AS the dust settles from NFL free agency and teams start to prepare for the Draft, we have a rough idea of how each franchise will look in 2020. From a fantasy point of view, this offseason provided plenty of twists and turns with Kyler Murray now poised to explode and the Broncos’ running back room causing plenty of confusion. Here are half a dozen winners and losers from the offseason moves thus far.
All numbers/stats provided are based on ESPN fantasy leagues
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Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Saints
AT 33 years old, don’t go expecting Emmanuel Sanders to put up top-20 WR fantasy numbers next season. Joining a Saints offense that revolves around target hogs Micheal Thomas and Alvin Kamara should see Sanders play a complementary role in New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive. Only once in his career has Sanders caught more than six TD’s in a single season so he doesn’t figure to be a huge factor in the red zone, but he should still be a true No. 2 receiver in NOLA’s high octane offense. Catching passes from Drew Brees should see Sanders put up a similar line to last year and outperform his average draft position.
TODD Gurley’s departure from L.A. presents a huge opportunity for the remaining running back’s on the Rams’ roster. You could argue no one saw their fantasy stock increase more this offseason than Darrell Henderson with the franchise trading up to secure the Memphis product in the 2019 Draft. He and veteran halfback Malcolm Brown found themselves buried in the depth chart a year ago, combining for just 108 carries and 402 rushing yards – less than half of Gurley’s rushing total. Henderson seems poised for RB1 responsibilities in Los Angeles with both he and Brown set to be intriguing fantasy options for the season ahead.
Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
YEAR one was an impressive one from a fantasy standpoint for Kyler Murray with the Cardinals’ top overall pick ending last season as the 8th highest scoring quarterback. Most expected Murray to take another leap in production in year two, but following the biggest move of the offseason Arizona went out and got him a bonafide superstar pass-catcher to make life easier. DeAndre Hopkins has been a fantasy goldmine since he was drafted by Houston in 2013, scoring the third-most PPR points for wide receivers with his 54 touchdowns second to only Antonio Brown in that span. Slotting him alongside Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald should see Murray push for a top-5 fantasy season in 2020.
Image from clutchpoints.com
David Johnson, RB, Texans
PART of the DeAndre Hopkins trade saw David Johnson depart Arizona and land in Houston, with the Texans hoping he can provide the stability at the running back position they have lacked for years. Johnson has had his own issues in recent seasons with a broken wrist, ankle worries and the arrival of Kenyan Drake last year hampering his production. It feels like a lifetime ago that Johnson had his fantasy breakout with his 2016 season (2,118 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns) the standout campaign of his career. Can he come close to replicating those numbers? Unlikely. But a fresh start might be just what Johnson needs to revive his fantasy career and become a contributor in the Texans’ offense.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
WITH the Chargers set to lean on Tyrod Taylor as their starting QB in the upcoming season, many believe that their offense will take a step backwards in production. Luckily for Austin Ekeler, he proved in 2019 that he can dominate as both a runner and receiver, posting the 4th most fantasy points at his position. With Melvin Gordon no longer on the roster, Los Angeles committed to Ekeler in the form of a four year, $24.5M extension that makes him a top-10 running back based on average annual salary. Regardless of if Taylor stays under center or the Chargers opt to draft another quarterback *cough* Justin Herbert *cough*, expect Ekeler to be their main offensive weapon and put forth another huge fantasy season.
Robby Anderson, WR, Panthers
A lot of people expect Anderson’s move to Carolina to hamper his production, joining forces with ‘checkdown king’ Teddy Bridgewater. In four seasons with the Jets, Anderson stood out as a deep ball threat who used his speed as his main weapon to catch over 200 passes for 3,000+ receiving yards. With the Panthers, he will be forced to contend with Christian McCaffery, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel for targets and Bridgewater’s reluctance to throw the ball deep could hurt Anderson’s fantasy value. There’s no denying he’s on a better offense now and I have faith Anderson can get his fair share of looks to put up a relevant fantasy season in deeper leagues.
Austin Hooper, TE, Browns
NEW Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski helped lead a run-heavy Vikings offense in each of the last two seasons and there’s a chance that trend will continue during his Browns tenure. That doesn’t bode well for Austin Hooper and his fantasy ceiling, with the tight end bursting onto the scene in Atlanta’s pass-heavy offense a year ago. There are a lot of mouths to feed in the Browns’ offense and Hooper will find it tough to get enough looks to replicate his 787 receiving yard season. Part of his step up in productivity was thanks to a career-best 97 targets and with Cleveland’s tight-end group COMBINING for just 68 targets last season I’d look for other TE’s with cheaper price tags come draft time rather than trusting Hooper.
Image from nypost.com
Devonta Freeman, RB, FA
AT the time of typing Devonta Freeman is still sitting on the free-agent pile, with Todd Gurley’s arrival in Atlanta leading to the former Falcon being cut. After two straight seasons with 1,000 rushing yards in 2015 & 2016, Freeman hasn’t been able to replicate his previous successes, which was definitely a factor in him being released by the Falcons. There’s no denying the 27-year old can still contribute in the NFL, but I can’t see Freeman emerging as a fantasy factor next season unless injuries deplete a team’s RB stocks.
Mitch Trubisky, QB, Bears
THE writing has been on the wall for Mitchell Trubisky for a while now and the Bears’ move to acquire Nick Foles all but seals his fate. The former 2nd overall pick wasn’t able to take another step forward in his development last year, leading to Trubisky being the 26th ranked QB for fantasy scoring and forcing Chicago to consider an alternative under center. Both the Bears GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy said the competition is open for the starting role in 2020, but Foles’ presence means Trubisky is a sketchy fantasy pick at best, even if he does somehow supersede the former Super Bowl MVP.
IT appeared like the Broncos were set at running back with Philip Lindsey posting back-to-back 1,000 rushing yard seasons to start his career and Royce Freeman ably supporting him as an RB2 in Denver. That theory went out the window when they opted to sign Melvin Gordon this offseason, giving the former Charger a two-year, $12mil deal and muddying their backfield dynamic in the process. Poised to now use a committee approach when rushing the ball, all three players will take a hit from a fantasy perspective, and with their offense poised to be mediocre at best, you can go ahead and ignore the Broncos RB’s for now.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
LOSING his safety blanket and the best weapon at his disposal will no doubt hurt Deshaun Watson in the 2020 season. He is great enough to still be a top fantasy quarterback after consecutive seasons as the 4th best fantasy scorer at the position, but losing Hopkins means the Houston play-caller will only have more responsibilities heaped onto his already full plate. I still have faith in Watson putting up big fantasy numbers next season, but losing arguably the best receiver in the game means he has to qualify as a ‘loser’.
John Brown, WR, Bills
HAULING in 1,060 receiving yards last year en route to finish as the WR20 in PPR leagues helped John Brown burst onto the scene as a relevant fantasy wideout. Unfortunately for him, the arrival of Stefon Diggs in Buffalo is bound to eat into his workload and the lacklustre arm of Josh Allen means Brown could quickly become a waiver wire resident in most leagues. The Bills aren’t exactly oozing with offensive potential and while Brown might prove me wrong and become a factor as they make their charge for an AFC East crown, I can’t see him standing out enough to matter in fantasy.
Banner from theramswire.usatoday.com