Fantasy Football Free Agency
What a time to be alive (let’s stay positive, people). Free agency and the new league year are upon us. Teams are making moves and using up salary cap like nobody’s bidness (is that how the cool kids spell it?). Ergo, I jotted down some quick thoughts on some fantasy-relevant skill position players who have switched teams and/or been thrust into more meaningful roles.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
Texans to Cardinals
Love, love the move by the Cardinals – as does everyone else except Texans fans. What they gave up in return for Hopkins was highway robbery. Not only did Arizona obtain arguably the greatest player in Houston Texans franchise history, but they also got the Texans to pay for David Johnson’s contract.
Now Kyler Murray has a new favorite toy. That toy’s fantasy value seems like it might have increased, but I wouldn’t necessarily deduce that. Hopkins should be the main target for Murray, but Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald, among others, will limit Hopkins’ ceiling. That being said, I’m still willing to draft Hopkins late in the first round.
RB Todd Gurley
Rams to Falcons
As fast as Thor descends to Earth from Asgard, Todd Gurley descended from the ranks of the elite to the free-agent market. The Rams really wanted to save salary cap space and did so to the tune of $10.5 million. The Falcons relatively quickly signed the 25-year-old to a one-year deal. It’s a great fit for both sides as the Georgia alum heads back to his old stomping grounds.
Much has been made of Gurley’s arthritic left knee, but he racked up more than 1,000 total yards and 14 total touchdowns in 15 games last season. He didn’t show the same explosiveness and agility we’ve grown accustomed to from him. I’m not close to giving up on him yet, though. At worst I’ll give him a look as a high-end RB2 as the Falcons new lead backfield man.
RB Melvin Gordon
Chargers to Broncos
The Broncos made a splash on Friday by signing Melvin Gordon to a two-year deal. It’s a sensible move on paper for Denver as Gordon gives them a nice complement to the shifty Phillip Lindsay. One wonders what Royce Freeman’s future will hold in light of the Gordon addition. From a fantasy standpoint, Freeman is practically irrelevant with the Broncos.
The sixth-year running back missed four games last season following an unsuccessful holdout, managing nearly 1,000 total yards and nine total touchdowns. Having battled his fair share of ailments, Gordon has only played one full campaign in five years of professional football. That being said, he’s one of the better running backs in the league when he’s full go and gives Denver a much-needed boost near the goal line. Of Gordon’s eight rushing touchdowns, six of them came from inside the five-yard line; seven from inside the 10-yard line.
Gordon’s fantasy value isn’t impacted a whole lot here. He was in a similar situation on the Chargers with Austin Ekeler. The difference here is that Gordon could prove himself to be the primary pass catcher in this backfield. His ceiling remains in low-end RB1 territory as the lead runner for the blue and orange, although I personally believe he’s part of the RB2 conversation.
WR Stefon Diggs
Vikings to Bills
Don’t look now, but the Bills offense is looking pretty fun. Josh Allen, Devin Singletary, Diggs and John Brown comprise what may be the best offense in the AFC East now. Allen is notorious for errant throws from time to time, but he hasn’t had as complete of a weapon as Diggs yet. The move is exciting, I just don’t see Diggs performing better in Buffalo than he did in Minnesota. He’s solidly in WR2 territory with low-end WR1 upside.
RB Kenyan Drake
Transition tag from Cardinals
I’ll say this, it won’t be difficult for me to overdraft Drake in 2020. I loved the guy in the red and white when David Johnson was there. Now I’m not ashamed to label it as a man crush. Yes, Chase Edmonds is there and will steal a few touches each game, but the former Dolphin averaged 18.8 touches per game after reaching the desert. He earned the trust of the Cardinals quickly; the David Johnson trade was further proof of that.
If Drake is available in the third or fourth round, I’m probably snatching him. There’s no reason why he can’t achieve low-end PPR RB1 status in what will be one of the most entertaining offenses in the NFL.
RB David Johnson
Cardinals to Texans
Johnson was one of the best running backs in the league a couple years ago. How the mighty have fallen. One could argue he even peaked in 2016. In 2019, after battling through injuries, he looked like a 30-something-year-old plodder ready for retirement. That stance makes the Texans’ move even more puzzling.
Nonetheless, Johnson should receive the majority of touches out of Houston’s backfield, although I, for one, would like to see Duke Johnson more involved. It’s hard to see Johnson playing better than Carlos Hyde did a year ago. Even so, I’ll take a chance on him as a low-end RB2 to high-end RB3 in case there are flashes of the Johnson of yore.
TE Austin Hooper
Falcons to Browns
At first glance, Hooper starting in Cleveland looks tantalizing both in real life and from a fantasy perspective. However, Hooper was an elite fantasy tight end with the Falcons and would have had similar value with a team like the Green Bay Packers – a destination where many of us were hoping he’d land.
Hooper was annually capable of being a Top 5 tight end in Atlanta in one of the most pass-happy offenses on the planet. With the Browns, it’s more of a Top 10 outlook. Needless to say, David Njoku is essentially obsolete if he stays in Cleveland.
WR Emmanuel Sanders
49ers to Saints
Sanders and Drew Brees aren’t what they used to be, but this is an appealing maneuver for all parties involved. New Orleans really needed help at the wide receiver position; Sanders provides excellent route-running and is a solid deep threat, even at 33 years old.
Sanders and Michael Thomas comprise a tasty one-two punch, but I’m not ruling out the Saints drafting a wide receiver with their first-round pick just yet. Tre’Quan Smith has shown glimpses of promise, though he’s predominantly underwhelmed. Sanders fits in well in this offense. I’m not averse to drafting him as a WR3
TE Hayden Hurst
Ravens to Falcons
Hayden Hurst taking Hooper’s place in Atlanta hasn’t been talked about enough. He figures to be the starter unless the Falcons sign or draft a starting-caliber tight end. I like Hurst’s chances, though. A stress fracture in his foot and subsequent surgery halted Hurst’s rookie campaign in its tracks, and then he had to play behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle.
We haven’t really seen what Hurst can do yet. As was mentioned earlier, Atlanta likes to throw. I’m looking forward to seeing Hurst’s usage, particularly in the red zone and near the end zone. I am of the opinion that Hurst possesses fringe TE1 value.
TE Eric Ebron
Colts to Steelers
If Ben Roethlisberger can stay on the field then this could be an underrated transaction. Alas, Ebron heading east means the demise of Vance McDonald, who I had hoped was going to rebound from a disappointing 2019 campaign. Nonetheless, Ebron immediately provides a viable threat near the end zone.
He is coming off an ankle injury and subsequent surgery which will rightfully scare off some fantasy owners. Let’s not forget that he did score 13 times (a career-high) just two years ago while posting 750 yards (another career-high). There is low-end TE1 potential for Ebron in the City of Bridges.
TE Jimmy Graham
Packers to Bears
I’m a little less excited about Graham in Chicago than Hurst in Atlanta, and by a little less I mean a lot less. You hate to admit it, but the 33-year-old Graham is – for lack of a better term – washed up. He only caught 38 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns in his second season with the Packers. Now he’s on a worse offense and will be sharing snaps with Trey Burton. I’ll say this – I’ll be more enticed by Graham’s fantasy prospects if Nick Foles starts, but mostly I’ll be staying away from Graham except for in tight end premium leagues.
RB Jordan Howard
Eagles to Dolphins
This transaction came as somewhat of a surprise as Howard joined the Dolphins on a two-year, $10 million deal. He figures to start immediately in front of Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin. Howard did miss several games because of a shoulder injury in 2019 though he managed seven total touchdowns in 10 games in his first and only year with Philadelphia.
Howard’s lack of involvement in the passing game makes him far less attractive in PPR leagues. He’s not a sexy pick by any means, but he’s got RB2 upside if he starts a full season.
WR Randall Cobb
Cowboys to Texans
If you’re going to replace DeAndre Hopkins with someone, do it with Randall Cobb. NOT. While Cobb did scamper for 828 yards in Dallas, he’ll be turning 30 years old before the new season commences and has Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee with whom to contend. His situation could be worse, though. Admittedly, there is merit to considering Cobb a sleeper playing in the slot with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Still, I’m only drafting him in later rounds primarily as a flex flier.
TE Blake Jarwin
Cowboys New Starting TE
Much like Hayden Hurst, Blake Jarwin has been thrust into a position to succeed and become a fantasy sleeper. Jason Witten and Randall Cobb have left town, vacating 166 targets. As the depth chart stands, Jarwin figures to start in place of Witten and should receive a decent amount of those 166 targets on top of the 41 he saw in 2019. What’s more is Jarwin was sixth among tight ends with at least 40 targets in yards per target (8.9) behind Jared Cook, Jonnu Smith, George Kittle, Darren Waller and Travis Kelce – pretty good company to be in, eh? For the record, Hurst would have been sixth but did not qualify at 39 targets.
Jarwin should be free in the later rounds of fantasy drafts if the hype train doesn’t get too crowded. He’ll be one of my favorite guys to target as a backup tight end.
Keep in mind that we still have guys like Robby Anderson, Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde, Lamar Miller, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston who will make their impact on the fantasy landscape, not to mention the NFL Draft. Exciting times ahead, folks, exciting times.