The fantasy football analysis never stops!
We’ve been covering the opening of the NFL’s new 2023 league year in our Free Agency Page, which includes our free agency positional trackers, plus Graham Barfield’s Fantasy Fallout breakdowns of the key moves of note.
My role here is to focus on the fluctuating fantasy values leaguewide, and my first order of business is to weed through the multitude of free agent moves that have come down the pike and will continue to come well into April and highlight the moves I view as true needle-movers. I’ll include some selections who’ve changed teams this year, but my other focus is to cover the ramifications of this year’s key moves in terms of each team’s roster.
My views do not necessarily represent the entirety of our staff, but it’s usually safe to say the rest of the guys are with me 90% of the time or more.
Note: I’m going through these writeups on a daily basis starting March 17th, and I’ll be updating them as needed over the next month or so as the moves come in.
Also Note: We’re also constantly updating our Best Ball rankings if you’re looking to get an early start to draft season with our friends over at Underdog Fantasy (Promo code: FANTASYPTS). New signups to Underdog get both a deposit match of up to $100 and a Fantasy Points Standard subscription for just $5!
Players I’m feeling more optimistic about based on free agency and early off-season moves.
Justin Fields (Chi) — Fields was the QB30 through Week 3 last year with the fewest passing yards for a starting QB since 1975 (a pitiful 99 per game). But less than six months later, with a vote of confidence from the organization — at least for 2023 — Fields is a top league-winner candidate. Starting around Week 4, Chicago got Fields on the move more (as they promised in the off-season), and Fields was the QB5 the final 14 weeks (12 games) despite two different injuries that forced two missed games and a season-ending injury to top target Darnell Mooney that wiped out 35% of the wideout’s season. Only 52% of Fields’ production came from passing, so there’s room to grow in his second season in the offense and with stud DJ Moore in the mix. Moore won’t likely be as impactful as AJ Brown was for the Eagles last year, and Chicago is unlikely to design and call plays as well as Philly did, but with a legit No. 1 receiver, Jalen Hurts managed to get 68% of his production from passing after getting 61% in 2021. Hurts was more developed than Fields after two seasons, but Fields is a more talented thrower, and he’s a more dangerous runner. They will continue to bolster their OL in the Draft, and with strong pieces in place for Fields to start winning from the pocket more, he’ll be laser-focused on a third-year breakout. He’ll need to be because the Bears are positioned to move on from him with two No. 1 picks in 2024 if they don’t see something similar to a Hurts-like ascension. For fantasy, the problem is that Fields won’t present the same value Hurts did last year, since his ADP was already 40 overall on Underdog Fantasy before the trade and the Moore acquisition.
Deshaun Watson (Cle) — Watson never fully shook off the rust in 2022, but he was my first stop when I looked for my QB player targets this year, and I liked what I saw ADP-wise, so I threw it out there on the radio that he might be my top QB target this year. That was just above his current Underdog Fantasy ADP of QB10/85 overall. I’ve assumed they would land a speed receiver to team with Amari Cooper, and much to my surprise it was Fantasy Points darling Elijah Moore. Moore hasn’t been much of a deep threat with the Jets, but he did run a 4.3 40 at the combine, and lining up outside is not a problem. Watson loves having a shot play guy, and Moore could be that. Moore will also be a devastating weapon in the slot and the middle of the field. Watson has a nice collection of weapons now, and I also think the Browns will draft another receiver or two. His ADP is likely to tick up a bit on the Moore news, but I'm looking squarely at Watson as my early favorite for my No. 1 QB target in 2022 due to his appealing cost + upside. UPDATED: 3/22
Jordan Love (GB) — It’s time, and while it was #asexpected, it’s Love’s team now, and he’s got a chance to excel right out of the gate with the entire organization and fanbase behind him. He’s always had the tools to be a consistent starter or better, including a nice size/arm strength/movement profile, and he’s reportedly progressed well in his three seasons behind Aaron Rodgers. It’s unusual for a No. 1 pick to sit for three years, but it was unique in the mid-to-late 2000s when Rodgers did it behind Brett Favre. From all accounts, Love turned a major corner in 2022, and we should feel confident that he has a high-level understanding of the offense, and that his mechanics have been cleaned up. Love certainly looked very comfortable in his meaningful 2022 action back in Week 12, when he went 6-for-9 for 112 yards and a TD against the Eagles. It’s a QB-friendly system, and they’re one or two impactful skill guys away from having a very intriguing group of weapons for Love to lean on in year one. If they can acquire an impact TE and a speedy receiver in the draft, I’ll be all-in on Love as a great QB2 target, like I was for Rodgers in 2008.
Desmond Ridder (Atl) — We don’t know for sure, but given the high-end backup QB contract the Falcons gave Taylor Heinicke, it’s a strong indication they are not targeting a QB with the eighth pick of the Draft. That’s understandable because they have a high number of needs on defense, and they also need to add a high-impact WR to play opposite Drake London. The addition of veteran Mack Hollins was fine, since he’s another tall receiver who can run. But they’re still a good bet to draft a plug-and-play wideout on Day Two or even later, so I’d expect them to add another 1-2 impact players to Ridder’s arsenal, along with a new TE in Jonnu Smith, who played for HC Arthur Smith in Tennessee and can help in the run and pass game. I expect them to target a speed receiver in the draft at 44 or 75, and if they pick the right one, Ridder will have a chance to succeed with Drake London and Kyle Pitts, and the Falcons will have a chance to fully evaluate him and determine if he’s their guy or not. Ridder’s early ADP on Underdog Fantasy was the QB33, but he’ll likely settle in the 25-30 range by April’s end. UPDATED: 3/21
Baker Mayfield (TB) — The early markets on Underdog Fantasy were not optimistic on Baker, who was the QB38 at 240 overall. But out of the few landing spots left in the league with a legitimate chance to start, Baker got the best possible spot in Tampa, where they have a strong trio at WR in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russel Gage, a promising young TE in Cade Otton, and a nice back in Rachaad White. Baker looked very capable for the Rams late last year, and the safe money should be on him starting over Kyle Trask. New OC Dave Canales was integral to Geno Smith’s breakout season last year, and if Canales can coax a Pro Bowl season out of the former 39th overall pick in year nine, he might be able to get the former No. 1 overall pick’s career back on track in year six. Considering he barely had a pulse last year, he’s now upgraded to being viable in the QB 28-32 range.
David Montgomery (Det) — My New Year’s resolution was to pay more attention to boring RBs, and Montgomery has taken an early lead in my “non-Gurrific” RB rankings. He’s three-down back with lateral agility to force missed tackles, and per Fantasy Points Data, Montgomery led the league in missed tackles per attempt at .31 among 42 RBs with at least 100 carries. Of course, in that same sample of RBs, he finished with the worst explosive play rate at 1.5%, which explains why I think he’s boring. Khalil Herbert was on my target list last summer, and he’s not boring, rolling with an explosive play rate of 3.1% behind the same OL (fewer carries, of course). This upgrade is all about the landing spot, and it’s a beautiful one for Montgomery. Detroit’s elite OL should provide him by far the best blocking he’s ever seen, and this is a backfield that produced 23 TDs from RBs last year. Unlike Jamaal Williams, Montgomery should get plenty of opportunities to catch the ball, since this signing is an indictment on the fragile D’Andre Swift. I expect my initial projection for Montgomery will slot him in RB1 territory, or at worst the RB13-15 range. His early ADP on Underdog Fantasy was RB36, but that was largely a function of his UFA status and uncertainty, and he’ll likely soar into the 15-20 range soon.
Miles Sanders (Car) — For fantasy, it’s been an efficient free agent period this year with many players ending up in deal landing spots in terms of role and clarity of role, and Sanders was one of the big winners. It took 57% of the snaps in Philly last year for him to finish as the RB15, and his snap share should rise with D’Onta Foreman out of the picture and the team unlikely to invest much else in the backfield this year. So it’s only Chuba Hubbard and likely a Day 3 RB in the draft behind Sanders. New HC Frank Reich has previously leaned on his lead runners during his four-plus seasons in Indianapolis, and that trend should continue as they break in a rookie QB, which I think will be CJ Stroud. It’s a drop-off for Sanders in terms of overall environment, but an upgrade in terms of role, as Sanders should get more opportunities in the passing game than the measly 26 targets he got in Philly last year, and Stroud (or Bryce Young) won’t be vulturing many rushing TDs (Anthony Richardson or Will Levis could change that equation, of course). Carolina’s OL isn’t as good, but it’s an ascending group led by their OTs, especially 2022 No. 6 overall pick Ikem Ekwonu. Sanders had an early ADP of 92/RB28 on Underdog Fantasy before this move, and he’ll likely move up 1-2 rounds and 5-7 RB spots now.
Rashaad Penny (Phi) — No one had a clue how free agency would treat Penny, which explains his early ADP on Underdog Fantasy of RB54, around 180 overall. We remember his ballistic late run in 2021, when he was the RB1 in scoring the final five weeks of the season with a fat 7.3 YPC, 6 TDs, and 22 FPG. We also remember a laundry list of injuries in his five-year career, and he’s been one of the least durable backs in the league. But he landed in an ideal spot in Philly, where they still have an elite OL and a dominant running game aided by Jalen Hurts’ mobility. Hurts was lights-out throwing the ball down the field, so a healthy Penny is a good bet to rip off some long runs against lighter boxes and give them more explosive plays than Miles Sanders did last year. Penny could be as frustrating as Sanders, and he’s probably close to a zero in the passing game with Kenny Gainwell on the roster after Penny had the lowest target per route run rate at 7.9% among RBs that ran 50+ routes last year. But if he’s fully recovered from the broken leg that ended his ‘22 season, this is a guy who ranked second in explosive run rate at 10.5% in 2022 among RBs with 50+ carries, and he led the NFL in yards after contact per carry with 4.37 among RBs with 50+ carries, so he’s likely to catapult into the RB3 range around RB30-35. Their schedule will be tougher, but Philly loves to throw to grab a lead and then run the rock, so gamescript should often be in his favor, which is critical for Penny.
Damien Harris (Buf) — It’s a moot point if his availability problems continue, but I’m giving Harris a slight upgrade after he moved on to the division-rival Bills. This addition is a signal the Bills want to commit more to running the ball, and they’re probably not sold on James Cook as their primary back. His TD upside is hurt by Josh Allen, who’s been between 6-9 scores on the ground in each of his first five seasons (7 TDs in 2022), but Harris has 18 rushing TDs on his last 308 carries, so he has scored every 5.84 carries in 2021-2022. Per Fantasy Points Data, only 14.2% of Harris’ carries went for fewer than one yard, which was the 10th-best among backs with at least 100 carries, so Harris should be set as the primary short-yardage and goal line back. With a little more juice than Devin Singletary, Harris could push for 200+ carries as their primary early-down back, as he got 61.6% of his scrimmage yards after contact (19th among RBs with 100+ touches), and he’s a better inside banger than Cook. It’s possible that Cook elevates his play and makes this backfield an impossible committee, and the presence of Nyheim Hines could leave Harris with only 10-15 targets on the whole season, so this could be a lateral move. But I’ll give Harris a slight upgrade because he should have a better chance to get early-down touches in Buffalo over Cook, rather than in NE with Rhamondre Stevenson and others. ADDED: 3/21
Skyy Moore (KC) — I was confident for most of 2022 that JuJu Smith-Shuster and Mecole Hardman were gone this year and that Marques Valdez-Scantling stunk, and here we are. MVS is still around for now, but there was no WR signing of note in free agency, and so Skyy’s looking good in terms of soaking up some of those 135 vacated targets. Skyy was one of my favorite rookies in 2022, but I never said he was a stud who was going to roll out of bed in the NFL and kick ass. I unquestionably oversold him — in retrospect, I should have seen HC Andy Reid and QB Patrick Mahomes leaning on their veterans last year. But 2023 should be a different story, and I see an old-school ascension coming for Moore with a ton of growth in year two, and then a full-on breakout in year three. With fantasy managers ready to bail after one season nowadays, the time to get Moore on the cheap in dynasty is now. They’ll probably draft a receiver of note, but this is a tough offense for rookie WRs, so I’m prepared for Moore’s value to start rising in May and June on the strength of positive reports from the OTAs and minicamps. UPDATED: 3/21
Brandin Cooks (Dal) — This was a great signing by the Cowboys, who lost Noah Brown in free agency and had nowhere else to turn at WR because 2022 3rd round pick Jalen Tolbert (88 overall) had a disastrous rookie campaign, making him impossible to trust this year. Cooks’ numbers were down last year, but I don’t think it’s because he’d hit a wall after nine seasons in the NFL, since his YPR increased to 12.3 last year from 11.4 the year before. The offense overall took a step back, likely due in part to OC Pep Hamilton, who has consistently failed as an OC and play caller (great QB coach, though). Cooks is entering his 10th year, he’s still not 30 years old (September of this year), and his 1.90 YPRR average in his three seasons with the Texans is actually higher than his career number. I don’t see Dalton Schultz returning, so Cooks has a chance to settle in as the #2 option in the passing game if Michel Gallup does not regain his pre-ACL form. I see him as a 90-100 target guy this year, and that’s not bad for a guy who’ll likely get some downfield opportunities, and his move from a bad offense to one of the top offenses should offset any dropoff in his game. His early ADP on Underdog Fantasy was WR48 around 100 overall, and I think that will rise, but only moderately, so he’s a solid veteran pick in the middle rounds. UPDATED: 3/21
Adam Thielen (Min) — With his YPRR down five straight seasons heading into 2022, I was out on Thielen last year, but I did come close to his projection. He hit 70 catches (I projected 67) and 6 TDs (I projected 5), and we had him at WR32 in total scoring and he was WR31. However, I projected him to miss three games, and after working his ass off in an attempt to stay healthy, Thielen did play all 17 games. Had the team not traded for TE TJ Hockenson, I would have regretted my Thielen position a lot more because the addition hurt Thielen (and KJ Osborne). Thielen had 50 targets and 35 catches in his first seven games through Week 8 before the trade, and only 57 targets and 35 catches in 10 games after the trade. His YPRR has now fallen for six straight seasons, but he landed in a solid spot in terms of role on the receiver-poor Panthers. Thielen was never a speed guy, so he should continue to win with savvy route-running, great hands, and top ball skills in the red zone/end zone, and they have a chance to enjoy solid QB play from their rookie under HC Frank Reich. He’s a good example of a “boring” player I tend to pass on, but with him buried on Underdog Fantasy with an early ADP around 175, but with a large role locked in, the crafty veteran is a good bet to return well on his minimal investment. UPDATED: 3/21
Darren Waller (NYG) — It could be argued that Waller’s move to the Giants is a lateral one for fantasy, but I have so much confidence in HC Brian Daboll and OC Mike Kafka that I’m going to get behind the aging Waller this year — but I may be quick to bail if there are more warning signs related to his availability. The Giants will add a high-impact wide receiver in the draft, but Waller looks set for 100+ targets with the upside for 120+ looks. While you like how Waller ran 61% of his routes from the slot, the fourth-highest rate among TEs, per Fantasy Points Data, he was actually better in line (2.86 YPRR) than he was in the slot (1.25 YPRR). He showed me late last year that he could still run when he was healthy and was actually the TE7 last season in PPG, and I’m confident in Daniel Jones’ ability to get him the ball downfield. In fact, I think Jones will prove to be the best QB Waller’s ever played with. If the vibes are good this summer, I’ll be in on Waller in the 50-60 range as a second-tier TE option with something that resembles league-winning upside.
Dalton Schultz (Hou) — Welp, the TE market wasn’t nearly as robust as Schultz expected, so he had to settle for a one-year deal, which is a prove-it deal. Things may have been different for him this offseason had he not been slowed by that mid-season MCL sprain, but Schultz did land in a solid spot in Houston. They must have designs on helping their young QB by signing Schultz, who has been a “blankie” for his QB Dak Prescott over the middle and underneath. He doesn’t run all that well, but he’s improved as a blocker, and he’s been effective in the red zone with the fifth-most receiving TDs (17) at the position since 2020. Schultz never left TE1 territory this off-season, as he was the TE10 around 110 overall on Underdog Fantasy, so I don’t see him as a value or a strong target. But he might actually settle in as the #1 option in the passing game with a WRCB approach outside, so I’d definitely consider Schultz as my starter if he slipped a little and/or I opted to wait on drafting my TE1. ADDED: 3/21
Players whom we’re feeling less optimistic about based on training camp reports and injury news.
None of note.
Devin Singletary (Hou) — I have a downgrade for Singletary moving on to Houston because I do not think he’s a serious threat to Dameon Pierce’s role as their top back. The definition of rock solid, Singletary’s 7.3% explosive run rate ranked sixth-best among backs with at least 100 carries, per Fantasy Points Data. He’s also the definition of a JAG (just a guy), and the Bills have been trying to replace him for 2+ years. Last year, the rookie Pierce had a better catch rate than Singletary, and the former Bill dropped five passes with a poor 71.7% catch rate on 53 targets (fourth-worst among RBs with 50+ targets), so I’m not even sure if Singletary will grab the pass-catching role in this backfield. Most likely, receiving work will be a committee led by Pierce with Singletary merely spelling the incumbent for 2-3 series a game on early downs. ADDED: 3/21
DJ Moore (Chi) — This is only a mild downgrade, and I’m not panicking because Moore’s volume is set to drop on a team that threw the ball only 22.2 times per game last year, which was the second-fewest total posted by an offense in 37 years. Moore’s Panthers only threw it 26.8 times a game last year, anyway, and we saw that changing addresses didn’t matter for fellow studs Tyreek Hill (WR2) and Davante Adams (WR3) in 2022. The durable Moore is not as talented as Hill and Adams, but he could actually be more QB-proof, and he’s certainly very experienced when it comes to playing with subpar QBs. Moore has seen 64% of his career targets from Sam Darnold (148), a washed-up Cam Newton (130), and Kyle Allen (118), and the rest of Moore’s list of QBs in Carolina is even uglier. Moore’s not going to hit another +25% target share on the Bears, but a still-raw Justin Fields is an upgrade for Moore, who managed a better catch rate in 2020 (55.9%) at 18.1 YPR than his 53.4% at 14.1 YPR in 2022. Fields is the most dangerous passer Moore’s ever worked with, and his downfield accuracy could fully unlock the former Maryland Terp.
Davante Adams (LV) — I initially thought Adams going from Derek Carr to Jimmy Garoppolo was more of a fairly lateral move, but after further reflection, I’m going with a small downgrade. Carr’s been way more durable, for one, but he’s also a better downfield passer. Adams should get dinged a little because his big-play potential on downfield passes drops with the weak-armed Garoppolo, who is also not great late in the down, which is why the ball usually comes out quick with Jimmy G. The loss of the dangerous Darren Waller could also set Adams up for a little more attention from opposing defenses this year as well.
Christian Kirk (Jax) — Nothing major here, but I felt Kirk’s situation changed enough to merit a listing. I was high on Kirk last year, ranking him as the WR32 (ADP WR37) and pumping him up as a target. He came through wonderfully, finishing as the WR12 in total points and WR19 in PPG. However, his early ADP on Underdog Fantasy was 50 overall and WR24, which is understandable, but I don’t think it totally represented that Calvin Ridley is set to assume the No. 1 WR spot. Ridley was officially reinstated by the NFL on March 6, and he also revealed this month that he played the majority of the 2020 season with a broken foot (he was the WR5 in total scoring). The vibes are good with Ridley, who is more talented than Kirk and commands the ball with the ability to play any receiver spot, so Kirk’s ADP is going to have to drop. It will, but he’s unlikely to present any value this year.
Hunter Henry (NE) — I may still draft Henry this year, but things were looking up when the Patriots released veteran Jonnu Smith. Of course, since the Patriots are annoying, they had to bring in the most annoying TE in the league (after Jonnu) to compete with Henry in Mike Gesicki. The Pats offense is at least in solid hands with Bill O’Brien, who recruited Gesicki when he was at Penn State. Gesicki is more of a big slot, so he’ll keep Henry in line more, and he’ll probably water down the TE production enough to ruin Henry’s chances of producing consistently for fantasy. O’Brien should have a better plan for how to use Gesicki this season, but let’s be honest: he’s no offensive maven. He just doesn’t suck like the other slapdicks they had running the offense last year. Both TEs are at their best in the red zone, so this situation should be nice and annoying for fantasy.
Hayden Hurst (Car) —Hurst took a one-year, prove-it deal to move on to the Bengals last year, which was an ideal spot for him, and it did likely net him a multi-year deal with the Panthers. Of course, he’s going from a dream location as the clear TE1 with Joe Burrow, to a nightmare situation with Frank “Super Spreader” Reich and a rookie QB. Hurt’s held some decent value when he’s gotten volume in 2020 and 2022, but his YPR has fallen in each of his five seasons (12.5>11.6>10.2>8.5>8.0), and Hurst’s aDOT fell from 6.5 in 2021 to 5.0 in 2022, which was the third lowest among TEs with at least 25 targets. And also per FP Data, his 3.6 yards after the catch per reception was the seventh lowest among TEs with at least 25 targets. He'll be impossible to trust with Reich’s propensity to use a TEBC with 2-3 guys actively involved. They still have Ian Thomas, and Tommy “I make no one” Tremble on the roster, so I’ll be rooting for one of the best dudes in the league while he’s on 0.0% of my fantasy teams.
Players who we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade, but whose values should notability remain relatively unchanged from 2020.
Derek Carr (NO) — After wisely staying out of the Carr business for almost a decade, I hopped back on the bandwagon last year, and while he was a decent 17th in total scoring despite missing two games, he won zero league titles, so I got Carr’d (again). Carr’s fantasy output has rarely matched his physical talent, and he’s my kryptonite because he’s pretty damn talented. In Carr’s defense last year, the passing offense was unhealthy all season due mostly to injuries, but it was also a new coach and system, and Carr and HC Josh McDaniels obviously clashed. His completion % over expectation of -3.5% was 4th worst among QBs with at least 200 pass attempts, per FP Data. On the positive side, only 44.4% of his passing yards came after the catch in Vegas last year, the eighth-lowest percentage in the league, and his situation may be improved on the ‘22 Saints. It’s a great fit with HC Dennis Allen leading the Raiders when they drafted Carr in 2014, and OC Pete Carmichael has a relatively solid track record, so the hope is that Carr regains his 2021 form, which included him ranking fifth in adjusted completion percentage at 77% with a catchable ball rate of 82.8%, which ranked him 11th in the NFL. With Michael Thomas re-doing his contract this week, Carr’s throwing to a strong 1-2 punch at receiver with Thomas and Chris Olave, along with two rising players in speedster Rasheed Shaheed and move TE Juwan Johnson. I’d say moving to the Saints is a lateral move at worst for the veteran QB.
D’Onta Foreman (Chi) and Khalil Herbert (Chi) — The Bears wanted David Montgomery back, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to pay out a second contract with the team still in the early stages of their rebuild. So they went a cheaper route with Foreman, who got a middling backup RB deal for only one year. Foreman’s looked very good the last two seasons and should handle the bulk of the early-down work, including most of their short-yardage work near the goal line. But Foreman’s a lot more game script-dependent than Montgomery, so it could be argued that Herbert, who has already proven effective in their scheme, is a very slight upgrade because he should handle most of the snaps in passing situations (new hire Travis Homer is more of a special teams guy), and he should have a chance to carve out a larger role in the running game than he had with Montgomery on the team. Herbert’s early ADP on Underdog Fantasy was actually pricey as free agency kicked off (102 overall/RB32), but he’ll likely drop a bit after the Foreman signing, and he could get a little lost in the shuffle and present some value in spring BB drafts and summer season-long drafts.
Players who we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade but their situations demand monitoring based on training camp reports and injury news.
Daniel Jones (NYG) — I’m not going to just hand Dan Dimes an upgrade just because the Giants TE position got a lot sexier on paper with the signing of Darren Waller — but I’ll be standing and ready to place him at QB1 status if we see a splash move at WR in the draft. The team did sign veteran Parris Campbell, who does have upside, so maybe they can get one season out of him and walking injury report Sterling Shepard combined. Shepard clicks extremely well with Jones and is a potential asset, but given his lack of availability, whatever he contributes is a bonus. They also re-signed Darius Slayton, so the Giants have some serious quantity at receiver, and all they need now is more quality in the form of a Day 1 or Day 2 WR with speed. Then Jones will truly be cooking with gas.
Jimmy Garoppollo (LV) — The ever-efficient Jimmy G cut his teeth in Josh McDaniels’ offense, but he mastered the 49ers system, completing 68.2% of his passes with an 8.3 YPA over the last four seasons, which ranked second and first in the league, respectively. He spent three seasons in this offense, so he should hit the ground running. But he won’t actually run on the field (career high of 62 rushing yards in a season), and his availability is a major concern at this point. I do believe the Raiders will throw it more this year after Derek Carr handed the keys to the offense to Josh Jacobs and attempted only 33.5 passes per game, and LV’s shaky defense should guarantee a little more volume for Jimmy, so Garoppollo shouldn’t prevent WR1 numbers for Davante Adams. But there’s some work to be done at receiver beyond the addition of Jakobi Meyers. Meyers is a good player, but he offers little after the catch and in terms of speed, and he’s a little redundant with Hunter Renfrow, who could still be moved. Even if Garoppolo ends up slinging it 35-40 times a game most weeks, that may not be a good thing, since he typically plays his best football when his attempts are in the 25-30 range. If they don’t use an early pick on a QB, he’s a guy I’d expect to rank only in the QB20-25 range.
Mac Jones (NE) — I’m a fan of McCorkle’s, but I’m also a known JuJu Smith-Schuster hater, and I’ve got almost 30 years of professional experience covering Patriots WRs, and it’s been pretty rough. It looks like it’s going to stay rough after they opted for JuJu over Jakobi Meyers, who is clearly a better player. I was technically wrong to hate JuJu last year, and he did look better than I expected. But he also played with Patrick Mahomes in the No. 1 offense in the league with over 100 targets yet still managed 40 or more receiving yards in just three of his final 12 games. He’s on his third team in three years, and I would have preferred the Patriots to retain Meyers. JuJu will obviously contribute, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he exceeded expectations if he avoided injury. But the Pats weren’t done signing flawed players, adding RB James Robinson and TE Mike Gesicki. Gesicki can run, but they still have a serious lack of speed on the roster. So unless they have designs on trading for Jerry Jeudy, I’m underwhelmed by their off-season.
Aaron Rodgers (NYJ) — Even though no official deal was announced by publication on 3/17, I’ll include Rodgers for the sake of comprehensiveness. I’ll expand on any new developments as they come in, and their receiving corps is still in flux as of publication. I still believe Rodgers is still a top-10/12 NFL QB when focused and relatively healthy, and he should be comfortable quickly in his boy Nate Hackett’s offense, plus they have excellent young weapons in Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, and Elijah Moore. If their OL can get healthy, it includes two recent No. 1 picks and another could be on the way in the draft at 17 overall, this could go very well. I don’t think we’ll see the Rodgers of 2021 when he was the QB8 (21.1), and his passing volume may underwhelm, plus he’s running less and less, but this is a nice plug-and-play spot for Rodgers, so a top-15 ranking is realistic.
Samaje Perine (Den) — This was yet another good landing for a free agent RB moving teams, but I’m not sure the Broncos are done adding quality people to their backfield. HC Sean Payton is a dual backfield guy, and they’re not paying Perine a ton of money, so they could be looking at him as a great RB3 once Javonte Williams returns. But if they don’t grab a RB of note in the draft (they don’t have a pick in the first two rounds), Perine will move into the offseason upgrade category because he’s a three-down back who’d likely be looking at 15+ touches a game the first two months of the season. Javonte suffered a multi-ligament knee injury like JK Dobbins, so no one is expecting much from him in September. Perine actually dropped 23.7 FPG and was the RB2 behind only Josh Jacobs in Weeks 11-13 with Joe Mixon mostly out of the lineup, with 19+ FP, so he can produce with some volume. Perine’s 2.79 yards after contact per attempt was better than teammate Mixon's 2.61, per FP Data, which bodes well for his early-season value. But his 1.1% explosive play rate ranked dead last among 55 backs with at least 75 carries, so it could be the Javonte show in the second half of the season. Drafting both players may be a solid move value-wise.
Alexander Mattison (Min) — I think Mattison is more of a “guy” than a difference-maker, but with $6.4 million in guaranteed money and a two-year contract, I have serious questions about Dalvin Cook’s status. Granted, the Vikings didn’t break the bank for Mattison, but given their bad cap situation, this move signaled a shift to rebuild mode for the Vikings, who have only a handful of building blocks from the long term on the roster (5-6 players). Mattison has averaged 19.5/79.5 rushing per game with three rushing TDs and 3.8/36.0 receiving per game with two receiving TDs in his six career games as a bell-cow, so I think it’s very possible that Mattison’s early ADP of RB44 on Underdog Fantasy will rise 20+ RB spots after a Cook release. Dalvin’s departure would also open up some opportunities for the intriguing Ty Chandler, who has a lot more upside as a receiver than Mattison. If Dalvin is back, then forget all this and fade these Vikings RB because Minnesota is set to take a step back this year.
Rachaad White (TB) — White’s not out of the woods yet in terms of owning a massive role, but I loved the addition of Chase Edmonds for White because Edmonds is just a guy. Sure, Edmonds could carve out a role on passing downs, but the Bucs would be foolish to underutilize White’s three-down skill set, not to mention the football magnets he has for hands. Edmonds is a terrible inside runner and front-runner Lenny Fournette was officially released on Friday (3/17), so White’s looking like a bell cow in a Bucs offense that is not yet rebuilding and is retooling with enough talent to match most squads in the league.
Hunter Renfrow (LV) — Renfrow seemed a little overwhelmed as he tried to pick up Josh McDaniels’ offense last summer, so the vibes were shaky right out of the gate. Things didn’t start well, with 19 FP total the first two weeks, then missed two games with an injury, only to miss five more games with another injury. He was WR35 in the final four games, but that was mainly on the strength of his 2 TDs, as he averaged only 3.75/34.5 receiving. New Raider Jakobi Meyers actually had a higher YPRR on the outside (2.53) than in the slot (1.79), and his 2.53 YPRR was the 6th best on the outside among players with at least 100 outside routes run last year, per FP Data. So it looks like Meyers will play outside a lot. The trading of Darren Waller should help Renfrow’s chances of producing with Meyers in the mix, but the mere presence of Meyers is a concern for Renfrow, who scored on only 2% of his 50 targets last year. Renfrow should mix well with Jimmy Garoppolo, but we need a little more clarity on Renfrow’s role this season.
John Metchie (Hou) — I’m a big Metchie fan, but with Brandin Cooks under contract and WR supposedly in play with one of their two No. 1 picks, it was hard to think positive thoughts for Metchie when the Texans signed veteran Robert Woods to a two-year deal and veteran Noah Brown to a one-year deal. But with Cooks traded, Metchie should be in a good spot upon his return. I actually talked to a Houston Texans beat writer on 3/21 and he told me all signs point to Metchie being ready to play. UPDATED: 3/21