It feels like this is the time of the year where the average Joe fantasy owner starts to say things like, ‘wait, Sammy Watkins plays for the Chiefs now?’ Getting caught up with all of the moves in free agency, trades, and the later rounds of the draft can be exhausting.
This article covers 20 moves that will have an immediate impact on fantasy football this regular season.
Kirk Cousins to Minnesota
This was obviously the big move that changed the shape of the QB landscape this offseason. Cousins to Minnesota, Bradford to Arizona, Keenum to Denver, McCarron to Buffalo, McCown to the Jets… all expected to start. Cousins is a huge upgrade to a team that was pretty well set at every other position. They need to get and keep Cook healthy, but have very few questions on this roster aside from that.
Sam Bradford to Arizona
Bradford appears to be the bridge to Josh Rosen. His health will clearly determine how long he holds onto the job. It is hard to imagine him playing poorly enough to lose the job to the rookie, so as long as his body holds up we expect Bradford to be the guy in Arizona. He has a nice arsenal of weapons around him with David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brice Butler, JJ Nelson, Christian Kirk, and Ricky Seals-Jones. Mike McCoy is guiding this offense, and we think they could be one of the surprise units in the NFL this season. Obviously you can expect a complete bounce back from Johnson who missed last season with a wrist injury.
Case Keenum to Denver
We are less sold on this move than the first two QB signings. As off as Trevor Siemian looked at the start of last season, it only got worse once Bill Musgrave took over. Denver had an identity under Kubiak and need to get back to some sort of identity this season. If Keenum can find any resemblance of the success he had at Minnesota it should be a big year for Thomas and Sanders.
Dion Lewis to Tennessee
Lewis will be part of a two headed committee in Tennessee this season, and is likely going to be the Titans back to own. While Henry will get the short yardage and goal line work, we expect Lewis to get all of the passing down work, and to at the very least rotate series with Henry. Lewis is also very clearly the better fit for what Matt LaFleur did with Gurley in Los Angeles.
Isaiah Crowell to Jets
All Crowell did was produce in Cleveland… he averaged just under 4.5 ypc on a team that was always trailing and could never throw the ball. He will be the feature back in New York for what was a fairly mediocre rushing attack again last season. That being said, the Jets run game finished on a tear and were in the top 10 in rushing ypg over the last three and top five in yards per attempt. Combine that productivity with Crowell’s proven early-down efficiency and he could be a nice mid round sleeper this season.
LeGarrette Blount to Lions
We mention Blount here, but it’s really the sequence of moves that the Lions made that should have Blount owners excited this fantasy season. It starts with Frank Ragnow, who we believe will be a perenial pro bowler and the best lineman in this season’s draft class. They then drafted Kerryeon Johnson in the second round, which should ensure that Blount runs hard all season as his replacement is already on the roster. The Lions averaged under 3.5 YPC last season… Blount averaged 3.5 yards after contact. That is a big, big deal in Detroit.
Rex Burkhead Resigns with Pats
I don’t think Burkhead resigns with the Pats if he doesn’t have a significant role in their plans for this season. We know the best man tends to play in New England, and one would assume that would be Sony Michel, but you just don’t see Belichick trusting rookie running backs. He didn’t trust White until the end of year two, and look how well he has fit in as the 3rd down back here. I think Burkhead will hold onto some sort of role this season, and be a real thorn in the sides of Michel owners.
Jarvis Landry to Cleveland
Cleveland made a series of very solid moves this offseason, and picking up the best slot receiver in the league was certainly one of them. Landry’s value is somewhat directly tied to the play of Tyrod Taylor, but with Air Gordon and Corey Coleman on the outsides, he should find plenty of space to work over the middle. With a solid offensive line and stable of backs, this could be a fairly potent Browns offense this season.
Allen Robinson to Chicago
This article will focus on the free agent signings we saw in Chicago this offseason, but I have to start by mentioning two other additions that are really important: Matt Nagy and Anthony Miller. Nagy is going to bring in his RPO offense that resurrected Alex Smith’s career, and he’s doing so with a QB that was born to run RPO’s and a set of weapons that he has hand picked for this system. That includes Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton. Anthony Miller is a nightmare to cover, Trey Burton is an extremely athletic tight end, Gabriel will be asked to be the deep threat, and I think Robinson is the go-to move-the-sticks possession receiver.
Sammy Watkins to Kansas City
The majority of NFL fans view Sammy as being an injury-prone bust, and don’t realize just how talented this guy is. He was the most efficient deep route pass catcher in the history of the league through the first few seasons of his career, but didn’t get to play with a solid QB until a trade well into August sent him to LA last season. Finally healthy and while he may not have the QB we would choose for him ust yet, what he does have is Andy Reid and a full offense to get integrated into this offense. If Reid and Mahomes figure out how to get the best out of Sammy he may return to form which is a scary thought.
Jordy Nelson to Oakland
Speaking of efficient deep route pass catchers, Jordy Nelson to Oakland is going to be an interesting move to watch pan out this season. The argument that he was only elite thanks to Rodgers may not be settled because he is in one phenomenal situation stepping in for Michael Crabtree, playing alongside of Cooper, catching passes from a pro bowl QB in Derek Carr. We expect Nelson to at least produce at a Crabtree-like level this season.
Allen Hurns to Dallas
By now you have heard that with Dez out, the Cowboys fully expect Allen Hurns to step in and be their number one receiver this season. It is a role that Bryant couldn’t produce in over the past couple seasons so don’t set expectations too high. That being said, the schedule is somewhat favorable and this should be a high octane offense once again this season. With Witten also moving on, the big body Hurns could become Dak’s favorite red zone target this season.
Michael Crabtree to Baltimore
Crabtree moves to Baltimore where he will seemingly take over the #1 WR duties, and will play alongside fellow newcomers Willie Snead and John Brown. We all know Flacco is capable of a 4,000+ yard season, and that Marty Mornhinweg is capable of coaching a prolific offense, but is this the year that the two put it all together? If so, Crabtree could put up some big numbers as the top dog in this passing game, but we wouldn’t bet the house on it. Expect average numbers, from an average receiver, playing on an average offense.
Jordan Matthews to Patriots
It feels like New England teases us with a free agent receiver every season, and every season they just end up throwing it to the same guys they did the year before. Matthews feels like a good fit, and may very well end up being one of the biggest steals in this season’s fantasy draft, but it’s so risky as he could just as likely get cut. With Edelman, Hogan, Dorsett, Mitchel, and Britt back and Patterson also added to the roster, this is going to be a tough WR corps to find a spot in the rotation in.
Jimmy Graham to Green Bay
This is a move that fantasy owners would be gushing over just three seasons ago, but that enthusiasm was destroyed by Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett. Neither guy could even come close to replicating the success that Richard Rodgers had at the position in 2015. That being said, Graham is clearly more talented than Cook or Bennett, and has actually not missed a game over the past two seasons. He’s averaged over 9 touchdowns per season over the past 7 years, and we expect him to have a double digit scoring season this year.
Trey Burton to Chicago
Burton is an absolute perfect fit for the RPO that we mentioned earlier. People are going to throw around Kelce comparisons this offseason, and while I don’t think he will be that productive, I do believe he will finish as a top 10 tight end this year.
Eric Ebron to Indianapolis
Eric Ebron is everything that Jack Doyle is not, and that is not a compliment. He drops easy passes, can’t block, doesn’t seem to have a tremendous work ethic… we could go on and on, but you get the point. He will show flashes of that elite athleticism that made him a top 10 pick, but it’s just a tease. Andrew Luck can’t rely on him and neither can you.
Nate Solder to NY Giants
We aren’t going to say too much about about the lineman on this page, but all three of these guys are game changing pickups. Eli has needed a LT like Solder for years, and will finally get to trust that his blind side is safe this season. How many times have we seen Manning nearly decapitated by a guy coming around his left side over the past few seasons? Solder is going to be a huge pickup for Manning, OBJ, and Saquon.
Justin Pugh to Arizona
The Cardinals are paying a very capable yet very breakable QB $40 million over the next two seasons, and if he goes down the future of the franchise will be stepping in. Either way they need to protect their investment and adding Justin Pugh will help to do just that.
Andrew Norwell to Jacksonville
This was a big, big deal for Jacksonville. The Jags somehow managed to run away from the rest of the league in rushing YPG without even decent guard play. Norwell was one of the better guards in the league last season, and will immediately improve what was already the best rushing attack in the league.