Players acquired by new teams:
Brandin Cooks (acquired by NE from NO) – Weeks of trade rumors culminated in a blockbuster deal, as the Patriots sent their 1st and 3rd-round picks in 2017 to the Saints for Cooks and a 4th, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Wow. Whenever a young star like Cooks – still just 23 – is floated in trade rumors, you can always assume the Patriots will be involved on the other end. Still, there’s a ton to unpack here. Even though the Patriots just lost Martellus Bennett, they still have targets to distribute to Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Rob Gronkowski (if healthy, of course), Dwayne Allen, James White, Dion Lewis, and whoever else they throw out there in addition to Cooks. Of course, Tom Brady is basically the best to ever play, which helps, but it’s hard to imagine Cooks getting a bigger target share in New England than he did in New Orleans – and remember how frustrating Cooks has been to own for fantasy even with the high-powered Saints. There’s also the additional issue of Cooks being far better at home than on the road in his career, and more specifically, between indoor and outdoor games, as he’s averaged almost 2.5 YPC more indoors than outdoors, and over 3.0 YPC more in game in New Orleans than on the road. Nonetheless, he’s one of the NFL’s fastest players, and he gives Brady an effective deep threat, something he’s lacked on a consistent basis since Randy Moss. On the flip side, this makes 2016 breakout star Michael Thomas an almost no-doubt top-12 ADP WR in New Orleans, while Willie Snead’s stock soars as well. The Saints also added a new deep threat in Ted Ginn, so Ginn will be on the fantasy radar as well.
Alshon Jeffery (Phi from Chi) – The Eagles and Jeffery agreed to a one-year, $14 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Jeffery has had two chances at having contract-year bumps, and he’s swung and missed twice the last two seasons. Well, he decided to bet on himself again by signing a one-year deal with the Eagles, so we’ll see if he actually hits a home run this time around. He couldn’t stay on the field consistently because of a slew of leg injuries in 2015, and he then got popped for a PED suspension and missed four games in 2016. He had an overall disappointing campaign even if you discount his suspension, with the relative unknown Cameron Meredith outperforming him at WR. Jeffery and the rest of the offense had a rough go of it with their revolving door at QB, and he was playing with practice-squad QB Matt Barkley by the end of the season. Jeffery had just one 100-yard game in 2016, but he did have quite a few near 100-yard games, with five games with 85+ yards. He finished the year with 52/821/2 receiving on 94 targets (55.3% catch rate, 15.8 YPC) in 12 games. He averaged 12.2 FPG, tying with new teammate Jordan Matthews for 36th at the position. Jeffery played 93% of the snaps, saw a 17.3% target share, and had 7.57% of the team’s touches. He averaged just 1.59 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. Jeffery did have 12+ FP in two-thirds of his games (8), but he had just one standout performance with 20+ FP, which was a major disappointment for a guy drafted as a WR1 last summer. The pursuit of Jeffery this off-season was absolutely fascinating. Teams were a little bit cautious off his injury-plagued, PED-taking seasons from 2015-16, but they were also bidding on the potential he showed in 2013-14 when he posted 174/2554/17 receiving. Ultimately, Jeffery decided to bet on himself by taking a prove-it deal with the Eagles for one season over a multi-year deal with the Vikings. Jeffery will reunite with his old WR coach Mike Groh, with whom he had his best season with in Chicago in 2013. The Eagles are major winners in the deal, filling a major need at outside WR while risking little by signing him on a one-year deal. The Eagles could also be winners in the long run if Jeffery returns to his old form and then decides that he wants to stick with an up-and-coming QB in Carson Wentz after the 2017 season. The Eagles also added speedster Torrey Smith in free agency, who could open up some space for Jeffery because of his vertical presence. If Jeffery has yet another shaky season, the Eagles will be off the hook and Jeffery will likely be forced to look for yet another prove-it deal next off-season. He is taking a huge gamble on himself by taking the short-term deal, but he must be confident that he can return to his old form at just 27 years old and with a much better QB situation. Jeffery is shaping up to be a risky low-end WR1 in fantasy drafts next summer.
Brandon Marshall (NYG from NYJ) – The Giants and Marshall agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract, according to Newsday.
Fantasy Analysis: To put it nicely, Marshall had an absolutely miserable 2016 with the Jets, going down as one of the biggest busts of the fantasy season considering his second-round ADP from the summer. Marshall was held to 70 receiving yards or fewer in 10 straight games to end 2016, this after he reeled off 70+ receiving yards in his final six games of 2015. Marshall battled some of the worst starting QB play from Ryan Fitzpatrick and company this season. It didn’t help that his running partner Eric Decker (shoulder/hip) went out early in the year, putting all the attention on Marshall in the passing game. Top it off with nagging shoulder, back, hip, knee and foot issues, and Marshall had a wasted campaign. Marshall finished with 60/787/3 receiving on 127 targets (47.2% catch rate, 13.1 YPC) in 15 games. He averaged just 10.4 FPG, tying him for 51st with Sammy Watkins at the position. Marshall averaged a pathetic 1.23 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. He played on 92% of the snaps, had a 23.7% target share, and saw 8.77% of the team’s touches. After scoring 14 TDs in 2015, Marshall had just 7 catches in the red zone this season. Terrible QB play led to his miserable catch rate, but he also dropped 7 passes and he struggled to create separation as a route runner, which is obviously a big concern going forward since he’ll be 33 years old in 2017. Marshall was due a reasonable $7.5 million for 2017, but the Jets weren’t on the hook for a single dime, so they decide to cut him and to go in a different direction. It’s fair to wonder if Marshall will rebound in his 12th season with his nagging injuries mounting, but he landed in a great spot to rebound in this Giants offense that used 3-WR sets about 95% of the time last season. Eli Manning really needed a big-bodied, possession receiver on the outside to play next to two smaller WRs in Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. Marshall will also provide so much-needed size down by the goal line after Eli posted his second-worst TD rate (4.3%) of his career. Of course, we’ll need to see how Odell and Marshall play together, as they are two of the more outspoken players at the position and are prone to pout when they don’t get thrown the ball. We’d like to think that Marshall will know his role on the team as the #2 WR. He’ll be 33 years old next season and signed with Odell’s team, but we’ll see how things play out after a couple losses.
Terrelle Pryor (Was from Cle) – The Redskins are signing Pryor to a one-year deal worth up to $8M, per various media reports.
Fantasy Analysis: Pryor visited Washington on the opening day of free agency and the Redskins apparently liked what they saw. Even for a franchise in a massive state of dysfunction and chaos, this is a fantastic deal for the team. Pryor flashed that he has No. 1 receiver potential in his first full year at the position with a 77/1007/4 receiving line. Just 28-years-old heading into the 2017 season, Pryor will have a ton of upside in Washington if Kirk Cousins remains on the team. As of now, it seems unlikely that Cousins is traded to another team. We'll post a quick-hitter on Pryor's potential in D.C. once we get some clarity on the Cousins situation.
Pierre Garcon (SF from Was) – The 49ers and Garcon agreed to a three-year deal, with about $23 million over the first two years with a $12 million signing bonus, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Fantasy Analysis: Garcon made himself a lot of money based off his 2016 performance, not bad for a guy who was practically free in fantasy drafts last free last summer. Garcon provided consistent fantasy value, especially in the second half of 2016. Playing in all 16 games, Garcon posted 79/1041/3 receiving on 114 targets (13.2 YPC, 69.3% catch rate). He averaged 12.6 FPG, which ranked him 30th among WRs, and first among Washington WRs. At a 76% snap share on the year, he led all Washington WRs. He had 10 finishes as a top-36 WR, and in Week 17, in a must-win game for the club (they lost), Garcon looked like the only guy on offense who actually wanted to win the game. A physical route runner with sure hands, Garcon was one of Kirk Cousins’ preferred third-down options. It’s also worth noting that Garcon’s role increased in the second half of the year, and from Week 10 on he averaged 14.9 FPG, tying him for 16th at the position. Garcon had just one 100-yard game on the year, but he caught 4+ passes in all but two games. In his last four years with Washington, Garcon has not missed a game. He was as reliable as receivers come, even if he wasn’t always dominant for fantasy (though he did lead the NFL in receptions in 2013). Garcon enters his age-31 season, but he’s not the type of player that wins based on explosiveness and athleticism. He should have a couple good years left after having plenty of juice left in 2016. Garcon has a special place in new HC Kyle Shanahan’s heart after he caught 113 passes under him in 2013 while with the Redskins. He’ll immediately be the top target on the outside for a WR corps that was devoid of talent last season. Depending on the QB situation, could be anywhere from a low-end WR2 to a high-end WR3 in fantasy drafts next summer.
Torrey Smith (Phi from SF) – The Eagles add Torrey to the fold, giving him a three-year deal worth up to $15 million, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. However, the structure of the deal is essentially a one-year contract with two team options, which makes it a very team-friendly deal for Philly.
Fantasy Analysis: The Eagles likely tested the waters on DeSean Jackson and Kenny Stills, but given they needed to add multiple receivers (see Alshon Jeffery), they’re betting on Smith’s deep threat ability for much cheaper than either of those guys will go for. Remember, the Eagles had called about him at the deadline this past year. Torrey needed to get out of the Bay Area, and new coach Kyle Shanahan and company granted him his wish, with the 49ers clearing nearly $4.7 million in cap space. In the second year of his big-money contract with the Niners, Smith had a miserable year. In 12 games, he hauled in 20/267/3 receiving on 48 catches (13.4 YPR, 41.7% catch rate). With 5.4 FPG, he ranked 106th at the position. Even Chip Kelly, who got a career year out of DeSean Jackson back in 2013, couldn’t coax a big year out of Torrey and his mediocre QB play. Moreover, Torrey missed the first four games of his career, one with a shoulder injury and three more with a concussion. He never reached 3+ catches in a single game and was held catchless three times. Smith is just 28 years old and has juice left in his legs though, and gives the Eagles some much-needed speed on the perimeter, which Carson Wentz had none of in 2016. Nonetheless, we’d be surprised if Smith provides consistent fantasy value. He’s rarely been that type of player.
Kenny Britt (signed by Cle from L.A. Rams) – Per ESPN’s Adam Caplan, Cleveland signed free agent Kenny Britt to a four-year, $32.5M deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Cleveland still has a ton of cap room open, but bringing in Kenny Britt from Los Angeles signals that the Browns are not bringing back free agent Terrelle Pryor. Britt posted a strong 68/1002/5 season with Jared Goff and Case Keenum at quarterback in 2016, but Pryor (77/1007/4) still outshined Britt with equally poor quarterback play and in his first year as a wideout. Britt has turned his career around after he nearly fell out of the league after five years in Tennessee, but it’s still odd that the Browns are letting Pryor walk after a clear breakout. It’s not like Cleveland is brimming with young talent. Britt will turn 29-years-old near the start of the 2017 season.
DeSean Jackson (TB from Was) – Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, DeSean Jackson is signing with Tampa Bay on a three-year deal with $20M in guaranteed money.
Fantasy Analysis: Per Rapoport, Jackson’s new deal with the Bucs’ will be worth $10M annually. Numerous teams were interested, but Jackson will fit like a glove with the Bucs’. Jameis Winston is a high-variance thrower and, even at 30-years-old, Jackson can still take the lid off of defenses. Among qualifying receivers, DeSean Jackson led all receivers in yards (579) on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield in 2016. Keep in mind, Jackson missed one game last year and was banged up for about a quarter of the season. Not only will Jackson provide a much needed deep-threat for Winston, it will also take a ton of pressure off of Mike Evans. Passing offenses are always looking for dynamic duos and Evans-Jackson is about as complimentary as we can think of.
Robert Woods (L.A. Rams from Buf) – Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Rams are signing Robert Woods to a five-year, $39M deal with $15M in guaranteed money.
Fantasy Analysis: That’s a nice spit of cash for Robert Woods who gets to return home to Southern California. Granted, he’s been stuck in Buffalo’s low volume passing offense for four years, but $15M guaranteed is quite a bit of dough for a receiver that has averaged 43.0 yards/game since joining the league. What is more, Woods is getting a massive quarterback downgrade from Tyrod Taylor to Jared Goff, but he is due for a big bump in target share. Former-Ram Kenny Britt is now moving to Cleveland and leaving a void of 111 targets open in Los Angeles’ attack. Britt owned a strong 21% market share of team targets in 2016. For what it’s worth, per PFF, Robert Woods ran almost half of his routes from the slot in 2016. It’s possible Woods will transition into a primary boundary receiver since Tavon Austin mans the slot about 55% of the time for the Rams.
Ted Ginn Jr. (NO from Car) – Per ESPN’s Dianne Russini, Ted Ginn Jr. is signing with the Saints.
Fantasy Analysis: The contract details have not yet been made available. Even at 31-years-old, Ted Ginn is still an absolutely lethal deep-threat. Among 78 qualifying receivers, Ginn finished the 2016 season ranked 12th in yards gained per target on throws traveling 20 or more yards in the air. With trade rumors swirling, it seems like Ginn is a direct replacement for Brandin Cooks. For what it is worth, Cooks finished fourth in yards gained per target on 20-plus yards passes in 2016. Besides being a deep-threat, Ginn’s prowess as a receiver is fairly limited when compared to Cooks. Still, Ginn’s addition—and Cooks’ likely subsequent subtraction—all but solidifies the Saints’ target totem pole in 2017 with Michael Thomas at the unquestioned top.
Kendall Wright (Chi from Ten) – The Bears signed Wright to a one-year, $4 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: After missing the first three weeks of last season with a hamstring injury, Wright simply did not play enough to become a weekly factor in Tennessee’s offense. Wright did have some monster games mixed in, but he was held below 25 yards receiving in 7-of-11 games. He also played over 60% of the team’s snaps only once. Wright primarily operated from the slot when he was on the field, finishing the year running nearly 90% of his routes from the slot. Only Jeremy Kerley ran a higher percentage of his routes from the slot in 2016. Wright finished the year with 29/416/3 receiving on 43 targets (67.4% catch rate, 14.3 YPC), averaging just 8.2 FPG in 11 games. After being benched in Week 14 and being a healthy scratch in Week 17, Wright couldn’t wait to get out of Nashville. Wright is a former 2012 first-round pick, so the talent is obviously there, but he never really lived up to the hype outside of his 2013 campaign. The Bears aren’t exactly loaded at WR now that Alshon Jeffery is out of town, so Wright could come in and command targets from Mike Glennon next Cameron Meredith and Kevin White. Wright’s signing will likely push Meredith to the outside more in 3-WR sets after he saw quite a bit of time out of the slot last season.
Kamar Aiken (Ind from Bal) – The Colts signed Aiken to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Aiken turned in an incredibly disappointing 2016 season after he led the Ravens in receptions (75), yards (944) and touchdown catches (5) the year before. The Ravens decided to roll with Steve Smith and Mike Wallace as their top WRs, with Aiken and Breshad Perriman mixing in behind them. Aiken finished with 29/328/1 receiving on 50 targets (58.0% catch rate, 11.3 YPC), averaging just 4.2 FPG in 16 games. He played 52% of the snaps and had a 7.8% target share. Aiken averaged a measly 1.36 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. At the end of 2016, Aiken said, “I’m a starter in this league, and I feel like I can make a lot of plays, and I make plays when they come my way.” He’ll get the chance to play in the slot for the Colts in 3-WR sets unless the incredibly disappointing Phillip Dorsett makes a big jump this off-season. QB Andrew Luck hasn’t been afraid to throw it to his TEs in the middle of the field, so Aiken could flirt with fantasy relevance at times. He would definitely be a fantasy option if T.Y Hilton and/or Donte Moncrief would miss time at any point.
Brian Quick (Was from LAR) – The Redskins signed Quick to a one-year contract, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Quick is always going to be one of those “what if?” players. A shoulder injury cost him most of 2014 and he was severely limited in 2015, so in 2016 he was at his healthiest since 2013. And he actually turned in career numbers across the board, with a full 16-game schedule, posting 41/564/3 receiving on 74 targets (13.8 YPR, 55.4% catch rate). Still, with just 7.2 FPG, Quick ranked 84th among WRs. He actually had a top-12 WR week in Week 4, but only twice more all year did he had a top-36 week. And Quick’s performance went completely in the crapper when Jared Goff took over at QB. Quick averaged just 4.2 FPG in Goff’s starts, as opposed to 9.6 FPG in Case Keenum’s starts. In all, Quick played 68.6% of the Rams’ snaps on the year, behind only Kenny Britt and Tavon Austin. A big guy who can run, Quick is entering his age-28 season in 2017. Quick definitely needed a change of scenery, and he’ll be playing with a much better QB in Kirk Cousins. He’ll enter training camp as the #3 outside WR behind Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson, but he certainly could be fantasy relevant if Doctson can’t stay healthy again or if Doctson struggles in what amounts to his rookie season.
Marquise Goodwin (SF from Buf) – The 49ers and Goodwin have reached terms on a two-year, $8 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: New HC Kyle Shanahan quickly found his new Taylor Gabriel for this 49ers offense. The Bills had plenty of issues at WR in 2016, forcing Goodwin into a bigger role than anticipated. Goodwin set career highs in catches (29), yards (431) and touchdowns (3). Goodwin averaged a measly 1.37 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. The Bills ideally wanted to only use Goodwin as a vertical specialist in 2016, but he ended up seeing 65% of the snaps and 12.7% of the target share, far more than they wanted Goodwin to be involved. Goodwin is an Olympic long jumper, so he’s obviously one of the league’s most dynamic athletes. He’ll be an interesting project for Shanahan, who will look to turn Goodwin into a gadget player and vertical threat in his offense. He’s unlikely to ever be high-volume receiver, but there’s a chance he could develop into a fantasy-relevant option if he can find a way to make a big play or two a game.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Oak from Min) – The Raiders and Patterson came to terms on a two-year deal, according to the Star Tribune.
Fantasy Analysis: The league’s best returner kick returner (31.7 yards per return with a TD) added some duties in 2016, working as a receiver and as a gunner on the punt team. Still, Patterson didn’t develop into the big-time receiver like the Vikings had hoped he would when they drafted him in the first round back in 2013. He worked only as an underneath receiver, finishing with as many 20+ yard catches (4) as plodding RB Matt Asiata. Patterson and Anquan Boldin finished tied for last in yards per catch (8.7) among WRs with 50+ catches. Patterson finished the year with 52/453/2 receiving on 70 targets (74.3% catch rate, 8.7 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 7.1 FPG, played on 50% of the snaps, and had a 12.1% target share. Patterson is still a raw receiver entering his 26-year-old season, but he showed some progress in his fourth campaign. He has play-making ability and, in terms of usage, he’s a similar player to Tavon Austin. The Raiders inked him to a contract mostly for his skills as a game-breaking returner, but he’ll also provide depth behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Patterson will likely compete with Seth Roberts for snaps in 3-WR sets, and he’ll likely be used on some gadget plays and on passes around the line of scrimmage. Patterson won’t be on the fantasy radar to start training camp, but we’ll keep an eye on him if it looks like he could have a big role as a receiver.
Markus Wheaton (Chi from Pit) – The signed Wheaton to a two-year contract, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The deal is essentially a one-year, $6 million deal with a team option next season, according to CBS' Sports Jason La Canfora.
Fantasy Analysis: Wheaton’s time with the Steelers ended with a real thud, playing in just 3 games and posting 4/51/1 receiving. He suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason and tried playing through the issue in Weeks 3-5. The Steelers eventually placed him on the IR in November with a torn labrum. He underwent surgery to repair his shoulder and was looking at a three-month recovery, so he should be ready for an off-season program. Wheaton really disappointed the last couple years in a prominent role in a good passing game. The Bears did lose Alshon Jeffery in free agency, so there are certainly snaps available if Wheaton can take advantage, which he hasn’t done in Pittsburgh the last few years. It’s a low-risk move for the Bears to see if they can get the talented former third-round pick back on track, but the Bears still need to do more this off-season to replace Jeffery.
Andre Holmes (Buf from Oak) – The Bills and Holmes agreed to a three-year, $6.5 million contract, according to ESPN.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Holmes flashed some big-time ability in 2013-14 in Oakland, but he’s become a complete afterthought since the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree showed up the last two years. He posted exactly 14 catches in each of the last two seasons but exactly one quarter of his catches (7) have gone for TDs. He’s been a big-play specialist from 2013-15, averaging 15.4 yards per catch. But he couldn’t get anything going downfield in 2016, averaging just 9.0 YPC while playing just 23.2% of the snaps in 16 games. Holmes will be best used as a depth option going forward, with the ability to occasionally lift the top of the defense on the outside. However, he landed in Buffalo where he could be forced into a bigger role in this terrible WR corps behind Sammy Watkins. If the Bills don’t bring in more talent at WR, Holmes will be in a battle with the Corey Brown for playing time in 2-WR sets, which would make him a fringe fantasy option.
Corey Brown (Buf from Car) – The Bills and Brown agreed to a one-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Analysis: Brown has been a valuable depth receiver for the Panthers, but he hasn’t exactly been terribly fantasy relevant. He posted 27/276/1 receiving on 53 targets (50.9% catch rate, 10.2 YPC) while playing 52.3% of the snaps. He averaged more than 14.0 yards per catch in his first two seasons, but he saw his averaged dip to 10.2 YPC with the Panthers struggling to hit many big plays like they did in 2015. Brown joined former Panthers DC Sean McDermott up in Buffalo, and he’ll bring some depth to this weak WR corps. Brown could battle for a roster spot this fall, or he could be the #2 WR in this offense if the Bills don’t add any more WRs. Even if he would start with Sammy Watkins, Brown would be a fringe fantasy option at best.
Quinton Patton (NYJ from SF) – The Jets and Patton agreed to a deal, according to The Associated Press.
Fantasy Analysis: Patton is a fine depth option for most teams, but the 49ers WRs were so bad in 2016 that he had to play a huge role. Patton posted 37/408/0 receiving on 63 targets (58.7% catch rate, 11.0 YPC) while playing 77.9% of the snaps in 14 games. His season ended on the injured reserve after Week 15 with a broken foot, which could slow him some this off-season. He decided to reunite with his old wide receivers coach from 2013-14 in John Morton, the new HC for the Jets. Patton will likely provide depth behind Eric Decker and Robby Anderson, and he’ll have a good chance of winning the #3 WR spot in this weak group of receivers.
Aldrick Robinson (SF from Atl) – The 49ers and Robinson agreed to a two-year deal, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Fantasy Analysis: Robinson wasn’t in the league in 2015, but he found a small role with the Falcons as speedster. He was probably looking at a bigger role in the offense but the Falcons were able to snag Taylor Gabriel off of waivers before the start of the season. Gabriel eventually passed him on the depth chart a couple games into the year, but Robinson did eventually see a spike of playing time late in the season with Julio Jones ailing with a foot injury. He finished the year with 20/323/2 receiving on 32 targets (62.5% catch rate, 16.2 YPC) while playing 30.2% of the snaps in 16 games. Even though he was out of the league in 2015, Robinson showed that he can still lift the top of a defense off. New 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan has compiled a bunch of players from his old stops, including Robinson. He’ll mostly just be a vertical threat and depth option in this offense, so he won’t have much fantasy value.
Charles Johnson (Car from Min) – The Panthers and Johnson agreed to a one-year, $2.2 million contract, according to the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Johnson was a favorite fantasy sleeper before the 2015 season, but he still hasn’t awoken two years later. He’s posted a combined 29/359/0 receiving over the last two years. Johnson, who played on 39% of the snaps in 2016, served as just a deep threat last year in an offense that barely threw downfield with Sam Bradford constantly under siege behind a terrible O-line. Johnson does have talent, and he should provide some depth for this extremely weak WR corps now that Ted Ginn and Corey Brown are gone. Johnson and Russell Shepard could battle to be vertical threats for Cam Newton with Ginn gone, but he likely won’t be a fantasy asset unless he unseats Devin Funchess for the #2 WR job.
Justin Hunter (Pit from Buf) – The Steelers and Hunter agreed to a contract, according to ESPN.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Hunter is supremely talented as the former #34 overall pick from back in 2013, but he’s never developed into the dominant outside WR most expected him to become. He got waived by the Titans just before the start of the season, and the Dolphins scooped him up but never played him before they waived him at the end of September. The Bills really needed help at WR with Sammy Watkins out with his foot injury, so they claimed him off of waivers. Hunter finished the year with 10/189/4 receiving on 24 targets (41.7% catch rate, 18.9 YPC) while playing 35.9% of the snaps in 12 games. He’s long (6’4”, 203 pounds) and fast, and he can stretch the field vertically with a career averaged of 16.7 yards per catch. Hunter provides the Steelers depth at WR, and he could have a much bigger role as the deep threat if Martavis Bryant screws up again coming back from suspension.
Russell Shepard (Car from TB) – The Panthers and Shepard agreed to a three-year deal, according to the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Shepard has been hanging around since 2013, but he made his first real impact with a number of injuries at WR, including to WR Vincent Jackson. He finished the year with 23/341/2 receiving on 40 targets (57.5% catch rate, 14.8 YPC) while playing 43.9% of the snaps in 14 games. The Buccaneers need to bolster their WR corps, but Shepard could be back as a depth option, especially since he is a key contributor on special teams. Shepard should provide some depth for this extremely weak WR corps now that Ted Ginn and Corey Brown are gone. Shepard and Charles Johnson could battle to be the de facto vertical threat for Cam Newton with Ginn gone, but he likely won’t be a fantasy asset unless he unseats Devin Funchess for the #2 WR job.
Andre Roberts (Atl from Det) – The Falcons signed Roberts to a one-year, $1.8 million deal, according to ESPN.com.
Fantasy Analysis: Roberts has been a non-factor as a receiver the last two seasons, doing little in Washington in 2015 and in Detroit in 2016. He finished with just 14/188/1 receiving on 25 targets in 16 games, never really challenging Anquan Boldin for the #3 WR role. Roberts is still an excellent returner, combining for 993 return yards (747 kick, 246 punt) and returning 2 punts for TDs. He averaged 22.2 yards per kick return and 11.7 yards per punt return. He’ll likely fill the same role for the Falcons this season after Eric Weems left in free agency, and he’ll also provide depth for this WR corps.
Jeremy Butler (Buf from LAC) – The Bills signed Butler to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Butler had a solid 2015 campaign with the Ravens ravaged by injuries, posting 31/363/0 receiving in eight games. However, he couldn’t make a healthy Ravens roster out of training camp in 2016, and Butler bounced around to the Bucs and Jets before landing with the Chargers last season. The Chargers were also hit hard by injuries in 2016, but Butler couldn’t get on the field much in four games. Butler will be in a battle for one of the last roster spots, and at least this Bills WR corps is pretty weak.
Eric Weems (Ten from Atl) – The Titans signed Weems, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
Fantasy Analysis: Weems is only a special-teams contributor at this point, as he didn’t have a single target or carry in 2016 in just 17 offensive snaps. He finished the year with the Falcons with 391 kick-return yards and 273 punt-return yards. The Titans figure to deploy Weems as just a returner next season.
Keshawn Martin (Det from SF) – The Lions signed Martin, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Martin appeared in just one game with the 49ers last season before they cut him in early November. The Lions do need some help at WR, but Martin’s only chance of making the 53-man roster out of camp is if he can give the team a lift in the return game.
Players re-signed by their 2016 teams:
Kenny Stills (Mia) – The Dolphins and Stills reached terms on a four-year, $32 million contract with $20 million guaranteed, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
Fantasy Analysis: Stills had a bounce-back 2016 season after a shaky first campaign with the Dolphins in 2015, proving to be a good fit in Adam Gase’s offense. He stretched the field as a vertical threat in this run-heavy offense, making some big plays downfield off play-action passes. Stills finished with 42/726/9 receiving on 81 targets (51.9% catch rate, 17.3 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 10.5 FPG, tying for 50th at the position with Brandon Marshall – he also ranked ahead of teammate DeVante Parker. Stills averaged an impressive 2.11 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93 – and he averaged 84% of the snaps and had a 17.5% target share. Stills led the team in touchdowns (9) and ranked third in the NFL in yards per reception (17.3) for players with 30+ catches, behind only DeSean Jackson and Chris Hogan. Even though he’s been in the league for four seasons already, Stills will only be 25 years old next season. He had a strong free-agent market, so the Dolphins had to ante up to keep him around. Gase loves Stills’ vertical speed, and they went above and beyond to keep him in Miami with $20 million in guaranteed money. Stills is averaging a healthy 16.7 yards per reception for his career, and he’s a better route runner than most vertical threats. The move to keep Stills also indicates that the Dolphins aren’t totally confident in Parker and last year’s third-round pick Leonte Carroo. Stills will still probably be a better real-life player than a fantasy player because he stretches the field but competes for targets with Parker. Stills will continue to be a better non-PPR option because of his big-play ability, but he’s more of fantasy bench piece still.
Adam Thielen (Min) – The Vikings and Thielen agreed to terms on a three-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Thielen won plenty of fantasy championships in Week 16 for any owners that were bold enough to use him. He posted a ridiculous 12/202/2 receiving against the Packers, good for the third-best fantasy game of the year (44.6 FP) behind only Le’Veon Bell in Week 14 (51.8) and Julio Jones in Week 5 (48.0). Thielen’s impressive Week 16 performance capped a breakout season for the third-year UDFA WR out of Minnesota State-Mankato. He fell 33 yards of becoming the first Viking to hit 1000 receiving yards since Sidney Rice did it all the way back in 2009. Thielen finished with 69/967/5 receiving on 92 targets (75.0% catch rate, 14.0 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 12.5 FPG, tying with Allen Robinson for 32nd at the position. He played on 75% of the snaps, saw a 15.9% target share, and had 9.14% of the team’s touches. Thielen averaged an impressive 2.14 fantasy points per target – the league average for the position was 1.93. He led the team with 16 plays of 20+ yards, and according to Pro Football Focus, Thielen led all NFL WRs by catching 70.4% of his deep targets. He accomplished the feat despite playing in an offense allergic to throwing downfield with Sam Bradford constantly under siege. He had a particularly strong finishing kick for his fantasy owners – which coincided with a Stefon Diggs swoon – scoring 10+ FP in seven of eight games in Weeks 9-16. He played a much bigger role than anyone would’ve expected after the Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round last spring. Thielen won the job because of his reliable hands, his improved route running, and his long speed. Treadwell should push for more playing time this off-season, but Thielen is locked in as the #2 WR and as the top outside threat entering the preseason. Treadwell would need to take a gigantic leap in the preseason to jump over Thielen in 2-WR sets to begin the season. Thielen is setting up to be a late-round flyer in fantasy drafts next summer.
Brandon LaFell (Cin) – The Bengals and LaFell agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Fantasy Analysis: LaFell didn’t have much of a market last off-season after a bad 2015 campaign with the Patriots. He went to Cincinnati on a one-year, prove-it deal after the Patriots cut him last off-season, and he regained his 2014 form. He finished with 64/862/6 receiving on 107 targets (59.8% catch rate, 13.5 YPC) in 16 games. He averaged 11.6 FPG, ranking him 42nd at the position behind Randall Cobb. LaFell had arguably the best stretch of his career in the final five weeks of the season as the #1 WR with A.J. Green (hamstring) out of the lineup. LaFell posted 28/405/2 receiving on 43 targets in that span, ranking him 14th at the position with 16.1 FPG. Rookie Tyler Boyd played mostly out of the slot and rookie Cody Core made some strides on the outside but is still a project, so the Bengals needed to keep LaFell around as the #2 outside WR. LaFell did have some interest from a few teams, but he decided to stick with his current team. He’s a low-end fantasy asset who is going to post sporadic production playing next Green and TE Tyler Eifert. Boyd could also play a bigger role in the offense in his second season. LaFell will likely needed an injury to someone in front of him in the passing game to have a shot at consistent fantasy production.
Terrance Williams (Dal) – The Cowboys and Williams agreed to a four-year, $17 million contract with $9.5 million guaranteed, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Fantasy Analysis: Williams wasn’t typically useful for fantasy, but overall he turned in a solid, efficient season in 2016 with Dak Prescott at QB. In 16 games, Williams posted 44/594/4 receiving on 61 targets (13.5 YPC, 72.1% catch rate). All in all, he averaged just 8.0 FPG, which tied him for 79th among WRs. He finished as a top-36 WR in PPR just five times, and only two of those were top-24 performances. He never once finished as a top-12 PPR WR, even when Dez Bryant missed action (and Williams has been consistently better and more productive in his career without Dez). Williams’ season-high of 88 receiving yards came in Week 3, and he still has just two 100-yard performances in his four-year career. Additionally, Williams’ occasional bonehead mistakes and drops have made him a scapegoat for Cowboys fans over the last four years. T-Will did have one of the most efficient seasons of any WR in 2016 – among WRs with 50+ targets, Williams finished 8th with 2.09 FP/target, also leading the Cowboys in that department. He’s one of the weaker #2 WRs the last few years, but he’ll continue to be a fringe fantasy option in non-PPR formats because he sees plenty of playing time.
Jeremy Kerley (SF) – The 49ers and Kerley reached terms on a three-year agreement for $10.5 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan and Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Analysis: Kerley is a solid slot receiver, but when he is a team’s most productive receiver, that’s a huge issue. Playing in 16 games, Kerley posted 64/667/3 receiving on 113 targets (10.4 YPR, 56.6% catch rate). With 9.3 FPG, he tied for 66th among WRs. Kerley led all 49ers in top-24 weeks as a WR… with three. He had the Niners’ only top-12 week (a #9 finish in Week 5), and with his #13 finish in Week 4, he had San Fran’s top two overall finishes for the year at the position. Kerley’s 102 receiving yards in Week 9 were one of only two 100-yard games for San Francisco WRs (Quinton Patton had the other), and he had eight games with 5+ catches. Again, if it seems like were really reaching for positives here, it’s because we are. But compared to his teammates, Kerley was Marvin Harrison last season. Kerley is just an above-average slot receiver at best. His fantasy value will go way down next year going from Chip Kelly, whose offense featured the slot WR, to Kyle Shanahan, whose offense takes more shots downfield off play-action.
Brice Butler (Dal) – The Cowboys re-signed Butler to a one-year deal, according to the Star-Telegram.
Fantasy Analysis: A talented, raw player, Butler may get a bigger role in 2017. Playing in 16 games in 2016, he posted 16/219/3 receiving on 32 targets (13.7 YPC, 50% catch rate). Butler had some drops and some mistakes, including dropping a dime from Dak Prescott that would have been a TD in the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Packers. He caught 3+ passes in a game just once and played just 40.5% of Dallas’ offensive snaps. Butler is someone to watch in dynasty – with Terrance Williams entering free agency, will the Cowboys address the position, or will they find more pressing needs, like on the defensive side of the football? If so, they could need to elevate Butler to a bigger role. He is entering his 27-year-old season, so he needs to start tapping into his talent or he’ll just be a career vertical threat and depth option.
Seth Roberts (Oak) – The Raiders signed exclusive rights free agent Roberts, according to CSN Bay rea.
Fantasy Analysis: All Roberts does is score TDs. If he wasn’t scoring TDs, he wasn’t doing anything for your fantasy team. In 16 games, he posted 38/397/5 receiving on 76 targets (50% catch rate, 10.4 YPC), tying for 90th at the WR position with 6.7 FPG. But the crazy thing about Roberts was the fact that he saw an insane 21 red-zone targets, which tied him for 9th among WRs. No WR in the top 60 in red-zone targets saw a higher percentage of his overall targets come in the red zone than Roberts. Despite his propensity for scoring TDs, Roberts had just two finishes as a top-36 WR, and just one as a top-24 WR. He was useless for fantasy and a complete thorn in the side of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree owner. He especially hurt Cooper, since Amari had just 13 red-zone targets despite tallying 130 total targets. Roberts is a useful player, so it’s not surprising that they brought him back, but 5.22 yards per target isn’t going to cut it if he doesn’t have a fluky high number of TDs again next year. The Raiders still need to do better than Roberts at their #3 WR spot, so they should bring in some competition for him.
Brandon Coleman (NO) – The Saints re-signed Coleman to a one-year contract, according to The New Orleans Advocate.
Fantasy Analysis: Coleman was locked in as the #4 WR behind the big three of Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Willie Snead. He played on 31.7% snap rate and posted 26/281/3 receiving on 38 targets (68.4% catch rate, 10.8 YPC). Coleman is a huge presence on the outside and in the red zone at 6’6”, 225 pounds, but he’s not exactly a dynamic option for the Saints if one of their top three WRs would miss a chunk of time. The Saints would be wise to bring in some competition for him.
Bryan Walters (Jac) – The Jaguars re-signed Walters to a two-year contract, according to the Florida Times-Union.
Fantasy Analysis: Walters didn’t have much of a role until the end of the year when Allen Hurns (hamstring) went out of the lineup. He finished the year with 24/231/2 receiving on 34 targets in 10 games, missing time with a concussion. Most of his production came in the final five games, registering 22/217/1 receiving and playing on 76% of the snaps. Walters can also contribute as a returner, so he’s a valuable depth option for the Jaguars.
Josh Bellamy (Chi) – The Bears re-signed exclusive right free agent Bellamy to a one-year, $850,000 contract.
Fantasy Analysis: Bellamy has been around for five seasons, but he didn’t register a catch until 2015. He’s now posted consecutive 19-catch seasons the last two years, getting pushed into action because of a number of injuries in front of him. He also hasn’t missed a game the last two years while playing 30.2% of the snaps in 2016. Bellamy has a been reliable option off the bench, but they’d love for him to stay on the bench more in 2017.
T.J. Jones (Det, 24) – The Lions signed Jones to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Jones looked headed for a bigger role last summer but the Lions decided to sign Anquan Boldin just before the start of training camp to bolster their WR depth. He then lost his battle with Andre Roberts for the #4 WR job, getting cut and signed to the practice squad before the start of the season. He appeared in three games toward the end of the season, posting just 5/93 receiving on 14 targets. We thought he was one of the better route runners coming out of the 2014 draft but injuries have slowed his career. The Lions aren’t exactly flush with WR depth, and he’ll compete for a roster spot next summer.
Deonte Thompson (Chi) – The Bears re-signed Thompson, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Fantasy Analysis: The Bears were decimated by injuries (Kevin White, Eddie Royal, Marquess Wilson) and suspension (Alshon Jeffery) last season, giving Thompson an alley for playing time late in the year. Thompson posted 20/235/2 receiving in Weeks 12-16 while playing 64.6% of the snaps. He finished the year with 22/249/2 overall on 36 targets (61.1% catch rate, 11.3 YPC) while playing 29.7% of the snaps in 16 games. Thompson also had a great season as a kick returner, posting 804 yards. The Bears kept him around for another season because of his special teams work, and he’ll be competing for one of the final WR roster spots
Brandon Tate (Buf) – Tate re-signed with the Bills, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Tate never developed into much of a receiver as a third-round pick by the Patriots in 2009, but he has carved out a nice career as a returner. He posted 662 kick-return yards and 301 punt-return yards in 2016, and he was also forced to contribute as a receiver because of a slew of injuries at the position, posting 8/117/0 receiving. Tate is one of the best returners in the league, but he won’t be helping your fantasy team.
Jeremy Ross (Ari) – The Cardinals re-signed Ross to a one-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Fantasy Analysis: Ross started the season on and off the Jets roster before eventually ending up in Arizona for the final two games after the Cardinals released Michael Floyd. Like he’s done for most of his career, he worked mostly on special teams, but he did post 4/37/1 receiving in a meaningless Week 17 game. He’s only a depth option, and he’ll have to make the team as a returner.
Freddie Martino (TB) – The Buccaneers re-signed Martino, according to The Tampa Tribune.
Fantasy Analysis: “The Lounge Singer” Freddie Martino had a role down the stretch in 2016 with Vincent Jackson (knee), Cecil Shorts (knee), and Louis Murphy (knee) all done for the season. Martino appeared in 11 games and posted 8/142/1 receiving, seeing his first major action in three NFL seasons. He has decent speed (4.49) and size (6’0”, 195), but the Bucs will have some major issues if he makes the 53-man roster out of training camp next season.
Bennie Fowler (Den) – The Broncos re-signed Fowler to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Fowler was the frontrunner for the #3 WR job heading into training camp, but he suffered a small fracture in his elbow in the preseason. He ended up missing the first two games of the season and fell behind Jordan Norwood on the depth chart. Fowler posted 11/145/2 receiving and played on just 27.9% of the snaps, splitting the #4 WR duties with Jordan Taylor. The Broncos need to seriously upgrade their depth behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Fowler will be back to compete for one of the last WR spots.
Jordan Taylor (Den) – The Broncos re-signed Taylor to a one-year deal.
Fantasy Analysis: Taylor is best known for his nickname Sunshine because of his resemblance to the long-haired QB from “Remember the Titans.” He also gained a reputation for being a favorite of former QB Peyton Manning when he was rehabbing in 2015, but Taylor actually got off the practice squad and played in 2016. Taylor posted 16/209/2 receiving and played on just 25.8% of the snaps, splitting the #4 WR duties with Bennie Fowler. The Broncos need to seriously upgrade their depth behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but Taylor will be back to compete for one of the last WR spots.
Brenton Bersin (Car) – The Panthers re-signed Bersin to a one-year contract, according to the team’s site.
Fantasy Analysis: Bersin bounced on and off the Panthers roster in September and early October before sticking around for good from Week 5 on. He saw just 9% of their snaps in 10 games, registering just 2 catches. They kept him around for depth as a returner and as a returner, and he’ll be competing for a roster spot next training camp.