Last week I dove deep on the free agent running backs who changed teams, including Miles Sanders, Rashaad Penny, David Montgomery and more. This week we switch gears to wide receiver, and well… we knew this wasn’t a “sexy” class of free agents. Still, there’s some value to be found in this ragtag group – you just have to look closely. Let’s jump right in and see what we have here.
Allen Lazard and Mecole Hardman, New York Jets: The cat was out of the bag fairly quickly on this one, as Lazard let it be known pretty early that he was likely to follow Aaron Rodgers if the situation appeared to be a good fit. But wait… Aaron Rodgers still isn’t on my Jets, right? The assumption is the deal will eventually get done, which means Lazard slides in as the Jets’ WR2 behind the electric Garrett Wilson, for now. I say “for now” because it’s possible that Odell Beckham Jr. could also be suiting up for Gang Green.
Until that becomes a reality, I like this fantasy situation for Lazard because Wilson is far more likely to draw double teams than he is. Plus, he comes in with built-in chemistry with Rodgers. From a fantasy perspective, things would certainly change if Beckham slid in to intercept some snaps, targets and opportunities.
As for Hardman, if Beckham arrives he’ll have no fantasy value. If not? I could see Hardman emerging as a PPR streamer in deep 14-to-16-team leagues.
Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas Raiders: In theory, Jimmy Garoppolo to Jakobi Meyers sounds like a good match. Garoppolo is best in shorter and intermediate throwing lanes, and Meyers is a young savant in those gray areas of the field. Furthermore, ya can’t go wrong when Davante Adams is drawing defensive attention away from you, right? Meyers is exactly what the Raiders needed because Hunter Renfrow is not a WR2 – he’s best in the slot as a traditional WR3, just doin’ his thing – and Josh McDaniels needed a smart, young talent to slide into that all-important WR2 spot. I also think these Raiders are going to surprise people because they come in with far less hype this NFL season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, New England Patriots: I’ve already spit my vitriol when it comes to the overall state of the Patriots’ franchise right now, but at least from a fantasy standpoint, this is a pretty good situation for JuJu. Mac Jones is solid on short, quick-release throws and slants, and JuJu is best suited for those very same plays and scenarios. If he gets in line with Bill Belichick’s antiquated way of doing business, it should be a higher volume fantasy season for JuJu than last because KC had the luxury of spreading the ball around.
Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, Carolina Panthers: I recently put my two cents on the Panthers’ overall rebuild this offseason, and I think it’s kind of smoke-and-mirrors when it comes to the wide receiver position. Thielen and Chark sound good in terms of “name” acquisitions, but I don’t think they are the players who put a rookie quarterback in an immediate position to succeed. Thielen will bring leadership and experience, but I certainly don’t think he’s a WR1 at this stage of his lengthy pro career.
Chark has a lot of talent but never stays healthy or finds consistent fantasy production. These are two wide receivers I don’t mind in general, I just don’t love the landing spot from either perspective.
Robert Woods and Noah Brown, Houston Texans: Did DeMeco Ryans see something on tape that I missed? Even when Ryan Tannehill was healthy at certain points for the Titans last season, “Bobby Trees” looked like complete toast. Maybe Ryans thinks he has more in the tank because Malik Willis and Josh Dobbs wasted some of his good snaps in Tennessee? I don’t really know, but most likely, this is a leadership-type move like Thielen. I’m thinking the Texans are gonna end up with Bryce Young in this highly-anticipated NFL Draft, which means Young and Woods will have to work on their chemistry right from the get-go.
As for Brown, this was the better pickup of the two for me. One year, $2.6 million is extremely affordable, and I think Brown could actually outplay Woods if given a full opportunity. The Texans are especially thin at wide receiver following the Brandin Cooks trade to the Cowboys – I expect them to add a WR or two in this year’s draft.
Parris Campbell, New York Giants: I actually loved this move for Joe Schoen, Brian Daboll and the Giants. The Indianapolis Colts had really been trying to make speedy Campbell their WR3 of the present and future, but the kid simply cannot stay healthy. That said, this is a much better spot for him! No pressure here in New York, as the Giants will be spreading touches around between Saquon Barkley, Isaiah Hodgins, Wan’Dale Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and newly-acquired Darren Waller. Really, no pressure at all on Campbell. Not a great fantasy situation for him, but a nice, explosive piece for Daboll to move around in his multi-faceted offense.
Trent Sherfield, Buffalo Bills: Savvy fantasy pundits are already chirping about Sherfield’s PPR potential in Buffalo, and the organization itself believes it upgraded from Isaiah McKenzie (coming up next). Sherfield is one of those under-the-radar guys who simply goes out there and does his job well. He’s technically sound and always makes himself available to his quarterback. I could see Josh Allen developing quite a bit of trust in him in the slot and over the middle in tight windows.
Isaiah McKenzie, Indianapolis Colts: Here’s essentially the new Parris Campbell for Indy. Isaiah just never made The Leap I expected him to make in Buffalo – should have been pretty easy with Allen and Stefon Diggs around, right? It just never came together from a technical standpoint, and McKenzie will look for greener pastures with the Colts. I don’t foresee much fantasy value here.
I’ll see ya right back here next week!
John Frascella is a published sports author who has been covering the NFL for 19 years. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football, basketball and baseball.