The Free Agency period has settled down as teams will now prepare for the draft to add the final pieces to their puzzle. With the departure of many players from their former teams let us look at some of the bigger fantasy football beneficiaries as players will be asked to step up and fill a void on their respective teams.
1. Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders…The departure of newly signed Cowboy Darren McFadden in free agency and the retirement of Maurice Jones Drew opens up a huge opportunity for Murray to receive the bulk of the carries in the Raiders’ backfield. The main competition for early down work thus far on the Raiders’ roster will be free agent signee Trent Richardson who last season couldn’t beat out Ahmad Bradshaw or Boom Herron for carries in Indianapolis. So it is safe to say Murray will be the guy to ride this upcoming season barring injury. The third year pro has battled injuries and lack of playing time since entering the league missing his entire rookie season to injury and only receiving four carries up until week 10 last season. Once given the opportunity the 6’3 225 lbs freakish athlete flashed serious ability rushing for 424 yards on 82 carries (5.2 ypc) and scoring 2 TDs. Murray will be a name to monitor with the potential to explode in fantasy leagues.
2. Jordan Matthews – Philadelphia Eagles…Continuing with the theme of free agent departures, the former Eagles’ WR Jeremy Maclin is now reunited with former head coach Andy Reid in Kansas City. Current head coach Chip Kelly have left his mark on the Eagles’ roster and believes his system does not need a receiver of DeSean Jackson’s or Maclin’s caliber. Whether he is proven right or wrong is yet to be determined but the fact remains there lies an opportunity for a receiver to fill the void in a wide open Chip Kelly offense and that guy is Jordan Matthews. Matthews trended up as the season went along finishing his rookie season with 872 yards and 8 TDs. Now the clear-cut number 1 receiver in Philly look for Matthews to improve upon those numbers and thrive within an offense that opens up huge passing lanes that allow receivers the ability to gain big chunks of yardage after the catch.
3. Carlos Hyde – San Francisco 49ers…The 49ers drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round of last year’s draft in what seemed to be a position of strength with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore on the roster. Kudos to the Niners staff for having the foresight as Hyde now sits atop the depth chart with the departure of Gore in free agency, Hunter is coming off a season ending injury in 2014, and Lattimore is retiring after not being able to bounce back from his gruesome knee injury in college. Hyde will get the majority of the early down and goal line carries behind a physical offensive line which excels in the run game. Fantasy owners of Hyde will have to be wary of new addition Reggie Bush who will be in the backfield on third downs predominantly and also when the 49ers fall behind and playing catch up.
4. Jarvis Landry – Miami Dolphins…The trade of one man is another man’s opportunity to be “the man”. Mike Wallace is now a Minnesota Viking which opens up more targets for second year player Jarvis Landry. The emergence of all the rookie receivers last season with many calling that class the “best ever” made people forget and sleep on Landry who produced as a rookie with the Dolphins catching 84 balls for 758 yards 5 TDs. Look for Landry to build on that success and dominate targets/catches this upcoming season making him a PPR beast in fantasy leagues.
5. Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints…Another second year receiver makes this list, Brandin Cooks showed promise last season before a thumb injury cut his season short. What to love about Cooks’ fantasy value is the departure of all pro tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle and Kenny Stills to Miami. A Sean Payton, Drew Brees led offense looks to change philosophies moving to a more ball control ground attack offense this upcoming season which potentially will open up the play action game where Cooks can flourish.