Dynasty Football Risers/Fallers Post-Free Agency

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 30, 2018

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes saw his value drastically increase after free agency

It’s a sad day when you find out the wide receiver that you own in dynasty just signed the best wide receiver on the free agent market. Why? Not because his skill has diminished, but because his team felt it necessary to go out and sign a player for top-tier money. That’ll obviously eat into his potential ceiling, and likely his consistency.

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Now that the dominos have fallen throughout free agency, we have an idea as to which players took the biggest hit in dynasty leagues. Not just that, though. We also know which players are likely in a better position to succeed after the moves took place. Maybe there’s a running back who is third on the depth chart who just moved up. Maybe there’s someone who analysts are hyping as a potential breakout candidate when he just lost a giant chunk of opportunity. We’re going to cover all of them today, and if you’re able to trade players right now, you should be looking to buy or sell these players.

Quarterbacks (SELL)

Derek Carr (OAK)
Not only was free agency not kind to Carr, but neither was the offseason hire of Jon Gruden, who apparently wants to turn the clocks back to the early 2000’s. After the Packers released Jordy Nelson, the Raiders decided it was a good idea to replace Michael Crabtree with him. Not that Nelson wasn’t a good receiver throughout his career, but at 33 years old, he’s a shell of the player he used to be. Carr didn’t average many attempts before the Gruden hire, and knowing they’ve now got Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, and Nelson, it’s highly unlikely he’ll have them now. This franchise’s offense took two steps in the wrong direction this offseason.

Case Keenum (DEN)
After signing with the Broncos, you had to wonder if they were committed to Keenum as their starter going forward. Upon learning it’s just a two-year deal for Keenum, there’s no commitment. It appears the Broncos are still very much in the quarterback conversation with their No. 5 overall pick, meaning they’ll be pressured to play a young kid sooner rather than later. Even if you were to pretend that they didn’t draft a quarterback at No. 5, how appealing is an offense with a bad offensive line, two aging wide receivers who are likely not on the team in 2019 (both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have massive cap hits in 2019 with little penalty to release them), and no clear-cut starting tight end? Let’s not forget who Keenum was before he was hooked up with Pat Shurmur.

Quarterbacks (BUY)

Mitch Trubisky (CHI)
Likely the biggest beneficiary of all offseason moves combined was Trubisky, as the Bears went out and hired Matt Nagy, who is considered to be Andy Reid’s best prodigy (Reid’s words, not mine). After that, they went out and snagged wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, as well as tight end Trey Burton. The Bears offense has an entirely new look to it and it’s unlikely two of their divisional opponents will be able to contain them (Packers, Lions) under Nagy. It’s all-or-nothing for the Bears under Trubisky, and that’s a solid outlook for a dynasty quarterback who suddenly has a bevy of options to throw to.

Patrick Mahomes (KC)
Another quarterback who’s going into his second year, though we’ve seen little of Mahomes thus far. If the sliver that we did see is any indication of what he’s bringing to the table, you’re going to want to trade for him before his stock rises any further. The addition of Sammy Watkins in free agency was the best possible thing for Mahomes, as Watkins is a do-it-all receiver, and one who can beat defenders deep. Knowing Mahomes’ biggest strength, his arm, it’s good to know they’re building around that in Kansas City. Don’t let the fact that Andy Reid had Alex Smith throwing the ball around 500 times per year fool you – he builds his offense around his players, not the other way around.

Running Backs (SELL)

Derrick Henry (TEN)
I’ve been a supporter of Henry in dynasty for a long time, but it’s clearly time to let go. You often have to let the team tell you how you should view him, and from every single thing the Titans have ever done with him, they’re telling you he’s not their workhorse. From giving DeMarco Murray the majority of snaps, to now signing Dion Lewis to a four-year contract, they have made it clear they don’t trust him in pass protection or doing much work in the receiving game. You don’t pay Lewis $20 million to come in and get 8-10 touches per game. This was supposed to be Henry’s time to shine, but the Titans quickly dismissed that idea.

Isaiah Crowell (NYJ)
Not sure anyone needs to be told about this one, but Crowell may have just walked into fantasy irrelevance. Before ragging on the Browns and asking how anyone can produce there, don’t forget they had what was a top-five offensive line in 2017. Was he in a position to score a ton of touchdowns? No, but outside of three runs in 2016, Crowell has averaged sub-4.0 yards per carry over his career. In fact, he was one of just three running backs over the last four years who saw at least 200 carries and failed to finish as a top-24 fantasy running back. He finished 30th. Going to the Jets won’t solve his touchdown problem, and now he doesn’t have Hue Jackson holding his starting job no matter what.

Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin (OAK)
When the rumor of Martin signing with the Raiders came out, we figured where there was smoke, there’s fire, but we thought it was more of a sign that they’d address the running back position in the NFL Draft. But no, instead they signed Martin to a one-year deal, which screws up what should be a valuable starting job. The marriage of these two is an odd one, as their both known as early-down backs who can do a little work in the passing game, though neither excel in that area. It’s likely they cancel each other out, maxing out around 12-14 carries per game, which is not ideal for fantasy consistency. Martin should be the one who they lean on the most, but why even keep Lynch around if that were the case? This is clearly a situation to avoid, and it’s very telling where Martin’s career is at when he had to sign a one-year deal with a team that already had Lynch. I still think they’ll be looking at running backs later in the draft.

Running Backs (BUY)

Jerick McKinnon (SF)
We all know that McKinnon wanted to land a workhorse gig when he left the Vikings, and many were shocked when he landed $30 million over four years with the 49ers. As is the case with the Titans with Derrick Henry, we have to let the team tell us everything we need to know. In this case, they made McKinnon the third-highest paid running back in the game. Do you think they’re going to use him as much as possible? Before you automatically assume that McKinnon is going to get 20-plus touches per game, take a look at his career efficiency numbers, which have not been good on early-down work. While toting the ball over 300 times in 2016 and 2017, he averaged a miniscule 3.6 yards per carry. My guess is that they still add another early-down back, but don’t let that stop you from thinking that McKinnon is going to be extremely valuable. Think about Christian McCaffrey… those are the type of touches I’d expect McKinnon to get in a Kyle Shanahan-led offense, making him a rock-solid RB2, especially in PPR formats.

Rex Burkhead (NE)
Potentially one of the quietest moves in free agency with the most fantasy potential is that of Burkhead re-signing with the Patriots for three years. Most have already forgotten that Burkhead was the running back to own when healthy last year. All I remember is everyone saying that you couldn’t trust a Patriots running back in fantasy. Well, from Week 8 through Week 15, Burkhead delivered at least 7.7 standard fantasy points 6-of-7 games, including four games with 11.3 or more fantasy points. He was the one the Patriots trusted on the goal-line, and it wasn’t until he got hurt that they went to Dion Lewis. With Lewis off to the Titans, and the Patriots addition of just Jeremy Hill, Burkhead’s role is extremely safe.

Joe Mixon (CIN)
We kind of figured the Bengals wouldn’t try to re-sign Jeremy Hill, but it’s reassuring that he’s now on another team. When he was placed on Injured Reserve last year, Mixon saw at least 14 touches in four of the next five games, including 22- and 26-touch games before suffering a high-ankle sprain that caused him to miss a few weeks. Not only is Hill gone, but the Bengals made a trade to acquire offensive tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills, who blocked for LeSean McCoy when he had his crazy efficient season in 2016. The Bengals are also likely to address the offensive line in the draft, which just adds to the lure.

Wide Receivers (SELL)

Jordy Nelson (OAK)
Yeah, we all knew that Nelson was a dying dynasty stock, right? It just went down even further. Even if you’re a team built to win-now, you shouldn’t look to acquire Nelson. He’s a player who’s benefitted massively from the relationship he and Aaron Rodgers had. It’s why you saw Davante Adams continue to produce even without Rodgers, while Nelson went into the gutter from a fantasy perspective. A majority of the touchdowns Nelson scored with Rodgers were well-timed back-shoulder throws. It takes a lot of time and reps to get to know your quarterback like that. Going to Derek Carr is obviously a downgrade and playing alongside Amari Cooper is going to limit his opportunities in what appears to be a run-first offense under Jon Gruden.

Tyreek Hill (KC)
Some are automatically assuming that Hill remains in the same role he was last year, despite the addition of Sammy Watkins. This is a massive change in his projection, as he’s lost a lot of his luster. On a team with just Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson to compete with, Hill saw 105 targets (ranked 22nd among wide receivers). Add a 24-year-old former No. 4 overall pick who is a more complete wide receiver on the field, and Hill is likely to see a dip in his already low target total. Granted, we’re expecting the Chiefs to pass more than last year, but paying $50 million to Watkins tells us how they feel about him. I’d rather have Watkins on my dynasty roster, though I’m sure many will disagree with that. One thing is clear to me – he’s not the top-10 wide receiver he’s currently being drafted as in dynasty startups.

Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman (CLE)
The entire Browns roster got a makeover this offseason and that’ll continue into the NFL Draft, but as it stands now, it’s highly unlikely these two will live up to their lofty expectations. After trading for Jarvis Landry, you already had to wonder how they’d all get their targets while both David Njoku and Duke Johnson got theirs. Then came the biggest trade to affect their value, the one where they traded a third-round pick for Tyrod Taylor. You don’t add Taylor to an offense you’re expecting to throw the ball 600 times. In fact, Taylor hasn’t thrown the ball more than 437 times in a single season. Not just that, though, because they added Carlos Hyde, another indication that they want to run the ball in 2018. Granted, dynasty is all about years to come, but the situation, particularly the ability to see high targets, got a lot cloudier in Cleveland over the last few months.

Wide Receivers (BUY)

Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison (GB)
We saw Adams flourish last year, even in Aaron Rodgers‘ absence. It’s not to say that he benefitted from Rodgers going down (that’d be dumb). It’s more on how Adams has grown as a player and become the focal point of their passing attack. With Jordy Nelson off to the Raiders, they’ve confirmed that. Nelson’s last four healthy years between Rodgers and Nelson produced these fantasy finishes: WR2, WR2, WR11, WR2. Meanwhile, Allison steps into the starting lineup. Any time you have a wide receiver starting on the perimeter for Rodgers, he’s going to have fantasy value. Now this can change if they draft a wide receiver extremely early in the draft, but Allison is essentially free in dynasty leagues right now.

Stefon Diggs (MIN)
After watching Adam Thielen develop a relationship with Case Keenum, Diggs will welcome Kirk Cousins with open arms. Keenum was the check-down sort of quarterback, while Cousins is known to let it rip, as evidenced by his 148 pass attempts that have gone over 20 yards the last two years, which included 21 touchdowns on them. This benefits Diggs, who is a phenomenal route-runner with speed to get open down the field. On top of that, Thielen’s emergence coincided with Pat Shurmur taking over as the offensive coordinator, who’s also not in Minnesota anymore.

Josh Reynolds (LAR)
It was said that the Rams wanted to keep Sammy Watkins this offseason, though after hearing about him getting $50 million from the Chiefs, we know why he’s not back there. Reynolds was a fourth-round pick last year who needed to step in for an injured Robert Woods late in the season. In the three games Woods missed, Reynolds did see a respectable 14 targets, turning them into 8 receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. He isn’t known to be an underneath receiver, but rather one who’ll be a deep threat, so it’s likely he fills the Watkins role that may not have lived up to expectations in 2017, but removing WR2 expectations, he did offer fantasy value. Reynolds could be one of the better buy-lows in dynasty right now.

Tight Ends (SELL)

Eric Ebron (IND)
Any time you have a franchise simply cut a player before his rookie contract up, it’s not a good thing. Now imagine that team spent a top-10 NFL draft pick on said player. Also imagine that they have no solution behind him on the depth chart. That’s exactly what happened with Ebron and the Lions, making it hard to believe he’s going to turn his career around, especially when Jack Doyle has played phenomenal over the last few years. It seems the Colts were simply looking to add solid depth to their roster with how often they run 2TE sets, similar to the way they did with Doyle and Dwayne Allen. They’ll use Ebron while paying him $15 million over the next two years, but I’m not buying the thought that he’s better than Doyle.

Adam Shaheen (CHI)
There were a lot of analysts expecting a breakout for Shaheen under new head coach Matt Nagy, but free agency put a screeching halt to those predictions as the Bears signed up-and-coming tight end Trey Burton. Shaheen is just 23 years old and the Bears did spend a second-round pick on him just a year ago, so he’s not going to fall off the face of the earth, but pretending that his fantasy stock didn’t just take a major hit would be wrong. It’s said that he’ll be the in-line tight end in the offense while Burton will be the move-tight end. We know which one carries more value in fantasy and it’s not Shaheen’s role.

Tight Ends (BUY)

Trey Burton (CHI)
On the flip side of his new teammate Adam Shaheen, Burton saw his dynasty value skyrocket in free agency. This is a unique situation because Burton has no learning curve to go through in the Bears’ new offense. Coming from Doug Pederson’s offense, which also falls under the Andy Reid coaching tree, Burton is said to know about 90 percent of the playbook. This is massive, especially when you consider how much production we’ve seen out of Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz in the same system. You can make the argument that Burton should be considered a top-10 dynasty tight end, though you can get him for much cheaper than that right now. His value is going to shoot up once the season starts.

George Kittle (SF)
After the 49ers were expected to be big players in the free agent wide receiver market, they came away with… nothing. This is big news for all their wide receivers, sure, but even more so for Kittle. He remains the only “big” threat for Jimmy Garoppolo in the red zone, an area they visited quite a bit down the stretch. He closed out the season strong, too, as he totaled 14 targets over the final three games, hauling in 11 receptions for 194 yards and a touchdown. Having an entire offseason to work with Garoppolo should be massive, so it shouldn’t surprise you to see him finish inside the top-12 tight ends as soon as 2018.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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