Players acquired by new teams:
Latavius Murray (signed by Min from Oak) – The Vikings inked Murray to a three-year deal early on March 16, after he visited with the team on the previous Tuesday.
Fantasy Analysis: Effectively going from one of the league's best offensive lines in Oakland to one of the worst overnight, it's a struggle to find much initial upside for Latavius Murray in Minnesota. Jerick McKinnon will still be involved on passing downs, especially if last year's usage in the Vikes' final six games persists into 2017. McKinnon averaged 5.16 receptions per contest on 63.8 percent of Vikings' snaps in Week 12-17. On the other hand, Murray routinely lost snaps, receiving work, and carries to rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington in his final season in Oakland. What's more, Murray scored an unsustainable amount of his fantasy points from rushing touchdowns alone in 2016. Even though he finished as the cumulative RB13 (PPR), Murray's path to a top-15 finish will be hard to repeat in Minnesota. Among running backs that finished as a RB2 (top-24) or better in 2016, only LeGarrette Blount (45.9%) derived a higher rate of his PPR output from rushing scores alone than Latavius Murray (34.3%). Being a short-yardage scoring machine has it's place in fantasy football, but it had better be on a sustainably great offense. Minnesota isn't there yet. In a murky timeshare and without much juice in the passing game, Murray will be a hard sell if McKinnon winds up being extraordinarly cheaper in 2017 re-draft and best ball leagues. Factor in Murray's late March ankle surgery (which the Vikings insisted they were aware he needed when signing him), and we could have an overdrafted player on hands.
Rex Burkhead (signed by NE from Cin) – Per ESPN's Field Yates, the Patriots have signed unrestricted free agent Rex Burkhead.
Fantasy Analysis: This is a bit of surprise. After visiting New England on Monday, HC Bill Belichick decided to add Burkhead to a backfield now littered with pass-catching backs. James White fills the sattellite role already while Dion Lewis averaged 9.10 attempts and 3.42 targets per contest in 2016. Keep in mind that the Patriots have yet to re-sign LeGarrette Blount or another "bruising" running back to fill the short-yardage and clock-bleeding duties. Blount smashed in 2016, scoring 18 times on 299 carries and all but three of Blount's touchdowns in 2016 were from inside of the opponents' 10-yard line. It's still very possible the Pats' bring Blount back on a one-year deal. In the meantime, Burkhead's signing further muddies an unpredictable Patriot offense for 2017. Burkhead flashed in a meaningless Week 17 game for 27/119/2 and 2/25 receiving against the Ravens, but he had just 60 career carries in four years prior to that date. Burkhead can also play special teams, but ultimately his addition just adds to the already confusing usage quagmire that is building up in Boston. With Brandin Cooks now in town, Rob Gronkowski returning, Julian Edelman always in tow, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, and Danny Amendola out wide, Dwayne Allen, and now three very capable pass catching backs, the Patriot attack will be incredibly hard to predict on a week-to-week basis. All of the Patriots' movement this offseason boosts their offense's upside while simultaenously crashing each individual pass catchers' floor. Once again, the best way to get exposure to New England's offense in fantasy football will be to simply draft Tom Brady and let others chase the pass catchers.
Eddie Lacy (signed by Sea from GB) – Lacy is signing with the Seahawks, his agents announced on Twitter. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million.
Fantasy Analysis: Lacy’s battles with the scale spelled the end of his time in Green Bay this off-season. He did put in an effort to lose weight last off-season, but he had seemingly put all the weight back on by the time Week 1 rolled around. His weight issue surely didn’t help when he injured his ankle in Week 5, which resulted in surgery and the end to his season. Lacy averaged a pathetic .57 fantasy points per touch – the league average for the position was .70. He didn’t score a single TD after coming into the year averaging .63 TDs per game in his first three seasons (29 TDs in 46 games). The Seahawks are betting on the old version of Lacy, and he doesn’t turn 27 until June. This clearly indicates a complete lack of trust in the oft-injured and inconsistent Thomas Rawls, which makes a ton of sense. But it also provides an interesting dynasty buying opportunity on C.J. Prosise, an explosive talent we really believe in. Lacy and Rawls are likely to battle it out for the Seahawks’ early-down work (on that same note, if you’re a Rawls believer, he’ll come extremely cheap, even cheaper than Prosise). We’ve seen the Seahawks under Pete Carroll revitalize Marshawn Lynch’s career, so it’s not outrageous to think they can do the same with Lacy. He is a talented guy.
Danny Woodhead (signed by Bal from L.A. Chargers) – Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens are signing free agent Danny Woodhead.
Fantasy Analysis: There are not any contract details available, but it appears the 32-year-old Woodhead is close to being back to 100 percent health after tearing his ACL in Week 3 last year. As a member of the Chargers from the past four seasons, Danny Woodhead averaged 4.50 receptions per game and he finished as the RB10 (2015) and RB17 (2013) in PPR points/game in his two seasons at full health. Woodhead’s addition in Baltimore doesn’t make a ton of logistic sense given that second-year man Kenneth Dixon was one of, if not the most, prolific pass-catching running backs in the 2016 draft class. Because Woodhead is primarily a receiving threat, his addition strangles Dixon’s target upside in 2017. Joe Flacco does love throwing to running backs, though. Even without a predominant pass catching back on the team, Flacco targeted a running back or full back on 21.9% of his attempts last year, the seventh-highest rate in the league. Baltimore will employ yet another running back by committee in 2017.
Update: Per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun, Kenneth Dixon has been suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league’s rules against PEDs. This move likely corresponds with Danny Woodhead’s signing. After looking like a potential fantasy sleeper entering the new league year, Dixon’s fantasy stock has taken a massive hit in the last 24 hours.
Kyle Juszczyk (signed by SF from Bal) – Juszczyk joins the rebuilding 49ers, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It’s a massive four-year, $21 million deal, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: It’s a low bar to cross these days, but Juszczyk is likely the most effective fullback in the NFL, at least in terms of well-rounded ability as a blocker and legitimate offensive weapon. And with Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers, “Juice” gets the chance to play in a “FB-friendly” offense, and by that we mean Patrick DiMarco played about 33% of the snaps for Atlanta last year. No doubt, “Juice” can do more than a pure blocker in DiMarco. No fullbacks have more fantasy value than Juszczyk, who has 78 catches and 5 total TDs over the last two years alone. Given Juszczyk’s third-down value and creative ways in which he can be used, don’t be shocked if he has some low-end fantasy value from time to time on the talent-deficient Niners.
Tim Hightower (signed by SF from NO) – Hightower joins the 49ers on a one-year deal, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
Fantasy Analysis: This fit makes sense for Hightower. A respected third-down player because of his short-yardage prowess, receiving skills, and blocking ability, he joins a backfield that has an early-down solution in Carlos Hyde, but little else. And given Hyde’s injury history, the reliable Hightower could be needed to fill in for a couple weeks. He’s likely to slide in behind Hyde and Kyle Juszczyk in fantasy relevance.
Lance Dunbar (signed by LAR from Dal) – Los Angeles added free agent running back Lance Dunbar, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys, to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Still only 27-years-old after five seasons in Dallas, Dunbar will replace Benny Cunningham as the Rams' No. 2 back behind Todd Gurley. Dunbar will immediately work on passing downs in L.A.. After HC Sean McVay utilized Chris Thompson (3.88 targets/game) in 2016, it's likely that he envisions a similar role for Dunbar with the Rams. Dunbar accumulated 37 receptions to just 14 rush attempts in 17 games played over the past two years in Dallas. Even though Todd Gurley improved as receiver in 2016 (2.7 receptions/game)–he averaged just 1.6 receptions/game as a rookie in 2015–he'll likely have to make most of his living on early downs once again in 2017.
Patrick DiMarco (signed by Buf from Atl) – DiMarco moves from Atlanta to Buffalo for a four-year deal worth upwards of $8 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Fantasy Analysis: An excellent lead blocker, DiMarco has just 1 career carry, but also has 4 career receiving TDs. But with the Bills also signing Mike Tolbert for some reason, we’d expect replacing Jerome Felton as LeSean McCoy’s lead blocker is by far the top reason they’re bringing in DiMarco.
Knile Davis (signed by Pit from KC) – The Steelers are bringing in Davis on a one-year deal, reports Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Fantasy Analysis: Davis is just 25, but he hasn’t averaged more than 2.5 YPC in a season since 2014, and has averaged just 3.2 YPC in his career. His experience as a kickoff returner and his outstanding workout metrics keep getting him work, and the Steelers especially need a quality return man. But Davis has given us no reason he can be even a decent backup RB behind Le’Veon Bell.
Kenjon Barner (signed by SD from Phi) – The Chargers have signed Barner to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Barner flashed in brief action for the Eagles in 2016, posting 27/129/2 rushing, while also adding some work as a return man before his season ended late with a hamstring injury. However, the Eagles didn’t tender him as a RFA, so they obviously didn’t think highly of him. He joins a rebuilt Charger backfield, as San Diego lost Danny Woodhead in free agency and brought back Branden Oliver, though Oliver is coming off a serious injury. Barner will compete for a backup job behind Melvin Gordon.
Shaun Draughn (signed by NYG from SF) – The Giants are bringing in Draughn for RB depth, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Draughn had an up-and-down season in 2016, which like the 49ers in general, was mostly “down.” He averaged just 2.6 YPC on 74 rushes, though he’s a good receiver – 9.1 YPR on 29 catches. He was sometimes the top backup to Carlos Hyde, but also fell out of favor to DuJuan Harris at times. He’s going to have an uphill climb making the Giants’ roster if they draft a back, as expected.
Mike Tolbert (signed by Buf from Car) – Tolbert goes to Buffalo after being released by Carolina, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan.
Fantasy Analysis: Leave it to the Bills to corner the market on fullbacks, after also signing Patrick DiMarco. Perhaps Buffalo views Tolbert as short-yardage insurance for Mike Gillislee, who was given a surprisingly low fifth-round RFA tender, but the simplest explanation is that Tolbert is merely a depth option who is not going to be guaranteed to make the team during the summer. The veteran posted just 35/114/0 rushing and 10/72/1 receiving in 16 games in 2016.
C.J. Spiller (signed by KC from NYJ) – Spiller signed an undisclosed contract with the Chiefs, according to the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Spiller spent time with the Saints, Seahawks, and Jets in 2016. He touched the ball 12 times total and got cut by all three teams. Spiller hasn’t been relevant since 2013, and entering his age-30 season, it’d be an upset if Spiller is ever a productive player again.
Joe Banyard (signed by Buf from Jac) – The Bills signed Banyard, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.
Fantasy Analysis: Purely a depth option, Banyard has just 33 offensive touches in four NFL seasons. He does have some special teams experience, but he’ll be fighting for a roster spot in summer as part of a crowded backfield.
Players re-signed by their 2016 teams:
Jacquizz Rodgers (TB) – Quizz is returning to the Bucs on a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
Fantasy Analysis: This is no surprise. With injuries to Doug Martin (hamstring) and Charles Sims (knee, pectoral), Rodgers had his career-best season in 2016. Rodgers’ 129 carries and 560 rushing yards were both career-highs (by far). What’s most interesting, however, is Rodgers was Tampa’s most efficient back this past year. It wasn’t close, either. Rodgers gained five or more yards on 38% of his rush attempts in 2016 alone, while Martin gained 5-plus yards on just 30% of his carries and Sims lagged way behind (25%) both running backs. Rodgers probably isn’t the best long-term option for Tampa Bay, but he certainly showed he is well worth a job as a change-of-pace back that plays a 30 to 40 percent snap rate on a weekly basis.
Robert Turbin (Ind) – Turbin re-signs with the Colts on a two-year deal, according to Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Even though he hilariously vultured touchdowns from Frank Gore in 2016, Turbin is still just a journeyman NFL talent. At 27-years-old, Turbin has been on four different NFL squads and has scored eight career touchdowns, seven of which came in 2016 with the Colts. But with his short-yardage and pass-protection skills, the Colts viewed him as a solid piece to bring back. They’ll still be in the market for drafting a back early in the Draft. Expect Turbin to continue vulturing TDs, whether the Colts draft a back or not.
Darren McFadden (Dal) – The Cowboys gave McFadden a one-year deal to stay in town, the team’s official website reports.
Fantasy Analysis: McFadden ran for over 1000 yards in 2015, but he was cast aside in April when the Cowboys spent a top-5 pick on Ezekiel Elliott, this after Dallas signed Alfred Morris to a contract in March. Then, McFadden missed most of the season when he injured his elbow in a freak accident at his home in June. McFadden returned from the NFI list in December to play in just three games, posting 24/87 rushing (3.6 YPC) and 3/17 receiving on 5 targets. The Cowboys activated him ahead of Morris late in the season, showing they preferred him to Morris. Morris is still under contract, but the Cowboys reportedly want to move him, and our guess is McFadden will be the top backup once again. That’s important, since Elliott is still under investigation by the league for domestic violence, and recently had yet another incident when he was captured on video exposing a woman’s breast at a parade. Elliott could very well be suspended in the near future.
Andre Ellington (Ari) – Ellington signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal, the team’s official site announced.
Fantasy Analysis: So much for potential PPR value for Ellington... or is there some hope? Ellington was useless for fantasy in 2016, even after Chris Johnson went down for the year. In 16 games, Ellington posted 34/96 rushing and 12/85 receiving on 17 targets. In all, he played just 13% of the offensive snaps for the Cards. He probably looked to wind up somewhere else as a rotational back, where he would have a bigger and more consistent role, but the free-agency market for RBs is nonexistent this year and he obviously chose to reenter it next season. Ellington turns 28 in February, so he’s still in his prime, and fortunately he hasn’t accumulated a ton of wear-and-tear over the last year or so. And to make things interesting, longtime Cardinal beat writer Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reported that the Cardinals actually plan to use Ellington at WR on occasion. We still doubt he'll have much value if David Johnson is healthy, but the WR scoop is worth noting.
Christine Michael (GB) – He’s back! CMike returns to Green Bay on a one-year deal, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Is it safe to say yet that Michael will never quite live up to his tantalizing talent? The fourth-year back is clearly an explosive runner and can be a dominant player for stretches of time, but he’s proven many times to be too erratic and unreliable. Michael played well early in the season with the Seahawks, but his play started to tail off and they seemingly couldn’t wait to cut him once Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise got healthy before Week 11. The Packers quickly snatched him up with all their RB problems, but he struggled to pick up the offense and didn’t always follow the play and his blockers, common complaints about Michael over the years. He finished the year with 148/583/1 rushing (3.9 YPC) and 22/107/1 receiving (4.9 YPR) in 15 games - nine with the Seahawks and six with the Packers. But remember, he still got beat out by a former WR in Ty Montgomery for work, so let’s not go crazy here.
Travaris Cadet (NO) – The Saints gave Cadet a one-year deal to stay with the team, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Analysis: Coach Sean Payton absolutely loves Cadet, which makes him little more than a thorn for fantasy. But as an effective receiver who has 95 catches over the last three seasons, he has a role here, and could be the third-down PPR back in New Orleans in 2017. At points, he could be worth a waiver pickup.
Branden Oliver (LAC) – The Chargers re-signed Oliver to a one-year contract despite not tendering him an RFA offer earlier in the off-season, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: Oliver was the first Charger RB – of four total – who went down with a season-ending injury in 2016. He tore his Achilles during the preseason, which was a major shame, since he would have likely ended up having a sizeable role at some point. A bowling-ball type who plays bigger than his size and can contribute on third downs, Oliver could be important to the Chargers given they lost Danny Woodhead in free agency. He’s just got to prove he’s healthy.
James Develin (NE) – The Patriots re-signed their fullback Develin to a two-year deal, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
Fantasy Analysis: Develin is a huge part of the Patriots’ run game, but not by carrying the ball himself. Instead, he’s the lead blocker when they opt to play power football. In four NFL seasons, Develin has 7 carries, 13 receptions, and 1 TD.
Fozzy Whittaker (Car) – The Panthers are keeping Whittaker around on a two-year deal, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.
Fantasy Analysis: The Panthers likely will overhaul their backfield this off-season, but Whittaker will continue to be part of it as a backup and special teamer. Whittaker posted career-highs in both receptions (25) and receiving yards (226) in 2016, so he can contribute on third downs or even fill in for fantasy lineups in a pinch.
DuJuan Harris (SF) – The 49ers are bringing back Harris on a one-year deal, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: At one point in 2016, Harris was the top backup to Carlos Hyde, but eventually fell out of favor, and Shaun Draughn reclaimed the role. Harris had 46 touches in 2016, and he still has some juice in him, so he should get a chance to compete for a roster spot. Just keep in mind he wasn’t tendered a contract as a RFA, so the Niners brought him back very cheaply.
Andre Williams (LAC) – The Chargers tendered an exclusive-rights contract to Williams.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams played in one game with the Chargers in 2016, tallying 18/87 rushing in a Week 17 tryout. It was arguably as good as he’s ever looked in the NFL. A plodder who is horrendous in the passing game, Williams should at least provide some decent depth on the cheap for the Chargers, as Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver, Dexter McCluster, and Ronnie Hillman are all free agents as well.
Orleans Darkwa (NYG) – Darkwa is sticking with the Giants on a one-year deal, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Darkwa has strong workout metrics and has flashed at times in the NFL, but has constantly been caught in a numbers game in the Giants’ backfield, totaling just 85 touches in three seasons with the Giants. Additionally, Darkwa missed the final six games of 2016 with a leg injury. That said, the Giants did release Rashad Jennings, and Shane Vereen can’t stay healthy. Darkwa is also good on special teams, and could have an opportunity to compete for carries here this season.
Cedric Peerman (Cin) – The Bengals are bringing back Peerman, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: This was a no-brainer for the Bengals after losing Rex Burkhead. Peerman played in just six games in 2016, missing most of the season with a broken arm suffered during the preseason. Peerman has just 70 carries in eight NFL seasons, but was a Pro Bowler as a special teamer in 2015, which is exactly why the Bengals needed him after losing Burkhead.
Kapri Bibbs (Den) – The Broncos tendered their exclusive-rights FA running back a contract, which means he will stay in Denver.
Fantasy Analysis: A critical special teamer, it was that element of his game that earned Bibbs a roster spot over Ronnie Hillman in September. Then, he flashed some juice – more than Devontae Booker – after C.J. Anderson went out for the year. Unfortunately for Bibbs, he suffered a high ankle sprain in early December and missed the rest of the year. Fortunately for him, he’s a good depth option and key special-teams player.
Brandon Bolden (NE) – The Patriots re-signed Bolden, the team announced.
Fantasy Analysis: A key special teamer, Bolden had just 3 touches on offense in 2016. He is returning to play the same role.
Don Jackson (GB) – The Packers re-signed Jackson, who was tendered an exclusive-rights FA contract.
Fantasy Analysis: Remember when Jackson was the hot waiver wire name when Eddie Lacy went down? He ended up playing in just three games, posting 10/32 rushing before a knee injury ended his year. It’d be shocking if the Packers don’t add a back in the draft to compete with Jackson, Christine Michael, and Ty Montgomery.
Le’Veon Bell (Pit) – To absolutely no one’s surprise, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell, the team announced. It’s the exclusive franchise tag, so Bell can’t negotiate elsewhere.
Fantasy Analysis: The Steelers absolutely ran Bell into the ground from Week 11 on in six regular season games and two postseason contests, so we can’t say it was totally shocking that the wear and tear finally caught up to him the week of the AFC Championship. He missed practices before the title game and eventually left early with a groin injury after just 11 snaps. It’s essentially the third straight season that the Steelers haven’t had Bell in their final game. At least he’s not dealing with a major knee injury this time, and he should have a normal off-season heading into 2017. Bell finished with 261/1268/7 rushing (4.9 YPC) and 75/616/2 receiving on 94 targets (79.8% catch rate, 8.2 YPC) in just 12 games, missing the first three games to suspension and the season finale for rest. He averaged a whopping 26.5 FPG, finishing as the top RB ahead of David Johnson. Bell finished only 114 yards shy of 2000 scrimmage yards despite missing four games. Bell played on an unreal 96% of the snaps, saw a 16.3% target share, and had 44.56% of the team’s touches. The Steelers may be a little leery of signing Bell to a big-money deal given his injury history and history with suspensions, but the franchise tag pays him very well for 2017 if he chooses to sign it. For fantasy purposes, Bell in Pittsburgh is good for all parties.