Which player who changed teams during the free agency period will receive the biggest boost in fantasy value?
Drew Davenport: Although I have serious doubts about David Johnson's viability as a fantasy asset moving forward, he stands to see the biggest jump in touches from his change in scenery. Johnson was being phased out of the Cardinals backfield last year even before Kenyan Drake made a splash with the team. After Week 6, Johnson touched the ball just 24 times, and while some of this can be attributed to injury, his new job with Houston is likely to be at least equal to Carlos Hyde’s role from last year's Texans team.
While Johnson’s 2019 was marred by injury, he looked downright glacial last year. But with an offseason to recover and a change of scenery, he'll have the chance to regain fantasy prominence. It wouldn't be outlandish to think he gets to 225 total touches, which puts him squarely in the RB2 conversation as part of a Deshaun Watson-led offense. Johnson had just 130 touches last year and finished as the RB37 in full PPR. Give him 80-100 more opportunities and the bounce-back potential is obvious. Whether or not he can stay healthy and exploit the opportunity is a question for a different roundtable.
Andy Hicks: Hayden Hurst is a former first-round pick entering only his third season. With Mark Andrews excelling in Baltimore and Austin Hooper departing for Cleveland, Atlanta elected for a try-before-you-buy trade for Hurst. The Falcons gave up a second-round pick in the deal, so it’s clear they have every intention of using him. We saw what Hooper did last year in this offense and it wouldn’t surprise me if Hurst is able to approximate the same production.
Bob Henry: I'll also lay my bets on Hurst. His snaps, targets, and touches will see a massive increase going from a run-heavy, tight end-crowded offense in Baltimore to a pass-happy Falcons offense with tons of vacated targets and snaps following Hooper's departure. Atlanta has targeted tight end 106 and 121 times in the past two years, respectively, with 16 and 21 of those looks coming inside the red zone. Jaeden Graham is Hurst's only competition for snaps (so far). If he can stay healthy, the path is clear for Hurst to jump straight into the TE1 mix after being buried on the Ravens’ depth chart behind Andrews and blocking stud Nick Boyle.
Jason Wood: The obvious answer is Teddy Bridgewater, who goes from Drew Brees' backup to the new starter in Carolina. The Panthers seemingly hand-picked Bridgewater from a litany of options to be the first orchestrator of Joe Brady's NFL offense. If Brady can do for Bridgewater what he did for Joe Burrow at LSU last year, we've got a new top-10 caliber fantasy quarterback. The Panthers have a cadre of enviable weapons and likely aren't done adding pieces. They also improved the offensive line with the acquisition of Russell Okung.
Jeff Haseley: I concur with Hayden Hurst getting a bump in Atlanta, as well as with David Johnson seeing increased volume in Houston. But Stefon Diggs, one of the best route runners in the league, joined Josh Allen's improving offense in Buffalo. The concern for fantasy purposes is that Buffalo tends to win games with defense and not so much on Allen’s arm.
The Bills defense is clearly improving, but so is Allen and the offense as a whole. Allen improved dramatically on the cerebral side in 2019 and his numbers should continue to rise in 2020. He threw only two interceptions after Week 5 last year, finishing with a 20:9 touchdown to interception ratio.
Now, Allen has Diggs, who finished at WR14 in standard-scoring formats last year. In the last three seasons, Diggs averaged 28% of Minnesota’s touchdown passes while sharing the ball with Adam Thielen. Assuming modest continued improvement, Allen is on a trajectory for 25-30 touchdown passes, seven-to-nine of which should go to Diggs, who profiles as a top-15 option in his first season as a team’s primary target.
Phil Alexander: Truth be told, I wanted to write about DeAndre Hopkins here. But in an about-face from my initial reaction, I no longer see a path to 150+ targets for Hopkins without a significant injury to Christian Kirk (possible) or Larry Fitzgerald (unlikely).
Forced by the numbers to look in a different direction, I was surprised to see no one mention the most publicized move of the offseason -- Tom Brady to the Buccaneers. Like most snowbirds, Brady should find wintering in coastal Florida far more pleasant than in New England.
Last year, Brady finished at QB22 on a per-game basis in an offense that produced only one wide receiver who commanded more than 54 targets (Julian Edelman). Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and whomever the Buccaneers trot out as their third wide receiver will more than make up the difference between Brady's disappointing 2019 and his QB11 performance in 2018. The improved weapons (and Bruce Arians' pass-heavy scheme) should help Brady bounce back to his usual 7.5 adjusted yards per attempt and ~30 touchdown passes, making him a viable back-end QB1 choice in 2020 fantasy leagues.
Daniel Simpkins: Good call on Brady, Phil. I watched a good bit of his film, including an extensive dive into his playoff game against the Titans. I’m confident his physical decline is minimal and the issue lied more with the execution by his receivers. Evans, Godwin, Howard, and Cameron Brate, and O.J. Howard will prop him up as a fantasy option. I’m in agreement with Brady getting back to low-end QB1 territory.
Alessandro Miglio: Brady was going to be my first choice too. He goes from an offense with a perpetually banged-up Julian Edelman as his top weapon to one with Evans, Godwin, and Howard at his disposal. Howard is a particularly intriguing post-hype sleeper now, but that's probably a conversation for a different roundtable question.
Instead, how about Emmanuel Sanders going to the Saints? Sanders showed us his huge fantasy potential at times last season, but Jimmy Garoppolo and that 49ers offense were not tailored to make him a fantasy stud. New Orleans’ offense might be the perfect landing spot. They have struggled to find a consistent No. 2 receiver option across from Michael Thomas, and Sanders fits the bill nicely.