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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football Winners & Losers: NFL Free Agency Tampering Day 2

  • The Draft Network
  • March 16, 2021
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Welcome to the end of Day 2 of the NFL’s legal tampering period for 2021 free agents. While Tuesday wasn’t quite as wild as Monday, there were plenty of deals agreed upon and plenty of money thrown around. While none of these deals are official until 4 p.m. ET rolls around on Wednesday—and players have time to Frank Gore their way out of these agreements—backing out at this point is so rare that it’s really not something worth worrying about (hello, @OldTakesExposed).

So as things stand now with the agreements currently in place, who are the big winners and losers of the second day of the legal tampering period from a fantasy football perspective? Here are the five that immediately come to mind. 

WINNER: Allen Robinson (WR - CHI)

Let’s start with a small winner. I know I’ll be in the minority on this based on the Twitter reaction received thus far, but I don’t dislike the Bears agreeing to a one-year deal with quarterback Andy Dalton. A Russell Wilson trade was a pipedream (at least in 2021; circle back in a year) and Deshaun Watson has given no indication he had any interest in waiving his no-trade clause for Chicago if and when the Houston Texans decide to acquiesce and trade him. The best quarterback option for them on draft night might have been Mac Jones, with no guarantee he makes it to pick No. 20. So their options were limited, especially when Ryan Fitzpatrick agreed to a deal with the Washington Football Team on Monday night. 

Dalton is an upgrade over their current option Nick Foles—who will never be the player Eagles fans remember him as—and has familiarity with Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor from their time together in Cincinnati. While Dalton fell flat on his face in his first two attempts to take over the Dallas Cowboys offense following Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury, he was much better from Week 10 on after returning from a concussion and being placed on the COVID-19 list. Over the final seven games of the season, Dalton completed two-thirds of his passes for 1,718 yards and a 15-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

All of that is to say that I’m more optimistic about Robinson’s fantasy outlook for 2021 now than I would’ve been if the Bears went into the season with Foles. Robinson was the WR9 in average fantasy points per game this past season (17.2 FPPG) and ranks as the WR12 over the last two seasons (16.2 FPPG). I don’t think there’s an argument to be made that he’s in a worse QB situation with Dalton than the Foles/Mitchell Trubisky combination of his recent past. Robinson remains a top-10 fantasy receiver with Dalton in town, a ranking that was more tenuous before Tuesday afternoon.

LOSER: Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith (TEs - NE)

I was really excited for Smith’s potential as the No. 1 tight end option for New England and for Henry’s potential to be the same for either a team like the New York Jets or back in Los Angeles with the Chargers. Then Bill Belichick broke out his checkbook and cornered the tight end market by signing Henry to play alongside Smith in the Patriots’ offense. While there are real-life football reasons to sign both players, the fantasy value is now stunted for both men.

After finishing as a top-10 tight end in each of the last two seasons, it’s hard to rank Henry as anything other than a low-end TE1 (i.e. TE10-12 territory) while splitting time with another pass-catching player at his position and downgrading at quarterback. Smith’s value—previously as a surefire top-10 player at the position for about 20 hours—falls into that same bucket as a low-end TE1.

WINNER: Trevor Lawrence (QB - JAX*)

The Jaguars want to make sure that their future face of the franchise is set up in the best possible position to succeed right out of the gate. One way Jacksonville continued to advance toward that goal is by agreeing to a two-year, $9.2 million fully guaranteed deal with former Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones. Jones joins a receiving corps that currently has D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, and Phillip Dorsett under contract, to name a few. No, it’s not a murder’s row of elite talent, but there are a number of solid options here to go along with James Robinson and Carlos Hyde in the backfield to make the Jaguars’ offense interesting in 2021. We’ve seen rookies like Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert put up fantasy numbers in QB1 territory right away on teams with talented pass-catchers. While Lawrence’s group isn’t quite as good as either of those other wide receiver units, he’s in a good position to be fantasy-relevant right away—especially if the Jaguars are throwing a lot while down in the second half of games. Lawrence is in the top-12 conversation as a rookie in redraft leagues.

Oh, and things aren’t too bad for Jones, either.

LOSER: Derek Carr (QB - LV)

Man, it’s been a tough offseason for Carr so far. After his name was thrown out in trade rumors a couple of months ago, it now appears the Raiders want to do everything they can to put him in the worst possible spot to succeed. Tuesday’s shocking release of center Rodney Hudson was just the latest quality Las Vegas offensive lineman to be sent away this offseason, joining guards Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson and tackle Trent Brown. The Raiders have to essentially rebuild their entire offensive line in one offseason if they hope to even pretend to be competitive in 2021. 

Carr is coming off of arguably his best real-life season as a pro, but is now looking at having four new starting offensive linemen and his top wide receivers being Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards. With massive needs at OL and on defense, will the Raiders really be able to invest in top pass-catchers in free agency or on Day 1 or 2 of the draft?

Carr finished as the QB14 in total points and QB19 in average fantasy points per game last season, serving as a solid streaming option in single-QB leagues. He can’t be considered a top-20 fantasy quarterback right now. (Side note: This isn’t great news for running back Josh Jacobs, either).

WINNER: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB - KC)

Lost in the shuffle of all the free-agent signings of the day was the Kansas City Chiefs releasing running back Damien Williams. Williams elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns following a should’ve-been Super Bowl MVP performance against the San Francisco 49ers. We knew there would be camp competition when the Chiefs spent their first-round pick on Edwards-Helaire in the 2020 NFL Draft, but once Williams opted out there wasn’t a position battle to be had. 

Edwards-Helaire had a solid rookie season, but didn’t come anywhere close to his fantasy-draft hype aside from the season opener. Edwards-Helaire finished as the RB20 in average fantasy points per game (minimum seven games) and the RB19 in total points. The return of Williams to the Chiefs’ lineup had the potential to eat into Edwards-Helaire’s playing time next season. That shouldn’t be the case now with Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson serving as the backups. I’d be willing to spend an early third-round pick on Edwards-Helaire as an elite RB2 in redraft leagues, right around RB15-16.

Late-night addition: Loser: D'Andre Swift (RB - DET)

Just before midnight, the Lions agreed to a two-year deal with Jamaal Williams worth up to $7.5 million. Williams is a very solid 1B who has thrived as a pass-blocker and pass-catcher in his opportunities in Green Bay. That being said, this isn't the best news for Swift, who appeared to have the Detroit backfield all to himself until this move was made. When the Lions leaned on Swift more late in the season (from Weeks 9-17), he ranked as the RB9 (minimum four games played) with an average of 16.8 fantasy points per game. Plus, he did that with only one game in which he played 70% or more of the offensive snaps in that stretch. So he was productive without a monster workload, which is good because it doesn't appear like he'll get one in 2021 now, either.

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