We already discussed the big names that have found new homes in a previous article. This article will dive into some other interesting names that could affect your draft strategy when fantasy season rolls in.
There are some situations that could affect your rankings and make you second-guess your initial rankings. Other situations will make you do absolutely nothing, as some players may not bear as much fruit when it comes to your fantasy harvest.
Either way, it doesn’t hurt to do some fantasy analysis while we’re all quarantined. Stay safe out there and I hope this article can bring you some much-needed relief form the pandemic that is COVID-19.
2020 Fantasy Free Agency Analysis
QB – Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers
Rookie head coach, Matt Rhule, has decided that Bridgewater is the right quarterback to lead his style of offense. Cam Newton is no longer the franchise quarterback in Carolina. The former number-one overall pick, and 2015 NFL MVP, has been released and now the Panthers are ushering in a new era with Bridgewater.
One thing that Bridgewater brings as a quarterback is that he takes what the offense gives him. Every season he has been in the league, Bridgewater has had a completion percentage of at least 60. This led to the interceptions being down and the ability to keep the offense on the field longer.
While Newton’s aggressiveness led to some big plays, he also had double-digit interceptions in every season he has played in the league. Bringing Bridgewater in can lead to a more controlled attack and then increase scoring opportunities for the Panthers.
Bridgewater will have a good assortment of offensive weapons to help lead the Carolina offensive attack. Let’s start with Christian McCaffrey, who became the third player to surpass 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. McCaffrey is going to provide Bridgewater with a good outlet in the passing game and also is one of the best options to hand-off too in run-pass-option (RPO) plays.
In Rhule’s three years back at Baylor, the offense had a balanced attack for the most part. If you look at his last year, you can see that the offense shifted to a more rushing offense which will benefit McCaffrey and the running game. This will take pressure off of Bridgewater as he eases into being the starting quarterback again and will allow him to play his game style. While it might relieve the passing ease on Bridgewater, he will be asked to tuck the ball often and run.
D.J. Moore will be Bridgewater’s main target in the passing offense as he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in his second season in the league. Joining him will be the newly signed, Robby Anderson, who will give this offense a deep option to hit the home run play.
Both players will work off each other and if Moore can continue his upward trend, then this offense should be a force. The loss of Greg Olsen in the passing game hurts a bit, but there is some promise with the young tight end, Ian Thomas. We’ll see if the Panthers decide to add another tight end through free agency or through the draft, but Thomas has shown flashes that he can be a solid producer at the professional level.
Bridgewater will be a good fantasy producer in 2020. He scored an average of 16.72 fantasy points per game in his limited starting action last season with the Saints. Now the full-time starter in Carolina, expect that number to increase by a few points and he should be a solid starting quarterback on your fantasy roster.
2020 Stat-line Prediction: 310-540/4,175/30/8 (Completions-Attempts/Yards/TDs/INTs)
RB – Jordan Howard, Miami Dolphins
Howard is now entering the 2020 season on another new team. This is now his third team in a span of five years. It was surprising to see the Eagles let him go, but the emergence of Miles Sanders allowed Howard to be expendable. Being on a new team is not because of his talent level, it just, unfortunately, has been because of new talent coming in that fits a certain philosophy better.
Coming to Miami, Howard will look to improve the running game in any way possible. It’s never a good sign when your quarterback leads the team in rushing and that quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, yes, you read that right. Nothing against the guy, but being a running quarterback is not something you think of when thinking about the former Harvard signal-caller. Howard is a no-nonsense runner who can lead a punishing attack in South Beach for head coach Brian Flores.
For every team he has played for, Howard has led that team in rushing touchdowns. Also, he is a back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher and has the ability to regain that form, being the lead back in Miami.
During the offseason, the Miami Dolphins have gone aggressive in shoring up their defense. This clearly speaks to the type of team Flores wants to have, a team that can run the ball and plays good defense. The defense is going to be much improved and adding Howard will give Flores the type of team he is looking for.
They may decide to add another running back, but it would only be a running back that can catch the ball out of the backfield. If there is one knock on Howard is that he is not much of a pass-catcher. He’ll grind out yards on the ground, but does not have the finesse to catch the ball as easily. In a pinch sure, but that’s not how he earns his paycheck.
Howard may not be a dual-threat back like most fantasy studs, but the one thing you can count on is that he’s going to get a ton of carries to make him worth drafting and starting on your team. Most likely, the Dolphins are drafting their quarterback of the future with their fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick is going to be the bridge QB and this means that the running game will be prudent for the Dolphins to stay competitive in games. If they decide to start the rookie sooner than later, the running game will still be utilized to ease the pressure off the quarterback. Either way, Howard has great value now that he is in a system that will fully use his running ability.
2020 Stat-line Prediction: 260/1,123/8 (Rushing – Attempts/Yards/TDs) and 21/137/1 (Receiving – Receptions/Yards/TDs)
WR – Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints
Sanders was thought to be deciding between signing with the Cowboys and the 49ers during the offseason. Then came the news that he has chosen to sign with the New Orleans Saints. The Saints know firsthand how much damage Sanders can do, as he posted his best game against them in 2019. He caught seven balls for 157 yards and one touchdown. Also, he threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert as well. Sanders is a veteran receiver and can still move well for being 33 years old. His skills will fit in nicely with the Saints offense and he will be a true threat opposite of Michael Thomas.
Since Thomas’ rookie year, he has not had a receiver teammate that has gone over 100 targets in the passing offense. So the addition of Sanders will only help Thomas become even more dangerous. You thought he was a one-man wrecking crew before, just wait now that there is another viable threat on the outside along with him.
In the last seven seasons, Sanders has had at least 90 targets and will be a good weapon for head coach Sean Payton to put in different positions in the offense. Sanders can be used on the outside and is adept at playing in the slot. Thomas’s target number may come down a bit but even without the addition of Sanders, his receptions were bound to drop as it would be hard to replicate his record-breaking reception mark in a follow-up season. Not impossible, but the level of difficulty will be high.
On the flipside, Alvin Kamara may see his stock plunge a bit. Normally the second leader in targets in the passing game, Kamara may be relegated to third now and will probably be used more in the running game. Even with an average season turned in by Kamara in 2019, he still finished as the ninth-best fantasy running back, thanks to being a reception monster. While he was dealing with injuries, Kamara will see a drop off in receptions as Sanders will now be the second fiddle to Thomas’ first chair.
Also, the loss of Mark Ingram from the offense made a difference as well to Kamara’s production. While Latavius Murray is a capable running back, Ingram provided a larger threat in the backfield compared to Murray. So Kamara couldn’t work off of Murray the way he was able to with Ingram.
Sanders is going to increase his draft ranking now that he is with a veteran quarterback and a higher-octane offense. Nothing against Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo, but having Drew Brees throwing the ball and Payton calling the plays will benefit Sanders and his fantasy owners a lot more.
A bold prediction though is that Kamara will not finish as a top-10 fantasy running back for the first time in his career, next season. While he’ll still be starting fantasy running back, Sanders will eat into some of his production and that will lead to him falling just out of the top-10 in 2020.
Thomas, as mentioned, doesn’t see any drop in his stock, but he most likely will have lower numbers than last season. Overall, Sanders is going to bring good things to this Saints offense and should be drafted as a starter in all fantasy leagues.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 92/1,187/8 (Receptions/Yards/TDs)
WR – Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers
We already talked about Bridgewater joining the Panthers, but he will be joined by another former player of Rhule’s. Anderson was a leading receiver on Rhule’s team back in college at the University of Temple. Anderson comes onto a team looking to build a new philosophy with new personnel.
This move is interesting as Anderson is a deep threat and pairing him with Bridgewater is odd. Bridgewater is not a deep ball thrower and the signing of Anderson will make you think that Rhule will want Bridgewater to air it out.
While Bridgewater is capable of throwing the deep ball, he had an average of 6.2 yards average per throw last season with the New Orleans Saints. Now when you have a player like Thomas playing receiver, you don’t need to throw it deep to have him turn in big plays.
This offense, led by offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, will do its best to get the ball into the hands of their best players. Seems a little obvious as all teams want to do that, but they are aware of the limitations of being able to throw deep. The combo of Bridgewater not throwing deep and the offensive line needing to protect better (tied for most sacks allowed in 2019) can lead to question marks. Still, they signed Anderson and they will get him the ball, just maybe not at the rate that will make fantasy players happy.
This is a good signing for Anderson and the Panthers, but not in a fantasy sense. Anderson is a speed threat and hasn’t been reliable enough on the short and intermediate throws. This is where Moore will see more work and this makes Anderson a very boom-or-bust type of player.
While the offense will work to get their new free-agent acquisition the ball, Anderson just doesn’t hold the value he had back in New York. He is worth drafting and stashing on your bench come draft time, but we need to see the production on a regular basis before we can start the conversation on inserting him into a starting role.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 59/840/5 (Receptions/Yards/TDs)
WR – Randall Cobb, Houston Texans
So the Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. They needed to replace his production, so they decided to sign Cobb. Well, clearly this move was made to go for the group effort approach instead of the leader and supporting cast approach. So while the move is not going to replace Hopkins alone, the added production can possibly lead to the passing game still being effective.
Cobb is not the same guy that he was back in Green Bay but is still a capable slot receiver. Age has gotten the best of him and that led to him signing with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and now with the Houston Texans in 2020.
When Cobb is on the field, he is still good at finding the open field and moving the chains. Adding him to the situation in Houston will bring veteran leadership to the group, but that’s the extent. Yes, he can be relied on for a good amount of receptions and yards, but he doesn’t find the endzone often. So his fantasy value is very limited unless he can cross the 70 reception mark, which he hasn’t done since 2015.
This is a very short analysis because his fantasy value is quite paltry. As a football move, Cobb adds some production to the group as they go for a group production passing attack. For fantasy purposes, he holds a little value as a possible flex option, but that’s the best he can do. Maybe once the season starts he becomes more effective than expected and fantasy relevant. Until then, he is worth drafting maybe as a final spot on your bench, but nothing more than that.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 58/735/3 (Reception/Yards/TDs)
TE – Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
Hooper decided to have his best season as a pro during his contract year. Hooper has steadily gotten better with every year in the league and the Browns recognized that. That’s why he has now found a new home in Cleveland after four years in Atlanta.
New head coach, Kevin Stefanski, wants to run a lot of twin-tight end sets similar to what he did in Minnesota with Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph. Pairing Hooper with David Njoku will allow the Browns to do just that. This will not just allow extra options in the passing game, but this can help set the edge with mobile blockers and allow a great running game to flourish.
Now let’s talk about that running game because the Browns have two good running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Also looking at the offense that was being run in Minnesota last year, Dalvin Cook had a career year under Stefanski. They ran the ball at a 49% clip, which was fourth in the NFL. So coming to Cleveland, Stefanski will do what he can to get the ball into the hands of Hunt and Chubb to establish a strong run game. It’s a bit surprising to see that the Browns decided to bring in a receiving tight end to help establish a strong run game.
Let’s also not forget that the Vikings featured two premier receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and still had a running back cross the double-digit rushing touchdown mark and over 1,100 rushing yards. You could argue that Thielen missed a lot of time with injuries, which led to them running the ball more but Cleveland features two high-caliber receivers as well. The thing with these receivers too is that they are a little more vocal if they don’t get involved in the offense. While Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are great offensive weapons, if their numbers are affected then you’re going to hear about it. Both Landry and Beckham Jr. had over 130 targets and Chubb was two rushing attempts short of 300.
So the addition of Hooper is great as that brings in another weapon in the passing offense, but he’s not going to replicate the numbers that earned him this contract. There are too many mouths to feed in this offense and Hooper is not going to be at the top of the pecking order any more.
Also, let’s not forget that Hooper benefitted from Calvin Ridley missing time last season and Mohamed Sanu being traded. This led to him seeing an increase in targets, which led to an increase in numbers. So while the contract he got in Cleveland may make you think that he is going to be featured in the offense, let’s not get too excited just yet. He is still a tight end worth drafting, but he shouldn’t be one of the first handful coming off the board. You can wait to grab him after filling out more of your starting roster.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 58/587/3 (Receptions/Yards/TDs)
TE – Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons
So now that Hooper is out of Atlanta, the Falcons decided to find a replacement. They acquired Hurst and a fourth-round pick in 2020 from the Ravens for 2020 second and fifth-round picks. This is a good move for Hurst as he went from being at the bottom rung among tight ends to now being a featured receiver in a pass-heavy offense.
Lamar Jackson found his new target in Mark Andrews, which made Hurst expendable. Injuries limited his production in his rookie year and then the numerous tight ends added to the group dropped him on the depth chart. A fresh start in Atlanta can lead to him finally being more productive.
Atlanta’s offense featured three receivers that had over 90 targets and one of those was the tight end, Hooper. Hurst is a capable receiver but just hasn’t gotten the chance to showcase his gifts enough back in Baltimore. Hurst is going to be the starter in Atlanta and not only will he be used in the passing game, but he was drafted in the first round because he was also an efficient blocker. This can mean good things for Todd Gurley and the run game for the Falcons.
Hurst can see more targets in the passing game depending on if Gurley can stay healthy. Another one of the reasons that Hooper was targeted a lot in the passing game was because Devonta Freeman was off the field often with injuries and this led to the Falcons passing more. Even if Gurley stays healthy in 2020, they may limit his touches because of fear of reaggravating his knee. Either way, Hurst is going to be a good option in the Atlanta offense.
Andrews’ break-out season in Baltimore led to Hurst finding a new home. Being in Atlanta, Hurst is going to see plenty of opportunities to score fantasy points. He could be a top-10 fantasy tight end based on the chances he should get in the offense. While he’s in an offense that features Julio Jones and Ridley, he should still see a healthy amount of targets. Target Hurst as a starting-caliber fantasy tight end as he holds good potential at a position that always has question marks every season in fantasy football.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 78/740/6 (Receptions/Yards/TDs)
TE – Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
After turning in a fantastic 2018 season in both the NFL and in fantasy football, Ebron came crashing back down in 2019. The Colts decided to move on from Ebron and he signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This could not have been a better move for Ebron. Ben Roethlisberger is on the mend and looking to play another year and he loves involving the tight end in the offense.
Ebron will come into Pittsburgh as the starter, as the only other viable tight end on the roster is Vance McDonald. Ebron shouldn’t have any trouble beating out McDonald and holding onto the starting tight end job throughout the season.
Ebron brings a blend of size and speed that the Steelers can leverage to more scoring chances for the offense. He also is going to play with a good set of weapons around him to help take some of the strain of being the number one option.
Juju Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Dionte Johnson are going to be players worth worrying about by opposing secondaries. If you throw in the fact they now have to worry about a tight end that can run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, defenses are just not going to know who they need to contain every play. With Roethlisberger under center, the tight end position was averaging close to 100 targets every season. With Ebron in the fold, he has a good shot at replicating his efforts from 2018 when he made his first Pro Bowl.
The addition of Ebron to the Steelers offense is going to give them an X-factor that they haven’t had at the tight end position since Heath Miller wore that black and yellow uniform. If Ebron and Roethlisberger can get on the same page quickly, this offense is set to become a force again and make Pittsburgh a team with postseason potential. Ebron has great draft value again, being in an offense that will suit his skills well and he also raises the stock for the players already in the Steelers offense. Draft Ebron as a starting-caliber tight end and he’s a sleeper to finish as a top-five fantasy tight end.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 72/810/7 (Reception/Yards/TDs)
TE – Greg Olsen, Seattle Seahawks
Olsen was released as part of the personnel changes happening in Carolina. It didn’t take him long to find a new team to suit up for, as the Seattle Seahawks signed him two weeks after he was released. Olsen may be coming towards the end of his career, but he’s still able to produce at a high level. Unfortunately, he had to deal with injuries that led to him missing time over the past three seasons and last year there was a bit of uncertainty at the quarterback position. From Newton to Kyle Allen, the production was hard to come by and Olsen may be better off playing with a superstar passer in Russell Wilson.
Coming into Seattle, Olsen will most likely be first on the depth chart at tight end. While he may be the starting tight end, he may not be the most featured tight end. The Seahawks have a promising tight end by the name of Will Dissly still on the roster. He was on his way to a monster season in 2019, before being sidelined with a season-ending, Achilles, injury. In the five weeks he was able to play to begin the season, Dissly racked up 23 receptions, 262 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. While we need to see if he can return from that Achilles injury, he will be featured in the offense whenever he gets back onto the field. This will eat into Olsen’s value as they may split more time than we would like. This is also not accounting for the fact that D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett will be looking for their own share of targets and Seattle is notorious for being a run-first offense.
So while the aspect of having a high-caliber tight end like Olsen in the offense is great, it may not lead to a lot of fantasy production. Olsen carries value because they want to get him the ball, but draft him as a bench player and a possible bye week replacement. As the season goes along, we might see Wilson look his way more often and that would raise his value, obviously. Until then, draft and stash the former Miami Hurricane.
2020 Stat-line Prediction – 57/638/4 (Reception/Yards/TDs)