The first “official” day of free agency has drawn to a close and there were a number of new signings that will have a significant impact on the 2021 fantasy football landscape. While the opening of the new league year doesn’t quite feel as special or exciting as it used to given the two-day legal tampering period where most of the top free agents agree to deals, all of the moves from earlier in the week become official and the reactions by teams to those moves usually results in a surprise or two.
Let’s take a look at five (update: six) deals that manifested on Wednesday that will have an impact on fantasy football drafts in a few months.
Gerald Everett signs with Seattle Seahawks
The latest signing on this list, Everett announced on Twitter that he'd be joining the Seahawks on what we later found out is a one-year, $6 million deal. He'll walk into Seattle as the clear TE1 after the failed Greg Olsen experiment last season.
We've yet to see Everett's full potential unlocked. He played a little less than 57% of the Los Angeles Rams' offensive snaps last season after playing only about 50% of the offensive snaps in the games he was active for in 2019. Everett has flashed at times over the last three seasons, but never became a true focal point of the offense and even lost his primary role to Tyler Higbee late in the 2019 season.
Seattle has given us plenty of fantasy-relevant tight end play lately, even if recent years have been a little tough. Jimmy Graham ranked as a top-10 fantasy tight end in 2015 (TE10), 2016 (TE9), and 2017 (TE7) on a per-game basis among players who played in seven or more games. Even Will Dissly popped up into fantasy relevance in 2019, ranking as the TE9 in average fantasy points per game in his injury-shorted six-game season.
Everett is an athletic tight end with some serious potential to grow into a featured pass-catching role. With all the focus of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, Everett can carve out a nice little role as a one-on-one matchup option for Russell Wilson. The former Ram can't be put in TE1 territory yet, but he's a surefire top-20 player at the position with the potential to finish in the top 15.
John Brown signs with Las Vegas Raiders
After losing Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots, the Raiders signed Brown to a one-year deal worth up to $5.5 million. He should serve as the new version of Tyrell Williams (how he was used in 2019) in their offense as a vertical threat.
Brown is coming off a down season in which he finished as the WR57 in average fantasy points per game. But he’s only one year removed from being the WR22 in that regard. Until and unless we see significantly more production from Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards in their sophomore seasons, Brown should serve as Las Vegas’ WR1 and No. 2 pass-catching option behind Darren Waller.
If you remember, Williams just barely snuck into WR4 territory two years ago with an average of 11.0 fantasy points per game (WR48). Brown, if healthy, should be able to at least match that total if not surpass it, especially with quarterback Derek Carr coming off a better season in 2020 than 2019.
A.J. Green signs with Arizona Cardinals
You can read my full write-up about Green and his potential projection here. An excerpt is below:
While he played in all 16 games, he was hardly fantasy relevant, finishing as the WR67 in total points but a lowly WR86 in average fantasy points per game (7.4). He was ranked around the likes of Tyron Johnson, Willie Snead, and Scotty Miller in per-game production. His catch rate was an abysmal 45.2% (47 receptions on 104 targets) and he set career lows nearly across the board—and there weren’t even dramatic Joe Burrow/no Joe Burrow splits to blame.
The Cardinals needed to upgrade their WR2 opposite DeAndre Hopkins, so going out and getting Green at a value makes sense. However, quarterback Kyler Murray—in many of the same ways Deshaun Watson did early in his career—locked in on Hopkins early and often. Hopkins had a 28.7% target share of Murray’s passes in 2020. No other player on Arizona’s roster had a share even half as large, with Christian Kirk coming in at 14.2% in 14 games.
Jamaal Williams signs with Detroit Lions
I’m going to sneak this one in since it happened around midnight leading into Wednesday. Regular listeners of the TDN Fantasy Podcast know my affinity for Williams—not when it comes to taking away fantasy production from Aaron Jones, but in general. He’s a very solid all-around back who is strong in pass protection, pass-catching, and is a solid runner to boot. He’s been much more than a Jones handcuff recently, serving as a decent bench option regardless of Jones’ status on one’s fantasy team.
However, this signing is more about D’Andre Swift than it is Williams. It appeared as if Swift was going to have the Lions’ backfield all to himself next season. Now, Williams is a serious threat to cut into his passing-down workload, much like Williams did to Jones in Green Bay.
When the Lions leaned more heavily on Swift last season while phasing out Adrian Peterson, Swift delivered for fantasy managers. From weeks 9-17, he ranked as the RB9 (minimum four games played) with an average of 16.8 fantasy points per game with only one game where he was on the field for 70% or more of the offensive snaps. That shows he can still be plenty productive with Williams getting some work, but it looks like his chances of creeping into RB1 territory in 2021 are a longshot. I like him somewhere around the RB15-17 range next season.
Marlon Mack re-signs with Indianapolis Colts
Much like the section above, fantasy managers let out a collective groan when Mack’s one-year, $2 million fully guaranteed deal was announced. Also like above, Mack, formerly a solid, high-floor RB2, is not the prime name worth discussing here—Jonathan Taylor is.
Taylor was an absolute monster down the stretch last season. From Weeks 11-16, Taylor was the RB3 in average fantasy points per game (21.5) and looked primed to be a bonafide RB1 this season. While he’s still clearly the lead back with Mack and Nyheim Hines serving as complementary pieces in different roles, the more isn’t the merrier for fantasy managers. Mack is less of a threat to Taylor’s fantasy value now than he was going into last season, but it’s still a situation to monitor.
Prior to the offseason, I had Taylor ranked as my RB8 and mocked him off the board at eighth overall in my way-too-early mock draft. I wouldn’t drop him from that spot among running backs, but I would at least entertain a debate of him versus Davante Adams more now than when that mock was published.
UPDATE: Curtis Samuel signs with Washington Football Team
Samuel took a nice step forward as a real-life player and fantasy producer in 2020—he set new career highs in nearly everything except targets and touchdowns and finished as the WR30 in average fantasy points per game and the WR26 in total points. Samuel joins a Washington offense now led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and will finally give his former Buckeye teammate, Terry McLaurin, the complement everyone has been waiting for.
The speedy Samuel can do a little bit of everything for the Washington offense—as a runner, pass-catcher, and as misdirectional eye candy—and should be viewed as a WR3 heading into 2021 fantasy drafts. He will boost McLaurin's value a little bit as well since defenses won't be able to key in on him so easily.
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