One of the keys to a successful fantasy football season is a successful draft. In order to have a successful draft, you need to be prepared. While it is hard to devote the time and effort to knowing and reading about each player, you should come prepared with some basic fantasy knowledge. The first step is knowing which players changed teams in the offseason. You don't want to be squinting at your computer screen when you see "BUF" next to LeSean McCoy's name, thinking it is some kind of mistake.
Half the battle is knowing who changed teams, but the other half of that battle is knowing if the movement among teams will help or hurt the player. You don't want to draft a player on name value alone; you want to know what each player's situation actually entails. You also don't want to let last season's performance affect your judgment (either positively or negatively) when the player is on a new team, surrounded by a new cast of characters. Here is a look at five players who have changed teams in the offseason and that movement has hurt their fantasy value. Be wary and don't draft these players higher than you should; let someone else in your league do that.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Don't get me wrong: Murray is a RB1. Depending on the scoring in your league, Murray was the No. 1 running back last season in terms of fantasy points. He had 393 carries for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added a career-high 57 receptions for 416 yards. However, do not expect him to come close to those numbers with the Eagles.
First, he doesn't have the benefit of Dallas' offensive line with him in Philadelphia. Murray himself credited the offensive line with some of his success in 2014. Now he's on a new team with new guys that will have to block for him.
Next, he will end up sharing some carries with Ryan Mathews. Mathews has dealt with injuries and will be a backup to Murray, but he will eat into his workload a bit. The early projections are for Mathews to end up with at least 100 carries in 2015. This assumes health for both players.
Last, there is typically a regression when a player has a season like the one Murray had in 2014. Look at former Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy as an example. In 2013, he had 314 carries for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2014, he had the same number of carries for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns. His receiving yards trailed off as well. This isn't comparing McCoy to Murray as they are different players, however, expect a season with numbers comparable to Murray's 2013 season (217 carries, 1,124 rushing yards, nine touchdowns). He'll get some yards in the passing game, but Mathews and especially Darren Sproles, may eat into those opportunities as well.
At the end of the day, don't draft Murray hoping for last year's success. He's currently being drafted at the beginning of the second round and is the 10th running back off the board. Keep that in mind on your own draft day.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Currently the No. 2 tight end off the board and being drafted in the third round, Graham's fantasy value still takes a hit now that he's in Seattle. He ended the 2014 season with the fifth-most yards (889) and the second-most receptions. He had 10 touchdowns, which is down from 16 in 2013. Graham was as much of a red-zone threat as Julius Thomas, however, he now ends up on a team that wants to run the ball, even in the red zone.
Russell Wilson is certainly capable of running the ball into the end zone. Marshawn Lynch is the focal point of the Seahawks offense. But, based on the Super Bowl ending, the Seahawks could clearly use a pass-catcher in red-zone situations. Enter Graham.
Drew Brees regularly looked for Graham in the red zone. He's 6-foot-7 and has had 38 red-zone catches in the past three seasons. It's no wonder the Seahawks want him on their team. The receivers on Seattle aren't nearly as big as Graham and Wilson needs someone that can reach up and grab the ball. The Seahawks are certainly going to get the ball into the red zone, but Graham's value drops because being a pass-catcher on a run-first team hurts. He's still a top option at the tight end position, but certainly don't reach for him.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Thomas is going from Peyton Manning , a surefire Hall of Famer, to Blake Bortles, who threw the second-most interceptions in the NFL in just 14 games last season. This is a clear downgrade no matter how you look at it. Manning looked for Thomas in the red zone and they connected. Thomas had 12 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons with Manning and the high-powered Denver offense.
The Jaguars are not exactly known for their offense or their red-zone success. Granted, this is likely why they added Thomas to the roster, but they need to get the ball to the red zone first. Thomas' fantasy success has been because of the touchdowns. In 2014, he only had 43 receptions for 489 yards. Without the additional 72 points from touchdowns, those points barely make him a TE2.
Thomas is currently being drafted as the fifth tight end off the board, however, if he ends up with a final 40/400/5 stat line, that's hardly worthy of being the fifth-best tight end in the league (in terms of fantasy points). Last year, depending on your league's scoring, Thomas just made the cut as a top-10 tight end.
This year, look for Thomas to try to prove that he isn't quarterback-dependent. However, don't reach for him in the draft. If he falls into the eighth round or later, grab him, but his current ADP in the seventh round is too high.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
In Chip Kelly's offense in 2014, Maclin enjoyed career-high production. He had 85 receptions for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was his first season with over 1,000 yards and only his second season with double-digit touchdowns (he also had 10 in 2010). He had both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez throwing him the football for those touchdowns (to be fair, Foles threw him seven of those 10 touchdowns in the first nine games of the season). Now, Maclin heads to Kansas City.
Alex Smith, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, threw exactly zero touchdowns to a wide receiver in 2014. That can't be good for Maclin. While it is likely that Maclin was added to the Chiefs roster so Smith would have a downfield threat, this also assumes that Smith can get the ball downfield. Dwayne Bowe was on the roster last year, but he didn’t make many big plays downfield. In fact, Smith only had four passes go for more than 35 yards last season. One of those passes was a short one to Knile Davis, who ran it for 70 yards. One was a short pass to Dwayne Bowe, who ended up with a 37-yard catch after the run. And the other two were deeper passes to Jason Avant and Albert Wilson for 41 and 48 yards, respectively.
Now pair Maclin, who is known as a downfield threat, with Smith, who hasn't been known to get the ball downfield. In 2014, Maclin had six games where he had a reception for 50 yards or more. He had 10 games where his longest reception was 26 yards or less. This sort of takes away from the "downfield threat" label, but it's very hard to see Maclin finding more success in Kansas City than he did in Philadelphia. He's a low-end WR2.
Cecil Shorts III, WR, Houston Texans
It's hard to say that the value of someone who had Blake Bortles throwing to him decreases when he leaves that situation. However, now that Shorts is now playing for the Texans, with Brian Hoyer as his quarterback, his value is actually less than it was last year. At this point, he is being undrafted according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. The two receivers from Houston that are being drafted are DeAndre Hopkins, who is the new No. 1 receiver now that Andre Johnson is in Indianapolis, and rookie Jaelen Strong.
Over the past three seasons, Shorts' numbers have decreased sharply. In 2012, he had 979 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2013, he had 777 yards and three touchdowns. In 2014, he had 557 yards and one touchdown. At this point, look for the 2015 numbers to continue on that decline.
Nate Washington may also be in the mix for a team that is going to look to run the ball. Arian Foster is the Texans' offense and Hoyer is going to feed him the ball. Hoyer at quarterback may or may not be a step above Bortles, but the point is it’s not a huge upgrade. The situation isn't ideal for Shorts. This is a perfect example of how not to draft someone based on what their name had once meant.
— 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.