It doesn’t take long for the NFL free agent frenzy to subside nowadays. The two-day legal tampering period serves all the real main event for signings (err, “agreements”), so by the time the new league year actually begins, many of the top free agents are already spoken for. A week later? The vast majority of the top talents have new homes. While deals will trickle in throughout the spring and summer, the landscape of the NFL has already changed.
Each Wednesday throughout the regular season, The Draft Network, in conjunction with Panini, took a close look at three rookies whose stock was on the rise in fantasy football. Now that the first week of the 2021 free agency cycle is complete, we’re looking ahead to the fantasy landscape of 2021, shining the spotlight brightly on three rookies whose stock for next season has risen because of what happened in free agency.
RB Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
Washington’s strong offseason has a trickle-down effect on individual players on the roster, and while the biggest beneficiary of the Football Team’s moves this offseason is wide receiver Terry McLaurin, the upgrade at quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and WR2 (Curtis Samuel) should only help the offense as a whole be more successful in 2021. Gibson was grooving for most of the season until a late-season injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers hampered his production. From Weeks 1-12, Gibson ranked as the RB5 in total points and RB10 in average fantasy points per game. A healthy return, a higher-scoring offense, and maybe even a few more targets per game could mean big things for Gibson in 2021—keep in mind, he’s still learning how to play the position full-time. Gibson should be considered a low-end RB1 in PPR redraft leagues.
WR CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
This one is cheating a little bit because it happened before free agency opened, but the Cowboys agreeing to a new multi-year deal with quarterback Dak Prescott is enormous for Lamb. As expected, there were significant with-Prescott, without-Prescott splits in Lamb’s production as a rookie. With Prescott throwing him the ball, Lamb averaged 17.1 fantasy points per game, which ranked as the WR16 at the time. Lamb dropped to WR38 in average points per game with backup quarterbacks throwing to him from Week 6 on. While we won’t fully know how healthy Prescott is until we get into the summer, if he’s on the field in Week 1, Lamb has a strong chance to be a WR2 this coming season.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
There are two things that are major pluses for Tagovailoa as we near the end of March. 1) He’s still the Dolphins’ starting quarterback. 2) He’s got a big-play, speedy new weapon in Will Fuller. Fuller really came into his own last season with the Houston Texans when faced with his biggest challenge yet: filling the WR1 shoes vacated by DeAndre Hopkins. Fuller was spectacular—and healthy, another aspect of his game that’s been a challenge for him in his career—before a PED suspension abruptly ended his 2020 season after 11 games. Fuller has one more game to serve on that suspension so he won’t be available to Tagovailoa until Week 2, but he joins a pass-catching group that includes DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki—two players Tagovailoa developed some chemistry with late last season—along with Preston Williams and a returning Albert Wilson. Tagovailoa has a lot to prove as a sophomore, but with the assumed addition of another weapon (RB or WR) in the first round of April’s draft, the Dolphins are putting him in the best possible position to succeed.
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