Free agency is one of my favorite parts of football. This is probably because my favorite team never seems to be in the playoffs so I guess it gives me a false sense of hope going into the next season. A couple of needs get fulfilled with players that I haven’t seen play in the Buccaneer’s system and all of a sudden I can argue them into the playoffs in my head. The Jaguars also always look like they’ve built a dangerous roster in the offseason, and then we remember by week 2 that Blake Bortles is still the quarterback.
Free agency answers a lot of questions for fantasy football as well. Every year, the beginning of March changes the destiny of at least a few players that might be question marks in keeper leagues. Just because the player takes the biggest check doesn’t mean that they are putting themselves in the best position to put up their best possible individual numbers. I’m going to do my best to decipher the first week of signings and trades right here. This was a busier year than last year for the skill positions as far as I remember, so if I forget someone you wanted to read about, forgive me. Let’s get started with one of the fastest players in football…
DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – You may have heard me talk about this already on the podcast, but this one really excites me from a fantasy standpoint. The value probably won’t change much for DeSean Jackson. He’s still a borderline top 30 receiver entering his age 30 season. If he stays healthy, he’s probably going to get to 1,000 yards and a decent amount of touchdowns, but he still is going to frustrate PPR owners.
The real value jump is going in the direction of Jameis Winston. Jameis has struggled early in his career throwing the ball downfield. He tries to the best of his ability, but he simply misses receivers. With the speedster, Jackson on the roster now, Jameis has an option with more of a radius in open space. I currently have Winston as my 6th highest ranked quarterback and I don’t feel like it’s a homer ranking.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles – Alshon didn’t have any of the really explosive games in 2016 that we saw from him in the previous 3 seasons. In fact, he only had one 100+ yard receiving game. The obvious problem was he didn’t have his starting quarterback for the majority of the season, therefore he was unable to get into his groove. He hasn’t logged a 1,000-yard season in 2 years, a lot of that has to do to health issues.
I’m not a doctor, the only doctor that I’m actually friends with is an optometrist, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. His injury history really doesn’t concern me going forward. His NFL injuries include, groin, hamstring, and calf. Past injuries that concern me more than any of those injuries include; knee, foot, and concussions. Alshon hasn’t had an injury that falls into these categories. Based on past performance upside and his beast-like size, I have Alshon just outside of my top 30 overall. I see him as the most dangerous weapon that the high upside Carson Wentz has.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots – I have always had an infatuation with Brandin Cooks. I had fun watching his college highlights before he entered the league and then I believe I heard him on a podcast before the NFL draft or read a long form profile on him and I was sold. It’s not hard to fathom that I got heart eyes emoji when he was drafted to play pro football with Drew Brees (whom he is no taller than).
The headache that Cooks has created since he entered the league is game to game statistical inconsistency. There is nothing more frustrating to a fantasy owner than knowing that you can’t bench a player even though he has put up 5 fantasy points in back to back weeks. I thought that last year was going to be the season that he put it all together and would be dripping in fantasy points. I wasn’t totally wrong; the only problem was that the majority of his points came in three games. Of his three 100-yard games last season, his lowest yardage total was 143 yards. The rest of the season? Mostly a head scratcher.
We all know that Drew Brees likes to spread the ball to twenty-six different targets from game to game. This probably isn’t going to change in a Bill Belicheck offense. Tom Brady’s three favorite targets are Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and whoever is coming out of the backfield on a wheel route. Brandin is going to get his shine, I just don’t think it’s going to be on the consistent basis that we’re looking for as fantasy players.
Martellus Bennett, TE, Green Bay Packers – For as hyped up as Martellus is from season to season as a top-tier pass catching tight end, he’s never logged a 1,000 yard season. His 90 catch, 900+ yard season with the Bears was a great season but I could think of 8 tight ends I’d rather have on my fantasy team off of the top of my head. Bennett’s value boils down to whether or not Aaron Rodgers is going to acknowledge his football existence. We’ve all seen Rodgers repeatedly ignore his tight ends throughout his career. There was a glimmer of hope in the playoffs when Rodgers built a nice relationship with Jared Cook. Players change their approach as their career goes on, but is Bennett talented enough for Rodgers to feed him TE1 numbers? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington American Football Club – I love this for both sides. Pryor is one of my favorite receivers in the NFL and it’s safe to say that I’m his second biggest fan at Razzball (Tehol wants to have his babies, I’m pretty sure). Pryor is coming off of his first full season as a career-focused wide receiver and was the brightest spot on a mostly bleak Cleveland offense. His ability to make moves on badly thrown balls and overpower corners is truly a treat to watch. With Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson cashing checks elsewhere, Pryor is sure to see his fair share of targets from the all-around best quarterback that he played with in his career.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings – Latavius Murray has signed a nice 3-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Shortly thereafter, he had a minor operation on his ankle to clean up some bone spurs. As far as it’s been reported, this surgery won’t affect his ability to play in 2017. However, the run blocking in Minnesota will most likely affect his ability to perform for fantasy teams. Jerick McKinnon, the Vikings leading rusher in 2016, averaged 3.4 yards per carry. I haven’t seen a large talent gap between McKinnon and Murray up to this point.
Besides the 12 touchdowns Murray scored in 2016, he was mostly ineffective. Mike Zimmer recently stated that he believes Murray will be an asset in the passing game out of the backfield. That is a bit of a head scratcher to me considering Murray has never eclipsed 300 receiving yards. I will not be going out of my way to draft Murray this upcoming season.
Mike Glennon, QB, Chicago Bears – I will keep this short, as there isn’t much to say from a fantasy standpoint. Glennon has been nothing more than a game manager up to this point in his career. Game managers are hardly even justifiable to stream during bye weeks. The Bears let his best weapon walk and have done little outside of signing Markus Wheaton and… Deonte Thompson? Nothing to see here, folks.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Indianapolis Colts – Kamar Aiken is always a solid contributor but he won’t do any better than number three on the wide receiver depth chart. He could be a nice late round add in deep leagues for bye week fill-ins.
Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Giants – Marshall is going to be drafted too early because people are going to get the wrong idea about Eli Manning throwing him the ball. The truth is, Eli’s numbers have been getting worse over the last couple of seasons and he isn’t aging in a desirable direction. Brandon isn’t getting any younger himself. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Marshall will be a solid red zone option as long as he is on the field, but he will have seen better seasons from a receptions and yardage standpoint when all is said and done.
Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore Ravens – Woodhead is about the best contributor that you can get in the 10th round of your PPR draft every year. In 2015, Danny caught 80 balls out of the backfield. In 2016, before he was injured, he was averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a change of pace back. All reports point to Woodhead being ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery. If he is able to see the field in the first few weeks of the season, he will be a huge asset to the Ravens while Dixon is suspended.
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