Free Agency Movers

Updated: March 31st 2020

When we look lack back at 2020 free agency, the defining trait undoubtedly will be the number of starting level quarterbacks available, highlighted by Tom Brady.  The market was so saturated that former MVP Cam Newton and last year’s passing yardage leader Jameis Winston still do not have jobs.  In addition, former high-end running back performers, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, also move to new teams.  I take a look at some of the top contract players on the move in free agency and what their fantasy prospects entail.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady (Tampa Bay)

The nearly twenty-year run in Foxboro comes to an end as Brady leaves for Tampa Bay.  This is an obvious all-or-nothing scenario for 42 year old Brady and the Tampa Bay coaching staff.  Brady was among the league leaders in attempts last season with the Patriots.  The run game fell apart with a drastic reduction in run blocking.  Brady gets a big upgrade on skill position players in Tampa Bay.  Expect better efficiency on less volume in Tampa Bay.  There is a chance for a significant fantasy rebound from Brady if he shows last year was not a prelude to the end.  As for the relevant Patriots skill players, downgrade this season.  We do not know where the quarterback situation ends up with only Jared Stidham and Brian Hoyer on the New England roster.

So what can we expect the change in quarterbacks will have on other pieces in Tampa Bay?  Jameis Winston tied for the lead league in passing attempts last season, largely due to turnover-driven, negative game scripts highlighted by 30 interceptions.  He also led the league in passing yards while ranking second with 33 passing touchdowns.  This led to monster fantasy production from wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, the PPR points-per-game WR2 and WR4, respectively.  We should have already expected those lofty numbers to decrease with Winston.  Expectations definitely should be lowered with Brady.  Volume could be substantially lower.  Target depth also likely decreases significantly, overall.  Brady gives a slimmer of hope to O.J. Howard after significant regression in Arians’ new scheme.  He also raises the prospects for running backs with more scoring chances and more potential receptions.

Teddy Bridgewater (Carolina)

Carolina moved on from former MVP Cam Newton after a couple of injury-marred years.  The Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater as his replacement.  Bridgewater played the game-manager role for most of his career, typically throwing in low volume and low-ADOT passing schemes while avoiding much risk.  I would not consider him as more than a low-end QB2 and ideally as my QB3 in superflex leagues.  With that being said, Bridgewater is a major real-life upgrade over Kyle Allen.  Allen struggled at all level of the field, but was especially atrocious throwing at mid to deep levels of the field.  Bridgewater fits well with Carolina’s pass catchers who, as a group, have strong after-the-catch abilities.

Phillip Rivers (Indianapolis)

This is one of my favorite fits from free agency.  Familiarity with the head coach and offensive coordinator should ensure a relatively quick transition.  Rivers instantly improves the quarterback spot from Jacoby Brissett increasing the expected fantasy output of all skill players.  Top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and passing-down running back Nyheim Hynes likely are the biggest beneficiaries.  The position group for the Colts is a downgrade across the board with similar skills in many cases. The offensive line is a massive upgrade though.  It can be argued much of Rivers’ struggles last season began with the perpetually injured offensive line for the Chargers.  I see Rivers in the same upper-mid QB2 range for fantasy he has been for most of his later career.

Losing Rivers from the Chargers downgrades fantasy projections for all current players.  Either Tyrod Taylor or a rookie looks like the starter for 2020, and neither is someone that will increase volume or efficiency of the receivers around them.  Taylor brings rushing upside at quarterback but will be in danger of losing the starting spot at any time.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley (Atlanta)

Atlanta ranks as perhaps the best free agent landing spot for a running back.  First round talent exists everywhere on the offense.   Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the rest of the passing attack make one of the best bets for consistent high yardage and scoring opportunities.  The Falcons’ offensive line should be much healthier this year and a nice upgrade over the Rams’ aging unit.  The current depth chart also does not provide much competition with only Ito Smith and Brian Hill behind Gurley.  Gurley’s one-year deal makes drafting a running back very possible and his knee always brings up long-term questions. Put Gurley in the high-end RB2 mix with easy RB1 possibilities.

Melvin Gordon (Denver)

Denver made itself clear this offseason that they wanted to upgrade the running back group.  Gordon steps in as the lead back after signing a 2 year / $16 million contract.  Gordon produced a down campaign in 2019 after holding out for a significant period (typical for many players who come in late) and, as a result, did not get even the money Los Angeles offered.  Gordon likely forms a significant time-share with third-year burner Phillip Lindsay.  Denver figures to run the ball considerably behind a solid run-blocking line which should give Gordon plenty of opportunity.  The question is how efficiently 2nd-year starter Drew Lock can move the offense.  Gordon slots in as a borderline RB2/3 given the role and offense uncertainties.

Jordan Howard (Miami)

Howard lands with the Dolphins on a two-year deal for a team currently without much at the running back spot.  Miami is fully expected to take a running back in the draft but Howard should still have a role with most of the rookies.  People forget it was Howard, not rookie Miles Sanders, trending upward for the Eagles as the year rolled on before Howard’s season-ending injury.  The situation is much worse in Miami, though.  The offensive line ranks among the league’s worst and the offense will be headed by journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick or an incoming rookie.  Howard provides little in the receiving game.  He ranks as an uninspiring RB3 for fantasy.

Wide Receivers

Robby Anderson

Carolina adds some much needed depth to a wide receiver core without much behind star D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.  Anderson brings very good deep speed in a thin-frame package while also providing a breakaway threat on crossing routes.  The former Jet averaged 14 to 15 yards per reception in each season.  He does not run a lot of different routes, won’t break many tackles after the catch, and won’t do much damage in the short to intermediate levels of the field.  The Panthers paid a premium for Anderson at $10 million per year and it is questionable how much Teddy Bridgewater can take advantage of Anderson’s skill set.   His lack of volume certainty puts Anderson in the WR4/5 range with upside if he can take the WR2 job.

Randall Cobb

One of the most curious decisions this offseason was the Texans trading superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for about a 2nd round pick and running back David Johnson.  Houston then gave Cobb a 3-year / $27 million contract.  There is plenty of opportunity for Cobb.  The Texans’ wide receiver group includes perpetually injured Will Fuller and deep-threat Kenny Stills.  Unfortunately, Cobb’s play really fell off the last few seasons.   He no longer has the juice that he once had many years ago.  Cobb should have a role as the slot receiver and there is value with DeShaun Watson at quarterback.    With that being said, Cobb is nothing but a cheap depth piece for fantasy.

Emmanuel Sanders

New Orleans might have found a worthy receiver opposite of Michael Thomas in Sanders.  He came back from a devastating Achilles tear quicker than expected and had a productive 2019 for the Broncos and San Francisco.  This is a smart addition for the Saints.  The question is how much consistent work Sanders gets on a team with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara soaking up targets plus Jared Cook, Tre’quan Smith, and Taysom Hill still involved.  He is worth a WR5 type of investment to find out with Drew Brees back.

Tight Ends

Austin Hooper

The former Falcon took a very common track for tight ends, slowly improving each year.  Hooper’s yardage and receptions increased every season, even last year despite playing in only 13 games.  He finished last season as the PPR points per game TE3.  Cleveland obtains a reliable consistent target but not one who dictates defenses or athletically challenges deep.  Hooper averaged between 9.3 and 10.7 yards per reception each of the last three years.  He figures to head 2-TE formations with David Njoku for the Browns after signing a huge $10.5 million per season contract.  Hooper slides to a borderline TE1/2 now.  There is too much uncertainty about his role on an offense with Beckham Jr., Landry, Chubb, and Hunt searching for volume.

Jimmy Graham

I will simply copy what I said about Graham when he signed with Green Bay:

The Seattle (Green Bay) experience was not kind for Jimmy Graham.  He never really fit in for what the Seahawks (Packers) wanted from him when he was healthy and it was painful watching Graham following his patellar injury.  Unfortunately he lost the burst and speed which made him one of the most dangerous receiving weapons in the league with New Orleans.  His great size and hands still let him maintain a role as a significant short-area threat.

It is difficult understanding what Chicago was thinking giving Graham significant money.  He is a role player at this stage and not a fantasy option in most leagues.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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