The Fantasy Football Impact Through the First Three Days of Free Agency
It’s been an odd few days in the NFL with free agency starting, and while a lot of the moves made haven’t had a tremendous fantasy football impact, there were still some that warrant attention.
I’ve already written about Rashad Jennings to the Giants, Josh McCown to the Bucs and Eric Decker’s annoying signing – in fantasy football terms – with the Jets. I’ve also recapped events from the first day of free agency, and our own Jim Sannes took a look at Golden Tate’s impact with Detroit.
Over the last couple of days, there have been even more signings – mostly small ones, to be fair – that could change the fantasy football world, even if it’s only slightly. Take a look below at what the numbers say about these particular moves.
Darren Sproles is Perfect For Chip Kelly
While a lot of folks are thinking the Eagles' trade for Darren Sproles is going to hurt LeSean McCoy’s fantasy value next season, I’d say that it was already unlikely McCoy would continue to see the number of touches he did in 2013 anyway. That doesn’t mean he’ll be worse from a fantasy perspective, either.
Sproles will probably see the field with McCoy, and he’ll more than likely just add running back receptions to the Eagles offense. Even if McCoy takes a hit in the catches column, we'll continue to see him get 20 carries a game, and he'll still get all the goal line work.
We'll learn more about Sproles' exact role (hopefully), but I wouldn't expect it to be a run-heavy one. After all, he's seen an average of about 50 carries over the last two seasons, and that was in an offense that lacked a true top running back. He'll still be a decent guy to get late in PPR leagues, and his ability to catch balls in the flat will only benefit the Eagles offense. If he was a simple runner, I'd be more worried about McCoy, but that's just not the case.
Brandon Pettigrew Stays in Detroit
Last year, Pettigrew finished 27th within our Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures the amount of points added by a pass-catcher on receptions only. Ladarius Green was listed right below him, and Green caught 24 fewer passes. Yikes.
For reference, Fauria's Reception NEP was only five points lower than Pettigrew's, and like Green, Fauria saw far fewer targets and receptions. And actually, among all tight ends with more than 10 catches last year (51 tight ends), Fauria had the third-best Reception NEP per target average. Pettigrew ranked 38th.
It'll be another year of yelling at Brandon Pettigrew's hands.
Baby Hawk Heading to Cleveland
The Bengals had an opportunity to match Cleveland's offer for tiny wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, but it's being reported that it's unlikely that will happen. Therefore, Cleveland got their slot guy, and he's shorter than 35% of elementary school students.
While Hawkins never saw a big role in the Bengals offense, he's fast and shifty, able to make defenders miss with his 4.34 speed. He's basically the kid no one wanted to play against in a neighborhood game of capture the flag - there's no way you'd tag him and send him to jail.
I'm of the belief that this could be a better "real" football signing than a fantasy one. Hawkins' 5'7'', 175-pound frame doesn't make him a true red zone threat, and his Reception NEP numbers aren't beautiful because he's not likely to go deep downfield to catch a pass. It's like a slightly smaller Julian Edelman with more speed, and without Tom Brady.
But Hawkins is certainly an upgrade over Davone Bess, who smoked his way to free agency. Last season, Bess had a negative Target NEP (meaning the Browns lost points when they targeted him), and his Reception NEP per target was .16 points below Hawkins' average, which is significant.
Ted Ginn Signs with the Cards
Ted Ginn had his best year a season ago, catching 36 passes for 556 yards and five touchdowns with the Panthers. Though he did catch 56 balls with Miami during his sophomore year in the league, Ginn's Reception NEP from 2013 was actually only six points off of that, thanks to more efficient play. He was a deep ball threat in Carolina's horrible receiving corp, and always has the ability to take the ball to the house.
This move doesn't do a whole lot for Ginn's fantasy value, as he'll still be, at best, the number three option in his offense. And now instead of being behind Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell, Ginn will see Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd ahead of him on the depth chart.
While he's not much of a traditional receiver, the move just makes Carolina's wide receiver group that much weaker. And actually, they don't really have a competent one right now. Expect them to make at least one move in free agency (Hakeem Nicks?) before snagging a couple of pass-catchers in the draft.
The Texans Keep Garrett Graham
Veteran Owen Daniels won't be playing tight end for Houston next season, and the Texans filled their void by re-signing Garrett Graham. If you recall, Graham filled in for Daniels this past season and ended the year with 49 receptions and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, on a per target basis, Graham's Reception NEP wasn't very good - only eight tight ends with 10 or more catches saw worse efficiency numbers.
But Graham is only 27, athletic, and in a tight-end friendly offense. New head coach Bill O'Brien loves multiple tight end sets, as we saw in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And it's been reported that O'Brien said he plans to move Graham around, both as a tight end and H-back. Perhaps he'll be the Aaron Hernandez in the Texans' offense.
For now, treat him like a streaming option. The tight end position is always going to be devalued in fantasy, and there's no reason, if we were in August, to reach for a player like Graham. Not yet, at least.