Brandin Cooks is in line to become Drew Brees' No. 1 target this season
As the 2015 fantasy football season is quickly approaching, it is important to know which players have changed teams and how that affects their outlook. While sometimes a change in scenery decreases a player's fantasy value, sometimes change is a good thing. Here's a look at five players, who should improve on last year's numbers, to keep in mind on draft day.
Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Year after year, fantasy owners shy away from Gore, saying he's too old, he's going to break down, there's no way he's going to last the season, etc. Well, he's played all 16 games the past four seasons. He's 32 years old, but that doesn't mean that you should give up on him just yet. Of all running backs, Gore sees the biggest uptick in fantasy value with a change in scenery.
In San Francisco, Gore constantly saw eight men in the box, and yet, in each of the past four seasons, he's rushed for over 1,000 yards. His reception totals have decreased over those seasons, but that may change in Indianapolis as well.
The backfield will belong to Gore. Andrew Luck will work with him, use him for check-downs and allow him to run the ball more effectively than he did in San Francisco. It is hard to trust a 32-year-old back with plenty of mileage on him as your RB1, but if you have solid talent at the other positions, you could do much worse. Gore is currently being drafted at the beginning of the third round. This is about right. His situation has improved, but the risk is still there.
Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins
Currently being drafted in the 11th round, Stills has the potential to be a solid WR2 on your fantasy team. He'll be an outside receiver, with Jarvis Landry filling in the slot, but Stills has shown that he has the speed and ability to succeed in that position. He is 23 years old, with only two years in the league.
Last year, he improved on his rookie numbers, posting a 63/931/3 stat line. He was very boom-or-bust, which made him hard to trust in fantasy. However, he was at least third in line for receptions, if not fourth with the Saints. In Miami, he becomes the second target for Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill, with an improved offensive line, has the potential to be a top-tier quarterback this year, and part of that hinges on Stills. We haven't yet seen the best of either player, but this an opportunity for the two of them to click and put up good fantasy numbers. Keep an eye on Stills on draft day; he's a late-round receiver that may be in your weekly starting roster sooner rather than later.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
Okay, Cooks didn't change teams. However, he watched as most of the offense on his team left him. In 2014, Drew Brees had many mouths to feed. Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Tavaris Cadet were all in the picture, just to name a few. Now, only Colston and Ingram remain from that list.
Look for Colston to be slowly phased out of the game plan. Brees has trusted him, so Colston will still be involved, but Cooks also earned his quarterback’s trust last season. With far fewer options, Brees should look to Cooks early and often. Ingram will clearly be the No. 1 back in New Orleans, but he only had 29 receptions last year. He's a running back, not a pass-catching back.
Yes, the Saints brought in C.J. Spiller, who has not had more than 43 receptions in a season. The reports are that he'll see more than that, which is certainly possible. Last season, Thomas and Cadet combined for 83 catches. However, the Saints are a passing team. Brees is a passing quarterback. He'll check down, sure, but he wants to sling the ball. Who better to sling it to than Cooks?
Last season, in his rookie year, Cooks had 53 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdowns. He added 73 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well. While the rushing touchdown may not happen again this year, look for his receiving totals to double. Sure, that may sound far-fetched right now, but it is a very real possibility. Cooks is currently going at the beginning of the fourth round, as the 15th receiver off the board. Don't be afraid to grab him at the end of the third round, especially in a PPR league.
Andre Johnson, WR, Indianapolis Colts
A talented receiver with Andrew Luck now throwing to him? Sign me up. Yes, I know Johnson is 34 years old. He had some of his worst numbers ever last year. Taking out his 2011 season where he was injured and only played in seven games, he had his lowest touchdown total and yards per game since 2005. It's always hard to promote a player that is older and coming off a down year.
But it's also hard to ignore the, well, Luck factor. Luck threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns last season. Luck also loved working with Reggie Wayne, who became relevant with Luck throwing to him. If Johnson can put up the numbers that Wayne had in 2012 (106 receptions for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns), he's a solid WR2.
Johnson was the No. 1 receiver in Houston with far less talented quarterbacks throwing to him. Now, he gets to be the No. 2 receiver, with T.Y. Hilton drawing most of the defensive attention. He's reportedly already in sync with Luck, and as long as he can stay injury free, his value will exceed his (current) fourth round ADP.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins
It's no secret that I'm high on Ryan Tannehill this year. This is evident based on my love for Kenny Stills and now, throwing some love Cameron's way. The risk factor with Cameron is his injury history. His history of concussions is concerning, however, the upside on Cameron may be worth the risk (as long as you don't reach for him).
In 2013, Cameron had 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Fantasy owners drafted him last year hoping that he would repeat or improve on those numbers. Instead, they ended up with 24 receptions for 424 yards and two touchdowns.
The Dolphins love using their tight end in the red zone. Now they have a big target to throw to whn they get there. Cameron is currently being drafted in the eighth round, as the ninth tight end off the board. He is a TE1, but in the second tier of tight ends. His value increases because his quarterback situation improves. Be aware that his injury history does make him a risk, so don't reach on him, but don't be upset if you get him in the middle rounds of your draft.
(Brandin Cooks photo by Michael C. Hebert, courtesy of neworleanssaints.com)
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.