Free Agency – Wide Receivers, Wild Receptions

football-american-game-runner.jpgBefore we get into the Wide receiver changes in the NFL, I just want to take a minute and breathe. Yes, Dallas actually (finally) are on the board with some free agency moves. As this is being compiled, Allen Hurns has just signed for the Cowboys. a 2-year $12m deal has been agreed. What surprises is me most is at how inefficient the Dallas backroom staff is. Dak Prescott is still on his rookie deal as well as Zeke Elliot on favourable terms  with the team (that’ll become interesting in 2020). Yet, the cowboys seem to be in terrible in being able to shift money about to create room. I wont go in to too much detail as this is supposed to be a WR review from free agency, just a Dallas fan tired of the current regime.

We move on.

The big names of Sammy Watkins (to the Chiefs) and Allen Robinson (to the Bears) perhaps didn’t end up where most thought (especially Watkins).

The more surprising aspect of these two however, was the difference in deals that they received; Robinson receives a 3yr, $42m deal with over half guaranteed, making him the joint highest per year along with recently re-signed Kyle Fuller (what a mess that was by the way). Sammy Watkins, who will most certainly split opinions with his 3yr $48m deal, managed to snag some more money when perhaps its deemed that he is possibly not as good as Allen Robinson.

The problem is with these two, is that they both have injury histories, but the negating factor being their age. With both being 24 and both previously having at least one good season under their belts, it’s a sure sign that teams are still willing to invest in potential in big named players, even if there are potentially players out there that would be better for them.

That said, if you could guarantee a full healthy season in 2018 for them both, they will be pretty exciting to watch to see how high their ceiling is.

A few drawbacks for both however;

Sammy Watkins joins a 2nd year Rookie in Pat Mahomes. He has a big arm, and sat most of last season whilst learning the system, which will stand him in good stead (especially under Andy Reid), but this will be his first year starting in the NFL andthere is a stellar cast alongside Watkins competing for targets. The ultimate Boom or Bust Tyreek Hill, dependable Tight End Travis Kelce and running back Kareem Hunt welcome Sammy to the team and whilst this should make the Chiefs a good team to watch this year, are they getting value out of the Watkins contract (who by the way is currently the 4th highest paid WR in the NFL)? Unlikely.

Watkins took a back seat in Los Angeles last year to Robert Woods (a former Buffalo teammate, of course) and Cooper Kupp, a rookie. He averaged less than 3 receptions and 40 yards per game last season, though did end up scoring 8 receiving TDs, a team high.

Added in to the fact that he has not played a full season since his rookie year in Buffalo also makes the terms of his contract quite scary. I can see why Kansas City wanted his services to help relieve some coverage on Hill and Kelce, but i do think there were better options out there for them. Albert WIlson, now a Miami Dolphin, could have gotten more involved in the offence, though his price tag paid by Miami of $8m a year average maybe felt too costly for the team. I think someone like a Terrelle Pryor or even a Codarelle Patterson could’ve fit into this team for a snip of the price of Sammy Watkins, so it may just be that Kansas think that they are a SuperBowl ready “win now” team. With Watkins’s favourite (or most effective) routes being the Nine or the Slant, you have to wonder what difference he will make when you have Tyreek on the other side doing exactly the same thing.

Allen Robinson, who agreed to terms with Chicago before Sammy to the Chiefs, must’ve seen they news of Sammy’s contract and thought that he missed out on some more money.

The Chicago bears are investing in the hopes that Robinson reaches his ceiling of 2015 where he had 1400 receiving yards and 14TDs, a number that seems unbelievable considering Blake Bortles was throwing him the ball.

Robinson exited the 2017 season after his first catch with a ACL tear. Nowadays, these aren’t as scary as they used to be and players are able to return to full health. HE has now become the joint 9th highest paid WR alongside Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.

The only thing stopping Robinson having a stellar year is his signal-caller, Mitch Trubisky. If he does not take a step forward this year (he’ll have the opportunity to with John Fox out of the way), then Allen Robinson will probably be quite frustrated in Chicago. That Said, the Chicago Bears have had a complete overhaul of their team; Taylor Gabriel, the big play speedster from Atlanta joining him along with talented SuperBowl QB  TE Trey Burton. They have splashed most of the cash as anyone has in Free agency this year and there is a lot of excitement in Illinois. Don’t aboard the hype train just yet as this will all come down to Trubisky, who will have no excuses this year if he falls flat on his face (Chase Daniel is the backup if things get that bad FYI). Chicago of course already have the running game in place with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen so you have to assume that the Bears will be looking for somewhere near a winning record this year, if not challenging for the division next year, though their defence, also revamped,  will likely be the key to a winning record (and its going to be hard to topple their division rivals Vikings, Packers and Lions).

Fantasy Impact: The ranges of outcomes for these 2 are quite vast. I think i am going to trust that Trubisky makes enough of a step forward to help support Robinson having a good season. I’m thinking somewhere in the region of 85-90 receptions for Robinson (lets not forget the Bears could engage in quite a few shootouts this year), over 1000 yards and maybe pushing for double digit touchdowns (I’ll settle for 8 or 9).

Again Sammy Watkins could be absolutely anything this year. I think he’ll have an above average season in the scheme of things, but will be very much boomk of bust so he may be one for your best ball leagues. I cant see him, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all consistently producing big numbers each game. For Sammy I’ll go 50-55ish receptions, 800 yards and 6 TDs, which is a slight increase on the departed ALbert Wilson’s numbers from last year (yes, I am aware Alex Smith has left KC).


Those 2 were the main movers of Free Agency, but we now move on to the most surprising move in my opinion, with Jarvis Landry beefing up the Browns receiving core.

The Browns picked up the franchise tag of Jarvis Landry from Miami which just blows my mind. Landry last year had an average reception of 8.8 yards. He had over 100 receptions (112) and still managed to post a yardage total under a 1000 for the season. Moving from a team where he was force fed the ball, to a team where they have other weapons available (and probably just as talented in Josh Gordon and eventually David Njoku) and are unlikely to throw as much as Miami did last season. Whilst i think this is a good football move for the Browns, albeit overprice, this absolutely stinks for Fantasy Football. I envisage that Landry will be the “move the chains kind of receiver”, with few long routes and will possibly still be a force in PPR leagues, I am not touching him in standard scoring. The size of the pie is not big and Landry will at most have a third of it. Whilst I think the Browns will score more points this year and have more redzone opportunities, those targets could go to Gordon, Njoku, Duke Johnson and maybe even Coleman whilst some of them will also be rushing attempts with Carlos Hyde joining the ranks. Jarvis Landry is receiving Sammy Watkins type money and if i were a betting man which player will post a big fantasy score this year, all my money is on Watkins, despite what I’ve said about him above. The Browns have become the trendy team to watch next year with the wholesale changes in the offence and lets not forget the draft in 4 weeks time will add to the excitement that finally, in 2018, they’ll win more than the 1 game that they’ve won in the past 2 seasons.

The outcome of ranges with the Browns this year are certainly more optimistic than more recent seasons, and i see them getting to potentially 6 or 7, if all are able to gel. They have the O-Line and defence to boot too, so watch this space, they could be following the same path as Jacksonville, a previous laughing stock of the NFL before the Browns.

Fantasy Impact: Landry will continue his trend line of around 9 yards per reception and will be more a real life impact player, helping Cleveland sustain drives and convert 3rd downs. I think once they get in the redzone, others will take over. 75 receptions, 700 yards, 5TDs would be my idea of his 2018 season.


I’ll wrap most of the other deals that occurred in Free Agency (there are a lot!) but before that, just wanted to mention that if you’ve been living under a rock during free agency, a bit of sympathy for Ryan Grant;

Put pen to paper on a lucrative and simply mind boggling 4 year, $29m deal with the Ravens before “failing” his physical and thus, deeming the contract null and void. He has now end up on the Colts with a 1 year, $5m deal. That’s like going to buy a 5 bedroom house and getting a shed from Ikea. Still, I’m sure he wont be doing much to earn that $5m this year anyway filling Donte Moncrief’s dusty boots. This seems to be all down to the fact that Michael Crabtree was cut from the Raiders and funnily enough went on to sign with Ravens (what a coincidence!) on a 3 year, $21m deal. I mean, it doesn’t look great for Baltimore the way it was handled, but eventually they got what they wanted. Crabtree will be very much a possession guy for Flacco, but it is still a team in much disarray. My opinion is that they will be picking in the top 6 or 7 of next years draft.

Staying with Baltimore a quick note on Mike Wallace, who has agreed to a 1 year deal with Philadelphia, who replaces the outgoing Torrey Smith, who packed his bags for Carolina. Wallace will be replaced by John Brown, who could be of sneaky value if guaranteeing health in 2018.

Fantasy Impact: Wallace will be nice compliment to the Eagles team, offering the home run threat on the outside opposite Jeffrey. Could potentially be quite dangerous if Wentz rediscovers 2017 form. Torrey Smith will get around 40-50 receptions and be a useful addition to the offence helping draw some coverage away from Devin Funchess. Michael Crabtree will easily see a decent size of the pie in Baltimore. Unfortunately it’s neither a very big pie or a nice tasting one. Looking at around 70 receptions, 750 yards and 6 TDS. John Brown 40 rec, 600 yards, 3 TDs.


Moving to America’s Team, Dallas who signed not 1 but 2 WR in Free agency.

First Deonte Thompson, who was bought in on a 1 year deal, but Allen Hurns is the name that catches the eye. He’ll not be getting the 88 jersey from Dez and interesting fact, he is actually allergic to grass. Luckily Dallas play on artificial turf.

Hurns’ breakout season came in 2015, 64 rec for over 1000 yards and 10 TDs (same season as Allen Robinson’s monster year) for which he was rewarded with a 4 year, $40m deal. the 2 following seasons were somewhat underwhelming but I wouldn’t read too much in to that (see above – Blake Bortles). Dallas can thank the New York snowstorm for the signing, as he was meant to be visiting the Jets first (and probably would’ve given him more money). I would assume Hurns takes Terrence Williams’ no.2 spot.

Allen Hurns’ departure from Jacksonville saw him replaced by Donte Moncrief, who signed a fully guaranteed 1 year deal and Marqise Lee re-signed a monster 4 year, $34m contract. Jacksonville also signed New York Jets TE Austin Sefarain-Jenkins to replaced released long time player Marcedes Lewis. I don’t think we need to spend on more time here.

Fantasy Impact: In the grand scheme of things, Dallas will still remain a run first offence, but with Dez needing help as he ages, Hurns could have the opportunity to be a good real life addition to the team, if nothing else. I am not interested in anything Jacksonville’s passing game has to offer. Crowded WR group and Blake Bortles. No thanks.


The last few notable signings at the time of writing (lovely late Sunday afternoon 25th March) saw former superbowl winning WR Danny Amendola depart, but staying within the AFC east to join the Dolphins in a deal similar to Allen Hurns (2yr $12m), which was a very interesting move considering the fallout. Amendola’s partner Olviia Culpo obviously didn’t like the move as they seem to have gone separate ways (turning in to TMZ here). As mentioned above, he joins Albert Wilson, who got a inflated deal of 3yrs, $24m and moves over from Kansas City.

Terrelle Pryor to the Jets is a low risk, potentially high reward if able to capture his Cleveland Browns form and gives Josh McCown a big Body to target as it seems likely Robby Anderson will miss a significant part of the 2018 season.

Terrelle Pryor out, Paul Richardson in for the Redskins. Richardson had a nice year in Seattle last year, signs a massive 5yr, $40m deal.

Jordy Nelson to Raiders scratched a few heads and it seems that new coach Jon Gruden didn’t travel in time with us whilst in the commentary box. (also picked up Doug Martin to back up Marshawn Lynch). Jordy Nelson is essentially and older Michael Crabtree.

This certainly signals to me that Amari Cooper is being trusted with being the #1 in Oakland, lets just hope for all their fans he doesn’t replicate last season and has got all of those drops out of his system. There is a potential that it all goes terribly wrong for the soon to be Las Vegas Raiders. Carr needs to take a few steps forward and the run game needs to be sustained. One thing is for sure, the Seattle Seahawks vs Oakland Raiders game looked a lot better on paper a year ago. Now it could be just 2 spluttering offences in a terrible game (Jaguars vs Eagles on the other hand…).

Fantasy Impact:

Danny Amendola could pick up a decent workload replacing Landry in a like for like swap. I would assume that Miami will be a bottom 5 offence however and may be only useful in PPR formats. I would expect all Miami receivers to be hit and miss in each game this season, making it difficult to predict on a weekly basis who will step up and be the leader. Wouldn’t say no to taking a dart throw and Amendola as he will likely be the last of the 3 (including Parker and Stills) to go in drafts, probably in the last round.

Terrelle Pryor will be another late round dart throw considering his shocking performances last year but could be one for the sleeper lovers, especially if Anderson misses time (does anyone remember Quincy Enunwa?)

Jordy Nelson is another candidate for PPR lovers but the name will ensure that he will go way overpriced in drafts. Slow, injury prone and joining a team that doesn’t have Aaron Rodgers as his QB. I’ll pass.

Players that are still free agents likely to find teams include Eric Decker, Brice Butler, Jeremy Maclin and Dontrelle Inman. Slim Pickings.

Whilst it’s slim pickings in FA this year for WR (why else would Sammy Watkins get that kind of deal?) lets look at the winners and losers from the WR Free Agency Class;

Winners:

Sammy Watkins – Massive deal, helped by a lacking WR depth

Jarvis Landry – Massive money move, where he wont be used as much compared to Miami.

Chicago Bears – revamped offence, John Fox gone… the clouds the limit.

Losers:

Oakland – Swapping Michael Crabtree for Jordy Nelson, essentially suggesting that your Franchise relies upon Amari Cooper to catch the ball?? High risk in a tough division.

Miami Dolphins – Lose their most talented player and replace him with Amendola. Whilst that’s not too much of a hit, considering the state of the QBs there, this is likely to cause all WRs in Miami a tough season ahead.

Best WR moves in Free agency for Fantasy:

Allen Robinson – He’ll be the main guy in this offensive attack. As long as Mitch can step forward, should be able to produce a good season.

Mike Wallace – could be a sneaky late round dart in best ball. High scoring offence assured. Get a piece of the pie.

Marqise Lee – only slightly cheating here but with Robinson gone, Lee (who re signs) seems to be their main guy, replacing Robinson with Moncrief. Crowded WR group there with Bortles throwing the ball.

Worst WR moves in Free agency for Fantasy:

Jarvis Landry – no longer the PPR stud of old, moves in to a not so heavy passing team with lots of competition for targets

Jordy Nelson – only putting him here as he downgrade to the Oakland offence and he will be way overvalued in drafts where managers don’t pay too much attention to anything other than name. Let someone else take him too early in the 4th or 5th Round.

Michael Crabtree – not so much for PPR but Baltimore aren’t an efficient team and god know what’s going on there. Wouldn’t be so bad if you are in a league where you get a point for PI calls :).

 

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