Free Agency Roundtable: Butterfly Effects

The staff offers their opinions on free agent signings that will have an impact on their new teammates.

Which recently relocated player do you see having a substantial fantasy impact on another player from their new team - positive or negative?

Jason Wood: Is Mitchell Trubisky too obvious? The entire offseason sets him up for marked improvement. Chicago added an innovative, young, offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy. The team then went out and added the best free agent receiver available in Allen Robinson, an emerging young tight end in Trey Burton, and a solid complementary receiver in Taylor Gabriel. Trubisky has no excuses this year. If he fails, it's on him rather than his supporting cast.

Daniel Simpkins: Gabriel might be a complementary weapon, but his presence will have a sizeable impact on the rest of Chicago’s skill players. He brings something the Bears were sorely lacking last season -- a classic field stretching player who defenses have to respect. Dedicating coverage to Gabriel will force opposing defenses to spread out more and open up both the intermediate and short levels of the field. While I don’t expect him to make a splash in fantasy, others on the offense (namely Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Robinson, Burton, and Adam Shaheen) can take tactical advantage of what Gabriel provides.

Andy Hicks: When the Titans moved on from DeMarco Murray, it was assumed Derrick Henry would vault to fantasy RB1 status. That sentiment didn’t last long, as Tennessee signed Dion Lewis to a rich free-agent contract shortly thereafter.

Many assume Lewis will operate primarily as a receiver out of the backfield, but remember he handled 180 carries for the Patriots last year, including 50 over the final two weeks of the regular season. Despite an increased workload over the second half and in the playoffs, Lewis ran for over five yards per carry. Henry will have trouble reaching RB2 numbers if Lewis -- much more than just a pass catcher -- integrates seamlessly into the offense.

Dan Hindery: Sammy Watkins signed with Kansas City for $16 million per season, making him one of the league’s highest-paid wide receivers. With his talent level and the massive financial investment from the Chiefs, Watkins is going to have a big impact on the offense.

The butterfly effect is obvious for Patrick Mahomes II II. The big-armed quarterback now has two of the league’s top deep threats at his disposal, plus one of the best tight ends in the game to work the middle of the field. Mahomes projects as a top-15 fantasy quarterback and has a good chance to finish inside the top-10 due to his abundance of weapons.

The addition of Watkins shouldn’t hurt Travis Kelce’s numbers too much. Kelce may see a few less deep balls down the seam but should also have more space to operate and face fewer double teams, which should help his efficiency. Kareem Hunt should also benefit from having two elite deep threats to force teams to keep both safeties deep. He should face fewer packed boxes and more red zone carries due to the better offense overall.

The player who could potentially be impacted negatively is Tyreek Hill. Andy Reid has said Hill will stay at the ‘X’ position, which is the premier position in the Reid offense, while Watkins moves into the ‘Z’ position. But the two players have such overlapping skill sets that Watkins could eat into Hill’s opportunities. Both do most of their damage on deep passes and quick screens and there are only so many touches to go around between Watkins, Hill, Kelce, and Hunt.

Kansas City threw just 242 passes to wide receivers in 2017. 62 of those targets were to the departed Albert Wilson but everyone else is back. Unless the Chiefs make major changes to their offense (unlikely given Kelce’s talent level and Reid’s long history of getting his backs involved in the passing game), it is hard to see either Hill or Watkins racking up more than 100 targets each. The overlapping skill sets could mean too few opportunities for either Watkins or Hill to be fantasy WR1s.

BJ Vanderwoude: The arrival of Kirk Cousins in Minnesota will have a substantial effect on the consistency and potency of the Vikings offense, specifically their receivers.

How much higher can Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs climb by the end of next season? In terms of projecting their overall statistics, it seems as though they can realistically combine for a total of 170 receptions, 2,200 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Last year, they totaled 155 receptions, 2036 yards, and 12 touchdowns -- and that was with Diggs missing two games.

With no disrespect to Case Keenum's production in 2017, Cousins has proven to be a first-class distributor for fantasy purposes, churning out three consecutive 4,000+ passing yard seasons. At a minimum, Cousins should provide an increase of 450 total yards over Keenum's 2017 season.

It’s safe to say Cousins has not played with the level of talent that will surround him in Minnesota. He has had success by being a diplomatic passer, finding the open receiver while still maintaining the ability to generate explosive plays. This will suit him very well with Diggs and Thielen as his primary receivers, as both have the sure hands and deceptive speed/quickness that allow them to run the entire route tree. Cousins also inherits a solid offensive line and a talented backfield, which will help keep him upright and give him the sort of play calling versatility that will enable him to attack opposing defenses.

Diggs and Thielen are entering the prime of their careers, and now they have a quarterback who can get them over the fantasy hump, and put them both into the mid-WR1 discussion. That is a lofty goal for two still relatively young wide receivers, but if they can achieve their past production under the constant revolving door of quarterbacks they've had under center over the last three seasons, the consistency and stability that Cousins provides should only serve to enhance their productivity.

Phil Alexander: Leonard Fournette managed over 1,000 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns over 13 games played as a rookie, despite the interior of Jacksonville's offensive line struggling to open up holes at times.

Expect Fournette to become a more efficient runner than he was in 2017 (3.9 yards per carry). Jacksonville broke the bank for mauling guard Andrew Norwell, who helped the Panthers to top-10 rushing ranks in each of the last four seasons.

Norwell's five-year, $66.5 million deal ($30 million guaranteed), the decision to extend Blake Bortles, and the strength of Jacksonville's defense all point to a repeat of the Jaguars leading the league in rush attempts for a second straight season. Fournette probably won't be one of the top-five running backs selected in fantasy drafts next season, but health permitting, he's positioned to finish as one.

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