While the rest of the sports world has been forced to shut down, the NFL continues to provide plenty of news. NFL Free Agency began on Monday and there was no shortage of opening day moves. Here I will be breaking down what each move (trades included) means for Fantasy Football!
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Fantasy Impact of NFL Free Agency Day 1
Texans trade DeAndre Hopkins and a 4th-round pick to Cardinals for David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth round pick
What it Means for David Johnson
Of course the big news of the day has nothing to do with NFL free agency. But, oh boy, there is a lot to unpack here. First, let’s start with the David Johnson side of things. Johnson had a very strange 2019 season, averaging 20.22 fantasy points per game on 102.2 scrimmage yards per game and an average of 17.7 touches and 6.8 targets per game in the first six weeks of the season. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 7 and was replaced in the starting lineup by Kenyan Drake. In fact, Johnson failed to play over 50 percent of the snaps in any game after Week 6 and played less than 30 percent in five of the final seven weeks. The truth of the matter is Johnson did not just see less opportunity after Week 6, but he was just simply not himself. David Johnson reached 15.8+ MPH as a ball carrier on 15 plays this season, with just one of those coming after Week 6 (he reached 16.6 MPH in Week 10). He reached 18+ MPH just three times in 2019, once in Week 1 (20.8 MPH his fastest play of the season) and then again in Week 5 (18.4 MPH) and Week 3 (18.2 MPH). That was down significantly from 2018 when Johnson reached over 18 MPH 10 times. The big question here is: was Johnson hampered by the ankle injury, or is he simply slowing down? He is 28 years old and has a pretty lengthy injury history.
How would he fit with the Texans? The good news is that Houston ran the ball 42.7 percent of the time in 2019, the 10th-most in the NFL. Over the last three seasons, they’ve run the ball 44 percent of the time, the seventh-most in the league. While they will have a new offensive coordinator in Tim Kelly, but he is a first-time coordinator whose entire NFL experience is under Bill O’Brien, so I would not expect a ton of changes. That doesn’t bode well for Johnson in the passing game, as Deshaun Watson attempted just 4.7 passes per game to RBs in 2019, which ranked 41st among QBs. His career norm is 4.5. We didn’t see a large jump even after the Texans went out and acquired pass-catching specialist Duke Johnson, who is still on the roster in 2020. Johnson will see enough volume to warrant being drafted as an RB2, likely in the RB13-18 range, but I would not be surprised if people once again chase that 2016 season. If they do and he goes higher than that, let someone else have him. The Twitter-world prefers his Cardinals replacement, Kenyan Drake over him:
Who would you rather in #FantasyFootball?
— Michael F. Florio (@MichaelFFlorio) March 16, 2020
What this means for DeAndre Hopkins and Others Involved
DeAndre Hopkins remains one of the top receivers in the league and the move to Arizona does nothing to hurt that. First, he is going to a pass-heavier offense, believe it or not. Even with Watson and the pass-catchers surrounding him, the Texans only threw the ball 57.3 percent of the time, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. The Cardinals, on the other hand, passed on 60.4 percent of plays, the 12th most in the NFL. And that was with both a rookie QB and head coach.
Hopkins will take over as the unquestioned number 1 in this offense, with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk now playing more of a complementary role. Hopkins has put up 1,100+ receiving yards in five of his past six seasons and has scored double digit touchdowns in three of the last five years. In fact, his 1,183 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2019 would be considered a down season. He still possesses the upside to finish as the top wide receiver in the NFL. In fantasy drafts he should remain a top five receiver off the board. I would play it safe and take Michael Thomas and Davante Adams over him, but after that I think he is right there in the discussion with Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones.
The two QBs involved in this trade will also be debated all spring and summer long. I originally had Watson as my QB3 and Murray as my QB4 (which people thought was early). But now I am expecting the two to flip-flop and be the consensus. The twitter world seems to agree:
Who would you draft first? #FantasyFootball
— Michael F. Florio (@MichaelFFlorio) March 16, 2020
The biggest winner of the trade is Will Fuller V, who we already know can stretch the field with the best of them. He should now be the top target in this offense, for however many games his hamstrings allow. He has seen double-digit targets in just four of his 42 career games. In his 11 career games with eight-or-more targets he has averaged 21.34 fantasy PPG on 97.3 receiving yards per game. He averaged 156 air yards per game in those weeks. I can’t guarantee 16 games, or even six, but when he is healthy he will certainly be plenty productive. His health concerns will keep the ADP down, but I suspect he will go in the round five or six range. His upside is matched by few.
The Texans tried to replace Hopkins, by signing Randall Cobb to a 3-year/$27-million dollar deal. That is not cheap. Cobb will man the slot with Fuller and Stills running the outside. Fuller will be the top option, but Stills and Cobb will both get work. They are more bench depth at this point, but Stills carries upside, especially given Fuller’s health concerns.
Stefon Diggs Traded to Buffalo for a 2020 First, Fifth, Sixth and 2021 Fourth Round Pick
The Vikings got way more for Stefon Diggs than the Texans got for Hopkins. Still, the Bills got the WR1 they needed.
The big winner of this trade is Josh Allen who now has Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary around him. Allen is safely a Top 10 QB due to his rushing ability, but he has a Top 5 ceiling due to the weapons around him. The losers of this trade are the pass-catchers on the Bills. This is another mouth to feed on a team that will still look to run the ball and rely on their defense. Last year the Bills passed the ball 54.3 percent of the time, which ranked 26th in the NFL. Allen’s career game-high in passing yards is 266, and while we will likely see him surpass that this season, I wouldn’t bank on that being the norm. Diggs is on that border of being a low-end WR2 and a high-end WR3. Brown is now a WR4 for me, while Beasley is merely a late-round reserve player. Knox has upside, but his volume concerns make him a TE2.
This trade also impacts the Vikings. They will surely add a receiver whether it be in free agency or the draft, or both. But, the clear cut top option here is Adam Thielen, who is a high-end WR2 with upside. Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith also gain a boost but remain outside the Top 12 tight ends. Kirk Cousins is a QB2 for me, due to the Vikings run-heavy offense. Dalvin Cook remains super safe.
Austin Hooper to the Browns
It didn’t take long for the best tight end available to find a home. Hooper landed on the Browns on a four-year, $44-million-dollar contract. Hooper was actually the top point scorer (154.8) in fantasy PPG (17.2) among tight ends through 10 weeks. He did so on just 7.4 targets per game, which is good because there will be other mouths to feed in Cleveland.
He already had plenty of competition for targets in Atlanta, with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Now he will be dealing with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. It is hard to hold this against Baker Mayfield since he was dealing without his starting tight end last year, but he only attempted 4.3 passes per game to tight ends, which ranked 40th in the NFL. He averaged 6.7 passes per game to tight ends in his rookie season. Matt Ryan averaged 7.3 passes per game to TEs in 2019, and 6.2 per game over the last three years.
Hooper will be a popular tight end pick again, but I do expect people to be reluctant to buy back into the Browns offense after last year’s dumpster fire. Still, Hooper is currently my TE6 behind Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews. Him and Hunter Henry are a very interesting debate as well.
Falcons Replace Austin Hooper, Cut Devonta Freeman
The Falcons wasted no time finding a new tight end as they traded a 2020 second-round pick and a fifth-round pick for Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick. Hurst is a former first-round pick who was surpassed by Mark Andrews on the Ravens depth chart last season. Still, he is a big-bodied tight end with pretty good speed. His 40-yard dash time (4.67) ranked in the 80th percentile among tight ends. He may not be Hooper, but he will certainly have a role in this offense. That role is likely as the third target (at best) behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. There will be excitement around Hurst as the Hooper replacement, and I expect him to go as an early TE2 in fantasy drafts. He is currently my TE17.
As for Freeman, his value will all depend on where he ends up. If he can land on a fun roster like the Chiefs, he would immediately be back in the RB2 discussion. If he ends up on a team that already has a lead back, like say the Chargers, or a team with a bad offense, like the Dolphins, he would be a borderline RB2, but more likely just flex option. Freeman has not played a full season since 2016 and has seen his efficiency drop. Much of his fantasy value is tied to where he ends up signing.
Amari Cooper Signs 5-Year/$100-million Deal with Cowboys
The Cowboys pulled back their own man from NFL free agency. Amari Cooper finished as the WR10 in 2019 and should be valued as a WR1 now that he is remaining with the Cowboys. He and Michael Gallup make a nice one-two punch and as long as Dak Prescott does not hold out, the offense should keep on clicking. Cooper is a backend WR1.
Other NFL Activity
Jimmy Graham and the Bears agreed to a 2-year/$16-million with the Bears. He is a low upside TE2… Marcus Mariota signed with the Oakland Raiders. He is likely brought in to push Derek Carr and serve as a high-end backup, but there is a chance he “Tannehill’s” Carr.
Fantasy Relevant Franchise Tagged Players
DAL: Dak Prescott (exclusive)
CIN: A.J. Green
TEN: Derrick Henry
LAC: Hunter Henry
Not much changes here. Dak Prescott remains my QB5, especially with Amari Cooper back in Dallas. As long as there is no hold out that is … A.J. Green will not get to test NFL free agency as hoped. Whichever QB the Bengals take at one, presumptively Joe Burrow will have plenty of weapons around him now with Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Joe Mixon. Still, Green should likely be drafted as a low-end WR2. He has played 11+ games in one of his last four seasons. He has topped 1,000 yards just once and his receiving yards per game certainly took a big hit, being below 78 per game in his last two healthy seasons. He will be playing with a rookie QB as well and has other weapons around him… Derrick Henry will be coming into a very favorable situation if he accepts the franchise tag and does not hold out for a long-term deal. That seems unlikely, given the big money he said he would be asking for in NFL free agency. We will have to monitor this situation but if Henry does not hold out he will be a first-round pick and I will be lower on him than most due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. Although the Titans did cut Dion Lewis which could help if the Titans actually give Henry a chance as a pass-catcher… Hunter Henry remains one of the most physically gifted tight ends in the NFL, but his health continues to plague him. He is currently my TE7, but much of his value is tied into who ends up being the Chargers signal-caller in 2020.
Make sure to follow me on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio and check out my full archive here on FantraxHQ.
Check back all week for more fantasy fallout as the NFL Free Agency scene unfolds.
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