By: Nate Leer
Every offseason produces winners and losers among fantasy football prospects for the following year. There are usually a few players that are helped out a bunch and some others that get at least 1 or 2 pieces added around them. Identifying who got the most help can let us predict the players that are going to see the biggest statistical jumps.
These 6 players received LOTS of help this offseason:
- DeAndre Hopkins: The Texans had one job this offseason – get DeAndre some help! They finally did that without threatening Hopkins’ number of touches or status as the best red zone option. First of all, Brock Osweiler virtually can’t be any worse at QB than the junk Houston had throwing to Hopkins last year. Additionally, the Texans offensive help in the draft as well with speed WR Will Fuller who should help stretch defenses without demanding lots of targets in the first round, taking OL Nick Martin in the 2nd round and adding WR Braxton Miller and RB Tyler Ervin in rounds 3 and 4. Of course quality veteran RB Lamar Miller was also signed and he should balance the offense without piling up a lot of TDs. Lastly, the Texans picked up 2 veteran interior OL – Jeff Allen and Tony Bergstrom. Can’t ever have enough quality grunts up front!
- Ameer Abdullah: A lot of the gains for Abdullah were actually losses for the Lions including Joique Bell and Megatron. Losing the most accomplished RB on the team – and not really replacing him (Stevan Ridley impress anyone?) – and the largest demand for touches in Calvin Johnson, should give Abdullah lots of chances to make plays. The Lions added just enough receiving help (Marvin Jones) and O-linemen (Geoff Schwartz as a FA, Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow early in the draft) to give Abdullah help finding running lanes.
- Adrian Peterson: The Vikings have worked hard to upgrade the O-line with the additions of Alex Boone and Andre Smith. The return of John Sullivan at C and the move of Brian Fusco back to RG also improve 2 spots on the O-line. Sullivan may not actually be an upgrade in run blocking over last year’s C Joe Berger but he should help the pass blocking. Anything that can improve the Vikes woeful aerial assault should actually help AP by opening up running lanes. To that end, the addition of big-bodied WR Laquon Treadwell could help AP by being a possible down field threat and probably a red zone threat. Sure, Laquon could be a threat to AP’s red zone touches but, as a rookie, he may just be more of a threat that defenses have to account for instead of having all eyes on AP. One other factor: Teddy Bridgewater may have improved his downfield arm which would certainly help AP.
- Aaron Rodgers: The greatest help for Rodgers came though the draft where the Pack reinforced their offensive line with athletic OL Jason Spriggs in the 2nd round. Rodgers is a QB who can make players around him better IF given time to work so just a decent OL makes the whole offense so much better. Rodgers also gained a quality receiving TE in Jared Cook who has been somewhat productive while stuck in a crappy Rams offense for years. Two other factors that help Rodgers this year could be a slimmed down Eddie Lacy to help balance the offense and getting Jordy Nelson back. If Jordy can be the player he was 2 years ago, this offense takes another big step forward.
- Ryan Matthews: Matthews is another player who benefited from his team losing a player, in this case DeMarco Murray. Matthews seems to be the clear cut lead back with just one-dimensional Darren Sproles and 5th round pick Wendell Smallwood competing for snaps. Granted Matthews is a fragile football player but the Eagles have also improved by signing guard Brandon Brooks and taking OL help in the 3rd & 5th rounds. The Eagles also kept Sam Bradford while adding legit competition and/or depth at the QB spot with FA Chase Daniel and #2 pick Carson Wentz. The receiving corps was also improved with Reuben Randle and Chris Givens, not ball-demanding players but guys who can keep safeties out of the box – more running lanes for Matthews.
- Carlos Hyde: The biggest help to Hyde may be the addition of Chip Kelly. If Hyde can be the type of big back that Kelly loved to lean on at Oregon, he should see plenty of carries. Zane Beadles replaces Alex Boone which is pretty close to a draw but the 49ers also added OL early (Joshua Garnett, G, round 1) and late in the draft. With Torrey Smith on the team to take the top off of defenses and potentially a mobile QB to stretch defenses horizontally, Hyde should have just enough room to run to be very productive if given enough touches.
These 6 players were helped in 1 or 2 ways:
- Latavius Murray: Adding stud G Kelechi Osemele and keeping the rest of the ascending offense intact means Latavius should have room to run. The Raiders also did not bring in any real competition for touches in the backfield so Murray looks like a solid, 2nd tier RB.
- Drew Brees: The Saints could have done something, anything to help the O-line. However, adding talented, big WR Michael Thomas in the 2nd round and vet TE Cody Fleener should be a big boost to the options Brees has downfield.
- Tyler Eifert: Eifert was already clearly the 2nd most talented receiving option on the Bengals last year but now he is also the 2nd longest tenured. The loss of veteran WRs Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu helps free up even more targets. The Bengals did add WRs Brandon LaFell in free agency as well as Tyler Boyd (2nd round) and Cody Core (6th round) in the draft who could help stretch defenses without demanding too many targets this year.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick: Adding Matt Forte as a FA gives Fitzpatrick another quality, professional receiver who also excels at pass blocking. The rest of the offense returns relatively intact so Fitz could actually be better this year.
- Dez Bryant: Ezekiel Elliott gives defenses another play maker to focus on, freeing Bryant up some. He is easily the most talented counterpart in the Dallas offense that Bryant has ever played with.
- Kirk Cousins: Cousins burst onto the fantasy scene last year. His one-year, franchise tag contract means there is plenty of incentive for him to keep producing. Washington brought in more receiving help in the form of polished rookie WR Josh Doctson (1st round) as well as vet TE Vernon Davis for depth behind fragile but talented TE Jordan Reed.
TO see where we think these players should be getting drafted, check out the Fan Sports Lists 2016 top-200.