This isn't news any longer, but I haven't touched on a couple of noteworthy moves the Buffalo Bills made over the weekend. In terms of fantasy impact, the bigger of the two stories is Buffalo dealing its former No. 1 wideout, Stevie Johnson , to the 49ers for a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick that could be upgraded to a third-rounder depending upon Johnson's stat line this season.
That happened Friday. On Saturday, the Bills acquired running back Bryce Brown from the Eagles. The return there is the same as the Johnson trade: A conditional fourth-round pick next year that can become a third-rounder. The Eagles and Bills swapped 2014 seventh-round picks as well.
The Bills trading away Johnson was all but assured once they used their first-round pick, trading up from No. 9 to No. 4, on Sammy Watkins. Before I get to how this trade affects his fantasy stock, look at the Niners' WR depth chart: In no particular order, Johnson, Michael Crabtree , and Anquan Boldin are their obvious top three. Then you have high-upside younger Quinton Patton, and explosive rookie Bruce Ellington. Plus, Brandon Lloyd may be in the mix -- he was serviceable when he last played, in 2012 with the Patriots. And that doesn't even include tight end Vernon Davis. If nothing else, Colin Kaepernick has to love what the 49ers' brass has done to put quality targets around him. There is no shortage of outlets here for him, and it should show up in his fantasy totals.
For Johnson, he is definitely no higher than the 49ers' No. 3 receiver, clearly behind Crabtree and Davis. He is probably No. 4, considering that Boldin just put up a season with more than 1,100 yards, something Johnson has never done (Side note: Who remembers that Anquan Boldin finished in the top 20 in receiving yards last season? I had forgotten completely).
I realize this crowd could all steal a little bit from each other's fantasy value, but I am still high on Crabtree and Davis, and even more infatuated with Kaepernick. Johnson probably won't surpass his best numbers in Buffalo, making him only a bye-week fill-in or WR4/5 in fantasy, even if this is a smart trade for the 49ers.
With Johnson across the country, Watkins should be E.J. Manuel's go-to target from Week 1. There are bound to be growing pains, but if Watkins is as good as advertised, he can post low-end WR2 numbers in 12-team leagues as a rookie. As I said when Watkins was drafted, his fantasy value will depend on Manuel's maturation more than anything else.
The Bryce Brown deal makes sense for both sides. The Bills add some youth to their running game, one that will see 33-year-old Fred Jackson enter this season as a free agent-to-be. And C.J. Spiller can opt out after this season as well. Meanwhile, the Eagles turn a former seventh-round pick who they had little use for given the current inclusion of LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles into a fourth-round pick.
By now, we all understand Brown's strengths and weaknesses. He possesses special athleticism and acceleration for a runner his size -- 6 feet tall, 220 pounds -- but he too often looks to break off big plays instead of following his blockers, and he does not like to run inside. It's up to the Bills now to take Brown's physical gifts and make him a more complete runner. If they can do that, they will have a special one-two punch with him and Spiller for years to come -- assuming the Bills can get a long-term deal done with Spiller. Brown will open this season as just a third-string back who needs those in front of him to suffer some bad luck to have any real fantasy value. But he could be worth a stash in deep dynasty leagues.