WINNERS AND LOSERS AFTER FREE AGENCY AND THE DRAFT
Published by TJ Scott
The NFL Draft is an amazing production, where childhood dreams become reality, and ultimately these young men become a huge part of every NFL team’s future. But when it comes to fantasy football there are very few of these players that are ready to step in and make an impact. For every Justin Jefferson (Pick 22) there is a Henry Ruggs (12) and Jalen Reagor (21) who were both picked ahead of him in the 2020 draft. Also, remember the Chicago Bears traded up in 2017 to draft Mitchell Trubisky when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson went 8 and 10 picks later respectively. The draft is fun and exciting, but very few freshmen make a fantasy impact in their first year and isn’t that what is truly important?
In saying all that, the draft and free agency do change the fantasy outlook for many players in a major way. As I explained last week, opportunity and the players around you have a major impact on the fantasy season. Let us look at some of the big winners over the last month.
- Justin Herbert (LAC) had an amazing 2020 season where he finished as the QB9 and then the Chargers spent the off-season making massive upgrades on the offensive line (drafting Rashawn Slater at 13 and bringing in Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga in free agency). They also added Josh Palmer and Jared Cook as pass catchers. I honestly expect QB9 to be Justin Herbert’s basement and be ready for him to finish 2021 as a top5 QB.
- Mike Davis (ATL), Myles Gaskins (MIA), and Joe Mixon (CIN) were all winners because all three teams chose to do very little at the RB position. Atlanta added Mike Davis (in free agency) who is an average talent at best but as I have mentioned a few times opportunity outweighs talent in fantasy and Mr. Davis looks to be in line for 250+ touches this year. The same can be said for Myles Gaskins who was a 7th round pick in 2019 and only has 225 career touches to his name, but the opportunity is there with Miami only adding Malcolm Brown at running back this off-season. I added Mixon to this list because Gio Bernard has finally moved on and Joe Mixon will be given every opportunity to show his skills, handle 300+ touches, and be a high-end fantasy asset. All three of these backs (Davis, Gaskins and Mixon) will outperform their ADP this year, so draft with confidence.
*everything could change if one of these teams signs an RB between now and Week1
- This should not surprise anyone but DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones are big winners after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence with 1st overall pick. I do not think it can be understated how good of a QB prospect Mr. Lawrence is, and that directly correlates to fantasy success for Jaguar pass catchers. It is early to speculate which one of these receivers is going to become the QB’s favorite option, but someone is about to become very fantasy relevant. Jacksonville’s defense is still below average which means a lot of negative game script (2nd half passing) is on the horizon. One of these three (Chark, Shenault, or Jones – my order right now) is about to become a top18 fantasy option, but which one?? I will definitely be selecting a piece of this offense in every pool I am in and hoping I pick right…
- Honestly, any signing at the QB position would be an upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky. But with the Bears adding Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, I have become a big fan of both Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Robinson is about to play with the best QB of his career and we may finally get to see some of the creativity that earned Matt Nagy this head coaching gig. Then there Darnell Mooney who turned in an impressive (61 catch 4 td) rookie season after being drafted in the 5th round out of Tulane. I expect Robinson to return a top10 season (#12 in 2020) and Darnell Mooney to finish as a WR3/top 36 receiver (#51) in 2021.
Is there a bigger fantasy winner than AJ Brown (TEN) this off-season? With Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith leaving town for big contracts, they leave behind a depleted receiving core and 157 targets. Brown turned 106 targets into 1075 yards and 11 touchdowns. Imagine what he can do with 150 targets??? Look out. Seriously, AJ Brown could be on the verge of fantasy superstardom with little competition around him. Unless someone is added before the season begins (Julio?),
AJ Brown will be a Top 3 WR in 2021.
Other winners include Joe Borrow (CIN), Carson Wentz (IND), Chase Edmonds (ARZ), Aaron Jones (GB), Breshad Perriman (DET), Terry McLaurin (WASH), and Gerald Everett (SEA)
Sadly, with free agency and a fresh set of rookies entering the league, there are plenty of players whose stock value has plummeted over the past couple months. Let us look at some of the biggest losers with this off-season so far.
- Probably the most obvious player on this list is James Robinson (JCK). This youngster had one of the most amazing rookie seasons in fantasy history finishing as the RB7 after being undrafted out of Illinois State. When the Jaguars invested a 1st round pick on Travis Etienne, the James Robinson owners across the world all cringed. James has earned a role in what should be a dynamic offense but with a new coaching staff in town that has no connection, I am worried.
Simply based on touch alone Robinson will finish outside of the top30 in 2021.
- This year’s veteran running backs (former fantasy studs) Melvin Gordon and David Johnson are in trouble with both teams bringing in quality RB’s. Denver traded up to select Javonta Williams at pick 35 and Houston brought in Philip Lindsay and Mark Ingram in free agency. I am not sure why Houston needed both but there is a lot of competition for these aging starters. I believe both Johnson and Gordon will be playing less than 50% of the snap by Week 11 and end up outside the top36 at the position by season’s end.
I am confident in saying that Cam Newton is on the verge of retirement. The Patriots QB of the future is in the building and I think it is just a matter of time before Mac Jones takes control. If Jones has a quality camp and solid pre-season (which I expect) I think he will be starting by Week 8. Sadly, the former league MVP (2015) can no longer make the throws necessary to win a Lombardi Trophy, and we all know that is all Bill will settle for. Do not draft Cam Newton in any pool!
Everyone knows the 49ers are going to run the ball and run the ball well. But who is it going to be, and can you trust any of them in fantasy? Raheem Mostert has been good and productive when he does play and will (most likely) be the 1st 49er RB taken in drafts, but with Wilson, Sermon, Gallman, and even Elijah Mitchell getting touches this year. With so much competition and Mostert’s injury history there is almost zero chance Mostert leads the San Francisco backfield in fantasy points. Take Wilson or Sermon later in the draft and pray they get a chance to be the lead dog when it matters most (the fantasy playoffs).
It is a sad day when two fantasy superstars are in an article like this, but Drew Brees retirement could have a major impact on Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Both players are bound to regress as Drew Brees was a master and peppering these two with targets. If Jamies Winston wins the starting job both players should finish inside the top10 at their respective positions, but if Taysom Hill wins the job, then both are in trouble. Check out Kamara’s numbers during the games Hill started in 2020, not good! My guess is that both quarterbacks will play, which makes both Thomas and Kamara “good” (not amazing). Both Alvin Kamara (RB) and Michael Thomas (WR) finish outside of the top10 at their respective positions in 2021.
- Other losers over the off-season: Ryan Tannehill, Josh Jacobs, Tee Higgins/Tyler Boyd, Kenny Galloday, Davante Adams (Rodgers?), Hunter Henry