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Free Agency Winners & Losers (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Mar 27, 2021

 
After an exhausting free-agency period in the NFL, the dust has settled, and all of the big names have either re-signed or found a new home. What do all of these moves mean from a fantasy football standpoint? I’m glad you asked!

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Winners

Breshad Perriman (WR – NYJ)
He should be the primary target for Jared Goff in a new-look Lions offense in 2021. Across the past three seasons, Perriman has averaged a 36/662/5 receiving line on 68 targets per 16 games while racking up a robust 18.2 yards per reception. If he can see an increase in targets as Detroit’s WR1, Perriman could certainly jump into the top-30 receivers.

Aaron Jones (RB – GB)
Jones is an elite back capable of succeeding anywhere he goes, but remaining with Green Bay is a clear win. The team did nothing to improve its receiving corps in the offseason, Jamaal Williams is gone, and Jones should see heavy usage in the run game and as a receiver out of the backfield. The Packers boast a quality offensive line, and Jones’ path to another RB1 season is pretty straightforward.

Carson Wentz (QB – IND)
After a dreadful statistical showing and drama-filled final season, Wentz has landed in an ideal, bounce-back situation. He finds himself with an improved offensive line, a vote of confidence from his team, and an improved group of receivers and running backs in Indy. Could we see him finally healthy for a deep playoff run?

Cam Newton (QB – NE)
To say Cam got an upgrade in his receiving corps is an understatement. The Pats ponied up and doled out a ton of cash for Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith, and Hunter Henry. Early-season Cam looked unstoppable before he contracted COVID early in 2020. Now, fully healthy, with a breath of fresh air breathed into the receiving corps, he has all the makings of a QB1. Can he do it? Yes. He. Cam.

Josh Reynolds (WR – TEN)
After a career year in which he went 52/618/2 on 81 targets, Reynolds will likely be looking at a boost in fantasy value for the upcoming season. Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Jonnu Smith have all left Tennessee, leaving Reynolds to operate as the clear WR2 behind A.J. Brown in the Titan’s offense. I’m expecting Reynolds to set new career highs this season.

Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU)
Brandin consistently Cooks the competition (see what I did there) no matter where he’s playing. He’s gone for at least 1,000 yards in five of his last six seasons for four different teams. Even with Deshaun Watson likely out the door, Cooks should be the de facto top wideout in this offense by a country mile. I expect him to produce, even if Tyrod Taylor is tossing him the ball.

Tom Brady (QB – TB)
Godwin, Gronk, and Lenny Fourney are all back for another title run with the Bucs after the trio each scored a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory. Who stands to benefit the most, you might ask? It’s none other than Tom Brady. After a record-setting non-Patriots season, he’s going to run it back with the same group of pass-catchers and backs who helped him toss 40 touchdowns in 2020.

Mike Davis (RB – ATL)
After a huge season for Carolina in relief duty for the injured Christian McCaffrey, Davis landed a shiny new contract with Atlanta where he figures to be the Falcons’ lead back in 2021. We saw what he could do in a featured role in 2020 (1,015 scrimmage yards, 59 receptions, eight total touchdowns), so it’s not out of the question for him to be a top-24 back in 2021.

Gerald Everett (TE – SEA)
Seattle has been searching for a capable tight end since Jimmy Graham left following the 2017 campaign, and Everett could be the guy to get it done. It’s time to move on from our Will Dissly fantasies and accept the reality that Everett

Kyler Murray (QB – ARI)
Yeah, I know. It’s A.J. Green – who cares? Green won’t be relied on for WR1 production in an offense anchored by DeAndre Hopkins, so he can play a quality complementary role in the passing game. Green opened his career with seven straight Pro-Bowl selections, and while he won’t be on my fantasy radar this season, his addition to Arizona is a clear boost for Murray.

Chris Carson (RB – SEA)
He’s back with ‘Hawks – a team that wants to run the ball early and often. Carson has produced quality numbers as Seattle’s starter, averaging 1,259 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns over the past three seasons. He’s a low-end RB2 for the 2021 campaign.

Sam Darnold (QB – NYJ)
It remains to be seen if Darnold can take the next step in 2021, but if he doesn’t, it won’t be for the Jets’ lack of trying. The team brought in Keelan Cole, Corey Davis, and Tyler Kroft to bolster a weak receiving corps, and Darnold’s stock is on the rise as a result of those moves.

Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
F1 was an excellent receiver last season with mediocre quarterback play, and he stands to benefit significantly from gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in under center.

Curtis Samuel (WR – WAS)
Samuel should be the clear WR2 behind Terry McLaurin, which is a step in the right direction from being Carolina’s WR3 in 2020. After a breakout performance, is Samuel ready to blow us away yet again?

Losers

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)/Kenyan Drake (RB – LV)
Neither back was wildly efficient last season, though both used volume to their advantage to provide meaningful stats for fantasy managers. Now, they’ll be forced to share Las Vegas’ backfield in a confusing time share. Both get substantial downgrades as they transition from workhorse roles to an unappealing RBBC.

David Johnson (RB – HOU)
Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay? That’s all you need to know about Houston’s feelings toward Johnson, as the team brought in two new additions to the backfield. DJ didn’t have a terribly exciting outlook heading into the new season, as the Texans may have the worst offense in football. Now, he’s not a guy I want on my fantasy roster with two other mouths to feed.

Will Fuller (WR – HOU)
He signed a one-year deal with the ‘Phins where he’ll be catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa rather than Deshaun Watson. That’s all that needs to be said here.

Quintez Cephus (WR – DET)
For about five whole minutes, Cephus was Detroit’s top (and only) receiver, but the team went out and signed Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. This new competition in the receiving corps is a downgrade for Cephus’ volume and overall outlook.

Van Jefferson (WR – LAR)
Jefferson could still be a valuable fantasy contributor in 2021, but the arrival of DeSean Jackson in the Rams’ receiving corps hurts those chances considerably. Assuming D-Jax doesn’t play a full season, Jefferson could see his opportunities open up as the season goes on, but for now, he’s a fantasy loser as a result of free agency.

Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)
Marlon Mack re-signed with Indy, and while Taylor should remain the clear lead back, Mack’s return does put a cap on JT’s expected touches for the new season.

Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL)
The Ravens struck out on any notable receivers in free agency and settled on Sammy Watkins as a consolation. Baltimore made a run at some big names, including T.Y. Hilton and JuJu Smith-Schuster, but ultimately, L-Jax will be throwing to an underwhelming cast of pass-catchers in 2021. It’s an easy “L” for Jackson in the fantasy department.

Rashard Higgins (WR – CLE)
Higgins re-signed with Cleveland after a semi-breakout in 2020, and he’ll be compete for already-scarce targets with the likes of Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and Odell Beckham. The Browns are a run-first team, and Higgins’ fantasy value is minimal headed into 2021.

Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG)
He signed with Giants on a big, four-year deal, which was a bit anticlimactic. New York is doing everything it can to help Daniel Jones succeed, but is Golladay really the answer? He benefited from Matthew Stafford‘s big arm, Detroit’s mismanagement of the run game, and the team constantly playing from behind. He should see his share of targets in New York, but he’ll have to compete with Sterling Shepard, John Ross, and Darius Slayton for targets rather than just Marvin Jones. Kenny G’s asking price on draft day will likely be too rich for my blood, and I’m not too enthused about his outlook.

David Montgomery (RB – CHI)
Even after an explosive finish to the season, Monty likely won’t remain a workhorse back in 2021. Tarik Cohen is back in the fold, and the Bears signed Super Bowl hero Damien Williams. Montgomery should remain the lead back, but it’s unlikely he approaches the 54 receptions and 301 total touches he racked up in 2020.

Houston Texans
Let’s call it what it is – a complete and utter disgrace of a franchise. Over the last two years, Houston has traded DeAndre Hopkins, released J.J. Watt, witnessed Will Fuller exit the first chance he got, and now Deshaun Watson has publicly demanded a trade. The Texans will likely play some embarrassing football in 2021 in what’s become a trainwreck and laughing stock.

Chase Claypool (WR – PIT)/Diontae Johnson (WR -PIT)
I actually think all of Claypool, Johnson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster can be productive wideouts in this offense in 2021, but Claypool and Johnson’s fantasy values would surely be higher if JuJu (and his 128 targets in 2020) was off the team. Smith-Schuster’s re-signing is a lateral move for him but a blow to the value of his fellow wideouts.

Neutral

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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