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Free Agency Risers & Fallers

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

On Sunday, Rotoworld Stock Watcher Ray Summerlin published a highly in-depth examination of fantasy football's biggest movers following the initial free agent blitz. Here, I'll take a more comprehensive look around the league with a paragraph on impacted players.

Free Agency Risers

Mark Ingram -- C.J. Spiller will siphon change-of-pace touches, but the Saints appear to have identified Ingram as their new offensive centerpiece. Jettisoning top pass-game playmakers Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills while re-signing Ingram and trading for impact run-blocking C Max Unger, New Orleans is morphing into a balanced and run-committed team. The Saints quietly headed this way last year, when Ingram averaged 19.2 carries over the final ten games. Still only 25 years old, Ingram will be in the second-round fantasy discussion for 2015.

Jordan Matthews -- Dynasty owners who stole Matthews in last year's rookie drafts should be licking their chops. Dynasty owners of Carlos Hyde, Devonta Freeman, and Andre Ellington should be trying to flip those backs for Matthews. With only the draft as an obstacle, Matthews is locked in as the Eagles' top wideout coming off a rookie line of 67-872-8, accomplished at the ripe young age of 22. Matthews did that despite playing only 66% of the Eagles' offensive snaps. A lock for full-time duties in 2015, Matthews is trending in a WR1 direction.

Russell Wilson -- Jimmy Graham will lose volume heading to Seattle's run-based attack, but Wilson will be impacted positively. After carrying 5-foot-10 Doug Baldwin and fourth receiver-type Jermaine Kearse to a top-three fantasy quarterback finish in 2014, Wilson now has a 6-foot-6, 260-pound power forward to spray with red-zone targets. Wilson's pass attempts have also steadily trended upward each year he's been in the league. Expect a boost in touchdown passes after Wilson managed 20 last season, ranking 16th among quarterbacks.

Brandin Cooks -- Even if the Saints draft multiple pass catchers, I'd be willing to set Cooks' 2015 usage floor at 90 receptions with 20 rushing attempts. He projects as a PPR monster and focal point of Drew Brees' passing game following the departures of Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills. It shouldn't shock anyone if Cooks approaches 140 touches. We'll have to trust Sean Payton to use Cook a bit more creatively than he did last season, when Cooks primarily ran checkdown-type routes. In addition to turning touches around the line of scrimmage into long gains, 4.33 speedster Cooks is plenty capable of stretching the field.

Devonta Freeman -- Attach an asterisk to Freeman because the Falcons are a virtual lock to spend draft capital at running back, quite likely in the top three rounds. But their only backfield move in free agency was the re-signing of bit player Antone Smith, who is going on age 30. Forward-thinking fantasy owners may want to consider the likelihood that Freeman's perceived stock is at its peak. He struggled on the ground (3.82 YPC) and in pass protection as a rookie, and profiles best as a change-of-pace back. This is an ideal sell-high opportunity.

Latavius Murray -- The addition of third-down/change-up back Roy Helu locks in Murray as Oakland's bellcow, at least for now. I would still regard the Raiders' reportedly aggressive pursuit of DeMarco Murray as a slight red flag for "Lat." A major wrench could be thrown into Latavius' outlook if Oakland uses a high pick at running back. For now, however, Murray is screaming up the RB2 charts after a fast finish to 2014. Gearing up for power football, the Raiders paid handsomely for blocking TE Lee Smith and C Rodney Hudson. If Oakland does pass on early-round runners, Helu will be a must-have handcuff for 2015 Murray owners.

Jonathan Stewart -- After carrying the Panthers' stretch-run offense, Stewart appears poised for true feature back work following the departure of DeAngelo Williams. Carolina may add a reserve runner in the draft, but GM Dave Gettleman's complete avoidance of the free agent running back market suggests that probably won't happen until the middle or late rounds.

Sam Bradford -- This assumes Chip Kelly doesn't flip Bradford in a Marcus Mariota trade. If Bradford is indeed Kelly's "guy," his stock gets a considerable boost in a speed-based offense that has made fantasy QB1s out of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. Bradford played in a similarly up-tempo spread offense at Oklahoma, and Kelly has proven to be a true manufacturer of production. Bradford's supporting cast is also considerably better in Philadelphia.

Frank Gore -- The Colts will put Gore to work as an every-down back in one of the league's premier offenses. Whereas San Francisco ranked 20th in the NFL in offensive snaps last season, the Colts were second to only fast-paced Philadelphia. Severely underutilized in the passing game under old 49ers OC Greg Roman, look for Gore's receiving production to spike in Indianapolis, with a chance at a significant leap in touchdowns. Gore was a pedestrian RB2 last season in San Francisco. He should flirt with RB1 numbers on Andrew Luck's Colts.

Martellus Bennett -- Already slated for the Julius Thomas role under ex-Broncos OC Adam Gase, Bennett's outlook got another lift when the Bears traded away Brandon Marshall. If Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Travis Kelce are favorites to finish 1-2-3 amongst fantasy tight ends this year, Bennett should be a close No. 4.

Josh Hill -- Grab Hill immediately if your Dynasty league has open waivers. Following the departure of Jimmy Graham, there's every reason to believe Hill will be a big part of the Saints' 2015 offense. Not yet 25 years old, 6-foot-5, 246-pound Hill is an outstanding athlete, having recorded a 10-foot-7 broad jump and 36 1/2-inch vertical at his 2013 Pro Day. He earned nearly 300 snaps backing up Graham in 2014, and through two NFL seasons has secured 20-of-30 targets for 220 yards and six touchdowns. Hill knows how to block and has 4.66 speed. This is a weak tight end draft, and there's nothing left on the free agent tight end market. A favorite of coach Sean Payton, Hill is fantasy football's top 2015 sleeper.

Josh Huff -- Keep an eye on Huff, a 2013 third-round pick of the Eagles whose opportunity rose when Jeremy Maclin departed. For now, Huff's only real competition for snaps is Riley Cooper behind Jordan Matthews.

Free Agency Fallers

Julius Thomas -- As noted by Summerlin, over 50% of Thomas' 2013-2014 fantasy production was derived from touchdown scoring. His TDs will plummet in Jacksonville, and Thomas' receptions and yardage may not improve while vying with Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and potentially Justin Blackmon for targets. Barring dramatic improvement from Blake Bortles, I think it's within the realm of possibility that Thomas will finish outside the top-ten fantasy tight ends in 2015. No fantasy commodity lost more value than Julius in free agency.

Jimmy Graham -- Going from one of the NFL's pass-heaviest teams to one of the run-heaviest is a red flag on Graham's fantasy value, particularly in PPR. I still expect him to score a lot of touchdowns, however, and to remain a top-three fantasy tight end. But Graham is no longer in the discussion with Rob Gronkowski and has fallen back toward the Travis Kelce range.

Jeremy Maclin -- I regrettably stocked up on pre-free agency Maclin shares in best-ball leagues with the expectation that he would re-sign with the Eagles. Instead, Maclin downgraded from one of the league's best situations for a wide receiver to one of the worst. Chiefs coach Andy Reid spreads the ball around in his passing game, and Alex Smith is the most risk-averse quarterback in football. After blowing up for an 85-1,318-10 receiving number last season, Maclin would do well to get back to 1,000 yards. He's gone from a WR1 to a WR3.

Torrey Smith -- Re-signing with the Ravens to benefit from Marc Trestman's wideout-friendly offense would've been the ideal scenario for Smith. Instead, he's headed to the run-first 49ers as a complementary deep threat across from volume receiver Anquan Boldin. Smith won't repeat last year's 11 touchdowns, and his catch total (49) has little room for growth. He'll go from a borderline WR2/3 in Baltimore to a boom-or-bust WR3/4 in San Francisco.

Davante Adams -- Adams' usage should uptick based on sheer comfort and familiarity with Aaron Rodgers, but he is no longer a true breakout candidate with Randall Cobb re-signed.

Donte Moncrief -- Moncrief's re-draft stock took a massive blow when the Colts signed Andre Johnson, but this is a good buy-low opportunity for Dynasty leaguers. Moncrief is not yet 22, and 33-year-old Johnson was among the league's least efficient wide receivers in 2014. It's entirely conceivable Johnson lasts just one season in Indianapolis. And Moncrief could still become an every-week WR3 this year if something happens to Johnson or T.Y. Hilton.

Nick Foles -- Foles goes from the NFL's quarterback-friendliest offense with plus weapons and line play to a potential wasteland under first-year Rams OC "Frank Cignetti", with a sub-par supporting cast and hole-filled line. The Rams figure to use Foles as a game manager while featuring Tre Mason. The good news is 2015 breakout candidate Brian Quick may now have a somewhat-competent quarterback, upgrading on Shaun Hill and Austin Davis.

Khiry Robinson -- The return of Mark Ingram and addition of C.J. Spiller have rendered Robinson a third-stringer for now.

Michael Crabtree -- The bottom has fast fallen out on Crabtree, who was regarded as an ascending No. 1 receiver as recently as the stretch run of 2012. He tore his Achilles' in the 2013 offseason and hasn't looked the same since. NFL teams have corroborated this feeling, avoiding Crabtree in free agency. Only the Redskins and Chargers have been lightly linked to the 2009 No. 10 overall pick. Crabtree's career may be headed the way of Hakeem Nicks.

Thoughts on other Notable Players

Carlos Hyde -- With Frank Gore gone to Indy, Hyde seems like a surefire "riser" on paper. I think there are reasons for concern. The 49ers lost dominant run-blocking LG Mike Iupati, and signed Reggie Bush to hold down passing-game work. One red flag on Hyde was his failure to wrest more than six touches per game from 31-year-old Frank Gore last season. Hyde's physical profile is similar to Shonn Greene, and he'll face the Rams, Cardinals, and Seahawks twice per year in 2015. Assuming the 49ers' draft doesn't bring stiff competition, Hyde's projected volume will be appealing. But I think he's a good bet to be overdrafted this summer.

Lamar Miller -- While loading up on passing-game weapons, the Dolphins showed zero interest in free agent running backs. New football czar Mike Tannenbaum recently talked up Miller. The Dolphins' refusal to give Miller 20 carries in any game last year had me approaching him with caution when the offseason began, but it's getting to be time to go all in. This is going to be a really good offense in OC Bill Lazor's second year.

DeMarco Murray -- Murray earned a workhorse label because of the way the Cowboys played offense in 2014, "hiding" their defense and injured quarterback to some extent. Murray wasn't a workhorse in years prior, however, and his usage is something of a question mark in Philadelphia. The up-tempo Eagles rip off enough plays to keep Murray in the mid-range RB1 ballpark, but Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will also have roles in the offense.

Anquan Boldin -- I considered putting Boldin on the "risers" list because he will remain the most heavily targeted pass catcher on the 49ers, and his efficiency could rise complemented by space-clearing deep threat Torrey Smith. Smith is a big upgrade on Michael Crabtree. Boldin is going on age 35, but will be a good bet for a third straight 80-plus reception season in San Francisco.

Travis Kelce -- The "bump" Kelce received from the release of Anthony Fasano was arguably offset by the signing of Jeremy Maclin, but there's little doubt Kelce's stock is in good standing. After closing out last season as an every-down tight end, Kelce will maintain that role into 2015, and should push Jimmy Graham to be fantasy's No. 2 TE scorer behind Rob Gronkowski. Like Maclin, however, it must be noted that Kelce plays in an offense that historically does not force feed targets to one player, and with a quarterback in Alex Smith who refuses to attempt tight-window throws. These are obstacles Kelce will have to overcome with sheer efficiency.

Alshon Jeffery -- I'm not sure how much more production Jeffery can muster after consecutive seasons of 89-1,421-7 and 85-1,133-10, but Brandon Marshall's departure certainly can't hurt his target projection. I think Martellus Bennett is the big winner of the Marshall trade. I think Jeffery's stock is solidified as a 1A NFL wideout who continues to ascend at 25 years old.

Justin Forsett -- Going back to Baltimore was probably the best-case scenario for Forsett, a career journeyman scatback going on age 30. His 2015 role is still in question. The Ravens seem likely to draft an early-round running back, and sophomore Lorenzo Taliaferro flashed promise as a rookie. If Forsett does maintain Baltimore's feature back role, he will be a PPR dynamo in new OC Marc Trestman's production-friendly West Coast scheme.

Kenny Stills -- The Saints ostensibly jettisoned Stills due to attitude issues. On the field, he's quietly been one of the NFL's most efficient wide receivers over the past two seasons and isn't yet 23 years old. Stills is a better route runner than outgoing Mike Wallace, but his bread and butter remains the deep ball. The deep ball is Ryan Tannehill's biggest weakness. Now competing with volume receiver Jarvis Landry, Jordan Cameron, and potentially Charles Clay for pass-game targets, Stills' value is teetering downward in his separation from Drew Brees.

Ryan Mathews -- We should get a better idea of Mathews' workload in training camp. My initial guess is something like 8-12 touches per game, with increased appeal based on DeMarco Murray's injury history and breakdown concerns coming off a 497-touch season. Mathews lost value going from a lead-back role in San Diego to complementary usage in Philadelphia, but he'd instantly become a fantasy RB1 if something happened to Murray.

C.J. Spiller -- I really like the player-team fit of Spiller in New Orleans. My initial guess would be 9-14 touches per game, with Sean Payton utilizing Spiller in a "satellite" space-back role a la Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush. Spiller figures to be a volatile RB2/flex play whose role wouldn't necessarily change if something happened to Mark Ingram. In that scenario, the Saints could pretty seamlessly plug Khiry Robinson into the Ingram role.

Andre Johnson -- Johnson gets a big quarterback upgrade going from Ryan Fitzpatrick-Ryan Mallett to Andrew Luck, but Johnson's inefficiency is a huge concern going on age 34, and he'll be vying with Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, and Donte Moncrief for targets behind T.Y. Hilton. And Houston's quarterback situation may not have been quite as bad as portrayed. Teammate DeAndre Hopkins finished last season 14th in receiver scoring despite ranking 21st in targets. Johnson ranked fifth among receivers in targets, but a lowly 38th in fantasy points. Johnson has lost much of his playmaking ability and will struggle to finish top 20 in targets this season.

Darren McFadden -- The Cowboys gave McFadden a cheap contract to back up a starter they will likely find via the draft. While Rashad Jennings and Latavius Murray shined behind the same offensive line, McFadden was one of the league's worst running backs in Oakland. A chance to run behind Dallas' line may seem intriguing, but McFadden's utter ineffectiveness makes him someone to avoid. I'm not entirely sold he'll make the Cowboys' roster.

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .