The first fortnight of NFL free agency is complete, and fantasy football owners are left with their heads spinning. With over 200 free agents signed already, the power of the fantasy football landscape has shifted considerably. Here are current winners and losers among NFL teams in free agency during the month of March.
NFL Free Agency: Fantasy Football Winners and Losers
The 49ers ended the season with five consecutive wins to finish 6-10. With franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo now under center, San Francisco attacked free agency early and often. They upgraded the offensive line by signing 26-year-old Weston Richburg to a five-year, $47.5 million contract. Then, they traded former center Daniel Kilgore to Miami. Richburg only played four games last season before suffering a concussion. He was then placed on injured reserve, despite his assertion he was medically cleared to play. This should be an upgrade for San Francisco, as Kilgore ranked as the 23rd overall best center by ProFootballFocus. Despite losing veteran running back Carlos Hyde, the 49ers brought in Workout Metrics phenom Jerick McKinnon on a four-year, $30 million deal. As per PlayerProfiler, McKinnon ranks in the 91st percentile or better in 40-Yard Dash, Speed Score, Burst Score, Agility Score, and Bench Press. He will assume the dominant fantasy role that Devonta Freeman enjoyed under head coach Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta.
Looks like Jerick McKinnon might get his shot as a No. 1 back in San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/t8Gno8inGN
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) March 14, 2018
All the Browns did in free agency was give up a third-round draft pick to acquire a starting quarterback. Tyrod Taylor is the best Cleveland quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2004. Taylor is still just 28 years old and actually found a way to make the Pro Bowl in 2015 with limited offensive weapons in Buffalo. He will be under center for a Cleveland offense filled with explosive options. Cleveland now boasts a receiving corps of Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, and Jarvis Landry who has made the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons. The Browns have one of the most athletic tight ends in David Njoku, who is still just 21 years old. They also solidified the running back position by signing Carlos Hyde to a three-year, $15 million contract to join talented satellite back Duke Johnson. If Cleveland can just bolster their offensive line to help ease the retirement of Joe Thomas, fantasy owners should find tremendous value at all skill positions in the Browns offense.
CBS alert: "Cleveland Browns have the most improved Super Bowl odds in the NFL after week 1 of free agency."
Me, an intellectual: pic.twitter.com/f9SU8bO8Ps
— John Kocsis Jr. (@JKocsis8) March 23, 2018
The Bears ranked 30th in the NFL in offensive yards per game in 2017, but have used free agency to ensure significant improvement. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky enters his second year with a myriad of new weapons at his disposal. The Bears signed Allen Robinson to a three-year, $42 million contract, giving them a legitimate number one receiving option. Chicago also brought in speedy Taylor Gabriel (four years, $26 million), and versatile tight end Trey Burton (four years, $32 million). New Chicago head coach Matt Nagy comes from Kansas City, where the Chiefs experienced huge success from a speed deep threat in Tyreek Hill and a great receiving tight end in Travis Kelce. With the athletic Cameron Meredith returning from ACL surgery, the Chicago offense was one of the big winners of the 2018 free agency period.
We go live to Mitchell Trubisky's fantasy stock with the additions of Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. pic.twitter.com/jau8EPX38m
— Kyle Robert (@NotoriousKRO) March 13, 2018
Last season’s NFC finalist needed to upgrade one position to be considered a free agent winner. Signing Kirk Cousins at quarterback to a three-year, $84 million contract accomplished that goal. The biggest fantasy boost will come from wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who will see an increase in deep ball opportunities. Per PlayerProfiler, Cousins ranked fifth among all quarterbacks with 69 deep ball attempts last season. While Minnesota did not re-sign McKinnon, they return Latavius Murray and the dynamic running back Dalvin Cook. Both Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph may see a slight decrease in fantasy production, but remain solid redraft selections. The Vikings can now look to bolster their offensive line via the draft.
So Vegas likes Kirk Cousins. Vikings at 8 to 1 to win Super Bowl. Eagles are 9 to 1. Big change after his signing pic.twitter.com/R3at9daWt7
— Mark Rosen (@WCCORosen) March 21, 2018
The Dolphins appear to be stockpiling assets without an overall plan. Trading Jarvis Landry to Cleveland cleared a potential $16 million franchise cap hit. However, the Dolphins then acquired two players to take his place in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. Wilson’s three-year, $24 million contract made sense. He has 4.43 40-Yard Dash speed and was a prolific receiver in college at Georgia State. Wilson’s 72.4 percent Contested Catch Rate ranked fourth among all wide receivers (PlayerProfiler). Investing two-years and $12 million in an injury-prone, 32-year-old Amendola, was simply redundant. The Dolphins also reworked quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s contract to free cap space. The six-year veteran is almost guaranteed to return as the starting quarterback in 2018. Finally, Miami brought 35-year old Frank Gore back home on a one-year contract and signed Brock Osweiler to back up Tannehill. There are a ton of fantasy options in Miami, but none are attractive fantasy football options.
the dolphins are going to dolphin. 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/IQLR9p3RJm
— the podfather (@Fantasy_Mansion) March 13, 2018
The losses keep mounting on both sides of the ball for the Seahawks. The Seattle front office clearly viewed the price tag to be too rich to re-sign wide receiver Paul Richardson (five year, $40 million in Washington) and tight end Jimmy Graham (three years, $30 million in Green Bay). However, the signing of 30-year-old Ed Dickson and the mediocre Jaron Brown represent a clear talent downgrade. At this poin,t the Seahawks have less offensive weapons than last season and still haven’t addressed their annual offensive line issues. For a team that finished last season ranked 27th in passing yards per game, that is a major problem. Can quarterback Russell Wilson really be expected to work fantasy magic yet again?
Top 5 Fantasy QB Finishes (2014-2017)
Russell Wilson: 3
Aaron Rodgers: 2
Tom Brady: 2
Andrew Luck: 2
Cam Newton: 2
Ben Roethlisberger: 1
Peyton Manning: 1
Blake Bortles: 1
Carson Palmer: 1
Matt Ryan: 1
Drew Brees: 1
Kirk Cousins: 1
Carson Wentz: 1
Alex Smith: 1
— 360°FantasyFootball (@360FFB) March 21, 2018
While signing 30-year-old Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal provides an immediate quarterback upgrade, it is reasonable to be skeptical of the journeyman’s career 2017 season. Keenum only ranked 15th in quarterback fantasy points per game, and Minnesota’s offense ranked 31st with an average of 192.4 passing yards per game. Keenum’s 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions was a huge outlier when compared to his 24 touchdowns and 20 interceptions totals of his prior five seasons. Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are over the age of 30, and starting running back C.J. Anderson‘s future status is unknown. The biggest concern in Denver should be the changes of their fellow AFC West teams. Kansas City added Sammy Watkins and has a new starting quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Oakland is now under the direction of new head coach Jon Gruden. Finally, the Chargers have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. John Elway will need a strong draft to keep the Broncos out of the basement in their own division. The key question is: will Denver take a quarterback with the fifth overall pick?
Case Keenum on if the Broncos draft a QB at No. 5: “I’ve been around long enough to know anything is a possibility… For me, it doesn’t change my mindset. It really doesn’t."
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensBSN) March 16, 2018