Free Agency Recap: Remaining WRs/TEs

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Today’s column will be my take on an article that my esteemed colleague Garrett Vena put out on Thursday. As you know, Garrett discussed Kenny Golladay, Curtis Samuel and Will Fuller. I will discuss the remaining WR free agency class, as well as any important TE transactions. 

As of Friday, April 2nd, there are still a few remaining WR free agents worth monitoring. These include: Antonio Brown, Golden TateMarquise GoodwinDanny AmendolaDamiere Byrd and DeDe Westbrook. The most significant TE’s left on the market include: Trey BurtonTyler EifertJordan Reed and Darren Fells. 

Out of these wide receivers and tight ends, Brown offers the most upside. After being suspended for the first eight games of the 2020 regular season, Brown had 45 catches (on 61 targets) for 483 yards and 4 TD’s over the last eight games (catching 5 or more passes in five of those eight games). Although prevailing wisdom would indicate a return to the Bucs, Brown and the Bucs are “not close right now” in terms of compensation. None of the tight ends will provide more than TE2/ bench depth production. 

Much like the running backs’ best landing spots that I wrote about last week, many of the WR class also returned to their 2020 homes. Chris GodwinAllen RobinsonJuJu Smith-Schuster, T.Y. HiltonRashard HigginsDemarcus Robinson and Tim Patrick stayed with their original teams.  Godwin, Allen Robinson and Smith-Schuster all finished (on an avg. per game basis) as top 24 PPR WR’s in 2020, and there is no reason why this performance cannot be repeated in 2021. Godwin has the most potential for increased performance in 2021, as Brady attempted the most deep balls in the league in 2020. The others showed flashes as well (with Robinson’s 7.2 PPG being the lowest) and a return home also seems to be their best landing spots. Robinson will likely have an opportunity for more targets with Sammy Watkins signing a one-year deal with the Ravens. Unlike the WR class, four out of the top five TE’s (Hunter HenryJonnu SmithGerald Everett/ Jared Cook) changed teams, while Rob Gronkowski remained with the Bucs. 

In comparison to the re-signings listed above and the Golladay and Samuel contracts, there is not a legitimate contender for the top 24 WR’s in 2021. Amongst the WR’s to sign with new teams: Corey Davis (Jets 3 year $37.5 million); Marvin Jones (Jaguars 2 years $12.5 million); the aforementioned Sammy Watkins (Ravens 1 year $6 million); Nelson Agholor (Patriots 2 years $26 million); Kendrick Bourne (Patriots 3 years $22.5 million); A.J. Green (Cardinals 1 year $6 million); Emmanuel Sanders (Bills 1 year $6 million); Keelan Cole (Jets 1 year $5.5 million); David Moore (Panthers 2 years $4.75 million); Desean Jackson (Rams 1 year $4.5 million); Tyrell Williams (Lions 1 year $4 million); Breshad Perriman (Lions 1 year $2.5 million); Josh Reynolds (Titans 1 year $1.75 million); and John Brown (Raiders 1 year $3.75 million). 

From a dynasty perspective, the WR’s that secured the best landing spots are Davis and Jones. In 2020, Davis had his best season of his four-year career (65 catches for 984 yards and 5 TD’s), while Jones had 76 catches for 978 yards and 9 TD’s (his third 9 TD season in the last four). In the immediate future, both Davis and Jones are going to teams that were amongst the bottom three in points scored in 2020. That being said, both teams are slated to grab QB’s in the highly regarded 2021 draft class. With Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder as his primary competition, Davis should fill in as the WR1 for the Jets. Jones, on the other hand, will be allowed to come in at his customary WR2 role with D.J. Chark on the team. 

As you can tell, many of the other WR’s were forced to sign 1 year prove it deals in hopes of signing longer contracts during the 2022 off season. In terms of these one-year deals, I always prefer to hitch my wagon to proven offenses. Brown, Sanders and Green are all worth later round (10-12) flyers, while Jackson (tied to Stafford) could be intriguing if he stays healthy. In addition to being on more potent offenses, each one of these four players are on a team that is missing at least one WR from their 2020 depth charts, so targets should be available. 

With regard to the least favorite landing spots, both Reynolds and Watkins went to run-first offenses that were amongst the bottom ten in passing yards in 2020. The Ravens (last at 2739 yards) and Titans (tenth from last at 3653 yards) both have WR’s already entrenched at WR1, so targets will be limited. In 2020, Reynolds had 52 catches for 618 yards and two TD’s, while Watkins had 37 catches for 421 yards and two TD’s. Although Reynolds could likely slot in as the WR2 for the Titans, I do not foresee a drastic improvement from Reynolds’ 2020 career year. Watkins, on the other hand, has simply not been able to stay healthy. Over the last five years, his best season came in 2019 (52 catches for 673 yards and three TD’s). Neither Reynolds nor Watkins should be viewed as anything more than WR4’s for your fantasy teams. 

In regards to the TE free agency class, both Hunter Henry (3 years $37.5 million) and Jonnu Smith (4 years $50 million) signed with the Patriots, while Gerald Everett (1 year $6 million) and Jared Cook (1 year $6 million) signed with the Seahawks and Chargers respectively. Although this is contrarian, I really like the signing of Everett the best. Russell Wilson has always liked using his tight ends (highlighted by a three-year run from 2015-17 where Jimmy Graham combined for 170 catches with 2048 yards and 18 TD’s) and Everett has shown the ability to get the job done when given an opportunity. Over his four-year career (including only 11 starts), Everett has combined for 127 catches and 1389 yards (8 TD’s) while splitting time with Tyler Higbee. Although I really like Cook’s landing spot with the Chargers after Henry (60 catches for 613 yards and 4TD’s in 2020) departed, I have concerns that Donald Parham may take away some of the production. 

In terms of worst landing spots for TE’s, it is hard for me to get excited about both the previously mentioned Henry and Smith (41 catches for 448 yards and 8 TD’s for the Titans in 2020) heading to the Patriots. Although they also added Agholor and Bourne to one of the league’s worst receiving corps, it is simply hard to trust Cam Newton. Newton completed 242/368 for 2657 yards and eight TD’s (compared to 10 INT’s). The Patriots had the third fewest passing yards and scored the sixth fewest points in the NFL in 2020. Although reports have mentioned that help may be on the way at QB, fantasy owners would be wise to take a wait and see approach with all receiving components. 

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