With free agency all but complete, we look at the key wide receivers who joined new teams and the fantasy implications of those moves.
There is always plenty of excitement with NFL free agency season, and in 2017, the wide receiver portion of the proceedings lived up to the hype. There were several major moves at the position to make drafting a little more interesting this season. Here’s a look at the 2017 fantasy football implications of free agency at the wide receiver position.
Alshon Jeffery/Torrey Smith – Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles certainly identified one of their core needs and addressed it this offseason. The wide receiver corps in 2016 was atrocious, with the likes of Dorian Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor dropping balls left and right in support of the underwhelming Jordan Matthews. That nightmare is over now for young quarterback Carson Wentz, who now has one of the premier wide receivers in the game to throw to in Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles also signed Torrey Smith, who is still a legit deep threat that suddenly gives Wentz two terrific options. Jeffery’s draft stock might actually take a slight hit, given all the options at Wentz’s disposal, so watch his ADP. Predicting his draft slot could be a league-winning move if he excels as expected. The real draft riser here is Wentz, who should be free of the rookie wall that soured his second half in 2016 and now has the weapons to put up big numbers in ’17.
DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oh, the fantasy goodness in Tampa! With the sweep of a pen, the Buccaneers’ offense just got seriously dangerous. DeSean Jackson gets to line up opposite Mike Evans in an offense that lacked a dynamic second receiver in 2016. Jackson is still a legit threat that will force defenses to stop overloading on Evans — to the extent that worked regardless. Evans might now be the top overall wide receiver option in 2017— or at least 1A next to Antonio Brown, and Jameis Winston is set up to exceed all expectations. That’s a draft stack definitely worth exploring.
Brandon Marshall – New York Giants
In a similar vein to DJax and Evans, the new combo of Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr. should make for some interesting afternoons at Met Life Stadium. Marshall is a major upgrade over Victor Cruz, who should make defenses pay for loading up on ODB, who is right there with Brown and Evans as the wide receiver gold standard in 2017. But don’t sleep on Marshall, who could well put up WR1-type numbers in this offense. The casualty here is probably Sterling Shepard, who could see his role reduced. Will fantasy owners take a new look at Eli Manning? Here’s hoping they don’t, making Eli an absolute steal in later rounds.
Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
Try as they might (and not that it’s holding them back, obviously), the Patriots have for years struggled to find Tom Brady a reliable deep threat not seen since Randy Moss left town in 2012. Cooks is the next man up, having been acquired from the Saints. If Cooks finally fulfills the role, he’s a legit WR2. He’s still young and the talent is there. Back in New Orleans, Cooks’ departure only further solidifies Michael Thomas as a star in the making. He is definitely worth consideration after the first wave of WR1’s go off the board.
Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
Pryor was one of the breakout stories of 2016, and was perhaps the lone bright spot on a dreadful Browns team. With Jackson leaving DC for TB, Pryor has a terrific chance to build on his 2016 momentum by pairing with a legitimate deep-shot QB in Kirk Cousins. You like that? If you need a WR2 with sneaky WR1 upside, you should.
Kamar Aiken – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were hoping that Philip Dorsett would settle into the No. 3 receiver position to compliment T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief in 2016, but Dorsett disappointed, prompting the Colts to sign Kamar Aiken from Baltimore. A slot receiver by trade, Aiken has WR3/Flex potential.
Pierre Garcon/Marquis Goodwin – San Francisco 49ers
The rebuilding under rookie GM John Lynch is underway in the Bay and already the offense looks to be on the upswing. The veteran Pierre Garcon and young talent Marquis Goodwin give the 49ers a pair of decent receivers to work with fellow free agent signing Brian Hoyer. Both could emerge as WR3/Flex options, but don’t spend a lot of draft capital on them.