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9 Early Free Agency Winners & Losers (2021 Fantasy Football)

Mar 19, 2021

This start to the NFL’s free agency period has been a wild ride so far. The Patriots have undergone a total roster renovation, while Washington and the Jets made multiple key upgrades to their offenses as well and the Titans completely decimated their receiving group. There’s more action to follow, but with a few days of madness in the rearview mirror, there’s no better time than now to have our featured experts share their thoughts on which players saw the largest change in their fantasy value thanks to free agency!

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Q1. What player has seen his fantasy value increase the most as a result of a recent transaction and why?

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS) 
“McLaurin’s fantasy value received an enormous boost with Washington’s recent signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick. McLaurin finished as the WR24 and WR23 in his first two years in the league, respectively, despite a revolving door of mediocre quarterbacks. Fitzpatrick is a significant upgrade over Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Alex Smith, and Kyle Allen. Fitzpatrick’s arm strength and gunslinger mentality fit McLaurin’s elite speed and route-running ability perfectly. Even at age 38, Fitzpatrick will be the most talented quarterback McLaurin’s ever had in his young career. Expect top-10 fantasy numbers from the 25-year-old receiver in 2021.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

“I think the player that has seen his value increase the most is Terry McLaurin. You look at the recent signings of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel and it seemingly gives McLaurin some added life. He hasn’t been blessed with great quarterback play or a real running mate at wide receiver early in his career. He now gets a gunslinger who heavily targets his WR1 and someone who can take some of the pressure off him in the offense. He was already QB-proof and now we are going to really see him take off.”
– Matt Marchese (Sportsnet)

A.J. Brown (WR – TEN) 
“This might sound odd to some, but Brown is my answer here. The Titans don’t pass a lot, which has led to non-elite targets for him, as he’s seen double-digit targets just once during his two years in the league. Not only did the Titans lose Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith (157 targets in 2020), but they also lost offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, as well as defensive backs Adoree’ Jackson and Malcolm Butler. This team is likely to pass more without Smith and they’re likely to allow more points on defense after losing both starting cornerbacks. All this adds up to is a target increase for Brown, who can now be considered as an early second-round pick.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – WAS) 
“The quarterback position tends to be so deep that value at the position is commonplace. Following Fitzpatrick joining the Washington Football Team, he has more value than any other back-end quarterback in fantasy. Sprinkling ‘Fitzmagic’ may not be necessary as the journeyman quarterback will inherit Logan Thomas, who finished third in PPR scoring at his position, and Terry McLaurin, who finished in the top 20 of PPR wide receivers. Add in Curtis Samuel, who already has familiarity within Scott Turner’s system, and Fitzpatrick has as strong of a fantasy value as he ever has.”
– Michael Hauff (Gridiron Experts)

Keelan Cole (WR – NYJ) 
“Objectively, Cole has seen the greatest leap in terms of overall fantasy value. He’s been buried on the depth chart previously in Jacksonville and then also a victim of bad QB play. Cole had suitors in free agency, but the Jets brought him in to potentially be their starting slot WR next season. Whether it’s Sam Darnold throwing him the ball next year — who loves to lock onto slot wideouts — or a talented rookie QB, Cole has an excellent chance of finally breaking out next season.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Corey Davis (WR – NYJ) 
“It’s early to call Davis a No. 1 WR, but the Jets have put him in a position to be that. So much depends on the QB play (and we’re still unsure who will even play QB for the Jets). However, Davis will be drafted as a WR3 and has the upside for a WR1 workload. That alone is appealing enough to boost his stock. You always want to target WRs that can leap from one tier to another. Davis has the opportunity to do that in 2021 going from being a WR3 to a potential WR2.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

Q2. What player has seen his fantasy value decrease the most as a result of a recent transaction and why?

Hunter Henry (TE – NE) 
“While Josh Jacobs is the obvious answer here, Henry isn’t too far behind. The Patriots threw the ball just 436 times last year and Cam Newton has thrown more than 495 pass attempts just twice in his career (never more than 517). Even if we assume the Patriots increase their pass attempts by a massive 10 percent, that’d amount to 480 of them. Then you say the tight ends get a massive 30 percent target share. Again, these are best-case scenarios. That would be 144 targets to split between Henry, Jonnu Smith, and the other tight ends. Considering the Patriots signed Smith before Henry, and to a longer contract, Smith is likely first in the pecking order, which likely leaves Henry with 70 targets or so. He’s no longer someone you need to draft in redraft formats, but is rather a streamer.”
– Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros)

“Aside from Josh Jacobs being the clear answer here, Henry had some hype heading into free agency due to the fact that he would most likely still land a job as a starting TE in an offense that desperately needed one. Unfortunately, he signed with the Patriots a day after Jonnu Smith, which isn’t exactly what fantasy managers hoped to see happen. Henry will still be on the field and utilized frequently, but the overall passing volume of this offense is going to prohibit Henry from hitting the mid-tier TE1 numbers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.”
– Kyle Yates (FantasyPros)

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV) 
“You really question things that the Las Vegas Raiders have done this season, especially with the signing of Kenyan Drake to a two-year deal, but you’d have to think that really puts a dent in the vision of Jacobs being a workhorse RB1 going forward. The offensive line has been torn apart this offseason and the addition of Drake only hurts his value further. Jacobs’ fantasy value was already heavily volume-based seeing his 1.3 fantasy points per touch, so these moves will certainly drive his ADP way down. ”
– Matt Marchese (Sportsnet)

“The Raiders signing of Kenyan Drake hurts Josh Jacobs’ value considerably. Jacobs’ recent off-the-field troubles and on-the-field mediocrity led the Raiders to bring in more than just depth. His yards per attempt fell significantly year over year from 4.8 to 3.9. Drake is in a flat-out competition for the starting job. Chances are the crowded backfield will serve neither well in fantasy, and it would take an injury for one to shine.”
– Joe Pisapia (FantasyPros)

A.J. Dillon (RB – GB) 
“No player saw their fantasy stock take more of a hit than Dillon after Aaron Jones re-signed with the Packers. With NFL teams often regretting paying top-tier money to runnings backs, the fantasy community widely assumed that Green Bay would let Jones walk in free agency and let Dillon run the show. Dillon proved his bell-cow abilities by rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in his first career start in Week 16, but the Packers must feel more comfortable with Jones leading the rushing attack going into 2021. With Jamaal Williams gone, Dillon still has a shot to carve out a consistent role in Green Bay’s offense, but the re-signing of Jones decreases Dillon’s value from a potential RB1 to a low-end flex play/insurance policy.”
– Jacob W. Dunne (New Life Fantasy)

Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN) 
“While Josh Jacobs feels like the clear answer, I would like to dig a little deeper and go back to the quarterback position. During the early stages of this free agency period, Tannehill is a player that potentially has had their value hurt the most. Two of the big indicators for this thought would be both Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis leaving in free agency. On top of losing those pieces and that familiarity, the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is currently flying under the radar. Smith is now the head coach in Atlanta and while I do not suggest Tannehill will be a bust in 2021, with a position as deep as quarterbacks, he is losing enough pieces to call his value into question.”
– Michael Hauff (Gridiron Experts)

Thank you to the experts for sharing their thoughts on free agency. Be sure to give them a follow on Twitter and for more great advice, subscribe to our podcast below.

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