The official league year is right around the corner. Free agency opens up March 9th at 4pm (ET) and like we witnessed in 2015, anything from unpredictable trades to random releases is on the table.
After the Super Bowl, I took about a month off to compile data from the 2015 fantasy season. In an attempt to summarize that data and take a brief look into what free agency could bring the 2016 league year, I decided to bring back the topic my first Rotoworld article was based around: fantasy efficiency.
There were typical gutters and strikes in that 2015 column, but this article will focus more on the 2016 free agent class and less on identifying efficient/inefficient producers in the past year.
Before we get to the analysis, here is a download link to all of the data you will see mentioned in this article. Feel free to use it as you see fit. And, a special thanks to Pro Football Focus for the routes run data.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (15th of 38 in Fantasy Points per Pass Attempt)
While it’s certainly not set in stone, Ryan Fitzpatrick is apparently “shopping himself” and quite possibly may not be back with the Gang Green in 2016. Fitzpatrick had the best season of his career in 2015 -- thanks in large part to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker -- but he was very quietly a solid fantasy option in 2015. He finished as a “QB1” (top-12) in 8-of-16 weeks and finished outside of the top-24 signal callers just once.
This goes without mentioning that he scored more fantasy points on a per pass attempt basis than two notable names: Philip Rivers (20th of 38) and Matt Ryan (25th). Now, that’s not to say Ryan Fitzpatrick is a better quarterback than those two -- but it certainly highlights the fantasy success he had in New York. Turning 34 in November, Fitzpatrick should have suitors on the open market if he so chooses. He could land in another attractive spot, but it’s hard to envision Fitzpatrick exceeding his 2015 fantasy success in another city besides New York with such fantastic receiving options and Chan Gailey’s ability to maximize his strengths.
Brock Osweiler (26th of 38 in Fantasy Points per Pass Attempt)
This one is difficult to get a read on.
Denver has reportedly offered Osweiler a 3-year, $45 million deal that is incentive laden. Without getting into the specifics of what Denver should or should not do to replace Peyton Manning, Osweiler was never really a fantasy option in his 2015 starts. He was fairly inefficient on a per attempt basis, he finished as a top-12 “QB1” just twice in eight starts, and only had two multi-passing touchdown games.
Now, there is something to be said for continuity and a quarterback staying in the system that he knows. It’s also not impossible that Osweiler can take a step forward under Gary Kubiak if he does not hit the open market. Still, for fantasy purposes, Osweiler will likely be fairly off of the radar in 2016 re-draft leagues. For dynasty leagues, Osweiler checks in as the 25th quarterback off of the board according to DynastyLeagueFootball’s latest average draft position. If I’m selecting a quarterback in that range, I prefer to search for more upside -- but Osweiler might not be a bad “throw in” option in upcoming dynasty trades post-free agency. What Denver decides to do with Osweiler in the coming days will be interesting no matter what.
Doug Martin (39th of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Apparently Tampa Bay is “intent” on bringing Martin back, but upwards of six teams are reportedly interested in the 27-year-old. Doug Martin re-emerged in 2015 trailing only Adrian Peterson in rushing yards (1,402) and he finished as a “RB2” or better (top-24) in nine of 16 starts. His average efficiency was buoyed by a 20 touch per contest workload and the fact he averaged a robust 4.9 yards per carry. Martin’s new deal with the Bucs’ or in a new destination will likely set the running back market.
Lamar Miller (16th of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Always criminally underused in Miami, Lamar Miller will likely be freed from the constraints of South Beach during free agency. Doug Martin’s landing spot will affect Miller because the demand for running backs is significantly lower than the bountiful supply, but Miller will benefit from leaving his hometown. Soon to be just 25-years-old, Miller’s destination will be a hot topic of discussion this offseason. Regardless, when given the rock, Miller has produced for fantasy owners and has shown he is capable of handling a three down workload and being outstandingly efficient with those touches.
Matt Forte (29th of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Clearly nearing the twilight of his career at age-30, Matt Forte is probably the most landing spot dependent rusher of the free agent crop. Forte has the sixth most rush attempts among all running backs (1,461) since 2010 and would likely be best suited in a 10-15 touch per-game role where his pass catching ability could be utilized. I’m very interested to see where Forte lands, but he turns 31 in December of this year and his days of nearing 300 touches per season are probably behind him.
Chris Ivory (41st of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Ivory actually ran for 1,070 yards (career high) in 15 starts last season, but will not be back with the Jets in 2016. Ivory should have suitors willing to pay roughly $3 million per year, but he’s a two down banger that has never played well on passing downs. Soon to be 28-years-old, he can add value to a team on first and second downs. But, due to his lack of receiving upside, Ivory will have to be extraordinarily efficient on a per rush attempt basis in his new uniform.
Alfred Morris (65th of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
His dreadful 2015 fantasy season behind him, Morris will not be back with Washington in the upcoming league year. Never known for his receiving prowess, Morris will have to bounce back and make hay for fantasy owners on first and second downs.
Arian Foster (21st of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Coming off a torn Achilles’, the 30-year-old Foster is almost guaranteed to land in a running back by committee for the 2016 season. Foster finished as a “RB1” (top-12) in an incredible 67% of his career starts in Houston, but those days are unfortunately in the rear view mirror. Foster could have some cheap upside in the right spot, but the odds that Foster can re-emerge as a major fantasy factor after an explosiveness robbing injury are low. He averaged below 4 yards per carry for the first time in his career in 2015 (2.9 YPC on 63 attempts).
Ronnie Hillman (48th of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
Turning 25-years-old this offseason like Lamar Miller, Hillman is extremely young for a free agent running back. Hillman will latch on for cheap, but has never been particularly effective on his touches during his career. 30.7 percent of Hillman's career carries in Denver went for 5 or more yards, compared to C.J. Anderson's career 37.6 percent rate.
James Starks (23rd of 66 in PPR Fantasy Points per Touch)
At 30-years-old, it’s possible Starks is back in Green Bay in 2016 with this free agent class chock full of running backs. On just 16 fewer total touches, Starks was far more efficient than Eddie Lacy (50th of 66) in 2015.
Travis Benjamin (47th of 85 in PPR Fantasy Points per Route Run)
At 26-years-old and with 4.36 (40-yard dash) speed, Travis Benjamin will offer a field stretching element to a speed-needy team. Don’t be fooled, though. Benjamin’s average depth of target downfield was 12.6 yards downfield, 29th highest among 70 qualified receivers per PFF. He is not just a deep burner and has the ability to win against man and zone schemes, as NFL.com’s Matt Harmon noted here using his Reception Perception process. I’d personally love to see Benjamin in Atlanta lined up opposite of Julio Jones.
Marvin Jones (44th of 85 in PPR Fantasy Points per Route Run)
Largely considered the top free agent receiving option, Marvin Jones is a candidate to be overpaid in this talent deficient free agent wide receiver crop. That’s not to say Jones can’t be a viable fantasy option in 2016 and beyond after missing the 2014 season due to injury and rebounding in 2015 with a 65-816-4 (103 targets) receiving line. Despite his mediocre fantasy efficiency in 2015, according to 4for4's Chris Raybon, only Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall have a higher red zone touchdown percentage than Marvin Jones among wide receivers since 2012.
Rishard Matthews (24th of 85 in PPR Fantasy Points per Route Run)
Sneakily one of the more efficient fantasy receivers in 2015, Matthews will likely not be back in Miami with second-year receiver DeVante Parker waiting in tow. Matthews posted career highs in receptions (43), yards (662), and touchdowns (4) on 71% of the ‘Fins snaps in 11 games. I’m cautious that Matthews' efficiency was boosted by a small sample of targets (61) in an injury-shortened 2015 season, but there could be hidden upside here on the right team.
Ladarius Green (33rd of 39 in PPR Fantasy Points per Route Run)
Always a darling of the fantasy community with “untapped upside”, I’m not convinced Green will ever be a mainstay at tight end in fantasy. He’s shown flashes in small samples (averaged 8.1 yards per target in nine career games where he played over 70 percent of snaps), but has never found consistency. Hopefully he finds it in a new uniform in 2016.
Zach Miller (4th of 39 in PPR Fantasy Points per Route Run)
Miller quietly had a very solid and efficient second half of the 2015 season. Now that Martellus Bennett will likely be traded out of Chicago in the near future, Zach Miller could be a nice streaming/late round option for 2016 re-draft leagues and a cheap add in dynasty leagues if he has the starting tight end job to himself for the Bears. He turns 32 in October.