Two of the final fantasy football-related dominos in free agency fell Tuesday afternoon. Robby Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers on a two-year, $20 million deal with $12 million coming in Year 1. Not long after, the Jets moved to replace Anderson with revived Ravens bust Breshad Perriman via a one-year $8 million contract.
From a pure fantasy football perspective, these moves are met with a heavy sigh.
With Anderson specifically, there were certainly many tantalizing landing spots for one of the best vertical threats in the NFL. We shouldn’t be so quick to cast off the Panthers offense as an underrated unit (more on that in a bit) but competing for targets with Curtis Samuel behind both D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey is a far less juicy outcome than some hoped for.
As for Perriman, I spent the last month spilling much digital ink to remind folks that the one-time Baltimore flameout had put together back-to-back solid seasons when called upon as a complementary contributor with Cleveland and Tampa Bay. It looks like those words will have been written in vain. It’s not that Perriman can’t be a solid deep threat for the Jets but that reminding gesture would have been much more important had he signed with the Eagles, Packers, or even back with the Bucs.
As things stand right now, it’s hard to imagine Anderson or Perriman cracking the top-40 fantasy receivers. These guys will slot into the wide range of WR3s who inhabit the backend of your roster, ones you’ll debate on a weekly basis based on the matchup.
On the flip side, these are two are fantastic real-life NFL signings. The reason these two were such big dominoes in free agency lies with the reality that vertical threats can change the entire complexion of an offense.
Robby Anderson won’t ruin Curtis Samuel
Anderson’s reunion with his college coach Matt Rhule in Carolina is the icing on the cake for a skill position group that was already intriguing. Moore and McCaffrey are already established ascendant young assets at their positions. While the immediate reaction will be that this completely removes any appeal from Curtis Samuel, let’s not be so hasty.
Samuel was overused as a vertical threat in 2019, ranking ninth in the NFL in air yards while playing with one of the worst deep-ball passers for most of the year.
He is not just a deep receiver. He’s a player that can separate from press coverage and has better short-area quickness than pure long speed. Samuel thrives across the entire route tree. Anderson and Samuel are not redundant players at all.
Offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s system at LSU and the Saints approach he studied under made use of multiple receiver sets as their base formation. Anderson will be on the field plenty with Moore and Samuel at a position that was desperately shallow behind the latter two players. With Anderson drawing coverage, it will make the offense that much more efficient. While Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the esteemed deep passer you’d ideally want matched with Anderson, he’s smart and accurate with precision passing ready to take advantage of a quick separator like Samuel and a player in Moore’s role.
The real winner of this move from a fantasy perspective is Christian McCaffrey. Had the Panthers been ready to slog through 2020 with an eye toward the future and the future only, he would have been a worrisome top-five fantasy pick. Not anymore. The Anderson signing beefs up an already sneaky offense and shows the team is not tanking. That is huge.
Hope Perriman, Sam Darnold get more help
In New York, Perriman provides a slightly downgraded version of what the team already employed in Robby Anderson. In Weeks 14-17, no player accumulated more air yards (599) than Breshad Perriman. He posted a beefy 19.3 average depth of target, showing he’s finally grown into the promise he showed in college as a solid, if not sporadic, deep threat.
Perriman probably won’t post those type of numbers while swapping out the ultra-aggressive Jamies Winston for Sam Darnold. However, it’s a welcome addition for the young quarterback because even with Perriman, the Jets have one of the weakest wide receiver rooms in the league. Especially when you compare what’s in New York with what the respective teams of Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Baker Mayfield have put around their 2017 drafted quarterbacks. Darnold is not working with much.
The best move for the Jets would be to make a big swing at wide receiver in an exceptionally strong draft class. The offensive line still needs help, no question. However, adding a Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb to be the No. 1 receiver to grow along with Darnold would be a huge coup.
That rookie, Perriman, and Jamison Crowder would be the start of building something decent in New York.
For now, we should remain skeptical of everything going on offensively in New York and not just because of the coach calling the shots. Le’Veon Bell is not exactly surrounded by the players on offense that you’d want to see a running back with to enjoy a rebound season. The receivers are all going to be asked to do too much, the tight ends asked to take another step, and the quarterback asked to thrive with this cast and a weak line.
That can certainly change after the draft but that is where we are at the present time.