27. Jakobi Meyers, WR, NE
Julian Edelman’s knee issues opened the door to opportunity for Meyers in the slot last year, but the signing of Kendrick Bourne could close it, and fellow free agent signing Nelson Agholor can also play in the slot. Edelman has been released and retired, but there are still significant new obstacles between Meyers and fantasy relevance. He’ll be dropped in a lot of dynasty leagues for a draft pick.
26. Nyheim Hines, RB, IND
Hines was a best ball lifesaver last year, but his weekly reliability sunk when the Colts brought back Marlon Mack. Hines snaps will suffer, and even if it’s only slightly, backs with a passing game speciality have a small margin of error. Hines’ value already took a hit when Philip Rivers retired. Now, he could go undrafted in typical PPR leagues.
25. Giovani Bernard, RB, TB
Bernard mattered in fantasy leagues while he played behind Joe Mixon because of Mixon’s propensity to miss games and Bernard’s rock solid all-around game. The Bengals curious move to wait until almost a month into free agency to offer him a pay cut or the highway still only left Bernard out of work for a short time, but he isn’t likely to turn the passing down specialist role into significant value in Tampa.
24. Bryan Edwards, WR, LV
Edwards was a camp sensation last year, but was quickly overshadowed by Nelson Agholor once the season got underway. The possibility of more in-person offseason activities and Agholor signing a deal with New England on the first day of legal tampering paved the way to more opportunity this year, but the signing of John Brown quickly blocked that path. Edwards remains a dynasty hold, but our grip is getting looser.
23. Henry Ruggs III, WR, LV
It’s hard to know whether the John Brown signing was more about Edwards or fellow 2020 draft class member Ruggs, but the writing on the wall for Ruggs isn’t positive either way. Perhaps he’ll benefit from Brown’s veteran knowledge and presence, but more concerning is that Brown’s strengths map more to Ruggs than Edwards. We’ll be watching to see how the Raiders deploy their receivers. After signing Brown and Willie Snead IV, every wide receiver carryover from the 2020 roster will have to earn their roles.
22. Donald Parham, TE, LAC
For a brief moment, Parham was set to be one of the sleeper darlings of the late rounds of 2021 fantasy drafts. Hunter Henry left for New England, but soon after the Chargers signed Jared Cook. Parham could still be ahead of Cook by season’s end, but he dropped from late round target to waiver wire watch list.
21. James White, RB, NE
Everyone had White going to the Bucs in a reunion with Tom Brady… except the Bucs, who brought back Leonard Fournette instead. White will be stuck in a limited offense again, but now with more credible threats at wide receiver and tight end. He’s only draftable in deep PPR leagues.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, SF
The 49ers were expected to be in the quarterback market this offseason, but few saw such a resounding move as a trade-up to #3 in the cards. As of now, it looks like he’ll be the bridge to the quarterback they take, but that bridge may not extend until the end of the season. Whether he gets another starting job in the future hinges on his performance this year. He’s only draftable in 2QB/Superflex leagues.
19. Gabriel Davis, WR, BUF
Davis was impressive last year, especially on extended plays, so the release of John Brown was expected. What wasn’t automatically penciled into the Bills offseason plans was signing Emmanuel Sanders to take Brown’s place. Davis’ star is still bright in dynasty leagues, but his redraft profile took a big hit when Sanders agreed to shuffle off to Buffalo.
18. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, CAR/???
Bridgewater was a winner after the first wave of free agency because the Panthers didn’t add a quarterback and the 49ers trade up made it more likely that they wouldn’t get one in the first round of the draft. Now the chances of Carolina drafting a quarterback have dropped even more (but not down to zero), but it’s not good for Bridgewater. The trade for Sam Darnold and expectation of the team picking up his fifth-year option spells the end for Bridgewater as their starter, and probably as a Week 1 starter for any team, although he could end up in a competition with Drew Lock if Denver is interested.
17. Darnell Mooney, WR, CHI
Mooney was set to be the team’s #1 receiver until the Bears franchised Allen Robinson. He will get a small upgrade in quarterback quality with Andy Dalton’s arrival, but the fleeting moment of the possibility of Russell Wilson coming to Chicago makes the installation of Dalton disappointing. Dalton’s lack of a quality deep ball will likely keep Mooney’s rocketship on the launching pad in 2021.
16. James Washington, WR, PIT
The one outcome of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s foray into free agency that seemed unlikely was returning to the cap-challenged Steelers roster. Well, that’s what happened anyway because Smith-Schuster didn’t find anyone willing to break the bank for his services. Washington goes back to being a part-time player instead of having a chance to increase his worth as he heads into free agency in 2022.
15. Cole Kmet, TE, CHI
The Bears were not in a good spot with the cap. Jimmy Graham and his 6.9-million dollar salary was an obvious cut candidate, but instead, the team chose to let Kyle Fuller go. Kmet will continue to compete with Graham for tight end targets and remain on the fringe of fantasy relevance.
14. Parris Campbell, WR, IND
Campbell was set to be a full-time player for the Colts offense, and with Carson Wentz at quarterback. Wentz’s ability to extend plays and throw deep promised an unlocking of Campbell’s potential - if Campbell could stay on the field - but then T.Y. Hilton and the team found middle ground in contract negotiations, which will surely cut into Campbell’s projected target share.
13. Michael Pittman Jr, WR, IND
Pittman, like Campbell, was set to be a full-time player with Hilton hitting the free-agent market, and like Campbell, he’ll instead be relegated to a rotation with Campbell, Hilton, and Zach Pascal, who got a second-round RFA tender (~3.4 million), demonstrating his value to the team. It’s worth noting that Campbell played ahead of Pittman in Week 1 last year, although Pittman was a rookie who was playing without the benefit of an offseason program.
12. David Montgomery, RB, CHI
Montgomery was a league winner in the second half of the season, but between the return of Tarik Cohen and the signing of Damien Williams after the Chiefs let him go, Montgomery is unlikely to see as much work in the passing game, and he should get more rest during games. Williams’ familiarity with Matt Nagy’s offense from their time together in Kansas City should get him on the field.
11. D'Andre Swift, RB, DET
Swift is still going to get worked in Anthony Lynn’s offense, but the addition of Jamaal Williams gives the Lions a reliable back in all aspects of the game, but especially in pass protection. This isn’t going to be a prosperous offense, so Williams' role may end up being bigger than Swift fantasy teams want to see.
10. Rashaad Penny, RB, SEA
Chris Carson tested the market and the market said running backs don’t matter, so he returned to Seattle on a deal that sub-mediocre starters get at some positions. Penny hasn’t stayed healthy or done much to show why the Seahawks spent a first on him when he has been on the field, and now he won’t be handed extra opportunity in 2021.
9. Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU
With every passing day, it appears less likely that Deshaun Watson will suit up for the Texans in Week 1, or possibly ever again. He may get dealt after all but not until his legal issues are resolved. Cooks did get a small lift in value when Will Fuller V signed in Miami and the team didn’t sign anyone of more consequence than Chris Conley to fill Fuller’s spot.
8. Damien Williams, RB, KC
Before free agency started, the expectation was that Williams was going to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t do anything in his rookie year to diminish the projected value of Williams upon his return to the Chiefs offense. Kansas City then decided to bring back Darrel Williams and give Damien Williams his walking papers. Damien landed on his feet in Chicago, but there’s no fantasy potential there unless David Montgomery goes down.
7. Hunter Henry, TE, NE
Henry wasn’t the first tight end signed in free agency, he wasn’t even the first free-agent tight end given a big contract by his team. He was the second priority at the position after Jonnu Smith, and he’s likely to be second in fantasy value at tight end on a team that may not give us a fantasy starter at any position.
6. Leonard Fournette, RB, TB
After his playoff heroics, Fournette was expected to get a starting job and accompanying contract in free agency. He wasn’t able to get the money or workload he was seeking, so after the first wave of free agency died down, Fournette came back to Tampa on a one-year, $3.25 million dollar deal, a little more money than he got last year. He could be the most valuable fantasy back on the Bucs roster, but he won’t be a bell cow and now he has Giovani Bernard as competition for passing-down snaps.
5. Ronald Jones II, RB, TB
After Leonard Fournette remained unsigned after the first week of free agency, the possibility of Jones getting a lead back workload appeared to be strong. Jones was a fantasy stud when Fournette was out last year and he was set to be one of the best values in 2021 drafts. Then Fournette and the Bucs agreed on terms for him to return, and Giovani Bernard was signed, and the dreaded committee backfield was back in effect.
4. David Johnson, RB, HOU
Johnson was a winner early in free agency, as he accepted a pay cut to stay with the team, but still at a high enough salary (five million) to project him as a starter. Then the team signed Mark Ingram II. Then the Deshaun Watson legal situation dimmed the prospects for the Texans offense. Then the team signed Phillip Lindsay. Add it all up and Johnson is the lead in a committee in what could be one of the worst offenses in the league.
3. Taysom Hill, QB, NO
It felt like a foregone conclusion that Jameis Winston would return to the Saints this year, but the Bears tried to derail that train, and nothing is ever certain until the ink dries on the contract. Winston did indeed sign with New Orleans, and now he and Hill will be in a battle to start Week 1. Winston should be considered the favorite as Hill has to compete not just with Winston, but with Winston combined with the changeup of Hill at key moments in the game. Pencil Winston in as the starter and Hill in the same role he had last year.
2. A.J. Dillon, RB, GB
I hope you got in the very slim sell high window when Aaron Jones wasn’t tagged by the Packers and instead ticketed for free agency, like Footballguys staff writer Chris Allen did in a dynasty superflex best ball league we are in together when he turned Dillon into the 1.12 rookie pick. Jones never made it to the open market, signing before the legal tampering period opened. Dillon will be relegated to splitting early-down work with Jones for at least the next two years.
1. Josh Jacobs, RB, LV
The Raiders were sold enough on Jacobs to take him in the first round, but seem unwilling to use him as the bell cow that the investment would dictate. The latest twist was the signing of Kenyan Drake to a deal that pays him like a starter for the next two seasons. The team has made some noise about using Drake as a receiver in the passing game, but they are already five deep at wideout. The team also has created potential weak spots at center and right tackle in a previously strong offensive line.
0. Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU
There’s no doubt that no player lost more fantasy value for the 2021 season over the last month than Watson, but other than Will Fuller V going to Miami, little about free agency affected his value, so he's not part of the 27. The commissioner’s exempt list or a multi-game suspension to open the season is likely, and that doesn’t include the possibility that Watson holds out to force a trade, assuming his status in the legal system, civil court system, and NFL disciplinary process is settled by Week 1. There’s no way you can count on Watson as your QB1 to open the season right now.
Where’s Chase Edmonds?
The signing of James Conner in Arizona is certainly a win for Conner’s stock because he could have just as easily been signed to be a backup or waited until training camp to find a new team, but it’s not a loss for Edmonds. Conner is probably enough to keep the Cardinals from spending their first- or second-round picks on a running back, but his durability record almost ensures multiple starts for Edmonds, and Conner is the least formidable competition Edmonds has had for touches during his four years in Arizona. We knew the Cardinals would do *something* to address running back. That it was very likely only signing James Conner is about the best outcome Edmonds fantasy teams could have envisioned.