Dynasty Risers & Fallers: Post Free Agency (2019 Fantasy Football)
Geoff Lambert takes a look at a few risers and fallers now that the dust has settled on free agency.
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With the bulk of the free agent frenzy over and the dust settled, dynasty owners need to look at their teams and assess the damage. In some cases, their players may have benefited by changing teams, or maybe they were helped by another player leaving and opening the door for their player to step in. On the flip side, there are plenty of guys that now have to compete with the new shiny toy (free agents) for touches in an offense they may have once ruled. Either way, the free agency period has dramatically changed the fantasy landscape, here is a look at a few of the biggest risers and fallers post free agency…
Evan Engram (TE – NYG)
The departure of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns puts Engram firmly in the risers category. It is no secret how much better Engram was over the last two seasons when Beckham didn’t play. In fact, he averaged nearly 4.5 more fantasy points a game in the 15 games he played without Beckham (per RotoViz) versus the 11 games he played with him.
With the departure of OBJ, Engram is now their best field stretcher despite being a tight end, with the newly acquired Golden Tate and incumbent starter Sterling Shepard earning their checks with the short underneath catches. While Tate has played outside in the past, at this point in his career he is more likely to catch WR screens and short crossing patterns than he is to take the top off the defense. Engram excels at being a field-stretcher. In fact, Engram ran a 4.42 40 time at the combine, which is the exact time Tate put up, but Tate is over 30 and in the decline of his athletic ability. If you are an Engram owner, and you suffered through last year’s sophomore slump, prepare to be rewarded for your patience.
Mark Ingram (RB – BAL)
Ingram went from playing second fiddle in a good offense to playing the lead role on the second-most run-heavy team in the league. Life is good for the 29-year-old RB. Normally when an RB is approaching that dreaded 30-year-old mark, you start to get worried, but I’m not worried about Ingram at all. First, early in his career, he was barely used. He didn’t surpass 200 touches in a season until his fourth year in the league. Last year, due to his four-game suspension and the larger role Alvin Kamara had in the Saints offense, he had fewer than 200 total touches again. In other words, he has less mileage on his tires than most RBs his age.
Secondly, he is exactly what the Ravens need in this offense. He is a very underrated pass catcher out of the backfield — something he hasn’t had to do since Kamara broke out. He had three straight seasons from 2015-2017 with at least 58 targets — his best season being 2017 with 71.
The Ravens became too predictable with Gus Edwards in the backfield; teams knew the Ravens weren’t going to throw the ball to him as he only had two catches all season. With Ingram in the backfield, the Ravens have more options to run, pass, do play actions, and run screens to the RB. Ingram will have a career year in 2019 and if you’re an Ingram owner, you are extremely happy with his landing spot.
Dante Pettis (WR – SF)
Sometimes in free agency, it’s not about which team you sign with, but more about who your team didn’t sign with or be traded to. The 49ers were linked to multiple high-profile WRs with trades rumors linking them to both Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., while the free agent market had them linked to Tyrell Williams. Any of those moves would have killed Pettis’ 2019 fantasy value, but as it stands now, he looks to be headed for a breakout year.
Pierre Garcon is gone, Marquise Goodwin is injury prone, and the trio of Trent Taylor, Richie James, and Kendrick Borne have yet to prove they are anything more than depth options. That leaves Pettis as the de-facto No. 1 WR in an offense that should be much improved in 2019 with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center. George Kittle is still the likely No. 1 option in the passing game after his record-breaking 2018 season that saw him break the single-season yardage total for a TE, but Pettis was no slouch late in the season with 18 of his 27 receptions and four of his five TDs all coming in Weeks 10-15.
Pettis has been compared to a poor man’s Keenan Allen with his elite route running ability, something that will benefit him with a QB like Garoppolo that relies on a lot of timing routes. The hype train on Pettis has been steadily gaining speed this offseason. Get on board before it’s too late.
David Njoku (TE – CLE)
A lot of people will be surprised by Njoku in the fallers category, but hear me out. First, Jarvis Landry has never had fewer than 112 targets in a season, and he racked up 149 in his first season as a Brown. Then you have newly acquired Odell Beckham Jr. and the number of targets he is going to demand, not to mention their sophomore running back, Nick Chubb, will still get a fair share of touches on the ground, and the second-year WR, Antonio Callaway, should take another step forward in this offense as well. Do you see where I’m going here? There isn’t going to be much left for Njoku, making him a low-volume, TD-dependant TE — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, outside of a few elite players, most TEs are TD dependant, but it’s not what you were hoping for when you drafted him.
Njoku will still be in the TE1 category, but more because of the lack of depth at the position than about the numbers he will put up. Putting him in the fallers category is more about tempering your expectations as he may end up in the same spot he did last year at TE9 — averaging nine points per game.
Gus Edwards (RB – BAL)
If you added Edwards off waivers late last season and rode him into the playoffs, I hope you enjoyed the ride because in 2019 it will come to a screeching halt. The signing of Mark Ingram all but dooms Edwards to a reserve role as an undrafted, one-dimensional back that was forced into action last year due to a multitude of injuries and sub-par performances. Barring injury, I don’t expect Edwards to see the field much, as everything he does well,
Ingram does better. Ingram is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield while Edwards has a mere two career receptions. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Edwards is left off the final roster. If you own him in dynasty, hopefully you have already made plans to replace him.
Every 49ers Running Back
To give you a little history of myself, I’ve been playing fantasy football for 22 years, back when teams had one featured running back and — for better or for worse — would run them into the ground. Great for fantasy, bad for running backs. At some point between then and now, the ‘running back by committee’ (RBBC) was created and, for fantasy die-hards, the RBBC was something to be avoided. Now, you will be hard-pressed to find a team that doesn’t have an RBBC to some degree — it has become part of fantasy football and we live with it.
But then there are the 49ers…
The 49ers have a minimum of four RBs that could all contribute in some way to this offense. Jerick McKinnon, who was signed to be ‘the guy’ before last season, is coming off a season-ending injury but should be ready for Week 1. Matt Breida is coming off a strong 2018 season in which he had over 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and five total TDs. Raheem Mostert, who showed flashes in limited time before breaking his arm, just re-signed with the 49ers for three years after a season in which he averaged 7.2 yards per carry. And, finally, there’s free agent signee Tevin Coleman, who thrived under current 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta.
This is great for the 49ers, and this is horrible for fantasy. You will never know who will get the bulk of the carries week in and week out and it makes this a situation to avoid. The 49ers have taken the RBBC to an entirely different level. Let’s just hope in five years that this doesn’t become the new norm.