2017 NFL Free Agency Tracker: Fantasy Football Impacts
Patriots trade for Brandin Cooks
The rumors continued, and the move finally happened. Brandin Cooks has been traded to the Patriots for draft picks (first and a third with the Saints fourth rounder going to the Patriots). What does this mean for Cooks’ value? Well, for one, he’s going from one amazing quarterback to another, so no concern there. However, Cooks’ numbers dip a bit outdoors, and thanks to Michael Fabiano of NFL.com, I have this nice little graphic to show you.
You can see that Cooks does better indoors, which is understandable given his speed and deep-play ability. And before you blame Drew Brees, the man is great on the road, still averaging 300 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game; he’s just a Fantasy Football god at home. At its best, this is a lateral move for Cooks, but more likely, we can expect around a 10 percent drop in yards and maybe a touchdown or two. That puts Cooks in the mid-level WR2 conversation, which is still extremely valuable. Cooks was a tad inconsistent, and that will certainly carry over into an offense with this many weapons. This move also ticks down Julian Edelman a tad, hurts Chris Hogan and kills Malcolm Mitchell‘s value. As for Tom Brady, he might be pretty good again, huh?
Additionally, don’t dismiss what this does for the Saints receivers. You know I already had Michael Thomas as a Top 10 receiver, and he stays there. The assumptions we made about Ted Ginn‘s value if Cooks was with another team in 2017 are now fact. Ginn is in the WR2 conversation, and Willie Snead remains a WR3. Snead is at the higher end of that value and Ginn the lower end of his, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Snead become the second best option for the Saints. Either way, all three are worth owning yet again.
That was a lot to take in, so to recap: Cooks WR2, Edelman WR3 (WR2 conversation in PPR), Hogan and Mitchell fliers, Thomas WR1, Ginn and Snead WR2/3
Packers sign Martellus Bennett
The Packers quickly moved to sign Martellus Bennett after the Jared Cook talks were pronounced dead. This is a great move for the Packers and upgrade at the position. Cook isn’t a smart player at times, and we all know about his hands. Bennett is a good route runner, squares his body to give his quarterback a big target and high-points/attacks the ball like a high-end receiver. Even while sharing time and being injured last year, Bennett finished as TE7. Now in Green Bay, Bennett (if 100 percent and playing 16 games) is a Top 5 tight end, and the only names that are definitively ahead of him are Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce. This does hurt Randall Cobb‘s potential to bounce back a bit. Cobb was better early in the season before davante Adams and Cook started to improve, and Cobb could be looking at a season of being the fourth best option for Aaron Rodgers.
Terrelle Pryor signs one-year deal with the Redskins
Who would have thought that Terrelle Pryor and Alshon Jeffery would be getting one-year deals while receivers such as Robert Woods got multi-year contracts? In any case, this is a rare bright spot in the Redskins offseason, as Pryor is still developing as a receiver and is coming off a year where he posted similar numbers to his replacement in Cleveland, Kenny Britt. As of today, Kirk Cousins is still the quarterback, and if he remains the Redskins signal caller for one more year, he’ll be a QB1 once again. Pryor and Josh Doctson getting on the field will make up for the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. And don’t forget about Jamison Crowder, who is dangerous out of the slot and a great No. 3 receiver for any team. Pryor is a high-end WR2, especially with the expected target volume in this offense, and given Doctson’s talent, he has WR3 potential with the upside for even better. Crowder could flirt with WR3 status again, especially if Doctson and/or Jordan Reed miss time again, but if every one is healthy, he is more of a WR4 with more value in PPR leagues. At the very least, the Redskins get to end the first week of the NFL free agency period on a high note.
Eagles sign Alshon Jeffery
This is a bit surprising after the Torrey Smith signing earlier today, as this is still a Doug Pederson offense, but hey, maybe Pederson is shedding his Andy Reid-ness. No matter what, you can throw out the value of Smith now. Forget the fringe WR3 value; that’s no longer feasible. As for Alshon Jeffery, he’s a WR2 in this offense, as even if Pederson opens up his system a bit, it’s still an offense with Jeffery, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. This isn’t the Packers or Saints. Jeffery is a terrific player, but we know his struggles with health, and Carson Wentz is still growing. As for Wentz, this helps his value tremendously, and he is set up for a big jump in his second year. Wentz is a big kid with a strong arm and does well with his ball placement. Jeffery is a nice mid-to-high WR2, Matthews remains a WR3, Wentz gets a bump to mid-level QB2 and Smith, well sorry, but you’re back to WR5 value.
Brock Osweiler traded to the Browns
It’s quite possible that Brock Osweiler never starts for the Browns, as they had money to burn and get a free second round pick in this deal. The Browns can cut Osweiler after next season with a small cap hit, which is something they can afford to do. There is still a chance that Osweiler does start for the Browns this year while they groom or look for their quarterback of the future. Even at his worst, Osweiler can still provide value to Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman, after all, look at what Britt did with the quarterback mess for the Rams last year.
Markus Wheaton signs with the Bears
This is not how you replace Alshon Jeffery, although, that is far from easy anyway. Truthfully, Kevin White could be that Jeffery replacement if he could get and stay on the field. As for Wheaton, not only is he coming off an injury-filled season as well, but we saw that he’s not equipped to be a team’s No. 2 option when given multiple chances in Pittsburgh. This does help the Bears receiver depth, but White and Cameron Meredith are the top two receivers for the Bears, meaning Wheaton is third at best. That holds no Fantasy Football value in standard or even moderately deeper leagues.
Torrey Smith signs with the Eagles
Even though he is maddening week-to-week, Torrey Smith finished as a low-end WR2 every year with the Ravens. You can excuse Smith for the poor quarterback play in San Francisco, but don’t shoot Smith back up your draft board too far. The year-end numbers look much better than his game-to-game numbers, as he is a big-play threat and only topped 855 yards once. Smith has never topped 65 receptions either. He’ll be the favorite for the No. 2 role but will battle Dorial Green-Beckham for time. Carson Wentz has a strong arm and can take advantage of Smith’s speed, but we shouldn’t expect more than 50-55 receptions, around 800 yards and a handful of touchdowns. Those numbers would make Smith a fringe WR3 in standard leagues and in the WR4 group for PPR… but as year-end totals only. You don’t want Smith as your every-week starter given his inconsistency.
Saints sign Ted Ginn
This signing gives more validity to the rumor of Brandin Cooks being traded to the Patriots. If Cooks is traded, Ginn becomes the Saints’ No. 2 option and is in the WR2 conversation. Yes, I said WR2. Ginn can easily catch 60-70 balls with 900 yards and eight or more touchdowns. Those numbers are identical to what Rishard Matthews did last year, and Matthews was WR13 in standard and WR19 in PPR. Like I said, WR2 value for Ginn. He’s not quite Cooks and is in the low-end WR2 conversation, but Drew Brees and Sean Payton will utilize him in the same fashion as Cooks. The best part is that Ginn likely won’t go for more than a low-end WR3 price given his career. Gobble up that value next year.
Robert Woods heads to the Rams
Robert Woods replaces Kenny Britt in Los Angeles (still getting used to that) and has the talent to fit Jared Goff’s game. Woods is a smaller receiver than Britt and more of a possession option. That’s good for Goff, who is a game manager and Alex Smith-like. If Woods can stay on the field, he should lead the team in receiving. However, don’t expect a Britt-like season and WR3 value. Woods at his best is a high-end WR4.
Buccaneers Sign DeSean Jackson
This is a great marriage for the Buccaneers and DeSean Jackson. The Bucs needed a weapon across from Mike Evans after Vincent Jackson’s injury and the revolving door of attempted stop-gaps for the job last year. Jackson not only fills the hole, he brings his deep-play ability to a team with a strong-armed quarterback in Jameis Winston. Even at 30 years old, Jackson is still one of the better big-play receivers in the NFL, and he averaged 17.9 yards per catch last year, despite the Redskins offense being designed more for the short game. Winston will take full advantage of Jackson’s skill, and that will boost both player’s touchdown totals. Jackson had just four last year, and Winston jumped from 22 to 28 in his second year but has the ability to throw for 30-plus. At the very least, Jackson will help Winston increase his yardage, which was nearly the same as in Winston’s rookie season. Look for Jackson to post similar numbers to last year with 2-3 more touchdowns and Winston to take another step forward. That puts Jackson as a high-end WR3 and Winston in the Top 10 quarterback discussion.
Kenny Britt to the Browns
We can assume that the Browns signing Kenny Britt means that Terrelle Pryor is not returning. Keep doing you, Browns. Obviously, this makes no sense to me, but let’s break it down for Fantasy Football purposes. Britt’s numbers were quite impressive when you consider his quarterback play last year. Now, Britt goes to another quarterback mess, but is once again the team’s top receiver. Britt was Fantasy’s WR25 last season with 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. That included a 14.7 yards per catch mark after 18.9 and 15.6 the two previous seasons. At 6’3″, 215 pounds, Britt is a tough matchup with the size to out-muscle defenders and the speed to beat them to the ball. That will help Britt succeed, but with complete uncertainty at the quarterback position in Cleveland (as of today), last year’s numbers are likely Britt’s ceiling. He’s a WR3; although, if the Browns surprise us with a competent quarterback, Britt could near the WR2/3 border.
Mike Glennon signs with the Bears
“He’s this year’s Brock Osweiler.” I’m sure that you’ve heard that already, and while I’m not guaranteeing that it’s true, it’s easy to draw the similarities. Let’s analyze Glennon on his own merits, though. He performed admirably in his time as starter for the Buccaneers before Jameis Winston arrived. However, with his game come some concerns. Glennon drops back deep more often than not (seven-steps over four-steps) and struggles with his deep ball… and honestly, “struggles” might be a bit kind. Glennon is a game manager. Don’t ask him to be aggressive and put a team on his shoulders, and he can succeed. It’s when you ask him to do more that his flaws are evident. We don’t have a large book on Glennon, but what we’ve seen so far also adds concern given his new team. If he’s going to be a game manager, that’s acceptable if he has weapons around him. However, Alshon Jeffery is off to free agency and Kevin White can’t stay healthy. Cameron Meredith and the rest are nice secondary receivers, but at least Osweiler has DeAndre Hopkins. Don’t expect Glennon to surpass 4,000 passing yards or throw for more than the low-20s in touchdowns, which means he’s not Fantasy Football worthy outside of two-QB leagues.
Patriots trade for Dwayne Allen
This is very similar to the Martellus Bennett trade from last year. The Dwayne Allen trade clears things up for Jack Doyle, who is now a TE1. It creates similar value, maybe a slight boost, to what Allen had previously. The Patriots love their two-tight end sets, and Allen will have his opportunities, but his real value will come if/when Rob Gronkowski gets hurt and misses time. Allen is just a mid-level TE2 but the only “tight end handcuff” out there.
Kenny Stills stays with the Dolphins
Stills posted a ridiculous reception-to-touchdown mark last year, which is obviously unsustainable. The good news is there is room to develop in his game with the Dolphins under Adam Gase. Watching film, it was surprising to see just how much Stills ran out of the slot last year with Jarvis Landry on the team. Stills did a good job of gaining separation, but you can see that he still needs to improve out of his breaks. Stills often loses speed of out breaks, allowing defenders to recover. Stills obviously is a great deep threat, but he needs to add the out routes and quality breaks to his game to be a complete receiver. If he does, Stills can be a solid WR3 with upside for more, which means DeVante Parker and Leonte Carroo will fight for the No. 3 role on this team and be occasional DFS options instead of being seasonal-worthy… at least until Landry possibly departs in free agency and one of them can step up.
Ravens sign Danny Woodhead
Well, this hurts fans of Kenneth Dixon like myself. On the bright side, it likely means that the Ravens will treat Dixon as the lead back, but we (and the Ravens) know just how good Danny Woodhead is in the passing game, which means Woodhead will absorb the vast majority of those opportunities. For Fantasy, we also know that Woodhead has not only been a fringe RB1 in PPR, but because of his volume and ability, he’s been a high-end RB2. The Ravens surprisingly throw as much as the Chargers did/do. Woodhead has health concerns returning from injury, but if he is anywhere near 100 percent, he can once again be a strong RB2 in PPR and standard scoring. As for Dixon, he’s a RB2 in standard as well, albeit on the lower end with this signing. He is explosive and good after contact, which will help him put up solid numbers. Dixon carries risk, however, as Terrence West could take away touches if Dixon falters, as uninspiring as West may be.
Update: Dixon has been suspended for the first four games of the season. Woodhead is now in the fringe RB1 conversation in PPR leagues, as he will see a heavy share of the work, even running the ball. This of course will change if the Ravens add another running back to the mix via free agency or the draft.
Giants sign Brandon Marshall
The first big signing comes the way of the Big Apple. With Brandon Marshall signing with the Giants, several players’ values change. Let’s start with Marshall. His value is relatively unchanged… well, his value before 2016. Last year was a mess for the Jets, and Eli Manning is worlds better than anyone the Jets had at quarterback. And let’s not forget Marshall’s significant performance jumps in his first season with his new teams. Marshall will be the Giants best red zone option, and while we should expect a season closer to 1,100-1,200 yards than 1,500, Marshall can reach 10 touchdowns with a full season. Marshall is a WR2 for 2017 with this move.
As for Manning, last year was a disappointment for many reasons, but with Fantasy Football, it was a step back from the two previous seasons. Manning was Fantasy’s QB7 and QB8 the two years prior. A QB21 finish was one of the biggest drop-offs for all quarterbacks, and Manning scored 61 fewer Fantasy points. In those 2014-15 seasons, Manning’s second best receiver was Rueben Randle, and while Sterling Shepard has a higher ceiling, he finished with fewer yards, as did the rest of Manning’s weapons after Odell Beckham. Now, the Giants have one of the league’s best duos and arguably the best trio in the league. They use three receiver sets the majority of the time, and Manning will bounce back. Given the depth of talent for quarterbacks now, it might be hard for him to reach QB7, but Manning is back in the conversation as a fringe QB1 and mid-round pick.
As for Shepard, he obviously takes a hit, as he did catch eight touchdowns last year but with just 683 yards. Shepard will see plenty of slot work in 2017, and he will be terrific in that role. However, it simply comes down to math. Even if Manning returns to a 4,400-yard/30-touchdown season, Beckham and Marshall will get theirs, especially in the red zone, which leaves Shepard as the third option. Even if Manning bounces back, he’s not Drew Brees, so someone has to draw the short straw. Shepard is still worth a mid-round pick given his potential, especially if Marshall were to struggle or miss time, but Shepard went from being a fringe WR2 to a WR4 with this signing. And don’t forget about the backfield. Whether it’s Paul Perkins or someone else leading the way, the Giants’ running back will have plenty of room to run. If the Giants give any running back a “lead” role, that player would be a strong RB2 in this dangerous offense.
The Pierre Garcon deal isn’t official and can’t be until Thursday at 4 pm, and we’ve seen deals fall through before, so stay tuned. As of today, though, it appears Garcon will be the 49ers new No. 1 receiver. Garcon’s skill set allows him to age well, meaning there is little worry over him turning 31 this year. The main concern with Garcon is not his talent or age, as he improved his catch percentage and yards per target last season, posting some of the best numbers of his career. The Brian Hoyer signing might seem like it ended any chance of Kirk Cousins coming to San Francisco, but reports are that Kyle Shanahan sees Hoyer as a backup. Stay tuned. If the 49ers don’t get Cousins, Garcon can still be a Top 30 receiver nearing 1,000 yards with 5-7 touchdowns. As for Hoyer, he’s one of the only Tom Brady backup success stories, and Hoyer proved that he can have Fantasy value with the Texans and Bears. With Garcon as his top option, and with Jeremy Kerley and Marquise Goodwin as his second and third receivers, Hoyer is near the bottom of the league in receiving talent, but he can still reach 4,000 passing yards with mid-20s touchdowns under Kyle Shanahan. As for Goodwin, he is a speedy deep threat who might have flier value in DFS next year.
Jack Doyle returns to the Colts
Doyle surprised everyone by finishing as TE13 last year, leading the way for the Colts when everyone expected a breakout season from Dwayne Allen with Coby Fleener off in New Orleans. Doyle showed he can be a nice weapon in the Colts passing game, but his best performance came with Allen sidelined. As of today, you can’t draft Doyle or Allen as anything more than a TE2 with the opportunity for more if one missed time. It’s possible that the Colts release Allen, but even if they do, remember that we went down this road last year. Doyle would be a TE1 with that release but don’t discount the fact that Erik Swoope could jump into the mix and give us a case of déjà vu.
Main Image Credit: Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire
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