Dynasty Risers/Fallers: Post Free Agency (2021 Fantasy Football)
Now that the first wave of free agency is over, it’s time to assess the damage to dynasty rosters. Some managers will believe they’re in the clear because a team didn’t sign a free agent running back or wide receiver, but that’s just part of the equation. The NFL Draft will be the end-all-be-all for dynasty stock, as Day 1 or Day 2 picks are typically inserted into the starting lineup their rookie year.
There will be some players who gained value during free agency, though it could be short-lived depending on what a team does in the draft. Today, we’ll be talking about the players who gained or lost the most dynasty value during the first wave of free agency.
Mitch Trubisky (BUF)
While I didn’t expect Trubisky to land a starter job, I did expect him to land a team with a chance to get some playing time. Joining the Bills on a one-year deal ensures he won’t get playing time without an injury. Now adding another year onto his resume without anything to increase his value, as well as another year of incoming rookie quarterbacks, Trubisky’s dynasty value is in the tank.
Drew Lock (DEN)
Some may be wondering Lock is here because the Broncos didn’t gain or lose any pass catchers, but this has to do with what the Broncos did on defense in free agency. They signed both Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, two starting-caliber cornerbacks, which eliminates the No. 1 need (outside quarterback) they had entering the draft. This makes it that much more likely they trade up to take a quarterback, or land one at No. 9 overall.
Jared Goff (DET)
Not only did he lose Sean McVay, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp this offseason, but he’s now also lost Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. What did the Lions do? They went out and replaced those weapons with Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, two field stretchers, which is the opposite of what Goff needs to succeed.
Deshaun Watson (HOU)
If the Texans wanted Watson to hang around, free agency certainly wouldn’t help. After watching them trade away his top wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) last offseason, they allowed his top wide receiver from this past season (Will Fuller) to walk away on a one-year deal worth just $10 million. What did they do to replace him? Add Andre Roberts, Chris Conley, Donte Moncrief, and Alex Erickson.
Joe Burrow (CIN)
The Bengals did make one move that benefited Burrow in free agency, signing Riley Reiff to play right tackle, which will certainly be an upgrade over Bobby Hart. That’ll help protect Burrow, but that’s not the only news that improved Burrow’s stock. Apparently, the Bengals were interested and made an offer to Kenny Golladay, telling us they’re not going to just sit tight and be happy with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, but would like to add another pass-catching option. With the No. 5 pick in the draft, we could see them take one of the top wide receivers (or Kyle Pitts).
Cam Newton (NE)
He was someone who we didn’t know would have a job this season, but not only does he have a job, but he also has an entirely new group of pass catchers. The Patriots snagged both Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, which creates an interesting dynamic they haven’t had in a while, and also signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to add depth at wide receiver. On top of that, they got Trent Brown back on their offensive line, which will only help. Suddenly, Newton has plenty of options to throw to in the passing game.
Daniel Jones (NYG)
When a team signs the top wide receiver in free agency, the quarterback gets a bump. Adding Kenny Golladay to play alongside Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton obviously improves Jones’ stock, but so does the signing of Kyle Rudolph, giving him another weapon in the red zone. I do believe that this increased Jones’ stock enough to the point where dynasty owners should be looking to sell and maximize on his perceived value.
Running Backs (FALLERS)
Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake (LVR)
The Raiders continue to muddy the value of their star players. Not only did they sign Drake to a two-year deal, but they also re-signed Theo Riddick for just over $1 million. It’s clear the Raiders aren’t going to give Jacobs the increase we wanted on passing downs, and Drake is good enough to the point it’ll lower Jacobs’ rushing volume. They’ll both have value, but not nearly as much as they did in 2020. Knowing how short running back shelf lives have become in the NFL, this is catastrophic for both of their dynasty values. I wrote a long-form reaction to this situation right here.
Rashaad Penny (SEA)
There was a sliver of hope for Penny to resurface on the dynasty radar with Chris Carson hitting free agency, but those hopes were crushed when they re-signed Carson to a two-year deal. This means Penny will likely hit free agency in 2022 with a very small sample of work in the NFL. He’ll also be 26 years old, which is not exactly young for a running back in today’s NFL.
David Johnson (HOU)
He went from a backfield that was shared with just Duke Johnson (who’s never topped 410 rushing yards or 165 touches in a season), to one with Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay, both running backs who have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons under their belts. Johnson is also going to be 30 years old at the end of this year, so his dynasty value is nearing its end.
A.J. Dillon (GB)
There were some crazy dynasty trades going down with Dillon prior to free agency, and what better way to illustrate that than by looking at Dillon’s ADP in startup drafts that took place in February and March where he was being selected as the No. 50 overall player, a borderline fourth-round pick. Now that Aaron Jones is locked up for four years, Dillon’s value is tied to Jones’ health. Dillon might have flex-type value if the Packers continue to limit Jones’ touches, but Dillon’s stock took a major hit after free agency.
Running Backs (RISERS)
Chase Edmonds (ARI)
We heard Kliff Kingsbury say a few weeks back that Edmonds can “be the bellcow if that’s how this plays out.” After losing Kenyan Drake to the Raiders, we’re one step closer to that happening. The only other running backs on the roster at this time are last year’s seventh-round pick Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward, and Khalfani Muhammad. Over the last two years in Kingsbury’s offense, Edmonds has averaged 4.78 yards per carry on the 157 carries he’s received, and he also racked up 53 receptions in a backup role last year. If the Cardinals don’t spend a first- or second-round pick on a running back, Edmonds is likely an every-week starter in fantasy.
Zack Moss (BUF)
I thought the Bills would be players in the running back market, as we’ve heard their names attached to multiple running backs the last few years in free agency, but nothing this time around. It’s highly unlikely they spend another high draft pick on a running back considering they spent third-round picks on both Moss and Devin Singletary. While he had trouble staying healthy his rookie season, Moss did lead the Bills running backs with four rushing touchdowns on just 112 carries. They only ran the ball 290 times with their running backs in 2020, a number that’s surely going to rise in 2021.
Mike Boone (DEN)
He’s only received 71 carries over his three years in the league, but they’ve amounted to 379 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll take his 5.34 yards per carry to the Broncos, a team that just released Phillip Lindsay, who netted 125 touches in 11 games in this offense last year. Boone is likely to be the primary backup to Melvin Gordon, who is going to be 28 years old next month and has just one year left on his contract.
James Robinson (JAX)
We heard the Jaguars say they were “certainly looking” to add to the running back group this offseason, which was certainly concerning for Robinson’s stock. However, when we found out they signed Carlos Hyde, it calmed our concerns. Hyde isn’t someone who’ll walk in and steal the job away from Robinson, as he’ll turn 31 years old in September and is now on his fourth different team in five years. Unless the Jaguars add another running back with a top-three pick in the draft, Robinson’s stock remains high.
Myles Gaskin (MIA)
If you were to click on any pre-free agency article, you would’ve seen the Dolphins as a potential landing spot for some of the top free agent running backs. We haven’t heard them attached to any names, which tells us they’re either (a) happy with the running back group they have, or (b) they’re targeting one in the NFL Draft. But based on the first wave of free agency, Gaskin’s stock has gone up.
Wide Receivers (FALLERS)
Kenny Golladay (NYG)
Let’s not beat around the bush here – Daniel Jones isn’t close to Matthew Stafford in terms of talent. He also doesn’t throw the deep ball nearly as much as Stafford did. During the 2019 season, when Golladay played the whole season, Stafford threw the ball deep on 19.2 percent of his attempts. Meanwhile, Jones threw the ball deep on just 9.6 percent of his attempts in 2020. There’s also a lot more competition for targets with the Giants, as they now have Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Kyle Rudolph. If you’d like to read my in-depth reaction to him signing with the Giants, you can read that right here.
Gabriel Davis (BUF)
It seemed like Davis was going to get his shot to be a fantasy-relevant receiver in 2021, but the Bills front office had other plans. This doesn’t crush Davis’ long-term dynasty value, but it’s not a good thing that the Bills felt the need to add a veteran like Emmanuel Sanders to the team. He wouldn’t be signed to come off the bench as the fourth wide receiver, which means he takes John Brown‘s spot on the field, while Davis remains the No. 4 on the depth chart.
Preston Williams (MIA)
The signing of Will Fuller put a damper on Williams’ dynasty value, as it seems he might be headed to the bench. While he was available last year, Williams played in the slot just 9.1 percent of the time, and DeVante Parker has never been someone who goes into the slot very often, so unless they plan on Fuller going there in a near full-time role (they don’t), Williams would be on the outside of the starting lineup looking in. To be fair, Fuller’s contract is only for one year, but the assumption should be they’ll sign him to a long-term deal if things are going well.
Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry (NE)
It seems the Patriots wanted to rebuild their entire pass-catching corps over the last week, signing Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne to contracts. While Meyers can likely find a spot on the field (though with much fewer opportunities), Harry is going to be battling to see the field at all. Despite being a first-round pick, Harry has just 81 targets and 414 yards to his name through two seasons. Dynasty owners of Harry should be hoping the team explores a trade for him.
Curtis Samuel (WAS)
There are a lot of fantasy enthusiasts who are excited about Samuel to Washington, though I’m not sure many realize he’s back to playing for the offensive coordinator and head coach that he did in 2019 when he was one of the most inefficient receivers in the league. For him to succeed in Washington the way he did in Carolina, Scott Turner needs to completely re-think the role he’s using Samuel for in his offense. You can read my take on this situation much more in-depth right here.
Darius Slayton (NYG)
Him being a faller is obviously a direct result of the Golladay signing, as it moves him down the totem pole as the fifth option in this passing attack. And to be fair, he was already someone whose stock was trending in the wrong direction, as he had a chance to be the No. 1 option with both Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard out during the 2020 season. The Giants told you everything you need to know about how to value him moving forward.
Wide Receivers (RISERS)
Christian Kirk (ARI)
Most fantasy managers will look at Kirk here and think, “How is Kirk rising? Didn’t they signed A.J. Green?” If they’d signed the 2016 version of Green, I’d be concerned about Kirk’s target share, but they didn’t. The 2020 version of Green was the fourth-least efficient receiver over the last 10 years, averaging just 0.84 half-PPR points per target. Green is still going to start, and that’s fine, because it means Kirk will slide into the slot, which is where I projected him back during the draft process. I think we’re about to see a Golden Tate-like career out of Kirk. Don’t forget about the start to Tate’s career in Seattle where he was on the perimeter, but once they transitioned him into the slot, good things started to happen.
A.J. Brown (TEN)
The Titans don’t pass a lot, which has led to non-elite targets for Brown, 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 a locked-and-loaded elite WR1.
Quintez Cephus (DET)
We knew that Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were coming up on free agency, but we didn’t know they’d both be allowed to walk. The receivers they signed to replace them were Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, two underwhelming receivers who are primarily used as deep threats. That’s an area of the field Goff doesn’t attack very often, which could leave Cephus acting as the possession-style receiver in the offense. On top of that, both Williams and Perriman were signed to just one-year deals, highlighting they’re not part of the long-term plans.
Brandin Cooks (HOU)
This one is tough because it can go two different ways. The reason Cooks saw his stock increase was due to Will Fuller leaving the team and signing a one-year deal with the Dolphins. In the four games that Fuller missed last year, Cooks tallied 41 targets, 29 targets, 431 yards, and three touchdowns, which are high-end WR1-type marks. So, seeing Fuller leave certainly raises his stock. On the other hand, the Texans signed Tyrod Taylor and traded for Ryan Finley, signifying that they may not have Deshaun Watson under center. If Watson is there, and he is as of now, Cooks sees a massive uptick in value. If Watson isn’t, the Texans offense will be rather worthless for fantasy purposes.
Jalen Reagor (PHI)
His stock going up is more about who the Eagles didn’t sign than it was about who they did sign. After releasing Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, we had to wonder whether they’d sign a big-name wide receiver, but all we heard was crickets on their end. The only thing we have heard is that they’re willing to trade Zach Ertz. Now, to be fair, they do have the No. 12 pick in the draft, which can be used on a wide receiver or tight end, but that’s still a player with no NFL experience that Reagor would be battling for targets with. Reagor is looking like he’ll be the No. 1 option in the Eagles offense.
Tight Ends (FALLERS)
Hunter Henry (NE)
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 a locked-in every-week starter, moving him outside the top-12 dynasty tight ends.
Evan Engram (NYG)
The only reason Engram has been desirable in fantasy was due to his high target totals. Now that the Giants signed Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph, those targets totals aren’t going to look nearly as good. It’s obvious to say that if the targets come down, so will his appeal in fantasy, but it’s even worse when you know he’s averaged just 6.8 yards per target over the course of his career. To put that into perspective, Dalton Schultz averaged just 6.9 yards per target in 2020, so despite seeing 89 targets, he finished as the TE14. Even worse news is that the Giants have reportedly tried to trade him but have found no suitors.
Tight Ends (RISERS)
Gerald Everett (SEA)
Despite having a 35-year-old and oft-injured Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, who was coming off an Achilles tear, and Jacob Hollister, the Seahawks targeted their tight ends 19.2 percent of the time last year, which is right around the league average. The team gave him just a one-year deal, but after playing against him twice a year for the last four years, they decided they’d take a chance on him. He’ll make $6 million, which is starter money, and he’ll be playing with Russell Wilson, the best quarterback of his career. His stock went up with this signing, but it’ll be on him to make this rise more of a long-term type thing.
Anthony Firkser (TEN)
The Titans have lost a lot of targets from their offense this offseason, as Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, and Adam Humphries are no longer on the team. That creates 192 unclaimed targets in an offense that threw the ball just 484 times in 2020. Think about that for a minute… 40 percent of the targets are gone. Firkser re-signed with the Titans, which puts him in a position to see plenty of targets. He’s only seen 97 targets over his three-year career, but he’s turned them into 72 receptions for 816 yards and three touchdowns despite playing behind Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker during that time. The Titans have tons of other holes to fill in the draft, so it’s very possible we see Firkser as their starter in 2021.