As NFL QB carousel turns in free agency, overlooked offseason moves have big impact

Quarterback Shuffle

Tom Brady actually did the unthinkable and left Bill Belichick and the Patriots and joined a Tampa Bay franchise that hasn’t been quite as functional as New England’s historically. Brady is clearly determined to prove he can put up stats (win?) without Belichick, and he joined a stacked Bucs offense that provides Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, (possibly Antonio Brown?) and O.J. Howard (I know) at his disposal. Brady will likely be given more control than any player ever, and this is going to be fascinating to watch the arguable GOAT join a new team at age 42. Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions last season; Brady has fewer picks over the last four seasons combined. I’m going to treat Brady as a top-10 fantasy QB with the move to Tampa’s carnival atmosphere, but that’s admittedly aggressive.

Philip Rivers may not help the Colts as much as Indy hopes, but his 7.8 YPA last year suggests he also may not be finished helping fantasy managers. The Chargers ran the league’s slowest pace (situation neutral) last season and had arguably the worst pass protection in the NFL, whereas Indy’s offensive line is one of football’s best. His offensive weapons are a downgrade (T.Y. Hilton’s value gets a bump), and Rivers is 39 years old learning a new system, but it’s an innovative one led by Frank Reich, making Rivers far more interesting and a fantasy sleeper now.

Teddy Bridgewater is replacing Cam Newton in Carolina, which doesn’t make him an overly exciting fantasy option but should hold steady the values of DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. It also further illustrates just how deep the quarterback position remains, and hammers the point that every fantasy league should be using a Superflex.

It'll take time to get used to Tom Brady in a new uniform, but the star QB will still have fantasy appeal thanks to great receiving options on the Buccaneers. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Houston, We Have a Robbery

There’s plenty of fantasy fallout from all of the recent NFL movement, but let’s start with the worst trade in the history of pro sports.

The big fantasy winner, of course, is Kenyan Drake, who’s now the unquestioned lead back on an exciting and fast-paced offense that’s adding DeAndre Hopkins during year two of Kyler Murray. Over eight games with Arizona last season while learning a new system (and with Johnson around), Drake totaled 814 yards with eight touchdowns, showing he’s a perfect fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s system. There will be safer options with longer track records available, but Drake is the No. 6 RB on my board and absolutely worth a first-round fantasy pick now (but might be available in the second). I love the Drake.

As a 49ers fan, can Bill O’Brien please stop calling other NFC West teams (he also gave away Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks last year), as the compensation for Hopkins doesn’t seem commensurate. The trade does move Murray up to my QB3, while Christian Kirk’s value takes a hit (and Chase Edmonds becomes one of the most intriguing backups).

David Johnson ranked last in PFF’s Elusive Rating last season, was 50th out of 56 running backs the year before and was on a contract that gave him negative trade value, but he’ll likely settle in as a fantasy RB3 at minimum given his workload. It also helps to have Deshaun Watson at QB, although he moved down to QB6 on my board with the loss of Hopkins.

While Will Fuller also benefits and has legitimate top-10 WR fantasy upside, he’s one of the biggest injury risks in the league, so Kenny Stills is the sneaky winner here. Stills is a good athlete who finished top-10 among wideouts last year in yards per target, fantasy points per target, catch rate and QB Rating when targeted. He’s about to see a lot more volume in an offense with a possibly washed-up running back and with one of the game’s best quarterback’s throwing to him (Stills was terrific out of the slot last season, so it’s too bad Houston also added Randall Cobb via free agency). Stills should now be treated as a borderline top-30 fantasy WR with upside for more.

Tight Ends Aplenty

My biggest tight end riser is Blake Jarwin, who last year ranked top-10 at the position in yards per route run, fantasy points per target and QB Rating when targeted and is now set for a much bigger opportunity with Jason Witten gone (and also getting paid). Jarwin is a legit talent in an offense that should score a lot of points. I would have liked him even more had Amari Cooper not also re-signed, but Jarwin is still a borderline top-10 fantasy TE now who’ll likely cost a much cheaper price.

Austin Hooper signed a big deal with the Browns and saw his value decrease going from Atlanta to Cleveland, where he’ll now share targets with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, David Njoku and Kareem Hunt with a QB who can’t be trusted. Cleveland’s new coach Kevin Stefanski ran the most two-tight end sets in the league last season in Minnesota, but this is a buzzkill for all Browns fantasy players other than Baker Mayfield, who’s loaded with weapons now.

The moves of Witten going to the Raiders (slight downgrade to Darren Waller), and Jimmy Graham to the Bears can be ignored in fantasy, but Hayden Hurst becomes interesting as Hooper’s replacement in Atlanta. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Hurst probably shouldn’t have been taken ahead of Lamar Jackson like he was in the 2018 draft, but he’s now a sneaky fantasy option as the new #1 tight end in an offense that targets the position relentlessly in the red zone. Don’t be surprised when/if Hurst finishes with more fantasy value than Hooper this year.

Hurst was quietly productive in limited work last year and is yet another option at a sneaky deep tight end position that also features Chris Herndon (yes please), Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Jonnu Smith and more. Hurst’s departure in Baltimore also gives an even further boost to Mark Andrews’ value, as he’s a real threat to be the TE1 in fantasy now.

Stay safe.

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