Fantasy Free Agency Winners & Losers (2021)

Mar 25, 2021
Fantasy Free Agency Winners & Losers (2021)

The bulk of free agency is over, so I thought I’d compile a list of fantasy “winners” and “losers,” taking into account all of the big signings thus far.

I’ve been blurbing each major signing as they happen, so check the Fantasy Free Agency Tracker for more detail. The 4for4 Staff has also written up individual in-depth profiles of this free agency class—read them all.

Fantasy Winners

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

  • I had Aaron Jones ranked as a low-end RB1 heading into free agency, but once he re-upped with the Packers and Jamaal Williams moved on, Jones’s value is back in the top 5.

  • Seattle was probably the best possible landing spot for Chris Carson due to Carlos Hyde’s departure and we know how the Seahawks will use him. Rashaad Penny should serve as his primary backup. Carson might see a drop in catches but should see an increase in carries after averaging a career-low 11.8 last season, sharing time with Hyde.

  • The Falcons might draft a running back early, but if they don’t, Mike Davis can handle the starting job in Arthur Smith’s offense. In the 19 games since the 2017 season where Davis has seen at least 10 carries, he has averaged 17.9 touches for 80 total yards and 0.63 touchdowns. Those would have been solid RB2 numbers in 2020.

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire got a boost when the Chiefs cut Damien Williams. Le’Veon Bell is also a free agent, so CEH might have a clearer path to big touches in 2021.

  • The Carlos Hyde signing is probably good news for James Robinson, who was unlikely to continue to see the bellcow usage that he got as a rookie. Hyde doesn’t do much in the passing game so Robinson should continue to see a major role as a receiver.

Wide Receivers

  • I’m genuinely excited for Curtis Samuel, who deserved more touches in Carolina and should get all that he can handle (or at least a sizable uptick) in Washington as the team’s WR2 opposite Terry McLaurin. He’ll also be playing with a quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) who has no fear when it comes to giving his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball. HC Ron Rivera and OC Scott Turner have coached Samuel before so he should hit the ground running.

  • The more I look at John Brown’s contract ($3.8 million with incentives up to $5.5 million), the more upset I am that the Packers didn’t make a run at him. He struggled with injuries in 2020 en route to a 33-458-3 season, but was excellent in Buffalo the year before (72-1,060-6) and was tearing it up in Baltimore (34-601-4 in nine games) before rookie-season Lamar Jackson took over and the Ravens went super run-heavy. With Nelson Agholor moving on, and both Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards struggling to make an impact as rookies, there’s a non-zero chance that Brown leads the Vegas WRs in receiving yards in 2021.

  • It looks like Josh Reynolds might serve as the Titans’ WR2 after the departure of Corey Davis. This won’t be a high-volume role, but the Titans’ passing game is ridiculously efficient, so Reynolds should be fantasy-relevant if he sees 80-90 targets as A.J. Brown’s sidekick.

  • A.J. Green signed with the Cardinals, and that’s good news for Tee Higgins and Auden Tate, who should see consistent targets with Green out of the way. Higgins looks like a future star, but it’s Tate’s snaps that could really spike if the Bengals stand pat at receiver in the draft/free agency.

  • We’ll see what the Lions have planned in the draft, but right now, Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams sit atop the team’s depth chart at receiver. If the team doesn’t draft a receiver or two early, Perriman and Williams are perfectly capable of absorbing 80+ targets apiece from Jared Goff.

Tight Ends

  • With Jonnu Smith moving on to New England, Anthony Firkser is penciled in as the Titans’ starting tight end. He saw 6.0 targets per game in the five games where he saw at least 40% of the snaps, so he should be a big part of the offense as he becomes a full-time player. Remember, he had 8-113-1 on nine targets against the Texans in Week 6.

  • I was very interested in seeing where Gerald Everett landed, and he found a good home in Seattle. Russell Wilson likes to throw to his tight ends and Everett should provide an upgrade over the three-headed monster of Greg Olsen/Will Dissly/Jacob Hollister that the Seahawks used last year. Dissly will still be a factor, but this is Everett’s chance for a full-time role.

  • Kyle Rudolph signed with the Giants, and that should open up a lot of snaps for Irv Smith in Minnesota. In the four games that Smith played without Rudolph in 2020, he averaged 3.9 catches for 46 yards and 0.75 touchdowns on 5.0 targets per game. Those would have been top-five numbers in 2020.

  • Tyler Higbee should see a more consistent role now that Gerald Everett is out of the way. Over the last two seasons, Higbee averaged an incredible 8.7 catches for 111 yards and 0.33 touchdowns in the three games that Everett missed. His snap share jumped from 70% to 91% with Everett out.

Fanasy Losers

Quarterbacks

  • Andy Dalton may be a free agency winner, but what about those Bears fans who headed into March thinking that the team would be able to land Russell Wilson? Dalton is probably an upgrade over Nick Foles/Mitch Trubisky...right?

  • Drew Brees retired and the Saints re-signed Jameis Winston, though Taysom Hill was their choice at quarterback when Drew Brees missed a few games last season. He started four games, but throwing out the game against the Broncos when they had a practice squad receiver playing quarterback, Hill averaged 252 pass yards (8.0 yards per attempt), 1.3 touchdowns and 0.3 interceptions to go along with 56 yards rushing and 0.67 rush touchdowns per game. His 22.3 fantasy points per game equated to Lamar Jackson’s production as last year’s QB8. Had the Saints committed to Hill as their starter, he’d be a very intriguing fantasy pick, but with Winston back, this situation is very much up in the air. Whoever wins this job should produce at a low-end QB1 level, so this will be a fascinating competition to watch as the summer wears on. (Best ball drafters should be able to draft both players without spending too much draft capital.)

Running Backs

  • The Texans started free agency by signing Mark Ingram to back up David Johnson. Then the Broncos released Phillip Lindsay, and the Texans couldn’t resist. Now Houston has three capable options in the backfield and it spells doom for Johnson’s ceiling.

  • The Raiders gave $11 million guaranteed to Kenyan Drake while at the same time attempting to overhaul their already-good offensive line. Drake’s presence complicates Josh Jacobs’ fantasy outlook at the O-line issues will hurt both players. Not great, Bob.

  • I wouldn’t say that Jonathan Taylor is a big free agency loser, but the Colts’ decision to re-sign Marlon Mack certainly puts a damper on Taylor’s 2021 outlook. The original plan was for Mack to start the season as the lead back while Taylor got his feet wet. Taylor has earned the lead role, but he may not see the bell-cow workload that his owners are hoping for.

  • The Lions added Jamaal Williams in free agency. He’s not as talented as D'Andre Swift, but he has a similar skillset and the Lions signed him to a substantial deal which indicates that they have a role in mind for him. It’s not a major downgrade for Swift, but it’s a concern.

  • A.J. Dillon looked to be slated for RB1 duties heading into free agency, but the Packers brought back Aaron Jones on a big contract and let Jamaal Williams walk. Dillon’s role should be much larger than last year, but not the 18+ touches that owners were hoping for when it looked like Jones would sign elsewhere.

  • Not only was David Montgomery going to have to deal with the return of Tarik Cohen, but now the Bears have signed Damien Williams to a one-year deal, so Montgomery’s voluminous 2020 workload is under fire.

Wide Receivers

  • Kenny Golladay’s arrival in New York is great for Daniel Jones, but the rest of the Giants’ receiving corps is going to suffer. Golladay will probably kick Sterling Shepard to the slot. He typically thrives there, so it might be a wash for him, though Darius Slayton’s air yards will undoubtedly get pinched.

  • As a Twitter follower pointed out, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s re-signing with the Steeler means that things are the same as last year, but I look at it as a downgrade for Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool since once a player hits free agency, he usually leaves for another team, and that was my expectation for JJSS. Now that he’s back, I had to downgrade Claypool and Johnson in my Never Too Early Rankings. This will once again be a tough receiving corps to project week-to-week.

  • Sammy Watkins is likely to move on, which is theoretically good for Mecole Hardman, but the Chiefs re-signed Demarcus Robinson, and Hardman’s usage hasn’t spiked with Watkins sidelined. More of the same for Mecole?

Tight Ends

  • I was excited when news broke that Jonnu Smith signed with the Patriots, but the Hunter Henry news threw cold water on the whole situation. The Patriots also added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, and maybe we should take that as a strong signal that the team is going to open up the passing game in a significant way. It’s just tough to get too jazzed about any of these players with Cam Newton coming off of an 8-touchdown/10-interception season.

  • Evan Engram probably sees less time in the slot with Kenny Golladay’s arrival. Sterling Shepard will get those routes, and that’s bad for Engram. Kyle Rudolph’s arrival is another negative factor for Engram.

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