Forecasting fantasy football free-agent wide receivers

Forecasting fantasy football free-agent wide receivers

NFL free agents and fantasy football impact

Forecasting fantasy football free-agent wide receivers

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When the NFL’s 2020 free agency period opens March 18, we’ll see several familiar faces switching teams, including one star who may be in a new uniform for the first time in 20 years.

In fantasy football, forecasting statistical production largely hinges on where said player winds up, of course, and the nature of this being a team game means the supporting cast is an intertwining factor in developing a sound projection.

Looking at the key fantasy contributors facing free agency generates plenty of questions. Let’s try to wager some educated guesses as to where these guys will land.

Wide receivers

(Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports)

Amari Cooper: So much is at play in what will determine Cooper’s 2020 landing spot. Dallas has to figure out how to handle Dak Prescott’s contract situation — one that will impose itself on the salary cap — and prevent Cooper from walking into free agency’s alluring arms. The Cowboys have the fifth-most space on the salary cap for 2020, and big-money deals are awaiting Prescott, Cooper, versatile cornerback Byron Jones, and possibly DE Robert Quinn. Tight end Jason Witten is a free agent, and so is WR Randall Cobb. Both could still return at the right price. Cooper may receive a transition tag, which kicks the can until next year but allows other teams to negotiate with him. The prevailing view right now is Dak will get franchise tagged and Cooper will return one way or another. He’s a great WR2 or passable No. 1 in 12-team or larger leagues.

A.J. Green: A franchise tag is in play here, and Green has been rumored to be connected to the New England Patriots in free agency, but recent reports suggest the Bengals aren’t interested in letting Green walk. He enters his age-32 season without even playing in 2019, and he has missed at least six games in three of the last four seasons. Quarterback concerns will be a nearly even concern in 2020 with the Bengals a lock to use the No. 1 overall choice on LSU star Joe Burrow. The Heisman winner should have a bright future in the NFL, but rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle for fantasy purposes, and those issue would negatively impact Green. The best thing for his value is to leave Cincy, but a tagging would make that out of his control for the upcoming season. In the event he returns, the veteran is a WR3 with an outside shot of reaching weak No. 2 status.

Robby Anderson: Anderson has no interest in giving the New York Jets a discount, and the vertical asset appears destined to be playing in a different city in 2020. New England makes a lot of sense as a landing spot, given the need for more weapons and one who can stretch the field. It also would help lure Tom Brady back to the roster. The other options of intrigue would be the Las Vegas Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins. Anderson is a boom-or-bust type with a wildly inconsistent track record and a checkered history off of the field. The system and quarterback matter the most for a one-trick pony, and it’s too early to properly valuate Anderson, outside of saying his floor is around the WR3 designation.

Emmanuel Sanders: Was the brief union with the San Francisco 49ers enough for both sides to come to an agreement? My leaning on this situation is yes. Sanders probably will get an opportunity to explore other options, although it seemingly would be in his best interest to take the best deal San Fran can offer. He brings a veteran presence and displayed a reasonable degree of chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo. The veteran wideout turns 33 in March and still has enough in the tank to immediately contribute wherever he lands thanks to crafty route-running skills and heady play. The Niners have cap concerns, though, so retaining Sanders may require him to accept a one-year, modest deal or an incentive-laden pact for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.

(Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports)

Nelson Agholor: Which Agholor will a team be signing this March? The one who emerged in 2017 as a viable No. 2 complement, or the guy who fought injuries, poor ball skills, and mediocrity in four of his five NFL seasons after being the 20th overall pick in 2015? There is no question Philly failed to launch a home run with that swing, but they at least made contact. He’s a hard worker with a positive attitude and wants to return. However, Agholor has struggled with tracking the ball and is coming off of his worst NFL season, which hinders his leverage. With the right quarterback situation and offensive scheme, Agholor could elevate his game as a role player. Teams like Oakland, Denver, Miami, Tampa Bay, Buffalo and the Jets all may be interested, but a return to the Eagles should not be totally out of the question. He could sign a one-year deal that requires him to prove he can contribute again, setting up a 2021 free agency tour in search of big dollars.

Demarcus Robinson: The Kansas City Chiefs having so many effective weapons works against Robinson’s return to the team. He’ll want to get a shot at proving he is more than a reserve. If Sammy Watkins is cut, perhaps Robinson returns to KC. The Denver Broncos could be an interesting place for him as the sides are familiar with one another, and Robinson plays faster than he times. Denver needs someone capable of pushing the field and keeping Courtland Sutton’s coverage in check. Adding Robinson to do such a thing is a calculated gamble, and he’s more likely to be treated as a consolation prize once the more recognizable names are signed. He could emerge as a capable WR3 in fantasy, but there is going to be an associated degree of risk many owners just won’t feel comfortable accepting on draft day. Tuck his name away for now as a possible value pick.

Breshad Perriman: An unexpectedly integral part in 2019 fantasy football title runs, Perriman stepped up in a major way with injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Tampa Bay receiving corps is strong, but Perriman’s contributions could have endeared him as the WR3 and lead to a new contract. He was a first-round pick in 2015 for the Baltimore Ravens and struggled catching the ball — kind of a problem if that’s the crux of your job. While he has improved in this area, landing 55 percent of his targets in the last two years, it is Perriman’s ability to stretch the field that makes him dangerous. Should he return to the Bucs, there’s almost no fantasy value, beyond being a rare matchup play, and his worth drastically could increase elsewhere. The landing spot will play a larger role in his fantasy worth than anything Perriman alone brings to the table.

Devin Funchess: After missing all but one game of the 2019 season with a broken clavicle, there’s some question about whether Funchess is now an injury liability. The injury in and of itself shouldn’t be a season-long problem, but the area he broke it made for a difficult recovery after surgery. Is he prone to reinjuring it? Did the Colts see enough in practice to warrant re-signing Funchess? Does it matter since he was barely on the radar after failing to ascend in Carolina? We’re not exactly talking about a high-level commodity prior to the injury, despite Indy grossly overpaying for him ($10 million) in 2019. There’s still some upside given his age (26 in May), and gamers should keep tabs on his situation. He has late-round flier appeal in the right situation.

(Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)

Randall Cobb: Despite a slight resurgence in 2019, there’s no doubt about what gamers are getting in return. Cobb offers PPR value as an occasional flex or matchup play and is barely worthy of a roster spot much of the season. He has one season of play better than a WR3 in the last seven years and just two in his career. It’s unclear whether Dallas will even make a play for him again, and he’s “just a guy” in any setting. A return to Green Bay may be in the cards, too, and it would make some sense for both parties. There just isn’t much to get excited about in any outcome. He’s no more than a WR4 in deeper PPR setups.

Geronimo Allison: Unable to capitalize on a prime opportunity — a huge need for underneath work, a lack of dynamic competition, and an injury to Davante Adams — Allison heads into free agency all but guaranteed to be playing in a new city in 2020. The Green Bay Packers effectively moved on during the season, and Allison’s market will be narrow, but he should find a home at least to battle in training camp. He doesn’t figure to offer much value, but wait to see his landing spot for entirely writing off Allison.

Paul Richardson: Following his release from the Washington Redskins after two years into a five-year, $40 million deal, Richardson doesn’t deserve much attention in fantasy. He can be tracked in free agency and has a hint of appeal in the right setting.

Demaryius Thomas: Injuries and age have caught up to the former No. 1 receiver. There is little reason to expect he finds the fountain of youth and contributes meaningfully in 2020, and that is going on the limb of him signing somewhere. In the best-case scenario, he is a desperation waiver add to cover bye weeks.

Phillip Dorsett: Look, if a team as strapped for vertical weapons as New England was in 2019 couldn’t make Dorsett a fantasy commodity, he’s not worthy of consideration in any other setting. The Colts whiffed big time when choosing him in Round 1 of the 2015 draft, and barring some crazy turn of events, fake footballers can ignore Dorsett come draft day.

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