Fantasy football: 2022 NFL free agency roundup

Fantasy football: 2022 NFL free agency roundup

NFL free agents and fantasy football impact

Fantasy football: 2022 NFL free agency roundup


Updated: Tuesday, April 26, at 11:11 p.m. EDT

Now that NFL free agency is upon us, we’ll run through the fantasy football outlooks for trades, re-signings, midrange players, and tag recipients.

This analysis will be updated as players sign/re-sign in free agency, so be sure to check back regularly.

Signed with new team or traded

WR Sammy Watkins, Green Bay Packers: The well-traveled former first-rounder heads to Green Bay shortly after visiting with the club. He brings a veteran presence to a passing game that lost Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and now will catch passes from the league’s reigning MVP of the past two years. Nevertheless, we’re talking about one of the softest underperformers in recent memory. Watkins has missed at least one game in all but his rookie season of 2014. Even after playing with Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson the past few years, Watkins’ production has been abysmal. He hasn’t broken the 700-yard mark since going for 1,047 in his sophomore season with Buffalo. The Clemson product has scored nine aerial touchdowns in the last four seasons combined after posting eight in 2017. While he’s entering his age-29 season, Watkins is unlikely to deliver more than a handful of useful fantasy performances. Injuries are a glaring issue, and Green Bay still may not be done with adding weapons at the position. In the best-case scenario, Watkins remains healthy all year and approaches a thousand yards with a half-dozen or so scores. That’s also the least likely of scenarios, and he’s barely worth drafting in standard-sized leagues.

TE Anthony Firkser, Atlanta Falcons: This will be brief … while talented enough to warrant some interest had he signed into the ideal situation, this ain’t it. Yes, he reunites with Arthur Smith, his former play-caller in Tennessee. Yes, Marcus Mariota also happens to be a familiar face. However, Kyle Pitts exists, so unless the Falcons intend to move him full time to wide receiver, Firkser will remain unworthy of a fantasy football roster spot coming out of conventional drafts. He’s a possible flier if Pitts is indeed converted to WR. Otherwise, punt that ball out of the stadium.

WR DeVante Parker, New England Patriots: Once Tyreek Hill was acquired by the Miami Dolphins, it became clear Parker was on his way out of town. The oft-injured veteran was traded within the division to New England and gets a chance to reboot his once-promising career in his age-29 season. This is a savvy gamble by the Pats and fills a need. Furthermore, after playing against him twice a season for seven years, be sure the Patriots know his strengths and weaknesses inside and out. While the offense is somewhat crowded, Parker is a late-round fantasy game as a risk-reward decision, offering WR2 potential at a No. 4 price tag.

RB Marlon Mack, Houston Texans: This one could go down as possibly the most unheralded yet impactful signings for fantasy purposes. Mack was the odd man out last year with the Colts and didn’t get traded at the deadline as widely suspected. He’s healthy and fresh after only 30 total touches, but durability concerns are at the forefront of his list of drawbacks. Mack just turned 26 and is in the prime of his career. The Texans needed a game-breaking option out of the backfield, although keeping him healthy will be a factor his utilization rate. While Houston is bound to acquire a back via the draft who may contend for touches, Mack still could emerge as the most productive guy of the lot, considering his current competition is headlined by Rex Burkhead. For the time being, Mack is an RB3 candidate.

RB Ronald Jones, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs spent a first-round pick on running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire two years ago, and the LSU product has yet to materialize as a reliable option. He’ll get a new backfield mate in Jones as the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer has performed in a similarly inconsistent manner. Jones has yet to show he can be more than a change-up back through four seasons. Given his limited skills catching the ball, it’s fair to expect CEH will garner more work on passing downs. Jones’ one-year, $5 million deal suggests he wasn’t signed to outright take over, and it’s likely we’ll see Edwards-Helaire finish the year with a slight edge in touches, all things even. Jones is an RB4 in most settings but could live up to an inconsistent No. 3 placement.

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City Chiefs: The trade of Tyreek Hill to Miami opened the biggest imaginable hole in a roster for such a small person, and there’s never going to be a one-man plug-n-play to fill the void. Enter MVS: He’s among the fastest players in the game, and while the stats don’t show it, the measurables (6-foot-4, 206 pounds, with a 4.37-second 40) make him a desirable option for a creative-minded offensive coaching staff. Valdes-Scantling doesn’t get enough credit for his blocking skills, and he comes from an awfully similar offensive system, so there shouldn’t be too steep of a learning curve here. The former Green Bay wideout is a No. 3 candidate in fantasy leagues, depending on what the Chiefs do from here on out in free agency and the draft.

WR Jamison Crowder, Buffalo Bills: Injuries have played a role in Crowder’s NFL career, but not to the point of being a fantasy football liability in relation to the investment. When on the field, he’s an established slot presence with flex utility in PPR scoring. Buffalo found at least 106 targets over the past three seasons for the recently released Cole Beasley. Crowder, 29, gets a significant upgrade at QB, and the veteran receiver has a reserve spot on all reception-heavy fantasy scoring leagues.

QB Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons: The trade of long-time Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to Indy opened the door for a reunion between Mariota and head coach Arthur Smith from their shared time in Tennessee. The Falcons are rather barren at the skill positions, especially receiver, but the system’s success is predicated on a strong ground game and mobility at quarterback. Mariota has been a disappointment based on his draft placement but also struggled with health a similar lack of weaponry while in Tennessee. The showcased his talents off the bench for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 to remind everyone what he’s capable of. This situation will be tough on him. The offensive line is leaky, the backfield is shaky, and only tight end Kyle Pitts is worthy of being an NFL starter among Atlanta’s aerial targets. Not good. The draft is deep at WR, and there’s still enough talent on the wire to cobble together a competent corps. Even still, Mariota is a risky fantasy option with limited upside, capping him at QB2 with occasional utility.

TE Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers: His one-year stint with the Seattle Seahawks resulted in career-best stats, albeit modest numbers, but it was a good enough showing to convince the Bolts to offer a two-year deal. Everett enters a fine situation in an explosive offense. That said, the Chargers have too many weapons ahead of him on any given play to be enthusiastic about drafting him. Everett just isn’t prolific enough to be more than a matchup play without an injury to a more prominent target.

WR Robert Woods, Tennessee Titans: After sending Julio Jones packing and adding tight end Austin Hooper this week, the Titans weren’t finished. A trade with the Los Angeles Rams sends Woods to the Music City, which is a risk-reward decision given his injury and remaining contract. Prior to 2021, he was among the steadiest performers in the league, regardless of position, and the one-time Buffalo Bill resurrected his career in LA. Then came the ACL tear last year, forcing him to miss the final eight games of the regular season and all of the Super Bowl run. Tennessee adds a proven veteran and stabilizes the offense, provided he can return to form. Barring a setback, he’ll be 10 months removed from the injury when the season kicks off, and that should be enough to get into the lineup. He may not be in peak form until closer to midseason, though. For now, put him into the WR3 or flex bucket with elevated stability in PPR scoring.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs: The 2021 NFL offseason nearly saw the USC product land with KC before he ultimately re-signed on a one-year pact with Pittsburgh. He plays his best from the slot, and the Chiefs ran a three-wide base (11 personnel) at the seventh-highest rate in the league last season. WR Tyreek Hill was traded since Smith-Schuster signed, which dramatically improves his fantasy outlook with KC. Tight end Travis Kelce draws constant attention, which frees up Smith-Schuster for isolated looks, especially over the middle against inferior coverage. But the loss of Hill means the Chiefs are in desperate need of a receiver who can clear the field. Is that Mecole Hardman? A different receiver yet to be added? We’ll revisit as more is known, but there’s no doubt the former Steeler’s stock just rose. He’s in the conversation of WR2 for the time being.

TE Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans: This could go down as one of the best signings in free agency from a fantasy perspective. The Titans run a system loves to incorporate tight ends, although the position was rather barren with talent last year, thus depressing the numbers. Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt are free agents, while Geoff Swaim comes back one a one-year deal as the primary blocking tight end. Hooper’s new offensive coordinator mostly was a tight ends coach leading up to last year, and the release of receiver Julio Jones after a lone season makes Hooper practically a lock for the second-most targets on the roster behind A.J. Brown. Tennessee likely brings in another receiver, if not two, via free agency and/or the draft, but there’s serious upside to be found in Hooper, regardless of what happens. Cleveland never used him right, and casual gamers may not recognize the profit potential here. It’s a volatile position nearly every season, and the veteran is a viable TE1 in settings of 12 teams with 16-player rosters.

WR Byron Pringle, Chicago Bears: The former Kansas City Chief heads to the Windy City to catch passes from Justin Fields after being on the receiving end of Patrick Mahomes’ throws for the past three years. In that time, he landed seven total scores, finding the end zone five times in 2021. Pringle chipped away at defenses as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce did most of the damage. The 28-year-old posted a career-best 42-568-5 line a year ago, and something that neighborhood could be his floor with the Bears, depending upon how he is utilized. Chicago is thin a receiver, and losing Allen Robinson in free agency only cemented the need for a new No. 1 … that won’t be Pringle, but he currently sits as the most accomplished wideout behind Darnell Mooney.

TE Hayden Hurst, Cincinnati Bengals: The defending AFC champs needed to replace tight end C.J. Uzomah, leading to former Baltimore first-rounder to be signed after a two-year stint in Atlanta. Despite being chosen in the 2018 draft, the South Carolina alum enters his age-29 season. He’ll have a fine opportunity to approach Uzomah’s 2021 numbers (49-493-5). The talent of Cincy’s three-deep starting receivers works as a Catch 22, providing coverage shields while also gobbling up the majority of Joe Burrow passes. Hurst has matchup appeal but is likely to go undrafted in most casual formats.

RB Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins: New head coach Mike McDaniel is reunited with the explosive Mostert, which bodes well for early-season utility from the former San Fran rusher. The Dolphins now have Chase Edmonds, Mostert and Myles Gaskin to duke it out in the offseason. Given the money committed to Edmonds and familiarity with Mostert by the new coaching regime, Gaskin may be on the outside looking in. Mostert, who turns 30 in April, has proven incapable the past two years of staying on the field for a workload larger than the occasional spell. He’s talented and blazing fast, so it only takes a few plays to make a dent, but there’s no way gamers can rely on knowing when to play a guy like that in traditional leagues. Barring injuries or other unforeseen issues, Mostert is no more than a late-round gamble. He’s a better flier in best-ball setups.

TE Tyler Conklin, New York Jets: The move is good for the Jets but disastrous for Conklin’s fantasy offerings. The former Minnesota Viking heads into a backup role behind fellow newcomer C.J. Uzomah, making him a wise insurance policy for New York but effectively renders him useless in redraft fantasy football without a helping hand via injury.

TE O.J. Howard, Buffalo Bills: After more or less wasting 2021 buried on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster, the former first-round choice heads to Buffalo and will play second-fiddle to Dawson Knox. The Howard signing shows the team clearly feels the need to continue bolstering Josh Allen’s weapons cache. Cutting Cole Beasley opens enough targets to bump Howard into the “intriguing” category. The 2021 season was his first a full slate in five seasons, and Howard wasn’t even targeted in eight games, held catches in nine total contests. He’s big and fast, has the pedigree to succeed, and was on the right path after Howard’s second season. It’s improbable there will be enough passes to warrant consistent fantasy utility for him, however, unless something wild happens or Knox gets injured.

WR Jakeem Grant, Cleveland Browns: While Grant’s career hasn’t produced many useful fantasy stat lines, there could be an opportunity for that to change in 2022. The Browns released veteran slot man Jarvis Landry, and tight end Austin Hooper also was sent packing. In 2021, with Chicago, Grant caught only 11 passes in eight games but scored 29.3 PPR points combined in Weeks 13 and 14 in what was a dysfunctional offense. The pint-sized wideout has primarily played on special teams and as a gadget-style role player on offense. He gets a serious boost at quarterback with Deshaun Watson, yet there’s not likely to be enough volume to entertain Grant on a fantasy roster.

WR DJ Chark Jr., Detroit Lions: The LSU product broke through as a sophomore in 2019 with 73-1,008-8 but has struggled to live up to expectations since, primarily because of injuries. He is coming off a broken leg suffered in Week 4 and is running without an issue. The Lions desperately needed a deep threat, and the 6-foot-3 Chark has plenty of speed to burn, which will come in handy for play-action passing. Chark has yet to play a full season, missing 21 of 65 possible appearances. There is tremendous upside and about as much risk to be found in the fifth-year wideout. He’s a WR4 for risk-conscious drafters, and there’s No. 3 potential for season-long results, especially in non-PPR scoring. Chark should be an inconsistent lineup option who’ll be tough to play because of his low-volume, big-play nature.

WR Russell Gage, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The versatile former Atlanta Falcon stays in the division and allows the Bucs to take it easy with Chris Godwin’s recovery from a ACL tear. Last year, under Arthur Smith’s first year in Atlanta, Gage played out of the slot 39.5 percent of his snaps, down from at least 59 percent in each of the prior two seasons. He’ll move around with Tampa, and even when Godwin is at 100 percent, there’s still a notable role to be filled following Antonio Brown’s 2021 antics creating a roster spot. Gage is a sound PPR WR4 target in 12-team, 16-plus-teamers. It can’t hurt that he was personally recruited by Tom Brady himself.

WR Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars: Arizona’s leading receiver in 2021, thanks to a DeAndre Hopkins injury, will head to Duval County to catch passes from Trevor Lawrence. The fifth-year wideout is a capable deep threat and should step right in to fill the role vacated by DJ Chark Jr. hitting free agency. The Jaguars have a proven head coach in Doug Pederson to get the most out of Lawrence, and adding pieces around the franchise QB likely isn’t finished with the Kirk signing. There’s risk here, and Kirk has been inconsistent in his career, but we have erratic WR2 production within reach at what will be a reasonable price tag.

QB Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers: The former No. 2 overall pick fizzled out playing for an overmatched Chicago Bears coaching staff and spent a year backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo. Trubisky was given a two-year deal from the Steelers and has weapons around him to reestablish himself as a viable fantasy quarterback. He isn’t a lock to start, though that is the presumption in a year of weak rookie QBs, a feeble free-agent class, and shaky depth on the Pittsburgh roster. The structure of the Steelers as an organization should provide Trubisky all of the tools to succeed, and gamers are doing themselves a disservice by writing him off. Healthy skepticism is warranted. Outright dismissal is foolish.

RB Chase Edmonds, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins will feature a zone-blocking system under new head coach Mike McDaniel, and Edmonds’ versatility will come in handy for those in PPR scoring. It’s unclear how much of a touch split to expect percentage-wise with Myles Gaskin, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Dolphins add a hammer to this backfield. Edmonds is a weak third running back in standard scoring and a safer option in reception-rewarding settings.

TE Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars: One of the most talented tight ends in the NFL is the latest player to join the Jags in free agency. The team desperately needed to put more playmakers around Trevor Lawrence, and Engram provides the young quarterback a dangerous weapon from the slot. Doug Pederson is known for his creativity, and his system has consistently produced fantasy-relevant tight ends. The only thing left is for Engram to hold up his end of the bargain and stay healthy in his age-28 season. He’s worthy of a borderline TE1 selection in deeper formats. There’s legitimate concern he won’t see enough volume for added PPR worth, and he’s never been a huge TD guy, so keep your expectations in check.

WR Cedrick Wilson Jr., Miami Dolphins: The former Dallas Cowboy picked an opportune time to post career-best stats (45-602-6) in a 2021 contract year. In 2022, he’ll enter a West Coast offense, which will be familiar enough for a smooth transition. He takes a step backward at quarterback, the Dolphins have several capable receiving outlets in DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and a few pass-catching backs. To complicate things even further, Miami acquired Tyreek Hill on March 23, effectively rendering Wilson obsolete in fantasy, unless Parker winds up being dealt. Wilson went from being an intriguing risk-reward decision late in drafts to a likely fantasy afterthought. We’ll keep a close eye on Parker’s situation.

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Miami Dolphins: The well-traveled veteran enters the picture in Miami as an experienced insurance policy in the event Tua Tagovailoa falters. Even if Bridgewater ends up in the starting lineup at some point, he’s not viable outside of two-QB leagues.

TE C.J. Uzomah, New York Jets: The former Cincinnati Bengal enjoyed a career season in 2021 and his line was still a modest 49-493-5. The three-year, $24 million deal is a hefty price tag for a 29-year-old who is best known for his blocking skills, but he provides quarterback Zach Wilson a sneaky-athletic weapon who rarely sees a double-team. In an optimistic light, Uzomah is in for another low-volume, TD-dependent campaign. Former Minnesota tight end Tyler Conklin also was signed, which makes Uzomah’s outlook a little more precarious.

WR Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jacksonville has committed a boatload of cash on some underwhelming receivers to open free agency’s tampering period. Jones over from Las Vegas after three seasons and extremely limited production. He scored once in each of the last two seasons, landing 14 passes for 154 yards in 2020 and 546 yards on 47 grabs last year. Jones showed deep-threat skills at times but largely is a possession guy, and Jaguars already have those players Laviska Shenault and Marvin Jones, so it will be interesting to see where all of the pieces fit when the summer practices arrive. (3/15 update: Reports say Shenault may be traded.) Without knowing its structure, the three-year, $24 million contract is a high annual average to invest in depth, which suggests maybe the elder Jones has played his last snap as a Jaguar.

QB Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns: The franchise is obviously all in when it comes Deshaun Watson, but in the event something drastic comes out of the NFL’s investigation, Cleveland has a competent backup. We won’t see Brissett take the field beyond a few games if Watson ends up suspended. There’s no fantasy value to be found here.


NEW — RB Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos: The veteran back shared touches last year with rookie Javonte Williams, and both maintained productivity, despite some hot-and-cold streaks for various reason, including injury. Russell Wilson’s arrival is the game-changing factor that makes this situation somewhat challenging to forecast. Denver will pass more, yet Wilson’s presence forces defenders to back off the line a little. Williams is more intriguing for fantasy and will garner a earlier attention in drafts, but Gordon’s return slightly dents his overall worth. As for the former Charger, gamers can treat him as a handcuff for Williams or a standalone RB3 with flex appeal based on the matchups.

WR A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals: The market wasn’t exactly scorching for this soon-to-be 34-year-old prior to re-signing in the desert. Green played 32 of 33 games over the past two years after missing 13 contests from 2016-18 and all of 2019 while with Cincinnati. His 54-848-3 line was good for 156.8 PPR points, placing him at WR42 in 2021. It’s unlikely we’ll see much, if any, improvement statistically in the upcoming year. Age, injury concerns, a healthy DeAndre Hopkins to dominate the target share, and Zach Ertz’s return all outweigh the loss of Christian Kirk, a role likely to be replaced by Rondale Moore. Green may have occasional utility with the right matchup or in DFS, but he should be selected purely a last-resort depth option when constructing a roster.

QB Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders: There’s really not much to say here other than this three-year, $121.5 million extension kills any speculation about whether he still could be dealt or replaced through the draft. Carr is the longest tenured quarterback in the conference and has earned the respect of the new regime, making him one of the highest-floor fantasy buys at the position. Added talent around Carr, namely Davante Adams, makes the 2021 12th-ranked fantasy quarterback a shoo-in for another QB1 finish, barring injuries, of course. It will be surprising, however, if he’s in the top six quarterbacks when the dust settles, but a QB7-10 placement is quite reasonable.

WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans: After his six 1,000-yard campaign in the last seven years, despite not having Deshaun Watson on the field, Cooks was rewarded with a two-year contract extension. He turns 29 in September and will be the top target in this offense once again, barring an injury. The team is focused on moving forward with Davis Mills after a so-so rookie season that left the franchise optimistic about his future. Cooks never has been a big touchdown guy in his career, scoring 12 in the last two years combined, but he does just enough across the board to be a rock-solid No. 2 in fantasy.

WR Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints: Injuries have been a significant detriment to Smith’s on-field maturation. In his defense, 2021’s 11 games played resulted in his best per-game PPR scoring average through four seasons. He played only one full contest with Jameis Winston at quarterback last year, although the duo hooked up for a 16-yard score in the abbreviated Week 8 game in which Winston tore his ACL. Smith should compete for a starting spot but is just a late-rounder for depth in any fantasy format.

RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The return of Tom Brady appears to have been enough to tip the scales in Tampa’s favor as Fournette inked a three-year deal to return to the Bucs after exploring free agency. He has turned his career around since signing in Tampa two years ago, and the veteran is one of the few three-down backs available in the fantasy draft pool. That said, he does share touches, and even though Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard remain free agents, Fournette will still lose touches to someone, possibly Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Look for someone else to be added. Despite some questions with the interior of the offensive line, Fournette is a rock-solid RB2 in PPR scoring but comes with increased injury risk.

QB Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints: The whirlwind of offseason quarterback movement sees the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer return to the Saints. Winston tore up his knee in Week 8 vs. his former team and missed the rest of the year, but he should be on track well ahead of Week 1, sans a setback. ACL tears aren’t nearly as catastrophic for classic pocket passers of his nature, and the Saints gave him a team-friendly, two-year deal. In his seven starts for New Orleans, Winston was transformed by then-head coach Sean Payton into a geared down version of his former self, reeling in the costly mistakes and showing much stronger figurative and literal grasps on ball security. The Saints will have more weapons this go-around, and even with Payton calling plays, the offensive system remains intact. Winston has fringe starter appeal in deeper leagues of 14 teams but is a more reasonable backup or rotational option.

RB Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks: Seattle reupped with Penny on a one-year deal that pays him starter money. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, scoring six times over the final five games. The former first-rounder ran for at least 135 yards in four of those contests. Penny should share the backfield with Chris Carson and provide a talented but oft-injured duo. Quarterback and offensive line concerns also loom large, and the until we know more about those situations, Penny is a suspect No. 3 option.

RB Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons: Coming off a career season at the ripe old age of 30, largely thanks to being converted to running back after dabbling with it prior to joining Atlanta, the now-31-year-old journeyman returns for an encore effort. The Falcons still have Mike Davis under contract following his lackluster debut season with the club, and Damien Williams was signed in free agency to serve as depth. In a system that is thoroughly dependent on running backs finding success to open up the passing attack, Patterson is the best bet for fantasy success of Atlanta’s current lot. However, it would be shocking if Atlanta didn’t draft an RB early on to inject youth and speed to this elderly backfield. The transition from quarterback Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota works against the veteran. Patterson now is no better than a flex in PPR drafts and offers notably less worth in standard scoring thanks to Mariota’s rushing skills.

TE Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers: Big Bob is back! Recovering from a Week 8 ACL tear adds to the risk of this touchdown-dependent tight end. He broke out in 2020 before regressing through the first eight weeks of last year’s campaign, ultimately finishing with only two TDs in that window after scoring a dozen times the season prior (including playoffs). Unless he encounters a setback in his rehab, Tonyan will be on the field for Week 1. He won’t be quite himself until closer to November, but tight ends typically aren’t as impacted by the injury as player who rely mostly on agility. No more Davante Adams changes the complexion of this offense. Familiarity with Aaron Rodgers definitely helps Tonyan, but even if the injury weren’t a concern, his sheer reliance on TD grabs remains a looming factor.

WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The second straight franchise tagging for Godwin was to give the involved parties a chance reach a long-term deal, which was accomplished on the opening day of free agency. Godwin is coming off an ACL tear and probably won’t be himself until at least the midpoint of the season, if not later, but he has WR3 appeal in PPR drafts with upside for the occasional WR1 outburst once he’s fully recovered.

RB J.D. McKissic, Washington Commanders: In the second twist of free agency, like Randy Gregory backed out of a deal with Dallas, McKissic reneged on an agreement to join the Buffalo Bills and will re-sign with Washington. This is a much better situation for his fantasy worth, and it alleviates concerns about how he’ll pick up as well as fit into a new offensive scheme. Reports say the Commanders want to involve running back Antonio Gibson more in the passing game, which makes sense given his history as a receiver, but that could be dialed back with McKissic back in the mix. The pass-catching outlet is an RB4 in most PPR formats and presents low-end flex appeal for the right situation.

RB James White, New England Patriots: A 2021 hip injury cut his season to just three games. He’s now two years removed from meaningful fantasy production and just turned 30, an age when running backs typically start to fall off. He has been used sparingly, so as long as there isn’t a drop-off from the injury itself, which we won’t know until summer practices begin, look for another sound year of occasional PPR flex worthiness from White.

QB Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota extended Cousins a year, increasing his 2022 salary to $40 million and guaranteeing his 2023 contract for $35 mill. His return may not push the Vikes ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North, but it’s a win for fantasy football continuity from an offense that won’t see a great deal of change from 2021, despite a new regime. Cousins is a low-end QB1 who’ll once again be drafted as a backup in fantasy, presenting some value if you miss out on an elite passer.

WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys: Gallup coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 17 is apparently of no concern for Dallas as it traded Amari Cooper to Cleveland before agreeing to a massive extension with the Colorado State product. Gallup should be ready by November after undergoing surgery in early February, dramatically reducing his fantasy football appeal. While nine months is enough to be physically ready after knee reconstruction, trusting the knee and getting back into game shape tends to take around a year. Gallup is worth a late-round pick to stash for depth but shouldn’t be counted on as a key component in your championship plans.

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Four years and 200 million reasons later, Rodgers’ flirtation with leaving Titletown came to an end with a record-breaking extension. The Packers failed to pay WR Davante Adams to his liking, and he was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in a stunning move. The NFL’s back-to-back MVP enters choppy waters for the time being, and his fantasy value will take a serious hit if Green Bay cannot land a capable No. 1 target.

TE Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals: A midseason trade in 2021 sent Ertz from Philly to the desert, and the veteran didn’t disappoint. He stepped up in an offense that was without its starting quarterback and top receiving target for a stretch of games, and the Cards rewarded the 31-year-old with a three-year extension. Arizona should keep him involved enough to warrant low-end TE1 consideration in drafts.

WR Josh Reynolds, Detroit Lions: Reynolds isn’t a needle-mover in fantasy, per se, but he has an opportunity in what will be his first full offseason with Detroit to gain some ground. The Lions are likely to add another receiver to the mix, but Reynolds will be granted every opportunity to be among the top three wideouts for the Lions. He’s a deep-league flier, largely due to his past connection with QB Jared Goff, although his max value depends upon where Detroit turns in free agency.

WR Braxton Berrios, New York Jets: The diminuative slot receiver stepped up nicely late in the year for the Jets, and with Jamison Crowder also a free agent, the Jets chose the younger, cheaper option. Berrios’ primary competitor for targets figures to be WR Elijah Moore, but less than 17 percent of the 2021 rookie’s snaps came from the inside. Berrios, on the other hand, saw 60.9 percent of his plays come from the slot where Crowder resided for 68.4 percent of his plays. There’s reasonable flex sleeper potential here in deeper PPR drafts.

TE Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts: The retirement of Jack Doyle probably improved the odds of Alie-Cox returning to the roster, but the Colts likely aren’t done adding to the positional depth. Alie-Cox landed a three-year, $18 million deal — good money for his resume, but it’s not prohibitive in terms of bringing in another starting-caliber option. The position is thinning on the wire, however. At any rate, the Colts have a TE-friendly system and a 6-foot-5, former basketball player coming off a career-high four touchdown grabs in a part-time role. Alie-Cox could prove to be a sneaky flier in large fantasy leagues after the Colts landed quarterback Matt Ryan in a trade.

TE Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks: There really isn’t much in the way of fantasy appeal here on the surface, but we’ve seen Dissly show off a few times in his injury-ravaged career. No quarterback in sight for the time being only further works against predicting Dissly’s worth. He’ll score a few touchdowns and frustrate gamers with inconsistency. Leave him for the occasional DFS lineup or prop bet.

TE Ian Thomas, Carolina Panthers: Carolina secured Thomas with a contract extension, and he’ll compete with Tommy Tremble for the majority of targets at the position. There’s really no draft-worthy fantasy value here. Thomas faces five misdemeanor charges from a 2021 alleged incident, so a short suspension could await.

Franchise/transition tagged

TE Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys: Dallas sent Amari Cooper packing, freeing up considerable work. Some of those targets will head Schultz’s direction, and after two strong years in a row, he’s a midrange TE1 for most scoring formats. It’s unlikely the Stanford alum will take a step into the “Big 3” of TEs if Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and Darren Waller all remain on the field, but there’s no reason a healthy Schultz cannot reprise his 2021 TE4 placement in a battle with oft-injured George Kittle.

TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns: Njoku’s return to the Browns was mildly surprising in relation to his lack of involvement (53 targets in 15 games last year), but the release of tight end Austin Hooper makes it more understandable in hindsight. Kevin Stefanski’s offense likes to deploy two tight ends, and the system used Hooper less than expected as a receiver after he was given a bag of cash just a few offseasons ago. Now that he’s out of the picture, look for third-year TE Austin Bryant to see more action. No Hooper cracks opens the door for Njoku to possibly live up to his first-round billing when drafted in 2017, and the odds greatly improve with Deshaun Watson being acquired to replace Baker Mayfield.

TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins: The Penn Stater will have to wait before testing the market for the first time in his career as Miami takes one of the top tight ends off the market. He should enjoy a strong season in South Beach if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continues to grow as a passer. The incoming West Coast offense thrives by utilizing tight ends more than most, and Mike McDaniel’s system will push the ball down the seam. Gesicki could be poised for his best season to date.

Unsigned notables

  • Quarterbacks: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton
  • Running backs: Sony Michel, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Tarik Cohen
  • Wide receivers: Odell Beckham Jr., Cole Beasley, Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders
  • Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski, Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham


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