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Mon Mar 6th 2023

Top 15 Dynasty Free Agents

The NFL new year begins a week from tomorrow, which means the free agency period will begin next week. The free agency period always shakes up the dynasty value of players, both the free agents and the teams that sign with or leave. It's a roller-coaster period in the NFL calendar for dynasty managers who either renew hope in their players and see them get more opportunities or lose hope in their players buried on depth charts.

This year is deep at quarterback, which is rare and running back, which is pretty common. There are a few impact tight ends but only a few impact wide receivers. It's fun to speculate on the free agent class before the new calendar year begins, so I put together my top 15 free agents list and speculated where the top 15 would sign.

Lamar Jackson

  • The Player: Jackson is the cream of the crop in this year's class with the highest dynasty value. His career top-12 fantasy seasons and cheat-code points on the ground make him the most valuable free agent in this year's class. Baltimore's coaching staff and schemes have helped him succeed since they drafted him, but Jackson can succeed with any coaching staff that maximizes his unique strengths. He's a fantasy producer on the ground, but an accomplished passer as well, given the schemes drawn up for him. He's a top-12 dynasty quarterback no matter what happens in free agency. 
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: It's most optimistic that he will re-sign with Baltimore, the team that drafted and knows him, or at least get the franchise tag. Still, he may sign with another team like the Jets or the Falcons since he's without an agent and representing himself. In most cases, he'd help the dynasty value of every player on teams he signs with, but he contributes so much with his running ability that he could diminish the value of dynasty pass catchers and runners on his team. His landing spot will make a difference.

Derek Carr

  • The Player: Carr is a competent NFL quarterback, a viable starter in superflex leagues, and a backup in one-quarterback leagues. He's better than any quarterback available in the back half of the first round this year. He will start for a team next year, making him among the most critical free-agent signings this season. He could improve upon his previous seasons if the right team signs and develops him.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: He's not going to re-sign with the Raiders but has interest with the Panthers, Saints, and Jets. As mediocre as he has been, he'd increase the value of all the pass-catchers on any of those three quarter-back-less teams he's projected to join, especially the Saints and Jets, who have young pass-catchers. He'll give a team, and fantasy players renewed hope this off-season.

Daniel Jones

  • The Player: Jones has conflicted dynasty managers and the Giants. They refused to extend his contract the last year while he had the best year of his career. He finished as a top-12 quarterback last season, though battling with inconsistency overall. Brian Daboll, his new coach, bought out the best in him. While he'll never rank among the top tier of dynasty quarterbacks, he can be a steady top-12 quarterback in one-quarterback leagues and a solid starter in superflex leagues.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: There is little buzz around his free agency status since he's most likely expected to sign with the Giants again. The Giants are the best signing spot for Jones, though if he lands with the Saints, Jets, or Carolina, his value could hold steady. If he gets a starting job next year, his value will remain the same, but if he does not, his dynasty value will drop significantly.

Geno Smith

  • The Player: Geno was the year's surprise player last season, finishing as the #5 ranked QB depending on scoring settings. No matter your league settings, he was a top-12 quarterback and told the Seahawks he was ready and able to lead the team.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: It's unlikely that any team besides the Seahawks will sign Geno, but it could happen. Geno sustained the fantasy and dynasty value of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, and I believe he can do it again after his surprising season last year. I doubt any other team would look to sign him as their starter, so he'll likely sign with Seattle again or become a top-paid backup for another team.

Saquon Barkley

  • The Player: Barkley bounced back last season, especially at the start of the season. The Giants limited his workload at the end of the season, or his end-of-year stats could have looked far better. He showed enough talent this season to show that his dynasty value has held steady. He's among the few rare second-contract running backs I believe will excel in his second-contract years.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: All signs point to the Giants and Barkley wanting to sign a new contract, but so much depends on if Daniel Jones signs a contract. Either of the two could get the franchise tag, but it depends on who signs first, and the ball is in Jones's court. Barkley would be a coveted free agent if he did not re-sign with the Giants and could maintain his dynasty value no matter where he signs. He'd become the RB-1 on any team that signs him.

Josh Jacobs

  • The Player: Jacobs surprised me last year, finishing as the third-ranked running back in the league. After his first two seasons, I thought he was just an average fantasy running back. Last season, however, he proved me wrong, finishing as the third-ranked running back in the league. Even so, the Raiders did not extend his contract, showing their uncertainty too. 
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: The Raiders have indicated their desire to re-sign or franchise tag him if necessary. After last season's success, I hope he will find a way to stay with the Raiders. Jacobs will become a star on another team for a few years if he does not re-sign with La Vegas. If he signs with another team with no clear RB-1, his dynasty value will remain unchanged.  

Tony Pollard

  • The Player: Pollard surpassed Ezekiel Eliiot this year as the Cowboys' most productive running back, finishing as a top-12 running back. He sustained a late-season injury but will be good to go to start the 2023 season and keep his place ahead of Elliot, who may be asked to take a pay cut to remain with the team. Pollard exceeded Elliot in every possible stat last season, which says a lot. 
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: The Cowboys plan to franchise Pollard, and I don't think he'd be more productive on a team that doesn't know him as the Cowboys do. The Cowboys, however, are possibly in a position to draft Bijan Robinson. Free agency comes ahead of the draft, so the decision regarding Pollard will significantly determine the future of the Cowboys' running backs.

Miles Sanders

  • The Player: Sanders was one of my favorite players in his class, but he's yet to prove himself as a superstar. At the end of his contract year, his future is unknown. With great depth in the running back class, I am very uncertain about Sanders' future with the Eagles or another team. He's more than capable of being an NFL starter and given a better workload than the Eagles have been willing to give him.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: Unlike the running backs mentioned above, I do not hope that Sanders re-signs with his current team. I want to see him get a new lease on life on a team that will give him more work. I'd love to see him sign with Carolina or Miami, who has wide-open depth charts and new coaches who have yet to shape their team entirely with the players they want.

David Montgomery

  • The Player: Montgomery gets a bad rap. He's a better player and a more valuable dynasty asset than dynasty managers believe. He's not elevated himself among the elite. Still, he's provided a steady floor in dynasty rosters each of his four years in the league, averaging more than ten fantasy points per game. He's 25 years old and has a few more years of NFL and dynasty production ahead of him. It will be interesting to see which teams compete for his services.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: I'd like to see what Montgomery could do in Author Smith's run game in Atlanta if paired with Tyler Allgeier. I'd like to see him sign with Houston and compete with Dameon Pierce. Montgomery can play better than these second-year running backs next year and deserves a shot to prove it.

Evan Engram

  • The Player: Evan Engram was a surprise breakout last year after signing a one-year prove-it contract with the Jaguars. He proved it by finishing as the 6th highest-scoring tight end in the league, scoring one point less than in his breakout rookie season in 2017. Six years later, he's back on the radar as an every-week startable tight end after the Jaguars made the most of his talent under their new coach, Doug Pederson.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: Evans will likely get the franchise tag, giving him more money to play for the team for one more year. I wish the Jaguars would sign him to a long-term deal to make his future less uncertain. He's found a team that wants him and deploys him in the right ways and has an up-and-coming offense under Trevor Lawrence, so he'd be wise to take the franchise tag more get a little less than he could on the open market to sign a 2-3 year deal with the Jaguars.

Juju Smith-Schuster

  • The Player: Juju is the only receiver on my top-15 list. This year's wide receiver free agent class is not impressive. Juju is the best one out there and is a free agent again after playing one year with the Chiefs and winning a Super Bowl. He'll never return to the top-ten dynasty value he has after his first two years in Pittsburg, but he could still help a team's passing game and contribute to dynasty rosters for the next few years. He finished the season 36th in points, barely qualifying as a WR-3, but in leagues with more than three wide receiver spots, he helped teams last season.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: I doubt Juju will re-sign with the Chiefs, but I don't know where he will land. He'll get targeted by a team needing a solid WR-2 to help their passing game. The Raiders and Cowboys would make sense from that perspective. Or he could get targeted by teams that bring in a free-agent receiver every year, like the Rams and the Bills. I would like to see him play for the Raiders opposite Davante Adams, especially if the Raiders acquire Aaron Rodgers in a trade.

Dalton Schultz

  • The Player: Dallas will likely let Schultz go in free agency, even after his decent fantasy season. Last season, he did not build upon his 2021 breakout season. He scored 55 fewer points while Dallas's other tight ends cut into this workload and had a few standout games last season. Jake Ferguson will likely start for the Cowboys next year and Peyton Hendershot will complement him. 
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: The most logical landing spot for Schultz is the Chargers since Dallas's former offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, was quickly hired by the Chargers after Dallas let him go. Gerald Everett played okay last season for the Chargers, but Schultz would definitely be an upgrade at the tight end position. Detroit could also improve at tight end after trading T.J. Hockenson last year, and the Commanders also need a significant upgrade at the position.

Jamaal Williams

  • The Player: Williams was one of the biggest surprises of the year last season, leading the league in rushing touchdowns and keeping DeAndre Swift off the field. He's past his prime but has one or two more years to produce in the NFL and on dynasty rosters. He won't get signed to become a team's lead back but could fill a productive and complementary role like he did last few seasons in Detroit.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: Williams was a perfect fit in Detroit, helping create the new culture that Dan Campbell wanted. It's hard for me to believe that they will let Williams walk away or that Williams would not be willing to sign for less money to stay on the Lions as they rebuild into a winning team. I believe he will re-sign with the Lions. Still, it could also be interesting to see him get signed by the Saints or Broncos, who could use a complimentary back and likely need a starter at the beginning of the season if Alvin Kamara is suspended or Javonte Williams is not fully recovered from his surgery. 

Kareem Hunt

  • The Player: Hunt will never regain the top-tier dynasty value he had for a short time in Kansas City before his suspension, but a fresh start on a new team could give his dynasty value a significant bump. He's taken on less wear and tear the last few seasons playing behind Nick Chubb, so he could play better than an average declining 27-year-old running back.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: I would love to see Hunt sign with Chicago, where he could compete with Khalil Herbert for the leading role. Carolina is rebuilding and looking for a younger free-agent running back, but Hunt could step into an immediate starting role there. The Buccaneers revived the career of Leonard Fournette stating this week that they would release him. They could try to do the same with Hunt but are also among the teams reportedly interested in drafting Bijan Robinson in the first round.

Damien Harris

  • The player: I was much higher on Harris than the consensus in the 2019 class. He proved me right in spurts but ultimately was surpassed by Rhomandre Stevenson. Harris had productive games when given starting opportunities, but health and competition at the position limited those opportunities. He could still play a complementary role on a new team but is not likely to see his dynasty value bump up no matter where he signs. Like Hunt, he has fresher legs than most backs his age, given his lack of playing time, so he could do better in his second contract than he did in his first.
  • Hopeful Landing Spots: I'd like to see Harris get a chance to start in Carolina, the most open backfield in the league, or sign with Chicago to compete with Herbert. I would also like to see him in a backup role behind Joe Mixon in Cincinnati or Cleveland behind Nick Chubb.

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