Dynasty Risers & Fallers After Free Agency
It’s been less than two months since the NFL off-season started, we haven’t even gotten to the NFL Draft yet. But a lot has changed and dynasty fantasy football is no exception. There have been so many moves that by the time players report to training camp you may even forget where some of these guys ended up. I bet you don’t even know what team DJ Chark will be playing for in 2022. If you do, let me know on Twitter! First one to do so will get a free entry for an OwnersBox contest.
With things likely, but probably not, slowing down for the next month prior to the draft let’s take a look at the fantasy landscape. I’ll have another edition of this segment after the NFL Draft as well. Here are two players that I believe have accrued significant positive value as a result of their teams off-season moves as well as two that have lost value as a result of the 2022 off-season.
🔴 Patrick Mahomes
Is Patrick Mahomes fantasy football career going to take a nose dive starting this season? Of course not. But it’s hard to deny the damage that is being done as a result of his 12-year $477 million contract kicking in starting this season. Tyreek Hill was the first casualty as he was dealt to the Miami Dolphins due to his request for a contract extension and restructuring. Hill was not only 6th in yards after the catch but his average depth of target was in the double digits at 10.6 yards this past season.
It seems as though the replacements have been found for Hill, a player you can’t replicate with just one player. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster were added via free agency and both bring something very different to the table from each other. Smith-Schuster lived around the line of scrimmage with Steelers and finished 11th in yards after the catch in his healthy 2020 season. Valdes-Scantling on the other hand led the NFL in average depth of target in 2021 at 18.4 yards.
The offensive line is in a great place at the moment, but the ball is no doubt being kicked down the road for another season and it’s going to catch up to the Chiefs. Orlando Brown Jr is on yet another year of the franchise tag, Andrew Wylie will be a free agent in 2023 and Joe Thuney’s annual salary nearly triples in 2023.
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the National Football League, but from a dynasty perspective there has to be some cause for concern. The reality is the supporting cast will never be the same as it was on his rookie contract. As well, if the Chiefs don’t get better production from the running back position in 2022 then the offense may struggle considering the Bengals success with their drop-8 attack in the AFC Championship.
🟢 Rondale Moore
The Cardinals were pretty quiet during the free agent signing period, especially on the offensive side of the ball. James Conner is back in the mix but passing catching back Chase Edmonds is in Miami. Christian Kirk had one of the largest receiver contracts of the 2022 off-season with the Jaguars and AJ Green is still a free agent. That leaves sophomore wide receiver Rondale Moore in line for a significant promotion.in a top-10 scoring offense.
Moore’s route participation wasn’t at a level that made him a consistent fantasy asset in 2021 but when he was on the field he saw a 26.2% target rate. He’s in line to be on the field plenty as the WR2 in the offense and likely the third passing catching option behind DeAndre Hopkins and Zach Ertz. His role should evolve as well as last season his average depth of target was less than 2-yards but his burst and elusiveness had him ranked 3rd in yards after the catch per reception at 7.9 yards.
With the exciting and deep wide receiver class expected to enter the NFL through the draft this spring, fantasy managers may be quick to give up on the former 2nd round pick. Not to mention the Kyler Murray saga with the Cardinals front office. Now may be the time to swoop in with an offer before people realize the opportunity Moore has in 2022.
🔴 Darren Waller
The AFC West is going to be the best division in the NFL, there is no doubt about it. But even when a team gets better over the off-season, it doesn’t mean a full upgrade in fantasy value. That is case and point when it comes to Raiders tight end Darren Waller. Las Vegas has a dynamic group of playmakers for Derek Carr to work with. Surely the offene will be in a better place, but is their enough of the pie available for Waller to be amongst the elite tight ends?
Last season, in weeks 1 through 6 Waller led all tight ends in targets with 52 but that only resulted in him finishing as the TE15 in that time period. What happens when the target volume is decreased with the addition of Davante Adams and the crafty Hunter Renfrow? It’s not as if he is a red zone monster, he had just 9 catches on 19 red zone targets in 2021. Adams and Renfrow will certainly take attention away from Waller for opponents, that could be the way some fantasy managers see it.
The reality is that although Waller doesn’t have the wear and tear of the typical tight end his age he’s still 29 years old. That’s the same age as Adams, who has the benefit of a strong relationship with Carr from playing together at Fresno State. Adams transition into the offense won’t take getting used to for his quarterback and he’s coming off a 2021 season where he demanded a 31.6% target share in Green Bay. Waller can still be a good fantasy asset but with the moves the Raiders made this off-season his dynasty stock should fall.
🟢 Jerry Jeudy & Courtland Sutton
Why limit ourselves to just one or the other? The debate is going to run wild all off-season long, who would you rather have in 2022 or in dynasty? Jerry Jeudy or Courtland Sutton. If I have to weigh in, I’ll go with Jeudy but that isn’t the point here. Even in 2015 when Doug Baldwin was setting the NFL on fire, Jermaine Kearse was still fantasy relevant with Russell Wilson at quarterback. For those of you that have share of either of these two, congratulations it finally happened.
Sutton will likely be the one to fill that DK Metcalf type role that can make big plays downfield. Sutton, even with Teddy Bridgewater at QB most of the year, had an average depth of target of 15.8 yards in 2021. Wilson led the NFL in average target distance for QB’s at 10.2 yards, it sounds like a perfect marriage. Especially when you consider the fact that Wilson will have significantly improved offensive line play to allow more routes to develop downfield.
What makes Jeudy such an intriguing pairing with his new quarterback is his ability to create space between him and his defender through his route running. In the 10 games he played in 2021, Jeudy ranked 1st in the NFL in target separation at 2.45 yards. Instead or working with Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater, he’ll have a quarterback that can make a throw on target, to any part of the field. Separation plus catchability is a match made it heaven for fantasy managers.