Even though players could’t officially join new organizations until Wednesday, March 13 at 4 p.m. ET, the legal tampering period that began Monday afternoon brought an avalanche of player news regarding players expected to officially join new teams for the 2019 season. Let's take a quick look at the major news from free agency thus far through a fantasy lens.
While free agency is always an exciting period of the NFL offseason for fans and fantasy players, the fantasy ramifications for players changing organizations is always a bit oversold. For running backs and wide receivers (the fantasy positions we covet the most), pursuing expensive fantasy options that have changed teams in the offseason has hardly yielded major fantasy return. Since 2013, we’ve seen just 14 running backs with an average draft position among the top-24 backs that were headed to new offensive climates. Just seven of those players ended up returning top-24 end of season value. Of that same group, only DeMarco Murray in 2015 and Lamar Miller in 2016 ended up being top-12 draft picks the following season, with both finishing below their required draft capital.
The wide receiver position has fared much worse. Over the past decade, we’ve had 40 different wide receivers with ADP among the top-36 wideouts that offseason. Of that group, just 12 scored more PPR fantasy points per game than the year prior for their new clubs with just 10 of those receivers finishing the season higher than their respective ADP was among the position heading into the season.
Of course, every situation should be handled separately and not just thrown under a pessimistic umbrella solely from a player changing teams. There are still fantasy dominoes to initially cover prior to the draft that we will keep updating throughout the opening of the signing period as the signings are announced. Since the Antonio Brown trade was so huge in of itself, there’s a separate, full-detailed breakdown here. The same can be said the trade of Odell Beckham. The fallout from the Beckham trade has it's own detailed post here.
Le’Veon Bell to Jets
After sitting out the entire 2018 season, Bell is moving on New York. While his game plan to hold out the entire previous season can be questioned, his future workload will surely not after becoming the second-highest paid running back in the league behind Todd Gurley. The Jets offensive line created an average of 1.14 yards before contact for their running backs in 2018, which ranked 27th in the league, but by breaking the bank on Bell, they undoubtedly will force-feed him touches, which can circumvent the scenario where Bell maintains pedestrian efficiency marks per touch. As evidence of the last time we seen Bell on the field, league-leading volume trumps any dip in efficiency. In 2017, Bell's 4.0 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per catch were the second-lowest career marks in each category, but he more than made up for the losses per touch with sheer volume. To start his career, Bell has ranked first (27.1 touches), first (28.0), first (22.8), second (23.3) and fourth (22.2) in touches per game in the NFL. Aided by that immense workload, the 27-year old Bell has ranked first or second in yards from scrimmage per game in each of the past four seasons he’s played.
The one slight knock on Bell is that he’s played 16 games just once over his five seasons in the league, but he never finished lower than ninth in PPR points per game at the running back position in any of those seasons while finishing second, first, fourth and first in that category over his past four seasons played. Averaging 19.8 rushes and 5.0 receptions per game for his career, Bell instantly regains first-round value in fantasy drafts based on his receiving ability and the overall projectable mass of his workload.
Mark Ingram to Ravens
After spending his first eight seasons with the Saints, Ingram joins a Ravens backfield that he can immediately take over. A part-time player for the majority of his tenure in New Orleans, Ingram should inherently push career-highs in terms of overall opportunity with only Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon currently on board to threaten his workload. Ingram has had more than 255 touches in just one season with a career-high of 288 touches in 2017. Ingram- who will turn 30-years old in December- is coming off a season in which he ranked just 28th in PPR points per game (11.9 points), but also received just 13.3 touches per game, his fewest in a season since 2013. Prior to that, he had ranked in the top-15 in points per game in each of the previous four seasons while averaging 17.8 touches per game. A solid pass catcher out of the backfield despite having the archetype as an early down grinder, Ingram caught 50, 46 and 58 passes over the 2015-2017 seasons prior to being phased out of that part of the Saints Offense a year ago. While there is a downgrade in leaving the Saints Offense – a team that has ranked first or second in collective backfield points in each of the past seven seasons- the transition to Baltimore is a best-case landing spot for him. Outside of marginal competition on the roster, the Ravens really featured their backfield once turning their offense over to Lamar Jackson. In the seven regular-season games with Jackson under center to close the year, the Ravens backfield averaged 30 touches for 168.1 yards from scrimmage per game. Over that span, they largely leaned on a one-note, undrafted rookie in Gus Edwards. There are a few potential hiccups here. One being Lamar Jackson only threw to running backs 25 times total over those seven starts and Jackson himself cut into some of the money touches, scoring four of the eight team rushing touchdowns over that span and handling 12 of the 22 team rushing attempts inside of the 10-yard line in those games. Still, joining Jackson, Greg Roman’s strong rushing history, and the lackluster threat of competition in this backfield, Ingram is firmly in RB2 territory moving to Baltimore.
Tevin Coleman to 49ers
Coleman is reunited with Kyle Shanahan, who was with the Falcons when the organization made Coleman the 73rd overall selection in the 2015 draft. Over his four seasons in Atlanta, Coleman’s rushing attempts, touches and yards from scrimmage rose every season, but he could never overcome being part of a timeshare. The same held true in 2018 when Devonta Freeman went down a year ago after appearing in just two games. With just Ito Smith to contend with, Coleman still managed to average just 12.9 touches per game with Freeman inactive. He was effective in spurts on a small workload, but posted uneven production as he was held under 80 yards from scrimmage in nine of those games with fewer than 60 yards from scrimmage in seven of those games. The good news is that despite consistently sharing yearly workloads, Coleman has still found his way to being fantasy relevant. Over the past three seasons since his rookie season, Coleman has been the RB26 or higher in PPR points per game, but the bad news there is that he’s dropped in those rankings each year, finishing as the RB13, RB25 and RB26 in points per game those seasons. Of course, Coleman's highest-scoring fantasy season came playing under Shanahan in 2016, but Coleman's fantasy juice that season was largely built on touchdown production while playing in one of the league's best offenses in NFL history, which is tougher to predict. In that 2013 season, Coleman scored 11 touchdowns on just 11.5 touches per game. There's definite upside here, but also a few negative points.
Part of the bad news is that Coleman enters what initially will be a crowded backfield on just a two-year contract reportedly worth just $10M. The 49ers already have Jerick McKinnon - who missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL - and Matt Breida on their roster and had no issues running out a continuous timeshare a year ago. There could be some clarity resolved relatively soon as McKinnon’s $3.7M 2019 base salary become s guaranteed on April 1. That’s not much money at all, but with all three backs lacking significant special teams experience, that may make this an opportunity for San Francisco to just move forward with just Coleman and Breida while letting Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. battle for the third spot. That’s merely me spewing speculation at this point, however. To cut to the chase, this is a muddle situation right now, but we do know that both Coleman and Breida are locks to be in the mix next season. As of now, this is a situation to monitor over the next few weeks prior to April 1 in the hopes that Coleman can be a true RB2 over being just a FLEX-worthy option.
Nick Foles to Jaguars
After posting a 10-3 overall record in 13 relief starts for the Eagles over the past two seasons, Foles is now “Big Check” Nick after agreeing to a four-year contract with the Jaguars, reportedly worth $50M guaranteed. Expected to sign with the Jaguars all along once free agency opened, Foles is reunited with former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who is taking over as the Jacksonville offensive coordinator. Although Foles will forever go down in Philadelphia lore for his incredible Super Bowl LII performance, he was hardly an impact player for fantasy purposes while filling in for Carson Wentz over the past two seasons. In his seven regular-season starts with the Eagles (disregarding his Week 17 start in 2017 when he threw just 11 passes), Foles finished in the top-half of weekly quarterback scoring just twice, throwing two or fewer touchdown passes in five of those games.
Foles also leaves a team anchored by Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery alongside Nelson Agholor for a receiving unit in Jacksonville that currently is made up of Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole with not pass-catching back or tangible fantasy tight end currently in place. While Foles is a potential passing upgrade over Blake Bortles, it’s hard to see anyone on this current roster getting a huge bump here. Westbrook remains the most intriguing piece as he made strides in his second season and his production came in similar areas of the field in which Agholor's did with Foles under center.
After catching 27 passes as a rookie in 2017, the 4th-round pick snagged 66 passes a year ago, with 58 of those receptions coming from the slot, which ranked fourth in the NFL. Lee has never been heavily used in the slot during his career, so his return doesn't pose a major threat to Westbrook continuing to hold down those duties. Of course Alshon Jeffery missed a chunk of time while Foles was under center in Philadelphia, but Agholor accounted for 19.8% of Foles' pass attempts. Westbrook is still only in WR4-FLEX land among the position, but he's the best-looking option here at minimum by default.
For fantasy purposes, Foles is only a streaming option in all formats. He himself may not even be a better fantasy option than Bortles was since Bortles added so much rushing equity. For all Bortles’ shortcomings throwing the football, he managed to average 45.1 fantasy rushing points on 56.2 rushing attempts per season. Foles did have a solid rushing season (57 carries for 221 yards) under Chip Kelly in 2013 but has rushed just 104 yards over 28 starts since. That could mean that we the Jaguars backfield catch more passes this season as a result of the departure of Bortles’ scrambling. While they still may add a pass-catching back to compliment Leonard Fournette, Fournette has quietly averaged 2.8 receptions per game in each of his first two seasons. If he can remain on the field for an entire season, it’s not unfathomable to see Fournette push past 50 receptions in a season.
DeSean Jackson to Eagles
It wasn’t a free agent signing, but the Buccaneers trading Jackson back to the place where he began his career has an impact on a number of fantasy pieces.
Starting with Jackson himself, he goes to a place where he can play more snaps and see more targets than he did a year ago. Jackson averaged just 28.4 routes run per game a year ago as he shared passing-game opportunities behind Mike Evans with Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. Although Jackson will never be a player that will command a plethora targets in an offense, he will be a full-time player as a flanker in an Eagles Offense alongside Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.
Jackson will turn 33-years old in December this season and his 12.6 PPR points per game in 2018 were his highest total since the 2014 season. That said, he still remains a better option in Best Ball formats given his weekly volatility than a wideout you’re going to target in leagues in which you have to correctly predict his high points. He also has played a completely full season just once in 11 seasons and that season came back in 2013. But his addition does increase the potential for Carson Wentz to have a strong bounce back this upcoming season. Every quarterback that Jackson has played with outside of Jameis Winston in 2017 has had better numbers with Jackson in the lineup than without. The Eagles sorely missed a downfield option a year ago as they tallied just four touchdown passes in 2018 on passes that traveled 15-yards or further downfield after having 12 such touchdown passes in 2017. Wentz has opened the offseason with an early ADP in Draft leagues as the QB15, which stands to be a value.
Furthermore, Jackson’s -as well as Adam Humphries- departure from Tampa Bay opens the doors for Chris Godwin to finally become a full-time player in his third NFL season. Godwin caught 59-of-95 targets a year ago for 842 yards and seven touchdowns at age 22. Godwin has already been a fantasy darling the past two seasons, so look for the affection his already strong contingency has shown to only blossom now that he has a runway to easily push past 100 targets this season.
Adam Humphries to Titans
Also leaving Tampa Bay, Humphries agreed to contract with the Titans for a reported four-years and a total of $36M. The 26-year old is coming off a career season in which he reeled in 76-of-105 targets for 816 yards and five touchdowns. His receptions and receiving yardage has risen in each of year of the past three seasons, but it’s hard to see Humphries being more of a FLEX option in PPR formats moving into the Tennessee offense.
For one, Humphries’ overall volume was aided by the Bucs averaging a robust 39.1 pass attempts per game (fourth in the league). Over Marcus Mariota’s first four NFL seasons, the Titans have ranked 31st (27.3 pass attempts per game in 2018), 28th (31.3 on 2017), 28th (31.5 in 2016) and 21st (34.4 in 2016). On top of the overall team volume loss, the Titans have just 28 vacated targets (6.6 percent of their team total) from 2018, the third-lowest rate in the league. It’s hard to stock much belief that Humphries will be able to continue his trend of yearly improvement heading into 2019.
While Chris Godwin warrants all the excitement that he will surely get, don’t discount the losses of Jackson and Humphries propelling last season’s 5th-round pick Justin Watson from carving out a role in the Tampa Bay passing game. Jackson and Humphries combined to account for 28.7 percent of the targets, 28.6 percent or the receptions and 29.6 percent of the receiving yards for the Bucs in 2018, totals that Godwin himself won’t solely devour on top of his own share of the 2018 passing game. At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Watson was an athletic and production monster at Pennsylvania. While he doesn’t have much standalone value in redraft formats at the time, Watson is someone that should be rostered in all Dynasty leagues and someone to keep a pulse on during the offseason.
Latavius Murray to Saints
The 29-year old Murray will take over a portion of the vacated usage that Mark Ingram leaves behind in New Orleans while serving as a compliment and rushing insurance to Alvin Kamara. Ingram averaged 37.7 percent of the Saints’ rushing attempts per game a year ago while handling 20-of-49 of the team rushing attempts rushing attempts inside of the 10-yard line when he returned to the lineup in Week 5. Since entering the league in 2014, Murray ranks fourth in the NFL with 21 rushing touchdowns from inside of the 10, trailing only LeGarrette Blount (22) Todd Gurley (27) and the man he is replacing in Ingram (22).
One area where Murray doesn’t project to equally match Ingram, however, is in the receiving game. For one, Ingram’s use in the receiving game nearly evaporated a year ago, falling all the way down to 1.8 receptions on 2.5 targets per game. The second, is Murray has been one the most ineffective pass catching backs in the league since entering the league. Since entering the league, Murray’s 6.9 yards per reception rank 39th out of 41 backs to have more 100 total receptions over that span and rank 84th out of 94 backs with 50 or more receptions. Ingram lost some fantasy viability a year ago - finishing as a top-24 scoring back in just three of 12 games a year ago - but was still a top-40 scoring back in 10 of those 12 games, so he wasn't solely providing zeroes.
The landing spot is as good as possible for a compartmentalized back such as Murray, though. He remains a bench option, having moderate touchdown producer attached to an elite offense while having increased upside should Kamara miss any time. Murray will a prime target for those deploying a "Zero RB" approach this offseason or those looking for upside that will not be baked into his expected RB4 cost.
Golden Tate to Giants
After trading away Odell Beckham, the Giants desperately needed to add to their receiving depth as Corey Coleman was slated as the WR2 entering the day. In 2018, Tate was well on his way to his fifth consecutive season with 90-plus receptions, but a midseason trade to the Eagles derailed his production. Never finding his footing in Philadelphia, Tate managed just 30 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown in eight games with the Eagles. The Giants have played Sterling Shepard in the slot less and less as his career has opened and last season. Shepard ran a career-low 58.2 percent of his routes from slot after running 86.1 percent and 83.8 percent over his first two seasons. Beckham leaves 21.5 percent of the Giants’ 2018 targets on the floor for Tate and company. Tate’s addition stunts the excitement that was initially had for both Shepard and Engram post-Beckham and paired with Shepard, Engram and Saquon Barkley, the Giants are swerving heavily into a short-range passing game. Eli Manning has posted two lowest seasons in average depth of target over the past two years while his 7.8-yard aDOT ranked 30th in the NFL a year ago. Entering 2019 at age 31 while scoring more than six touchdowns just once over his nine-year career, Tate is only a fringe-WR3 option in reception-based formats.
Jamison Crowder to Jets
Another slot receiver on the move, the soon-to-be 26-year old Crowder was plucked off the market by the Jets. After a productive 2016 season (66/847/7) in his second NFL season, Crowder was ready to make the jump in Washington as they let both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon go, but Crowder had declining efficiency over the past two seasons from that breakout season as he also battled ankle, hip and hamstring issues. Crowder managed to play just nine games a year ago, notching a career-low 3.2 receptions per game for just 43.1 yards per game.
Crowder joins Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa in the Jets’ receiving corps. Enunwa already had run a career-low 48.6 percent of his routes from the slot in 2018 after running 74.3 percent and 74.7 percent of his routes from inside, so this acquisition further pushes Enunwa outside full time. Adam Gase’s primary slot receiver production is certainly anchored by having the likes of Wes Welker and Jarvis Landry, but the Jets have signaled here that Crowder was a priority. Sam Darnold averaged just 7.9 yards per pass attempt over the middle of the field in 2018 (30th) while Jermaine Kearse led the team with just 27 receptions from the slot a season ago.
That said, at the end of the day, I still believe in Anderson being the most viable of the Jets’ wideouts while still remaining unsure on Darnold’s ability to support multiple fantasy-viable options. Crowder’s signing is far more likely to have more of a real-football impact in aiding the growth of Darnold than propelling Crowder himself into regaining his 2017 fantasy buzz, but the lights are still on for him as he will have a clear role in the offense.
John Brown to Bills
Brown played in all 16 games last season for the first time since his rookie season in 2014. He got off to a promising start, as Brown was the WR22 in overall scoring through nine weeks, catching 34-of-67 targets for 601 yards and four touchdowns while Joe Flacco was under center. Then Brown fell off a cliff once the team transitioned to Lamar Jackson under center, catching just 8-of-30 targets for 114 yards and one touchdown for the remained of the regular season.
The crux of Brown’s game is the deep ball, which is a fit for Josh Allen. 28.2 percent of Allen’s pass attempts where on passes 15-yards or further downfield, which was the highest rate in the league. Unfortunately, he completed just 32.2 percent of those passes, which ranked 38th of all qualifying passers. Brown ranked eighth in the NFL with 36 such targets in 2018 and 34.1 percent of his career targets have come on such throws. While this is a perfect fit in overlapping styles, we still have two hyper-volatile components at play. Brown also overlaps in an area where rookie Robert Foster was used. There’s potential both can co-exist but getting each of these wideouts correct weekly projected to be a headache, leaving both as Best Ball targets (a running theme here). The most obvious answer is that this just enhances the already high ceiling potential that Allen showed at the end of last season paired with his rushing ability.
The Bills weren’t done at wide receiver, adding Beasley to the mix right after Brown. While Brown’s skill set is a match for Josh Allen’s. Beasley’s addition takes much more of a leap of faith. Especially considering that his addition paired with Brown’s may potentially disrupt opportunities and roles for second-year vertical threat Robert Foster and third-year wideout Zay Jones, who lead the Bills in receptions (56), receiving yards (652) and touchdown receptions (seven) in 2018. Jones ran 48.3 percent of his routes from the slot last season after just 30.8 percent as a rookie in 2017. In the slot, Jones caught 64.1 percent (25-of-39) of his targets for 12.6 yards per catch and four touchdowns as opposed to a 51.7 percent catch rate, 10.8 yards per reception on the perimeter. Beasley will be 30-years old entering the season while averaging 31.8 receiving yards per game for his career.
Devin Funchess to Colts
The Colts took a one-year flier on 25-year old Devin Funchess, who fell out of favor a year ago amidst the intermediate passing game shift that the Panthers transitioned to a year ago. After catching 63-of-111 targets for 840 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017, Funchess managed to secure just 44-of-79 targets for 549 yards and four scores for the Panthers in 2018. The rub with Funchess is that he’s only been fantasy relevant when a team had no other choice but to force the ball to him and he quickly fell off the fantasy radar once that was no longer the case.
The good news is that the Colts currently have a need for functional receiver play behind T.Y. Hilton as well as a need for a bigger body in that unit. As it stands today, Funchess will compete with Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Deon Cain and Marcus Johnson for looks. By signing Funchess to only a one-year deal, the Colts are unlikely to be finished adding to their wide receiving unit, but if Funchess can hold a starting spot, he could have a revival as a touchdown scoring option playing alongside Andrew Luck- who ranked second in the league with 39 passing touchdowns in 2018 – in a similar fashion that Donte Moncrief had when he turned 94 receptions into 13 touchdowns over the 2015-2016 seasons with Luck.
Tyrell Williams to Raiders
Williams joins Antonio Brown in Oakland, all but ending the suggestion that he will be a player that will elevate over the niche deep threat that he has developed into over the past two seasons with the Chargers. After receiving 119 targets out of necessity in 2016, Williams has seen just 134 total looks come his way over the past two seasons, catching 84 of those for 1,381 yards and nine touchdowns over that span. Where Williams has made an impact is down the field, averaging a robust 15.9 yards per reception over the past three seasons, which ranks seventh in the league out of all players to have at least 100 receptions over that timeframe. Derek Carr has struggled down the field -especially over the past two seasons – completing just 40.8 percent of his pass 15-plus yards downfield a year ago (25th) and just 34.8 percent of those passes in 2017 (28th). The acquisitions of Williams and Brown give Carr a bump in that area in pushing the ball downfield successfully. With the Raiders subsequently releasing Jordy Nelson after signing Williams, Williams should be able to best the 65 and 69 targets that he's had in each of the past two seasons, but will still be heavily out-targeted by Brown.
Donte Moncrief to Steelers
Then Steelers added Moncrief to the mix as they try to add to a receiving corps that just lost the best wideout in the league over the past five seasons in Antonio Brown. Moncrief has always been more of an athlete than on-field producer, even dating back to his days at Ole Miss. His best season so far has been averaging 4.0 receptions for 45.8 yards in 2015. But good quarterback play and opportunity in Pittsburgh may be just what he needs. Moncrief has secured just 74 passes for 1,059 yards and five touchdowns over the past two seasons, but that was while playing with Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler. In three seasons while playing Andrew Luck, Moncrief at least showed promise as a touchdown scorer, catching 16 touchdowns over the first three seasons of his career on 126 receptions. Entering the 2019 season at just 26-years old, Moncrief will compete with James Washington for absorbing the 24.8 percent of the vacated targets that Brown left in Pittsburgh.