Well it’s been a little bit, hasn’t it? The last time I’ve put pen to paper for Razzball was all the way back in December! But I’m glad to be back writing once again.
But after a wild playoffs, a disappointing Super Bowl (for the Pats), I’m glad to be back to help recap some of the best (and worst) free agency moves from these past few weeks.
So let’s look at the biggest moves and what it means for fantasy football in 2018.
Allen Robinson Signs With Chicago
Even before the official free agency period was underway, we got big news that Robinson would be signing with Chicago for a reported $42M for 3 years. In Chicago, under QB Mitch Trubisky and new Head Coach Matt Nagy, he’ll be joining fellow wideouts Kevin White, Cameron Meredith, Josh Bellamy, Dontrelle Inman, and Kendall Wright. While those are a lot of names, Robinson shouldn’t have any issues being the de facto #1 option for Trubisky.
So what does a #1 receiver look like in Chicago? Well a #1 WR in 2018 will mean a whole lot more than last year under former coach John Fox. Under Fox, the Bears ran the ball 46% of the time, which was the 7th-most in the NFL. However, things will change this year.
Kansas City’s 2017 offense, under Nagy, featured a lot of RPO (Run-Pass Options) playcalling. It is assumed that Nagy will bring this system to Chicago (and it makes sense, as Trubisky ran the RPO during his time in North Carolina), which will be the exact opposite of what occurred last year for Chicago.
I would expect the 2018 Bears to let Trubisky throw it as much as he needs to, which is great news for Robinson. The earliest of the earliest ADP data for 2018 is in (because who the hell does mock drafts in March?), and Robinson has been going around the late 4th, early 5th round as the 21st WR off the board. For me, that is a risk I am willing to take without hesitation. Sure, we haven’t seen him put up great numbers in 3 years now, but as the #1 wideout in Matt Nagy’s offense with a young QB at the helm, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Robinson as my WR2.
Case Keenum Signs with Denver
After a breakout 2017 season in Minnesota that saw him throw for 3,500 yards and 22 TD’s, NFL journeyman Case Keenum is heading to the Mile High City.
While many (myself included) thought the Broncos were going to make a very strong push for Kirk Cousins (more on him later), they ended up going for Keenum. And while Denver still holds the 5th pick in the NFL draft, and they still might take a QB there, it is safe to say that Keenum will be the starting QB for a majority of the NFL season.
So should we expect 2018 Case Keenum to replicate his numbers from 2017? While throwing to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas may not be as ideal as Adam Theilen, Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs, I still think Keenum could be a nice late-round steal in fantasy drafts.
First off, early ADP data indicates that he could be found later in drafts, around the same range that Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are going. As of now, in March, I would rather have Keenum than either of these three young gunslingers (I need to take a real close look at Dak Prescott this year). Personally, I don’t really mind Thomas or Sanders for fantasy purposes, and while the Broncos’ defense getting weaker and weaker as we speak may frighten some potential owners, I think it helps Keenum. If he can throw the ball more because he’s down early and often, I’m all for it.
If you play fantasy football the way that I do, and that late round QB’s are the only acceptable QB’s in fantasy, then Keenum should be on your radar in 2018.
Sammy Watkins Heads to Kansas City
After two impressive years to start his career, Watkins was plagued by some foot injuries a few years back, then a complete revamp of his career to Los Angeles. And although Watkins didn’t light the world on fire in 2017, he did finish T-7 in the NFL for TD catches, which is pretty impressive if you take into consideration that most of his matchups came against the toughest CB shadow from opposing teams.
But aside from L.A., Watkins will now be heading to the midwest, and many are asking, is he going to re-capture some of the magic from his first two seasons in Buffalo? In my opinion, I can’t say that he will. Both Hill and Kelce ate some serious targets last year in this offense, and even though Albert Wilson will be heading to South Beach, you can only seriously predict Watkins to get between 70-90 targets, which isn’t enough to consistently rely on him until we see him playing a big role in the offense.
As for now, I’d only take him as a WR5 or a un-drafted waiver wire option until we see some glowing reports in the summer.
Jimmy Graham Heads to Green Bay, Jordy Nelson Leaves
First, let’s talk about Graham. From 2011 to 2014, Jimmy Graham set the NFL on fire, as talks about him playing his way to Canton was growing by the day. After a 2015 season cut short due to a knee injury, he bounced back to some quality production in 2016, and a really solid 2017 campaign in Seattle that saw him finish as the #4 TE in fantasy, albeit being very TD-dependent.
So what can we expect out of him in 2018? While there may be some caution due to Martellus Bennett not working out for many fantasy owners, I don’t think the same applies to Graham, who doesn’t nearly have the mileage that Bennett had when he came in last year.
Due to Jordy’s departure, the Packers are now looking at a WR corps of Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, with Aaron Rodgers’ favorite red-zone threat gone. Graham should be able to take some serious targets in this offense and be the #1 red-zone threat for the Packers offense, which immediately warrants him as a Top-5 TE pick this year in drafts.
Now, let’s move onto Jordy, as he immediately found his way to Oakland after he was cut from Green Bay. It’s safe to say that the best years are behind the 33-year old, but without Michael Crabtree in this offense, we may not need Jordy to be his younger self to warrant consideration in fantasy leagues.
While Derek Carr had a disappointing season last year, to say that Nelson is walking into an incompetent offense under Jon Gruden would just be silly. Remember, we’ve seen how good Carr can be when all the pieces click in this offense, and it could happen for Gruden (especially when you factor in Carlos Hyde) and the rest of this Raiders offense.
Michael Crabtree was a huge red-zone threat that Derek Carr will certainly miss, until he realizes that he now has Jordy Nelson. And if the Raiders will use him out of the slot, and in the red-zone like in Green Bay, then Nelson can easily be a WR3 come August.
Kirk Cousins Heads to Minnesota
Cousins, the hottest free agent this year, will be heading to Minnesota on a 3-year deal worth a reported $86 million. The former 4th-round draft pick certainly has made a name for himself in the NFL, and now will be heading to the Vikings, one of the better offenses in the NFL last year.
Since 2015, Cousins had been doing quite well for himself in the nation’s capital, finishing with 4,000, then 5,000, then 4,000 passing yards in the past three seasons for Washington. When you factor in his slightly-above-average receiving corps (except for Niles Paul, who we all can agree is the GOAT), those numbers start to look even better.
Personally, I’m not 100% convinced on what the Vikings will do in the draft. I would like to see them continue to build their offensive line, and if they do that, then I’m all in. I’m technically in, but if they do that, I’d be all in (great analysis Zach).
Cousins is a QB1 for me. If Keenum can be one last year in this offense, then Cousins can definitely be a QB1. Is he in my personal Top 10 as of now in March? For now, yes.
Sam Bradford Goes to ‘Zona
Okay, this isn’t going to take very long at all.
Sam Bradford is heading to the desert on a one-year deal. It is not certain if he’ll be their QB1 heading into 2018, or if they’ll take a QB in the draft.
Either way, Bradford’s upside isn’t very high this year. While he’s just been okay these past few years, except for 2016, when he did quite well, it isn’t like he’s joining a world-beater of a team. The Cardinals are in rebuild mode, with Larry Fitzgerald likely only around for one more year, John Brown is a free agent, J.J. Nelson is very confusing, and Jaron Brown has as much to offer in this offense as I do.
The only good thing going for Bradford is that he’ll be able to hand the ball off to David Johnson, coming of a season-ending ACL injury, behind a beat-up offensive line. Yay?
Isaiah Crowell Signs with the Jets
While Crowell has shown us brief flashes of promise over the years, he’s been nothing more than an RB3 while he’s been in Cleveland.
So what does his fantasy stock look like in New York?
Well, I think it’ll be more of the same. In Cleveland, he battled for touches with Duke Johnson, and eventually lost out whenever the Browns found themselves down early. The same can be said for the Jets of last year, and predicted for this year.
If the Jets find themselves down early, they’ll likely feature Elijah McGuire or Bilal Powell on passing downs. Even on non-passing downs, Crowell will have to battle with the two backs for touches. RBBC’s are never ideal for fantasy, and I see this backfield being one of them next year. Is Crowell a better back then the two? Maybe, but we’ll see who comes out of this trio after training camp.
Donte Moncrief Joins #Sacksonville
After deciding to move on from Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, while re-signing Marqise Lee, and adding Donte Moncrief. I, for one, was a bit confused that the Jags decided to go this route, but I generally understand the decisions.
So now, let’s take a look at Moncrief. After an impressive 2015 in which Moncrief hauled in over 700 yards and three scores, the Colts, and Moncrief, were looking like a serious title contender. Alas, it was not meant to be, and both the Colts and Moncrief have been pretty lackluster over the past few years.
But we need to remind ourselves that he’s just 25 years old, and definitely has more mileage left in him, and while he’ll need to compete with a few Jaguars receivers, and the fact that this is still a run-first team, I don’t hate the idea of Moncrief of a super late, low-risk, high-reward WR4/5. He’s a young receiver on a young and exciting team.
The Daily Show Heads To New York
That’s kind of a weird mini-title, right? Anyways, let’s talk Jonathan Stewart.
With the possibility that the Giants take Saquon Barkley with the 2nd overall pick, Stewart leads this backfield, for now, as he’ll reunite with his former OC Mike Shula in New York.
While Stewart hasn’t been a consistent RB in a few years now (and really didn’t even back in the early ’10s due to DeAngelo Williams splitting carries), it still isn’t looking good as he enters his age-31 season with a lot of NFL mileage.
Honestly, I’ll make this quick: I don’t think Stewart is worth it. He’s not even a guarantee to make the NFL roster by Week 1.
Dion Lewis Joins the Titans
Well, that sucks. For me, anyways. For fantasy, not bad? Let’s look at it.
While ideally, we would wnat Derrick Henry would be the bell-cow running back for fantasy purposes, he’ll still likely fill in for the early-downs work, while Lewis regains some features of his role in New England, as he’ll likely fill in as the change-of-pace back, with work on passing downs.
Now, does this partnership work for us, and will it work in fantasy? I think so, but I don’t think I’m in the majority. While as of now, it’s safe to say that Derrick Henry will be a RB1 in this offense, I think we can project Dion Lewis as a solid RB3 in PPR leagues. Here’s the thing: a lot of people say his fantasy stock goes down with this move, but I think it stays the same. Lewis, on any given week for the Pats could have been a RB1 or RB3. He would have had to battle Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead, James White, and the ghost of Mike Gillislee.
I think Tennesse should add some stability to Lewis’ career and stock value.
Jerick McKinnon Joins the Super Bowl 53-Winning 49ers
Well, not so close, but don’t you get the feeling that there is some serious hype building around the Niners this year? And maybe for good reason, so let’s get to it.
While he’s never been a RB1, even with his strong season in Minnesota last year, he is certainly a talented runner, and an even better pass-catching back.
Kyle Shanahan has always been a friendly face to pass-catching runners, it’s a good sign that McKinnon should be the de-facto RB1 in this offense. With glimpses of past success with Matt Breida and Joe Williams, McKinnon should fit in nicely for this offense. As of now, it’s looking like McKinnon could fit in nicely in drafts as a high-upside RB2.
Carlos Hyde Heads to Cleveland
Cleveland has continued to revamp their offense, this time, with Carlos Hyde being added to their backfield, as he returns to his home state of Ohio.
While his YPC dipped from 2016 to 2017, last year was the best for Hyde, and now enters a revamped offense with Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry and Duke Johnson already in the offense, with the possibility of a QB and maybe even Saquon Barkley (I don’t think he’ll make it to 4, but that’s just me), this should be a better Cleveland Browns team in 2018.
However, to judge Hyde’s fantasy value in 2018, we have to work under the assumption that he’ll be the lead back in this offense. If that’s the case, I think it’s safe to say he’ll work the early downs, with Duke Johnson being the primary passing-downs back. Hyde can definitely work out of the backfield, but I think they’ll keep that role for Johnson.
If the situation I described above will be the case in 2018, I think Hyde can be on the border of a low end RB2, high end RB3 for fantasy, unless the Browns offense just goes nuclear, and if that occurs, first, what a time to be alive, and second, Hyde will easily be a RB2.
Good luck Hue Jackson!
Michael Crabtree Heads to Baltimore
The last Free Agent move I’ll discuss for today (you can find the rest of our opinions on the moves on the Razzblitz podcast, not to mention our personal twitters) will be Michael Crabtree’s move to Baltimore.
Personally, I am very excited for this move. While Crabtree will be entering his age-30 season in 2018, he is still a very dominant receiver, and now will be taking over a receiving corps that just lost Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, and Danny Woodhead out of the backfield. There is going to be a crap ton of targets available for Crabtree in this offense in 2018. And while he’ll certianly draw the attention of opposing Defensive Coordinators, his biggest threat to his workload (as for now), is Breshad Perriman.
That’s great to hear for fantasy. As of now, even though he’ll have Joe Flacco throwing the ball to him, I think Crabtree should remain as a WR2, like he was in Oakland.
Alright guys, that is my time for today. Thank you so much for reading this free agency post, and be sure to listen in on the newest episode of the Razzblitz podcast, that should come out either Thursday or Friday. I’ll be back soon to either take a look at more free agency moves, to preview the draft, or hell, to even take a look at some early sleepers, breakouts and busts for 2018! It’s never to early to take a look at some football.
Go read a book.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach