2020 Fantasy Free Agency – Big Names In New Places

Amar Desai
Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Photo Credit: Victor Araiza | Under Creative Commons License
Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Photo Credit: Victor Araiza | Under Creative Commons License

Fantasy Football is still some time away but with the start of free agency, this means some new names are in new places. In the case of this article, these are big names that you wouldn’t think are donning a new uniform but lo and behold, here we are.

These are NFL superstars in the league and will have to get acclimated to a new offense, new teammates, and a new city. Will these new situations bring the downfall of these once-mighty stars of the league or will they continue to amaze us and astound a new fanbase?

Let’s dive into all their situations and see who stands to have continued success and who stands to be faded out.

2020 Fantasy Free Agency – Big Names In New Places

WR – DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

Kliff Kingsbury had an average year in his rookie campaign as the Arizona head coach. The Cardinals finished dead last in the NFC West and registered just five wins.

The offense was flashy at times and rookie Kyler Murray ended the season as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Surprisingly the offense that was supposed to spread things out and be pass-happy, was actually top-10 in rushing. All the while, the pass-offense was towards the bottom ranking 24th in passing yards.

Part of this could be chalked up to a new offense being implemented and the intricacies of Kingsbury’s offense still being figured out as the season went along. Also, with a division that contains powerhouses in the Seahawks, Rams, and 49ers, it could be hard for any offense to build a rhythm and be consistent.

Still, the offense showed a lot of promise heading into the 2020 campaign and adding Hopkins to the mix will only bring more optimism the offense can get better.

Hopkins will join a receiving group that will feature a returning Larry Fitzgerald, an emerging young stud in Christian Kirk, and a lot of young promising receivers to groom. Players like Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and KeeSean Johnson can continue to learn from Fitzgerald and now Hopkins as this receiving group is going to be dynamic.

Hopkins will become an automatic go-to-target in this passing offense, joining Fitzgerald as primary receivers. The receiver’s stock that will see his stock drop will be Kirk and of course the depth behind him. Kirk can see some looks still in three-receiver sets but don’t count on huge production from the third receiver in this group.

If you look at the target share in the Arizona offense last season, Kirk and Fitzgerald accounted for 41% of the targets. Now, this could be argued that this is the case for most offenses in the NFL, but the drop-off is huge from the second receiver’s target share to the third. Fitzgerald had 109 targets, Kirk had 108 targets, and then it dives all the way down to Johnson, the running back, with 47 targets! This could be an anomaly as the rest of the receivers just might not have grasped the offense as easily and Kirk will be entering year two with the same offense, but still something to think about.

Murray should see his stock skyrocket as he can now throw to either Fitzgerald or Hopkins in this offense. The threat’s also there for his feet to make plays, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Murray easily eclipse the 4,500 passing yard mark next season and also 30 passing touchdowns.

The loss of David Johnson in the backfield is not as bad as we might think, as he just didn’t seem to fit into Kingsbury’s offense as we initially thought. The Cardinals opted to give rookie Chase Edmonds more touches and then eventually made a move to acquire Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins at the trade deadline. Drake looked to fit the scheme a lot better and Edmonds provided a similar running-style that allowed him to fit just as well as Drake did. As mentioned, this was a top-10 rushing attack last season and they could be even better in the upcoming year. 

Overall, this Cardinals offense looks amazing on paper and they should be worth all your attention when you start to put together your draft prep kit come summertime.

RB – David Johnson, Houston Texans

Johnson has found himself in a new offense as he will now be donning the red and blue uniform of the Houston Texans. It’s no secret that Johnson just didn’t quite gel in Kingsbury’s offense. There was a reason that the Cardinals ended up trading for Drake in the middle of the season and Johnson will now look to flourish again with a new team.

Losing Hopkins in the offense is going to be hard to replace, but not impossible. This offense should now funnel through Johnson and the run game. If you look at O’Brien’s time as head coach of the Texans, his rush offense has been a force to deal with.

In four of his six years, his offense had a top-10 rushing attack in total rushing yards. So acquiring a guy like Johnson can give this offense a lethal attack in both the run game and Johnson can leak out and catch passes to be a true dual-threat. The only big question mark to Johnson’s productivity will be injuries. This was one of the other reasons that Johnson saw his production dip last season as he dealt with nagging ankle problems to start the year. If he can stay healthy for the entire season in 2020, then Johnson is a prime candidate for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Duke Johnson Jr. is still with the team, but his role will be diminished now with the arrival of Johnson from Arizona. Johnson Jr. will come in to relieve David Johnson from time to time, but overall his stock has taken a big dive.

It will be interesting to see if the Texans decide to bring back Lamar Miller, but best guess would probably lean towards no. Although adding Miller to the equation could make for a very lethal running game with three capable players to attack opposing defenses.

On the flip side, the passing attack has a major hurdle to overcome. Deshaun Watson has lost his main target in the passing game and the players left are not consistent enough to rely on. Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, and Kenny Stills are capable players but all their production can’t equate to the hole left by Hopkins. Hopkins put up a stat line last season of 104 receptions, 1,165 receiving yards, and seven receiving touchdowns. Stills, Coutee, and Fuller combined to put up a stat line of 111 receptions, 1,485 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns.

It’s going to be hard going for the passing attack unless one of those three guys can step-up and take on a larger role. Based on past history, the chances of that happening are unlikely. Unless the Texans draft a receiver in the draft, this passing offense is not the fantasy haven it once was. Watson still holds some value, but he is no longer one of the top quarterbacks off the board like in past years.

So Johnson is going to be a good running back to target in drafts, as he will be the main guy in the offense now. Watson is a great quarterback, but it’s hard to replicate the production he had without a stud like Hopkins in the offense. He is still a starting fantasy quarterback, but it really is dependent on what happens with the receiving crew and if someone can take that next step to become the number one guy. Stills, Coutee, and Fuller have value but it’s a wait-and-see approach. For now, they are guys to stash on the bench until further notice.

WR – Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

Another receiver has found a new home as Diggs wanted out of Minnesota. He got his wish and has found a new home in Buffalo to play with Josh Allen in the new Tom Brady-less AFC East. This is a good move for the Bills as they now have a legitimate threat on the outside to pair with John Brown and Cole Beasley. While Brown is no slouch as a receiver, his skill set can now supplement Diggs’ all-around abilities to give this passing attack far more potency. While this pass offense may not be one of the best in the league, they will be a lot better with this new addition.

Diggs is coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons. Regardless, the offense seemed to be shifting towards involving Adam Thielen more and Diggs felt it was time to move on and become the top banana in another offense.

Joining Buffalo cements him as the clear number one, but the production on the other side of him might be a step down in caliber. Brown eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the Bills, becoming the first player in five years to accomplish the feat. He really flourished after being labeled a deep-threat for most of his career and also set career highs in both targets and receptions. Pairing him with Diggs might relegate him to more deep routes again, but he should be able to develop his skills even more and become a good second option for the Buffalo pass offense.

Learning the nuances of route-running and becoming a more well-rounded receiver is something that Diggs can bring to the table for Brown and all the other Bills’ receivers.

The last player that could see some dip in his production will be Beasley, as he will play a similar role to what he played in Dallas, becoming the primary slot-receiver. Beasley will remain a good weapon in the offense as his role to move the chains and prolong drives will be needed. He will be an extension of the running game, as the Bills love to establish a good ground attack.

Speaking of the ground attack, running back Devin Singletary should actually see good production heading into his second year in the league. Frank Gore is no longer with the team and this means that Singletary will become the lead dog in the backfield. Adding Diggs to the pass offense will relieve the pressure off of Singletary to hit the home run play. The offense should be more balanced now and could be more effective with a bigger threat in the passing game.

Going into Allen and the passing attack again, we should see a slight rise in his ranking as a fantasy quarterback. Without Diggs last season, Allen finished as the sixth-best fantasy quarterback and he also led all quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns. While his ability to tuck the ball and run led to him being a valuable fantasy quarterback, he was also a much better passer. Comparing his rookie season and his second year, he raised his completion percentage from 52% to 58% and he also boasted a better touchdown/interception ratio. He threw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions his rookie year and improved that to 20 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in year two. Allen has a real shot at climbing into the top-five of fantasy quarterbacks next season but he needs to continue to improve and adding Diggs can really help with that.

This Buffalo offense is going to be a sleeper for fantasy purposes. Diggs and Singletary are fantasy starters and Brown, Allen, and Beasley should be good bench players and also flex starts. Keep an eye on this offense as you get your draft prep together in the coming months.

QB – Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is another move that’s going to be hard to grasp until the season actually begins. Brady will be wearing a different uniform for the first time in over two decades. Now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady will look to continue his illustrious career without the tutelage of head coach Bill Belichick. How will the results work out for both guys? Only time will tell, but let’s see what Brady brings to Tampa Bay.

Brady is going to bring one thing immediately to this offense: veteran leadership. This team is full of young players and having a guy who has accomplished so much in his career will bring a sense of commitment to all the players to learn from one of the NFL’s best. His drive and will to be one of the best will rub off on these players and this team should never feel like they are out of a game.

Speaking of which, Brady is also careful with the football and should keep the Bucs in games. Former Tampa Bay quarterback, Jameis Winston, has thrown for double-digit interceptions in every one of his five years in the league. Over that same timeframe, Brady has only done that once.

While that aggressiveness also led Winston to lead the league in passing touchdowns last year, this also meant that he had to throw his way out of holes he dug the team into in the first place. Brady will bring a sense of calm to this offense and he will be surrounded by arguably the best set of receivers he has ever played with. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are already great players, but under Brady, they could reach another level.

Let’s also not forget that Brady is going to have legit tight ends in his offense again, as he will get to throw to the likes of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. This offense can be explosive and Brady may regain fantasy relevance again, posting numbers similar to what he did back in 2007.

While the passing offense can be dynamic and worth drafting, the running game is inviting some questions. Ronald Jones is the lead back for now, as the team lost Peyton Barber, who signed with Washington as a free agent. The rushing attack showed flashes at times last season, but different backs were flashing at different times and not consistently enough to warrant inserting into your starting roster.

Jones rushed for 100 yards once the entire year and Barber didn’t even accomplish that feat. Both ended with six rushing touchdowns and head coach Bruce Arians was just swapping running backs the entire year, seeing if one could hang onto the job.

An interesting thought would be if Tampa Bay decides to invest their first-round pick in a running back, such as J.K. Dobbins, D’Andre Swift, or Jonathan Taylor. If that ends up happening, this rushing attack could be more utilized with Jones and the incoming rookie. Most likely, the Bucs will end up drafting a lineman to shore up the offensive or defensive front, but it would be intriguing to think of one of those rookie runners in this offense.

Brady coming to Tampa Bay is going to be interesting as he will have a great set of players to support him, but also the competition is going to be tougher in the NFC South compared to the AFC East. It’s a challenge that he will accept with open arms and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brady finish as a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

All receivers in this offense will see a boost in their stock which includes Evans, Godwin, Howard, and Brate. The running game is going to be questionable but the potential with Jones is there. Let’s see if he can continue the success he experienced at the end of the 2019 season. All eyes are on this offense in NFL and fantasy circles, let’s see what the Buccaneers can do in 2020!

QB – Philip Rivers, Indianapolis Colts

Rivers now runs through Indiana instead of California. The longtime Charger is now a member of the Colts as he reunites with Frank Reich, his former quarterback’s coach, and offensive coordinator. Rivers threw for the most yards in his career in 2015 under Reich and also was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013 when Reich was his quarterback’s coach. Also during his time with Reich, he boasted some of the best completion percentages of his career. This is a good reunion for Rivers as he had one of his worst performing seasons in 2019 and will look to rebound with Reich and the Colts offense.

Rivers no longer has to worry about slinging the ball all over the field. The Colts were one of the more balanced offensive teams in the league. The Colts ran the ball on 46% of their plays last season, while the Chargers ran the ball on only 37% of their plays. With Rivers having a more gunslinger mentality, that 46% could drop but not by a whole lot.

Marlon Mack should retain a lot of value as his ability to run the ball in this offense is crucial for the Colts getting the ball down the field. This run game should alleviate all the pressure on Rivers’ shoulders that he had in Los Angeles to be the primary option to move the ball down the field. While Rivers is an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, the offensive philosophy of establishing the run won’t change. Mack is still a premier fantasy running back and Rivers will just boost his value a little more compared to Brissett.

The receiving options in Los Angeles are very similar to the one’s Rivers will have in Indianapolis. He has an elite number one option in T.Y. Hilton, good supplemental receivers like Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal, and a dependable tight end option in Jack Doyle.

Hilton is more of the deep route type of receiver and that might be an adjustment compared to what Rivers had with Keenan Allen in Los Angeles. Also, Hilton has been dealing with injury problems the past two seasons but when healthy, Hilton should see a good number of targets in the offense. His value will take a slight rise with Rivers under center, but not a ton more.

The other receivers in this offense should see their value rise significantly by comparison. Pascal was a great replacement when Hilton was nursing his injuries last year. He should be fighting for the number two spot with Campbell. Either way, both Campbell and Pascal will benefit from having a more experienced quarterback throwing them the ball. Like most quarterbacks, Rivers does rely on his number one option but in the case of this offense, there’s a good chance he spreads the ball around more as we just don’t know if Hilton can be relied on for all 16 games in 2020.

Rivers may still be one of those last quarterbacks taken off the board, but he could be a sleeper pick to be one of the more dependable fantasy quarterbacks in 2020. Mack’s value doesn’t change as he will still be a starting-caliber running back. If Hilton can stay healthy, he has starting receiver value still. Pascal, Campbell, and Doyle should all see rises in their stock as Rivers will make them all involved in the Colts offense. Don’t underestimate the players in this offense as they will be sought after come draft time, including the 38-year-old Rivers.

RB – Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons

The 2017 Offensive Player of the Year is no longer part of the Los Angeles Rams. Due to lots of wheelings and dealings by the front office, the Rams were strapped for cash and needed to make a move. Gurley suffered a torn ACL injury during his college career at the University of Georgia. He came into the league and everything seemed fine, but the knee was starting to become a problem.

Trainers and medical personnel liken the issues to arthritic symptoms and it’s looking like it will get worse over time. Still, at only 25 years old, the Falcons scooped him up and he will now lead the charge in Atlanta.

With the nationwide epidemic of COVID-19, Gurley was not able to come into a facility and perform a physical with medical staff. The risk that the Falcons are taking is huge, considering that they let go of their former lead running back, Devonta Freeman.

While the dollar amount is not that big, Gurley will be the number one option when the 2020 season begins. With the release of Freeman, the running back group is inexperienced. Brian Hill and Ito Smith showed at times they could be effective runners, but consistency was the main issue.

Also, all running backs suffered from injuries at some point in the season and missed games in 2019. So adding a running back that has the potential to miss time with knee problems doesn’t look good for the Atlanta running game. It also doesn’t help that Atlanta was ranked in the bottom five in both rushing attempts and rushing yards in 2018 and 2019 while being top five in passing attempts and passing yards. 

Transitioning to the passing game, Gurley does have the ability to help in the passing attack. Matt Ryan and company are always looking for more weapons in the passing offense as they also traded for former first-round draft pick, Hayden Hurst.

The passing offense will benefit greatly by adding Gurley, as Freeman was not a dual-threat running back. Bringing in a passing-down back just led to defenses knowing what play was coming from the offense. So Gurley can boost the values of Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Hurst but only if he can remain on the field.

This offense is going to succeed or fail with Gurley. If he can replicate his play from 2017 with no sign of wear-and-tear, this is going to be a dangerous offense to contend with. If he needs to miss time either during games or even full games, this offense will only go as far as the passing offense can take them.

Ryan still holds good value as he finished just outside the top-10 for fantasy quarterbacks last season. Jones and Ridley are still prominent wide receivers in fantasy circles and adding Hurst to the mix give him some more value in a more pass-first offense. The Falcons are hoping that Gurley is going to rebound this year, but you can still rely on the passing offense to win you some fantasy games in 2020.

RB – Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

Another former Charger has found a new place to call home. Gordon has left Los Angeles and will now be suiting up for the Denver Broncos. Gordon was looking for a bigger contract last season and ended up holding out for the first month of the regular season. He eventually ended his holdout and played under the final year on his rookie contract. Gordon clearly felt disrespected by the Chargers and he was also replaced by the emergence of Austin Ekeler. Gordon will now fight for his spot in the Denver Broncos backfield.

Ok, maybe he won’t have to fight that hard but he still needs to earn his place. Gordon enters a backfield that has Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. While both are more than capable running backs, they lack the one skill that Gordon possesses: catching the ball out of the backfield.

It’s no question that Gordon is the all-around running back that offenses are gearing towards and he can become a true three-down running back in the Denver offense. So Gordon has a real chance to become a premier fantasy running back in the league, but this drops the value for Freeman and Lindsay. They will use all three running backs, but Lindsay is the only player to keep in your rankings. Freeman has never emerged as a capable NFL running back after being taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He came highly regarded but just never found a rhythm at the pro level.

Lindsay, as mentioned, has worked hard and earned everything that has come his way. He will still get some touches in the offense and will make it hard on Gordon to gain the number one spot. Gordon’s ability to play on passing downs will ultimately keep him on the field more than any other Bronco running back. Expect a situation similar to what Gordon saw in LA, Austin Ekeler was still very involved and fantasy relevant.

As mentioned, Gordon being used in the passing game should be good for young quarterback, Drew Lock, to utilize as a safety valve. Lock came in towards the end of the season and really showed promise as the future signal-caller for the Denver Broncos. Time will only tell if he can continue that late-season success into the 2020 campaign.

Emerging with him was tight end, Noah Fant. For the most part of the season, Fant was not a factor and then finally pairing him with Lock just uncorked all that potential. Let’s see if the two can keep it going as the 2020 season approaches.

The biggest emergence was Courtland Sutton in the wide receiver group. Sutton came in as the feature receiver and he didn’t disappoint. He did play with the veteran Emmanuel Sanders, but Sanders was shipped to San Francisco to help with their run to the Super Bowl. Sutton then became the clear go-to target in the offense and he is really going to be a force in the NFL for years to come. The combination of all this young talent is good for Denver and they’re just hoping that it all works well together and leads to some more victories.

Signing Gordon meant that the Broncos want that every-down back, so Gordon’s value is rising as he joins a new team. Lindsay holds some value, but nowhere near where it was before the Gordon signing. Clearly he becomes a strong handcuff player but nothing more than that. Freeman has lost all value unless he finally gets things going in his third year in the league.

Lock is going to be a good passer in the league, but it’s a wait and see approach to see if he is worth drafting just yet.

Sutton, on the other hand, has become a fantasy starter and Fant is on the fringe of joining him. If Fant can continue his good play with Lock under center, then Fant is going to be a sleeper tight end to keep your eye on and stash on your bench. Lots of young talent on the Broncos offense, but right now we can only trust Gordon and Sutton.

Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Photo Credit: Victor Araiza | Under Creative Commons License

Houston Texans Wide Receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Photo Credit: Victor Araiza | Under Creative Commons License