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2023 NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

2023 NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

The 2023 version of NFL free agency has not disappointed. We’ve seen significant bag alert deals ranging from savvy under-the-radar signings to huge splashes by teams trying to get back into playoff contention – looking at you, Chicago Bears.

The player movement has created massive implications across the fantasy football landscape, with values rising and falling faster than ever throughout the 2023 fantasy football rankings.

Let’s break down the biggest fantasy football winners and losers from last week’s NFL free agency action.

The following players have seen their values increase or decrease since the start of last week. And I’ve grouped certain players into buckets based on how they are deemed winners/losers, with many similar situations.

I’ll also touch on some players who may have seen their stock wrongly fall due to perceived narratives. Negative buzz can create an opportunity to acquire these players at a discount, making them winners in my book. When in doubt, you want to buy talented players in perceived “bad situations” and sell the players who are seeing massive bumps based on opportunity alone.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

2023 NFL Free Agency Winners 

Quarterbacks With Increased Weapons

Justin Fields (QB – CHI)
Daniel Jones (QB – NYG)
Mac Jones (QB – NE)

The Bears, Patriots, and Giants were all very active participants in free agency, signing, and trading for players to put their young quarterbacks in the best positions to succeed.

Chicago traded for D.J. Moore in a blockbuster move with the Panthers to give Fields a legitimate WR1. The Giants added/retained Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Darren Waller, and Parris Campbell. The Patriots upgraded Jonnu Smith/Jakobi Meyers with JuJu Smith-Schuster/Mike Gesicki while improving their offensive line. Even if it’s only a marginal upgrade in New England, the newer personnel combined with offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will undoubtedly improve Jones’ situation compared to last season.

Fields is QB4, Daniel Jones is QB12, and Mac Jones is QB28 by ADP in early 2023 best ball drafts. The first two are right in line with my rankings, while I am higher than ADP on the Patriots’ third-year quarterback (QB22).

Quarterbacks With New Life

Jordan Love (QB – GB)

Jordan Love is slated to start for the Green Bay Packers in 2023 after sitting on the bench behind a future HOFer, Aaron Rodgers, for the past three seasons. Love was viewed as a raw prospect – a poor man’s Patrick Mahomes because of his traits and ability to make off-script plays — who needed time to marinate entering the league, so I am cautiously optimistic about his prospects this season and beyond. He played well in limited action in 2022 – 6-for-9 for 113 yards and 1 TD versus the Eagles in Week 12 – and possesses athletic traits that could translate to rushing production.

The weapons in Green Bay aren’t exactly elite, but there’s room for this offense to be a surprise if second-year wide receivers like Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs take another step in Year 2. Both guys can deliver downfield splash plays, which Rodgers didn’t necessarily take full advantage of last season. He went deep at the seventh-highest rate last season but finished below average in adjusted completion percentage, PFF passing grade and yards per attempt on throws 20-plus yards downfield.

Love is currently the QB23 in early best ball ADP, under the assumption that Rodgers will not be in Green Bay in 2023. In the FantasyPros dynasty trade value chart, Love is the QB29 wedged between guys like Ryan Tannehill and Hendon Hooker. Hooker is a rookie who is already older than Love.

Ergo, Love is egregiously underpriced for a former first-round pick who still isn’t 25 years old yet. He is under contract until 2024, and the Packers have a fifth-year option available to them. The former Utah State quarterback has the chance to thrive in the Packers’ run-pass option (RPO) offense after so much time spent learning the system.

Sam Darnold (QB – SF)

Give credit to Sam Darnold for providing a spark to a lifeless Carolina Panthers offense over the team’s last five games. The former first-round selection tied a bow on the year, averaging 18.1 fantasy points per game as the QB13 from Weeks 12-17. Overall, his 8.2 yards per attempt marked a career-high. Darnold is far (far) from elite. However, among the former first-round castoff QBs available on the market, he’s probably the best option in the short-term/long-term.

He will only be 26 by the time the season starts, and he has landed in arguably the league’s most QB-friendly offense. If Brock Purdy isn’t healthy and Trey Lance flames out, don’t be surprised to see Darnold log multiple productive starts for the 49ers in 2023. He is being drafted as the QB38 in early best ball drafts.

Gardner Minshew (QB – IND)

Gardner Minshew signed a relatively low-flier contract with the Colts (1-year, $3.5 million) as the likely bridge QB to an incoming rookie. Because the Colts pick 4th overall, that might mean they land the least pro-ready rookie, suggesting Minshew could start a boatload of games in 2023. He is familiar with the offense run by new head coach Shane Steichen and has often delivered in fantasy in spot starts the last two seasons. In three of his four starts, he has thrown for multiple TDs and scored at least 15 fantasy points. The former Eagle is being drafted as the QB37 in early best ball drafts.

Running Backs In Favorable Landing Spots

Rashaad Penny (PHI – RB)

Rashaad Penny inked a one-year deal with the Eagles reportedly worth $1.35 million with $600,000 guaranteed and a max value of $2.1 million. It’s not much but it puts him in a position to be the team’s early-down lead back in full Miles Sanders fashion. In his five games played before his injury in 2022, Penny averaged over six yards per carry. His only game where he failed to surpass 54 yards on the ground was against the eventual number one run defensive unit: the San Francisco 49ers. The on-field production and talent have never been in question with Penny. It’s just been the availability due to health that has been the big issue. Quarterback Jalen Hurts‘ presence at the goal line will obviously hinder Penny’s TD potential to some extent, but make no mistake that Penny’s explosive game means he can score beyond just the 5-yard line. Of his 14 career touchdowns, 11 have come on 10-yard-plus plays. Seven (50%) have been 30-plus plays from scrimmage.

Although it should be noted that the Eagles also re-signed Boston Scott, and Penny’s deal is worth $1.35 million with $600,000 guaranteed — less than Scott’s $2 million with $1.08 guaranteed. Interesting.

Penny has risen to RB37 in best ball ADP versus Scott’s ADP of RB78.

I do think Penny’s addition also makes Kenneth Gainwell a better buy-low target. Gainwell saw his role increase dramatically down the stretch during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, and is a trusted asset in the passing game. It’s a major “if” Penny can stay healthy. And “if” he doesn’t (most likely outcome) Gainwell will benefit as will Scott. Gainwell is RB38 in early best ball drafts.

Miles Sanders (CAR – RB)

Miles Sanders signed with the Carolina Panthers reuniting him with many familiar faces from his days with the Philadelphia Eagles. Duce Staley (former Eagles RB coach), Frank Reich (former Eagles coach) and Josh McCown (former Eagles QB) have all seen what Sanders can do, and that surely played a part in bringing him on as the team’s 1-for-1 replacement for new Chicago Bears running back D’Onta Foreman.

At a minimum, Sanders will operate as the main back on early downs, while Chuba Hubbard (RB62) and Raheem Blackshear split work on third downs. But I say at a minimum because those guys still have to prove themselves to the new coaching staff to earn substantial roles. Sanders has already proven his worth with these coaches before. And last year he showed everyone what he was capable of when he finished as the RB10 in half-point scoring overall/RB13 in points per game from Weeks 1-17. He ended the year averaging just south of five yards per carry and scored 13 rushing TDs after scoring zero in 2021. His carries inside the 10-yard line ranked inside the top five among all RBs.

And when Sanders saw his best-receiving usage to date – 50 receptions for 509 yards as a rookie in 2019 – it was under Staley’s tenure.

With Sanders’ uber-efficient rushing running behind an offensive line that finished 9th in adjusted line yards in 2022, I love this landing spot for him. His rushing alone should earn him production similar to what we saw from Foreman after the team traded away Christian McCaffrey. From Week 7 onward, Foreman sat as the RB21 in total points and RB22 in points per game. He ranked fourth in the NFL in total rushing yards (852). But his path to back-end RB2 status was not consistent whatsoever. Foreman rushed for over 110 yards in half of the last ten games, while finishing with fewer than 40 rushing yards in four of his others.

His inconsistency was due to a lack of pass-game work causing him to be completely phased out of games that Carolina was out-matched in. But, I don’t think that will necessarily be the case for Sanders. The former Eagle has the chance to be a full-blown workhorse with an expanded receiving role based on the four-year, $25 million ($13 million guaranteed) commitment from his new team.

Sanders is my 18th-ranked running back, and his current best-ball ADP is RB25.

Samaje Perine (RB – DEN)

Denver signed ex-Bengals running back Samaje Perine – 2 years, $7.5 million, $3 million guaranteed – after releasing Chase Edmonds (Buccaneers) and moving on from Mike Boone (Texans).

With Javonte Williams potentially delayed in return from his knee injury, I’d suspect that Perine (RB 46 ADP) picks up the slack to open the year if he stays in the Mile High City. The Broncos have zero other RBs of note currently under contract. Therefore, Perine has the chance to provide immediate fantasy value to start the year after carving out a role in the Bengals’ offense alongside Joe Mixon last season. He served as the primary third-down back for the entire season.

And when Perine got the starting nod from Weeks 11-13, the 27-year-old went OFF averaging 23.6 fantasy points per game.

Perine is a legitimate threat to Williams’ workload as he could easily earn the passing-down work after finishing last season 6th in PFF pass-blocking and 14th in RB targets.

David Montgomery (RB – DET)

David Montgomery signed a 3-year deal worth $18 million ($11 million guaranteed) with the Detroit Lions, setting him up to be the new Jamaal Williams on the field for the foreseeable future. In Montgomery’s 15 healthy games played last season, he averaged 10.9 fantasy points per game as the RB26. But in 11 games, he played alongside a healthy Khalil Herbert, Montgomery saw an even bigger decline in production averaging 9.2 fantasy points (RB35), 13 carries, and 48 rushing yards per game. Monty’s rushing EPA of -15.3 ranked 32nd, while Herbert’s 1.17 rushing EPA ranked 12th.

Even so, it’s hard to envision Montgomery as anything less than a fantasy RB2, with the highly-coveted goal-line role likely his to lose on his new team. Keep in mind that last season, Williams carried the ball a league-high 45 times inside the 10-yard line. Williams would finish the year with a league-high 17 rushing TDs; not too far off his 16.4 expected touchdowns. The scoring production fueled an RB12 finish for Williams.

A similar red-zone role will lead to more scoring for Montgomery which will no doubt fuel another season of solid fantasy production at a relatively cheap price tag. Williams’ 262 carries (6th), 16.1 touches per game (higher than Swift’s 10.3) and his newly signed contract suggests the team will be featuring plenty of Montgomery (RB28 ADP) at Swift’s expense (RB18 ADP).

Swift is entering free agency in 2024, and it’s pretty clear up to this point that they don’t view him as a feature back or as a piece in their long-term plans. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him get traded. The Lions also re-signed Craig Reynolds.

Damien Harris (RB – BUF)

The Buffalo Bills signed Damien Harris (RB49 ADP) to a one-year contract to fill the void left by Devin Singletary. 1 year, $1.77m ($1m guaranteed)

Bills general manager Brandon Beane stated earlier this offseason that the team wanted to add another back with more “size” to compliment smaller running backs like James Cook and Nyheim Hines. Harris, at 216 pounds, fits the mold of the bigger back that Beane was after, so it’s not a shock to see this deal completed.

Last season, the former Patriots running back was plagued by injuries, playing in just 11 contests – two of which he left early. And in his nine healthy games, Harris averaged just 8.8 fantasy points, 11 carries, and 49 rushing yards per game. He took a major backseat to the surging Rhamondre Stevenson, who operated as the RB1 in the backfield for the majority of the season.

Now with Buffalo, Harris’ best fantasy prospects are for him to land the Bills’ red-zone back role. He scored just as many times as Stevenson from inside the ten-yard line last season (thrice) despite being out-carried in that area of the field 19 to six. In 2022, former Bills RB Devin Singletary totaled just four rushing TDs inside the 10-yard on 16 carries. QB Josh Allen is frequently deployed as a goal-line rusher which might limit Harris’ touchdown totals in 2023. However, we have seen quarterbacks run less at the goal line as they get older, so there’s still a chance that Harris flirts with double-digit scores should his arrival mean the team leans on him more as their preferred rusher near the pylon to protect their franchise quarterback in the long term.

As for James Cook entering Year 2, the Harris signing signifies that the second-year pro is locked-in to the elite pass-catching role vacated in the backfield. In 2022, Singletary finished third among all running backs in route participation (57%). Considering Cook’s 27% target rate per route run – equal or better than Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara in 2022 – I fully expect him to take on a much larger role as a receiver in a Bills passing attack that is shrouded with question marks behind Stefon Diggs.

Running Backs That Don’t Have New/Threatening Competition

Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
Tony Pollard (RB – DAL)
Travis Etienne (RB – JAX)
Tyler Allgeier (RB – ATL)
Isiah Pacheco (RB – KC)
Cam Akers (RB – LAR)
Rachaad White (RB – TB)
Rhamondre Stevenson (RB – NE)
Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN)
Joshua Kelley (RB – LAC)

As of this writing, the running backs listed above have all “survived” the free agency period. This list will obviously shrink as the remaining free-agent running backs sign and as the NFL Draft takes place, but for now, it’s hard not to view this group as winners.

However, I do want to point out the three that specifically stand out the most: Alexander Mattison, Rachaad White, and Rhamondre Stevenson.

First, Mattison is listed here because it’s looking more likely he has a path to the starting gig in Minnesota if the team trades Dalvin Cook. If that transaction takes place, it’s hard not to view Mattison as a winner. The No. 2 runner is RB39 in early best ball ADP.

Joshua Kelley would fall into the same bucket if the Chargers traded away Austin Ekeler.

As for Stevenson and White, their teams did add competition to their backfields. But it’s the exact unthreatening competition that fantasy managers should want between James Robinson and Chase Edmonds.

Robinson was unwanted by two different teams and was benched in favor of an undrafted free agent Zonovan Knight with the Jets. Stevenson (RB13 ADP) will be fine. And J-Rob likely prevents the Patriots from adding anybody else better. In the worst case, from the Stevenson perspective, Robinson operates in a Damien Harris role. But recall that Stevenson was hardly scoring TDs anyway last season and still finished as a fantasy RB1.

Robinson’s contract is also very incentive-based, meaning he has to really earn his playing time. It’s not guaranteed he sniffs the field, even as Stevenson’s primary backup, if he can’t recapture his pre-torn Achilles form.

Edmonds only signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, likely to compete for backup duties behind White (RB29 ADP). Edmonds – now on his third team in a full calendar year – is hardly a lock to make the roster and shouldn’t be viewed as a legitimate threat to White’s workload.

The former Dolphin and Bronco averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry in 2022, finishing second-to-last in yards after contact per attempt (one spot lower than Leonard Fournette), second-to-last in rushing EPA, and dead last in first downs per rush (12%). Needless to say, it’s not surprising that he didn’t generate much money or interest on the open market. His numbers likely won’t improve either behind a Tampa Bay offensive line that finished 28th in adjusted line yards last season.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends In Favorable Landing Spots

Deonte Harty (WR – BUF)

A sneaky addition by the Bills was adding former Saints Pro Bowler Deonte Harty. He was hurt all last season after an impressive 2021 campaign. But that didn’t stop him from earning a 2-year deal worth $9.5 million with $4.75 guaranteed. $5.51M in 2023. It’s more than double the contract the team gave Isaiah McKenzie (2 years, $4.4 million) last season. McKenzie was recently cut from the Bills and signed with the Colts.

The signing also makes Harty the second-highest-paid WR on the team, with Gabe Davis still on his rookie deal.

Harty saw an extremely high target rate per route run in 2021 (27%) and finished sixth in both PFF receiving grade (86.8) and yards per route run (2.69). He totaled over 52 receiving yards in three of Jameis Winston‘s starts in 2021. I’m confident Harty (WR96 ADP) can deliver fantasy goodness if a starting opportunity opens in the Bills’ offense. The undersized WR finished with a 99th percentile PFF receiving grade versus single coverage in 2021.

Garrett Wilson (WR – NYJ)

Garrett Wilson to the moon. In games not started by Zach Wilson last season, the former Ohio State receiver averaged over 17 fantasy points, 6 catches, 11 targets, and 82 receiving yards per game. Top-10 fantasy WR numbers. If Aaron Rodgers can just be accurate throwing the ball (seems manageable), Wilson will crush it in 2023. No Jets QB completed more than 60% of their passes last season. Rodgers completed 64.6% of his passes last season, which was close to his career average (65.3%).

Wilson will officially rise to WR5 in my 2023 early draft rankings once the trade for Rodgers is finalized.

I’ve seen Elijah Moore (WR53 ADP) listed as a “loser” in the wake of the Allen Lazard trade, and I don’t agree with the take. Rodgers’ presence should inject some life into some of the Jets’ ancillary pass catchers, including Lazard and Moore. Don’t be too quick to forget that Moore was awesome in the WR1 chair as a rookie. The team also released Braxton Berrios, suggesting that Moore should finally take over a full-time role in the slot. Lazard’s on-field role shouldn’t drastically impact Moore, as the ex-Packer will likely be operating in what was Corey Davis‘ snap share. I expect Davis to be released in the coming days for salary cap reasons. Simply put, if Moore doesn’t rebound after a horrible sophomore season, Lazard won’t be the root cause.

Darren Waller (TE – NYG)

Being the No. 1 pass-catching option for a team as tight end is a rare feat. There’s only a handful of teams that feature such a player, with the Giants being the newest to join the list after their acquisition of ex-Raiders tight end Darren Waller. The 6-foot-6 pass-catcher came to Big Blue in exchange for a third-round pick, and he immediately should step in as the clear-cut No. 1 target for Daniel Jones. That was not the case for Waller last year, as he was fighting for targets with alpha Davante Adams. But Waller showed that when he was healthy that he could still deliver, ranking second in the NFL in yards per reception (13.9) and 10th in yards per route run. Waller “the baller” still has plenty left in the tank and should be viewed as a clear-cut winner post-trade. He has the chance to replicate his 2021 numbers when he was the No. 1 receiver in his offense, posting top-5 fantasy tight end numbers. And better yet, Daniel Bellinger‘s elite usage/route participation from last season in the Brian Daboll offense as an every-snap player – 80 percent-plus snap share in 6 of the last 7 games – suggests that Waller won’t leave the field. That will make it that much easier for the TE8 in ADP to crest elite fantasy tight-end status.

Jakobi Meyers (WR – LV)

Jakobi Meyers inked a 3-year deal with the Raiders, reuniting him with his former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He joins a Las Vegas offense filled with playmakers, including Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, and Hunter Renfrow. And that offense will be led by ex-Patriots and 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And that’s where things could be problematic for Meyers, who has been the target hog in a lackluster Patriots offense over the last two seasons.

It’s hard to envision Meyers commanding a 23% target share (a mark he has reached the last two seasons) with Davante Adams’ alpha presence in the offense, along with Renfrow chipping in. However, the Waller trade suggests Meyers could still end up as the clear-cut No. 2 – which is a pretty enticing role. I’d imagine Meyers still plays primarily on the outside, with Renfrow operating from the slot in 11 personnel, which means Meyers won’t leave the field. Both guys are fringy WR3/4 options, but I’ll give a slight lean toward Meyers at this time, with him most likely taking over the Hollins role.

He finished 10th in routes run per dropback (93%) and commanded 1,153 air yards as the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver in the Raiders offense last season. Hollins finished last season as WR41 in half-point scoring, which seems like a nice floor projection for Meyers at this time. There’s more competition in the offense for targets, but Meyers is the superior talent after averaging nearly 2.0 yards per route run in 2022.

Although, like Hollins, Meyers doesn’t offer much after the catch, ranking 48th among 83 qualifying WRs in YAC/reception last season. Per ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight wide receiver model, Meyers ranked 7th-worst among all WRs in yards after the catch. That doesn’t necessarily gel with his new quarterback, who led the NFL in YAC passing percentage (59%) with the 49ers.

Regardless, Meyers is currently a value in early-season best-ball drafts at WR46. My only major concern is having Garoppolo at the head of the offense. I am not confident that Jimmy G can support anything more than 1-to-2 fantasy weapons. He won’t fully transform an offense, and there’s no guarantee he lasts the season based on his injury history. If Meyers stays relatively cheap, he will likely be a solid WR value in the later rounds, but I seriously doubt he makes a major fantasy leap unless an injury happens to Adams.

The former undrafted free agent finished as the WR32 in half-point scoring last season, averaging 10.6 fantasy points per game (WR28).

All Washington Commanders

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends That Don’t Have New/Threatening Competition

Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE – TEN)
Kadarius Toney (WR – KC)
Skyy Moore (WR – KC)
Jameson Williams (WR – DET)
Treylon Burks (WR – TEN)
Tim Patrick (WR – DEN)
Nico Collins (WR – HOU)

Both Austin Hooper and Geoff Swaim remain free agents, with no reports linking them to any teams. Hooper has finished no better than TE22 since he cashed in with the Cleveland Browns back in 2020, and Swaim is a typical blocking tight end. This past season, Hooper commanded just a 14% target share as the TE24 overall averaged just 4.4 points per game (TE33).

Reality is beginning to set in with both veterans gone that the TE1 job is up for second-year pro Chigoziem Okonkwo. He started the last two games of the season for Tennessee and flashed uber-efficiency in the receiving game. The rookie’s 26% target rate ranked 2nd among all tight ends with at least 40 targets in 2022. He finished 3rd in PFF receiving grade, first in yards per reception, and first in yards per route run among all tight ends.

In Kansas City, I’d imagine they will add another body at the wide receiver position after losing JuJu Smith-Schuster to the Patriots. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will remain a constant veteran that will experience spike weeks, while Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney see vastly expanded roles. Both guys have moved up substantially in the 2023 WR rankings to reflect newfound opportunity in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense.

Toney is the WR39 in best ball ADP, with Skyy Moore coming in behind him at a very cheap WR61 price tag. I’m taking Moore at the ADP gap all day.

Nico Collins is another big winner following the free agency fallout, based on his status as the new de facto status as the Texans’ No.1 WR. His ADP as WR81 is ridiculously cheap, considering his main competition includes Dalton Schultz, John Metchie, Robert Woods, and Noah Brown. Collins led the 2022 Texans in air yards share and in target rate per route run (23%). With an upgrade coming in the form of a new quarterback, you need to be all over the discounted big-bodied wide receiver. He is my WR49 in my 2023 best ball WR rankings.

Check out Erickson’s must-have dynasty rookies partner-arrow

2023 Free Agency Losers

Quarterbacks Without Guaranteed Roles

Sam Howell (QB – WAS)

Sam Howell was viewed as the team’s starter heading into the offseason, but it didn’t take Washington too long to add legitimate competition. Former Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett signed a free agent deal with the Washington Commanders putting him in a true QB1 battle with second-year quarterback Sam Howell.

Brissett was brought into Cleveland last year as a stop-gap for Deshaun Watson, but he performed well beyond his low expectations. Brissett finished 17th in passing EPA and 12th in PFF passing grade while supporting fantasy viable weapons like Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, and David Njoku. Similar to Garoppolo, Brissett’s real-life efficiency didn’t translate to much fantasy success for himself in 2022. Still, he at least showed the aptitude to keep others around him afloat in fantasy circles.

That’s great news for anyone invested in the likes of Washington’s plethora of weapons, including Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Brian Robinson. Even if Brissett doesn’t win the job, Howell beating him out suggests he should be good enough to keep the offense afloat. The Commanders don’t have pressure to start Howell as a former Day 3 pick, so they can just truly start the better quarterback.

Quarterbacks Losing Weapons

Russell Wilson (QB – DEN)

The plethora of moves that the Broncos have made thus far in free agency do not inspire confidence that we will be seeing a vastly improved “fantasy” version of Russell Wilson in 2023. They have revamped the offensive line to cater to the run game while adding running back Samaje Perine. The team has also been extremely vocal about wanting to trade Jerry Jeudy and/or Courtland Sutton, which does not make Wilson easier to trust.

Running Backs Without Clear Starting Jobs/Added Competition

Khalil Herbert (RB – CHI)
D’Onta Foreman (RB – CHI)

D’Onta Foreman inked a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Chicago Bears to replace David Montgomery in the Bears backfield alongside Khalil Herbert and Travis Homer. Per Aaron Wilson, Foreman also had interest from the Bills, Panthers, and Giants but chose to go with the Bears.

The interest doesn’t come as a surprise after Foreman’s breakout play in 2022. From Week 7 on, Foreman was the RB21 in fantasy scoring and RB22 in fantasy points per game. He ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (852) over that span. But his path to back-end RB2 status was not consistent whatsoever. Foreman rushed for more than 110 yards in half of his last 10 games while finishing with fewer than 40 rushing yards in four of the others. His weekly half-point PPR fantasy finishes over those last 10 games were RB13, RB5, RB42, RB9, RB48, RB27, RB27, RB70, RB3, and RB53. Foreman was also a zero in the passing game, with just five receptions as the team’s starter.

Even so, Foreman’s flashes of high-end early-down starting potential for two straight seasons are going to earn him opportunities in Chicago. Even though Khalil Herbert has shown out on limited opportunities, it’s hard to envision anything but another usage split between Herbert and Foreman similar to the split between Herbert and Montgomery last season.

Foreman and Herbert earned nearly identical rushing EPA per attempt last year (inside the top 15). Fantasy managers might be best off taking the cheaper of the two in drafts because there may not be a true No. 1 rusher in the Windy City unless there’s an injury. If the Bears are as run-heavy as they were last season, there’s a chance that both can return value, but keep in mind that Justin Fields’ own rushing will take away volume chances from both backs.

Herbert is the RB30 in early best ball ADP, while Foreman slots in at RB45.

Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)

I also view Alvin Kamara as a loser because Jamaal Williams – signed for 3 years, $12 million, $8 million guaranteed – is just another body that he will have to compete with for touches near the goal line – in addition to Taysom Hill rearing his ugly head. Kamara totaled just eight carries inside the 10-yard line last season, and Jamaal Williams totaled 45. Hill had 12. Throw in the potential suspension that Kamara is facing after a year that saw his receiving usage tank…you’re chasing the past if you draft Kamara with the hopes he will recapture RB1 status. The Saints running back ended the 2022 season second-worst in the rushing EPA (-41).

Dameon Pierce (RB – HOU) 

Devin Singletary signed a one-year deal worth $3.75 million with the Houston Texans, presumably to fill the role of Dameon Pierce’s primary backup.

Singletary operated as the 1A in the Buffalo Bills backfield for the majority of the 2022 season finishing the year as RB23 overall and RB27 in points per game. However, unlike the last two seasons that ended with strong finishes for the undersized rusher, Singletary was in a full-blown committee with rookie James Cook to close out the year. The first-year rusher averaged a 40% snap share over the team’s final seven games, matching Singletary point-for-point (RB25 in points per game, 52% snap share).

Cook was also the superior rusher in the season’s totality, capping off his year by averaging 5.3 yards per carry (5th). Singletary totaled just nine more carries than Cook from Weeks 13-Week 20 but ended the year 10th in PFF rushing grade (two spots ahead of Pierce).

Overall, Singletary probably won’t unseat Pierce as the team’s No. 1 rusher, but he poses a much bigger threat to Pierce’s workload than JAGs like Rex Burkhead, Mike Boone, and Dare Ogunbowale. His PFF pass-blocking grade (73.2, 8th) might get him usage on passing downs as Pierce struggled in this capacity as a rookie (32.3, 52nd). Although it does work in Pierce’s favor that Singletary has never flourished as an actual receiver, giving Pierce the slight edge on attaining a full three-down workload if he can shore up his pass protection in Year 2.

All in all, Singletary’s addition shouldn’t completely change the way you view Pierce (RB19 ADP), as it was highly unlikely the team would add zero running backs between now and the start of the season. He’s not the worst running back they could have added, but he’s hardly a reason to fully fade Pierce for fear that Singletary will carve out a massive role on offense. 

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
D’Andre Swift (RB – DET)
Chuba Hubbard (RB – CAR)

The Running Back “Misfit Toys” That Nobody Wants

Ezekiel Elliott (RB – FA)
Kareem Hunt (RB – FA)
Leonard Fournette (RB – FA)
Jerick McKinnon (RB – FA)

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends That Have New/Threatening Competition

Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV)
Hunter Henry (TE – NE)
Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI)
Wan’Dale Robinson (WR – NYG)
Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)

Michael Gallup has yet to recapture his pre-injury form, and the Dallas Cowboys aren’t waiting around for him to turn the corner. The team made a move during the first weekend following free agency, sending a 2023 5th-round pick and 2024 6th-round pick to the Houston Texans for veteran Brandin Cooks.

Cooks saw a reduced role in the Texans’ offense this past season, but he still has plenty left in the tank. The soon-to-be 30-year-old earned a 22% target share in 2022 (6.7 targets per game). And after re-entering the lineup in Week 16, Cooks finished the year as WR18 in points per game.

He also averaged 1.64 yards per route run (39th in 2022), which was superior to anyone in Dallas last season not-named CeeDee Lamb (Brown, 70th) last season. The former first-rounder is a great fit in Dallas and hurts Gallup’s fantasy value tremendously.

A heavy-run approach will make both Cooks/Gallup extremely boom-or-bust for fantasy purposes. But Cooks should be viewed as the team’s No. 2 and primary deep threat. He finished 9th in the percentage of catches for 20-plus yards (23%) and as PFF’s 7th-highest graded WR on targets with 20-plus air yards in 2022 — highlighting his big-play ability. Gallup caught only one of his 11 deep targets last season. Woof.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends In Unfavorable Landing Spots

All Indianapolis Colts

As noted above, the Colts eventually landed Gardner Minshew, as there were virtually no other QB options left on the market. Minshew will be joined by a rookie signal-caller that the Colts will draft, but neither option instills confidence that this offense will become a fantasy goldmine anytime soon. It not only hurts the upside of main pass-catchers like Michael Pittman Jr. (WR24 ADP), but it lowers the floor substantially for starting running back Jonathan Taylor (RB2 ADP).

Mike Evans (WR – TB) & Chris Godwin (WR – TB)

The Buccaneers have a 1-year deal for QB Baker Mayfield for $8.5 million – $4.5 million, $4.5 million in incentives – giving him the chance to compete with third-year quarterback Kyle Trask for the starting gig in Tampa Bay.

But Mayfield’s outright release from the Carolina Panthers mid-season of 2022 tells you everything you need to know about his short stint there. It was a disaster. Through 11 weeks, he was averaging fewer than 12 fantasy points per game. He was also PFF’s 39th-graded QB from a clean pocket…out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks. Woof.

Mayfield improved slightly during his trip out west with the L.A. Rams, but not enough to move the needle on him as a legitimate answer for a team looking for a quarterback. He averaged fewer fantasy points per game as a Ram (10.3) than as a Panther and could not be relied on to support any fantasy weapons. His 2022 standing as the 4th-worst QB in passing EPA and 7th-worst in completion rate doesn’t help bolster his case to be a highly sought-after quarterback option in free agency. Even during Mayfield’s most recent “best ” season (2020), he was still a bottom-10 passer in completion rate.

The “dynamic duo” of Mayfield/Trask does not create confidence about drafting the likes of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, among other Buccaneers, because the quarterback play – and more importantly, the insane pass volume, isn’t going to be present.

As I noted in my Tom Brady retirement fallout, since Brady landed in Tampa, no team was more pass-heavy. Brady just broke the record for passing attempts in a season this past year (733) after posting the 3rd-most attempts all-time (719) the year before. The 2023 Mayfield/Trask Tampa Tandem is going to throw less. Because they literally can’t throw more.

The downtick in passing volume and efficiency will hurt the fantasy values of Godwin, Evans, and Russell Gage, as the top-3 projected WRs on the Bucs’ roster. Godwin should remain at worst in the fantasy WR2 conversation regardless, based on a solid role in the slot. He still will be the heavy favorite to lead the team in targets and will be another year removed from his ACL injury. The only WR we have seen put up decent numbers alongside Mayfield was slot receiver Jarvis Landry. During his healthy seasons in 2018 and 2019, Mayfield fueled the Browns’ No. 1 WR to WR19 and WR12 finishes.

Godwin is WR30 on Underdog fantasy’s early best-ball ADP. He’s a value at that price.

Evans is going to be tougher to trust this year. Before his Week 17 eruption, he was WR26 overall and WR32 in points per game. He will be 30 by the time the season starts. History has not been kind to the aging big-bodied wide receivers that don’t win with separation later in their careers. Evans is a boom-or-bust fantasy WR3/4 that you should only select when he falls too far in drafts.

Evans is WR34 on Underdog fantasy’s early best-ball ADP.

Dalton Schultz (TE – HOU)

Dalton Schultz got the franchise tag this past year from Dallas, with the team unable to agree on a long-term deal. The Cowboys’ tight end battled through injuries, but he still ended the season as the TE9 overall in 14 games played (TE10 in points per game). The biggest factor in Schultz’s production was based on Dak Prescott being under center. When Dak missed time to start the year, Schultz was a non-factor. He averaged fewer than one fantasy point per game. Woof. But with Prescott back in the lineup, Schultz averaged 9.5 fantasy points, 4.5 receptions, and nearly seven targets per game (21% target share).

For fantasy purposes, Schultz staying in Big D attached to Prescott would have been ideal. But his production over the last three seasons netted him just a one-year deal from the Houston Texans.

This new situation with a major downgrade at quarterback and offense may create unfavorable results considering Schultz has been super dependent on his offensive environment to support his fantasy value. He doesn’t create after the catch – 38th out of 42 qualifying tight ends in yards after the catch per reception – and his every-down role from Dallas is not guaranteed to carry over to another team.

All in all, Schultz seems like a pretty poor fit in an offense heralded by former SF offensive passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik. The 49ers are known for generating YAC, and Schultz hardly fits that profile.

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