The path to a 2017 Fantasy Football Championship starts now.
While many casual fantasy football players take this time to recharge the batteries, the true sharps of the fantasy world take careful notice of the free agency frenzy that is occurring in the NFL. A bevy of big time free agents have switched teams, and handicapping their impact is an essential piece towards winning a championship next season.
Here is a breakdown of the top NFL free agent moves and their fantasy impact.
Fantasy Football Free Agency Frenzy
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Contract: 3 years/$33 million/$20 million guaranteed
Skinny: There are understandable concerns about Jackson’s motivational level after signing this contract. He is a 30-year-old wide receiver with success based on pure speed. At some point that speed will decline, as will his production. At first glance, this seems like the perfect match. Tampa Bay has a young star quarterback in Jameis Winston, and a star wide receiver in Mike Evans on the opposite side of the field. However, Winston possesses a below average throwing arm (55 mph/47th percentile) and ranked 26th among all starting quarterbacks in Deep Ball Completion Percentage (26.7 percent). Over the past three seasons, Jackson achieved moderate production in a very pass friendly Washington offense. He averaged 47.3 receptions, 900 yards, and 4.7 touchdowns over those three years. Those numbers equate to 161 points in Points Per Reception (PPR) scoring, which would make Jackson the 48th best wide receiver last season. Jackson ranked fifth in yards per target (10.1 ypt) but only 40th in total targets (100). His old quarterback, Kirk Cousins, ranked fifth in Deep Ball Completion Percentage (45.7 percent), and seventh overall in total completion percentage (67 percent). Winston is a much less accurate quarterback with a weaker throwing arm. There is no evidence that supports the popular conclusion that Jackson will be more productive in Tampa Bay than Washington, which is why he projects no better than a borderline WR3.
Recommendation: Draft no earlier than the seventh round in PPR formats and ninth round in standard formats.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Contract: 3 years/$8.8 million/$4.2 million guaranteed
Skinny: Everywhere Danny Woodhead goes, he produces. Despite sharing touches in San Diego with Melvin Gordon, Woodhead always found a way to get on the field and provide solid fantasy value. In Baltimore, a short depth chart became even thinner with the news of Kenneth Dixon‘s four game suspension for PED use. With only Terrence West standing in his way, Woodhead will dominate passing downs and give Joe Flacco a valuable check-down weapon in a tough defensive division. Woodhead is only one year removed from leading all running backs in receptions (81) and receiving yards (756). Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco led the NFL in pass attempts last year (673) and still lacks a true red zone wide receiver target. If he is able to stay healthy, Woodhead should have a fantastic season in Baltimore.
Recommendation: Target in round five in PPR formats and round six in standard formats.
Team: Green Bay Packers
Contract: 3 years/$21 million/$6.3 million guaranteed
Skinny: For the first time since the 2011 season, the Green Bay Packers offense will feature one of the best receiving tight ends in football. Martellus Bennett signed a three-year deal with the Packers worth $21 million. Bennett not only brings a Super Bowl Championship to Lambeau Field, but also a resume that includes a 90 reception, 916 yard, six touchdown season in Chicago in 2014. Fans of Green Bay have longed for the days of former tight end Jermichael Finley, who produced a 55/767/8 stat line in that 2011 season. Since then, the tight end position has failed to be a major weapon in the Green Bay offense, even with Richard Rodgers eight touchdown season of 2015 (bolstered by multiple Hail Mary catches). Bennett is only 30 years old and ranked second among all tight ends with 397 yards after catch. He was third at the position with seven touchdowns, and now gets a debatable quarterback upgrade with Aaron Rodgers. Bennett is a habitual fast starter, with six of his ten touchdowns over the last two seasons occurring at or before Week Five. Bennett’s 2016 ADP was 114.3, but that was with Rob Gronkowski as his teammate. Look for him to fly off draft boards much earlier this season.
Recommendation: Target in round seven in all formats.
Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Contract: 1 year/$9.5 million/$8.75 million guaranteed
Skinny: The talented but oft-injured 27-year-old receiver gets a “show me” contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The biggest winner here is quarterback Carson Wentz, who drastically improves his receiving corps with Jeffery and deep threat Torrey Smith. Wentz still has slot receiver Jordan Matthews (only 24 years old) and a great receiving tight end in Zach Ertz. Jeffery’s workout metrics are incredible. His catch radius (89th Percentile), agility score (84th Percentile), and height-adjusted speed score (83th Percentile) all support the WR1 narrative. The issue will always be his injuries. In 2015, Jeffery was tenth among wide receivers with 17.6 fantasy points per game. The problem? He missed eight games. If Jeffery plays all 16 games in 2017, he’s a WR1 lock. He’s in a good offense and has every reason to stay healthy with just a one year contract. As the first true Philadelphia outside receiver in years, he should get a ton of red zone targets. However, there are still questions circulating around Jeffery. Was the four-game suspension for PED use last season just a desperate attempt to eradicate the “brittle tag?” Jeffery’s upside is great, but as always, proceed with caution.
Recommendation: Target in round three in standard formats, round four in PPR formats.
Team: Washington Redskins
Contract: 1 years/$6 million/$6 million guaranteed
Skinny: Pryor’s signing was good for many reasons, not the least of which was the following:
My wife had premonition last night that Terrelle Pryor will sign w/a team that has red as their predominant color. I’m now consumed by this
— Mike Randle (@FtsyWarriorMike) January 21, 2017
Besides spousal satisfaction at home, all indications point to a breakout year for Pryor. His workout metrics are incredible. Pryor has a 91st percentile 40-yard dash time (4.41) and 99th percentile height-adjusted speed score (128.3). On a putrid Cleveland Browns offense with subpar quarterback play, Pryor finished 24th in fantasy points per game (13.2). The most impressive statistic? He ranked ninth among all wide receivers in contested catch rate (81.8 percent), which shows he can make difficult catches. In the high powered Washington offense, Pryor should see an increase in easy catches and red zone opportunities. Throw in the chance he occasionally plays quarterback for Washington, and the WR2 production from last season seems like his fantasy floor in 2017.
Recommendation: Fourth round in both Standard and PPR formats.
Team: New York Giants
Contract: 2 years/$11 million/$5 million guaranteed
Skinny: Marshall is 33 years old, but just one year removed from a 21.3 fantasy points per game season (3rd among wide receivers). That season was with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback for the New York Jets. Marshall stays in the same home stadium but now will wear the blue colored jersey of the New York Giants. Having already deferred the top receiver spot to Odell Beckham Jr, both players should receive defensive relief by their combined presence. Last season, Eli Manning had the seventh most passing attempts last season (599) and ranked fifth among all quarterbacks in pressured completion percentage (40 percent). Marshall’s best attribute is his red zone prowess, ranking third in 2015 among all wide receivers (14 receptions) despite missing one game. While it is doubtful he reaches top three fantasy receiver heights again, he most certainly will be better than last year’s 10.8 fantasy points per game (47th best). A sneaky WR3 with WR2 potential.
Recommendation: Fourth round in Standard formats and sixth Round in PPR formats.
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Contract: 1 year/$4.25 million/$2.865 million guaranteed
Skinny: What’s the effect of Seattle’s signing Eddie Lacy? In short, good for C.J. Prosise and bad for Thomas Rawls. At 5’11” and 235 pounds (generously low), Lacy is a bruising running back that will be the feature goal line option for the Seahawks. After the 2017 season, Rawls becomes a restricted free agent. Clearly, the one-year deal for Lacy casts doubt on Rawls’ future in the Emerald City. Lacy is only 27 years old, and missed 11 games last year due to injury. However, in the five games he played for Green Bay, Lacy actually ranked fourth among all running backs in yards after contact per touch (2.0 yards). He also ranked first among all running backs in juke rate, which measures on-field elusiveness and tackle-breaking ability. While Seattle’s offensive line is not great for running backs (29th overall Run Blocking Efficiency), Green Bay’s wasn’t much better (27th overall). While many will be scared off by the crowded Seattle backfield, a one year contract will certainly keep Lacy motivated all season. He is a solid RB2 option in standard scoring formats.
Recommendation: Fifth round in Standard formats and eighth round in PPR formats.
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Contract: 1 year/$2.6 million/$1.5 million guaranteed
Skinny: One of the most underrated free agent signings of the offseason. Kamar Aiken left Baltimore after much frustration with his role on the team. The 27-year-old wide receiver never felt he was never given a true chance as a starting receiver for the Ravens. Aiken now joins the Colts, where he has a legitimate chance to be at least the third wide receiver on an explosive offense. Aiken brings a 6’2″ 215 pound frame to an Indianapolis team with small speedy wide receivers. T.Y. Hilton is clearly the top wide receiver, but after him the competition is wide open. Donte Moncrief is thought to be the second choice, but after two hamstrings injuries, a shoulder strain, and a fractured scapula last year, the Colts have legitimate concerns about his durability. With third year wideout Phillip Dorsett underwhelming and tight end Dwayne Allen in New England, Aiken’s floor is a WR3 with All-Pro quarterback Andrew Luck under center. Aiken will be go under the radar in all drafts, but will serve as a great WR3 option in all fantasy formats.
Recommendation: Tenth round or later in all formats.