The Grass Isn't Always Greener - NFL Free Agents Who Will Decrease in Value

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There was major shake-up with NFL Free Agency this offseason, particularly at the running back position. When you think about team’s infuriating commitment to RBBC, all of the running backs that have been on the move in 2017 make sense. From a fantasy perspective though, it just makes it that much harder for owners to determine which backfields to buy in to.

There aren’t too many backfields where one player resolutely gets the lion's share of the carries, but these situations seem particularly precarious for these RB free agents.

Here's a look at some free agent runners that could see a decline in fantasy value for the 2017 season:

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Free Agents in Worse Situations for 2017

Adrian Peterson (RB, NO)

Peterson has proven time and time again that he is not the one you want to count out. His heavily chipped shoulder in the past has only led to exceedingly transcended expectations and rushing titles. Even though Peterson will once again be playing with a Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback for the first time since 2009, the prospects of another bounce back fantasy season are a lot less favorable heading into the upcoming season. For the first time in his career, he will be a part of a system that is unapologetically pass-first, and his ground and pound game might not ever get the chance to take flight.

Of the Saints 69 possessions per game last year, Drew Brees passed the ball an average of 42 times, amounting to 62% of the offense. In 10 out of their 16 games Brees attempted at least 41 passes and topped 50 twice, and this has been the Saints’ formula since the beginning of the Sean Payton-Brees era. The team's second-to-last ranked points defense did the running game no favors, and airing it out became the only way that the Saints could stay in games. With indiscriminate splits across the board there was no telling which member of the backfield the touches would go to, and more often than not the team had to abandon the run by the fourth quarter.

It can be argued that without Brandin Cooks, and with what on paper looks to be an improved defense, the Saints could pass less this season. Even if this is the case though, this year’s Saints backfield is more convoluted than it’s been in the past, and there is no clear path or precedent for Peterson to come in and dominate touches. Even if incumbent Mark Ingram is unseated, he won’t be phased out completely. Despite receiving the brunt of Payton’s vitriol and spending stretches of quarters and games in the dog house, Ingram managed to have his most complete year in the league and eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Add to this year’s mix the 3rd round draft pick Alvin Kamara. Even without a clearly defined role, he will undoubtedly make a push to find a place in in Payton’s system.

Serving as at best, one half of a rushing attack that only claims a 37% stake in the offense, there are no guarantees on how Peterson will be able to establish himself in NO. Peterson will always be AD and he will be a definite part of whatever the Saints intend to do this year, but the elite fantasy production that we have seen for so many years will take a devastating hit.

 

Latavius Murray (RB, MIN)

Peterson’s former team, the Minnesota Vikings will also be rolling out a new look backfield this year. Despite the fact that he is coming off of a career-best 12 touchdowns, expectations on what Murray will achieve with his new squad look dire even in the best light. Last year Murray was a part of an Oakland offense that was ninth-best in the league, and ran behind the fourth-ranked offensive line. Even with the two free agents and two draft picks that the Vikings have added to reupholster an o-line that was ranked 29th last year, Murray left an offense that is very clearly going in the right direction for a team that could continue struggle to move the ball downfield.

Murray will also become a part of a crowded committee with some very talented backs. While Jerick McKinnon is the only notable back to return to the Vikings from last year, Murray could be susceptible to becoming the third running back on the depth chart at any point during the season. McKinnon might lack the prototypical shape of a between-the-tackles back like Murray, but he has certainly carved a role for himself and is someone whose hands the Vikings will want to get the ball in. In addition, the Vikings traded up and gave up a fourth rounder to secure Dalvin Cook. While his adjustment to the NFL remains to be seen, it is clear that the Vikings value their second round pick and will want to throw as much action at him as he can handle in his rookie season.

With two rookies snapping at his heels in Oakland, Murray still only managed to have a small handful of really big games. Even with his niche on this team as a goal-line back looking somewhat safe for now, can we trust Sam Bradford to get this team inside the 20 coming off of a year when all of the Viking’s offensive drive stats consistently hovered around the very bottom of the league? Murray’s self-proclaimed “nose for the end zone” sentiments sound great and all, but his individual output in Minnesota looks to disappoint owners this year.

 

LeGarrette Blount (RB, PHI)

The inevitable step back that LeGarrette Blount seems to be headed for this year isn’t so much about the other players in the backfield. Quite simply, Blount is leaving a seasoned, grizzled Super Bowl team for one with a second year quarterback that faded down the stretch last year and was left on the outside of the playoffs looking in. No longer subject to Bellitricks, his production might be a little easier to predict, but still won’t be anywhere close to what it was when he was on an offense that had the fourth best touchdown per drive success rate.

While Blount scored 18 touchdowns by himself last year, the Eagles top three running backs combined to reach the end zone only 11 times with Carson Wentz adding two more. With new big body receiver additions and Wentz likely to progress this year, the Eagle’s rushing red zone opportunities might be even lower this year. While Blount is shifting to a backfield with considerably less talent and competition, that crowded backfield in New England was one of the many reasons Blount was able to perform as well as he did. With the constant change of pace and versatility that the Patriot’s backfield threw at opponents on each drive, defenses were often left on their toes reeling for whole drives allowing Blount to come in and effortlessly vulture touchdowns all year.

Before his most recent stint with the Patriots Blount had been middling around the league since his rookie season. It’s not at all unrealistic to think he might return to this form with his new team. Potential Blount owners would be holding on to a dream and will be quickly devastated if they are expecting the same kind of production this year in the Eagles backfield.

 

Peterson's, Murray's, and Blount’s current ADPs, 77, 116 and 73 respectively, more or less reflect the regression that is on the way. Once their teams get back together next month and all of the reports about how well they have been performing in camp start to leak out though, they will probably take a jump. The reality, however, is that there will be less-talented players on the board that will be in much better positions for fantasy success, so make sure you think thrice before pushing the button on this group of running backs.