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Fantasy Football Fallout: Brady, Rivers and Teddy Oh My!

I think sports fans across the country agree when I say: we are grateful for the NFL. With all other sports leagues on the shelf, the NFL has provided no shortness of entertainment the last couple of days. I wrote about how the Day 1 trades and signing will impact Fantasy Football and you can read that here. But the NFL still keeps providing league changing moves (Thanks Tom Brady). It may only be March, but I am sure you are already wondering how these moves will not only impact the players on the move, but also the players on the teams impacted. Do not worry, I got you covered!

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2020 NFL Free Agency Impact

Tom Brady to the Bucs

Tom Brady has a knack for staying in the news. For months we knew that he could be playing somewhere else in 2020, yet when it happens everyone loses their minds!

Brady will be playing in Tampa Bay this season, and first, as a Bills fan who does not know what life with a better chance than finishing in second place is, I rejoice! But what does this mean for his fantasy value? It certainly does not hurt. Brady will be going from an offense where the top weapons were Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, James White and Phillip Dorsett to one that has Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard and could still potentially add in the draft or free agency.

Things will change with Tom Brady under center and not Jameis Winston, but the Bucs did pass the ball 62.3 percent last season, the seventh-most in the NFL. The Patriots, on the other hand, threw the ball 59.2 percent, which ranked 19th in the NFL. And without Winston turning the ball over 30 times perhaps the Bucs would have been playing from ahead more, but that secondary is still weak. I wouldn’t expect this offense to suddenly become a run-first team. Brady was barely inside my Top 25 QBs with the Patriots, but with the Bucs I have moved him up tentatively to my QB16. We are still months out and this will change, but I am fully expecting there to be hype around Brady now that he is with Bruce Arians and the Bucs weapons. If people start hyping Brady as a Top-10 QB, I will gladly be out. It is not that I dislike Brady, but that QB is entirely too deep for me to pay up for a 43-year-old who does not run and showed signs of decline last season.

This move greatly impacts the Bucs weapons as well. The biggest winner here is Godwin, who led the Bucs in 2019 with 23.4 slot routes per game. In fact, Godwin scored 137.5 of his 276.1 PPR points in 2019, or nearly half, from the slot. Why is he the big winner? Because in 2019 Brady threw to the slot on 31 percent of his throws, to just 26 percent for Winston. It also hurts Evans because Brady threw out wide on 36 percent of his throws, compared to 42 percent for Winston. Although it is worth mentioning that in the weeks before getting hurt, the Bucs did use Evans more in the slot. From Weeks 8 through 13 Evans ran 14 slot routes per game to his 25 out wide. Godwin in that span ran 23 slot routes to 15 out wide per game.

Godwin is my WR6 right now and could be used as a bigger and more athletic Edelman in this offense. Evans is still a WR1 in my early football rankings but barely. Fantasy players are likely going to get sucked into O.J. Howard again because there is this thinking that Brady loves throwing to tight ends. That was true when he had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and the thinking will be that Howard is the best, most athletic tight end he’s had since those two. That thinking is not wrong, but we have yet to see another tight end step up with Brady. Additionally, this will not be the Patriots offense, but the Arians one. That is an offense that shunned Howard all season last year. Maybe it is because I went all in last season, but Howard is not a TE1 for me. He is a mid-TE2 with upside to me.

Oh, and it is also worth mentioning that Brady is trying to convince the Bucs to sign Antonio Brown. We will have to wait and see on that one, but if they do, that would be one of the most dangerous WR groups in NFL history. That would change a bunch in the rankings. Just a fun stat, Brown had three end zone stats in 2019, which trailed Edelman (5) by two for the team lead in 2019. Brown played one game.

This move greatly impacts the Patriots as well. Much will depend on who the QB is, but as of now Edelman remains a safe WR2. The arrow is greatly pointing down for James White. Not much else here excites me.

Philip Rivers to the Colts

With groups of 10 being advised against, somewhere the Rivers children are drawing straws to see which have to go. I mean only so many can be socially distanced in that family!

But in all seriousness, Rivers and his many children will now be calling Indianapolis home. This offense will not be the same as the Chargers, but if Rivers passing tendencies stay the same, it will mean plenty of volume for T.Y. Hilton and Nyheim Hines. Rivers attempted over three more passes to WRs per game than Jacoby Brissett in 2019. He also attempted nearly six passes more per game to RBs. While Austin Ekeler won’t be on the Colts, Hines is a serviceable pass-catcher who would be in line to play that role. Marlon Mack is a great runner, but he struggles in the passing game. It may hurt Jack Doyle though, as Rivers attempted nearly two fewer passes per game to tight ends than Brissett in 2019.

While the Colts strong offensive line will help Rivers, he did show signs of decline in both turnovers and arm strength last season. As of now, he is a backend QB2 in super-flex or two-QB leagues. Hilton should be viewed as a low end WR2. The volume isn’t the issue, but I think consistency will be. Doyle is a TE2 and Hines is a nice bench option in PPR leagues as of now.

As for the Chargers, much depends on who their QB will be. They could still go out and land one of the bigger named QBs out there, or they can head into the season with Tyrod Taylor. I also suspect, either way, they will be drafting a signal-caller. If they go with Taylor you can expect plenty of passes to Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, but fewer to Mike Williams. Taylor does not like to take chances, so I would go with the safer two targets. His rushing ability would make him a streaming option in bye weeks. If he makes it that far in the season (remember Cleveland?).

Teddy Bridgewater to Panthers

This is a move that I am not a huge fan of for fantasy or reality. I believe Cam Newton’s ceiling is way higher than Teddy’s. And in fantasy, we want teams to get the most out of their offense. I get it. Bridgewater went 5-0 with the Saints, but the team’s points and yards went down with him compared to Brees. But, the real question is what should we expect from the Panthers offense with him leading it.

Well first, I am not interested in Bridgewater in one-QB leagues. And even in super-flex or two-QB leagues, the position is so deep that I would not want to be ending up with him. He is a backend QB2 for me in that format. Mainly because I do not see any sort of upside with him. He does not run much at all. In his entire career as a starter in the NFL he has averaged just 12.4 rush yards per game. He averaged 241 passing yards per game in his five starts with the Saints and that would be a career-best. He threw just nine touchdowns in those five starts. Throwing few touchdowns is nothing new for Bridgewater who threw 14 in each of his two seasons as the Vikings starter. The QB position is so deep and riddled with upside. I just can’t get excited for Bridgewater.

As for the Panthers weapons, Bridgewater has averaged 16.15 passes per game to WRs, 6.74 to RBs and 6.18 to TEs. Although with the Saints he did throw to RBs 9.4 times per game. If he was throwing a bunch to Alvin Kamara, it is safe to say he will be as well to Christian McCaffrey. CMC remains the top pick in fantasy. We saw Bridgewater pepper Michael Thomas with targets last season and that should be DJ Moore now. Moore could man the slot more in this new offense and that would bode well, as Bridgewater threw to the slot on 30 percent of his throws last season. Curtis Samuel is very talented, but he struggled last year because Panthers QBs struggled to get the ball to him. Despite all the air yards, it seldom led to fantasy production. I would expect the same this season, as Bridgewater just doesn’t throw the ball deep. Bridgewater has never averaged over 6.7 air yards per target. For comparison, Kyle Allen averaged 8.3 air yards per target last season. He is a late-round flier in the new offense, but if he gets hyped up again do not pay up.

Nick Foles to the Bears  

I expect that Foles and Mitch Trubisky will compete this summer for the starting job. I’m not so sure he starts from the get-go as Bears GM Ryan Pace reached for Trubisky and took him over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. Not that it means much, but he has also said publicly that Mitch will start (before the trade). His job could be tied to both Trubisky and the Bears’ success this season, so I am not sure he doesn’t lean towards giving him one more shot.

If Foles is the new starter here, it helps Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. In his last four seasons, Foles has thrown out wide on 34 percent of his throws and to the slot of 33 percent of them. Last season Miller ran 21.5 slot routes per game while Robinson ran 15.1. I believe Foles is the better passer of the two Bears QBs, which also obviously helps the receivers. Robinson is a WR1 as of now. Tarik Cohen will always have a role in this offense, but I would expect less usage if Foles is the QB.

Jordan Howard to Dolphins

This is a move that is sure to get bashed by many on Twitter, but it certainly upgrades the RB position for the Dolphins. Last season the Dolphins were led in rushing yards by Ryan Fitzpatrick with 243. All of the Dolphins’ backs averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry. All of their backs also had a success rate under 47 percent last season. Howard averaged 4.4 yards per carry and had a success rate of 51 percent. Some will say he is a JAG, but this JAG is easily the best RB on this team. For fantasy, Howard should be viewed as a safe floor, but low upside RB3 or flex option as of now.

Much will be determined if the Dolphins take a running back in the draft. This is a pretty deep RB class and if the Dolphins do select an RB with hype, well we could be looking at what happened with Miles Sanders in Philly last year all over again.

Jerrick McKinnon on Niners

This is not a fantasy altering move by any stretch, but he did restructure his contract to remain with the Niners. San Fran also placed a second-round tender on Matt Breida, which very well may keep him in the Bay area. That would just add another back to the revolving door that already was the Niners backfield. Did you know that five different players finished as the 49ers top scoring fantasy RB in a given week last season? I do not want to trust this backfield at all.

But, I guess for those McKinnon believers who were all about him two years ago, there is still some hope.

Got a different take on Tom Brady heading to the Bucs? Give me a shout out on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.

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