It’s been a wild start to NFL free agency with plenty of big moves being made. Obviously Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots handing out money like candy on Halloween and completely rebuilding their offense takes the cake for the biggest of fantasy football moves, but there are still plenty of signings that have fantasy implications.
As we’re halfway through the week, I wanted to pick a couple of my favorite and least favorite free agent signings so far and what fantasy ramifications come of them.
Let’s talk winners and losers.
Winner: Cam Newton (or whomever starts at quarterback in New England)
To say 2020 was a rough fantasy season for the Patriots is a massive understatement. When Jakobi Meyers is your best pass catcher and the only way for you to score the football is to have your quarterback power run it in from five yards out, that’s not a great sign for your fantasy viability.
Belichick has clearly heard your pleas to get weapons in New England because he has been on a spending spree, adding the two top tight ends in free agency—Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry—as well as signing wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. With Julian Edelman coming back, this is now a very respectable group of pass catchers and will certainly help boost the passing potential from Newton or whomever will be the Day 1 starter for the Patriots. With all these weapons, and his high rushing floor, I’m very happy taking a flier on Cam in fantasy this year.
Loser: Jonnu Smith SZN, 3/15/21 — 3/16/21
The Patriots made their first splash of free agency signing Titans tight end Jonnu Smith to a massive deal. This of course got many in the fantasy community, yours particularly, all kinds of hot and bothered. Of course, to firmly cement that he in fact does not care about your fantasy team, 24 hours after that signing, Belichick added Hunter Henry to the receiving room. Now from a real football perspective, the move is tremendous as Henry and Smith are two different types of players and will play very well alongside each other. Fantasy-wise, not so much.
While the pairing might be bringing visions of the 2011 Patriots when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both had over 75 catches, 900 yards, and 7 touchdowns, that was with a) Tom Brady and b) Tom Brady throwing the ball 611 times. The Cam Newton Patriots aren’t doing that. Unfortunately both Smith and Henry cap each other’s ceilings and as such, I wouldn’t get too hyped about breakout seasons from either of them in 2021.
Winner: WR1 Corey Davis
After being drafted 5th overall back in 2017, it’s taken little bit for things to fully click for Davis. However, he put forward his best season at the perfect time entering free agency. Last year Davis finished with 984 yards on 65 catches and 5 touchdowns, all career highs. He showed multiple times that he was able to handle WR1 duties in Tennessee and now he’ll get the chance to do so consistently in New York.
There’s obvious risk here as Davis’ 2020 season might have been a flash in the pan or helped by having Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry under center, but I’m pretty excited to see what he can do in New York in Mike LaFleur’s offense. Call it Kyle Shanahan obsession, but I think the Jets offense could surprise people in 2021 after abused by Adam Gase for two years. I feel confident drafting Davis as a WR2 in fantasy this year, even if the Jets stick with Sam Darnold (who I actually think is still good!).
Loser: Ryan Tannehill
For those keeping track at home, this offseason Tannehill has lost his starting tight end (Smith) and his no. 2 receiver (Davis) and the Titans haven’t done anything to replace them. (They also released wide receiver Adam Humphries, but he really didn’t do anything of note in his time in Tennessee so I’m not counting that as a loss.) Now Anthony Firkser did do a couple of things last year that had people learning his name and obviously A.J. Brown is still there (he pretty good) but Tannehill’s returning to a currently depleted receiving core in 2021.
On a positive note, Brown is about to see 150 targets and Derrick Henry is about to carry the ball 400 times.
Winner: Emmanuel Sanders
Despite the Bills being his fourth team in three years AND Sanders about to turn 34-years-old this year, I’m still real excited about his 2021 potential in Buffalo. Despite all that turnover, Sanders has finished with at least 61 catches and 700+ yards in each of his last three seasons. Even at 33, he still has plenty left in the tank.
Sanders will likely step right into John Brown’s vacated WR2 role, a spot which had Brown on pace for 92 targets, alongside WR1 Stefon Diggs. Even with guys like Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis on the roster, I still think there’s potential here for Sanders to be a reliable WR3 in fantasy who could burst and give you WR2 games from time to time.
Winner: The Terry McLaurin Stan Club
The Washington Football Team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick. That’s it. That’s all I need to say to get you ridiculously hyped for Terry McLaurin in 2021 fantasy. No one slings the ball downfield with such careless confidence as Fitzpatrick and that’s tremendous news for any wide receiver he plays with. We saw DeVante Parker become a WR1 with Fitzpatrick under center in Miami and with McLaurin already announcing himself as one of the best young receivers in the game, his potential with Fitzmagic chucking YOLO balls at every chance he gets is just too sweet and savory to imagine. Terry McLaurin is a WR1 in 2021 fantasy. Mark these words.
Loser: Allen Robinson
Or, Winner: Allen Robinson’s propensity to play with below average quarterbacks.
Allen Robinson’s newest quarterback is Andy Dalton. Please free this man.