Fantasy Football: Keep an Eye on These Five Unsigned Free Agents
The NFL’s free agent frenzy is over. Sure, plenty of players will sign between now and the start of the 2020 season, but the big names are locked up. The legal tampering period serves as the de facto open to free agency now, with the announcements at the actual start of the league year being just a formality. As such, most fantasy-relevant deals are taken care of in about one work week, but don’t forget about the players who are still out there.
Before we turn our focus to the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft, let’s take a closer look at a few free agents that could make a fantasy impact in 2020 when they sign. We don’t know who they’ll play for, but we do know about their talent and past productivity.
QBs Jameis Winston / Cam Newton
Players 1 and 2 are combined because, more likely than not, neither is starting next season or just one of them is. However, if one does find a way into a starting role to begin the 2020 season, there’s plenty of upside here.
Let’s start with Winston. He finished as the No. 4 QB in overall points and the No. 6 QB in fantasy points per game in 2019. He led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards, 30 interceptions and 626 pass attempts. He also finished second to MVP Lamar Jackson with 33 passing touchdowns. But whether he lands in Los Angeles with the Chargers or in Jacksonville with the Jaguars, he won’t throw as much as he did in 2019 and won’t have as long of a leash. If he signs anywhere else, he’ll begin the year as a backup, sans injury.
The same can be said for Newton. His health (and cap hit and Carolina’s rebuild, etc.) was among the primary reasons for him being cut from the Panthers. If his foot and shoulder are healthy, it’s understandable why fantasy managers would be intrigued. He finished (on a per-game basis) as the QB5 in 2012, QB5 in 2013, QB11 in 2014, QB1 in 2015, QB12 in 2016, QB5 in 2017 and QB9 in 2018. That’s a tremendous record of QB1 production.
If either player lands on the Chargers, something that seems more likely for Newton than Winston, there is QB1 value there. Throwing to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler is a quarterback’s dream. Chargers reporter Jason B. Hirschhorn wrote this about Newton when the news of Newton being cut was first reported:
The soon-to-be former Carolina signal-caller offers mobility and the ability to make plays within and outside of play structure, traits that would seem to appeal to head coach Anthony Lynn and his coaching staff.
If either lands on the Jaguars, Patriots, Washington, etc., they’re more like high-end QB2s with some upside because the weapons aren’t as good. No matter where they land, the threat of a young QB right behind them will persist.
RB Devonta Freeman
The Falcons parted ways with Freeman and signed Todd Gurley to a one-year deal to replace him. Freeman’s injury history is a concern, but he really only had one lost season (2018) and he’s been pretty productive on a per-game basis.
Last year, Freeman was the RB21 overall and RB18 on a per-game basis. His per-game numbers (14.5 FPPG) were higher than Melvin Gordon, Joe Mixon, James White, Phillip Lindsay, etc. In 2017, Freeman finished as the RB15 overall and RB13 on a per-game basis. That’s all after finishing as the No. 1 RB in his first season as a full-time starter in 2015 and finishing as the RB6 overall (RB7 per-game) in 2016.
Possible landing spots for Freeman include the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins. Either spot offers the potential to split a starter’s share of the workload and get the majority of the pass-catching work out of the backfield. He’s a high-end flex play in either of those locations with the potential for much more if Kerryon Johnson or Jordan Howard get hurt again after suffering injuries last season.
RB Chris Thompson
Thompson surprised everyone when he finished as the RB10 on a per-game basis inn 2017, but injuries have caused him to miss 17 games over the past three seasons. Now away from Washington, Thompson could serve as the primary third-down, pass-catching back for a team looking to scoop up a cheap veteran.
The ideal scenario for fantasy managers is Thompson landing in Tampa Bay. Ronald Jones is a solid two-down back, but hasn’t really displayed the ability to be a reliable pass-blocker or catcher. Thompson is an upgrade from Dare Ogunbowale and could have a lot of success playing in a James White role for Tom Brady.
Thompson has been fantasy-relevant when he is on the field over the past four seasons. Aside from his RB10 ranking in 2017, he finished as the RB40 in 2016, RB40 in 2018 and RB43 last season on a per-game basis. He’ll be a solid flex play option if he lands with the Buccaneers.
WR Ted Ginn Jr.
There aren’t many remaining free agent wide receivers that have any fantasy relevance. Plus, with such a deep wide receiver class in the upcoming draft, it may be awhile before Ginn or anyone else (Rishard Higgins, Paul Richardson, Taylor Gabriel, Chris Hogan, Chester Rogers, etc.) signs. Still, the best of that bunch in terms of fantasy could be Ginn and his big-play ability if he lands on a team like the Broncos or Vikings.
Even at his best, Ginn was only a WR3 for fantasy purposes (in 2015 and 2017) and has been nonexistent the last two seasons. However, he could find himself in a starting role for Denver or Minnesota, which makes him an intriguing last-round flyer in fantasy drafts.
Bonus: WR Josh Gordon:
Gordon wants to play in 2020, but he’s suspended indefinitely. Lack of clarity on his return date is going to create some hurdles for a team signing him, but the NFL has eliminated suspensions for positive marijuana tests in the new CBA. Will that keep Gordon on the field? Who knows. That incredible 2013 season is forever ago now. Unless it’s a flyer with the very last pick in your draft, stay away.
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