News & Analysis

Remaining free agents who could have fantasy value in IDP leagues

Sep 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) is hit by New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always advisable in fantasy football to stay abreast of free agents that remain on the market that could provide surprisingly nice production. Now is not the time to be asleep at the wheel. Here’s a look at some of the more valuable remaining IDP free agents from a fantasy perspective.

Lawrence Timmons, LB

After playing in Pittsburgh for 10 seasons, the veteran Timmons decided to take his talents to South Beach prior to last season. Unfortunately, things didn’t work as well for him as they did for LeBron James. Timmons went AWOL for the Dolphins first game of the season and then was suspended for the second game.

Timmons played in the remaining 14 games but finished with the lowest tackle total he’s posted since 2009 and failed to post a single big play for the first time in his career. With the return of Raekwon McMillan from injury as well as the selection of Jerome Baker in this year’s draft, Miami is looking to get younger at linebacker and decided to part ways with Timmons.

At 32 years old, Timmons is not the player he was eight or nine years ago but he has been one of the most consistent fantasy performers over the years. In six of the past eight seasons Timmons has posted triple-digit tackles and finished with LB2 or better numbers. He brings big-play potential, having put up 35.5 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, and 12 interceptions in his career. Timmons will likely have to wait into training camp or the preseason to latch on with a team that loses a linebacker or two to injury (looking at you, Philadelphia).

NaVorro Bowman, LB

It’s a bit surprising that Bowman is still a free agent after he had a very nice 2017 season playing for San Francisco and Oakland. Bowman finished with 127 total tackles and a handful of big plays, including 1.5 sacks and an interception. The numbers were good enough for low-end LB1 totals in most balanced 12-team league formats.

The main concern with Bowman is injuries, as he missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury as well as 12 games in 2016 with an Achilles injury. Bowman did bounce back in 2015 with the 49ers, posting top-five fantasy numbers.

When healthy, Bowman has been a dominant fantasy force, finishing with LB1 totals in five of the seven seasons he’s played (not counting the missed 2014 campaign). Bowman has graded out positively overall as well as against the run according to PFF in all seven seasons. In four of the seasons he’s also graded out positively in pass rush and coverage.

At 30 years old, Bowman more than likely has at least one or two more productive seasons in him. It’s unlikely the Raiders bring him back, as they signed former Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Johnson but there will be a market for Bowman as the preseason gets underway.

Mychal Kendricks, LB

After a promising start to his career in Philadelphia that saw Kendricks post LB2 numbers is 2013, things began to trend in the wrong direction. In the next three seasons Kendricks saw a decrease in snaps, culminating with a career-low 272 in 2016. There were reports that the Eagles were looking to deal Kendricks heading into last season and luckily for both parties that did not happen.

An injury to Jordan Hicks forced Kendricks back into a prominent role on the defense and he stepped up grading out positively across the board according to PFF. Unfortunately, that performance was not enough to keep Philadelphia from releasing Kendricks on the same day they lost fellow LB Paul Worrilow with a season-ending ACL injury.

Kendricks will be just 28 years old when the 2018 season kicks off and has flashed big-play abilities. In his six years in the league, Kendricks has amassed 14 sacks, six forced fumbles, three interceptions, and five fumble recoveries. Ideally, Kendricks manages to secure a three-down role with his next team, but his struggles in coverage could make that difficult. From a fantasy standpoint Kendricks should be a late-round draft selection as roster depth with upside.

Kenny Vaccaro, S

There has been some buzz regarding Vaccaro, the former Saints defensive back, as the Dolphins, Jets, and Colts have shown interest of late. Vaccaro has never quite lived up to the expectations he brought with him from the University of Texas and was the 15th overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

One of the problems has been that only once in his career has Vaccaro managed to play 16 games — he finished last season on IR with groin and wrist issues. It’s the performance that Vaccaro did put up in 2015 when he played 16 games that makes him an interesting fantasy option, as he finished with 104 total tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. Those totals were good enough for a high-end DB2 finish for Vaccaro.

With the proliferation of sub packages that defenses are employing, Vaccaro would be best served if he landed on a team that could utilize him in a hybrid linebacker role. In the successful 2015 season Vaccaro lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage on run snaps 375 times (87.3 percent). Should Vaccaro manage to secure that type of role, he could reach low-end DB3 production in 2018.

Tre Boston, S

The Panthers released Boston prior to the 2017 season despite the fact that he played well and actually started 10 games. The Chargers signed Boston and he finally secured a full-time starting role alongside Jahleel Addae. Boston played a career-high 1,047 snaps last season and set career highs in tackles (79), passes defended (eight), and interceptions (five). Unfortunately, Los Angeles selected Derwin James with the 17th pick in this year’s draft and have decided to let Boston test the free agent market once again.

The Indianapolis Colts had Boston in for a visit, but he left town without a contract. Still just 26 years old, Boston has shown very solid coverage skills, allowing just 48.4 percent of passes thrown into his coverage to be completed over four seasons. He also has put up seven picks in the last two years and 15 passes defended. There is DB2 potential regarding Boston as long as he can secure a full-time role on his new team.

Robert Ayers, DE

The defensive line position is woefully thin when we look at the remaining free agents. It’s a list that’s littered with aging veterans who have seen a decline in production the past few seasons. At 33 years old, Ayers falls within that category, but a closer look reveals why I feel he’s the best of a less-than-exciting lot.

An ankle injury hampered Ayers for most of the 2017 season in which he managed just a pair of sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 games. A closer look shows that while playing just 588 snaps for the Buccaneers, Ayers graded out positively in both-run stopping and pass-rush according to PFF’s grades. He was also credited with 26 quarterback hurries and a team-high 17 hits.

In the 2015-2016 seasons Ayers did put up 15.5 and also 70 total tackles.

He will likely land a situational pass-rush role for a team in need of help off the edge (Detroit perhaps?). Ayers would bring the most value in big-play scoring formats as a late-round flier in deeper leagues.

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