New faces. New places. But, much more importantly, new opportunities.
Though the 2015-16 offseason wasn't as rich in terms of prominent names changing teams as the one that preceded it, the individuals who did move gained more in fantasy terms than the previous class. To that point, each of the top five offensive skill players, in terms of total contract value as well as guaranteed dollars -- Brock Osweiler, Marvin Jones, Coby Fleener, Mohamed Sanu and Lamar Miller -- were players who will move into more prominent roles with their new squads.
Not coincidentally, four of these five players inhabit the top four spots when ranking the top 10 most fantasy-impactful offseason transactions. Remember, fresh circumstances, and the increased roles that go with them, rank among the factors that most significantly fuel fantasy growth year over year.
If you missed any of these players' moves, or simply took off a portion of the fantasy football offseason, don't forget to do your homework in catching up on what changed. That's where this column comes in particularly handy, whittling down all of the significant transactions that happened in the 214 days between Super Bowl 50 and the 2016 NFL Kickoff into 3,000 words, saving you hours upon hours of research.
Let's get started, because there's plenty to recap.
To be clear upfront, the list below accounts for the impact of the move on the player's own value, as well as the impact it had on others affected by the move on both his former and new teams and others that play his position in fantasy.
1. Houston Texans sign RB Lamar Miller
He's tops on this list, due to the excitement that Miller's escape from Miami created among fantasy owners -- and they're excited for a reason. Miller's usage under then-Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was positively perplexing. Among the 13 running backs to absorb more than half their team's rushing attempts in 2015, the only back that had more games with less than 10 carries than Miller (six) was DeAngelo Williams (eight); six of those performances came when Le'Veon Bell was healthy. Five of those games occurred in the 11 before Lazor was dispatched on Nov. 30.
Now that he's in Houston, Miller is a virtual lock for a workhorse role -- the kind that could fuel a 275-carry, 325-touch campaign. Adrian Peterson was the only running back to reach both thresholds last season. Though, in fairness, it was a down year for running backs. One factor to consider: The 2015 Texans rushed 472 times, fifth-most in the league, and ran the most offensive plays overall (1,127) despite having to squeeze seven starts out of three quarterbacks not named Brian Hoyer (and 12 starts out of three running backs not named Arian Foster). If any free agent signee stands a legitimate chance at topping his position in fantasy points in 2016, it's Miller.
2. New Orleans Saints sign TE Coby Fleener
Fleener is a close second to Miller, with the primary obstacle to his contending for the top tight-end spot being No. 87. The history books reveal a clear path for Fleener to follow to reach prominence: Jimmy Graham was a fantasy super-stud during his run in the same role Fleener will play. Benjamin Watson, despite being a less ideal fit for the role than Graham, managed the eighth-most fantasy points (108) as the Saints' tight end in 2015.
Fleener is comparable in size (6-foot-6, 251 pounds) to Graham (6-foot-7, 265), creating mismatches near the goal line. From 2013-15, he ranked eighth in targets (37), 12th in catch rate (59.5 percent) and had the third-most targets without a drop among tight ends in the red zone -- all as part of an offense that wasn't tight-end-centric when in a position to score. Drew Brees' Saints routinely targeted the tight end 25-30 percent of the time in all situations and 35-40 percent in the red zone from 2013-15 -- pacing the NFL in tight-end targets in the red zone in each of those years. There's an excellent chance that Fleener will enjoy one of the largest touchdown increases of any player in 2016.
3. Houston Texans sign QB Brock Osweiler
The ultimate risk/reward move, for fantasy owners and the Texans alike, Osweiler has six starts of NFL experience, but he's coming into one of the more attractive scenarios someone playing his first full season as a starter could have. Head coach Bill O'Brien has a reputation as a "quarterback guru," though he might be better characterized as a coach who can squeeze a lot out of very little at the position (see: Hoyer, Brian).
Osweiler's top wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, is one of the best at his craft, and the Texans spent two draft picks on potential big-play wide receivers in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller too; all three have the ability to make the most of Osweiler's big arm, and can help this team vault up the 20- and 40-yard completions leaderboards. Osweiler's statistical floor will make him a shaky No. 2 quarterback investment in two-quarterback leagues, but his ceiling might give him an outside chance at a top-10 season. Feeling lucky?
Incidentally, Osweiler's departure from Denver had far-reaching fantasy implications for the Broncos, but we'll get into that a little later.
4. Detroit Tigers sign WR Marvin Jones
At first glance, Jones has big shoes to fill: Calvin Johnson's, to be precise. While Jones was brought on board to help fill the void left behind by Johnson's retirement, he won't be tasked with being the leading man -- that role will likely fall to Golden Tate. Jones will likely be used to stretch the field -- more than he did in Cincinnati, at least, where he finished tied for 25th in average depth of target (12.4) with only four touchdowns on 65 catches in 2015.
He'll serve as a good contrast to Tate in an offense that throws, throws, throws (and might still be throwing), but, as is often the case with these types, he'll be more boom/bust on a weekly basis than Tate, who should be machine-like in PPR formats. You might doubt the Lions' ability to produce multiple fantasy stars from their passing game without Johnson on hand, but Jones was the free-agent prize at his position and, with Tate and an emerging Eric Ebron, it's not unthinkable that all three plus Stafford could be weekly starts in all formats.
5. New York Jets sign RB Matt Forte
Forte's move to the Jets toppled several fantasy-relevant dominos; his departure from the Chicago Bears paved the way for Jeremy Langford (or maybe draftee Jordan Howard or long-time backup Ka'Deem Carey) to take over as the starter, while his arrival in New York coincided with Chris Ivory's departure.
Now 30 and coming off a somewhat disappointing (and injury-limited) year, Forte is probably in the decline phase of his career, but under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, he might yet enjoy an uptick in receiving-game production -- buoying his fantasy value. There's a lot of wear on Forte's tires, making the Jets' decision to re-sign Bilal Powell and add Khiry Robinson via free agency look wise, but this is Forte's gig -- and he should be set for another year of RB2 value.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars sign RB Chris Ivory
Speaking of Ivory, his arrival in Jacksonville was one of the more puzzling moves of the offseason, and in fact perhaps the most frustrating one from a fantasy perspective. Remember, the Jaguars have 22-year-old sophomore T.J. Yeldon, No. 27 in fantasy points among running backs as a rookie despite missing four games and playing for the team that ran the fewest offensive plays with a lead (128).
If there's anything we hate as fantasy owners, it's running back by committee arrangements, and the 2016 Jaguars have that look; Ivory might dominate snaps on first and second downs, ceding thirds to Yeldon. That'll adversely impact Ivory's receiving-game contributions -- he had career highs with 37 targets and 30 receptions in 2015 - while simultaneously rolling back Yeldon's total number of touches. Worse yet, with Ivory on board and their defensive upgrades this offseason, the 2016 Jaguars are certain to be more run-oriented than the 2015 squad. Fantasy owners expecting repeats of big years from Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns might be left somewhat disappointed.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers sign TE Ladarius Green
After Heath Miller announced his retirement, the Steelers moved quickly to ink his replacement by scooping up Green, who had played second fiddle to eight-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates for four years in San Diego. Though not as prominent a role as Fleener's in the New Orleans' offense, Green's utility in Pittsburgh should be greater than what it was during his handful of starts as a Gates fill-in -- and there are certainly opportunities for receivers to step up in the wake of Martavis Bryant's suspension.
Statistically speaking, Green averaged .109 fantasy points per snap when Gates wasn't on the field in 2015, which over a 16-game schedule of 60 snaps per game projects to 105 -- a threshold reached by only eight tight ends last season. Health is the primary question here, as Green required ankle surgery early in the offseason -- which reportedly happened before he signed with the Steelers -- and has missed five games combined the past two seasons.
8. Tennessee Titans trade for RB DeMarco Murray
Murray's departure from Philadelphia was bigger news earlier in the offseason because, at the time of the deal, he looked much more like a bounce-back candidate. That changed after the team drafted Derrick Henry. Still, the move provided a fresh start for Murray, who seemingly couldn't recover from a hefty 392-carry workload from 2014, didn't click in Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense and was essentially benched in December.
In Tennessee, however, Murray will play in a more conventional offense on a team that's expected to be run-heavy -- giving him a fighting chance of at least splitting the difference between his 2014-15 numbers. He'll need to earn starter's carries with Henry pushing him for work, and by all rights Murray might be ideal to sell high come October. His chances at a rebound to RB2 production by the end of the season, however, have increased somewhat.
9. Denver Broncos sign QB Mark Sanchez
Over a five-day span, the Broncos saw Peyton Manning retire and his backup (Osweiler) sign with the Texans; they then traded for Sanchez in what had the look of a "safety net" move, at the time. Months later, Sanchez is the de facto starting quarterback for the Broncos, though No. 26 overall pick Paxton Lynch will almost assuredly challenge him at some point during the season.
During his seven-year NFL career (one of which was lost to shoulder surgery), Sanchez's 74.3 passer rating and 3.7 percent interception rate are the worst among qualifiers during that span. But his 8.52 average depth of target is ninth and his 11.8 yards per completion is 12th, showing his propensity to make the occasional big play. Considering his receivers in Denver, perhaps that'll do, as Sanchez's interceptions only mean lost opportunity rather than lost fantasy points for the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. As for Sanchez himself, he might capitalize upon a weak defense or three, but don't get cozy.
10. New England Patriots trade for TE Martellus Bennett
The Patriots' trade for Bennett gave them their best tight-end complement to Rob Gronkowski since Aaron Hernandez, and you can be sure they'll roll out more two-tight-end sets accordingly in 2016. Take the team's 2011 breakdown as an example: They ran a whopping 875 such plays, whereas the 2015 squad ran 585. That's not to say that Bennett is a lock for 127 fantasy points -- Hernandez's 2011 total -- as we've seen both Tim Wright and Scott Chandler disappoint in the same role in the past two seasons.
Bennett is a superior talent to either of those players, and he gives the team two sizable targets in the red zone. Don't be entirely shocked if Bennett matches Wright's and Chandler's combined touchdown totals for the Patriots the past two seasons (10) when all is said and done.
Listed below are some of the offseason's other notable team-switchers, in alphabetical order -- those who failed to earn a place in the top 10, but could still be significant:
Donald Brown: Brown's arrives in New England after disappointing from 2014-15 for the Chargers. He'll likely be available via waivers if he grabs a larger share of the rushing chores.
Jared Cook: Head coach Mike McCarthy raved about this addition. If Cook's June foot surgery isn't serious, he could be one of the better TE2 investments.
Chase Daniel: He's the one of three potential Eagles quarterbacks no one is discussing, and remember, he served (as a backup) under head coach Doug Pederson in Kansas City.
Robert Griffin III: He gets a fresh start in Cleveland, though with few proven receiving weapons and veteran competition in the form of Josh McCown. At best, Griffin is a low-end QB2.
Chris Hogan: He might be a trendly sleeper next season, after much chatter that he could play the X receiver role. He's certainly worth taking the chance as a WR5/6.
Brian Hoyer: A productive regular-season performer who floundered during the playoffs in 2015, Hoyer will now be the designated fill-in for Jay Cutler.
Jeremy Kerley: A fresh start might do him some good, especially as the Lions could be a 600-pass offense. Kerley is low on the depth chart, but take a look if he's pressed into more.
Rishard Matthews: Matthews' role should expand with the Titans, though as they'll be a run-based offense, consider him more of a matchups play than a clear fantasy starter.
Zach Mettenberger: Mettenberger's poor play in his four starts in 2015 forced his departure from Tennessee. He's now reunited with Ken Whisenhunt, but in a clear backup role.
Rueben Randle: He could play a decent number of snaps due to the Eagles' lack of depth on the outside, and don't forget, he was 29th among WRs in fantasy points in 2015.
Khiry Robinson: Brought on board for depth or as an insurance policy behind Matt Forte, Robinson could emerge as a touchdown vulture if he proves healthy in the preseason.
Mohamed Sanu: He'll be a starter for a pass-oriented Falcons team, but Sanu's skills look like more of a weekly matchups play in fantasy than one to target in drafts.
Rod Streater: After spending almost all of 2015 on the sidelines with the Raiders, Streater should at least make the gameday roster each week in K.C. Don't expect much fantasy-wise.
Mike Wallace: He'll be used on more vertical pass routes in Baltimore, under a pass-friendly coach in Marc Trestman. Wallace might have a couple big fantasy weeks with his new team.
Nate Washington: He'll be in the mix to run the outside routes for the Patriots, but Washington lacks much in the way of upside and might play limited snaps. Depth, at best.
Benjamin Watson: Watson joins a crowded tight end field in Baltimore, though his role could grow should Crockett Gillmore miss time. Watson has low-end TE2 value.