Free Agency Roundtable: Winners and Losers

The Footballguys staff reflects on which players and teams will see their fantasy stocks rise and fall the most as a result of free-agency.

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Phil Alexander: Which player who changed teams during the free agency period will receive the biggest boost in fantasy value?

Jason Wood: Am I taking the question too literally if I answer Nick Foles? He projects as a below-average fantasy quarterback, but he goes from being a back-up in Philadelphia to an every-week starter in Jacksonville.

Daniel Simpkins: Odell Beckham Jr has battled injuries the last two years, but when he has been on the field, Eli Manning’s ineffectiveness has limited his success. Baker Mayfield is better than Manning at this stage of his career and the supporting cast in Cleveland has the potential to help Beckham get back among the top wide receivers in fantasy.

Chad Parsons: Mark Ingram II landed on his feet in Baltimore. Ingram is an ideal RB2 on fantasy rosters, but now has RB1 upside he didn’t have splitting touches with Alvin Kamara. Lamar Jackson's mobility will optimize Ingram's efficiency, and without a glaring pass-catching back on the roster, Ingram has three-down potential. We couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot.

Dan Hindery: Ingram stands out to me too, Chad. With the talent infusion of the last few draft classes, we entered the offseason with surprisingly few teams having wide open running back depth charts. There were a precious few favorable landing spots for the free agent running backs, as well as those in the incoming rookie class. Baltimore was one of those few exciting landing spots, so Ingram is clearly a big winner. The Ravens are going to be a run-heavy offense and Jackson’s athleticism will help open holes for Ingram because defenses have to focus on two possible ball carriers on every play.

In dynasty leagues, this could be the perfect time to try to sell high on Ingram, though. His value certainly received a nice boost but he will turn 30 during the season, and while he signed for three years, the low amount of guaranteed money will make it easy for the Ravens to move on whenever they find a better option.

Alessandro Miglio: I’m with the consensus on Ingram. The Ravens don't have the potent offense he enjoyed playing in for the Saints but his touch count could easily double in Baltimore, offsetting any reduction in efficiency.

Justin Howe: You guys are forgetting about Ingram’s replacement in New Orleans. Latavius Murray just jumped from a Round 18 flier to a legitimate RB3 in fantasy. I don’t love Murray’s past efficiency -- just 4.0 yards per rush since his rookie year -- but I do like his versatility (128 receptions over 5 seasons). NFL teams keep prioritizing him in a rotational role, and the Saints offer one of the best offensive setups in the league.

Ingram was capable of spurts as a low RB1 sharing the backfield with Kamara, and Murray projects close to that, with strong weekly volume and touchdown outlooks. He’ll enjoy a sizeable boost in run blocking, too, with the right side of the Saints’ offensive line one of football’s most dominant last year.

Andy Hicks: I’ve got three names: Tyrell Williams, Adam Humphries, and Jamison Crowder. Of the three, Humphries has me the most intrigued as Tennessee’s new starting slot receiver. The fact New England went after him hard speaks volumes about his value to NFL teams. He’s only 26 years old, coming off a super-efficient fourth season, and figures to see an increase on the 105 targets he recorded last year with less competition in Tennessee

Phil Alexander: Colts GM Chris Ballard could ruin it by investing an early-round pick in a wide receiver, but for now, Devin Funchess is a huge winner. It may have only been a one-year deal, but Funchess is essentially guaranteed $10 million, which suggests he’s a big part of Indianapolis’ plans for 2019. Funchess cratered last season in his follow-up to a promising 2017 campaign (63-840-8 ), leading the league in drops while failing to take advantage of Greg Olsen’s extended absence. But he’s still only 24-years old, big, fast, and has a huge catch radius Andrew Luck can exploit in the red zone. He goes from being an afterthought for the Panthers to having low-end WR2 upside for the Colts.

Phil Alexander: Which player who changed teams during the free agency period will see their fantasy stock dip the most?

Jason Wood: Maybe I’m taking the questions too literally again, but does Kareem Hunt count? He led the AFC in rushing as a rookie and was having another monster year in 2018 before his off-field issues arose. Now he's signed to a one-year, $1 million contract as Nick Chubb's backup and is facing an eight-game suspension.

Daniel Simpkins: It was disappointing to see Tevin Coleman go to a team where he’ll be mired in a committee again. There’s a path to Coleman getting the majority of touches in San Francisco if injuries strike Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida again, but it’s not something fantasy managers can bank on.

Dan Hindery: I agree, Daniel. Coleman looks like a free agency loser, but with one important caveat — if the 49ers eventually cut McKinnon, Coleman would see a huge boost with the 49ers. As it stands, Coleman is stuck in a messy three-man committee and we have to wonder why no market developed for him. His two-year, $8.5M contract earned him less money than guys like McKinnon, Chris Ivory, Dion Lewis, Isaiah Crowell, and other unspectacular free agent backs have signed for in recent years.

Chad Parsons: Even though it was expected, Le'Veon Bell going to the Jets is a downer. It was unlikely any landing spot could have matched Bell’s previous offensive environment in Pittsburgh, but the Jets don’t have much touchdown upside and Sam Darnold -- even factoring in development in his second season -- can’t match what Ben Roethlisberger brings at quarterback. Bell still has mid-RB1 upside, but No.1 overall PPR running back is no longer in his range of possible outcomes.

Andy Hicks: Golden Tate will struggle with the Giants. Both the Lions and Eagles gave up on him in the space of one season, yet the Giants -- the same team who thought it was a good idea to give up on Odell Beckham Jr -- were willing to throw a bunch of money at him. We don’t need to know much more, but Tate will be 31-years old at the start of the year, he barely averages 10 yards per catch and has never caught more than seven touchdowns in a season. Even his target volume takes a hit since he’s a redundant asset to Sterling Shepard.

Justin Howe: The Tate signing was baffling, Andy. I wouldn’t look at him before Round 12. Not only does Shepard already play Tate's natural slot position well, but Evan Engram looms, too. Engram has averaged 7.8 targets a game with Beckham off the field. And we can’t forget about Saquon Barkley, who looks poised to lead the team in catches underneath. Tate is nothing more than a rapidly-fading retread in New York.

Alessandro Miglio: Antonio Brown goes from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr at quarterback. As great as Brown is, that is a major dropoff. He has an uphill battle to remain a top-12 receiver in Oakland.

Phil Alexander: Which team did the most to improve their roster during the free agency period?

Jason Wood: The oddsmakers have the Browns as one of the favorites to win the AFC, so I presume they’ll be the most popular choice. Aside from Cleveland, I'll also throw out the Bills. Their signings may not result in a fantasy bonanza, but as a team, they improved their offensive line and receiving corps in a meaningful way.

Daniel Simpkins: The Browns became a better team in every facet. The Odell Beckham Jr trade made the splashy headlines, but adding Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson while retaining Greg Robinson were also solid moves. If this team can perform as well as they look on paper, I don’t disagree with the oddsmakers. We should see Cleveland make the playoffs for the first time in many years.

Andy Hicks: Jason was right. It’s impossible to answer any team but the Browns. Adding Beckham was just the icing on the cake to an already impressive overhaul of the roster, especially on defense. A rookie head coach and inexperienced offensive coordinator are cause for concern, but the Browns now boast one of the most talented rosters in the league from top to bottom.

Alessandro Miglio: Jason mentioned Kareem Hunt earlier as a free agent loser, but he’ll be back with fresh legs after only eight games. Of all the great signings Cleveland made this offseason, the team-friendly Hunt contract shouldn’t be overlooked.

Justin Howe: Yeah, the Browns rebuilt on both sides of the ball with masterful moves. Their defensive upgrade was outstanding, and the offensive makeover is historical. No one else restocked on this level, and with such shrewd deal-making.

I also don’t mind what the Ravens did. They refused to spend wildly on C.J. Mosley or Za'Darius Smith at replaceable positions, and Earl Thomas is a huge upgrade on Eric Weddle at free safety. Offensively, they laid the groundwork for the Lamar Jackson era by upgrading their running back stable with Ingram.

Chad Parsons: The Raiders have to be right there with the Browns. Even with Jared Cook likely gone from the roster, Oakland acquired Brown for minimal cost and brought in Williams to challenge opposing defenses downfield. Both are stark upgrades over the wide receivers they closed 2018 with. Derek Carr is set for a significant rebound after a lost season and the Raiders abundance of draft capital will only add to the overhaul next month. Expect further upgrades at running back and tight end through the draft.

Dan Hindery: Oakland still has a lot of work to do, but they’ve come a long way since entering the offseason with the worst roster in the NFL. The Brown trade is the obvious headliner but they made some other big additions as well. Williams is a nice WR2 and adds a deep threat to the offense they didn’t have for most of last season. Trent Brown is a massive upgrade at offensive tackle and Lamarcus Joyner should be a tone-setter and leader on defense. As Chad mentioned, the Raiders still have three first-round picks as well. The rookies, along with the free agent additions, provide a massive talent boost to a team that badly needed it.

Phil Alexander: Which team's approach to free agency left you scratching your head?

Jason Wood: Having done our player movement analysis for years, I've become fairly jaded about the way we overhype free agency. While the Giants train wreck is an obvious choice, I have to disagree with Justin on the Ravens. They let four key players go, including three defensive stalwarts, yet signed Earl Thomas to a monstrous contract. Thomas is a great safety, but I don't see how that signing lines up with letting proven veteran defenders -- particularly C.J. Mosley -- walk.

Daniel Simpkins: The Jaguars giving Foles a huge contract to prove a point to their current locker room is somewhat laughable. While Foles is probably an upgrade over Blake Bortles, quarterback play alone isn’t the issue with this team. It seems there are a lot of problems behind the scenes in Jacksonville. It’s possible to envision a scenario where they hit rock bottom once again this season and Tom Coughlin and company are ousted.

Chad Parsons: The Giants trading Beckham and then signing Tate were contradictory moves. If the plan was to trade Beckham, why keep Eli Manning? And if the plan is to build around Manning, why trade his 26-year old future Hall of Fame wide receiver and replace him with a 31-year old possession guy? Dave Gettleman claims he has a plan, but whatever it is isn’t clear to me.

Andy Hicks: The biggest issue for the Giants is trading Beckham for below market value one year into a mega-contract. If they were hesitant to saddle Manning’s eventual replacement with a vocal wide receiver, fair enough, but throwing a bunch of money at Tate still seems foolish. They don’t have draft picks stockpiled, which means the rebuild will either be slow or require elite drafting -- something Gettleman doesn’t have a track record of. Look no further than the team surrendering a high third-round pick on 190 lb. cornerback Sam Beal in last year’s supplemental draft for evidence.

Justin Howe: The Giants prioritized guard over edge rusher, Eli Manning over the future, and two ho-hum draft picks over Odell Beckham Jr. They lost a talented young safety (Landon Collins) for almost the same cost as the franchise tag, then sank cap space into what’s left of Tate. Wow, that’s bad.

Dan Hindery: Indianapolis may end up looking smart for not overpaying any of the top free agents despite entering the offseason with $119 million in cap space. It was surprising, however, they weren’t a little more aggressive in free agency or the trade market.

The Colts entered March with more money to spend and more draft capital than the Browns. Both teams have a championship window with talented young players locked in on bargain contracts. Cleveland took the aggressive approach and added impact talent. Indianapolis kept some of their own guys and added Funchess for $10 million (plus incentives). They could have easily beat the Browns’ offer for Beckham or added one of the talented defenders that switched teams (Vernon, Michael Bennett, Malik Jackson, etc.) but decided to stand pat. Ballard still has a lot of cards to play and it will be interesting to see the final result.

Alessandro Miglio: My Dolphins did a terrible job in free agency, though I hope that was part of the plan to put themselves in position to draft a quarterback in 2020. It would be shocking if they weren’t the worst team in the league this year. The disaster should carry over into fantasy, where few of their players will be worth drafting at all, regardless of ADP.

Phil Alexander: Which player who didn't change teams will benefit the most from a move their team made during free agency?

Jason Wood: Josh Allen. The Bills strengthened the offensive line by adding Spencer Long, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano, and Ty Nsekhe. They added John Brown to stretch defenses vertically and Cole Beasley to rack up possessions underneath. Even Tyler Kroft qualifies as an upgrade at tight end.

Daniel Simpkins: Derek Carr’s supporting cast got a huge boost. Besides the additions of Brown and Williams at wide receiver, the offensive line should also be significantly better with Trent Brown manning the left tackle spot. As the guys mentioned, the Raiders have a great deal of draft capital to work with as well. It will be interesting to see if Jon Gruden can have more success this year with the cupboard restocked.

Andy Hicks: The Raiders are making Carr sink or swim this year by surrounding him with premium talent. He could revert back to the viable fantasy starter we’ve seen in the past, but he won’t be given much rope by Gruden if he struggles. It will be a fascinating situation to watch play out in 2019.

Justin Howe: Carr’s upside shoots from the low-teens among quarterbacks to a viable week-to-week QB1. Brown is an any-route dominator who will bring both stability and downfield prowess. And across the field, the big-bodied Williams is a massive upgrade on Seth Roberts. Carr was a fantasy afterthought last year, but he now boasts the weaponry to snap out of the small-ball game he was boxed into last year.

Chad Parsons: Whoever wins the WR2 job in Pittsburgh is a huge winner with Brown now in Oakland. James Washington is the clubhouse leader. He’s an elite metric prospect drafted in the second round last year, while newly signed career disappointment Donte Moncrief is the only player currently standing in Washington’s way.

Dan Hindery: Baker Mayfield is a clear winner. Beckham is one of a small handful of receivers who can raise the level of an entire offense. Having Beckham, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and some other talented players at his disposal should allow Mayfield to emerge as one of the NFL’s biggest stars.

I also want to mention Vance McDonald, who could be the prime beneficiary of Brown moving to Oakland and Jesse James signing in Detroit. He is now arguably the second-most talented pass catcher on the Steelers offense, a designation which has historically led to great fantasy numbers.

Jason Wood: I agree, Dan. The sky is the limit for Mayfield this year.

Alessandro Miglio: I get all the talk about Mayfield and even Carr, but what about Carson Wentz? He no longer has Foles to contend with in Philadelphia, and he gets a boost with DeSean Jackson coming back to the Eagles. Wentz could be a value pick that winds up winning a lot of fantasy games for owners next season.

Phil Alexander: Which player who didn't change teams will decline as a result of a move their team made during free agency?

Jason Wood: Jerick McKinnon, assuming he isn't cut by the 49ers. He was signed as the workhorse and immediately tore his ACL. Matt Breida was also oft-injured but highly productive in his stead. Now Kyle Shanahan has reunited with Coleman. At best, it's a committee where none of these guys are reliable fantasy contributors. At worst, McKinnon is on the street looking to sign as a backup somewhere else.

Dan Hindery: McKinnon’s early best ball ADP (40th overall) seemed rich and dependent upon some shaky assumptions about his hold on the 49ers starting job. The addition of Tevin Coleman, who has a lot of similar strengths, blows a hole in most of those assumptions. A best-case scenario for McKinnon at this point might be a three-way committee with Coleman and Matt Breida, as Jason alluded to.

Justin Howe: Yeah, McKinnon may be done in San Francisco. It’s a shame because he has the natural talent edge on Coleman, but this looks like a messy committee at best.

Daniel Simpkins: The Bengals have done very little in free agency to improve their team. They resigned Bobby Hart, C.J. Uzomah, and Preston Brown, but have remained overly conservative thus far. It’s hard to see this year’s roster, even with a new coaching staff, being any better than last year’s iteration simply because they have the same middling personnel. This could spell trouble for Andy Dalton, who has proven he needs a strong supporting cast to be successful.

Chad Parsons: Jarvis Landry. Even with projected advancement from Mayfield, Beckham is the clear alpha dog in Cleveland. Nick Chubb is the centerpiece in the backfield, and David Njoku enters his third season, which is usually when the lights turn on for young tight ends. Landry is overly reliant on volume and his competition for targets has never been higher.

Justin Howe: Agree, Chad. This is a limited guy who needs 150 targets to make a sizeable fantasy dent, and the addition of Beckham makes that volume unlikely. His career efficiency rates aren’t sexy from a fantasy standpoint. Drop him down to 120 targets or so, and you’re probably not looking at a 1,000-yard season or much touchdown production. I expect Landry to mean a lot more to the Browns on third-down than to fantasy gamers.

Andy Hicks: Jordan Howard. The addition of Mike Davis may seem insignificant, but with Tarik Cohen also around and the draft coming up, Howard could get squeezed out of a role. Davis will earn roughly the same money as Howard this year and was hand-picked by the Bears coaching staff from a deep free-agent pool. Howard’s career arc reminds me of Alfred Morris. Both were late round draft picks who put up impressive numbers as starters during their first two seasons. Both had declining numbers in year three, and Morris ultimately tanked in the final year of his rookie contract. The writing is on the wall for Howard to follow suit.

Alessandro Miglio: Eli Manning was awful before Beckham was dealt. It’s scary to think about how bad he could be this year.

Phil Alexander: Was there a free agent signing you feel is flying under the radar for fantasy purposes?

Jason Wood: As Phil mentioned earlier, Devin Funchess isn’t getting enough love. He gets a quarterback upgrade going from Cam Newton to Andrew Luck. Newton is an exceptional player but he's a below average passer. The Colts haven't chased other skill players in free agency, which means Funchess is likely to start opposite T.Y. Hilton. He may ultimately prove a bust, but he has upside at his current ADP.

Daniel Simpkins: Everyone is overlooking the positive impact Adam Humphries will have for the Titans this year. Tennessee operated without a reliable slot option last year after Rishard Matthews left the team unexpectedly. Having Delanie Walker back from injury and adding Humphries to fill the slot receiver void will go a long way in helping Marcus Mariota keep the chains moving.

Andy Hicks: Funchess and Humphries are good ones, but I’ll dig deeper with Jordan Matthews in San Francisco, Donte Moncrief in Pittsburgh, and Kevin White in Arizona. Contract terms haven’t been reported for Matthews, which is a little concerning. But the 49ers have an obvious weakness at wide receiver, and Matthews still has talent. White and Moncrief are similar post-hype sleepers to keep an eye on to see if they can carve out roles on their new teams.

Chad Parsons: Latavius Murray landing with New Orleans is going overlooked. I doubt the Saints want to use Alvin Kamara as a workhorse and Murray can easily shoulder the load Mark Ingram II leaves behind. He has the upside for 10+ touchdowns playing alongside Kamara and would be an easy RB1 if Kamara were to miss time.

Dan Hindery: Andy mentioned Mike Davis before, but I’m surprised he isn’t getting more buzz after signing with Chicago. His contract pays him just $3 million per year (plus incentives), which isn’t big money. It is enough, however, to make him the highest-paid back on the Bears roster. Davis had a solid season in Seattle last season, racking up 728 total yards and catching 34 passes despite sharing the backfield with two other talented backs.

Davis’ receiving ability is what makes him so intriguing. Howard has proven to be one-dimensional and has seen his yards-per-carry dip every season (down to 3.7 in 2018). He could end up being the odd man out with Davis stepping into the lead role while Cohen remains as the change of pace guy.

Justin Howe: Alessandro mentioned Carson Wentz earlier and I agree DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles entire offense a boost. Jackson is aging, but not poorly. He still led the NFL in air yards per target last year and put up big numbers with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback (424 yards over the first 4 weeks). Nelson Agholor was miscast as a deep threat, but Jackson is still one of the league’s best. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 900+ yards, a handful of long touchdowns, and strong best-ball value as long as his body holds up.

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