Free Agency Frenzy – First Take Winners
Whew! It’s been a crazy few days since legal tampering began on Saturday afternoon and free agency went into full effect on Tuesday. Teams are trading players faster than fifth graders trying to unload fruit snacks for potato chips. Rather than highlight each of the moves individually, I’ve listed whose fantasy stock could benefit the most from a given signing. Things are far from reaching a lull, so be sure to check back here and follow me on Twitter for more info and analysis.
Biggest winner @ QB = Russell Wilson
News that the Saints had traded three time Pro-Bowler Jimmy Graham to Seattle in exchange for C Max Unger and a first-round pick sent shock waves through the Twitterverse. While the tight end’s departure from New Orleans gives RB Mark Ingram, TE Josh Hill, and WR Brandin Cooks a bump in value, it significantly boosts QB Russell Wilson’s stock. Save a few crotchety rants via Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s receiving corps have been a barrel of blase. At 6’7″ and 265 pounds, Graham provides the relatively diminutive signal-caller a proportionally giant upgrade in receiving talent. Plus, as evidenced by Chris Matthews’ Super Bowl appearance, we’ve seen how well Wilson does when lobbing the ball at big targets. Having drawn comparisons to Graham’s now former QB Drew Brees since entering the league in 2012, Wilson closed out 2014 ranked among the top five fantasy QBs. Most of that production, however, was churned out on the ground. Given Marshawn Lynch’s return to the backfield and the addition of No. 80, Wilson is poised to dominate the fake football field once again.
Biggest winner @ WR = Saint Louis Rams
Chip Kelly and Jeff Fischer agreed to swap QBs in a deal that left Philly fans questioning their newest football czar’s “genius” status. While QB Sam Bradford limps his way to the City of Brotherly Love, QB Nick Foles will amble along to the Midwest. My guess is the latter of the two will be greeted with applause and a moderate amount of jubilation. Foles may not be the most athletic quarterback, but he is an above average manager with decent arm strength. Sure, he’s had accuracy issues, but he can put the ball into tight windows when participating in the shorter to intermediate passing game. Bradford, on the other hand, is virtually untested. Having missed the whole of 2014 and more than half of 2013, the first round talent is heavy on rust and low on rapport. This has left the Rams’ offense – most notably their wideouts – grinding their gears rather than turning-over their collective engines. Some stability under center would certainly behoove the likes of Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, and Steadman Bailey. I’ve liked Bailey in the past, but I’m not wholly sure which of these WRs will emerge as Foles’ go-to guy. Right now, my money is on Quick who was having a studly year before going down in Week 8 with a dislocated shoulder and torn rotator cuff. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the spring shakes out, and with whom Foles develops the most chemistry in camp. Regardless, PPR enthusiasts would be wise to monitor this trio of wideouts heading into the fall.
Biggest Winner @ RB = Carlos Hyde
After dominating the 49ers backfield since 2006, the venerable Frank Gore will be taking his talents to Indianapolis. The heir apparent to Gore’s touches, RB Carlos Hyde is on the precipice of a potential breakout. Currently, the sophomore’s only competition at the position is Kendall Hunter, who battled Achilles and ACL injuries in back-to-back years. As a result, Hyde’s ADP has skyrocketed. If the Colin Kaepernick rumors turn out to be nothing more than rumors, Hyde could certainly ascend. However, his price tag is rising at a nauseating rate. The
Jed York Trent Baalke Jim Tomsula-led 49ers are shaping up to be a dumpster fire of a franchise. Plus, this year’s crop of rookie running backs is flush with talent. I have to believe that San Fran will try to add depth during the draft. Though now that they have their fancy stadium to sell tickets, I’m not sure they care about winning. Still, Hyde is in an excellent situation. If Kaep is given room to roam and Hyde is handed the ball 250 + times, there’s little reason to believe he can’t put up 1,000 rushing yards in 2015.
Biggest Winner @ TE = Julius Thomas
Orange Julius no more, the Jaguars have reportedly agreed to a multi-year deal that would net the 26 year-old TE in the neighborhood of $9 million per season. If Twitter is any indication, the move has Thomas loyalists feeling dirtier than EverBank Field’s pool boy. While Blake Bortles is certainly no Peyton Manning, Thomas has an opportunity to shine as the Jags’ most obvious receiving threat. Plus, we all know how much a young QB relies upon the middle. Thomas could very well exist as Bortles’ security blanket, boosting his value in PPR leagues. In 2014, the stud TE finished the season as the 7th best fantasy prospect at the position. Most of his numbers came from touchdowns, but in both targets and receptions he was ranked 20th overall. Of course, I expect his numbers to dip, but I don’t think they’ll fall off of a cliff. As Owen Daniels’ ADP creeps up and Thomas’ slides, I think the latter of the two prospects will become increasingly valuable come September.