Michael Stepney

Michael Stepney

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 It's the middle of February and you're eagerly awaiting the NFL Combine, which signals the unofficial beginning of the new league year. But, the actual start of the new league year coincides with the start of free agency, March 9th. This is the first component of team building (the Free Agency Frenzy) with all 32 teams jockeying for position to acquire player(s) that could change their fortunes and jump-start their chances to reach the playoffs, or perhaps even a Super Bowl. The second component of team building for the 2017 season is the NFL Draft (which runs April 27th-29th) and is where most teams would want to build the core of their team through. And, there will undoubtedly be several rookies that will make a sizeable impact for their respective NFL teams this season, and ipso facto your fantasy team.

Of course, the question you’re probably asking me is: “What the hell does this have to do with my fantasy football team?” My answer is: “If you give me a thousand words, I’ll gladly show you the correlation between free agency, the draft, and fantasy football.”

Free Agency

Free Agency is a tool that as a fantasy football owner you must continually monitor to get the latest information because player value and production can wildly fluctuate depending on what team he signs with and the offense he will be in. It is also useful in a predictive fashion too, you can take a look at the “markets” that have been set for certain positions and use that information to anticipate the moves of both players and teams.

NFL Draft

Now as for the Draft, a rookie can show up immediately and impress the offensive coaching staff and be rewarded with more playing time with the No. 1 offense and be a surprise playmaker to increase his fantasy value to owners who are looking for that hidden gem.

Now that’s been fully explained, let’s cut to the chase and look at the important impending free agents and see where they may have a big fantasy impact for the 2017 season:

Alshon Jeffrey | WR

Suffice it to say Jeffrey very easily could have been the winner of the shitty timing award when it came to having a down statistical year and being suspended 4 games for PED use before his walk year. Fortunately, the cap keeps rising, the crop around him is weak and he is perhaps the top name on the market (possibly at any position).  I believe that he’ll get huge interest from teams looking for a physical, big-bodied WR1 who can make contested catches and is a potent red-zone threat. It is entirely possible that Jeffrey will sign a contract making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the entire NFL. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if he came away with one of the biggest contracts ever recorded for a wide receiver, that is simply where we are now with this cap rising and the lack of talent out on the open market. (For what it is worth I could see him making around $18 million dollars a season, making him the top prize in the free agent market).

Potential suitors: Eagles, Ravens, 49ers, Buccaneers

Kenny Stills | WR  

If you look at his “surface” numbers, nothing about Stills’ season screams “high-priority” free agent, but if you do that, I’d simply reply with “When I can join your league?”  Stills’ yard per catch (YPC) since the New Orleans Saints made him the 144th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft has been above 14.0, meaning whenever the ball comes his way, it’s usually for a huge chunk play down the field. All he needs is a legitimate chance to be the WR2 in an offense and his statistics have a chance to rise exponentially. Plus, he has an advantage that GM’s crave:  He’s a young veteran entering his free agency period (He will turn 26 on April 22nd).

Potential suitors: Dolphins, Eagles, Buccaneers

DeSean Jackson | WR

Now, here’s the other prize jewel of the wide receiver free agent crop! Everyone under the sun knows what D-Jax is all about: taking deep shots, yards-after-catch, and of course scoring touchdowns. With his time with Washington seemingly coming to an end (IF you believe the media reports coming out of D.C.) His services are available to the highest bidder (he’s all about getting his paper). But, he did say that he wanted to play with a GREAT quarterback. Notwithstanding trying to get a nice contract for himself, the next team that acquires him will immediately get a playmaker, game breaker, & someone who tilts the field dramatically for the offense; he truly is a player who takes the top off of the defense.

Potential suitors: Eagles, Buccaneers, 49ers

Terrelle Pryor | WR

The former quarterback, who switched positions after flaming out as the signal caller in Oakland, broke the 1,000-yard barrier in his first full season as a wide receiver (and this came with the carousel of epic mediocrity that the Cleveland Browns ran out at quarterback last season). While some maturity questions may still linger with Pryor, his play last season showed glimpses of even a higher ceiling. If the Browns are smart, they will aggressively attempt to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract, which shouldn’t be difficult seeing they have the most cap space in the entire NFL.

Potential suitors: Browns, Buccaneers, 49ers

 

The QB free agent class this year isn’t comprised of any franchise type, but there are several who could make a team markedly better. Mike Glennon, who has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay, is seeking to become a starter and will cash in with a nice starter-level contract (or become the highest paid backup in the league, outside of Brock Osweiler I suppose). Jay Cutler will probably be cut from the Bears and despite having great natural throwing talent, his maddening inconsistency and propensity for throwing back-breaking interceptions may prevent him from being pursued as anything more than a bridge quarterback again. Kirk Cousins may seek a trade to the 49ers from Washington to play with his old offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is also their newly named head coach, but the reality is he will probably end up playing one more season in Washington under the franchise tag before totally redefining the quarterback market next season as the most sought after free agent.

Martellus Bennett | TE

The mercurial, but talented tight end finally seemed to find a home in New England with Brady and Belichick. Bennett turned into a savvy low-cost investment with the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski; he was an integral piece to the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI and now he’s hitting free agency at the absolute perfect time. At the moment, with the uncertainty of Gronk’s health coming into the 2017 season, it would behoove the Patriots to make a reasonable offer to keep Bennett in the fold. Watch for the NY Giants to possibly make a play for Bennett since they have a glaring need at the TE position, reuniting him with a quarterback and offense scheme where he’s already had previous success.

Potential suitors: Patriots, Giants, Lions  

LeGarrette Blount | RB

The hammer of the Pats running game had a career year with 18 rushing TDs (no, that’s a typo!) and helped the Pats win their 5th Super Bowl as a franchise. Now Blount hits free agency with a lot of momentum behind him and is probably looking at a long-term contract with some nice guarantees worked in. It’s possible that Mr. Blount finds his market to be cooler than anticipated when you factor in his age (he will be 30 at the start of next season) and the issues he has already with the league. I could see a team like the Raiders making a play for his services to replace Latavius Murray should he depart via free agency.

Potential suitors: Patriots, Raiders, Packers

Danny Woodhead | RB

The versatile, tough as nails, red zone magnet is recovering from an ACL tear suffered early in the 2016 season and is currently a free agent. His production as a member of the Chargers has warranted at least a 1-yr incentive based contract with a team that needs a steady, veteran running back with a nose for the end zone. Inevitably some fantasy football pundits will look at Woodhead and argue this: “he’s suffered 2 season-ending injuries the last 2 years, he’s getting brittle or injury-prone”.

My retort would be: “Don’t be afraid to take low-cost risks for high-leverage gains.” Woodhead will make any team in the NFL better because of his knowledge, toughness, and ability to score TD’s. The Los Angeles Chargers would be wise to sign him back to team with Melvin Gordon and they will have a formidable 1-2 punch in their backfield.

Potential suitors: Chargers, Packers, Colts, Rams, Buccaneers

 

As of March 4th, two big name running backs and a wide receiver, who are also 30+ years of age, were released by their respective teams making them unrestricted free agents available to sign with any team.

Adrian Peterson | RB

To the surprise of no one, the Vikings made the proactive decision to release their all-time leading rusher since they weren’t going to go into the 2017 season paying a 31-year old (He’ll be 32 in March) running back $18 million, especially considering he suffered his second major knee injury in as many years last season. The early release gives Peterson and his agent a chance to get to test the free agent running back market and see if there’s a team willing to give Peterson a contract of his suiting when free agency begins. If not, it is entirely possible he could come back home to the Vikings, but at a much lower price.

Potential suitors: Vikings, Giants, Seahawks

Jamaal Charles | RB

After 9 very productive seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs released the 30-year old running back deciding to go with Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and the recently signed CJ Spiller as their main backfield. I still believe that Charles has something left in the tank and it would be an interesting move for a team looking for a running back that can be a home run hitter and a dynamic playmaker (Hello Eagles). He averaged 5.0 yards a carry or better in 7 of his first 8 seasons (He averaged 4.97 in 2013). But his 2016 season was derailed by recurring problems with both knees, and he struggled to get on the field.

As being a fantasy football GM goes, it would be a next level move to take a late flier in summer drafts on Jamaal Charles being able to recapture some of his former glory more than Peterson. He’s a power back with declining yards per carry for the last several years and Charles needs fewer touches to be a factor whether through running the ball or being a pass receiver out of the backfield.

Potential suitors: Eagles, Colts, Raiders, Packers

Brandon Marshall | WR

On March 2nd, it was announced that the New York Jets will give Marshall his unconditional release, although they did offer him a contract for the 2017 season per various media reports. However, Marshall is seeking a chance to win a championship with another team and asked for his release in order to find a franchise that is not in the midst of a complete rebuild. I personally believe Marshall has something left in the tank and teams on the precipice of a playoff berth should be looking at him for that missing piece.

Potential suitors: Ravens, Cowboys, Patriots, Raiders  

 

In closing, when it comes to the correlation between free agency and fantasy football, be cognizant of all the major media reports/signings when it begins March 9th. It could radically affect who you’re thinking about taking in your league drafts later in the summer. Stay a top of all news coming from the team’s beat writers to see who’s doing well and who’s struggling.

Don’t be content reading out of date magazines; be proactive instead of reactive. That’s why I’m here to keep you up-to-date with all of the NFL transactions relevant to fantasy football.

 

FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

Hoping to make your fantasy football season much easier and fun.

Your fantasy football GM,

Michael Stepney(@MStepney71)

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