As is the case every year, free agency has picked the NFL up like a snow globe, shaken the league repeatedly, then watched as players fell onto different rosters.
There are still plenty of deals to be signed in the coming days, but let’s take a look at the early moves that will have the biggest impact on fantasy owners next season.
Eagles remake their receiving corps
Regardless of your assessment of Carson Wentz, the Eagles couldn’t send him out for his sophomore season with Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor playing significant roles in the passing game. Enter Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, who will join Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz to form a suddenly impressive receiving group in Philadelphia.
Smith will provide a new deep threat for the offense, but isn’t likely to be a consistent fantasy producer. Jeffery, however, becomes an intriguing option. After being limited to 21 games over the last two seasons due to injuries and a suspension, it’s easy to forget that Jeffery averaged 87 receptions, 1,277 yards, and 8.5 touchdowns per season from 2013 to 2014. Matthews’ time as the Eagles’ top target is over, get ready for Jeffery to restore his value as a quality WR2 for fantasy owners.
Jeffery’s Projected WR Finish: WR16
Giants find a friend for Beckham
The Giants desperately needed another playmaker in their passing game, and Brandon Marshall is a perfect complement to Odell Beckham Jr. Marshall, who has matured considerably over his 11 NFL seasons, will provide stability across from OBJ, while helping to mentor both Beckham and promising sophomore Sterling Shepard.
This is Marshall’s fifth team, but the veteran pass catcher tends to be extra motivated in his first season with a new club, topping 100 catches, 1,500 yards, and 11 touchdowns in his debut campaigns with the Bears and Jets. While the soon-to-be 33-year-old isn’t likely to replicate that type of elite production, fantasy owners should have their sights set on Marshall as a low-end WR2/high-end WR3.
Marshall’s Projected WR Finish: WR27
DeSean heads South
DeSean Jackson‘s arrival in Tampa Bay gives Jameis Winston his best collection of weapons since he entered the league, but the player who will profit the most is Mike Evans, who should capitalize on the space opened up by having a legitimate deep threat in the offense.
Jackson had a strong stretch run in 2016, with four 100-yard games in his last six outings, but he tends to be a boom or bust fantasy starter week to week. Free agent signings who make headlines often see their draft values inflated come August, so keep your expectations in check with Jackson. He’s an excellent WR3, capable of winning you a few weeks, just not someone you want to rely on as a steady contributor.
Jackson’s Projected WR Finish: WR33
Woodhead catches on with Ravens
Kenneth Dixon had a chance to emerge as a lead back in Baltimore, but that’s an unlikely scenario now that he’ll be suspended four games and forced to share the backfield with Danny Woodhead, in addition to Terrance West. Woodhead will be handling the passing duties and has a history of stealing goal-line work.
While Woodhead’s value in PPR leagues should remain high, fantasy owners who avoid running backs in the early rounds of standard drafts should give a long look to Woodhead, who will have added value over the first month with Dixon sidelined. Coming off a serious injury, the 32-year-old is still a threat to eclipse 1,000 total yards with his dynamic combination of rushing and receiving skills.
Woodhead’s Projected RB Finish: RB32 (Standard), RB19 (PPR)
Garcon goes cross country
We don’t know who’ll be throwing passes in San Francisco this year (Brian Hoyer is the clubhouse leader, Kirk Cousins trade rumors persist), but Pierre Garcon is in line to be the 49ers’ No. 1 receiver after leaving the dysfunction in Washington behind. With the volume of use he could see on a team that will likely be in catch-up mode more often than not, Garcon has sneaky low-end WR2 potential for 2017.
Garcon has topped 70 catches in three of the last four seasons, including a career-high 113 receptions, 1,346 yards, and five touchdowns in 2013 when his new coach Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator in Washington. A lot can change in four years, but the 31-year-old Garcon isn’t dependent on his speed, giving him a better chance to remain effective well into his 30s.
Garcon’s Projected WR Finish: WR25
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