Ranking the 40 Biggest Winners of Free Agency

Ranking the biggest winners of free agency from 40-1 with updated ceiling/floor projections

40. Dan Arnold, TE, CAR

Arnold was just a bit player in Arizona, but he could see enough high-value targets at the low bar to fantasy relevance tight end position to matter. His value is still in flux with the Carolina quarterback situation uncertain.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: Matchup Play

39. Kalen Ballage, RB, PIT

Benny Snell has looked pedestrian on extended work and Anthony McFarland Jr is not ready for prime time. The Steelers are the most likely team to take a back on the first or second day of the draft, but if things break against them and they don’t see one of their targets at the position available when they are on the clock, Ballage becomes intriguing. The game looked like it was slowing down for him last year and the Chargers were playing him ahead of fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling (for now): What-the-heck flex

38. David Moore, WR, CAR

Moore was the master of the circus catch in Seattle. Now he’ll get an opportunity as the #3 receiver in an offense that liberally makes use of three-wide-receiver sets. Christian McCaffrey staying healthy could soak up targets and keep Moore a fantasy footnote, but this is still a great landing spot for him to grow his value.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: Matchup Play

37. Ty Johnson, RB, NYJ

The Jets only added Tevin Coleman (and brought back Josh Adams) at running back in free agency. If they decide to pass on the position in the early rounds, Johnson is only a Coleman injury away from mattering in fantasy leagues, and Coleman’s contract only had $400,000 guaranteed, so he’s not even a sure thing to make the team. Adams is underrated and Lamical Perine will likely carve out a role, but there are scenarios where Johnson is the most valuable fantasy back for the Jets this year, whatever that is worth.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling (for now): What-the-heck flex

36. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR

The Panthers' desire to improve at quarterback is well-documented. They didn’t land Matthew Stafford and the 49ers beat them to the punch to move up to #3. They could still see the #4 quarterback in the draft fall into their lap at 8, and they could still move up, but for now, Bridgewater still has a chance to be the team’s quarterback for the entire 2021 season, which is an uptick in Superflex leagues.

Previous Floor: Irrelevant
New Floor (for now): Low Ceiling QB2

Update: The Panthers traded for Sam Darnold, so Bridgewater will be a backup or at best in a quarterback competition, pending whether he is dealt, released, or takes a pay cut to stay with the Panthers.

35. Drew Lock, QB, DEN

The Broncos don’t seem to be satisfied with Lock as their quarterback of the future, but with the Panthers ahead of them, they will likely have to leapfrog Carolina to get one of the top four quarterbacks. Lock is more likely than Bridgewater to face no serious competition for this year once the draft dust settles, but only slightly.

Previous Floor: Irrelevant
New Floor (for now): High Ceiling QB2

34. Tre'Quan Smith, WR, NO

Emmanuel Sanders was released and the Saints aren’t in great cap share, so Smith becoming a starter wasn’t a big surprise, nor was Jameis Winston’s return and installation as the favorite to start Week 1, but those events still brought Smith into tighter focus on our 2021 sleeper radar.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: Matchup Play

33. Adam Trautman, TE, NO

Like Smith, Trautman’s promotion via an expensive veteran release ahead of him on the depth chart was very foreseeable. The team likes him and he should be on our early season waiver wire watch list.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling: Low TE1

32. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT

Getting Juju Smith-Schuster back is a bump for his value, but Roethlisberger is still a QB2 who doesn’t move the needle in 1QB leagues.

Previous Ceiling: Low Ceiling QB2
New Ceiling: High Floor QB2

31. Anthony Firkser, TE, TEN

Firkser signed a one-year deal and should be the top receiving tight end for a team that replaced Corey Davis with Josh Reynolds, which is a lateral move at best. Firkser and Jonnu Smith had 118 targets between them last year. If Firkser can get 90 this year, he’ll be relevant.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling: High Floor TE1

30. Scott Miller, WR, TB

The Bucs could still bring back Antonio Brown, but if they don’t, Miller will be the #3 receiver. He had four games with at least 73 yards in the first half of the season before Brown joined the team.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: High Ceiling WR3/Flex

29. Byron Pringle, WR, KC

Don’t sleep on Pringle, who got a second-round RFA tender, a clear indication that the Chiefs see him as a contributor that other teams may have tried to poach if they tried to lowball his value. Right now only the inconsistent Mecole Hardman is ahead of him and Pringle has already shown that he can make a fantasy splash with Mahomes, with 4-52-1 and 6-103-1 lines in the two games that he got 5 or more targets. Demarcus Robinson was brought back on a fully guaranteed veteran minimum deal, worth a little over 1.1 million, a million less than Pringle, although Pringle’s deal is not guaranteed.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling: What-the-heck flex

28. Allen Lazard, WR, GB

The Packers were in a bad spot cap-wise but teams in Super Bowl windows find a way to create money to address the depth chart. Despite some expectations that the Packers would add a wide receiver in free agency, they didn’t. Lazard will remain the de facto #2 and he’s a winner because being a value loser was already being priced in to an extent. He started hot and didn’t get back to early season snap levels until the playoffs after a core muscle injury derailed his season. He could be a big surprise if Aaron Rodgers stays close to his 2020 play level.

Previous Floor: Desperation Play
New Floor: What-the-heck flex

27. Raheem Mostert, RB, SF
26. Jeff Wilson, RB, SF

The 49ers running back duo gained value during free agency for three reasons - the team didn’t add a running back of consequence, they successfully kept Trent Williams and added Alex Mack, and they moved up to #3, most likely for a quarterback who is a top-end athlete and running threat. This running game can support two backs, but Wilson is the one we want in 2021 because he’ll get goal-line work.

Previous Floor (Both): What-the-heck flex
New Floor (Wilson): High Floor RB2
New Floor (Mostert): High Ceiling RB2

25. Jared Cook, TE, LAC

Down here in New Orleans Cook will be remembered for his fumble that basically ended their season, but in Los Angeles, he could show everyone how much production was left on the field because of Hunter Henry’s lack of ability to threaten downfield. He could also get more targets than he did in New Orleans, where he was a game plan footnote at times. This is a plum spot for tight end production, so Cook has basically the same value as last year (assuming no steep decline, which obviously the Chargers are not), so this outcome is a win for his stock with the possibility of being signed for a smaller role now in the rearview mirror. Donald Parham could still break out and torpedo his value, but that’s just a remote possibility for now.

Previous Floor: Irrelevant
New Floor: High Ceiling Matchup Play

24. Josh Reynolds, WR, TEN

Reynolds' production and role grew last year, but no role in Los Angeles was going to present the quality and amount of opportunity Reynolds will get in Corey Davis’s spot. Defenses will be focused on stopping Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, so if Reynolds is consistent, he’ll get his in a weak defensive division.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: High Ceiling WR3/Flex

23. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA

The Dolphins have clearly committed to Tagovailoa for 2021, so much so that they weren’t simply satisfied to pocket two future firsts to get whatever fell to then at pick #12 (with the Giants signing Kenny Golladay one of the Alabama receivers could easily fall to them there), but they instead gave up a first to move back up to #6 and insure a top three non-quarterback to add to the offense. They also added Will Fuller V, a sign that they will throw downfield more often, which is more in line with Tagovailoa’s game. Miami gave him the best chance they could to succeed this year.

Previous Ceiling: Low Ceiling QB2
New Ceiling: High Ceiling QB2

22. T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND

Hilton waited and ending up returning to the Colts on a one-year deal that indicates they still view him as their #1 receiver. Carson Wentz should keep plays alive and pass downfield with more effectiveness than Philip Rivers, so Hilton may be more valuable this year than he was last year, and that includes a late-season spurt when he regained his old form on the field and the stat sheet.

Previous Ceiling: What-the-heck flex
New Ceiling: High Ceiling WR3/Flex

21. Darrel Williams, RB, KC

Williams coming back on a one-year deal with about a million guaranteed was the precursor to Damien Williams' release, which puts Darrel Williams squarely in the #2 spot behind an underperforming Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Williams had a strong postseason and could easily have fantasy relevance in this high-quality offense.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: What-the-heck flex/Matchup RB2

20. Mike Davis, RB, ATL

Davis is currently the best running back on the roster in Atlanta, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll take a back early with so many needs and a new regime in charge. He’s likely to lead the backfield in touches and could defy expectations again. He should be on our late-round radar if the Falcons don’t take a back on the first or second day.

Previous Ceiling: High Value In case of Injury Backup
New Ceiling (for now): Matchup RB2/What-the-heck flex

19. Curtis Samuel, WR, WAS

Samuel was subject to the vagaries of free agency but ended up in a good spot with a former offensive coordinator who was open to using him creatively with a quarterback (for at least one year) that will increase the output of the offense. The #2 wide receiver spot has been irrelevant for fantasy in Washington, but they didn’t have a quarterback like Ryan Fitzpatrick or a #2 like Samuel.

Previous Floor: What-the-heck flex
New Floor: High Ceiling WR3/Flex

18. Jameis Winston, QB, NO

Apparently, the Bears pursued Winston, so there are alternate realities where Winston isn’t a Saint in 2021, but his re-signing in New Orleans along with an inside track to a Week 1 start was expected nonetheless. Taysom Hill takes the edge off of his upside, but Winston is in an excellent ecosystem for quarterback value. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a fantasy QB1, interceptions and all.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling: Matchup QB1

17. Cam Newton, QB, NE

Newton gained a lot of weapons, although the possibility of Mac Jones going to the Patriots at #15 still looms. He had his best fantasy season as a runner since 2015 last year, so if he improves to even mediocre as a fantasy passer, he’ll be in the low-end QB1 mix.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling (for now): Matchup QB1

16. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, WAS

Fitzpatrick’s retirement was rumored before free agency. Instead, he’s the starter on a division-winning team with some ascendant weapons piloting an offense that should experience a renaissance.

Previous Ceiling: Irrelevant
New Ceiling: Matchup QB1

15. T.J. Hockenson, TE, DET

The Lions could have blinked and paid Kenny Golladay prime rates through the season that he turns 31, but they wisely let him walk considering how far this team is from contention right now. Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams are underrated players and they may have a spurt of fantasy relevance here and there if they stay healthy, but this situation screams tight end target hotbed, and we all saw how much Jared Goff relied on Tyler Higbee late in 2019. A wide receiver pick in the first round could present a greater threat to Hockenson’s value than Williams or Perriman, so if you have TJ Hockenson, root for a quarterback, top tackle or defender to be the pick at #7.

Previous Ceiling: High Floor TE1
New Ceiling (for now): Strong TE1

14. Jalen Hurts, QB, PHI

Hurts gained value when the Eagles traded out of #6. The Eagles may or may not have been interested in moving up for Zach Wilson, but either way, the threat of them going quarterback this year and effectively ending Hurts' opportunity to win the long-term starting quarterback job is over. Now let’s see who they take to help him.

Previous Floor: Replaced by midseason
New Floor: High Ceiling QB1

13. Mecole Hardman, WR, KC

Hardman is going to get a valuable opportunity by default this year. The Chiefs were in on Juju Smith-Schuster but lost out to the Steelers. Byron Pringle could become a more trusted target, but he won’t get the deep shots that Hardman is sure to draw. Demarcus Robinson is back, but if Hardman improves, he won’t be a meaningful obstacle. Kansas City could still bring back Sammy Watkins and/or Demarcus Robinson, or draft a receiver early, but for now, Hardman is in line for more targets, and Patrick Mahomes II could render the third-year receiver’s inconsistency an insignificant obstacle to fantasy value.

Previous Ceiling: What-the-heck flex
New Ceiling (for now): High Ceiling WR3/Flex

12. Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA

The Dolphins were supposed to be in on Aaron Jones, but Jones went back to Green Bay. They apparently only had a few million budgeted for running back anyway and used it on ultracompetent backup Malcolm Brown. Maybe they really see running back as a non-essential position when it comes to using resources after the Jordan Howard and Matt Breida moves flamed out. With four picks in the Top 50, a running back pick here is still a strong possibility, but for now, Gaskin remains the #1 back.

Previous Ceiling: What-the-heck flex
New Ceiling (for now): Strong RB2

11. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KC

Damien Williams was supposed to come back in 2021. The 2019 version of him represented a much bigger threat to whatever value Edwards-Helaire had going into 2021 than Darrel Williams does. Edwards-Helaire doesn’t have much momentum going into this season, but he does have less competition than expected

Previous Ceiling: What-the-heck flex
New Ceiling: Matchup RB2

10. Logan Thomas, TE, WAS

Thomas’s arrow was already pointing up, now he’ll get to catch passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick. I want parts of the Football Team offense in 2021 because who knows how good they could be now that they won’t be playing with one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league.

Previous Ceiling: High Floor TE1
New Ceiling: Strong TE1

9. Mo Alie-Cox, TE, IND

Alie-Cox looks like a man among boys in the open field. He still has some basketball convert awkwardness to his game, but as of now, he is the best receiving tight end in an offense that features the position with a new quarterback who loves to target the position. The possibility of a Zach Ertz trade hangs in the balance to finalize Alie-Cox’s range of outcomes this year.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling (for now): High Ceiling TE1

8. Tyler Higbee, TE, LAR

Gerald Everett’s absence was all Higbee needed to be the #1 fantasy tight end in December 2019. Everett is Seattle now and who knows how ready 2020 fourth-rounder Brycen Hopkins is to contribute. Matthew Stafford will add efficiency and big plays to the pass offense, although Jared Goff’s limited game might have been responsible for Higbee’s big volume during that stretch, so Goff to Stafford might be a net push for Higbee.

Previous Ceiling: Desperation Play
New Ceiling: High Floor TE1

7. Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS

How much of a difference will Ryan Fitzpatrick make for the bottom line of this offense? Everything from touchdown opportunity to quality of targets to room to operate against defenses stretched to defend more downfield passes could give Gibson a bump.

Previous Ceiling: High Ceiling RB2
New Ceiling: Strong RB2

6. Jonnu Smith, TE, NE

Hunter Henry getting signed the day after Smith was a bummer for his fantasy outlook, but make no mistake, Smith was the higher priority target. He’s the better receiver, and he’ll get more targets than he ever got in Tennessee. Smith will be a featured player in the offense if he stays healthy.

Previous Ceiling: High Ceiling TE1
New Ceiling: Strong TE1

5. Chase Edmonds, RB, ARI

Edmonds’ balloon could easily be popped by an early running back pick, but Kliff Kingsbury has said on multiple occasions that he sees Edmonds as a starting quality running back. It’s a calculated risk to acquire or draft Edmonds before the NFL draft, but as long as they don’t take Najee Harris or Travis Etienne in the first round, Edmonds should still be in line to be a very relevant back in PPR leagues, and he’ll have enough opportunity to show that he should stay atop a depth chart with free agency up next year.

Previous Floor: What-the-heck flex
New Ceiling (for now): Solid RB2

4. Melvin Gordon III, RB, DEN

Gordon not only saw his DUI charge dropped in Denver County Court, he saw the Broncos release his primary competition for touches, Phillip Lindsay. Denver brought on Mike Boone, and they still have Royce Freeman. If they don’t take a back on the first or second day of the draft, that appears to be lining up Gordon for a much heavier workload than last year.

Previous Ceiling: Solid RB2
New Ceiling (for now): Strong RB2

3. Chris Carson, RB, SEA

Carson was pursued by the Jets, Panthers, and Patriots before returning to the Seahawks. Carolina would have been disastrous for fantasy, New England not significantly better, and the Jets only a consolation because of the lack of competition. But none of these were close to Seattle as a destination to preserve his fantasy value. Carson only making a little over ten million for the next two years would be laughable for a player of his caliber at any other position except kicker or punter, but that is the state of the running back position now.

Previous Floor: High Floor RB2
New Floor: Strong RB2

2. Aaron Jones, RB, GB

Jones was the marquee free agent running back, but didn’t get a marquee contract offer and returned to the Packers on a deal that will pay him less in the first two years than the Giants guaranteed Adoree' Jackson. That injustice aside, it’s fantasy justice that Jones' fantasy opportunity should be higher than ever with Jamaal Williams vacating passing-down snaps to Jones, who is an excellent receiver. Jones is a strong consideration near the 1-2 turn in redraft leagues.

Previous Ceiling: High Ceiling RB1
New Ceiling: Strong RB1

1. Terry McLaurin, WR, WAS

It will only be for one year, but 2021 will be glorious for McLaurin, who finally has a quarterback who will give him chances to make plays at the edge of his immense talent and skill for the game of football. Devante Parker posted 802 receiving yards in the last eight games of the 2019 season with Fitzpatrick. The Bucs pass offense supported two fantasy WR1s when Fitzpatrick was there. Brandon Marshall posted a career-high 14 scores and the second-best catch and yardage totals (109-1502) in his age-31 season with the Jets with Fitzpatrick! We don’t know how good McLaurin will be with Fitzpatrick and that’s the most exciting fantasy development of free agency.

Previous Ceiling: High Floor WR1
New Ceiling: Elite WR1

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