Mon Mar 23rd 2020
Quick Hits on Free Agency
Player Values After Free Agency Week One
The NFL year officially started last Wednesday, and the free-agent moves were fast and furious in the first few days. Some blockbuster trades went down too. Free agency and the NFL draft are the two most significant turning points in the offseason that cause players' dynasty value to rise of fall. Here are some quick thoughts players that have signed new deals so far and how it has affected their value in my dynasty rankings.
- Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay, where he will play with the best wide receivers he has had since the Randy Moss days. This signing does not move the needle for me very much on Brady's value, given that he's going to be 43 years old this year. He's the oldest player on a dynasty roster in history! It's hard to believe that Brady's average depth of target is suddenly going to rise after years of throwing short passes in New England. Unless Tampa Bay changes their scheme to fit Brady's aging skillset, I think this will be a downgrade to Evan's, who is a better deep-threat but will keep Godwin's value about the same since he runs shorter routes in Bruce Arians's system. I'll move O.J. Howard up in my rankings by a few spots, but not much since Arians does not use the tight end well enough in his system. Everything depends on if Arians can adjust his offense to Brady's style of play unless Brady has way more in his arsenal than we've seen in New England. The other players most affected by this move are Julian Edleman and Jameis Winston, whose dynasty values plummeted after this signing.
- Tannehill signed a deal keeping him with the Titans where he had a breakout end of the 2019 season. This signing provided the team continuity after their strong playoff run last year. While I don't think Tannehill can be as efficient as he was last year, I think he can remain a streamable dynasty quarterback. His value will stay about the same for me. Corey Davis is a fading asset, and this does not do much to help his falling value. A.J. Brown, however, holds to his same high value that continued to rise throughout the season after Tannehill became the starter. Tight end, Jonnu Smith, increased his value this offseason, but that mostly related to the Titan's letting Delanie Walker go than it is about Tannehill re-signing. Everyone stays right about the same as they did last year, as you might expect with a re-signing.
- Phillip Rivers signed with Indianapolis, where he will be united with several coaches from his long career in San Diego and LA. Rivers is one of my all-time favorite dynasty quarterbacks, but last year I think he looked utterly washed up. I am skeptical that he will be relevant in fantasy leagues again. He likes to target running backs and tight ends, so this should be a small boost in the value of Marlon Mack and Jack Doyle, but I would not predict the same for T.Y. Hilton or Parris Campbell, who took a dip in value with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback last year. I'll keep the Indianapolis wide receivers ranked about the same even though they added Rivers.
- Bridgewater was signed by Carolina, presumably signaling the end of Cam Newton's days in Carolina. Bridgewater's dynasty value rises the most simply because he's likely moving from a back-up role to a starting role, but he'll only rise high enough to be a backend QB-2 in my eyes until he proves himself as a starter. I don't think this increased the value of any of McCaffrey, Moore, Samuel, or Thomas, but it also did not cause their value to fall. We already saw how McCaffrey, Moore, and Samuel could produce last year with back-up quarterbacks. Bridgewater should be better than what they saw last year, so everyone's value rises a hair, but not as high as it would if we knew Carolina had a healthy Cam Newton again.
- Foles was signed to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting quarterback job in Chicago. Honestly, I don't like either quarterback and think this is a bad move for the entire Chicago offense. I would have preferred that they trade for Cam Newton or Andy Dalton. This move causes Trubisky's value to drop significantly. At the same time, Foles's value does not move up much. Until we know who wins the starting job, they will be ranked closely together, with neither of them presenting much of an opportunity to increase their value much even after being named a starter. As for the running backs and wide receivers in Chicago (Montgomery, Cohen, Robinson, and Miller), their values should stay about the same, but they could have increased in value had another quarterback besides Foles signed in Chicago.
- Ekeler is moving on up my dynasty rankings after signing a long-term deal with the Chargers. Melvin Gordon has signed with Denver, so Ekeler is now the lead running back in Los Angeles, likely to share time with Justin Jackson. I do believe that last year will be the best fantasy year of Ekeler's whole career because he caught so many passes from Phillip Rivers. Tyrod Taylor (or whatever rookie they draft) will never check down to Ekeler as much as Rivers did. Still, his value increased with this signing simply because he is now the 1A running back instead of the 1B. The Gordon signing in Denver also caused Justin Jackson's value to increase significantly because he will share the workload with Ekeler.
- This cut and signing was a shocker. The LA Rams cut Gurley after teams did not make offers to trade for him. Now the Rams are paying for about half of his salary while his new team, Atlanta, pays the other half. I'm in the minority because I believe Gurley still has a lot left in the tank and was starting to look like his old self by the end of the year last year. Atlanta is the perfect landing spot for Gurley after they released Devonta Freeman. He'll fit into Atlanta's offense immediately. I did not move Gurley up or down in my rankings after this signing. The real question this transaction raises is who will be the lead running back in LA. Malcolm Brown played behind Gurley last year while the highly touted rookie, Darrell Henderson, did not do much at all. Henderson's value has to rise the highest after this move, but I would not be surprised to the LA draft another running back this year.
- It's one thing to trade for David Johnson and his massive contract. It's quite another to trade DeAndre Hopkins to do so. Bill O'Brien has been ripped to shreds over this lopsided NFL trade, as he should. Johnson fell in dynasty rankings more than any top-ranked player last year. As a first-year coach, Kingsbury quickly replaced him as the leading running back in Arizona. Coach O'Brien can't do so, or he'd have even more egg on his face. Johnson's value has to rise in my rankings simply because he'll be given every opportunity to succeed. A trade this big is kind of like draft capital. When a player is drafted in the first round, they get more chance to succeed. The same goes for trades of this magnitude. I will move him up just because of that, but I am not doing it because of his talent.
- Meanwhile, for the time being since he was transition tagged, Drake looks to stay in Arizona, where he exploded onto the scene at the end of last year in David Johnson's place. He was already lined up for a leading role in Arizona, which is why he had moved up to the #23 running back in my rankings before free agency. If no team offers more than Arizona is willing to match, then Drake should become remain a top-24 dynasty running back. This signing also is a boost to the value of Chase Edmonds, who figures to be the handcuff to Drake, and I suspect he will share time with Drake and get 35-40% of the snaps next year.
- This signing was a smart move by Miami, who had no running backs with any dynasty value. Odds are, however, that Miami will draft a running back given their need and abundance of picks. I bet Howard gets stuck in a similar role as he was last year when Philadelphia picked him up and drafted Miles Sanders. Howard split time with Sanders until the end of the year when Sanders passed him up in the line-up due to injury and performance. It could happen again to Howard in Miami this year. Still, he's the kind of running back that is surprisingly reliable when he is healthy. He could help a dynasty team this year. His value remains relatively unaffected by this move, nor does it affect the value of other players in Miami. It does, however, solidify Mile Sanders as the lead running back in Philadelphia. His value may rise in others' eyes, but I already had him as a top-12 running back before Howard's signing so he won't move up much for me.
- I expect Melvin Gordon to be the leading running back in Denver right away, keeping his value the same in my eyes. I already had Gordon ranked just outside my top 12 because he's still young and outstanding. He'll keep equal value after signing with Denver, perhaps even moving up a spot or two. However, his signing depresses the value of Phillip Lindsay significantly and pushes Royce Freeman's value almost off the table.
- In one of the stupidest trades in NFL history, Houston sent Hopkins to Arizona. Dynasty owners have never had a problematic relationship with Hopkins as his NFL coach and GM, Bill O'Brien did. He's been fantasy gold and a top-5 wide receiver in the eyes of every analyst. He's long been my #1 ranked wide receiver until Michael Thomas passed him up this last year. I've kept Hopkins as my #2 ranked wide receiver after this trade. He's too good to let changing teams affect his play. Kyler Murray will love Hopkins, and his dynasty stock bumps up a good bit because of this trade, while DeShaun Watson's value falls a bit. I don't see this trade radically affecting the values of the other wide receivers in Houston, even though they should have more opportunity. I'll move Fuller and Stills up a few spots, but I doubt either of them can become a true WR-1 for Houston or our dynasty teams. As for the Arizona wide receivers, Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald should hold their dynasty value while the second-year players (Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson) that dynasty owners have been holding onto in hope may need to let that hope die
- I'm moving Diggs dynasty value down after this trade to Buffalo. The Bills may have given up the farm to get him, but I don't believe they have the kind of scheme or the type of quarterback to unleash Diggs's dynasty value. Also, I may be alone on this, but I try to sell diva wide receivers who demand trades or act in ways that hurt their teams. I sold early on OBJ and Antonio Brown because of this and was proven right in every trade I made. Team-players like Adam Thielen stand to benefit now, and even though he's older, I'm moving Thielen up in my rankings by quite a bit. As for the Buffalo wide receivers, John Brown and Cole Beasley keep about the same value and can perform as WR-3s or bye-week and injury fill-ins.
- After re-signing with Dallas, Cooper keeps his value as a top-10 dynasty receiver. He's still likely to be an up-and-down scorer from week to week, but he's already established a better connection with Dak than he has with any other quarterback and Dallas is going to be a top-5 scoring offense for the foreseeable future with all of the weapons they have signed to long-term contracts, assuming Dak gets signed beyond the franchise tag. Michael Gallup stood the most to gain if Cooper signed elsewhere, so his dynasty value stays the same rather than taking the jump it could have taken had Cooper left.
- Sanders made it clear that he was chasing a Super Bowl ring with whatever team signed what will most likely be the last contract of his career. Well, he signed with the right team then. He's a sure bet to be the second most targeted wide receiver in New Orleans this year behind Michael Thomas. I can't move him up in my rankings very much given his age and that he's behind the best wide receiver in the NFL in Michael Thomas. If I were a win-now dynasty team, however, I'd trade for him for what he can do in this next year. This year might be the last year of his production if Drew Brees could lead the team to his second Super Bowl. Or maybe Brees will play in the second year of his new contract and play for two more years. Either way, Sanders is a short-term dynasty asset, but Deebo Samuel's value in San Francisco rises even more as he becomes the clear #1 option in their passing game. I'm on an island hoping this could clear the way for the completely faded value of Dante Pettis. I've made trade offers for Pettis this week.
- I love Hooper and liked his landing spot in Cleveland, but I had to move him down in my dynasty rankings because I am convinced that part of his success last year was a documented friendship and chemistry with Matt Ryan. It will take time to establish that in Cleveland, who, like Atlanta, has plenty of other weapons vying for targets on their team. His big contract indicates that they want him to be a focal point of the offense, and maybe their new coach, Kevin Stefanski, will make the tight end more of a focal point of the offense, but we've yet to see that. Hooper has shown enough to remain a top-12 tight end, but I have moved him down after this transaction.
- Hurst was on the verge of being removed from my dynasty rankings, but his signing with Atlanta will move him up significantly merely because he goes from being buried on a depth chart to being given a starting role. Opportunity alone moves him up in my rankings, but I am not entirely sold on his talent, given that he could not earn a starting role in Baltimore after being drafted in the first round. That says a lot. I'm moving him up based on the opportunity, but consider this a prove-it moment for Hurst. He has to prove it before he can move into the top 20 in my tight end rankings. If I owned him, I would eagerly try to sell him to someone who believes in him more than I do.
- Jimmy Graham goes to Chicago, a team that can't figure it out at the tight end position and currently has ten tight ends on their roster. This transaction does not move the needle for me on anyone's dynasty value. The Trey Burton hype had already been stifled, so he could not move much further down that he already was. The smarter speculation could be to bet on Demetrius Harris, whom coach Nagy was familiar with and also picked up this offseason.
- Ebron is easy to hate given his erratic dynasty value since being drafted in the first round by Detroit, but I like this landing spot for him. Pittsburg is full of weapons in their passing game, and Big Ben seems to be healthy and ready to go this season. Ebron's yo-yo dynasty value rises yet again, in my opinion, causing Vance McDonald's value to fall and become droppable from dynasty rosters.
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