling behind journeyman Kenjon Barner.

Expected Workload in Tennessee

This is where the outlook turns positive for Murray.  He should clearly be the lead back in a Tennessee backfield that desperately lacked production in 2015.  After taking on his sizable contract, the Titans will be plenty motivated to feed DeMarco and make their investment worth-while, especially as they attempt to lower the burden on second year quarterback Marcus Mariota.  Mike Mularkey’s history, as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, also points to a heavy workload for Murray, as he has a history of leaning heavily on star running backs like Jerome Bettis, Willis McGahee, and Ronnie Brown.  This is best exemplified by his use of Michael Turner from 2008 to 2011 in Atlanta.  Turner averaged 21 carries per game over these 4 years with Mularkey as Atlanta’s OC.  21 carries per game for 16 games projects to 334 carries per season.  In a league where two and three-headed running back committees are becoming more common in today’s NFL, Murray’s projected workload definitely boosts his fantasy value in Tennessee.  There will be very few running backs projected for more carries in 2016.  How productive he will be remains to be seen, but efficiency only matters in fantasy football if it leads to a declining workload which likely won’t be the case in Tennessee.  A consistent workload should put DeMarco Murray back in the RB2 (RB ranked 11-20) discussion, strictly due to volume.  Projected 2016 Stats: 275 carries – 1045 yards – 9 TDs; 41 receptions – 291 yards – 0 TD

Implications for RSO Leagues

After signing with the Eagles in the 2015 off-season, Murray was an attractive player in RSO auctions.  Across all 2015 RSO auctions, he received an average contract of approximately $20.2 million per year for nearly 3 seasons.  Rolling these contracts forward to today, many owners still have Murray contracted for 2 or more seasons at a rate of over $20 million a year.  I cannot recommend owning Murray on any contract longer than one season as I’m terrified that he won’t be as productive as the Titans are expecting, which could lead to a more limited role in 2017.  For anyone who owns Murray on a multi-year contract, I’d rush to place him on the trading block and start fielding offers today.  There likely are a few owners in your league who expect big things out of him in Tennessee for years to come and I’d be willing to dump him for second round rookie pick value, which I believe you could get.

Time will tell on how DeMarco Murray fairs in Tennessee, but I certainly don’t want to be the owner paying more than $20 million for Murray in 2017 and beyond.

Cap Analysis: Titans

Updated: February 14th 2016

Tennessee Titans 

titans

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

hi-res-2f55eca5f0d4c69936880cc6e25081ea_crop_north

There are certainly some reasons to be excited about the Titans roster. The team selected Offensive Lineman Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan in the first round in back-to-back drafts, and followed that by landing Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick in 2015. Now they find themselves with the top pick in a draft class where they’ll likely be forced to select another offensive lineman, take Joey Bosa, or trade down. The team named former interim head coach Mike Mularkey to the permanent position. He’s retained most of Ken Whisenhunt’s staff, and doesn’t inspire a lot of excitement. Admittedly, I don’t know much about Titans new general manager Jon Robinson, but the marriage with Mularkey seems like one forced by ownership. And, that’s the real reason I don’t find myself more excited about the Titans – the team’s ownership has been in transition since the passing of team owner (and founder) Bud Adams. Rumors of a potential sale and a feud with the NFL over its ownership structure have been swirling.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$130.2M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$23.8M (~$154M Estimate)

Situation: Strong

The Titans do not have many notable free agents, and they don’t have a single contract commitment with a cap charge above $8.8M! They have a few young, inexpensive pieces to build around on offense, and they have a veteran defense with an above average pass rush. They have a fair amount of cap space, although $4.5M of the $130.2M is dead money from the Andy Levitre trade.

It feels like they’re more than just one or two key signings away from competing, though if things start clicking for Marcus Mariota, I would not be shocked to see the Titans be more competitive in 2016.

Notable Free Agents:

Titans Free Agents

Coty Sensabaugh and Byron Bell are the only full-time starters reaching free agency, and the Titans could re-sign either relatively inexpensively, or find upgrades at those positions.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Titans Proj Cap Hits

Jason McCourty is the Titans most expensive player, but will only count for $8.8M against the cap. Michael Griffin (FS), Brian Orakpo (OLB), and Jurrell Casey (DE) each count for between $8M and $8.3M. You can see the Titans have invested in veterans on defense, but on offense, Delanie Walker is the only player not on a rookie contract counting for more than $5M against the cap. The Titans are clearly trying to build their young offense through the draft, but it will be interesting to see if they target any veterans in free agency.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Titans Cap Cas

With a new general manager in place, any veteran that could potentially be perceived as overpaid and represents >$1M cap savings opportunity could find themselves on the chopping block. Each of the player’s on the list are contributors, but their salaries might outweigh their contribution, and I would not be shocked to see any of them go.

Extension Watch List: 

Ext Watch List

Michael Griffin and Delanie Walker are each important veterans for the Titans. While they could also find themselves on the cap casualty watch list with new management, the more likely scenario is that an extension could be reached reducing each player’s cap figure and also keeping them with the team for the remainder of their careers. It really depends just how hard Jon Robinson wants to push “reset”.  Now entering his fourth year, the Titans will decide whether Chance Warmack will enter his contract year, or whether to exercise his fifth year option. Kendall Wright has shown enough to warrant consideration for an extension, though the team may be content letting him play out his rookie contract and punting their decision on his future with the team.

Position Needs: 

It looks like Bishop Sankey is going to be a bust, and while David Cobb, Antonio Andrews, and Dexter McCluster might combine to create a serviceable backfield, I think it makes sense to put a dynamic player beside Mariota in the shotgun. The Titans don’t have any particularly glaring weak points, but they also don’t have any obvious strengths – I see them potentially bolstering their offensive line in free agency if they decide to make Joey Bosa the first pick.

Sleeper Watch: 

I wish I could say that I were still clinging to hope for a Bishop Sankey breakout, but I’ve officially given up. I suppose Mike Mularkey creating a successful offense would qualify as a sleeper, but even that seems like a pretty long shot.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld