Thank the sports gods for the drama and storylines surrounding the NFL off-season with the rest of the major North American leagues on hold due to COVID-19.
This free-agent period has truly been a frenzy mixed in with a couple of blockbuster trades that will shakeup the real and fantasy football worlds.
From a fantasy perspective, let’s dive into the impact on players switching teams, as well as how arrivals and departures will affect their new and former teammates.
Note: There’s been so many transactions that this will be a two-part series. Look for Part 2 on Saturday.
Seeing the GOAT with a pirate flag on his helmet is going to be weird. Can the soon-to-be 43-year-old take advantage of the plethora of weapons in Tampa Bay a season after throwing his fewest touchdowns since 2008 and producing his lowest passing yards total in four seasons?
Brady finished as QB12 in 2019, making him a borderline fantasy starter, but was only QB23 from Weeks 8 to 16. Brady’s deep ball isn’t what it once was and implementing his pinpoint accuracy-timing offence won’t happen overnight.
Personally, I would not draft the six-time Super Bowl champ as a top-12 quarterback. In two-QB leagues sure, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help his new squad’s fantasy value rise.
When has Brady been at his best? When he had access to athletic pass-catching tight ends, and he now has a pair of them with the Bucs. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are not the elite specimens that Rob Gronkowski was, but they are reliable chain-movers who are big red-zone targets.
The fantasy conundrum is which of the two benefits most in a Bruce Arians offence that saw the duo ranked 28th (Brate) and 29th (Howard) amongst TEs in PPR formats. I would think adjustments would be made to get Brady comfortable and utilize the position group more.
I see Pro Bowl wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin actually having their fantasy value dip with TB12 under centre. Brady’s arm isn’t what it used to be, and the onus lands on the head coach once again to tweak strategies to his new quarterback’s strengths.
What happens in New England?
The post-Brady era in New England is now a reality and puts significant questions around the effectiveness of the team’s playmakers. In dynasty/keeper leagues, the stock of Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel have certainly taken a hit. We’re in a holding pattern to see if Bill Belichick acquires a proven veteran QB or turns to one of his unproven backups.
It didn’t take long for Gurley to find a new home after being kicked to the curb by the Rams. He returns to the state of Georgia, where the three-time Pro Bowler played his college ball. It’s a one-year prove-it deal for a 25-year old with a history of knee issues.
Despite all the concern about Gurley’s health, he still found the end zone 14 times (12 rushing, two receiving) last season and is an every-down threat as a runner as well as a pass-catcher. Even with Los Angeles implementing “load management,” Gurley still finished 11th amongst running backs in standard leagues and 14th in PPR.
His days as a high first-round fantasy draft choice may be over, but there’s new hope in joining a Falcons offence that is in desperate need of a strong backfield resurgence.
How Gurley’s release impacts Rams backfield
The Rams’ cost-saving release of Todd Gurley ends the reign of a bona fide fantasy football RB1 and enters Los Angeles into the dreaded world of running back committee.
Brown and Henderson are the remaining untested pieces to carry the load. Henderson was the fantasy handcuff darling this past season, but it was Brown that head coach Sean McVay trusted more. The Rams ran the ball on 401 occasions in 2019, with Gurley toting the rock 55.6 per cent of time. An even split between the two backups could equate to some fantasy relevance.
We’ll need to wait until closer to Week 1 to see if either Brown or Henderson emerges as a favourite. There’s also the possibility of an extra body being added through the draft.
Buffalo gave up a ton of draft capital to Minnesota, but they’ve landed a big fish who gives a bump up to their entire offence.
Amongst wideouts in 2019, Diggs rated 20th in PPR and 13th in standard, delivering over 1,130 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He’s the perfect fit for Josh Allen, who now has Diggs to lineup anywhere and should open up more opportunities for John Brown and Cole Beasley. Plus, defences also need to respect the running game with Devin Singletary and Allen’s ability on the ground.
Raise the bar on fantasy expectations across the board, Bills Mafia.
What happens in Minnesota?
Diggs’ departure from the Vikings leaves the oft-injured Adam Thielen as lead dog. I expect the front office to add a dynamic WR in April from arguably the deepest draft class in 20 years.