It’s been a wild week in the NFL as free agency has begun and players have swapped teams. This will have a big impact on the NFL’s 2021 season, and have major fantasy implications as well. Earlier this week I looked at the early moves on Monday and Tuesday, and today I continue to look at the big moves, specifically for fantasy.
That includes one of the biggest names at receiver coming off the board as Will Fuller V agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $10.625 million with the Miami Dolphins. This is a big addition for the Dolphins, who looked to bolster their offensive weapons. The team returns DeVante Parker at receiver, who led the team with 63 receptions for 793 yards and four TDs in 14 games.
Fuller had his best year with the Texans, suiting up for 11 games before a suspension for PEDs and 53 receptions for 878 yards and eight TDs. Fuller gives the Dolphins a weapon on the outside and a deep threat. The team also has Preston Williams at receiver, Mike Gesicki at tight end and figures to draft a top-end receiver. While Fuller’s signing is good for the Dolphins, I see it as a downgrade in fantasy, especially considering some of his other rumored landing places. Fuller is a WR4 for now.
Here’s a look at some other fantasy-relevant signings by position.
Three more veterans signed one-year deals. Tyrod Taylor signed with the Houston Texans, Jacoby Brissett went to the Miami Dolphins and Mitch Trubisky signed with the Buffalo Bills. All three figure to be veteran backups behind entrenched starters, which eliminates their fantasy value.
I thought Trubisky had potential to work into a starting role if he landed in the right spot. In Buffalo, behind Josh Allen, it would take a major injury to push him into a fantasy-relevant role. Of the three, Taylor may have the most immediate path to relevance. Deshaun Watson is a Texan right now, and a Top 5 option at the position. However, Watson requested a trade and if he’s moved, Taylor could be in the mix to be at least a bridge-starter in Houston. That would give him QB3 value.
The biggest signing is perhaps the most curious, as Kenyan Drake agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. Drake was traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals in 2019 and received the Cardinals’ franchise tag in 2020. He responded with a career year, rushing for 955 yards and 10 TDs. But it wasn’t the performance some expected, and he hit the market, landing with a team that has an entrenched starter at running back in Josh Jacobs.
Drake, however, has a different style and skill set. Drake also posted back-to-back 50 reception seasons in 2018 and 2019, giving him upside as a receiving option for the Raiders. But being in the same offense with Jacobs limits the upside of both for fantasy. Jacobs is now a low-end RB2, while Drake is an RB3/4. It’s a blow to those hoping Drake would find a feature position.
Other notable running back signings included former Packer Jamaal Williams signing with the Detroit Lions for two years and $7.5 million and Marlon Mack returning to the Colts for one year $2 million. Mack, coming off an Achilles injury, could be slow to return to form. It makes sense he’d come back to the Colts, the franchise where he was drafted and has played his whole career. Jonathan Taylor is the bell cow there, while Nyheim Hines is a good receiving back. Taylor is still an RB1 for me while Mack is a rotational player, at least for 2021. If he works back to health and shows flashes, he could land a more featured role in 2022.
Many fantasy owners were disappointed with the Williams signing as the Lions already have D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson in the backfield. Williams showed prowess as a runner and pass-catcher for the Packers, adding 505 rushing yards and two TDs, catching 31 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown. He is an RB4 for me and should be a nice football addition for the Lions. Swift remains an RB1 for me and I think he continues to get the majority of the snaps on offense. He’s talented and this team will need his explosiveness.
There were a number of interesting moves at receiver the past few days, with the biggest being Curtis Samuel agreeing to terms with the Washington Football Team on a three-year, $34.5 million contract. Samuel gives Washington a big weapon opposite Terry McLaurin, his former Ohio State teammate, and another weapon for newly signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Samuel finished as WR24 in 2020, catching 77 passes for 851 yards and three TDs, adding 200 yards rushing along with two more TDs. He’s a versatile weapon that could score for fantasy as well. I have him as a WR3 with WR2 potential, as we saw in 2020.
Another interesting signing was veteran A.J. Green, formerly of the Bengals, agreeing to a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cardinals. Green gives the Cardinals and Kyler Murray another weapon opposite star DeAndre Hopkins. Green caught 47 passes for 523 yards and two TDs in 2020, seeing 104 targets from the Bengals. Hopkins is a Top 5 receiver, but Green has been a decent weapon in the past. He’s a WR3 for me right now.
Former Lions’ receiver Marvin Jones agreed to a two-year, $12.5 million deal. Jones is a strong veteran receiver who finished as WR18 in 2020 with 76 receptions for 978 yards and nine TDs. D.J. Chark still figures to be the No. 1 option for the Jaguars, while Jones and Laviska Shenault will compete for targets. The offensive picture is still unsettled. I like Jones’ talent, but he’s a WR4 with upside for me right now.
Two veteran receivers signed one-year deals, as Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Buffalo Bills for $6 million and John Brown signed with the Las Vegas Raiders for $3.75 million. In Buffalo, Stefon Diggs is still a WR1 and the No. 1 option, while Sanders will mix in with veteran Cole Beasley and second-year pro Gabriel Davis. The signing makes the value for all three murky at the moment.
In Las Vegas, the Raiders have seen veterans Nelson Agholor and Tyrell Williams move on. Brown joins a group that is led by second-year receivers Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs. Brown still has talent and gas in the tank and could have WR4 appeal depending on the other moves the Raiders make.
The two biggest names on the market signed with New England, but a few veterans signed deals that could impact the fantasy landscape. Gerald Everett signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. Everett had 41 receptions for 417 and a touchdown splitting time with Tyler Higbee for the Rams in 2020. He gives Russell Wilson a new weapon in Seattle, but he’s a TE3 with upside for now.
Veteran Jared Cook signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers return tight end Donald Parham, and Cook figures to compete with Parham to replace Hunter Henry. Henry was TE12 in 2020, showing the potential for fantasy relevance at the position in this offense. For now, I lean toward Parham, but neither is more than a TE2 at this time.
Finally, Kyle Rudolph signed for two years, $16 million with the New York Giants. Rudolph spent his career with the Vikings, catching 28 passes for 334 yards and a TD in 2020. In New York, he joins a TE group that includes Evan Engram, TE15 in 2020. For fantasy, the signing lowers the value of both. Engram is still the better option, but is a low-end TE2.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.