With the excitement surrounding free agency, it's easy to forget that most players signing deals will ultimately let down their new teams.
Bell, for those of you not old enough to remember, was once a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After sitting out the entire 2018 season and forgoing around $15 million, he’s now set to hit the open market in search of the big-money deal he’s long coveted.
It’s understandable that he would feel that way. We’re talking about a player who had over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and at least nine touchdowns in three of his last four seasons. The lone exception was an injury-shortened 2015 campaign when he was on pace to reach those totals but was sidelined for 10 games.
Unfortunately for Bell, almost every player who's filled in for him over the last four years has been able to replicate the majority of his per-game production, including DeAngelo Williams, James Conner, and most recently Jaylen Samuels. Bell is a talented and versatile back, but one can't help but wonder whether some of his high-end success was tied to the Steelers’ system, strong offensive line, and the heavy volume they bestow upon their starter.
When free agency arrives in March, Bell will be 27 years old and will be 14 months removed from his last NFL action. He should have the benefit of a full offseason with his new team, but players returning from long absences often face a higher risk of injury, especially soft tissue ailments.
There are also concerns about his motivation - whether he finally lands the long-term contract or perhaps worse, if he doesn’t.
This is why Bell dropped to the low-end RB1 range in my early 2019 fantasy rankings, well outside the top five where he’s been almost his entire career. He’ll still be a fantasy starter, just don’t automatically expect the elite numbers we were accustomed to seeing in Pittsburgh.
Seeing Cobb and Aaron Rodgers share a teary embrace before their final game together was a reminder of how deep their bond had become after playing together for eight years.
The pair’s connection was once a great source of fantasy stats. From 2012-2015, Cobb finished as a top-25 fantasy receiver three times. However, in recent years injuries have taken their toll on his athleticism, and his role in the offense dwindled.
His yards per game (42.6) fell to its lowest mark since his rookie season and his catch rate of 62 percent was well off his career average.
Cobb is entering his age-29 season and with diminished explosiveness, his ability to win in the slot is compromised. Though he’s likely to catch on with a team in free agency, don’t make the mistake of overvaluing him for fantasy simple based on his name and past production.
Ajayi suffered an ACL tear in October, which puts his recovery timeline close to the start of the 2019 campaign. That could make it difficult for the 25-year-old to find a new home when free agency kicks off and may force him to wait till later in the offseason before inking a deal.
Ajayi tore his other ACL in 2012 and there were reports that his knee is bone-on-bone, which means significant cartilage damage that won't improve over time.
This makes Ajayi a dangerous proposition for NFL teams and someone who shouldn’t be expected to help fantasy owners until deeper into the season, and that’s if he lands in a favorable situation.
Considering the running back position leans on the young and healthy, we may have seen the last of Ajayi as a true impact fantasy option.
Cook is coming off a career year with 68 receptions, 896 yards, and six touchdowns. The result was a top-five fantasy finish in all formats among tight ends.
Those totals were inflated due to Oakland lacking a presence on the outside after the trade of Amari Cooper. Cook was the beneficiary with 101 targets, another career high, and head coach Jon Gruden expressed an interest in re-signing his veteran tight end.
A return to the Raiders might be Cook’s best chance to repeat those numbers, but even if he does go back, he’ll likely face more competition for targets in 2019.
If he decides to test the waters, Cook will be doing so as soon-to-be 32-year-old who disappointed in past free agent stops with the Rams and Packers.
Changing teams is always difficult for pass-catchers, who need to develop chemistry with their quarterback in addition to learning a new offense. Unless Cook ends up as the No. 1 option in a team’s passing game, which won’t happen outside of Oakland, regression will come.
How dare we disparage late-season hero C.J. Anderson after he’s helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl?
It’s because we’ve seen this story play out far too many times in the past, where a player we’ve identified as an average talent overachieves down the stretch and tricks us into rethinking our initial evaluation.
Anderson is a better running back than we saw early in the year when he was a barely used backup behind Christian McCaffrey. He’s just one season removed from rushing for 1,000 yards in Denver. However, he’s not the dominant battering ram that we’ve seen punishing defenders en route to three 100-yard games in his last four outings heading into the Super Bowl.
It’s possible that this performance will land him a starting role next season, but regardless of where Anderson signs in free agency, make sure you keep his entire career in mind when you project his potential outcomes for 2019.
Recency bias is one of the leading causes of bad decisions in fantasy.