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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football Impact of Smith-Schuster, Carson, Lindsay Signings

  • The Draft Network
  • March 19, 2021
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Technically, we’re only a little more than 48 hours into the official free agency cycle for the 2021 league year. But “technically” doesn’t mean a thing when deals... erm… agreements are being announced at 12:01 p.m. ET two days prior to the start of the new league year. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, that means the rush of the free agent frenzy dies down considerably as the weekend nears. 

However, Friday still proved to be a big day for fantasy football connoisseurs. There were three significant signings—two of the re-sign variety—that will have major fantasy football implications in 2021. Let’s break them down as Kenny Golladay Watch continues. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster re-signs with Pittsburgh Steelers

Shocked. Flabbergasted. Bamboozled. Those are three words to describe how I felt when I saw Smith-Schuster re-up in Pittsburgh on a one-year, $8 million deal, eschewing the overtures of both the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens—and taking less money to do so! While signing a one-year deal in this market with the cap expected to considerably rise in future years is smart, I’m not sure Pittsburgh was the place to do it.

From a non-football perspective, I get it. Smith-Schuster legitimately likes being a Steeler—this I know firsthand. He’s also got plenty to prove as 2021 becomes a bit of a redemption tour for him after his TikToks (unfairly) became synonymous with the Steelers’ late-season collapse. But from a putting the best numbers up to ensure your 2022 contract is as fat as can be perspective, Pittsburgh wasn’t the best destination. 

That carries over to fantasy, too. We’ll see how much quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has left in his right arm, but if Smith-Schuster continues to have an average depth of target of 5.6 in a similar role in 2021, his fantasy value will be capped. He finished last season as the WR24 in average fantasy points per game (WR17 in total points) but I believe that’s likely close to his ceiling for 2021. Volume will keep his floor relatively high as well, so I see Smith-Schuster as a high-end WR3 that should come off the board somewhere around the sixth round of PPR redraft leagues.

Chris Carson re-signs with Seattle Seahawks

My feelings on this re-signing are the opposite of the above. Going back to Seattle was among the best possible options for Carson, who is a productive yet frustrating fantasy running back to roster. On a points per game basis, Carson finished as the RB12 in both 2019 and 2020. Over the last two years combined? Yup, he ranked as the RB12 too. Injury risk, past fumbling issues (although this wasn’t a problem in 2020), and the will-they-won’t-they of Seattle’s desire to feature the running game are all things to consider. But if you can ride the wave, you’ll probably be happy with what you got by season’s end.

Carson was used in the passing game more than ever last season, which is a great sign—especially as Seattle currently lacks a true WR3 at the moment. If Russell Wilson trusts Carson as much or even more as a receiver next season, he could be the steal of fantasy drafts. Count me in for Carson as a top-20 fantasy running back that should be taken late in the third round or in the first half of the fourth round in redraft leagues.

Phillip Lindsay signs with Houston Texans

It didn’t take Lindsay long to find a new home after he and the Broncos agreed to let him become an unrestricted free agent on Thursday. Lindsay heads to the Texans where he can be the 1B to David Johnson, who restructured his deal to stay in Houston earlier this offseason. Here’s what I wrote yesterday when Lindsay left Denver:

As a rookie in 2018, Lindsay rushed for more than 1,000 yards as an undrafted free agent and finished as the RB12 in total points and RB13 on a per-game basis in PPR. He nearly matched his rushing totals as a sophomore, but three fewer touchdowns dropped him to RB18 in total points and the RB23 on a per-game basis—still very valuable. Last year was a disaster between the Gordon signing, his subsequent workload, and Lindsay’s injury troubles. But what about 2021?

Lindsay is a really solid handcuff option that has some end-of-bench value because of Johnson’s injury history and the ability for Houston to line Johnson up out wide if desired. Lindsay will also get some touches of his own, but it’s hard to see him having enough value to crack your starting lineup with Johnson healthy. I'm treating Mark Ingram as more of injury insurance for Houston rather than someone who will garner a ton of touches.

Speaking of Johnson, he was my RB25 for 2021 before this deal, but he won’t drop too far—maybe a spot or two. The Lindsay signing does, however, solidify that Johnson is too risky to be a low-end RB2 and should be reserved as a flex play or top-of-bench RB3 that should go around Round 6 in redraft leagues.

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