NFL Offseason Moves, Part 2
If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
Since the 2013 NFL league year began on March 13th, there’s been more major offseason trades and free agency signings than I can remember. With the launch of 27inarow.com at the start of May, I have a little catching up to do. I want to get everyone up to speed with the big moves, and then focus on any breaking news that happens throughout the league and how it will affect gambling, fantasy, and the league in general. Training camp is only 2 1/2 months away!
2012 Team: Green Bay Packers
2013 Team: Minnesota Vikings
It’s no secret the NFL is a business first; loyalty and sentimentality take a backseat to the almighty dollar. These virtues led Greg Jennings out of Wisconsin, across state lines to NFC North rival Minnesota.
Greg Jennings is a player that gets drafted in fantasy higher than he should these days. Not to say he doesn’t have the talent, he has just gone from being the workhorse to being one of many skilled receivers. In 2008 and 2009 he was a legitimate top 10 receiver, he and Donald Driver being 1A and 1B during Aaron Rodgers’ meteoric rise as an NFL super star. By 2010 the top receiver job was all Jennings’, posting a 76 catch, 1,265 yards, 12 touchdown season en route to his first Super Bowl ring.
Over the last two seasons, injuries and emerging talent in Green Bay have pushed Jennings down the depth chart. His combined stat line for 2011 and 2012 reads only slightly better than his best single year: 103 catches, 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns over 21 games. Not bad by any means, but with James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley siphoning production and Jennings missing 11 games due to injury, there are only so many passes to go around even on the Packers’ pass-happy offense.
As far as the future, Jennings immediately becomes the #1 receiver on a run-first offense that just lost their second best player in Percy Harvin. Jennings is not Percy Harvin by any means, but Harvin’s 7-8 catch per game volume will work nicely for Jennings. The big question mark is third year QB Christian Ponder.
Ponder has developed over the last season and a half after taking over for Donovan McNabb in October 2011, but his timing and decision-making are still a question. Most of the passing offense revolved around getting Percy Harvin the ball and trusting him to make a play. Jennings will be in his 8th season and will turn 30 during the 2013 season, and how much can you trust in a 30-year old’s playmaking ability?
Jennings’ targets will go up. He is also now on a team with the best Running Back in football, taking some pressure off the passing game. In Green Bay, the pressure was entirely on the passing game. However, the drop-off in Quarterback from Aaron Rodgers to Christian Ponder is not insignificant. The Vikings only spent one high pick on offense, taking talented but unpolished Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson. We can speculate how much he’ll be used in the offense, but Jennings will be the #1 receiver, no questions. If Ponder makes a jump in his second full season and Jennings stays healthy, you may get 3rd-4th round production at a 6th-7th round price.
As for the Vikings, this can only mean good things. They lost a dynamic return man and receiver but gained a very good all around receiver with veteran experience. The NFC North will be hotly contested again and the Vikings may have enough pieces to be a contender come January.
2012 Team: Minnesota Vikings
2013 Team: Seattle Seahawks
From the new number one Vikings receiver to the old number one Vikings receiver.
Somehow, Percy Harvin got largely overlooked last year. Playing for a mediocre-at-best Vikings team with Adrian Peterson on the roster, it’s understandable. Harvin steadily increased his contributions from his rookie year, starting out with a 60 catch, 790 yard, 6 TD rookie year and followed it up with 71 catches, 868 yards and 5 TDs in 2010. Again, when the lead Running Back on your team is a perennial MVP running for 1,200 yards and 12 TDs, guys like Percy Harvin don’t always make headlines even if they are the number 1 receiver. Harvin’s first full season in 2011 yielded 87 catches, 967 yards and another 6 TDs. Not coincidentally, it was Peterson’s first year with a multi-game injury and less than 1,000 yards.
Now that we’re caught up, Harvin was on pace for an absurd 2012. 62 catches, 677 yards and 3 TDs through only nine games before he snapped his ankle in 3 places in week 9 against Seattle. Even if his pace slowed down he would have easily eclipsed 100 receptions, 1,200 yards and 6 TDs. Have I mentioned this is with Christian Ponder under center?
I don’t need to go any further into Ponder. He looked for Harvin early and often for good reason; Harvin is an agile playmaker who caught 73% of the passes thrown his way last year. He was also the only option on a team that struggled to move the ball through the air at times. You could say the Vikings used him as a crutch to avoid handing off to Peterson 45 times a game, and maybe they just didn’t trust Devin Aromashodu. Minnesota will miss him no matter how good Greg Jennings turns out to be.
Let’s get to 2013. I’m excited about Harvin’s prospects with Russell Wilson, a huge upgrade at QB. Harvin immediately fills a huge need in Seattle, as their top two receivers last year were the oft-injured Sidney Rice, ironically another Minnesota castoff, and fourth-year WR Golden Tate. Russell Wilson can and will extend a play. Percy Harvin is used to running for his life facing opposing teams’ number one defenders. I’m not exaggerating when I say Harvin has the potential to be a top 5 wide receiver in the NFL and in fantasy. This young Seattle team is one to be feared. They now have a brilliant Quarterback who will only get better, a bruising and ageless Marshawn Lynch at Running Back, and now a dynamic receiving threat to complement the roleplayers they already had.
It may be a bold claim, but Harvin’s days of migraines and other ailments are over. He finally gets his 100 reception season, to go along with 1,300 yards and 8 TDs. I think wherever you get Harvin in 2013 in fantasy drafts will be a steal, especially in point-per-reception leagues. I was on my way to a PPR championship before Harvin’s untimely injury. I will be glad to pin my championship hopes on him again.
2012 Team: New York Jets
2013 Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Granted, you can’t take Revis on your fantasy team, and the Jets defense wasn’t worth playing anyway last year, but no one can deny the impact Revis has on the league. This move has swung the line of the Bucs week 1 game, which just happens to be against Revis’ former team, by 5 points. The line opened up with the Jets a 2.5 point favorite. That same line has now swung to the other side, with the Bucs a 2.5 road favorite. That’s what happens when you trade your best player.
Don’t let anyone kid you. As a Patriots fan, Revis is a shutdown corner and does impact a game. He takes away the other team’s best receiver without help. He’s held Hall Of Fame caliber receivers to pedestrian stat lines. But he is coming off a major injury. No one is sure of how Revis will react to being back on the field facing a lot of receivers he’s not familiar with after almost a full year off. He had been durable before the injury missing only 3 games in the previous 5 seasons.
Fans of other AFC East teams and fantasy owners who will look to draft the likes of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Stevie Johnson and whoever the Patriots will throw out at outside Wide Receiver this year will have a slightly easier situation. The AFC East teams will play the Bucs this year, but not again for another four years, and while Revis is good, one matchup should not deter you from selecting players or wagering on over/under season win totals.
The NFC South, however, just got increasingly competitive. Atlanta shored up its secondary after losing Brent Grimes to Miami by taking Desmond Trufant in the draft. New Orleans took Texas Safety Kenny Vaccaro 15th overall and should play the majority of snaps. Carolina, well, you can throw on Carolina. And of course, the Bucs got Revis. Be careful with how high you grab guys like Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Steve Smith, and even guys like Roddy White and Julio Jones. The NFC South is not 6 matchups of shootout football anymore.