College basketball who!? College basketball what!? NFL Free Agency defined March Madness last month as this year seemed even crazier than most. Tons of moves were made and many, especially the direct impact of specific players changing teams, have already been analyzed to death. However, today we’re going to look at five under-the-radar winners of free agency thanks to departures of teammates or their own team’s lack of additions.
Rex GOAThead! Sexy Rexy! Call him whatever nickname you’d like and get hyped because after showing well in year one in New England, Burkhead projects to receive even more opportunities in 2018. Why? Dion Lewis, who received 180 carries and saw 35 targets last year, has now moved on to Tennessee. That leaves 215 opportunities up for grabs and although newly signed Jeremy Hill has a chance to grab a piece of the pie, he’ll likely be competing with Mike Gillislee for short yardage and goal line duties more than anything else.
Meanwhile, James White‘s usage can only be expected to increase so much. Even with LeGarrette Blount gone and White coming off the Super Bowl performance of a lifetime a season ago, his opportunities per game remained nearly identical from 2016 to 2017 as the chart below shows:
Thus, Burkhead is the front-runner to absorb the majority of Dion Lewis’ leftovers. And that’s extremely exciting considering Burkhead is a dual-threat RB that accumulates points in both the running and passing games playing with Tom Brady on a Patriots team that has finished top four in points scored in each of the past five years. Burkhead already averaged ten opportunities per game last season. The arrow is pointing up in 2018.
The departure of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson in free agency should work wonders for Doug Baldwin. But we already know Baldwin is a fantasy stud. So let’s dig a bit deeper. When my future son asks me one day, “Dad, what’s a post-hype sleeper?”… well, for one, I’m going to fake like I got something in my eye as I wipe away the tears only a degenerate fantasy football father can have. But I’ll then point to Tyler Lockett’s 2018 season as the perfect example to help him understand that term. Because you see, us fantasy players, just like really everyone in life when it comes to just about everything, have very little patience. Lockett was the next best thing just a few years ago but because he didn’t blow up, we’re completely done with him. That would be a mistake. Take advantage of your other league mates ignorance because the time is now for Lockett.
Graham and Richardson’s departures leave 176 targets and 16 TD receptions up for grabs from last season. And a quick look at the Seahawks’ pass-catching depth chart shows us that Lockett is primed to take a big step forward in playing time and opportunities. That’s because Lockett’s biggest competition for playing time and targets behind Baldwin comes from non-exciting players such as Tanner McEvoy and Jaron Brown, as well as second-year player Amara Darboh, who only saw 13 targets in his rookie year. And after losing not only Graham but also Luke Willson at the TE position in free agency, the Seahawks big free agency acquisition to replace those guys was journeyman Ed Dickson. Lockett is young and talented and is poised to take the next step this season playing with Russell Wilson.
Like Doug Baldwin, Davante Adams is too obvious of a free agency winner. So let’s take a look at Randall Cobb. But first of all, why is there an upgrade here at all since Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers? Well, Jordy Nelson, who finished with 152 targets, 97 catches, 1,257 yards, and 14 TDs the last time Aaron Rodgers stayed healthy just two seasons ago, is no longer a Packer. So yea, the pie just got bigger and every relevant pass catcher projects to see a bigger piece, Cobb included. And that pie already looked extremely delicious to begin with considering the main ingredient is Aaron Rodgers. Davante Adams is, rightfully so, a second round pick right now according to Fantasy Football Calculator. And Cobb is a currently a ninth-round pick. Receiving a seven round discount on Cobb, who only caught eight fewer passes than Adams did last season, is absolutely sweet.
Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon were both big winners in free agency due to the 49ers lack of pass-catcher additions. And the real reason to be excited? Well, of course, it’s because of the man that can do no wrong, Jimmy Garoppolo. In five starts with the 49ers last season, Jimmy G completed 67.42% of his passes and averaged 308.4 passing yards per game. Garoppolo provides a lift to this entire passing offense and the biggest beneficiary is going to be Goodwin.
I’ve seen many touting Garcon this offseason and I’m in on him as well. But Garcon’s ADP on Fantasy Football Calculator is currently four rounds higher than Goodwin. With all due to respect to anyone that thinks that way, I think that’s preposterous. I’d draft Goodwin over Garcon in a heartbeat and any discount you can stack on top of it would just be an added bonus. Garcon will enter 2018 at 32 years of age coming off of an injury. Meanwhile, Goodwin is 27 years old and is just starting to hit his stride in the NFL after almost posting a 1,000-yard season in 2017. And let’s not forget about the three-year extension San Francisco gave Goodwin this offseason. The 49ers committed to Goodwin and now it’s time for your fantasy team to commit to him as well.
Demaryius Thomas hasn’t been forgotten about as he is is currently an early fifth round pick according to Fantasy Football Calculator. But it’s Emmanuel Sanders and his early eighth round ADP that has me salivating. Sanders is an elite talent who fought through injuries last season on his way to only seeing 92 targets in 12 games. That target total was by far Sanders’ fewest in his four years in Denver. Look for those targets to jump back up this season as Denver continues to lack playmakers at both slot WR and TE. The addition of Case Keenum provides more stability at the QB position for Sanders as well. Keenum isn’t elite by any stretch of the imagination but he’s still an upgrade over the disgusting trio of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch that Sanders had to play with a year ago. Keenum managed to get plenty of production out of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs a year ago and he’ll do the same with Thomas and Sanders in Denver. Re: Sanders – BUY BUY BUY.