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Most improved positional groups after NFL free agency

The Raiders wide receivers are relevant again!

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Year in and year out, there are a few positional groups around the NFL that you can always rely on to bring you fantasy production. The Saints’ backfield has been consistently producing top PPR production since 2011 and you can always trust the Steelers offense to give you at least two top fantasy receivers (TRUST IN JUJU!). There are of course positional groups that are a barren wasteland of fantasy talent and you want to avoid like the plague. When was the last time you willing drafted a Buccaneers running back or a Bills receiver?

However, this can be a dangerous game to play as your biases can often lead you to make the wrong decision on a player. For instance, I have a natural aversion to Seahawks receivers because I just don’t trust Brian Schottenheimer to do anything other than call RB dive after RB dive. As a result, I completely missed out on Tyler Lockett’s breakout season this year.

As it is true with most things in life, it’s important to take the time to reevaluate your position on things from time to time and after a very active NFL free agency seems like the perfect time to look around the league and see which positional groups, once thought to be barren, now suddenly have fantasy relevance.

Let’s start with the most obvious...

Raiders’ receiving core


The Raiders went from Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman and Seth Roberts to Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams... and still Jordy Nelson. Brown and Williams combined caught more touchdowns than Derek Carr threw last year. Let that sink in.

I’m sure there will be those who point to Carr as a reason for diminishing the value of Brown and Williams (and Nelson for those few Packers fans who still love him) but let’s not forget that Carr has shown in the past to be a perfectly capable quarterback and things often look bleak when you have receivers who can’t get open. Don’t let the level of Jon Gruden stink you smell make you miss out on Brown or Williams. We know what Brown can do and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams take a step forward.

Jets’ backfield

Another obvious pick but I can’t not mention the Jets. Their backfield was far from a fantasy haven last year, mustering only the 23rd most fantasy points at the position and that’s now sure to change with Le’Veon Bell in tow. And you can worry all you want about the offensive line and Bell having been out for a year but I’m treating Bell as a top 5 fantasy back this year. He’ll be the focal point of the Jets offense but likely won’t see the ridiculous workload the Steelers thrust upon him, which hopefully will improve his ability to stay healthy late into the season.

Plus, his addition also makes everyone around him a more productive fantasy player. Sam Darnold’s going to be much more viable and, as I mentioned when the news first broke, I like Robby Anderson a little more now as defenses will likely have to keep a safety in the box now, creating a lot of one-on-one opportunities for him.

Bills’ receiving core

While the Bills didn’t get their hands on Antonio Brown (despite their best efforts) or Odell Beckham Jr, they still managed to improve their pass catchers for young Josh Allen. That being said, improving upon the likes of Zay Jones and Robert Foster isn’t all that hard.

Cole Beasley, while never providing elite fantasy production, has been a solid WR4 throughout his career and will likely quickly become Allen’s favorite target. (Let’s just hope Allen can aim low enough to hit the 5-foot-8 Beasley in the chest.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have some decent PPR value this year.

The addition of John Brown could either be a stroke of genius or just a sad reminder in what could’ve been for Brown. I know Brown finished the season rather quiet once Lamar Jackson took over and the Ravens became the greatest rushing team in the history of everything, but don’t forget up until that point, he was the 19th best receiver in fantasy football. He seems like he’s the perfect receiver to pair with Allen as Allen can throw the ball deep and Brown can run real fast. That’s how touchdowns are made kids.

49ers’ backfield

I know running back committees are a fantasy owner’s worst nightmare but I think this backfield might be less of a committee than we think. Or, and maybe a better way to put it, I think we could see a Saints-esque backfield where everyone eats in San Francisco.

Mainly, I’m excited to see Tevin Coleman back in Shanahan’s offense. We know the 49ers know exactly how to utilize Coleman as he put together his best season in 2016 in Shanahan’s system. That year he rushed for 520 yards, eight touchdowns and caught 31 balls for 421 yards and another three touchdowns. He finished that year RB17 in standard leagues. Now I’m not saying he’s a lock for those numbers again in 2019, but I don’t think this backfield is going to be as crowded or as unpredictable as other committees are.

Ravens’ backfield

This is really just a Mark Ingram appreciation paragraph. I’ve always been an Ingram fan ever since he entered the league. I really wanted the Patriots to draft him and was crushed when he went to New Orleans instead. I think he’s going to be the perfect back to pair with Jackson as he’ll be able to exploit defenses up the middle when they put emphasis on the edges to contain Lamar. I also just love Ingram going to not only his own backfield (sorry Gus the Bus) but to a team that loves to run the football. He could be in line for a very solid fantasy season.

Colts’ receiving core

I can’t pass up a chance to further my Devin Funchess propaganda machine. The Colts receiving core maybe isn’t a positional group that you’ve completely avoid in the past but I can bet that none of you have drafted/targeted a receiver in Indy not named T.Y. Hilton. Well that changes now! I know I tend to speak in hyperbole, especially in regards to players I’m way too invested in, but I do think that Funchess will bring a missing dimension to this passing game and everyone in Indy will benefit for it.

The entire Browns team

Baker Mayfield gonna finish QB10. Nick Chubb: RB5. Odell Beckham: WR1. Jarvis Landry: WR20. David Njoku: TE8. Best offense in fantasy football.

@ me.