Cian Fahey

Fantasy Football - Best Free Agents '12

Author: Cian Fahey


Franchise tags have been handed out and now teams are frantically focused on trying to re-sign their remaining star players ahead of the beginning of free agency on March 13th. The 13th of March is not only important for owners of NFL franchises, but also very important for owners of fantasy NFL franchises.

Whether your fantasy season is a full-time commitment to one team or multiple single season ventures, fantasy football requires constant attention if you are to ultimately be crowned a winner come January.

While unearthing studs in latter rounds is always a help, the best fantasy teams always make sure to hit on their big name additions who are expected to carry their teams. There are a few of those names potentially moving during this free agency period.

As such, here are the best spots for some of the biggest fantasy impact performers for next season.

Vincent Jackson:
Since Carl Nicks isn't an option in fantasy football, Jackson is the best free agent on the market. Jackson had a good, but not great, season last year despite being hindered by an underperforming offense in San Diego.

Depending on what the Chargers do with their offensive line issues, Jackson may be better suited to finding a fit elsewhere in the NFL. There is no doubt that Philip Rivers loves to throw his way and has proven in the past that the two can flourish together, but without the offense functioning as a whole, Jackson's struggles could worsen. A diminishing Antonio Gates also hurts him by allowing defenses to double team him with greater ease.

Jackson requires a quarterback with a strong arm who likes to find his best target opposed to taking what defenses give him, in other words a gunslinger much like Philip Rivers.

It may be the obvious choice, but the Chicago Bears are the best fit for Vincent Jackson. Jay Cutler is one of the finest quarterbacks in the NFL who has been held back by the offense around him in Chicago in recent years. Cutler has proven in the past that he works well with big receivers and likes to find his first option more often than most.

vincentjacksonshhCutler's huge arm, and the improving offense line around him, would allow Jackson to excel on the deep balls that he craves. With Matt Forte in the backfield, and a lot of speed elsewhere around the offense, teams would not be able to double Jackson and would have to play him straight up often.

Matt Flynn:
Even before Joe Philbin, the former Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach, became the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Matt Flynn's best situation to succeed was always located in South Beach.

First and foremost, Flynn wouldn't need to adjust to a new system in Miami because of the offense Philbin will be putting in place. He may not have had much exposure playing in the Packers' system on the field, but he did become a record holder in Green Bay during his two starts as he notched 480 yards, a franchise record, against the Detroit Lions last year.

Outside of playing on Sundays, Flynn would have spent countless hours of practice time playing and learning the system off-the-field.

Once you look past the system, Flynn has a lot of talent around him in Miami. Jake Long provides him one of the best blindside protectors in the NFL, while Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush should be a strong combination running the ball next year.

Bush, as a receiver, should be particularly helpful to Flynn's adjustment to becoming a full-time starter as he is one of the best, if not the best, receiving backs in the NFL. When you throw in Anthony Fasano, who is one of the most underrated tight ends in the whole league, Flynn has two reliable targets who can provide easy throws for consistent.

Once he adjusts and gets into a rhythm early in the season, Flynn has a top ten receiver in the NFL, Brandon Marshall, on the outside, proven possession receivers in Davone Bess and Brian Hearltine, as well as speedster Clyde Gates who should emerge into a more prominent role.

Marques Colston:
Colston is one of the better receivers in the NFL but it is hard to judge exactly where he fits because of the offense he has played in during his career.

In New Orleans, Colston played in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL which makes it very difficult for opposing defenses to take away any of the offense's weapons. Furthermore, Colston also played primarily in a dome which allowed him to avoid dealing with harsh conditions on a regular basis.

In spite of all that, Colston has a lot of talent and will likely not return to New Orleans. Staying with the Saints is his best option, but because of how unlikely that is, fantasy owners must face the facts and hope that Colston lands with the Patriots.

Even though Boston has some of the harsher weather predicaments in the NFL, Colston would be landing in a similar situation offensively. Tom Brady is an elite quarterback who throws an incredibly accurate deep ball while the offense around him has enough talent to prevent teams from double teaming him.

As a player who can stretch the field, the Patriots could definitely have an interest in Colston.

reggie-wayne1Reggie Wayne:
The strength of this free agent class isn't at running back, but there are plenty of wide receivers coming free with starter quality. After the Colts' re-signed Robert Mathis, it still remains unclear if they have any interest in bringing back Wayne.

If Peyton Manning is fully fit and returns to Indianapolis, as unlikely as that appears at the time of writing, then Wayne's best fit is back in Indianapolis. However, if Manning does leave Indianapolis, it would be better motivation for Wayne to be on a competing team.

Wayne is the perfect fit in Kyle Shanahans's scheme in Washington but until they sign a capable quarterback, they cannot be seen as the best fit for the veteran.

Outside of Indianapolis, Wayne's best fit would actually be with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens need another veteran receiver as Anquan Boldin struggles to make the impact expected of him. With Boldin and Torrey Smith playing with him, Wayne would be fit to the perfect role offensively overall.

Couple that with the fact the Ravens should be competing in the playoffs, and Wayne would be set for a big season next year in Baltimore.

Brandon Lloyd:
Lloyd has proven himself as a fantasy starter in the past but could take his game to the next level if he becomes a second receiver opposed to a leading one.

In Houston, Kevin Walter was exposed last year in the playoffs as not being a capable starter. Even though Andre Johnson requires a huge amount of targets, Lloyd would be able to take advantage of mismatches with opposing team's second corners.

Lloyd's speed and intelligence would allow him to take off chunks of yardage despite a limited number of targets. With Arian Foster returning, along with Ben Tate in the backfield, the Texans would be able to add another dimension to their play-action offense with Lloyd going deep.

He has the capabilities of being a first choice receiver, and will get offers to be one, but to best succeed it would make more sense for Lloyd to find a home in an established offense. The New England Patriots are the favorites for his signature, and that would also be an excellent fit for his skill-set.

Michael Bush:
Bush showed a lot last season filling in for Darren McFadden for the Raiders. While he still not be a starting caliber back, he does have some value for fantasy owners depending on where he lands. In Cincinnati, the Bengals are expected to let Cedric Benson walk as a free agent.

Unless they plan on drafting a back, Bush is an option to fill the starting role in Cincinnati. He should be a more versatile option than Benson who was limited as a receiver. With Andy Dalton under center, the Bengals have a young quarterback who still needs to rely on a running game.

michael-bush1Dalton will be able to get Bush the ball in the receiving game regularly while his carry total should be relatively high. The Bengals do have to sort out their guard situation but have plenty of avenues to explore and improve that area of the field.

Peyton Hillis:
I don't rate Hillis highly as an NFL starter or as a fantasy back, however the running-back class is very thin this year so he just beats out Cedric Benson as the second best back available. Hillis realistically should return to Cleveland simply because his style of running fits their offense and they will be willing to give him a lot of carries with a young quarterback under center (McCoy/Griffin).

Outside of returning to Cleveland, Hillis could return to Denver and fill the Willis McGahee role in Tim Tebow's offense. Although McGahee is expected to return to Denver and continue his career, Hillis has a lot less thread on his tires and could beat out McGahee as a starter.

Yardage may not be a premium, but touchdown numbers could increase substantially.


This year's free agency period is not exactly fraught with offensive artillery, it is much more defensively inclined. Nonetheless, there are some key figures to keep track of as we approach March 13th.

Follow Cian Fahey on Twitter @cianaf