While NFL free agency is still chugging along, most of the top players have already found their new home for 2017. Obviously free agency can have a big impact on any given player’s fantasy value. Look no further than the piece I wrote yesterday regarding Brandin Cooks. Or the news coming out of Tuesday that ex-Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy signed with the Seattle Seahawks. (If Lacy can stay healthy and in-shape, his fantasy value could quickly climb thanks to Seattle’s power run offense.)
There are still dominos to fall—looking right at you Tony Romo—but for now, let's look at just the deals that have already been signed. Here are five players who will be better fantasy options in 2017 because of free agency moves.
The New York Giants got an excellent receiver in Brandon Marshall, who—despite being 33-years-old—still has plenty left in the tank. The addition of Marshall, along with Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard, gives Manning plenty of weapons to use and his numbers will certainly benefit from the increase in artillery. Beckham will of course still get his targets because he is the face of that team now (for better or for worse), but even just Marshall’s presence will force defenses to defend both sides of the field. Manning also gets a 6-foot-4 frame in the red-zone which will hopefully lead to more passing touchdowns.
Signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the right move for Jackson. Now he pairs up with Jameis Winston, a quarterback who can sling that football all over the field, and with a legit Pro-Bowl receiver in Mike Evans. The addition of Jackson should improve not only the receiver’s fantasy value but also that of Winston and Evans. The Buccaneers love to throw the football—Winston attempted less than 30 passes only twice last season—and now Tampa Bay has the weapons to put together a lethal attack. Jackson is a boom-or-bust fantasy prospect, but expect him to be more boom than bust in Tampa.
Last year, playing for the talent wasteland known as the Cleveland Browns, Pryor still managed to finish top 20 in scoring for wide receivers, averaging 8.5 points per game (13.3 in PPR). That was in Cleveland. Robert Griffin III was quarterback for sometime. So was Clipboard Jesus Charlie Whitehurst. Even Pryor himself was quarterback for a time. Needless to say, signing with Washington instantly improves Pryor’s fantasy stock. He has a competent quarterback in Kirk Cousins throwing him the football (at least for now) and barely any competition for targets. Pierre Garçon left for San Francisco and Jackson left for Tampa. Pryor should almost certainly beat his 8.5 PPG average in 2017.
I’m not sure if Bennett’s fantasy value will drastically improve—he finished top 10 in scoring for tight ends last season—but it won’t drop off. Bennett went from catching balls from Tom Brady to now catching them from Aaron Rodgers. Not a bad trade if you ask me. The Packers have been looking for a tight end threat since Jermichael Finley and had that at times last year with Jared Cook. However, Cook couldn’t stay healthy, which is something Bennett can do in spades. He didn’t miss a game despite having a cracked bone in his ankle. He gives Rodgers a legit threat over the middle and I’m sure Bennett will be just as much as a threat in 2017 as he was this past year in New England.
Any running back in Cleveland
Yes, the Browns have no one at quarterback and their passing attack is a complete mess because of it. But Hue Jackson showed last year that he knows how to get a ground game going and because of it, Isaiah Crowell finished a top 15 running back in PPG (10.3). The Browns went all out on the offensive line this offseason, not only re-signed guard Joel Bitonio, but signed guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter. Who knows if, come September, Crowell will be the back in Cleveland or if they’ll get someone younger in the draft. What we do know is that behind this revamped offensive line, any running back has legit fantasy value in Hue Jackson’s offense.