Sometimes an insignificant event can have a monumental impact.
Say it’s summer, 2010. You’re walking down the street one evening with your girlfriend, on your way to dinner. You’ve been dating for almost a year, so it’s pretty serious, but not quite that serious, because there ain’t no ring on that finger. You see a gorgeous girl walking toward you, and you definitely stare at her for a second. No big deal, she was pretty and you looked. Whatever. You just keep on walking.
But tonight it is a big deal. Your girlfriend catches you staring and calls you on it. Your position has been compromised, soldier. You make it through dinner without incident, but there’s tension in the air and you know there’s a battle brewing.
The fighting starts when you return home. You’re yelling, she’s yelling, you make some disparaging remarks about her mother, she throws your fantasy football league trophy (three-time defending champion!) through your plasma TV. Now things are getting out of hand. She kicks you out of the house and you start doing that movie-style break-up scene where you’re in the front yard screaming while she’s dumping all your things out the bedroom window. But things eventually settle down. You pick up your jockeys off the front lawn, embarrassed as the neighbors watch from their windows.
A few weeks go by. You miss her, but you don’t want to call her. Eventually you do though because, hey, you’re no catch. Your 34 and in a dead end job, and she’s already dealt with your fantasy football addiction and your bitching during the lockout, so you might as well give it another shot. But when you finally talk to her, you hear the bad news. There’s someone else. An NFL player. She’s been dating Peyton Hillis, a little-used running back who had just been traded to the Browns, for two weeks now.
You’re crushed, but you move on. Fantasy football season is upon us, and you don’t have time for a girlfriend because you’re already in a committed relationship with your fantasy team. But she and her 6-2, 250-pound stud of a new boyfriend won’t go away, as Hillis becomes a waiver wire sensation in Week 3. But you’re not picking him up. Your team is awesome. But Hillis doesn’t stop, putting up a 1,177 yard, 11 touchdown stat-line nobody saw coming, bulldozing his way to a No. 2 overall fantasy finish. And to make matters worse, your opponent in the league championship has Hillis. And you lose. Badly. Now you’re sitting alone in your parents’ basement as your ex-girlfriend dates the running back that just denied you your fourth straight league title, all because of a wandering eye.
So what does this completely made up story teach us? It teaches us that one seemingly insignificant event can drastically alter your world. And why is that important for you to understand? Because I predict that the transaction this offseason that will have the biggest fantasy impact has been made by a player that might not play a single snap in 2011.
It won’t be Kevin Kolb, the highly sought-after quarterback who has the same amount of NFL pass attempts as the immortal Brodie Croyle. It won’t be Reggie Bush, because he was horribly average before he took his talents to South Beach and should remain that way now that he’s there. And it definitely won’t be Roy E. Williams, who will look to continue his career-long mediocrity on Chicago with a quarterback who still has trouble identifying who is on his team and who isn’t.
No, the biggest fantasy impact off season change of 2011 will be made by the one and only Matthew Erickson Moore. Yes, Matt Moore, the former Panthers’ quarterback who finished his stellar 2010 campaign with 857 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions, will make the biggest fantasy impact of the offseason. Why? Because when Moore signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins on July 29, he made a fairly profound fantasy splash. Not with the Dolphins, of course, because any offense that intends to be lead by Moore or Chad Henne is primed to be a fantasy disaster. But 1,700 miles away in Denver, the Dolphins move to sign Moore has a considerable impacts the fantasy outlooks of three prominent Broncos.
As the end of July neared, it seemed all but certain that Kyle Orton would be traded to the Dolphins. And with Orton gone, Tebow was primed to be the all-time greatest fantasy sleeper that ever existed, ever. Running quarterbacks are a dangerous weapon in the fantasy game, and Tebow was on his way to being a star in that regard, compiling 227 yards and six scores in mostly limited action last year while throwing the ball well enough to keep him serviceable. He was essentially Mike Vick-lite, if Vick was white, less skilled, highly religious and not an ex-convict. But with Moore signing with Miami, Orton is staying with the Broncos, and Tebow will likely be relegated to the bench because John Elway won’t allow the Broncos to start a QB who could possibly be a bigger celebrity than in Denver than he is. Tebow was once a super-sleeper for 2011, but if he’s going to start the season on the bench, he might be better left undrafted.
So with Moore in Miami and Tebow likely heading to the bench, Kyle Orton is relevant again. Last season Orton was a waiver-wire gem, throwing for at least 250 yards and a touchdown in nine of the first 11 weeks. But he fell apart like Ricky Williams after the NFL told him he couldn’t smoke marijuana as the season wore on, throwing for 117 and 166 yards with no scores and three interceptions in his final two starts being benched in favor or Tebow for the final three games. But even though he has a ridiculous neckbeard, Orton will likely be the Broncos starter in 2011. Fans will hold Tim Tebow riots in the streets of Denver if he struggles for even a minute, so he may not be long for the job. But if you need a bench quarterback that will make you cringe every time you look at your fantasy roster, Orton could be your guy as long as he’s playing.
But as much as Matt Moore affects Denver’s quarterback situation, his decision to sign with the Dolphins may have the biggest effect on Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd. After spending the first seven years of his career as a constant disappointment, Lloyd finally reached his potential in his one year playing in Josh McDaniels’ throw-the-ball-on-every-play-because-the-running-game-is-stupid offense, finishing 2010 as the No. 1 fantasy receiver with 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. But with uncertainty at quarterback, Lloyd’s story could be very different in 2011. If the veteran Orton is in the game keeping the offense steady, Lloyd could once again put up lofty numbers for the Broncos, even in John Fox’s run-heavy offense. But if the young Tebow is under center, Lloyd’s outlook gets a little more blurry. Inexperienced quarterbacks tend to hamper their wide receivers from a fantasy standpoint, and Tebow has started just three games in his career. Remember what kind of fantasy impact the Panthers’ Steve Smith had last year with rookie Jimmy Clausen throwing him the ball? If you drafted him you do, because he was probably the bane of your fantasy existence last year. In the nine games Clausen started, Smith averaged a meager 30 yards per game and scored zero touchdowns, numbers worthy of the “most dropped” player list. And with a much less impressive track-record than Smith, Lloyd could be in even more trouble with Tebow, even though the two had some success together last season. Beware of a regression either way this season because, let’s face it, Lloyd’s just not top-receiver-in-the-game good. But if Orton starts for the Broncos, Lloyd is a solid bet to finish in the position’s top 20. If Timmy is the guy, you can go ahead and drop Lloyd to Razzball’s own “Up, Down, All Around” tier, with a potential emphasis on down.
A great man once said “A tiny drop in the fantasy football sea can create a tsunami in the ADP landscape.” That great man is me and I literally said that for the first time in this article, but the message holds true. For someone as trivial as Matt Moore, it seems silly to consider him having any fantasy impact other than giving owners the ability to stream defenses against him. But his seemingly worthless move from the hapless Panthers to the slightly-less hapless Dolphins has a profound effect on the outlooks on three significant Broncos, as it makes Brandon Lloyd a legitimate top-end WR threat again, places Kyle Orton back on the fantasy radar and drops Tim Tebow onto God’s waiver wire. All this makes the Matt Moore signing the biggest “fantasy impact” offseason change for 2011.