My last post outlined the top Impact Free Agents which wasn't exactly earth-shattering stuff, still good to have a grasp on, but today I'm going to dig a little deeper. It will be the last list I compile dealing directly with offseason movements. The following signees have received considerably less airplay than the previous ensemble, but each could have a very significant impact on the 2012 fantasy season either by their own production or by their affect on teammates.
5. Jacoby Jones - WR - Baltimore Ravens
I'm going to start way off the radar. Over the last three years, Jones has received significant opportunities to emerge but has delivered only moderate production. During that stretch he's averaged 36 receptions, 503 yards, 13.9 yards-per-catch, and just under four touchdowns. Not horrible by any stretch, but nothing to get excited about. Perhaps a change of scenery could launch him into fantasy relevancy in 2012. Jones has good size (6'2") and speed (4.5 40-time at combine) and is dangerous with the ball in his hands, as evidenced by his third place finish in punt return yardage last season, but the reason he finds himself on this list is the guy who's now throwing him the ball. Joe Flacco's huge arm was a big factor in Torrey Smith's successful rookie season and it could be a nice fit for Jones' skills as well. He won't be starting, but he should work on the outside in three-receiver sets with Anquan Boldin shifting into the slot, see nothing but single coverage, and get enough looks to have some big weeks. He's a deep sleeper to be sure, but maybe this is the year Jones puts it all together.
4. Jacob Tamme - TE - Denver Broncos
Tamme will be reunited with Peyton Manning this season in Denver which could portend good things. He didn't do much last season (not many Colts did), but in 2010 when he filled in for an injured Dallas Clark his output was quite impressive. In the ten games without Clark, Tamme racked up 67 receptions, 631 yards, and four scores. If you extrapolate those numbers over a full 16-game slate you end up with 107 catches, 1,008 yards, and six touchdowns. Of course that isn't a valid predictor or a reasonable expectation, but it gives you an idea of his potential. In six of his eights starts that season he snatched at least six grabs and in two games coming off the bench (Weeks 9 and 10) he combined for 18 catches, 181 yards, and a touchdown. Tamme isn't a deep threat, overly athletic, or particularly big (6'3" 236 lbs.), but he's a solid chains-mover and has a knack for gaining yards after the catch. He appears to be the favorite to start over Joel Dreessen, and while a lot depends on the system the Broncos will implement, Manning has thrown an average of eight touchdowns to his tight ends over the last ten years. I have him in my top twenty which makes him a solid TE2 with some upside in all leagues.
3. Eric Winston - OT - Kansas City Chiefs
The addition of Peyton Hillis and the affect he'll have on star running back Jamaal Charles has been much bandied about, but I'd argue inserting Winston at right tackle will be a more influential change, in a good way. Surely Hillis will see some carries and some work at the goalline perhaps, but when Charles broke out in 2010 Thomas Jones actually had 15 more carries, so a time-share isn't necessarily catastrophic. On the other hand, each time he lines up this season he'll now have two Pro Bowl-caliber tackles (with Branden Albert on the left side) anchoring the offensive line in front of him. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Winston ranked as the 11th best tackle in football in 2011 and the 4th best run blocker. In stark contrast, Barry Richardson, the man he'll replace, ranked 75th overall at the position, and dead last (76th) in run blocking. Winston's addition should ease some fears owners have about drafting Charles, whom I expect to jump right back into the top 10 RBs, and will help the Chiefs offense as a whole, including Matt Cassel.
2. Lawrence Vickers - FB - Dallas Cowboys
Much like Winston, Vickers obviously has no value of his own in traditional fantasy formats, but he could have an enormous impact on one of the game's rising stars. I was shocked when DeMarco Murray, coming off a monster senior year at Oklahoma where he posted 1,808 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns, didn't get drafted until the third round, but was elated to see him capitalize on his opportunity when it arose. If you take out the game in which he broke his ankle (and dashed my hopes for a second title in three years), he rushed for 114 yards-per-game and 6.0 yards-per-carry. Even if you remove his 253-yard monster performance and just take the averages from his five full starts and extrapolate the numbers out to say, a thirteen game schedule (figuring on a couple missed), it totals just under 1,200 rushing yards. Now he gets Vickers, a 6-foot 250-pound battering ram to lead the way. He's not off the charts as a blocker (10th by ProFootballFocus.com), but is a significant upgrade from his predecessor John Phillips (23rd). In the last two seasons Vickers has led the way for Peyton Hillis' 1,177 yards, 4.4 YPC, and 11 touchdowns in 2010 and Arian Foster and Ben Tate's combined 2,166 yards, 4.8 YPC, and 14 scores last year. I'd be targeting Murray as a high-end RB2 anyway, but Vickers is the icing on the cake, and reason enough for me to bump him a few spots near top-12 territory.
1. Robert Meachem - WR - San Diego Chargers
Of all the guys listed today, Meachem is the closest one to being a mainstream fantasy option for 2012, but I don't think his true ceiling has sunk in. Over the last three years, he has shown glimpses of excellence, but for the most part he's been consistently mediocre. In that span he's averaged seven starts, 43 receptions, and 660 yards. However, he's also notched four 100-yard games and averaged just under seven touchdowns and 15.3 yards-per-catch. He profiles as a "Chargers-type" of receiver with good size (6'2") and speed (4.4 40-time at the combine) and the ability to get deep, and should slide right into the vacancy created by the departed Vincent Jackson. San Diego has Malcom Floyd still, but I don't think he's the consistent, go-to producer I expect Meachem to be. Floyd has never tallied more than 45 receptions or eclipsed 856 yards, each numbers I project Meachem to best. He has a nose for the endzone, a golden opportunity in his lap, and a top-level quarterback to usher him into his prime years. I'd place him right around the top-35, which makes him a starter in the vast majority of leagues.