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2024 NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

2024 NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers (Fantasy Football)

The 2024 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. And RBs are back.

The player movement has created massive implications across the fantasy football landscape, with values rising and falling faster than ever throughout the 2024 fantasy football rankings.

Let’s break down the biggest fantasy football winners and losers from 2024’s NFL free agency action.

The following players have seen their values increase or decrease since the start of last week. 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. 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.

Be mindful that just because a player/team is an obvious “winner” doesn’t necessarily mean they are now a fantasy target. Fantasy football is all about value and free agency winners can sometimes get overvalued, while losers can be too harshly penalized by the market. Identifying these soft spots in the market can hopefully provide an edge in dynasty leagues and way-too-early 2024 best ball drafts.

2024 Dynasty Fantasy Football Guide

2024 NFL Free Agency Winners

Quarterbacks

Given the underwhelming state of the 2024 free agent WR class, there aren’t many quarterbacks that gained significant weaponry at the WR position. Or at least gained additional firepower, as the majority of the top potential FA WRs — Mike Evans, Michael Pittman Jr., etc. — returned to their old teams. So, by default, Anthony Richardson and Baker Mayfield are winners.

As is Bryce Young, who has gained reinforcements in the WR room after the Panthers traded for Diontae Johnson.

Johnson was seventh in ESPN’s open score last season. Adam Thielen ranked 12th. D.J. Chark Jr. ranked 133rd and rookie Jonathan Mingo ranked 152nd — second-worst in the NFL.

The Panthers also bolstered their OL with guards Damien Lewis and Robert Hunt. The Panthers shelled out two of the three largest OL contracts during the 2024 free agent period.

The Titans added Calvin Ridley for Will Levis, along with some marginal additions across the OL. But given they will either draft another WR or OL starter in the upcoming draft, Levis’ supporting cast will continue on the upward trajectory.

The Rams also did a great job to improve the strength of their OL to protect Matthew Stafford. They re-signed guard Kevin Dotson and signed guard Jonah Jackson from the Lions. The Jets also upgraded at two of their starting OL positions (OG, RT). Good for Aaron Rodgers.

The interesting quarterback name to bring up here is Kirk Cousins. Given the hype train surrounding the Atlanta Falcons, his rankings and average draft position (ADP) will rise. But I am not exactly sure that situation is that much better for Cousins’ standalone fantasy value. Sure, the situation looks great… but we don’t have to imagine the impossible to see how this doesn’t pan out.

For more on Cousins, read my total debriefing of the signing.

The elephant in the room revolves around Cousins’ injury. The main narrative around this is he will be fine and there’s nothing to worry about. Ok. Maybe there is nothing to worry about. But if everybody is not considering there’s no chance his Achilles injury hinders him in production or games available in 2024… well, it’s more advantageous to factor that into the equation and be lower on Cousins than consensus.

Second, is the brand-new situation. Zac Robinson’s system should be familiar for Cousins (stemming from the Sean McVay tree) but he is a first-time OC and play-caller. Even as great as Bobby Slowik was for Houston as a first-time OC and play-caller he had his lumps. He also had a historically great rookie QB that likely masked parts of the offense.

Third is chasing last year’s touchdown numbers. Cousins led the NFL in TD passes (18) before his injury. He was the fantasy QB6 overall, averaging just under 20 points per game. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing as we project into next season. Quarterbacks that bust are often the passers who experience TD regression the following season.

The injury, a brand-new situation, zero rushing upside and a high TD rate from 2023 are all red flags indicating Cousins will likely be more fantasy bust than fantasy stud in 2024.

I identified these critical factors as major red flags last season in my 2023 bust guide.

During my early QB rankings piece for 2024, I brought these factors to light again: Injuries, new coaches/receivers, lack of rushing upside, TD regression, etc.

And the fact that Cousins was still under 20 points per game even after leading the league in TD passes, suggests his production can be found elsewhere at a fraction of the cost.

My biggest true winner must be Sam Darnold, with him in the driver’s seat to be the Vikings’ starting QB in 2024. Minnesota added Darnold on a one-year deal worth $10 million. He spent last year as the 49ers’ backup QB after beating out Trey Lance in training camp.

The last time we saw Darnold start, he provided a spark to a lifeless Carolina Panthers offense over the team’s last five games during the 2022 season. The former first-round selection tied a bow that season, averaging 18.1 fantasy points per game as the QB13 from Weeks 12-17. Overall, 8.2 yards per attempt in 2022 marked a career-high. Darnold is far from elite, but among the former first-round castoff QBs available on the market, he was probably the best short- and/or long-term option. There’s a reason the Vikings signed him immediately after Cousins landed in Atlanta.

Darnold will only be 27 by the time the season starts, so perhaps the story with him as an NFL quarterback isn’t finished. If he’s in a favorable system, he can be an average QB for fantasy purposes. Note that Nick Mullens and Joshua Dobbs as Vikings QBs last season combined for four top-12 finishes. Kirk Cousins had five. Ergo, a Vikings QB finished as a top-12 QB in nine of the 17 games played last season (56%). Same as Brock Purdy, Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson. All QBs that were “good” fantasy QBs in 2023.

By default, Jarrett Stidham is also a “winner” given he is currently the Broncos’ starting QB. Gardner Minshew also looks primed to usurp Aidan O’Connell as the QB1 in Las Vegas given the two-year, $25 million contract.

And presuming the Bears select Caleb Williams No. 1 overall, the rookie is landing in a pretty nice spot with Keenan Allen on Chicago’s roster.

Running Backs

The low-hanging fruit with RB “winners” in free agency comes down to just being atop the updated depth chart.

Those RBs include Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, D’Andre Swift, Derrick Henry, Zamir White, Chuba Hubbard, Devin Singletary and Gus Edwards.

Click here for specific write-ups on the headline running back names.

Below is the SparkNotes version for those who want a quick briefing and how I think the market will respond to the guys in new spots…

Josh Jacobs — I loved the initial spot for the 26-year-old in an up-and-ascending offense. Potential for the three-down workload. There’s a reason why I aggressively ranked him at RB6 overall after he first signed with the Packers. The rhetoric around Jacobs is based on his bad 2023 season, which was expected based on the sheer volume he took in 2022. Not that it looks like a complete outlier based on his career… with three straight RB1 finishes between 2020-2022. I don’t think the market will be high enough on Jacobs. The Packers only have Emanuel Wilson and A.J. Dillon on the depth chart behind Jacobs. It has been reported they like Wilson a lot. But do they like him enough to take Jacobs off the field? I am not so sure. My reservations turned out to be true, given the Packers re-signed A.J. Dillon after he tested the free agency market. That nukes Wilson as a handcuff and does hurt Jacobs in some capacity. At least it should be considered in his ADP. Dillon was gifted a golden opportunity to earn a big payday as a 2024 free agent during the 2023 season but fell flat. Aaron Jones was injured throughout the season, putting Dillon in position to start before he landed himself on IR after Week 15. But he failed to provide anything of substance, averaging 3.4 yards per carry (5th-worst) with just two TD scores. His advanced rushing metrics were career-lows across the board and he didn’t have the scores (despite a robust red-zone role) to mask the lack of rushing production. At age 26, Dillon still has the chance to reclaim the red-zone role on the Packers, which would come at the detriment of Jacobs. However as bad as he was in 2023, it looks much more like an outlier than a sign of decline for a relatively young and rare-sized RB at 247 pounds. The Packers’ current staff has never shied away from feeding him alongside side Jones, so it’s somewhat wish casting that they will feel different with the Jacobs/Dillon pairing. If anything, perhaps Dillon’s red-zone woes last season will lessen his role in that area in 2024, in favor of Jacobs. After being first down on the Dillon re-signing for Jacobs, I feel a little bit better about the transaction. Dillon coming back suggests the Packers won’t draft anyone better. Dillon was/is bad. And the super team-friendly contract – 1 year for $2.74 million – is as cheap as it gets. If the market is overly concerned about Dillon, I’ll happily go the other direction.

Saquon Barkley — The market will likely be higher on Barkley given the immediate upgrade in the supporting cast going from New York to Philly. Barkley has a chance to run behind holes he’s never dreamed of. Think it comes down to how the market plays off his TD potential. The “tush push” nuked Swift’s TD upside last season. But two years ago, Miles Sanders scored 11 TDs. Center Jason Kelce is gone, so that raises questions of how effective the “tush push” will even be. If Barkley’s main detractors are solely related to TDs (the hardest stat to project year-to-year), I’ll gladly scoop up the value. What if they acquired Barkley to be featured in the “tush push” to combat injury concerns for Jalen Hurts? Don’t just assume you know exactly how the Eagles will deploy their goal-line offense. Recall that Swift specifically has never been a true goal-line red-zone back, even during his time in Detroit.

But if Barkley stans focus only on the situation being positive (showing no concern for lack of pass-game work) then there’s a definite case to shy away.

Joe Mixon — Again, another landing spot I love. Similar to Jacobs, it checks off all the boxes for Mixon to be a full-blown bell cow, despite what his detractors will say about his lack of efficiency. The dude scores fantasy points because he scores TDs and catches passes. He’s also light years ahead of Dameon Pierce. However, I do fully recognize Mixon’s role is the appealing part of him in Houston, which can sometimes end in disaster when drafting fantasy running backs. If his ADP gets too high, I will be out. It’s not like a seventh-round pick trade will prevent the Texans from swapping out Mixon if he doesn’t deliver. However, the fact Mixon signed a three-year, $27 million contract extension that includes $13 million guaranteed after being traded, suggests the team is very high on him as their featured RB.

Derrick Henry — I don’t think the market will be high enough on Henry either. After all, he is 30 years old. But the combination of him and Lamar Jackson is so appealing. Gus Edwards was a TD machine last year. In that role, Henry could smash. Just note the receiving won’t be there (it never is) and that the Ravens’ prior commitment to a traditional thunder/lightning backfield does raise eyebrows about the sheer volume Henry might receive. He’s always been a back that requires 15+ carries before he can do damage. Edwards had five games last season with 15+ carries. It works in his favor that Keaton Mitchell likely won’t be ready for the start of the season coming off a torn ACL.

D’Andre Swift Swift’s spot I am much more lukewarm on. I have him ranked as a mid-range RB2 and I’m not sure the market will be swayed in any particular direction to fade/target him. He’s a winner because he got paid to be the Bears’ starter. But I can’t help but think the better value in the backfield will be Roschon Johnson, who should be the primary receiving back. And if Swift were to get hurt (stay healthy last season), Johnson would be slated for some massive upside. So, although Johnson is technically a “loser” without a clear path to the RB1 role, the discount on his new ADP will be one to target as a priority handcuff. Again, what is the chance Johnson at 219 pounds is the Bears’ goal-line back in 2024? As a rookie, Johnson had six carries inside the 5-yard line. Only D’Onta Foreman had more (7). Although Johnson “falls” in the rankings because he’s not the clear starter, I am more interested in drafting him at his new suppressed price.

Devin Singletary — He’s a starting RB who always exceeds expectations. The new Giants’ RB1 will be a screaming value all draft season long. He never finished worse than RB35 in PPR through five seasons. Last season under Brian Daboll in Buffalo, Singletary was the RB20 on 228 touches.

Gus Edwards — Love the spot but recognize that low financial commitment suggests the Chargers probably aren’t done adding RB bodies.

Zamir White and Chuba Hubbard are slightly different winners, given they find themselves in starting roles with the dust settled on the top free agent market RBs.

Zamir White — With Jacobs gone in free agency, White has made his case to be the Day 1 starter of the Black Hole in 2024. In White’s four starts, he averaged 14.1 points and just under 100 rushing yards per game while logging just under 70% of the offensive snaps and 23+ touches per game. Works in his favor that Antonio Pierce is returning as the head coach.

Chuba Hubbard — He is in the final season of his rookie deal and it would make sense for the team to continue to feature him on a cheap deal. After fully unseating Miles Sanders as the starter in Week 7, Hubbard finished the year onward as the fantasy RB23, averaging 10.9 points per game. He was fourth in total carries from Week 7 onward. Finished the season in the top 10 in total rushing attempts (11th in touches) and 20th in rushing yards while playing just under 60% of the offensive snaps (16th). And maybe this is a bit of a trip down narrative street but two of Hubbard’s best games came against the Buccaneers’ elite run defense. As the Bucs OC, new Panthers head coach Dave Canales saw in person what Hubbard could do against a strong defensive front. Think that bodes well for Hubbard to be the team’s RB1 to start in 2024.

Chase BrownZack Moss has a chance to start in Cincy but it’s no guarantee with Chase Brown bidding for touches, especially as a receiver. I think the market will favor Moss given the contract but this could truly be a 50/50 split and training camp battle. His contract is hardly an indicator of a future workload given it’s only $4 million per season and just $3 million guaranteed. And as it stands from a talent perspective, Brown proved his worth as a rookie to earn touches last season alongside a healthy Joe Mixon. And he was running routes, which we love for RBs in PPR formats. If Jonathan Taylor had not gotten hurt, Moss wouldn’t be on an NFL team. I’ll take my chance with Brown especially if he’s cheaper in drafts. It’s a classic plodder versus RB with juice debate. Give me the second-year RB with juice. NFL’s Next Gen Stats listed Brown with the second-fastest ball carrier time in the NFL last season on a 54-yard TD reception. It’s interesting to note Moss’ last start for Indy came versus the Bengals. He recorded an 84% snap share in that game. The result? Thirteen carries for 28 yards for 2.2 yards per carry. Woof. Brown is a winner in estimates given the vast array of RBs the Bengals could have signed instead of Moss. Low bar to pass.

James Conner — Conner is a clear winner because the team signed DeeJay Dallas as veteran depth. Dallas got a pretty decent chunk of change — three years, $8.25 million — which likely suggests the team won’t draft another RB of consequence. Conner RB1 SZN is a full go in the final year of his contract. Dallas is a bigger back with a three-down skillset so he’s interesting as a handcuff target given Conner’s injury track record.

I also want to briefly highlight some No. 2 RBs I deem winners because they appear to be clear-cut handcuffs in their respective backfields:

I hit on OLs earlier for QBs but wanted to resurface them for each team’s RBs. The teams that improved their OLs the most during free agency include the Rams, Panthers, Jets and Jaguars. Ergo, good for Kyren Williams, Chuba Hubbard, Breece Hall and Travis Etienne Jr.

Also want to recognize the RBs with a severe lack of competition on their depth charts. James Cook and Isiah Pacheco look slated to continue their hot streaks from last season. Dallas… what are we doing?

Final thoughts on the free agent RBs — there are not many remaining landing spots that look ideal for a rookie to land. Dallas is the obvious spot with the Chargers also appealing. But there’s a chance we look up after the draft and we aren’t excited about any rookie rusher in their new NFL home, especially if it comes with low draft capital.

Other things to keep in mind to avoid drafting RB busts:

  • Overvaluing roles for certain RBs, specifically when it comes to red zone usage.
    • 2023 examples: Tank Bigsby
      • Real-life RB2s would easily become busts if they played in below-average offenses.
        • 2023 examples: Antonio Gibson, A.J. Dillon, Samaje Perine
        • Projected Running back roles. Fixated on the role, not the player per se. When the sole reason for taking a running back early is hyper-focused on offense, workload/volume and team environment, it’s a risky proposition.
  • You cannot prioritize running backs on offenses that have not yet proven to be above average while treading lightly on running backs that don’t have a lot of job security. With running backs, ask yourself: What would it take for RB “X” to lose the starting job?

Wide Receivers

There’s a reason why the RBs dominated the headlines in free agency. Because the draft class isn’t great. Conversely, the WR draft class is jam-packed with talent at the top and throughout. Hence, the a lack of buzz and money thrown around WRs in the FA market.

Fringe WRs such as Gabe Davis and Darnell Mooney made the most money on the open market, with the top-tier guys returning to their respective teams. Calvin Ridley made bank with the Titans (his wallet is a true winner) but the landing spot is lukewarm or just worse, at best.

Going from Lawrence to Levis isn’t an upgrade. Competition for targets might be a slight upgrade in Tennessee — an aging DeAndre Hopkins versus Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Gabe Davis, Devin Duvernay and Zay Jones is a win.

It’s a matter of efficiency, which could go either way based on the up-and-down play we saw from both Ridley and Levis a season ago.

I’d hardly label Davis or Mooney winners given the target competition they will face in their new homes.

Mooney specifically is coming off a horrible and injury-plagued season. I can’t help but think he is going to be a decent fantasy value on the Falcons, though. Mooney finished the season 10th in yards after the catch per reception (6.0) despite entering the year coming off a late November broken ankle injury.

Mooney shined his brightest from 2021-2022 in the NFL with a 27% target share. He has shown the ability to command targets at a high level. In Atlanta, there is nobody behind Drake London, cementing Mooney as the clear-cut WR2 in a Kirk Cousins-led offense. As alluded to at the top, the Falcons benefitted from great injury luck in 2023. Should Drake London or Kyle Pitts go down, Mooney would step into a larger role, where I would project him to thrive. My best guess is that his ADP will not reflect this upside.

Curtis Samuel got a modest contract from the Bills, filling the voids left by Gabe Davis, Trent Sherfield and Deonte Harty. He’s an explosive speed element the Bills have lacked in years past. Samuel finished the 2023 season as the WR44 overall, averaging 7.9 fantasy points per game as the WR52 in points per game (7.9). Par for the course when it comes to Samuel, who always seems to string together consecutive weeks of production before seeing his numbers drop off because of injury. His receiving numbers were nearly identical to his 2020 campaign, albeit he was more efficient as the Commanders’ primary slot WR. Unfortunately, he was barely used as a rusher, with only seven carries compared to 38 in 2022. Entering his age-28 season, Samuel has never finished higher than WR25 at any point during his career, regulating him to WR4 fantasy status regardless of any new landing spot. He will have his fair share of productive weeks in the Bills offense but nothing to move the needle as a fantasy game-changer. The signing with Buffalo shouldn’t come as a surprise given his prior relationship with Bills OC Joe Brady.

Samuel was with Brady in Carolina in 2020. Brady was fired before the season ended. In 2020, Samuel posted career-highs in catches (77), yards (851) and rushing attempts (41). From Weeks 1-12 of the 2020 season (before Brady was fired), Samuel was the fantasy WR25 (same as his season-long finish).

If anything, Diontae Johnson being traded to the Carolina Panthers is a slight win. All the man does is get targets and he can be the clear target leader for Bryce Young. Before the switch to Mason Rudolph from Weeks 7-13 during the 2023 season (when Diontae Johnson returned healthy), Johnson led the team with a 26% target share and 9.2 fantasy points per game.

After Johnson returned from his injury in Week 7, he was overall very effective regardless of QB play. He led the team with a 23% target share (as he typically does) while scoring five TDs and averaging 9.7 points per game and 14 expected fantasy points per game. Despite the Steelers’ offensive transitions and his injuries to overcome, Johnson maintained his productivity, finishing the season with 127.2 fantasy points, averaging 10 points per game and ranking 36th in points per game. Now in Carolina, Johnson will project for a boatload of targets in an offense that fueled Adam Thielen to a WR25 finish. Johnson will be, at worst, a fantasy WR3 with a potential ceiling unlocked if Young can take a step forward in 2024. Johnson is dirt cheap as the WR43 in early best ball ADP on Underdog.

As for the NFL’s remaining WR depth charts, don’t go victory-lapping Demario Douglas, Greg Dortch, Andrei Iosivas, or Joshua Palmer quite yet. Yes, all of the WRs are labeled “winners” because all their teams have less wide receiver competition than they did at the start of the free agent period. We still have a few marquee WR names left on the market — although none that project as No. 1 WRs — and an NFL Draft filled to the brim with WR talent that will seriously shake up a team’s WR room.

Tyler Scott (Keenan Allen) and Khail Shakir (hello Curtis Samuel) know too well that your time atop the depth chart is not for the long haul.

Still hard to not view Palmer as a legitimate winner after the Chargers moved on from both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen in the same offseason. Palmer stepped up big time in the Chargers offense last season when Williams/Allen missed time. In Week 18, he commanded 10 targets despite a 58% snap share. During the season, he posted an 18% target share and averaged 1.89 yards per route run. In games played without Williams fully healthy, Palmer averaged 10.6 points per game. During the final three games of the year with neither Williams or Allen or Justin Herbert available, Palmer hit a 20% target share and 23% target rate per route run averaging 11.5 points per game (WR25). The Chargers will draft a WR, so don’t go crazy with Palmer. But note that he is the best in-house option on the roster at WR. Not Quentin Johnston.

Johnston finished 61st among 63 qualifying WRs in yards per route run (0.88) as a rookie. Palmer caught as many passes (38) as Johnston in 7 fewer games. Ergo, it’s not too soon to label  Johnston a bust after his rookie season. Last we saw of QJ, he had 2 receptions for 17 yards in Week 18. He’s a bust. Don’t be swayed. He played all the snaps (87%) and had all the opportunities with Allen injured the last few weeks of the season to step up. He didn’t. Johnston finished 61st among 63 qualifying WRs in yards per route run (0.88) as a rookie. My long-lost brother Alex Erickson was out-targeting Johnston the last 2 weeks of the season. Palmer is the Chargers WR to draft.

More high-profile names with a lack of WR competition include Rashee Rice and George Pickens. Although the former will now face some competition from Marquise Brown. But that might be a win for Rice, if Brown’s addition lessened the Chiefs front office to draft a WR in Round 1 of the upcoming draft.

Brown was signed by the Chiefs to a 1-year contract worth $7 million on March 14th as the latest high-profile WR free agent to find a new home. The contract is a one-year “prove it” deal we have seen in the past for guys like D.J. Chark.

Can’t say I am surprised by the lack of interest in Brown, given his year to forget in 2023. He struggled with bad Cardinals quarterback play before Kyler Murray returned to the starting lineup as the WR21 overall and as the WR34 in points per game (10.2). But after Murray returned, the Cardinals WR still didn’t produce. 5.8 points per game in three full, healthy games before ultimately missing the remainder of the season due to injuries. Overall, Brown hauled in 51 receptions on 101 targets, accumulating 574 yards at an average of 11.3 yards per catch. He found the end zone four times during the season. He scored 109.2 points over the season, averaging 7.8 points per game (53rd) in 13 games played. The lack of production was shocking, considering Brown posted nearly 1,200 air yards, a 25% target share, and 39% air yards share with the 16th-highest weighted opportunity rating. After flaming out with his old college QB, NFL teams seemed very hesitant about signing Brown, especially with injuries riddling his production the last two seasons. Brown has also never finished a season averaging more than 11.3 fantasy points per game during his five-year career, which was high-end WR3 status in 2023.

Still, it’s hard to argue against him in the best possible landing spot to resurrect his career with Patrick Mahomes in an offense that needs playmakers not named Rice and Travis Kelce. He can use his speed to stretch the field and be a threat to get the ball, unlike Marquez Valdes-Scantling. But if he hits, it’s like as a fantasy WR2. JuJu Smith-Schuster finished as the WR29 in his lone season with the Chiefs after signing a one-year deal.

Pickens is the name to call out here, given he benefits greatly as the newly entrenched WR1 in the Steelers offense. Yes, Pittsburgh will likely draft another rookie WR who will undoubtedly be a stud but Pickens’ constant ascension the past two seasons with flashes of top-12 upside suggests he is on the cusp of a true third-year breakout.

Russell Wilson also offers much more upside than Kenny Pickett, given he is a threat to throw the ball downfield (8th in deep ball rate in 2023). During the first five weeks of the 2023 season with Diontae Johnson sidelined, Pickens was the WR13 in fantasy, averaging 12.8 points per game (19th). He recorded a 43% air yards share and a 24% target share during that span. He also averaged nearly 80 receiving yards per game.

The best “true” winner I can find among WRs is probably Christian Kirk. With Ridley replaced by the “can’t earn targets” Gabe Davis, Kirk will be the clear-cut WR1 in the Jaguars offense.

Last season, Kirk played an integral role in the Jaguars’ passing game — with 57 receptions on 85 targets (21% target share) for 787 yards and 13.8 yards per catch. Kirk found the end zone three times during the season. Remember all those Ridley end-zone targets? Well, now Kirk has a chance to see them, similar to his 2022 season when he was fifth in the NFL in red-zone targets.

In 12 games, Kirk accumulated 121.8 fantasy points, averaging 11 points per game, positioning him as a reliable Flex option in fantasy leagues. He was the WR28 in points per game. When he and Ridley were both healthy, Kirk posted the higher target share at 21% as the WR23 overall. With Ridley replaced by the “can’t earn targets” Gabe Davis, Kirk will the WR1 in the Jaguars offense.

I can’t believe I have gone this far without mentioning Drake London as the big winner of free agency. It’s probably because it’s just so obvious that going from Desmond Ridder/Taylor Heinicke to Kirk Cousins can fully unlock London as a fantasy WR.

London’s usage numbers were strong in 2023, commanding a 23% target share and 31% air yards share. He put up over 1,200 air yards, 69 catches and 905 receiving yards, but just two TDs. The lack of TDs positioned London as the WR39 overall, averaging just 8.7 points per game (WR46). Like many WRs, London’s ceiling cannot be realized unless the Falcons improve their QB play. With Cousins under center, he’s a talented real-life WR slated to make the jump from fantasy WR3 status to actual relevance.

There’s no debating London is a winner and his rising ADP reflects that in full. The question now becomes, how high is too high to draft London (if at all)?

Other low-key WR winners:

Ja’Marr Chase — It’s possible the combination of Zack Moss/Chase Brown will inherit the red-zone and goal-line usage from Joe Mixon. But it’s also possible all those TDs just go to Chase. Given Justin Jefferson lost his QB, I feel great about Chase as my No. 1 ranked WR.

Davante Adams — If Garnder Minshew starts, you can expect Adams to continue seeing alpha-level target shares. Minshew hyper-targeted Michael Pittman Jr. last season (30% target share). If Aidan O’Connell beats him out, you’d expect he would be better and more consistent entering his second season and first with OC Luke Getsy. Getsy also knows very well who needs to get the ball on this offense. Adams’ two best fantasy seasons came when Getsy was the Packers’ quarterbacks coach & passing game coordinator.

Marvin Mims Jr. — A low-key winner of the Jerry Jeudy trade is second-year WR Marvin Mims. Mims’ role was redundant with Jeudy last season, hence his limited playing time. His overall lackluster rookie year was tough due to a lack of opportunity. He ran a route on 41% of the dropbacks — outside the top 100. We did see flashes with a 100-yard effort in his second game, along with another 73-yard game when he earned a season-high five targets back in Week 3. Was also named Second-Team All-Pro as a returner. Leave the light on for Mims to take off in 2024 should he play starting snaps, which is much more likely with Jeudy gone. Broncos HC Sean Payton said at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine that Mims’ progression as a receiver was hindered because he played the same role as Jeudy. Receiver depth in Denver hurt Mims. Payton also said they were generally happy when they did get Mims involved (duh) and that should continue in his second season. He’s free in drafts as the WR64.

There’s still a lot left to unpack when it comes to WRs, given the draft is yet to come.

Tight Ends

The tight end market was surprisingly active during the early portion of free agency, with the main guys all finding homes rather quickly.

Colby Parkinson landed the biggest deal with the Rams and could be in line for starting duties should Tyler Higbee start the season on PUP after tearing his ACL. He’s only 25 years old after being drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. With decent athleticism, he’s hardly the first tight end to be a fantasy producer on his second team at the professional level. Rest in peace Davis Allen season.

I am burying the lede. Kyle Pitts is the big winner here, given the QB upgrade with Kirk Cousins. I think the market will correctly be higher on Drake London. And although this move will likely be overlooked, Pitts doesn’t have to deal with Jonnu Smith anymore. Smith was replaced by a pure blocking tight end in Charlie Woerner. Comically in Cousins’ opening press conference with the Falcons media, he was asked about the exchange with Pitts on the availability of the No. 8 Falcons jersey number. Pitts said Cousins could have his number if he would see targets every week. The man knows what he wants.

Speaking of Smith, he could be the No. 3 pass-game option in Miami, so that is intriguing.

I am interested in Mike Gesicki landing with the Bengals. The team is done with slot WR Tyler Boyd, so Gesicki could become a full-time slot player in that high-powered offense. Alas, Gesicko mode did not last very long with the Bengals. Cincy re-signed Tanner Hudson, who was a hyper-target machine at times last season.

I guess Irv Smith Jr. is also a winner landing in KC. It’s hard to envision he does much unless, though, Travis Kelce goes down. Intrinsic upside.

Zach Ertz also projects as a starter in the Commanders’ offense after they cut Logan Thomas. Other big winners include Evan Engram and Pat Freiermuth.

Both should remain staples in their offenses after their teams lost their respective No. 1 target leaders.

Some deep tight end winners (because their team added nobody): Jelani Woods and Tommy Tremble.

2024 NFL Draft Guide

2024 NFL Free Agency Losers

Quarterbacks

I explained at the top my reservations around Kirk Cousins landing in Atlanta. I’m not convinced he is a true winner (despite his bags of Kohl’s cash), so he falls in the loser bucket. You’re a winner if I want to draft you more in fantasy football after the fact.

Kenny Pickett lost Diontae Johnson and potentially the starting QB role in Pittsburgh. It’s not great for Russell Wilson, even as the potential starter, that he immediately signs with the team… and the first move they make is trading away a playmaker.

Lawrence lost Calvin Ridley but “gained” Gabe Davis. In my estimates, this is a net loss. The team also signed a few interior OL pieces between Ezra Cleveland and Mitch Morse — not headline moves but noteworthy small additions.

And Fields… it’s tough to score fantasy points if you don’t have a starting job.

Justin Herbert LOVES Keenan Allen, and I don’t think a talented rookie wideout can make up the difference in production in Year 1. Factor in the run-heavy concerns of the Herbert offense…there’s a strong rationale to lower Herbert in the QB rankings.

Running Backs

The low-hanging fruit with RB “losers” in free agency comes down to additional competition in a backfield or new RBs in sub-optimal landing spots.

Those RBs include Austin Ekeler, Brian Robinson Jr., Tyjae Spears, Tony Pollard, D’Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson, Khalil Herbert, Aaron Jones, Antonio Gibson, Ty Chandler, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, Kenneth Gainwell and Dameon Pierce.

The Titans backfield has the potential to be a mess with two RBs that seemingly have overlapping skill sets. Who will be the goal-line back? The primary receiving back? Will it just be a 50/50 split?

Drafting a real-life RB2 on a below-average offense is asking for trouble. The Titans’ OL is also a major question mark.

In the nation’s capital, Ekeler seems destined for an ancillary role as a straight pass-catcher. Because his rushing was beyond horrible in 2023. Again, it will be another split backfield in Washington alongside Brian Robinson Jr., which will likely be a below-average offense led by a rookie QB.

Ekeler’s contract is close to what Samaje Perine got from the Broncos last season.

Anthony Lynn is the new run game coordinator for the Commanders and could similarly deploy Ekeler-Robinson to Ekeler-Melvin Gordon circa 2019. Ekeler saw heavy targets back then (92 catches in 2019) but another RB was earning all the red-zone work. That could be Robinson in 2023, which makes him the better Commander RB to target, especially at a cheaper cost. He found success already splitting repetitions with Antonio Gibson last year, who has more juice than Ekeler.

My least favorite RB landing spot has to be Aaron Jones to the Vikings.

As highlighted by Pat Fitzmaurice, Jones missed time with injuries in 2023, playing just 11 games.

He was terrific for Green Bay down the stretch, closing out the regular season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games and then rushing for more than 100 yards in each of the Packers’ two playoff games, including a 118-yard, three-TD performance in a win over the Cowboys. Should be noted Dillon missed time during this period and that Jones may have greatly benefitted from “fresh legs.”

The headline with Jones landing in Minnesota is completely tied to his health, which is a real concern for the 29-year-old RB, who will be 30 in December. There’s also no long-term commitment from his new team, so Minnesota can “churn-and-burn” as they please. Zero of his $7 million contract is guaranteed.

Jones has never been a touch monster, so he has to win with efficiency. I am skeptical that an RB like Jones — who had the lowest rushing yards over expectation in his last four seasons in 2023 — will beat me in fantasy. Especially in an offense led by Sam Darnold or a rookie QB. I was “off” Jones last season, to success. He’s never been a true “featured” RB, specifically in the red zone. This rookie RB class has massive-sized RBs. No need to change the script now. Fade Jones, had a 19% bust rate in 2022 and a 20% bust rate in 2023.

I already spoke on Roschon Johnson being a sneaky “winner” despite the addition of D’Andre Swift. I don’t feel that way about Khalil Herbert, whose value gets nuked here. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get traded in the final year of his rookie deal. He is from a previous regime, so the writing is on the wall that the explosive rusher is not long for the Windy City.

Tank Bigsby was the talk of the town last offseason. He was horrible as a rookie. And they are already “saying” they want him to do more this season. Why re-sign D’Ernest Johnson, though, who took over as Travis Etienne’s backup last season?

Wide Receivers

Justin Jefferson won’t have Kirk Cousins as his quarterback in 2024, which is going to hurt his ADP. He is going to fall in drafts as a result. But in Weeks 15-18, Jefferson was still a clear-cut alpha without Cousins — 18.4 points per game (WR3) and 119 receiving yards per game. If drafters are going to fade the best WR on the planet because of an unknown QB, I’ll gladly scoop up the discount. Have elite-level alphas such as Davante Adams/DeAndre Hopkins taught us anything?

I’d be more concerned that an inexperienced QB is unable to also support second-year WR Jordan Addison. He’s a real loser I am not interested in buying the dip. He was particularly effective in the red zone as a rookie, scoring 10 touchdowns (5th) on a 17% target share. Case in point, without Cousins during the last four games, Addison had one monster game accompanied by two duds where he averaged 15 receiving yards.

Last season, he totaled over 1,300 air yards. He played in all 17 games, contributing consistently to the Vikings’ offense, with a total of 186.3 fantasy points, averaging about 11 points per game (WR28). Addison averaged slightly more points per game 12.2 (22% target share and 4 TDs) versus 10.1 (6 TDs) with Justin Jefferson sidelined. Considering the team will likely be without T.J. Hockenson to start the 2024 season, as he is coming off a torn ACL/MCL, Addison initially looked like a strong bet to return early low-end WR2 value in 2024. However, his stock will be hurt without Kirk Cousins under center in 2024. He falls into boom-or-bust territory unless the QB play dramatically exceeds expectations.

DeAndre Hopkins is already not a great yards-after-the-catch (YAC) receiver but it’s been bad for three seasons. He’s a volume-dependent receiver, but the volume won’t increase with Calvin Ridley in town, although a more pass-heavy offense could make this more of a wash. Age is more of a concern entering the last year of his contract.

Other things to keep in mind about some of these buzzy WRs during the free agency period: Calvin Ridley and Drake London were not great after the catch last season. In ESPN WR analytics, Ridley ranked 94th out of 109 WRs. London ranked 80th. If that continues, they will be that much more dependent on the quality of quarterback play.

The other common theme I come away with is that WR busts are most often the projected breakouts and bouncebacks that didn’t fire. London is going to be on the top of every single breakout article you read in fantasy football despite zero top-30 finishes in his first two seasons in the NFL. I know, I know, the QB play is the reason he’s been bad. But all I am saying is Garrett Wilson found a way to be a top-26 WR in his first two seasons, with equally as bad, if not worse, QB play. Talented players find a way to produce even in bad spots.

And sometimes we can seriously overvalue a quarterback’s immediate impact.

In 2022, Pittman was a consensus breakout candidate across all media outlets but flamed out entirely with a new quarterback. D.J. Moore, Courtland Sutton, Diontae Johnson and Allen Robinson were all underwhelming with new quarterbacks despite it seeming like they had gotten QB upgrades during the offseason.

In 2023, the projected breakouts that failed to fire included Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Calvin Ridley. Christian Watson was another popular breakout candidate later on that failed to hit.

From an optimal systematic drafting approach, it’s smart to fade the highest projected “breakout” WRs. The last two years have shown the reward is not worth the risk. It’s not hard to identify breakout WRs. The challenge is practicing the discipline of how much to invest into them.

The other important factor to consider is to ask yourself if you are high on a particular WR… and if are you also high on their quarterback as well. I’m not high on Cousins in Atlanta, so therefore I have to hold some pessimism toward London. Levis/Young I am happy to take shots on late because I know their new WRs will also be cheap. These are the bets I prefer to make, instead of chasing the steam of the next breakout WR.

Keenan Allen was traded to the Bears for a 4th-round pick, and this hurts all the other Bears’ incumbent pass-catchers, specifically D.J. Moore. Moore’s ranking was already influx given the uncertainty at QB, but adding a monster target-earned like Allen complicates things further. Allen himself is also hurt by the transaction, given the massive downgrade in QB play, while he battles father time past age 30. Allen’s avoided the age cliff up to this point, but a brand new situation with a rookie QB could be the beginning of his downfall as he turns 32 years old.

Tight Ends

Noah Fant is back with the Seahawks. Not ideal. They already have a strong trio of WRs and just added Pharoah Brown into the fold.

Will Dissly join forces with Hayden Hurst in a run-heavy two two-tight-end end offense with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The biggest loser for fantasy purposes could be Cole Kmet. Shane Waldron was beyond frustrating with three tight end sets in Seattle, which killed Fant’s fantasy value. Bringing in a familiar piece like Gerald Everett suggests Kmet might not be the only tight end playing snaps in the offense. Adding another target earner in Keenan Allen won’t make life any easier for Kmet.

Michael Mayer is another loser, with the Raiders adding Harrison Bryant.

The same goes for Hunter Henry, who could lose tight end snaps to Austin Hooper. Although Hooper’s addition to the Patriots mostly suggests the team wants to run two tight end sets, standard within the Alex Van Pelt offense.

T.J. Hockenson’s a loser as well due to the fallout with the Kirk Cousins situation. He’s also coming off the torn knee. The appeal of backup tight end Johnny Mundt as a potential stop-gap in Minnesota also gets nuked without Cousins.

Chigoziem Okonkwo was impressive as a rookie but he’s fighting a massive uphill battle against Calvin Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins.

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