Top NFL Free Agents Before Signing | 2018 Fantasy Football

by Nick Ercolano February 05, 2018

Top NFL Free Agents Before Signing | 2018 Fantasy Football

For a while the NFL was stale when it came to players moving. The NBA and MLB have been the wild west of free agency fireworks, but that hasn't been the case in recent years. We're seeing more trades and more blockbuster RIP to blockbuster the GOAT, moves happening every offseason. This one will be no different. Here are some of the most notable names in football that will be free agents this summer and what kind of impact it might have on the fantasy football landscape, starting with Quattabacks.

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins)

  • Once again got the job done for fantasy owners, finishing as QB5. His second year in a row finishing top-5, third consecutive with at least 4,000 yards and 25 passing TDs, averaging 4,400 and 27 over that span.
  • Played on the franchise tag for the last two seasons. He came out and said he's perfectly fine playing under it again in 2018 if it happens, but the Skins would need to pay him $35 million or something wild like that to retain him.
  • He'll turn 30 this offseason to still very much in the prime of his career for a QB, lot of speculation about him going over to SF, but obviously not now with Jimmy the Gawd holding things down in San Fran. 
  • It wouldn't surprise me to see them do it though, I feel like they still haven't seen enough out of Kirk. He's been good, but 2017 was his 3 year low in completion %, passing yards/game, yards per attempt and highest INT total, so there's definitely still some areas to improve upon for Kirk, but looking at how the QB landscape is in the NFL right now, I'd be surprised if they don't have Kirk under center for the first snap of 2018.
  • HC Jay Gruden just came out and said he expects Cousins' long-term future is expected to be decided this offszn.

Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

  • He'll be 39 next season and Brees says he plans to stay.
  • I don't see a single possibility that Brees is not a Saint in 2018.
  • Look at this team right now. They have an incredible ground game and a much-improved defense, those are the two pieces of the formula that can elongate an QBs career.
  • Depending on what happens in the playoffs, the Saints will have a legitimate 2-3 year window to win another championship with Brees under center.
  • And he wasn't bad by any means this year - his statistics were overall down but that was because of his volume - AND i just wanna say - last summer the first video I made was top 5 busts or whatever and Brees was on that list and I got shit on - and my exact reasons were not because I think he's bad - but because they have all that depth at RB his pass volume is definitely going to decrease and he was getting picked like 55th overall. 
  • He only attempted 537 passes, that's 136 less than last year and his lowest total since 2009.
  • Anyways, yeah Brees actually set a career high in completion % in 2017 and had his lowest interception total ever in a Saints uniform.
  • So, I expect them to get something done, maybe 2-3, even 4 years, possibly a paycut because Brees knows he has a legit run at another championship over the next few years.

Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater/Case Keenum (Minnesota Vikings)

  • This is an interesting situation the Vikings have here.
  • You have all 3 QBs going to be FAs in 2018 - Keenum, Teddy and Bradford.
  • We'll look at Keenum first I think he's earned the BDGE stamp of respeck. He took over after Bradford got hurt and started from Week 2 and is still going with it. 2018 will be his 6th year in the NFL, he'll turn 30 in February, but this was his first as a full-time legitimate starter - in 15 games he threw for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns to 7 pics. Also added 160 yards and a tuddy on the ground. Led them to a 13-3 record most importantly.
  • I think the most interesting part about Keenum is the fact that he didn't really come out of nowhere - he more or less never got a shot in the pros. He was with the Rams last two years - you could barely consider them a football team at the time and the Texans before that, but you look back at him in college - idk if y'all remember him at Houston - he threw for more than 5,000 passing yards in three different seasons... He is the all-time NCAA leader in passing completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns and total TDs responsible for. All-time. The raw talent and ability was always there and now that he has a legit team around him, a lights out defense, weapons in Theilen, Diggs and Rudolph, while getting Dalvin Cook back next year - they should give him a real hard look.
  • The worst part about this situation is that the Vikes obviously knew it was a contract year for Teddy, but he hadn't played since 2015 so they needed to see what he had on the field before they either let him go elsewhere this offszn or resigned him to a big deal. You've got to remember he's just 25, that's so young for a QB there's still plenty of time - he had two solid, not great but solid first two years and a lot of people had him pegged for a big junior szn before the knee injury. Now they're kind of left in no-mans land right?
  • They did get him in the game in Week 15 when they were blowing the game out 34-0, he went 0-2 with an INT that bounced off a Vikings players hands - so it was nothing to judge from. 
  • Bradford just returned to practice for the first time in about 32 years because of a knee injury so they'll actually have all 3 on the roster heading into the playoffs. Bradford is probably the least likely of the 3 to end up on the roster in 2018 - with so many holes at the QB position around the NFL someone will roll the dice on the 30-year old, once upon-a-time 1st overall pick. Seems like a lifetime ago. I'm sure he still has some left in the tank but who knows if he can hold up, that was a huge knock on him his first few years he was always in and out of the lineup with injuries and it's become more and more prevalent as his career has gone on.
  • It'll be hard for the Vikings to retain even two of these guys tbh, I could see Teddy ending up somewhere like the Jets. A team somewhat rebuilding but sick of drafting fraud QBs.

Wide Recievers

Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Rams)

  • What an incredible turn of events for Sammy Watkins. Him and Bobby Woods both move from Buffalo to LA. Everyone assumed this was a death shot for both guys, moving from, I mean TyGod isn't elite by any means but more so the fact that they're now paired up with Goff. 
  • This couldn't have worked out better for the former Clemson stud. Goff turned into the Rams unquestioned franchise QB and with Sean McVay at the helm, they went from literally the leagues worst offense, scoring 14 PPG in 2016 to the highest scoring one in 2017 (29.9).
  • Watkins finished with 39/593/8 line - not a great line but the 8 tds are obviously encouraging - he scored 6 TDs in his last 8 games but he went over 70 receiving yards just twice though, it's just an offense that's going to spread the ball around - I think we saw Robert Woods kind of become what we thought Watkins would be and vice versa.
  • So, both the Rams and Chargers move to LA, the Rams are set up for so much success right now. The fan base had to choose between two teams - which one are you going to choose... the one with a young franchise QB, all-pro RB, great defense, young stud HD ... or the Chargers.. yeah so not only have they won the city over, but they are rolling teams over.
  • I would be shocked if the Rams let Watkins slip away. Although they do have a huge contract for Tavon Austin still on the books, so it'll be interesting to see if that has an effect on this.
  • ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez expects the team to hit him with the FTag. Guy is literally 24 still. BAhhhgawddd.

Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars)

  • About 13 seconds into 2017, and apologize considering I chose him in the Etown Get Down and that was unarguably the reason he got hurt, he tore his ACL, boom out for the year. An incredible 2015 szn prefaced a disappointing 2016 szn, and I was in the group expecting a bounceback 2017.
  • I'd be shocked if A-Rob winds up back with the Jags after investing heavily in their run game and defense. Plus they have a ton of young talent at the position already for cheap between Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, etc.
  • A-Rob says he expects to be healthy and able to pass a physical before free agency opens on March 14 - they say he's looking for something similar to a 4-year $58 mil deal that Davante Adams got... mmm. I think that's risky for a player that missed all of last year, a huge disappointment the year before - it's certainly a risk for whoever goes in on him. Of course he's young as hell just 24 and the upside is enormous, we saw it in 2015. 
  • Where ever he ends up, I think A-Rob certainly still has that high WR2 upside. He'll probably go around the same spot he did in fantasy drafts last summer if I had to guess maybe round 4 or 5. I'm looking right now on FFC - He's pick #52, right behind Demaryius and ahead of Crabtree. I would flip that order, but just to give you a sense.
  • I'd imagine he's going to get a one-year prove it deal like a lot of the WRs this previous offszn got like Alshon and Pryor.
  • Some interesting landing spots - I think the the Colts or 49ers would be kind of awesome. Maybe the Browns they have a lot of cap. I don't think it would ever happen but the Chiefs would be pretty cool. Who knows, we'll have to stay tuned.

Terrelle Pryor Sr. (Washington Redskins)

  • Just an awful year for Pryor, finishes with 20 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown.
  • Finished the year on I.R. after undergoing ankle surgery.
  • Signed to a one-year, $6-million deal, that's likely what he will get again somewhere besides Washigton. Would honestly be interesting to see him move back to Cleveland. Let him and Flash run the outside, with Coleman operating in the slot?
  • He's still just relatively young at 28, and just a year removed from a 1000-yard szn. Clearly looking like that was a volume statistic based on the 140 targets, but I still think he can be a role player if in the right situation.

Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins)

  • There's pretty much been rumors of the Dolphins shopping Landry since the moment he stepped into Miami. But he's been one of the few consistent pieces on this team. 
  • As always he finished the szn in the bottom of the NFL in YPR (8.8 - also a career-low), but he led the NFL with 112 catches. He also set by far a career high with 9 TDs after scoring just 4 times in each of the last two years.
  • Landry and Miami have reportedly been in contract talks already and he's made it crystal clear he wants to stay. At just 25 he's someone they should probably keep around.
  • "He and Odell Beckham share the league’s all-time record for most catches in the first three years of a career, and he’s the only Dolphin ever to catch 100 passes in a season." (Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post). It'd be sick to see them two united but that ain't gonna happen.

    Running Backs

    Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)

    • Bell destroyed his contract szn, good for him, i'll get more into his stats and numbers when I do the first round mock draft.
    • He played under the franchise tag this year and made a little over $12-mil, the Steelers could do it again in 2018, but they'd have to pay him around $15 million and for reference Devonta Freeman is getting paid like $8.3 million/year so ideally the Steelers would like not to have to pay Bell that much.
    • Bell just came out and said "he will consider sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if franchise tagged for the second-consecutive year." FAKE MF NEWS!!!!
    • What I think will likely play a big role, and is being overlooked in this situation is what happens with Big Ben this off-szn because you remember last summer he was really close to retiring. I mean, this offense obviously has a dumb amount of talent, but without Big Ben behind the wheel, they're not going to win a championship. Nvm, Ben confirmed he will return for 2018 szn, I'm surprised tbh.
    • So if Ben returns, they're obviously a superbowl contender. It would almost certianly be his last szn in the NFL, that's if he even does come back. I think at that point, it might be worth franchising Bell just to give them one more year of a run at a championship and then they could see what happens in summer 2019. 
    • Either way, still an elite fantasy RB1 regardless of where he winds up and probably my #1 overall pick.

    Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers)

    • This is an interesting one with all the talk last szn about them wanting to move on from Hyde then he plays really well this year and they get Jimmy Garap at QB.
    • He finished as RB8 in PPR fantasy leagues - a touch less than 300 touches and 10 yards shy of 1,400 total yards to go along with 8 tuddys.
    • I think it'd be really smart for them to bring Hyde back, he's just 27, turning 28 in September, and when you have a guy like Jimmy G and you're expecting him not to shit the bed and actually win games and have the lead, you need a grinder like Hyde, someone who can work inside the tackles - like Ingram out in New Orleans. You look at his numbers have averaged nearly 3 carries (16.5) more per game with Garap under center than without him, of course because of game script but you get the picture. And of course they have Kamara as another punch their - the Niners sort of have that in Matt Breida and maybe Joe Williams in 2018 - the rookie that Kyle Shanahan hand picked but went on the IR.
    • If Hyde ends up back on the Niners he'll be a top-10 fantasy RB next year - if he doesn't, he should still be heavily utilized enough to be a high-end RB2 wherever he goes.

    Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns)

    • In a year that people pegged Crowell to enter the upper echelons of NFL RBs, he took a step back in just about every single statistical category he could have.
    • Crowell just turned 25, like today or yesterday literally, so happy birthday my mans Isaiah, the guy turned 25, the same age as me, wow.
    • With a guy like Crowell, who has shown he can be a real NFL RB but isn't in the elite class, I think where he ends up will be the biggest factor in his fantasy outlook for next szn.
    • I personally don't expect to see him back with the Browns next year because you look at what the Browns have in terms of draft picks. They have the #1 overall pick, #4, then also the #33 and #35 along with 60 and 65. I think this is the consensus and a lot of people love the idea of them taking Saquon Barkley with one of those top two picks. And either a QB with one of them or trade back and grab a QB or two with other picks. And because I think that'll happen, Crowell will land elsewhere.
    • But there will definitely be a ton of interest in Crowell around the league. Like I said, just 25, has about 4 productive szns under his belt, 3 of them with over 200 touches and hasn't missed a single game yet, durability is always something teams are looking for. Maybe something like Frank Gore leaving and Crowell taking that hole.

    Dion Lewis/Rex Burkhead (New England Patriots)

    • As usual the Pats just know wtf they're doing with RBs. Dion Lewgawd and Flex Goathead out here destroying opponent's. Here are some numbers about Dion:
    • 1,100 total yards and 9 TDs, only touched the ball 212 times. RB13 in fantasy despite getting only 5 touches/game over their first five games.
    • If you take out Weeks 1-3, Dion Lewis is fantasy's RB7. From Weeks 9-17 = RB5, L4 weeks of the szn = RB3. They were really using him as a workhorse with Burk as a compliment. Only 12 RBs has more carries than Lewis after Week 5.
    • Burkhead played in 10 games, scored 8 touchdowns. 8 touchdowns on just 94 touches. That's a TD every 11 or so touches. He didn't even have a double digit touch game until Week 8. He missed weeks 16-17 with the injury he's still dealing with into the playoffs, but over his last 6 weeks, from weeks 10-15 - he was RB9 in fantasy (PPR). 
    • So basically, these guys are interchangeable.. in the best way. They can play all 3 downs, catch the ball, block, run in between the tackles, score on the goal-line. You saw how much they didn't need Mike Gillislee or James White. 
    • This is rare for me to say because it's almost impossible to predict what the Pats will do on a YoY basis with RBs, but I would be surprised if they didn't lock up both guys at least for 2 years. Both guys are 27 years old with experience, talent and versatility - that's what the Pats look for.
    • Both guys could be RB2/3s again in 2018 for the Pats. If they leave, it's hard to say either guy will be used as good as the Pats use them. I would actually low key love to see D-Lewgawd be featured somewhere. Fuckin love that guy - I think he's probably my favorite player in the NFL - don't tell Julio.

    Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts)

    • So Gore said he'd be interested if Luck is healthy - who tf knows at this point. He had almost exactly the same numbers again this year as he did in 2016... and 2015.
      Carries/Yards/YPC/RushTDs/Tgts/Rec/RecYds/YPR/RecTDs
    • It was his lowest touch total, yards per carry, rushing and rec yard total, touchdwn total. 
    • They still used him a lot more than Mack even over the latter part of the szn, not sure why but..
    • He turns 35 in May. Colts Irsay just came out and said he hopes the they use a high pick on a running back -they have the 3rd pick overall. A lot of speculation with Saquon Barkley going top-5. That would be super interesting.
    • I would also like to see Mack get a fair shot at proving himself. He only got 3 games all of 2017 where he had double digit touches. He put up 201 yards of offense in those 3 games and scored 3 times. He wasn't super efficient, just 3.8 yards per carry, but still better than Frank Gore, behind an awful o-line, without Andrew Luck... I mean...
    • If Saquon goes to the Colts and Luck is there, he's an RB1, probably between RB6-8 tbh.

    Tight Ends

    Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks)

    • Had a good year - 10 touchdowns, but his 520 yards were lowest since rookie szn in 2010. Supposedly it's "really unlikely" that Graham resigns with Seattle, I don't exactly know why but okay sure.
    • Interesting landing spots.... how about this place called New Orleans.....Remember when Graham rivaled Gronk for TE1 with the Saints?? Yeah me neither fam. How about San Fran, or Dallas, or Houston - honestly I feel like any team would be a good landing spot for him. He'll turn 32 in November next year, but TEs can generally play late into their career and he still looks pretty good, more or less.

    Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals)

    • Has played in just 39 of a possible 80 games since arriving in Cincy in 2013, including 2 this year and just 10 over the last two. The Bengals haven't ruled out resigning him which might be his best bet. There can't be a team out there willing to sign him to a big contract following multiple back surgeries at age 27. He's not someone you're looking to draft next year even if reports are good, because they seemingly always are... until they aren't. He'll be a high-upside, super late round pick. Don't be investing hella real estate in him.

    Trey Burton (Philadelphia Eagles)

    • Buried underneath breakout star Zach Ertz, Burton is a super-talented, athletic TE that displayed TE1 upside a few times in 2017, especially when Ertz wasn't on the field - in the two games Ertz missed this year (Week 9 & 14) - Burton caught 7 passes for 112 yards but more importantly 3 touchdowns. With an athletic 6'3 - 235lb build he can be a Vernon Davis type and a big redzone threat. He caught 23 balls all year, 5 were TDs, that's 22% of his catches.
    • It's going to be an interesting offszn for TEs between him and Graham.
    • If Burton can land in a spot where he's the TE1 for sure, I can already tell you he'll be drafted too late and a top TE sleeper for 2018.


    Nick Ercolano
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