2017 Dynasty Free Agency Fallout – New Faces in New Places (Part I)
There has already been a ton of major changes across the NFL landscape in just the few days we’ve already been in free agency. I wanted to take a different look at some of the larger signings and see how they appear from a dynasty perspective.
Let’s dive into how some of the newly-acquired free agents can benefit their new teams and your dynasty rosters heading into 2017.
Brandon Marshall – New York Giants – 2-years, $11M
After posting a 109, 1,502, 14 TD stat line in his first year with the Jets, Brandon Marshall‘s encore fell disastrously short of expectations in Year two. Marshall finished with 59 receptions for 788 yards and just three touchdowns before a mutual parting, allowing them to save $7.5 million in cap space and letting Marshall sign with a contender.
Poor quarterback play absolutely hindered the former All-Pro receiver last year, with Marshall having his worst statistical outing since his rookie campaign.
In 2015, 72% of @BMarshall's targets were deemed catchable by PFF. In 2016, only 55% of his targets (lowest in NFL) were deemed catchable.
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) March 3, 2017
Marshall to the Giants presents a unique opportunity where buying a receiver entering his age-33 season not only makes sense, it should be on the short To-Do list of nearly every dynasty contender.
With New York letting Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings walk, 161 targets are up for grabs, or 27 percent of the team’s available targets from last year. The Giants pass play percentage ranking has risen each year since Ben McAdoo’s arrival, finishing 19th (2014), 12th (2015), and 10th (2016) over the last three seasons. Their red zone pass play percentage ranks a cumulative top five over that time span at 61.6 percent.
Given the Giants’ high propensity for passing the ball, particularly in the red zone, Marshall should see a spike in dynasty value, one that I’ll overpay to acquire given his history. Since 2012, Marshall leads all WRs in red zone touchdowns (37) and ranks second in red zone targets (108). He should return immediate fantasy value in 2017 as a touchdown machine, likely at the expense of Sterling Shepard. Shepard barely eclipsed the 100-target mark last year and 26 percent of his fantasy production came from touchdowns. That’s a rather high percentage that is unlikely to repeat, given the nature of touchdowns, how that rate stacks up against last year’s other top-30 wide receivers, and the addition of Marshall.
Marshall far out-sizes Shepard, and his history in the red zone has turned him into a potential WR2 I’m heavily pursuing on all my contending teams.
Alshon Jeffery – Philadelphia Eagles – 1-year, $14M
After a disappointing 2016 campaign, Alshon Jeffery elected to take a one-year gamble on himself in hopes of a larger pay day come next year. Signing with the Philadelphia Eagles could prove to be a huge boon to both Jeffery’s desires to achieve a big contract and further the development of Carson Wentz. It provides the second-year QB with a dominant alpha receiver.
Wentz’s had very little success throwing downfield in his rookie season. In fact, 84 percent of his passes traveled less than 15 yards as Wentz utilized a horizontal passing attack. Unfortunately for Wentz, he didn’t fare quite that well from an Adjusted Yards per Attempt lens:
The addition of field-stretcher Torrey Smith (3-years, $15 million) should put a strain on opposing defenses and open up the field a bit more in 2017. That will also provide additional room for Jeffery to operate. The former Bear has found success at all levels of the field over the last four seasons.
We saw last year that the Eagles weren’t afraid to throw Wentz into the fire. He finished the season ranked fifth in pass attempts, which is good news for fantasy owners, as it provides plenty of opportunities for his receivers to accumulate fantasy points. Jeffery should receive the lion’s share of these targets, but with so many mouths to feed in Philadelphia 1, is a WR1 season attainable? Per NFL.com’s Alex Gelhar, Doug Pederson’s top receiving option has garnered just 20.9 percent of the team’s targets over the course of his play-calling tenure. If we project the Philadelphia offense for a similar volume in attempts, that would put Jeffery right around the 125-130 target mark. Over the last three years, eight receivers have been in that target range or lower and finished top-12 in PPR scoring.
The buying window for Jeffery may have closed with him getting a chance for a fresh start. However, injuries and the PED suspension cost Jeffery 11 games over the last two seasons. You still may be able to find some owners that would prefer a sure thing over the uncertainty of Jeffery’s future. I’d be willing to overpay for him given the pass-heavy nature of this offense, a factor which could potentially elevate Jeffery’s stock over the course of the 2017 season.
Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers – 5-year, $47.5M
While the dollar amount is what grabs your attention off the bat, the 49ers were desperate to add talent. After quickly agreeing to terms with new quarterback Brian Hoyer (2-year, $12 million) at the start of free agency, getting talent at the receiver position was a necessity for the new front office. In the four full games Hoyer played last year, he threw for 300-plus passing yards in each game and finished as the QB11, QB7, QB5, and QB21. More importantly for Garcon, Hoyer’s top WR option those weeks2 averaged a healthy 12.5 targets per game.
Garcon has been a 100-plus target receiver in six of the last seven years. He’s coming off a 1,000-yard campaign, and the move to San Francisco has opened a barn door of fantasy opportunity for Garcon as the top-paid option. He’s a strong buy candidate who should be heavily targeted on a 49ers team without much receiving talent and likely facing negative game scripts for much of the year.
DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 3-year, $35M
This might be my favorite signing of free agency to date. DeSean Jackson‘s presence on the field has historically been a game changer.
When Jackson scores, his QB stands to profit immensely. Since 2008, when Jackson entered the league, Jackson ranks second in pass plays of 20-plus yards and first in the 30-plus category. He has a career average of 17.7 yards per reception and the sixth-most 100-yard games over that time span.
Jackson is a dynamic field stretcher who will open up the field for Jameis Winston and force teams to stop triple-covering Mike Evans. Last year Winston ranked third in Air Yards among all quarterbacks. The leader? Kirk Cousins. Jackson was a large reason for that, and his presence on the field is certainly a plus for Winston.
As far as a buy/sell option, Jackson will likely still be the highly volatile receiver we’ve come to expect. He remains a hold. Keep in mind, Jackson hasn’t had more than 100 targets since his days in Philadelphia. He has just four games with double-digit targets over the last three years. Evans will continue to soak up a massive target share and remain the focal point of this offense.
Unless you have an eager buyer knocking down your door, I’m holding Jackson in hopes that he has more boom than bust weeks in Tampa.
Kenny Britt – Cleveland Browns – 4-year, $32.5M
Anthony Amico explains the Browns signing Kenny Britt and suggests redraft/dynasty owners should do the same. I acquired Britt in a large majority of my leagues at mid-season last year in hopes of a big swing in value with him going to a better landing spot than the Rams. Unfortunately, I’m not quite as optimistic as Amico about the value spike.
Cleveland has long been a cesspool of fantasy heartache. They have produced three top-24 WR seasons over the last decade — Terrelle Pryor, WR21 (2016), Josh Gordon, WR2 (2013), and Braylon Edwards, WR4 (2007). Negative game scripts haven’t been able to provide an easy path to garbage points for Cleveland’s receivers, and it’s difficult to get believe Cleveland’s current crop of quarterbacks can change that.
While Jared Goff‘s historically inept rookie season makes Britt’s 2016 statistics even more impressive, Cody Kessler‘s rookie campaign was also far from inspiring. Taking a page out of Neil Dutton’s Historical Comp series, I took a look at The RotoViz Screener to see how similar rookie QBs drafted around the same range as Kessler would perform in their next year.
Colt McCoy‘s sophomore season had him throwing for 2,733 yards with a 57 percent completion rate and a 14:11 touchdown to interception ratio. Nick Foles went on to throw for 2,891 yards with a 64 percent completion rate and his historic 27:2 touchdown to interception ratio. The wide range of outcomes doesn’t allow us to take much from this, but it does represent the potential uncertainty Britt will have to endure at QB once again.
Britt will also have to contend with last year’s first-round pick, Corey Coleman, for targets. Coleman was on pace for a 149-target season last year and was our top wide receiver prospect in 2016. Britt and Coleman look like a nice duo on paper, but it’ll be difficult for them to do much if they don’t get better QB play. Per SharpFootballStats, in the games Kessler started at QB, his 6.4 yards per attempt targeting his WRs ranked 29th in the league. He targeted his wide outs just 57 percent of the time — tied for the eighth-lowest rate in the league.
Britt’s current WR58 price tag, per DynastyLeagueFootball, is far too low for startups, but I don’t believe it’s a prudent move to be trying to acquire Britt at this time. In fact, I’m hoping to sell him early in the season if he’s able to have a few good games to start the year.