In the spirit of housecleaning, here is what you need to know about those details as they pertain to your fantasy football squads:
Although it seemed there were better fits for Matthews (Patriots, Giants),the veteran wideout signed on with Tennessee. A seventh-round pick back in 2012, Matthews caught 107 passes for 1,396 yards and eight touchdowns during his four seasons in Miami. Expected to be buried on the depth chart last season, Matthews emerged as the clear No. 2 receiver behind Jarvis Landry. Matthews’ three-year deal with Tennessee puts him in in the mix to be the Titans’ go-to wide receiver.
His primary competition will be 6-foot-5, 237-pound, second-year receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and contract-year slot receiver Kendall Wright. Green-Beckham has an extremely high ceiling, especially in the touchdown department, but he’s far from proven after catching 32 passes as a rookie. Wright, a 2012 first-round pick, has missed eight games due to injury over the past two years and was a part-time player down the stretch last season.
In addition to Green-Beckham and Wright, Matthews will be competing for targets with Delanie Walker, DeMarco Murray, Dexter McCluster and possibly even Justin Hunter and Harry Douglas (who has a history with new offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie). At 39 percent, the Titans ranked dead last in the league in three-wide receiver sets when passing last season, which is a number that figures to rise in 2016. Of course, with Walker, Anthony Fasano and Craig Stevens still around, the tight ends are sure to remain busy. If Matthews doesn’t separate from the field, he might be stuck in a bit of a rotation, which will crush his fantasy value. That’s especially the case with Murray likely to demand roughly 20 touches per game and with Marcus Mariota still unproven as a passer.
Matthews has WR3 upside, but if you’re buying on Walker as a strong TE1 and Green-Beckham as a solid breakout candidate, your expectations on Matthews need to be kept in check. He’s best-viewed as a bench receiver with occasional flex appeal.
Unlike Ivory, Miller and Forte, Martin decided to reup with the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2012. After exploding out of the gate with 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns as a rookie, Martin totaled 1,080 yards and three touchdowns during his next two seasons. He enjoyed a resurgence in 2015, racking up 1,673 yards and seven scores on his way to finishing third among running backs in fantasy points. Although Martin was as solid as they come at the position, his ceiling wasn’t as high as many of his counterparts. Martin finished a week among the top-10 running backs only three times — the 20th best mark among the top-50 fantasy backs. He did, however, finish as a top-20 back in 10 of his 16 games.
In addition to touchdown deficiencies, Martin’s playing time limited his ceiling. He was on the field for only 57 percent of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps, often deferring work to passing-down stud Charles Sims. Martin was responsible for 69 percent of the club’s designed runs (hefty usage),but only eight percent of the targets. In order to sustain high-end RB1 production, Martin will need to find the end zone more often. He’s unlikely to make it through another 16 games healthy, especially after missing 15 games during previous two seasons. Martin is probably going to be slightly overrated in fantasy drafts and is best-viewed as a mid- to back-end RB1. Knock him down a few spots in PPR.
Following four seasons in Antonio Gates’ shadow, Green has finally been freed. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound speedster has 82 receptions, 1,128 yards and eight touchdowns on his résumé, but it’s very possible he approaches those numbers during his first season with Pittsburgh. The Steelers, of course, have a void at the position after Heath Miller hung up the cleats a few weeks back.
Enter Green, who isn’t a very good blocker, but who has 4.53 wheels and big-time playmaking ability. Miller spent a lot of time in-line with Pittsburgh, whereas Green often lined up at wide receiver in San Diego. If Green is occasionally pulled off the field in favor of blockers Jesse James or Matt Spaeth, his upside very well could take a hit. Of course, he figures to be in the game when Pittsburgh is passing and especially when the goal line is in range. With Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell in the mix, Green definitely won’t be Ben Roethlisberger‘s go-to target, but he’s a candidate to push for eight-plus touchdowns in what is sure to be one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. Green is a fringe TE1 who, like Martellus Bennett when he left Jason Witten‘s shadow, has major breakout potential.
Following four seasons of volatile usage in Indianapolis, Fleener is headed to New Orleans, where he will take over as the high-scoring Saints’ clear top option at tight end. Despite the presence of Dwayne Allen and Andrew Luck‘s injury woes, Fleener managed 204 receptions for 2,396 yards and 18 touchdowns during his time in Indianapolis. Eight of those touchdowns came during a 2014 campaign that saw Fleener finish sixth among tight ends in fantasy points.
Fleener’s specialty is his pass-catching ability, but he’s much improved as a blocker, which will keep him on the field in New Orleans. Drew Brees sports a résumé that includes taking full advantage of Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham and, most recently, Benjamin Watson during his 15 years in the league. Powered by 73 receptions for 800 yards and six touchdowns, Watson finished 2015 as fantasy’s No. 7 tight end. At age 34, Watson was able to finish a week among the top-seven tight ends six times after Week 4. Fleener is younger, bigger and will be a featured target right out of the gate.
Brees has taken a slight step back over the past year or so, but he’s still an elite producer in an offense that ranked fourth in both snaps and touchdowns last season. Further helping Fleener’s cause is a Saints’ underwhelming wide receiver unit that includes only Brandon Coleman and a few reserve/futures signings behind Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead. Fleener is an underrated player and could not have landed in a better situation for his short-term fantasy value. He’s a TE1 lock and has an extremely high ceiling.
On paper, tight end didn’t seem like a big need for Baltimore, but inexperience (Maxx Williams) injuries (Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta) and a suspension (Nick Boyle) left the Ravens with a need at the position. Watson will be the favorite to start, but he’s 35 years old and will certainly feel a lot of heat from Williams and Gillmore, who were each early-round picks over the past two seasons. Watson’s fantasy appeal is nowhere close to what it would’ve been if he had reupped with the Saints. He’s a low-ceiling TE2.
One of the bigger surprises of the new league year was the Colts handing Allen a four-year, $29.4 million contract extension. The team’s third-round pick back in 2012, Allen has missed 25 of 64 games since entering the league. That includes at least one game each year and half of the team’s games over the past three seasons.
Rarely used as a pass-catcher when active last season, Allen managed only 16 receptions for 109 yards and a single touchdown. He also struggled badly as a blocker, which was an area in which he excelled earlier in his career. Allen is only 26 years old and with Fleener no longer in the picture, he’s a candidate for an expanded role as a receiver. Coupled with the return of Andrew Luck to the Colts’ pass-heavy offense, there is some fantasy appeal here for Allen. He’s back in the TE2 conversation, but there are a good 15 or so better options.
For fantasy purposes Gates is a tight end, but considering that he lined up at wide receiver on 91 percent of his passing routes last season, he’s really a wide receiver. Once a fantasy superstar, Gates is set to turn 36 years old this summer and has seen his usage dip over the past few seasons. When active, Gates was on the field for 97 percent of San Diego’s passing plays in 2013. That number dipped to 84 percent in 2014 and 72 percent in 2015. Still, Gates continues to see heavy target volume, especially near the goal line. It’s fair to worry about his durability, but the presence of Philip Rivers in San Diego’s high-volume, pass-heavy offense keeps Gates in the TE1 discussion. San Diego scored a league-high 88 percent of its touchdowns through the air last season.