NFL Free Agency Analysis: Dynasty Buys at Wide Receiver
With the Buccaneers having claimed the title of Super Bowl champions, the 2020 NFL season has officially concluded. Savvy dynasty GMs should begin planning ahead, as the 2021 NFL league year will begin soon on March 17th.
When free agency opens up, teams re-signing players to new contracts or declining to do so will create a flurry of musical chairs with immediate impacts to players’ dynasty values. The salary cap has generally increased year over year, but with the COVID pandemic, it’s expected to decrease from 2020 to 2021 to around $181 million. And as always, unforeseen trades are sure to occur.
Here are a few dynasty buys at wide receiver to target in trades right now based on their team’s pending free agents, but be aware that these are all calculated gambles at this point in the offseason, so keep the price point in mind. ADP data used is courtesy of Dynasty League Football as of January 2021.
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Dynasty Buys at Wide Receiver
Robby Anderson – WR49 – 94th overall
In his first season in Carolina with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, Robby Anderson led the team in targets with 136, which was 25 percent of the total target share. D.J. Moore was second on the team with 118 targets (22 percent target share), and Curtis Samuel came in third with 97 targets (18 percent target share). With Samuel now a pending free agent, both Anderson and Moore stand to benefit if Samuel parts ways with the Panthers.
Moore is already priced accordingly with a dynasty startup ADP of 34th overall (WR13) after finishing as the WR23 in PPR last season. But whether it’s due to age or a lackluster resume with the Jets early in his career, Anderson remains overlooked in spite of having out-produced Moore in 2020 with a fantasy finish as the WR15 in PPR formats. Though he’s only signed through 2021 and will turn 28 in May, Anderson is among the best dynasty buys for contending teams this offseason. He can be acquired for an early second-round rookie pick or less in many leagues, as his dynasty ADP has inexplicably been dropping since November.
Darnell Mooney – WR52 – 103rd overall
Although Darnell Mooney had a fairly quiet fantasy season, he flashed his potential in multiple games. Mooney overtook Anthony Miller as the no. 2 receiver and quietly led all rookie WRs with 17 missed tackles after the catch in 2020. With Allen Robinson likely to depart in free agency, even with the Bears expected to add depth at wide receiver, Mooney should see an expanded role in the offense next year and could possibly even lead the team in targets depending on what the depth chart looks like come September.
At just 5’10 and 176 lbs., it’s doubtful that Mooney can be a true no. 1 wide receiver, but he has a good chance to be a serviceable WR2 in PPR scoring given his projected target volume in 2021. He’s also a threat to score deep on any given play with his 4.38 speed, giving him a high weekly ceiling in fantasy, though it’s yet to be seen who the Bears’ starting quarterback will be next season and whether he limits Mooney’s upside. Still, at his current price of a mid second-round rookie pick or less, Mooney’s potential reward far outweighs the risk.
Parris Campbell – WR58 – 118th overall
While he played in just seven games as a rookie in 2019, Parris Campbell forced five missed tackles on just 18 catches. And though he only played one healthy game in 2020, he caught six balls for 71 yards in that Week 1 contest. Many are considering Campbell a buy due to T.Y. Hilton‘s pending free agent status, but that’s a better argument for Michael Pittman‘s ascension. The player to watch here is Zach Pascal, who played 66 percent of his snaps in the slot, seventh-most in the league. Campbell ranked first among all wide receivers in his final college season in 2018 in yards per route run from the slot.
Pascal could be retained for fairly cheap as a restricted free agent, but if he leaves Indianapolis, Campbell’s upside in that slot role makes him a tantalizing buy-low candidate. Injuries have cost Campbell his first two seasons, and the lack of production or development due to so much missed time is a major red flag for his production going forward. However, his market value has dipped accordingly as well, as he’s now being traded for third-round rookie picks or as a throw-in as part of larger deals. At the price of a late second-round rookie pick or less, Campbell is one of the best cheap dynasty buys given his talent and potential, especially if Indianapolis were to trade for Carson Wentz this offseason.
James Washington – WR77 – 172nd overall
In 2020, JuJu Smith-Schuster was almost exclusively a slot receiver, having played 82 percent of his snaps from the slot, the highest rate of any wide receiver. Diontae Johnson was utilized in the intermediate range of the field from the outside, and James Washington and Chase Claypool were the deep threats outside with average depths of target (aDOT) of 12.7 yards downfield (29th highest) and 13.3 yards (22nd highest), respectively. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger‘s deep ball has waned significantly, having completed just 27.8 percent of his deep throws last year (ranking 31st among quarterbacks).
While Washington has been an underachieving fantasy player, he has an opportunity in 2021 with Smith-Schuster about to hit free agency. If Smith-Schuster were to leave Pittsburgh, it would free up 128 targets from last year, and both Johnson and Washington are likely to see more snaps out of the slot with Claypool remaining the deep threat outside given his stature and skill set. Even if Washington were to remain the no. 3 option, he has a chance at WR3 production in PPR scoring. That would be a positive return given that Washington has practically no dynasty value right now and can be acquired for a late third-round rookie pick or even less.
Tyler Johnson – WR78 – 174th overall & Scotty Miller – WR96 – 217th overall
Tampa Bay will look to defend their title as the reigning Super Bowl champions this coming year, and though retaining Chris Godwin will be a priority with the franchise tag a distinct possibility, it’s no guarantee with a lot of tough decisions to be made concerning impact players on defense who are also pending free agents. The Buccaneers have also expressed interest in re-signing Antonio Brown, but he could receive enticing offers from other teams. And even if he stays, Brown could face another suspension in 2021 for an open civil suit with sexual assault allegations. There’s a fair chance that Godwin or Brown won’t be present for some or all of the 2021 season.
Moreover, Rob Gronkowski needs a new contract, and Cameron Brate could be a cap casualty with zero dead money remaining on his deal. The point is, there are plenty of paths to playing time for both Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller in 2021, and both can be attained for third-round rookie picks or less. I’ve touted Johnson’s potential before in this article, and he made some impact plays when called upon as a rookie. Miller, too, contributed in 2020, primarily as a deep threat and most notably in the NFC championship win over the Packers. Both ancillary wide receivers are dynasty buys who could have ample fantasy relevance if they see expanded roles next year, and both are virtually free at their current cost.
Nelson Agholor produced fairly well as the Raiders’ deep threat this past year, leaving scant targets for Henry Ruggs in his rookie season. But with Agholor a pending free agent, Ruggs shouldn’t be written off just yet despite a disappointing first year. And with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola all slated to hit free agency, Quintez Cephus is another intriguing flier among dynasty buys as the “last man standing” in Detroit if he builds rapport with new quarterback Jared Goff this offseason.
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