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2020 Fantasy Football: Tracking the Top NFL Free Agents

The NFL Players Association has ratified the new collective bargaining agreement and the 2020 league year is on track to begin on schedule. That means that the official free agency period will begin on Wednesday as originally planned. With that in mind, here are some of the NFL’s top unrestricted free agents among skill players, along with their potential landing spots and fantasy impact in 2020. Keep in mind there is a lot of fluidity in these situations. Even while writing this, I have made plenty of alterations due to trades, rumored signings, franchise tags placed, etc. The dominos will continue to fall in the days and weeks ahead, which should make for interesting fodder. At least it will give us something to do over what seems like it will be an extended period without live game action from any of the four major sports.

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Notable 2020 NFL Unrestricted Free Agents

Quarterback Free Agents

Dak Prescott, Dallas (FRANCHISE TAGGED)

Dallas assigned the exclusive franchise tag to their quarterback on Monday, so Prescott is not going anywhere. The offer is expected to be in the $33M range. Prescott finished second among quarterbacks in fantasy points last year and has been an upper-echelon fantasy quarterback for several years now. That should remain the case in 2020, though he would fall towards the bottom of the QB1 conversation if star wideout Amari Cooper goes elsewhere.

Drew Brees, New Orleans (RE-SIGNED WITH NEW ORLEANS)

Brees earned Pro Football Focus’ number-two overall grade among quarterbacks last season, and the 41-year old is likely to stay in the bayou in 2020. The veteran already said he is willing to take a below-market deal to remain with the Saints. Brees finished eighth in fantasy points per game at the position last year and will be a low-end QB1 in 2020. His return is good news for Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, both of whom will remain elite options at their respective positions.

Tom Brady, New England (SIGNED WITH TAMPA BAY)

Tom Brady announced on Tuesday morning that he is indeed leaving the New England Patriots. On Tuesday night, reports came out that Brady would sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once eligible. Brady is perhaps the most high-profile free agent in NFL history. And while Brady playing for a team other than New England will make huge news from a legacy standpoint, his fantasy impact will be far less reaching. Brady will certainly  benefit from throwing to a receiving corps led by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But he will not heave it as many times as Jameis Winston did last season. Brady finished as just the QB16 in terms of points per game last season. Winston finished fifth. I expect Brady to finish somewhere in the middle in 2020. He should be treated as a high-end QB2 with the weapons and ability to creep up into the top 12.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (SIGNED WITH INDIANAPOLIS)

Philip Rivers had a down year in 2019 and the Chargers are content to let the franchise’s all-time leading passer finish his career elsewhere. Indianapolis has a one-year deal in place with Rivers. The Colts have an elite offensive line that will keep Rivers upright. Last season, the now-former Charger had an 81.1 percent adjusted completion percentage when kept clean. That number dropped to 65.3 percent when under pressure. Rivers will likely be a high-floor, low ceiling QB2. He should finish right in the middle of the pack among fantasy quarterbacks in 2020.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (RE-SIGNED)

The Tennessee Titans re-signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a four-year contract extension. The 2019 Comeback Player of the Year will remain a solid fantasy quarterback in 2020, but I am expecting his efficiency to regress a bit. He should be a steady QB2 in most weeks. His return is good news for A.J. Brown, who is a high-ceiling WR2 heading into his sophomore season.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay

When Tampa Bay placed the franchise tag on linebacker Shaq Barrett, they essentially enabled quarterback Jameis Winston to become a free agent. Winston eclipsed the 5,000-yard passing mark last year but also threw 30 interceptions. Reports suggest that the Bucs are all-in on Tom Brady. It makes sense for Tampa Bay to seek a stable leader like Brady after watching Winston’s Jekyll and Hyde act. Winston is the player whose 2020 stock seems to be most affected by outside forces.
If the Bucs are unable to get Brady, they may be willing to take Winston back on a one-year, “prove it” deal. In that scenario, he would likely be a top-10 fantasy quarterback once again. His value would likely remain close to that if he and Brady were to simply swap locales. However, I cannot imagine a taskmaster like Bill Belichick who is notorious for preaching discipline willingly signing a quarterback who turned the ball over 35 (!) times in 2019. After that, the market could get tricky. If, for instance, Brady signed with Tampa and the Patriots turned to the next player on this list, Winston could find himself fighting just to have a starting job in 2020. This is going to be a very interesting few days, to say the least.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans (SIGNED WITH CAROLINA)

Teddy Bridgewater won all five of his starts in relief of Drew Brees last season. It appears he will be able to parlay that into a multi-year deal. Recent reports suggest that Carolina is signing Bridgewater to a three-year contract. The news comes on the heels of the announcement that the team gave Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. Bridgewater has been solid when called upon in recent years, and suddenly finds himself in an offense with a lot of weapons in 2020. His propensity to check down (he had the league’s lowest average depth of target last season) means that he is likely to be a matchup-dependent QB2 more often than not. The news seems better for D.J. Moore than Curtis Samuel, while Christian McCaffrey remains a high-end RB1 in all formats.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee (SIGNED WITH LAS VEGAS)

Coach Mike Vrabel benched Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, and it turned Tennessee’s season around. The move essentially sealed Mariota’s fate in Music City. The former Heisman Trophy winner will look to resurrect his career in the desert after signing with the Las Vegas (still feels weird to type) Raiders. Mariota could push Derek Carr as the team’s starter, as coach Jon Gruden has some concerns about his long-term status. Carr has finished all six of his seasons as a top-20 fantasy quarterback but has never finished in the top 10. Mariota may be a viable option in SuperFlex leagues if he can unseat the incumbent. Otherwise, he will be off the fantasy radar.

Case Keenum, Washington (SIGNED WITH CLEVELAND)

Cleveland has signed Case Keenum to a three-year deal. He will back up Baker Mayfield and has no fantasy relevance barring an injury.

Others of note: Blake Bortles, Chase Daniel (Signed with Detroit)


Running Backs

Derrick Henry, Tennessee (FRANCHISE TAGGED)

For the second year in a row, Derrick Henry carried teams to fantasy championships down the stretch. Henry led the league in rushing and scored a touchdown in 11 of 15 regular-season games last year. The Titans released Dion Lewis last week, but I do not expect Henry to see a significant bump in receiving usage. Henry and Tannehill will help each other a great deal. Tannehill was excellent in the play-action game, which is so effective because of the threat Henry brings as a runner. He should settle in as a mid-range RB1 in 2020, even in PPR leagues.

Kenyan Drake, Arizona (TRANSITION TAGGED)

Kenyan Drake is the early winner based on the news of the last 24 hours. Drake failed to reach 50 rushing yards or run for a score in six games in Miami before being traded to Arizona. From then on, he finished as the overall RB3 in PPR leagues. Despite that, fantasy owners were viewing Drake as a fringe RB2/RB3 in most circles. However, Arizona has placed their franchise tag on Drake and traded David Johnson to Houston. I expect his ADP to rise rather quickly now that he is firmly entrenched as the lead back in a potent offense. He should be viewed as a borderline RB1 who makes for a solid target late in the second round of 2020 fantasy drafts. Johnson, meanwhile, should be a volume-based RB2 as the new centerpiece of Houston’s offensive attack.

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (SIGNED WITH ATLANTA)

Todd Gurley was cut by the Rams less than two years after signing a four-year contract extension. He was quickly scooped up by the Atlanta Falcons, who signed him to a one-year deal. Gurley has health issues that are well-documented, but still had 14 touchdowns in 15 games last year. He should be a major factor in the red zone for Atlanta and can easily score double-digit touchdowns. I think Gurley can still be a top-15 fantasy back in 2020.

Gurley’s signing has other ramifications as well. It takes a lot of air out of the Ito Smith balloon, for one. Smith will likely be a change-of-pace back, and someone who can fill in if Gurley needs a breather. Outside of that, he does not figure to have much standalone value. As for the vacancy in Los Angeles, I still think that Malcolm Brown is the current favorite over Darrell Henderson for touches in the Rams’ backfield. But Henderson is a player whose stock will rise in the coming weeks, and is definitely worth buying relatively low on.

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers (SIGNED WITH DENVER)

Melvin Gordon famously held out at the beginning of 2019. All he accomplished was facilitating his exit from LA. Austin Ekeler filled in admirably and was one of the most productive backs in the league. Gordon, meanwhile, ran for just 51 yards per game and has now been held to less than a 4.0 yards per carry average in four of five years. Gordon will stay in the AFC West after inking a two-year deal with Denver. I’m not really sure why Denver would splurge on Gordon when they already have Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman in tow. This seems like a complete mess for fantasy purposes. They are all likely to cannibalize each other on some level. I would not rank any Broncos running back in the top 20 at the position.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta

The Atlanta Falcons have released longtime running back Devonta Freeman. The move should not be a surprise considering Freeman’s recent falloff. Freeman was PFF’s 51st graded halfback out of 58 qualifiers but still proved to be an effective pass catcher. Freeman had 59 catches in 2019, his third season registering 50-plus grabs. For fantasy purposes, he should remain relevant going forward. He finished as the overall RB20 in PPR leagues despite his obvious struggles on the ground. He could wind up with a team like the Chargers as a complement to Austin Ekeler or the Eagles to form a diverse backfield with Miles Sanders. I would like to see him wind up somewhere like Indianapolis, where Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines are a bit limited in their respective skill sets. Bringing in a player like Freeman could help keep defenses honest, which would benefit all involved.

Carlos Hyde, Houston

Carlos Hyde may have made a mistake by declining an offer from Houston before free agency began. It’s not as if teams were beating down his door before last season. Hyde was productive in Houston and finished 2019 as the league’s 12th leading rusher. But he also finished 30th in PPR formats and offers almost nothing in the passing game. I do not expect him to garner a ton of interest on the market, and it is highly unlikely he sees anything close to the workload he saw this past season. Now that the Texans have traded for David Johnson, Hyde will undoubtedly be playing for a new team, his sixth in the last four seasons. He will probably be an RB4 in 2020 as a two-down back who could see some goal-line touches.

Jordan Howard, Philadelphia (SIGNED WITH MIAMI)

Howard may seem like a better option than Hyde due to his age, but I would prefer Hyde personally. Hyde graded out as a top-20 running back per PFF last year. Because of that, I can make the argument that Hyde can thrive if given enough work. I am not even sure you can say that about Howard. Howard saw an average of 611 snaps from 2017-2018 and failed to grade out as a top 36 running back in either season. Last year he graded out 31st but missed the second half of the season. Like Hyde, he offers very little help in the passing game and is little more than an early-down plodder. He is the type of running back you will draft in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts but never want to put in your starting lineup. Miami has signed Howard, which does not change my opinion. He should get a fair amount of work in South Beach, but he will most likely be an RB3/Flex in most weeks.

Others of note: Ty Montgomery, Chris Thompson, Dion Lewis, DeAndre Washington, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy


Wide Receivers

Amari Cooper, Dallas (RE-SIGNED WITH DALLAS)

Amari Cooper has tantalized with his potential, but at times lacks the consistency that a team needs from its top wideout. He failed to clear 50 yards in 40 percent of his 2019 performances. But it is hard to be too critical of Cooper. He now has four 1,000-plus yard seasons under his belt and is still only 25 years old. There could be another layer to his game that he has not reached yet. If he remains in Dallas, he should continue to be a borderline WR1, albeit a frustrating one to own. He would probably take a small hit by going elsewhere, but I would be confident drafting him as a high-upside WR2 regardless of where he calls home in 2020.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati (FRANCHISE TAGGED)

The Cincinnati Bengals placed the franchise tag on A.J. Green, so he will remain with the only NFL team he has ever known. His quarterback, however, will no longer be longtime teammate Andy Dalton. Cincinnati is expected to select Joe Burrow in next month’s draft and make him the new face of the franchise. Rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle with consistency, so that could be something to keep in mind. Green should be fresh after missing the entire 2019 season. I believe he will settle into the low-WR3/Flex conversation heading into 2020.

Robby Anderson, New York Jets

I have watched Robby Anderson for four years, and I still cannot tell how good he is. He is an exceptional downfield playmaker but is probably best served as a team’s deep threat rather than its go-to receiver. The Jets just haven’t had many options. Anderson has had a couple of off-field issues in his career, but that does not seem to be a deterrent to those interested in him. It seems there is interest in him re-signing in New York, in which case he would remain a volatile Flex option in most weeks.

Emmanuel Sanders, San Francisco

Emmanuel Sanders returned following a torn Achilles’ and showed bursts of the receiver he was back in his first three years in Denver. Sanders also showed durability, and in fact, played in 17 regular-season games. He can still be a quality WR3 in the right situation, and I could see bumping him up a notch or two on this list depending on his landing spot. But for now, he appears to be more of a WR4 given the uncertainly as well as the superb rookie class of wideouts that is about to enter the league.

Brashad Perriman, Tampa Bay

Brashad Perriman went from NFL bust to coveted free agent in the span of a month back in December. From the beginning of the 2017 season through Week 12 of 2019, Perriman totaled 556 receiving yards and three scores. In December of 2019, Perriman had 506 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Perhaps he can give a kickback of his future earnings to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for getting hurt down the stretch last season. I cannot suddenly buy into Perriman being a consistent receiver in the NFL. It sure seems like he benefited from some unique circumstances. Perriman is little more than a late-round dart throw for me in terms of his 2020 fantasy appeal.

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia

I read on Twitter on Monday that a guy was walking around in an Agholor jersey because he didn’t want to catch Coronavirus. My guess is he will not be back in the city of Brotherly Love. Instead, early indications seem to be that Indianapolis is interested in Agholor. Perhaps he makes more sense than a receiver like Cooper from a schematic standpoint. However, I cannot envision a scenario in which his signing moves the fantasy needle much. He could get a bit of a boost in PPR formats, but even then would be hard to trust as anything more than a matchup-based Flex play.

Other names of note: Randall Cobb (Signed with Houston), Devin Funchess, Tajae Sharpe, Phillip Dorsett, Taylor Gabriel, Demaryius Thomas, Rashard Higgins, Ted Ginn, Geronimo Allison, Paul Richardson


Tight Ends

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (FRANCHISE TAGGED)

The Los Angeles Chargers placed the franchise tag on their star tight end, so he will remain in the fold for whoever the club’s new quarterback will be. Henry caught a career-high 55 passes in 2019 but missed four games. Henry is shaping up to be a top-six fantasy tight end as we approach the 2020 season. I believe he could be as high as TE4 depending on who Los Angeles can bring in to play quarterback. TB12 perhaps?

Austin Hooper, Atlanta (SIGNED WITH CLEVELAND)

The Cleveland Browns have a deal in place with for Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. That is an interesting signing when you consider the Browns already have David Njoku in tow and have plenty of other pass-catchers as well. This could mean that Jarvis Landry may be out longer than expected, or maybe the team has simply soured on Njoku. Either way, I believe Hooper’s value will take a slight hit in Cleveland. He will probably still be a TE1, but I consider him more on the low end of that scale now, likely in the 10-12 range at the position. Hooper will be replaced in Atlanta by former Raven Hayden Hurst, who was acquired via trade on Monday. The former first-round pick could be an intriguing TE2 pick with some upside.

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis

Eric Ebron predictably fell off in 2019 after having a monster 2018 season. His output was lower last season than it was in any of the previous five years. He also missed the last five games of this past season due to injuries to his ankles. Between injury concerns and reduced production, the Colts are expected to move on. Green Bay is a possibility for Ebron, but he can no longer be trusted as a TE1 even if he gets to play with Aaron Rodgers. He could be worth streaming in certain spots depending on where he lands, but I do not expect him to be a consistent fantasy performer in 2020.

Jimmy Graham, Green Bay (SIGNED WITH CHICAGO)

The reason Green Bay is a possible landing spot for Ebron in free agency is that their former tight end, Jimmy Graham, has signed in Chicago. This move is a bit puzzling to me. Chicago has tight ends on the roster, although it is certainly possible that head coach Matt Nagy is done with the Trey Burton experiment. Even so, Graham had his worst season since his 2010 rookie campaign. Graham is unlikely to make a difference in 2020 and can safely be ignored in all upcoming drafts.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee

The Titans released veteran tight end, Delanie Walker, last week. Walker was one of the league’s most productive tight ends during his first five years in Tennessee. However, injuries and age have caught up with him in recent years. Walker has played just eight games in the last two years. He will latch on somewhere, but like Graham, his best days are behind him and he will be a non-factor in 2020.

Other names of note: Nick Vannett

Also, check out Michael Florio’s take on the fantasy fallout from Day 1 of NFL Free Agency.

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