Free Agency Winners/Losers (2019 Fantay Football)
Things move quickly in the NFL, especially free agency. In the NFL, you’ll never see a situation where a star like Bryce Harper remains unsigned less than a month before the season starts.
In merely a few days, just about all of the relevant names found new homes. These moves not only affect the players themselves, but their new teammates as well. Let’s take a look at which players free agency has been kind to and which players saw their 2019 outlook take a turn for the worse.
Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE)
I get this is kind of cheating because Baker Mayfield didn’t exactly benefit from free agency. But hey, something major happened that resulted in his value increasing massively. It happened during the free-agency period so I’m counting it. Obviously, that event was the arrival of Odell Beckham. Dave Gettleman is arguably the worst general manager in the NFL and one of the worst in all of sports. I wouldn’t trust this guy to manage my Pokemon cards circa 2000, let alone an NFL team.
Where one man fails, another prospers. Mayfield has already established himself as one of the NFL’s best QBs. After the 2019 season, I fully expect him to be discussed in the same breath as Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Drew Brees, both in real life and fantasy. Mayfield doesn’t need great weapons to succeed. He’s that good. But they certainly don’t hurt, and he’d rather have them than not.
Mayfield now has one of the five best WRs in football, making his secondary targets Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. Not bad, eh? Beginning with his first start in Week 4, Mayfield threw multiple touchdowns in all but four games, including four bouts with three or more scores. Now he ge26-year-old WR who has had the best start to his career in NFL history? Yes, please. Give me all the Baker in 2019.
Odell Beckham (WR – CLE)
We now live in a world where going to Cleveland is a boon to a player’s value. What a time to be alive! Words cannot adequately describe how much better Mayfield is than Eli Manning. Beckham is about to enjoy a massive quarterback and overall offensive upgrade.
His average depth of target will increase. Mayfield averaged 152 air yards per game without any real downfield threats. Manning averaged just 133.7 air yards per game. Beckham will have more opportunities to stretch the field and won’t be limited to “run a slant and try and outrun everyone” to score, which, to be clear, he’s proven very capable of doing.
Beckham will also be much happier, not just because Mayfield can actually throw a football well, but because he is now playing with his college buddy, Landry. This is a more ancillary factor, but as anyone who has engaged in a competitive activity can affirm, mental state plays a huge role in performance. A happy Beckham is a more productive Beckham.
If Beckham can stay on the field for a full 16 games, something he’s only done once in his career, we could be looking at potentially a 90-catch, 1600-yard season with double-digit touchdowns.
Evan Engram (TE – NYG) and Sterling Shepard (WR – NYG)
There is no need to overcomplicate this analysis. Beckham’s departure opens up roughly 10 targets per game. Sterling Shepard averaged nearly two more fantasy points per game without Beckham in the lineup, while Evan Engram went from 8.94 to 13.31 PPR points per game. The Giants have no idea what they are doing and will be a very bad team, but volume is going to be there for Shepard and Engram.
The Golden Tate acquisition doesn’t really change my opinion on how Shepard and Engram will perform. Tate is not going to command the same level of targets that Beckham did. He’s a repetitive asset as the Giants head in no particular direction.
Latavius Murray (RB – NO)
While Latavius Murray was productive in Dalvin Cook’s stead last season, the Vikings had one of the league’s worst offensive lines and the team never fully believed in him. Now he heads to New Orleans to run behind one of the best offensive lines in a backfield that consistently ranks amongst the fantasy elite. Murray won’t threaten Alvin Kamara‘s elite RB1 status, but he will see the field and has legitimate eight-10 touchdown upside. Mark Ingram averaged 13.25 touches per game last season. If Murray touches the ball even eight-10 times goal-line line carries, he can be a viable weekly fantasy option.
Mark Ingram (RB – BAL)
This is a perfect match. I still can’t figure out how Ingram does it. He’s a subpar athlete with no above-average skills, yet he’s consistently produced throughout his career. He’s overperformed his athleticism and is a true outlier when it comes to projecting running backs.
Under Lamar Jackson, the Ravens ran a true college-style offense, focusing on the read option and spread concepts. Let’s call it as we see it here: Gus Edwards is not good. He is the quintessential replacement-level player. Give him a hole and he can run through it. While no one is mistaking Ingram for any sort of elite talent, he can do what Edwards did, only a little better, and also catches passes.
Look for Ingram to handle around a 60% opportunity share with someone else operating as the satellite back. That is not Edwards’ forte, but he may be the other guy at first. The Ravens will likely draft a running back either Day Two or Three, and it’s a near certainty he will be more talented than Edwards. It may not be right away, but the Gus Bus is going to come to a screeching halt.
Le’Veon Bell (RB – NYJ)
I only put Le’Veon Bell here because this column would feel incomplete without discussing him. It’s both fair and unfair to classify Bell as a loser. From the moment it was clear he was leaving Pittsburgh, we knew it was highly doubtful he would end up in a better situation. The Jets aren’t the worst landing spot with a young QB and no preexisting running back talent to speak of. Bell is locked into monster volume.
The concern will be his efficiency if the Jets can’t sustain drives. He also may struggle to utilize his patient running style behind an offensive line that ranked dead last in adjusted line yards in 2018. His touchdown upside also drops on a clearly inferior offense to that which he enjoyed in Pittsburgh.
Bell was never a prolific touchdown-scorer, but the passing game usage should remain what he is accustomed to. There is no argument for Bell in the top half of first rounds anymore, but a strong one can be made for him in the back half. That’s not a huge change overall, which is why I hesitate to call Bell a “loser,” given the connotations that come with the term, but his ceiling is undoubtedly lower outside of Pittsburgh.
Bills Wide Receivers
It really doesn’t matter what part of the field Josh Allen is throwing to, he can’t hit anyone. Allen posted a 26.2 deep-ball completion percentage last season, good for 33rd in the league. That’s John Brown‘s bread and butter. If he thought playing with Lamar Jackson was bad, wait until he gets a load of Allen.
Cole Beasley enjoyed quick hitters and precision timing routes out of the slot. Allen can’t hit anyone in any area of the field. Beasley will get open and Allen will airmail him by 10 yards. Beasley got paid, so good for him, but he won’t come close to matching his production in Dallas.
Robert Foster had a nice run to close out the year with three WR2 and WR1 finishes over his final seven games. Much of that had to do with he and Zay Jones being the only guys there. Both of them will be pushed down the depth chart for Brown and Beasley. Foster instantly went from a late-round fantasy flier to a guy to completely ignore.
Jones is now so irrelevant that all he deserves is this one sentence.
49ers Running Backs
Why did the 49ers sign Tevin Coleman? I get that they didn’t pay much or make a long-term commitment, but there is simply no way for Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, and Coleman to share one field. Either one of them has no value or all of them have no value. There’s really no other outcome.
The best case scenario is a 50-40-10 split in favor of … I have absolutely no idea. It really doesn’t matter as long as we know before draft season. At least, in that scenario, two of them are worth owning. If this is a straight up three-way timeshare similar to what the Eagles employed last season at one point with Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, and Josh Adams, then all of them will likely be owned, but none would really be worth owning. That seems paradoxical, but it’s a real possibility given that the 49ers have three talented RBs.
I highly doubt they signed Coleman to not use him. I highly doubt they signed McKinnon last season to not use him, assuming he comes back healthy. And after Breida’s performance in 2018, how can they not keep him involved? This is fine for real life, but a mess for fantasy purposes.