News & Analysis

Biggest fantasy football winners and losers from free agency

With the first wave of 2020 NFL free agency wrapped up, it’s a good time to take stock of things for fantasy football purposes. We have a number of depth chart shakeups from last week’s moves, and these changes will have a very real impact on the fantasy landscape. Let’s break down the biggest fantasy football winners and losers from all the fantasy-relevant moves in this year’s free agency.

Deandre Hopkins traded to Arizona/David Johnson traded to Houston

Winners – Kyler Murray, David Johnson, Kenyan Drake, Will Fuller (?)

Losers – Deshaun Watson, Christian Kirk

The week started with a bang, as the Texans shipped Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals and received David Johnson in exchange. Murray is one of the biggest winners here, as he gets a much needed upgrade at wideout. Unfortunately, this move is going to pump his fantasy stock up. He could go as early as the fifth round in 2020 fantasy drafts. Hopkins is sliding in as the clear No. 1 option in Arizona, which means Kirk’s value takes a hit. With only so many balls to go around, Kirk is best viewed as a fringe WR3.

With Hopkins out of the way in Houston, Fuller is positioned to be the de facto No. 1. Fuller has shown signs of fantasy greatness in his short career and has found the end zone in 38% of his games. However, we’re giving him a question mark due to his inability to stay healthy. Watson’s value takes a hit here, as he loses one of the league’s true target monsters. Watson is still a top-10 option, but he won’t be knocking on the door of elite territory unless the Houston Texans give him another weapon in the passing game.

As for Johnson, the veteran back steps into a pretty good situation. In Houston, he has essentially no competition for touches in the run game and will split the passing work with Duke Johnson. While we doubt he returns to the elite fantasy status we saw earlier in his career, David Johnson should have no problem posting RB2-plus numbers in an offense that helped propel Carlos Hyde to his first 1,000-yard season. His departure also solidifies Drake as the clear feature back in Arizona. A year ago it would have been crazy to consider Drake as a top-12 option, but that’s exactly where we’ll be looking at him in 2020.

Stefon Diggs traded to Buffalo

Winner – Josh Allen

Loser – Kirk Cousins

We have a tale of two quarterbacks in the deal that sent Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. On the Buffalo side, Allen gets a nice upgrade in his wide receiver corps. While we already had him ranked as a top-10 fantasy option, Diggs’ presence should help add more weekly consistency to Allen’s output. That being said, his accuracy issues — Allen ranked 30th out of 38 qualifiers in adjusted completion percentage last season — means we’ll still see volatility from Allen. As for Cousins, the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is now down to an aging Adam Thielen and a collection of underwhelming role players. Cousins goes from a possible late-round value to a low-ceiling option to avoid.

Tom Brady signs with Tampa Bay

Winners – Tom Brady, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

Loser – Julian Edelman

The highest-profile signing from last week has some major fantasy impact. Brady goes from a paper-thin New England Patriots roster to an absolutely loaded group of skill-position players in Tampa. While it’s tough to view him as a top-12 option, Brady should have no problem producing QB2 numbers. His presence doesn’t necessarily help or hurt Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, but Brady should benefit both Howard and Brate.

On the New England side, the Patriots currently have Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham atop their depth chart. Either signal-caller is a massive downgrade from Brady, which in turn absolutely destroys any fantasy appeal that Edelman had coming into the season.

Todd Gurley signs with Atlanta

Winner – Todd Gurley

Loser – Ito Smith 

Before you read this whole paragraph, please make sure you tweet me (@JeffRatcliffe) about how Gurley’s knees are shot. OK, with that out of the way, we should also note that he ran behind a Rams offensive like that was significantly worse in the run game last season than it was in 2017 and 2018. While the Atlanta Falcons aren’t elite in that area, they graded out much better than the Rams last season. Better yet, Gurley steps into a potent offense with relatively little competition for touches (sorry to any Ito Smith truthers). Gurley finished as the No. 14 fantasy running back last season and should come in at a similar range in 2020 fantasy drafts.

Melvin Gordon signs with Denver

Winner – Austin Ekeler

Losers – Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman

It’s really tough to find anything to like about this signing on the Denver side of things. Gordon steps into a crowded house in the Broncos backfield, but at least he's clearly the best player of the bunch. However, there may not be enough touches available to propel him to another season of RB1 production. Lindsay may be the biggest loser here. After posting back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, he could see his workload halved in 2020. We weren’t surprised by the Chargers letting Gordon walk, but the move is still a nice boost for Ekeler. Let’s not forget that he was an elite fantasy option during Gordon’s one-month holdout last season. We don’t expect that sort of production again this season, but Ekeler’s three-down skill set positions him well for back-end RB1 fantasy numbers.

Philip Rivers signs with Indianapolis

Winners – T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle, Tyrod Taylor (?)

Losers – Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry 

Rivers’ days as a prime late-round quarterback option are in the rearview, but his presence in Indy is an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Hilton stands to benefit from more consistency, but he’ll need to prove he can stay healthy in order to be anything more than a risk/reward WR2. We know from Rivers’ time with the Chargers that he loves his tight ends. Doyle doesn’t come with major upside, but his fantasy stock moves up into TE2 territory with Rivers now in-house.

With Rivers out of the mix, the Los Angeles Chargers are moving forward with Taylor — at least for the time being, as the team could certainly address the position in the draft. If they don’t, Taylor would slide into the QB2 conversation thanks to his dual-threat ability. Of course, Talyor is a sizable downgrade in the passing game, so Allen, Williams and Henry would all take a hit.

Austin Hooper signs with Cleveland

Winner – Hayden Hurst

Loser – David Njoku

While this move doesn’t really improve or hurt Hooper’s stock, the signing does take the wind out of Njoku’s fantasy sails. His dynasty stock is hanging on by a thread. That being said, Hurst has come screaming up the board after being traded to Atlanta. In Baltimore, he was destined to at best be second-fiddle to Mark Andrews. With the Falcons, he steps into a depth chart where he could hit the ground running as the top tight end receiving target. While Hurst is a downgrade from Hooper, he should see enough volume to be a TE2 option in 2020.

Emmanuel Sanders signs with New Orleans

Winners – Drew Brees, Emmanuel Sanders

Loser – Tre’Quan Smith

Let’s be clear here. Sanders is entering his age-33 season and has shown very real signs of decline over the past two years. However, getting paired up with Brees will help squeeze a little more fantasy juice out of Sanders in 2020. Likewise, Brees gets a nice boost here. Despite only really having Michael Thomas to throw the ball to, Brees ranked third among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring after returning from injury in Week 8 last season. Of course, Sanders’ presence does take potential volume away from Smith.

Teddy Bridgewater signs with Carolina

Winner – Teddy Bridgewater

Loser – Cam Newton

This one is fairly straightforward. Bridgewater gets an obvious upgrade going from a backup to a starter. But don’t get too crazy here. While Bridgewater has an enticing group of weapons in what should be an exciting Panthers offense under Joe Brady, he has also never proven to be anything more than a low-ceiling QB2 option. This signing also sealed Newton’s fate, as the veteran now looks like he’ll be cut. With very few open potential landing spots, there’s a chance Newton isn’t a starter in 2020.

Nick Foles traded to Chicago

Winner – Gardner Minshew

Loser – Mitchell Trubisky

Just one year after he was signed in free agency, Foles is out of Jacksonville. His departure solidifies Minshew as the starter. One of 2019’s biggest fantasy surprises, Minshew showed that he’s capable of QB2-plus numbers in that role. As for Foles, he’ll now compete with Trubisky for the starting job in Chicago. While Trubisky showed a massive ceiling in his six-touchdown performance in 2018, he’s also been wildly inconsistent. He’s extremely unlikely to be in the 2020 fantasy conversation.

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