For every free agency winner, there must be a loser. Let’s check out some of the big names who were hurt by 2023’s free agency. If you missed our article on Free Agency Winners, you can find it here.
There are a lot of people calling Waller a free agency winner, but I just don’t understand it. He’s moving from a team that made him a top 3 fantasy tight end in 2019 and 2020 to a team that wasted their previous quality tight end in Evan Engram for several years. This just isn’t a great situation for Waller compared to where he was. He now has to compete with Daniel Bellinger for snaps, he’s battling with Saquon Barkley and a multitude of quality slot receivers for mid-field targets, and Daniel Jones has a known penchant for scrambling instead of checking down to his tight ends.
It’s also worth noting that Daniel Jones is a bottom-10 quarterback in red zone passing, he’d much rather scramble or hand it off. In fact, Giants tight ends got just 13 red zone targets in total last season. If your tight end isn’t being used in the red zone or as a check-down option, he’s not a good fantasy selection.
This free agency has been awful for the Chiefs’ offense. They’ve lost JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman and perhaps Jerick McKinnon, as pass-catchers and bookends Orlando Brown and Andrew Wylie are also out the door. Unfortunately, the offense has only picked up the disappointing tackle Jawaan Taylor, leaving the O-line in shambles. I’m sure they’ll draft a tackle in the draft, and there will be some good options available, but it’s not the kind of free agency Mahomes owners would want to see. He’s still a top 3 option in fantasy, but his floor and injury risk have both been badly hurt.
Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette (FA)
That Zeke hasn’t found a landing spot yet is very concerning, with all the best opportunities dried up. He either needs to drastically reduce his asking price or settle for a committee. I suspect the latter is more likely, and that’s terrible news for fantasy owners. He’s definitely a sell-now. Fournette is in a similar spot. Tampa looked like a good place to be with their anticipated run-heavy approach. Now being without a team this far into free agency means it’s hard to see Fournette being anything more than a plodding committee back.
I hate this landing spot for Damien Harris. He goes from a very effective run-offense where he got a lot of goal-line looks to a team that rarely uses their running back in the red zone. He’s very likely to sit behind James Cook and get a lot of low-value, short-yardage touches. It’s just an awful result for fantasy owners.
D’Andre Swift (DET)
There was a hope that Swift would finally take back the lead role with Jamaal Williams out of town, but the opposite has occurred. David Montgomery will take over a possibly-expanded short-yardage role while there’s even talk the Lions might bring in Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs in the draft (which seems insane to me, but it is what it is). Swift is trending toward being a reception-reliant RB3 who looks like a major boom-bust prospect most weeks.
Jamaal Williams isn’t an amazing running back, but he’ll take a whole lot of valuable goal-line touches away from the lead back Alvin Kamara. Of course, Kamara’s legal issues are a separate issue, but even if Kamara plays, it’s hard to see him being close to an RB1 without a serious improvement in the offense as a whole. Derek Carr is a step in the right direction, but alone, he’s not enough.
Nobody really wants to be the lead runner in Houston, with Dameon Pierce getting inconsistent usage and plenty of low-value touches. It’s even worse to be the backup/passing-down back. This is a horrible spot for Singletary owners, and in shallow leagues, he can be dropped.
DJ Moore and Darnell Mooney (CHI)
Moore goes from a rebuilding offense where he was likely to be the WR1 for a pocket-passing QB to a run-heavy Bears attack that uses Justin Fields’s legs as an alternative to passing the ball. We saw how badly Darnell Mooney struggled in 2022 Chicago, so it’s hard to see things getting better for either receiver now that they’re working together. The only winner here is Fields.
JuJu goes from one of the league’s best passers ever to a totally dysfunctional, run-first attack. This is an awful landing spot and drops JuJu to the WR5 region.
Lazard goes from Aaron Rodgers’s WR1 to just one of the guys in a Jets offense packed with talent. Best case scenario, Rodgers moves to the Big Apple, and Lazard is the WR2, but with Mecole Hardman and Corey Davis in the building, it’s easy to see him no longer being an every-down player while running a lot of fruitless outside routes.
Hurst goes from one of the league’s best offenses to a rebuilding team who is really going to struggle to score. Given how much tight ends need to rely on TDs, this is very bad news. Especially when you look at how Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble have been used over the years for the Panthers.
This is such a bizarre choice. The Patriots are already overspending on Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and now they bring in another receiving tight end? I don’t understand it at all, but I can’t imagine it’s good for anyone involved.
I don’t hate this landing spot, but there were so many better options out there for Schultz. Having said that, the Texans are rebuilding and could, in a year or two, be a solid offensive force again. We also know that rebuilding teams can sometimes rely on their tight end if he’s good enough, and Schultz definitely is. While I prefer the Cowboys for him, he’s still a low TE1 for me.
Bellinger was a popular sleeper tight end for much of last year, but with Darren Waller in town, he’s droppable in most leagues unless he gets traded in the pre-season, which seems very unlikely.
Check out my rankings, mock draft and other articles at ffdfantasyfootball.com, or if you have any thoughts or questions, you can find me @thefantasyfirstdown on Instagram (where I answer all questions) and @fantasyfirstdwn on Twitter. In two weeks, I’ll be back with a new series of articles.