It’s officially the offseason.
Which means for many excruciatingly long months, we sit around and speculate on that next breakout fantasy star and sleeper picks. We feverishly stalk twitter accounts for trade rumors and other free agency moves. We over-analyze and dissect a tweet indicating that Lamar Miller is eating at a burger joint in Dallas. For many, championship and even playoff hopes dwindled as the season progressed, until the door ultimately closed for good. Only several weeks later the door closed on all, and the champion basks in the aura of glory for days or even weeks until even that fades into obscurity, and they too succumb to the offseason blues like everybody else.
Some interesting scenarios are set to play out in the coming months for some of the leagues more established players, whether it be a change of team, or a poor year, or an injury, and the ADP (average draft position) of some of these guys will vary wildly come draft day, but for now all we can do is watch how it all unfolds. Here are some of the players I’ll be observing the most this offseason, and probably targeting in drafts in 2016.
Arian Foster – All signs point to the Texans cutting Foster in the offseason. He has toted the ball 1,454 times in his career and the injuries having been piling on, the most recent being a devastating Achilles injury, while approaching the age of 30. All players succumb to Father Time and Mother Nature, but running backs suffer the most, as their job is to be a literal human battering ram through burly linemen and linebackers. It takes its toll. If he can miraculously return to health and find himself a nice role, whether it be to remain on the Texans or elsewhere, he could be a nice value pick in the late rounds.
Lamar Miller – Where will Miller end up this offseason? He has expressed his desire to remain in Miami, but the normally quiet Miller has also expressed his frustrations in not receiving the ball enough, even after the front office fired the head coach for reasons that likely included not running the ball enough. So he is set to hit free agency with relatively fresh legs due to being criminally underutilized, and entering the prime of his career. The Dolphins salary cap situation is dismal even despite the cap increase for the 2016 season. They are projected to be over the cap by 20 million, so they have a decision to make on just how bad they want to retain Miller.
Matt Forte – Age be damned, he continues to be one of the most complete backs in the league. Him and Frank Gore must be hogging the fountain of youth all to themselves. As Forte is set to hit free agency, his market value is estimated to be over $7 million, and the Bears have just recently informed Forte that they do not intend to sign him, and plan to move forward with Langford as their guy. Whichever team he ends up on, he will remain a top fantasy runningback.
Chris Ivory – Set to become an unrestricted free agent, based on the Jet’s financial situation heading into the offseason, all signs point to Ivory finding himself on a different roster for the next season. Unfortunately for him, he finds himself approaching the impending age of 30 which is typically the age at which runningbacks hit their decline. For the first half of the season he looked like an elite running back, amassing the majority of his career high 1,070 yards in the first 4 games, and then looked rather pedestrian the remainder of the year. But I wouldn’t count Ivory out just yet if he finds himself on a favorable situation this offseason, such as the Texans, Cowboys, or even the Patriots, who may be looking to replace LeGarrette Blount as their power back, and there are limited amounts of quality backs available on the market this offseason.
Alshon Jeffery – Set to become an unrestricted free agent, I imagine the Bears will do everything they can to prevent him from skipping town including franchise-tagging him, as they do not have the receiver depth to afford to let him go. In addition, as Megatron is set to retire, it is rumored that the Lions may make a nice offer to him to fill the enormous shoes that Megatron would leave behind. The Lions have more than 30 million dollars to work with once the cap increases for the 2016 season. Despite his 2015 season being marred with injuries he still managed 807 yards and 4 touchdowns in 9 games. When healthy he showed that he is still one of the best wideouts in the league. But his issue has been staying healthy. I predict he will remain on the Bears, but whatever team he may find himself on, he will remain a high risk high reward player.
Kelvin Benjamin – After missing the entire season due to an ACL tear, the Panthers will welcome Benjamin back with open arms. After coming off a great rookie season (despite all the drops), putting up 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns, he was set to be a solid early 4th round pick in the 2015 draft. He is now well into his rehab and according to coach Rivera, everything is going well. As the field of sports medicine continues to progress, more and more players bounce back from ACL injuries just as good as they were before, take Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, and Jeremy Maclin for example. Look for him to build off his rookie season and likely to be had at a great price, barring an internet hype train.
Ameer Abdullah – One of the most hyped players going into the 2015 season, the hype train was quickly derailed. Not all rookies can come into the league NFL ready like Todd Gurley. It should also be mentioned that some rookies came into the league riding off the benefit of stout offensive lines in college such as Alabama and Wisconsin. However, some rookies just take some time to catch up the speed of the game and hit their stride. Melvin Gordon suffered similarly, and I believe both will go on to have successful careers. With Joique Bell’s future in Detroit uncertain, the primary tailback duties would fall to Abdullah, with Theo Riddick remaining in his 3rd down pass catching back duties. Despite his disappointing year, Abdullah showed signs of life after the Lions fired Lomardi. I think Abdullah can be had at a bargain price this year and become more consistent with the flashes of potential he showed in 2015.