5 Low-Key Fantasy Football Winners Stemming From Free Agency
When there are moves throughout the NFL, the tendency is to focus any and all analysis on the players that changed teams. DeAndre Hopkins was traded last week, and we -- numberFire and any other content site -- focused our energy on what it meant for Hopkins. And that's all logical. But there's a domino effect that takes place -- with Hopkins off of the Texans, the offense's dynamic changes. Players will play different roles. Sometimes, those players will play bigger roles.
That domino effect is what we'll be looking at today. The winners of free agency weren't just the players who switched teams.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Perhaps this isn't "low key" enough for you, but there's been a big focus on Todd Gurley's arrival in Atlanta and what that all means for fantasy football. Meanwhile, back in LA, you've got a lot of opportunity for the taking in the Rams' backfield. Even though the narrative around Gurley was that he didn't have an intense workload last year due to his knees, he still ranked 13th in the NFL in running back rush share, or the percentage of team running back rushes a player sees.
Darrell Henderson stands to benefit immensely from that. Malcolm Brown does, too, but Henderson has more upside as a third-round selection from just a year ago. It's not like he was some scrub prospect, either -- Henderson averaged over eight yards per carry in college, playing ahead of another favorite backup in the NFL right now, Tony Pollard.
Naturally, there's some downside with Henderson. He was the clear number-three back on the Rams last year -- Brown was getting more run. The Rams also ranked dead last -- by far -- in running back target share last year. And history isn't really on Henderson's side. Among all running backs with multiple top-20 fantasy seasons since 2011, 92% of them scored more fantasy points (PPR formats) during their rookie season than Henderson did.
Nevertheless, it's hard to sell this as anything but great -- spectacular, even -- for Henderson's fantasy value.
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Jack Doyle got a new contract in December, so he's sticking around Indianapolis. 2019 teammate, Eric Ebron, who signed with the Steelers last week, isn't. That means the team that was fourth in the NFL in tight end target share last season will be down their tight end who accounted for 11% of the team's targets in 11 games.
The Colts, as you all know, also got an upgrade at quarterback. We can look at Philip Rivers' history and see that his Chargers teams have funneled looks to the tight end position, but doing that without context is misleading. He's played with some good tight ends. Instead of going that route, I'll just note that the quarterback situation is better: Jacoby Brissett's yards per attempt rate was 6.6 last year, when Rivers' lowest rate as a full-time starter is 6.8.
As of today, my projections have Doyle for 63.7 catches, 638.6 yards, and 5.6 touchdowns.
Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers
Over the final three weeks of the 2019 regular season, Allen Lazard played 78.0%, 75.3%, and 76.1% of Green Bay's snaps. His per-game target share rate during that time was a little over 16%. In the lone playoff game where he wasn't injured, that snap rate shot up to 92.1%.
He was getting run.
ESPN's Matthew Berry mentioned in his "20(ish) Things I Learned At the NFL Combine" article earlier in the month that Lazard was getting a lot of praise from head coach Matt LaFleur. Maybe it's just coach speak, but it also backs up Lazard's end-of-season usage.
Now, through about a week of free agency, we've seen the Packers miss out on players like Austin Hooper and Emmanuel Sanders. That's good news for Lazard. They could still sign someone like Robby Anderson while also taking a wideout in the draft, but as it stands right now, Lazard is looking like a nice later-round target in fantasy drafts.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Jordan Howard didn't carry the ball after Week 9 last season. From Week 10 onward, teammate Miles Sanders averaged over 17 PPR points per game, a running back rush share above 66%, and a weekly target share north of 12%. During that Howard-less stretch, he was one of the best running backs in fantasy football.
Howard was a free agent this season, and he signed with the Dolphins. That now leaves Boston Scott -- a player who flashed last year, but someone who's smaller in size without a ton of NFL experience -- as Sanders' top competition. Unless the Eagles take a running back with a high-end pick in this year's draft (which is unlikely after doing so last year with Sanders), we could be looking at a big season for Miles Sanders.
Devin Singletary, RB, Buffalo Bills
So far, so good for Devin Singletary. Rumors swirled surrounding the Bills' interest in Melvin Gordon, but he signed in Denver last week. Buffalo's depth chart is now without veteran Frank Gore, too, who's currently a free agent. And that's a big deal for Singletary. In 2019, Gore accounted for over 48% of the team's running back rushes and, more importantly, he saw 11 goal-line attempts versus Singletary's 2. Considering Josh Allen's ability to find the end zone on the ground, Singletary will need all he can get when the Bills are close. Not having Gore there helps in that department.
The Bills can still take a back in the draft, but for anyone wanting Singletary to succeed, you've got to hope that running back selection comes late.