Thu Feb 18 2:10pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Jones is good fit for the Dolphins
We have a little while before players can officially sign with new teams (March 17), but we thought it would be fun to take a look at this year’s free agent class. And as you can guess, we will examine it from a fantasy perspective. I plan to go over the top players at each position and their best landing spots from a fantasy perspective. It should be a very interesting offseason, seeing lots of top players changing teams.
The crop of free agent quarterbacks is not very exciting. The trade market is likely where we see the most movement this offseason. Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford have already been dealt, causing all sorts of change around the league. The trade market is something to keep an eye on when it comes to this position because more players could change teams (I.e. Deshaun Watson).
With that said, Dak Prescott is the clear leader of free agent quarterbacks. He will command a huge, new deal. I can’t see the Cowboys letting him go, so it makes the most sense for him to stay there. He has a great offense around him and was having a huge season before getting hurt last year. Dallas is likely the team that gets him and the team that brings him the most fantasy value. He can be a top-five quarterback in this offense.
Jameis Winston sat behind Drew Brees last year, learning from one of the best. He is free to sign with a new team, but a return to New Orleans might be best for his fantasy value. Taysom Hill looked pretty good as a starter last year, but he probably brings more value to the Saints as a gadget player. If Winston re-signs with the Saints, he gets a chance to take over in a top offense with plenty of playmakers. Plus, he had a year to learn the playbook and from one of the best. He could be a big fantasy factor with the Saints.
Cam Newton got his chance to start with the Patriots last year. He played well at times for fantasy teams in a starting role but struggled at other times. He still doesn’t look comfortable throwing the ball but can help fantasy teams with his legs. He will look to start once again this year and Washington might be the best fit for him. They don’t have their franchise quarterback and their head coach, Ron Rivera, is the coach that saw Newton play at an MVP level. Getting to reunite with his old coach and play in an offense that can be run heavy might be just the thing to get Newton going again.
Much like the quarterback spot, the running back position is not very exciting in free agency this season. There really is just one player that an elite level player. There are a few other possible NFL starters that could make a difference, but nothing too exciting.
Aaron Jones is the clear top free agent back. He was a top starter for the Packers and a clear franchise back. It would not surprise to see the Packers let him go, giving A.J. Dillon the reigns at running back. This gives Jones the chance to sign with any team. For me, I think the Dolphins might be the best fit for him. He would be the clear lead back and should get more touches than he did with the Packers. Green Bay liked to rotate backs, but the Dolphins go with a more lead back mentality. Myles Gaskin provided some very good fantasy production in a lead role last year for Miami, but Jones is a much more talented player. He could really do some damage in this offense.
Much was expected from Kenyan Drake last season as the full-time starter for Arizona but he was just alright in that role. He played well at times but was a little inconsistent. Backup Chase Edmonds outplayed him at times, so look for the Cardinals to move on from him. One team that I think makes sense for Drake is San Francisco. The 49ers produce some great numbers for their running backs and Drake seems a good fit for that offense. He is a three-down back capable of the big play every time he touches the ball.
Leonard Fournette will look to cash in on his big postseason with the Bucs. He did little during the regular season, but looked great in the Bucs Super Bowl run. He will get a chance to start for some team next season. I think Fournette could be a good match with the Jets. They clearly need a starting running back and Fournette fits the mold. He can play three downs and take a lot of punishment if given plenty of work. He could help an offense that really struggled to run the ball last year and take some pressure off Sam Darnold.
The last free agent running back of note is James Conner. He has really been a bust in recent years, struggling with injury. I think the best fit for him might be to remain with the Steelers. He knows the offense and has played well as the lead back when healthy and on the field. Plus, the coaching staff still seems sold on him as their No. 1 back. And I don’t like the competition much behind him.
The receiver position in free agency is absolutely loaded. There are several top level players that are available. Many of these guys will be No. 1 receivers on their new teams.
It is tough to pick a top player in this class but Chris Godwin is the guy for me. He is a super talent that has produced big in recent years. I just don’t see the Bucs letting him go, so I expect him to stay in Tampa. And this is a good spot for his fantasy value. He has been a top-10 fantasy receiver with Tampa, so staying there is just fine by me for him fantasy value.
Allen Robinson is another big-time receiver looking for a new team. I know there a lot better offense out there, but I actually think staying in Chicago might be best for his fantasy value. He gets a ton of volume in this offense and has next to no competition for targets. Plus, he should have a new quarterback throwing him passes this year, which should be a plus. So I’m really fine with him staying in Chicago. I think they will make a big push to sign him to a big contract.
The Lions might have gotten rid of Matthew Stafford, but I can’t see them letting go No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay. He is a free agent but he isn’t going anywhere. The Lions will tag him if needed. I do like his fantasy value more elsewhere but it could be worse. Jared Goff should look his way often as the clear top target in this offense.
Will Fuller finally had that big season last year, getting to serve as the No. 1 target in the Texans offense. He will be a highly coveted player in free agency. One spot that I think looks good for him is the New York Giants. They need a No. 1 receiver for Daniel Jones. Fuller can be that guy and could get a lot of volume in that offense.
It would be weird if he wasn’t with the Steelers but it sure looks like JuJu Smith-Schuster will be playing on another team next season. Pittsburgh is deep at receiver, so look for Smith-Schuster to land a big deal to take over as a No. 1 receiver with a new team. And the team that could make a big play for him to be their guy is the New York Jets. This team has lacked a top receiver in recent seasons, so getting Smith-Schuster make sense. He could get a ton of targets in that offense, having little to compete with for looks. I know the Jets passing game isn’t near that of the Steelers, but I still like this as a landing spot for him. He’ll get the volume.
Antonio Brown showed he still can help a team and stay out of trouble, producing well for the Bucs as their No. 3 receiver. There are other teams that likely would be better landing spots for him, serving as a No. 1 or 2 receiver, but he was happy in Tampa and likes Tom Brady so staying there seems like the best fit for Brown. He can help fantasy teams in that Bucs explosive passing game.
Curtis Samuel picked a good time to have a career season last year, posting good numbers across the board. He showed his potential as a slot receiver in a top passing game. I think the Ravens will give him a hard look this offense. He seems a good fit for their offense and I like his potential in that offense. He can run the ball as well as catch it, so that dual threat ability makes sense for that offense. He would also give Lamar Jackson a much needed upgrade at receiver.
Marvin Jones is another player that had a career season, catching a career high 76 passes last year. This should land him a good contract as a starter for some team. Many teams could use a player like Jones. I kind of like Jones in Miami. They need more weapons for Tua Tagovailoa and Jones would provide a veteran, dependable option for the young quarterback. I’m sure he would get a lot of volume in Miami.
The tight end spot isn’t very deep in free agency, but there are a couple solid starters available. Hunter Henry is the top option at the position. He probably hasn’t lived up to expectations just yet, but the talent is certainly there for him to produce big. I would love to see him sign with the Titans. He just seems a great fit for that offense and Ryan Tannehill. The Titans need more playmakers in the passing game and Henry could be a huge threat for the team going forward.
Henry would be replacing Jonnu Smith, who is the other top tight end available in free agency. Smith had an erratic season last year as the starter for Tennessee, making most of his noise in the end zone. He scored eight touchdowns. Smith is a big-time athlete that can make plays all over the field. I think a move to Arizona would be a good one for Smith. He could give that offense another weapon in the passing game. I could see him excelling in that offense with Kyler Murray throwing him passes. Let’s make it happen.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
The Philadelphia Eagles claimed former Detroit Lions second-round running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers on Friday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. The Lions waived the Auburn product on Thursday. Johnson became expendable after the team drafted D'Andre Swift in the first round in 2020, signed free-agent running back Jamaal Williams and then drafted Jermar Jefferson in the seventh round last weekend. He led the Lions with 641 rushing yards in 2018 despite playing in just 10 games due to a knee injury, but the second-rounder was limited to just eight games in 2019 and lost valuable playing time to Swift and veteran Adrian Peterson last season. The 23-year-old will compete for touches behind Miles Sanders in Philly with Boston Scott, Jason Huntley and Jordan Howard in 2021.
Former New York Jets unrestricted free-agent linebacker Neville Hewitt is signing an undisclosed one-year deal with the Houston Texans on Friday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Hewitt has racked up 248 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 44 games since 2018 with the Jets. The 28-year-old had a career year in 2020, posting career-highs in tackles (134) while also forcing a fumble in 16 starts. He was an undrafted free agent out of Marshall and spent the first three seasons of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins. Hewitt will reunite with ex-Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who also signed with Houston in free agency. A change in defensive schemes in New York and the salary cap situation likely led to the Jets letting Hewitt walk in free agency.
Detroit Lions tight end Josh Hill announced his retirement on Thursday, less than two months after he signed with the team as a free agent. Detroit signed veteran Darren Fells as a replacement. The soon-to-be 31-year-old spent his first eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints before being released. His one-year deal was scheduled to pay him $1.2 million in 2021. Hill became a versatile blocker, receiver, special-teamer and occasional fullback in his time with the Saints after going undrafted out of Idaho State in 2013. He'll finish his career with 116 catches for 1,071 yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. Hill added another 15 receptions for 166 yards and a touchdown in the postseason.
The New York Jets released former first-round wide receiver Josh Doctson on Friday. Doctson never actually played a snap for the Jets after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. The Jets also cut cornerback Kyron Brown, tight end Connor Davis, offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi, kicker Chase McLaughlin and wide receiver Jaleel Scott on Friday. Doctson, the No. 22 overall pick in 2016 by the Washington Football Team, spent three seasons with Washington and had 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 81 catches. The 28-year-old saw just seven snaps with the Minnesota Vikings in 2019 before being released. Even if Doctson latches on with another team, he won't be worth taking in fantasy leagues in 2021.
New York Jets star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (foot) underwent successful surgery on Thursday to fix a broken bone in his foot, according to a source informed of the situation. The surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson. Head coach Robert Saleh said the team is expecting Williams to be back by training camp this summer. Williams suffered the injury while working out and is expected to be out for 10 to 12 weeks. The 23-year-old is extremely key to Gang Green's success on defense, so it's great news that he shouldn't have to miss any regular season action in 2021. Williams had 55 tackles and seven sacks for the Jets defensive line last year.
Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kwity Paye became the fastest first-round pick to sign his first NFL contract on Thursday. Defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo, safety Shawn Davis, wide receiver Mike Strachan and offensive lineman Will Fries also signed their rookie contracts with the Colts. Paye was the 21st overall pick in last week's draft and will fill a spot vacated by the departure of Justin Houston after just one year in Indy. He's set to account for around $2.4 million in his rookie season, per OverTheCap. Paye is a very raw edge rusher that has plenty of upside. He will need to improve on his hand usage at the next level, but he has the size and tools to turn into a dominant 4-3 defensive end for the Colts.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett believes that rookie D'Wayne Eskridge, selected with the No. 56 overall pick in last week's NFL draft, will be an immediate contributor in 2021 alongside himself and DK Metcalf. "He's very explosive," Lockett said. Eskridge stands at just 5-foot-9, but he ran a 4.40-second 40-yard dash at Western Michigan's Pro Day and racked up more than 2,000 receiving yards in college. He had 768 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on only 33 catches in six games played in 2020. Eskridge is extremely athletic and has plenty of home run playmaking ability, but he'll need to improve his route-running tree if he's to be an effective No. 3 in Seattle in Year 1. After Seattle's offense sputtered out in the second half last year, Eskridge could be the key to the passing game flourishing once again in 2021. He could develop into a WR3/flex option in his rookie season.
Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah (groin) is close to 100 percent recovered from groin surgery that ended his disappointing rookie season. With an all new defensive coaching staff in 2021, Okudah is optimistic that he'll turn things around in his sophomore season. The No. 3 overall pick had just one interception and two passes defensed while allowing a passer rating of 118 on balls thrown in his area in nine games, according to Pro Football Reference. Okudah said he currently has no restrictions in his training and is "feeling great." Detroit will be counting on Okudah to start this year, likely opposite Amani Oruwariye. If Okudah can bounce back and stay healthy in his second season, it'd be great news for Detroit's secondary.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff said that he and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn have been in constant dialogue about the team's evolving playbook. "I think the to describe it, is the way he described it to us, is multiple with spread principles, and I think it's going to have a little bit of what they did with (Justin) Herbert and the (Los Angeles) Chargers and a little bit of what he did in Buffalo. it's a nice little mixture of it so far and it's been good," Goff said. Lynn's Bills led the league in rushing when he was the offensive coordinator there in 2016, and the Lions offense is expected to be a run-first squad that leans heavily on play-action passing, something that Goff excelled at in his time with the Los Angeles Rams. With not many standout receiving weapons as the team rebuilds, Goff will be an unappetizing QB2 for fantasy managers in his first year in Detroit.
The Miami Dolphins signed veteran free-agent cornerback Jason McCourty to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to a source. The 12-year veteran will reunite with head coach Brian Flores after the two worked together with the New England Patriots. The 33-year-old McCourty will give Miami a veteran presence in the secondary and is expected to be behind both Xavien Howard and Byron Jones on the cornerback depth chart. McCourty had 115 solo tackles, two interceptions, 19 passes defensed and a forced fumble in the last three seasons with the Patriots. He was drafted in the sixth round in 2009 by the Tennessee Titans and spent eight seasons with them before a one-year stint with the Cleveland Browns.
Former Miami Dolphins safety Bobby McCain, who was released on Thursday, is scheduled to visit with the Washington Football Team on Monday, according to a source. The 27-year-old was taken in the fifth round in 2015 out of Memphis and grew into a dependable member of Miami's secondary. But the Dolphins are gearing up to be contenders and saw McCain's release as a way to save some salary cap space. If he's designated as a pre-June 1 cut, Miami will save $5.6 million. If he's designated as a post-June 1 cut, Miami will save $6.4 million. In 16 games for the Dolphins last year, McCain recorded 46 tackles (39 solo), one interception and five passes defensed.
New York Jets unrestricted free-agent linebacker Neville Hewitt visited with the Houston Texans on Thursday, according to a source. The Texans have signed more free agents this offseason than any other team, but they may be adding to that list with Hewitt. He led the Jets with 134 tackles (six for loss) and added two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 16 starts last season, his third with the Jets. The 28-year-old spent the first three seasons of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins after going undrafted out of Marshall. In 82 career games (39 starts), Hewitt has 352 combined tackles (20 for loss), 18 QB hits, three interceptions, 13 passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 7.5 sacks.
Detroit Lions TE Josh Hill announced his retirement from professional football Thursday, May 6.
Free-agent S Bobby McCain (Dolphins) is scheduled to meet with the Washington Football Team Monday, May 10, according to a source.
Free-agent LB Neville Hewitt (Jets) is meeting with the Houston Texans Thursday, May 6, according to a source.
Free-agent CB Jason McCourty (Patriots) agreed to terms with the Miami Dolphins Thursday, May 6, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson was officially waived Thursday, May 6.
The Tennessee Titans agreed to terms on undisclosed deals with running back Brian Hill, linebacker Justin March-Lillard and defensive back Greg Maybin on Thursday. The team also released cornerback Kareem Orr. Hill will compete with Darrynton Evans for the No. 2 role behind workhorse Derrick Henry in 2021. The 25-year-old carried the ball 100 times for 465 yards and a touchdown last season while also grabbing 25 receptions for 199 additional yards. In his four-year career, Hill has 209 carries for 982 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, adding 38 receptions for 313 yards and another score in 45 games (three starts). Unless Henry misses time with an injury this season, Hill is likely to be left to the waiver wire in most fantasy leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Justin Layne pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possessing criminal tools and had a felony gun charge dropped on Wednesday, stemming from a traffic stop in northeast Ohio on April 23. The 23-year-old received six months of probation, 32 hours of community service and a $500 fine and was ordered to pay court costs. He was initially pulled over going 89 mph in a 60 mph zone last month, when officers found a loaded pistol in his car. Layne was also charged with two misdemeanors -- driving with a suspended license and exceeding speed limits. Layne was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft and appeared in all 16 games for the Steelers last season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert to a one-year deal worth up to $2.5 million, according to a source. Gabbert earned $1.187 million in 2020 and $1.6 million in 2019 and has played in 60 career games (48 starts) in the NFL. The 31-year-old completed nine of his 16 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns as Tom Brady's primary backup last year. The Buccaneers also re-signed Ryan Griffin, last year's third-stringer, and drafted quarterback Kyle Trask in the second round of the NFL draft last week. This will be Gabbert's third season with Tampa after spending 2018 with the Tennessee Titans, 2017 with the Arizona Cardinals, 2014-16 with the San Francisco 49ers and 2011-13 with the Jacksonville Jaguars.