NEW ROTOWORLD BETA SITE

Raymond Summerlin

Fantasy Fallout

print article archives RSS

NFL Free Agency Recap

Thursday, March 15, 2018


With the “legal tampering” window really just open season at this point, the beginning of free agency week is always a madhouse. While the Rotoworld News Page is the best option for all the up-to-the-second news, the sheer volume of blurbs can make it difficult to pick out the most important tidbits for fantasy football. With that in mind, here is a quick rundown of all the free agency action at the fantasy positions. The Free Agent Tracker and Transaction Tracker are also great ways to stay in the loop.

Trade Machine
It is easy to forget this “free agency period” really started at the end of January when Washington traded for Alex Smith, and the Browns set the market ablaze by making four trades including deals to bring in Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry over the weekend. Along with taking two teams out of the quarterback market, these deals created some interesting fantasy situations.

Editor’s Note: With over 15,000 reviews, DRAFT is the highest rated fantasy sports app. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link.

 

For Smith, it is tough to see much of a change from a fantasy perspective. Smith actually averaged more dropbacks per game than Kirk Cousins last season and just 1.5 fewer than when Cousins attempted 606 passes in 2016. Certain to convert more of his dropbacks into scrambles – Smith has scrambled on 6.8 percent of his dropbacks over the last three years while Cousins’ season-high over that period was four percent last year – Smith probably will attempt fewer passes than Cousins has averaged since taking over the starting job (563), but their per attempt passing numbers will likely be similar.

Smith can also make up any passing difference on the ground. Those extra scrambles will lead to more rushing yards, and Smith will not be short touchdown opportunities. Even with guys like Cousins and Andy Dalton running the show, Jay Gruden’s quarterbacks have averaged 3.1 rushing scores over the last seven seasons, and Cousins has averaged 4.7 attempts inside the 10 over the last three years. All of that is the long way of saying Smith has a good shot to remain in the mid-tier starter range both he and Cousins occupied last season.

It is tougher to project Landry’s and Taylor’s fantasy futures. For Landry, his value relies on volume. While he can boost his per-catch numbers with good after the catch ability, YAC is not a particularly sticky stat for receivers not named Golden Tate, so relying on it for Landry’s efficiency is foolhardy. More important is his consistent usage near the line of scrimmage, usage Hue Jackson also employed for Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins in the recent past -- we will have to see what Todd Haley does with this offense. Unless he is used more downfield in Cleveland, Landry will once again need elite volume to stick in that WR2 range, and he might not get it.

Josh Gordon commanded a 25.8 percent target share after he returned last season, Cleveland had the fourth-lowest pass rate in one-score games last year, and Tyrod was never asked to throw more than 29 times per game during his three seasons in Buffalo. There is a good chance Cleveland attempts considerably fewer pass than Miami averaged during Landry’s time there, and he has a bigger potential threat to his target share. This feels like a downgrade.

As for Taylor, he will likely continue to do Tyrod things – DeShone Kizer rushed for 419 yards and five scores last season – but his long-term place atop the depth chart is questionable at best. Cleveland is still likely to invest one of their top-five selections in a quarterback, and Taylor will be a free agent after this season. Jackson has said he does not want to start a rookie Week 1, which is why they traded for Taylor in the first place, but it is not tough to imagine Taylor losing his job to the rookie fairly quickly. That possibility does not matter for his streaming value, which should still be substantial thanks to his rushing ability, but it does make him a less appealing option in best ball formats.

As the Quarterbacks Turn
The biggest name in the quarterback market was unquestionably Kirk Cousins, and, unsurprisingly, he landed in the best available fantasy destination. Over the second half of last season with Stefon Diggs healthy, Case Keenum scored the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks and averaged the third-most points per drop back, all without Dalvin Cook in the backfield. Even with the talent Cousins had at his disposal early in his Washington run, Minnesota has more weapons on offense than he has ever played with, and he has matched what Keenum was able to do last season on a per attempt basis in the past. It is tough to see Cousins falling out of the mid-tier starter range he established himself in last season, and he has the upside to be an every-week option in this offense.

Even before the Vikings officially moved on to Cousins, Keenum had found his new home in Denver, a destination which does not offer quite as much as Minnesota but does boast a quality receiver duo. Things went off the rails last season, but Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders averaged a combined 2,277 yards the two years before that with a broken down Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, and Trevor Siemian at the wheel.

The bigger concern is Keenum regressing from his career effort last season. Before last year, Keenum had never completed more than 61 percent of his passes, had never had a touchdown rate above 3.6 percent, and had never had an adjusted yard per attempt average over 6.9. Those numbers were 67.6 percent, 4.6 percent, and 7.6 last season. Perhaps he is just a late bloomer and this is his new normal – he did only have 777 career attempts coming into last season – but it would not be surprising to see him regress. It will be tough to invest in Keenum as anything more than a late-round flier or two-quarterback option.

The other early quarterback news came from the Cardinals, Jets, and Bills, with New York and Arizona both agreeing to terms with two signal callers during the tampering period. New York signed the more interesting duo in Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater while Arizona “addressed” their literal hole at the position by signing both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. Especially with both teams likely to add a quarterback in the draft, there is not much to get excited about here, although McCown has reportedly been told he will be the starter and averaged the 15th-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks last season.

As for Buffalo, they at least waited until free agency officially opened to sign A.J. McCarron to a two-year deal. McCarron did not do much to suggest he is going to be a fantasy star in his essentially five-game run as the Bengals’ starter in 2015, especially with the pass-catching talent available in Buffalo, and the Bills are reportedly still going to be aggressive as they attempt to move up for a quarterback in the draft. At this point, there is little reason to get excited about McCarron’s fantasy prospects.

Why Dion? Why?
Heading into this week, Dion Lewis seemed as if he would emerge as the most fantasy appealing of all the free agent backs. Arguably the top back available, Lewis seemed destined for a situation in which he could finally assert his dominance, becoming the solid RB1 his career .76 fantasy points per touch average suggests he can be. Unfortunately, he signed in Tennessee, a backfield he will have to at best share with Derrick Henry.

On the bright side, there is reason to believe this situation will create enough opportunity for both Lewis and Henry to be fantasy factors. New OC Matt LaFleur was in Atlanta when both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman finished as top-20 running backs in 2016, and LaFleur coordinated an offense which gave Todd Gurley a whopping 343 touches in just 15 games last season including 87 targets. Barring injury, it seems unlikely Lewis gets enough work to be a top-12 option, but he can still be a solid RB2 even with Henry around.

With Lewis out the door, the Patriots were facing a potentially big hole at running back, but they helped fill the gap by re-signing Rex Burkhead to a three-year contract. Burkhead was only healthy for 10 games last season and only touched the ball 10 or more times in five of those contests, but the opportunity is there for a much bigger role if New England does not bring anyone else in during the rest of free agency or the draft. Unfortunately, it is likely they will, and it is tough to judge how valuable Burkhead can be without knowing who that player is, how much New England spends, and what happens with Mike Gillislee, who could still be cut.

It would have been nice to see Lewis land in San Francisco, but they ended up bringing in a different intriguing fantasy asset in Jerick McKinnon. Occasionally given a starter’s workload but more often a complementary player in Minnesota, McKinnon’s four-year, $30 million contract strongly suggests the 49ers plan for him to be more than that, and he is entering a situation short 240 carries and 88 backfield targets following Carlos Hyde’s departure to Cleveland. If he commands a large chunk of that, McKinnon will be in a good position for fantasy success under Kyle Shanahan, who has coached a top-15 fantasy back in six of his 10 seasons running an offense including five of the last six.


continue story »
12
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.
Email :Raymond Summerlin



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    Player News: Week 15

    Player News: Week 15
  •  
    Matchups: Mixon/Cooks/Samuels

    Matchups: Mixon/Cooks/Samuels
  •  
    Dose: Chargers Shock Chiefs

    Dose: Chargers Shock Chiefs
  •  
    DFS Analysis: Cooper, Martin

    DFS Analysis: Cooper, Martin
  •  
    Dose: Wentz Questionable

    Dose: Wentz Questionable
  •  
    Dose: Conner Back for Wk 15?

    Dose: Conner Back for Wk 15?
  •  
    Dose: Ekeler in Doubt

    Dose: Ekeler in Doubt
  •  
    NBA Waivers: Melton, Burks

    NBA Waivers: Melton, Burks