NFL free agency certainly hit the ground running this past Monday; playmakers being scooped left and right had the football world in a whirlwind. Now that the dust has settled after the initial splash, it’s time to go over a few of the top risers and fallers from 2018’s free agency frenzy.
Top 3 Fallers
Jordy Nelson: WR, OAK
It’s almost too weird to type, but Jordy Nelson is an Oakland Raider. Jordy will be 33 this 2018 NFL season and is turning in his green and yellow in for silver and black. Nelson has been one of the most efficient receivers in the league when healthy, and he had tremendous rapport with Aaron Rodgers. Yet, in the ever changing business of the NFL, no player is safe. Thus, Nelson was released by Green Bay and signed with Oakland. In return, Oakland then released one of their main weapons of the past few years, Michael Crabtree. With Cooper on the other side of Nelson, it’ll be a great chance to run against single coverage. Unfortunately, Derek Carr hit a sharp decline last season, and I don’t see this team getting any better. I think Nelson gets a great number of targets, but the catchable ball rate will be too low for Nelson to make a top-20 impact.
Isaiah Crowell: RB, NYJ
Just one year ago, Crowell was being hyped as a potential first round pick. The Browns were going to run it more and had the pedigree for success. However, they quickly realized that to run the ball, you must be able to stay competitive. In that way, the Browns let us down. Crowell was nowhere to be seen on the field, even when he did get an opportunity. Crowell’s two touchdowns and 800+ rushing yards were not what fantasy owners expected. Now Crowell joins an already crowded, mediocre backfield. The Jets haven’t done much to help their offensive line, which was a big problem for them in 2017. Assuming they draft a quarterback in round one, it will be slow moving for Crowell and the running backs on the Jets.
Doug Baldwin: WR, SEA
WHAT?! But wait, he wasn’t a free agent?! It’s OK everyone, I understand Baldwin is still a Seahawk and was not on the market this season. Yet, watching the Seahawks implode their team, offensively and defensively, there’s an undeniable sense of an impending down season in Seattle. They’ve let every running back go except J.D. McKissic. They let receiving stars Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson go, which results in more focused attention on Baldwin, like there even needs to be anymore. They let Richard Sherman go and are trying to deal away Earl Thomas. Everything here is cause for concern. So I will be fading all the Seahawks players. They have a lot of holes for me to be trying to piece together a competitive team. There’s still a long time to go before the season, but as of now Baldwin is no longer a top-24 fantasy wide receiver.
Top 3 Risers
Jerick McKinnon: RB, SF
A great pass catching back is on his way out of San Francisco, while another one just signed a big contract to replace him. McKinnon is heading to the Bay and is already slotted as running back one. He fits perfectly into the Shanahan scheme and will be similar to Tevin Coleman in Atlanta, but with a bigger role. In any PPR league, McKinnon needs to be thought of as a top-20 running back when you think about the possibility of 100+ targets. McKinnon was ranked 24th in pass blocking, according to playerprofiler.com, and 19th in the NFL with a 2.4 ypc average against stacked defenses. McKinnon should be able to handle most of the workload and will be a great check-down player for Jimmy Garoppolo. This should be a great second or third round pick in August, and he’s moving way up in my rankings.
Rex Burkhead: RB, NE
Rex is coming off of a roller coaster season, of which his early injury plagued the first half. Yet, when healthy, Burkhead was a beast. In PPR leagues, he was the main Patriots back, albeit Dion Lewis got most rushing touches. However, Lewis is now a Titan and the Patriots seem to be fully behind their slew of misfit running backs. So, with Lewis gone and Burkhead, along with James White and Mike Gillislee, as the Patriots’ backs, let’s look at Burkhead’s running abilities. In 2017, his 5.5 yards/touch was 5th-best in the NFL. His 6.0 yards/carry against a light front was good enough for 3rd-best in the NFL. Returning to the AFC champions is the best landing spot for Burkhead, in fantasy terms. I will not hesitate to put him inside the top-30 running backs in PPR.
Larry Fitzgerald: WR, ARI & David Johnson: RB, ARI
WHAT?! More players who weren’t even free agents?! That’s right, because as most people are only looking at the players who are switching teams, they somehow neglect the effect one player switching teams has on two different teams. The Cardinals made one of the best signings of the offseason for Larry Fitzgerald’s and David Johnson’s fantasy value. Sam Bradford is the king of dump downs. Regardless of whether the Cardinals draft a quarterback, I do not foresee him starting over Bradford. Thus, with Bradford under center get ready for a ton of quick passes to Fitzgerald and Johnson. Both of these guys’ playmaking ability should make Bradford extremely confident in getting the ball to them. So, in PPR leagues, these two guys are moving up now that we know it’s Bradford throwing the ball.