New Faces, New Places: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
New Faces, New Places: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
A lot has happened since the league year started at 4 p.m. EST on March 13th. There have been blockbuster trades, predictable relocations, and some surprise NFL signings. We will take a look at how the movers and shakers at each skill position with new homes potentially impact your fantasy squad in 2019. This is part two of a two-part series. This portion covers the wide receivers and tight ends.
Wow! 2019 will be remembered for the blockbuster trades involving two of our generations best talents at the wideout position. There were some other small waves made in free agency at the position as well. However, they were overshadowed by the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants and the circus that Antonio Brown created to force his way off of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The relevant transactions will be covered in depth with a synopsis of other key moves following each position.
Odell Beckham Jr. (Cleveland Browns)
The NFL and the fantasy world were stunned on March 13th when Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns. Beckham was a top-five wide receiver his first three years in the league. OBJ played in just four games during the 2017 season and still finished as WR17 even though he played in just 12 games in 2018. The former Tiger should see plenty of targets in Cleveland even with Jarvis Landry and David Njoku as fixtures in the Cleveland passing attack.
Expect Baker Mayfield to throw the ball almost 600 times. 140 of those should be going to Beckham according to the projection model created by FFStatistics’ own FFzinger (give him a follow). There will be plenty to go around by the lake next year.
A full writeup on the Cleveland offensive potential can be found here. The former LSU stud wideout should be considered as the WR1 of the board in all formats next year. There are some concerns with a second-year quarterback at the helm in Baker Mayfield and an unproven head coach in Freddie Kitchens working with Beckham in Cleveland. The talent at all spots is more than enough to overcome those concerns, however.
Antonio Brown (Oakland Raiders)
The Odell Beckham trade came just four days after the bombshell of Antonio Brown being traded to the Oakland Raiders on March 10th. Brown quickly redid his deal. The contract with Oakland was for three years, $50.125 million. There were some concerns with Brown’s mental stability based on his social media antics. AB has been nothing but normal since forcing his way out of the Steel City. Those concerns can be laid to rest. A look at the numbers confirms the small school wideout is an absolute stud at the position. The former Steeler is also ripe with consistency over the past several years.
Brown finished as the WR1 for three straight years from 2014 to 2016. It was quickly followed up with a WR2 finish in 2017. All he did in 2018 was finish as the WR5 despite playing in just 15 games. Jon Gruden has no problems peppering his star wideouts with targets if they are worthy.
Over a five-year stretch in Tampa Bay, the WR1 in Gruden’s offense saw an average of 130 targets per year. While this is down substantially from the 171 targets Antonio Brown has seen over the last six years while with Pittsburgh, this does not mean the Central Michigan alumn cannot achieve WR1 status. Brown’s current ADP is 19.67 and the WR9 off of the board. This is way too cheap. Pounce on the perennial WR1. A change in scenery does not diminish his skill set. The downgrade at quarterback from Ben Roethlisberger to Derek Carr is the most likely reason for the drop in perceived value.
DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles)
The former California Golden Bear is returning to his first NFL home. DeSean Jackson was traded back to Philadelphia on March 11th. It is hard to predict what the speedsters role will be in Doug Pederson’s offense. To say Jackson has had an up and down career would be an understatement. The player data tool from FFS shows just how inconsistent the fantasy ranks have been over the years.
Despite the explosive play-making ability of D-Jax, he has never cracked the top-10 in regards to PPR scoring. The high finish of WR11 came in 2009 with Michael Vick leading the offense. The problem lies with the incredibly low years Jackson has seen. The top-30 has only been cracked in five of his eleven years in the league. Ultimately, the undersized pass catcher will have a role and should be a late round pick in best ball formats. The presence of Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, however, limit his upside.
Golden Tate (New York Giants)
The signing of Golden Tate in New York is a little puzzling. This aligns perfectly with everything that Dave Gettleman does these days. Giving a 30-year-old receiver a four-year deal worth almost $10 million per is silly. Factor in that the New York Giants traded Odell Beckham just the day before makes it seem preposterous. I digress.
Tate has had a solid career since being drafted 60th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 201o NFL draft. The fit in New York with Eli Manning at the quarterback position and slot receiver Sterling Shephard already in place is not a good one. Tate has been a top-15 receiver in fantasy before. Even as recently as 2017. A look at his draft classmates Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas show a similar career plane.
As long as Eli Manning is the quarterback of the New York Giants, there should be little interest in the former Fighting Irishman. Tate’s best days are behind him and the wideout did well to score himself such a lucrative contract with the New York Football Giants.
Jamison Crowder (New York Jets)
Jamison Crowder signed a three year, $28.5 million deal on March 11th with the New York Jets. Crowder left the Washington Redskins after four years in the District. 2018 was an injury-riddled season for the tough slot receiver. The good news is that Sam Darnold targeted his wide receivers last year more than the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers did (62.03% to 60.31%). A look at the entire Jets offense can be read here.
The bad news is that there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Big Apple. Crowder should see his share of targets but he will be hard to trust out of the gate. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are already entrenched as receivers that Darnold trusts. We take a look at Sam Darnold’s passer rating per intended target from 2018.
Crowder has the ability to gain trust with Darnold here. The heavily targeted former Redskins receiver is worth a look in all formats. There is nothing that jumps off the page for him, however.
Devin Funchess (Indianapolis Colts)
The Indianapolis Colts found Andrew Luck a new toy when they signed Devin Funchess. The former Carolina Panther signed a one year, $10 million contract on March 11th. The Michigan grad flashed with a WR20 finish in 2017. The opportunities just have not been there for the big wideout. A change of scenery and the upgrade at quarterback going from Cam Newton to Andrew Luck has the arrow pointing up. Being the WR1 in an offense does not suit Funchess. With T.Y. Hilton on board to occupy the defense, we could see solid production here.
Data courtesy Pro-Football-Reference.com
Also, a career 51.8% catch rate can be attributed to an inaccurate Cam Newton (59.7% career completion). Andrew Luck completed 67.3% of his passes last year. This should ultimately lead to better numbers for Funchess. Draft as a potential WR2 for your fantasy squad. The 2017 season could easily be replicated in Indianapolis in 2019.
Adam Humphries (Tennessee Titans)
Adam Humphries signed with the Tennesse Titans on March 11th for four years and $36 million. Tennesee brought in the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer hoping for a repeat of the efficient 2018 season. Corey Davis is the only major threat for targets in Music City. Ultimately the volume should be there for the slot specialist. The former Clemson Tiger came on strong the second half of 2018. Humphries finished at or above league average six times after Week 8.
An unknown offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith was brought in to replace the recently departed Matt LaFleur. This raises a lot of questions about the offense as a whole. Monitor the preseason for the Titans and draft accordingly. The price for Humphries in dynasty leagues is probably too high right now.
Other Notable Wide Receiver Roster Changes
- The New York Giants added Corey Coleman to their receiving corps on March 6th with a one year, $2.025 contract. The former Baylor Bear was drafted 15th overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Coleman was a first round talent but it has never translated to the NFL level. Leave him be except in dynasty formats.
- The Detroit Lions signed Danny Amendola, formerly of the Miami Dolphins on March 11th. The journeyman receiver signed a one year, $4.5 million deal in the Motor City. It is a crowded corps for the Lions with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay already entrenched in the Matthew Stafford circle of trust. Keep an eye on the usage early on.
- Breshad Perriman committed to the Cleveland Browns the day before the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. As a result of the trade, the Browns let Perriman out of his contract. He went on to sign a one year, $4 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There will be a fight for targets with the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard. Stay away.
Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills Shuffles
- The Buffalo Bills bolstered their receiving group when they signed Cole Beasley to a four year, $29 million deal on March 12th. Beasley has late-round value. Not much competition will exist in Buffalo for the gritty slot receiver.
- In addition to Beasley, the Bill signed John Brown to a three year, $27 million deal the same day. There is much more interest here. Brown has thrived as a deep threat throughout his career. Josh Allen has a cannon. It is a match made in heaven.
- Randall Cobb of old would have earned his own section. This version of Cobb is not worth spending too much time on. The former Green Bay Packer has not been fantasy relevant since 2014 when he finished as the WR8. Amari Cooper ruled the wideout spot in Dallas last year. That will continue this year.
The cupboard was pretty bare for tight end free agents in 2019. This is similar to the fantasy landscape of the position. There are some potential big moves up the ranks for the likes of O.J. Howard and Evan Engram. The duo just cannot stay healthy to make it into the conversation of the “big three” tight ends. The only move with major fantasy impact was the Jared Cook signing down in New Orleans. Jesse James with the Detroit Lions has some appeal as well.
Jared Cook (New Orlean Saints)
Jared Cook signing in New Orleans immediately puts him in the conversation to be one of the top tight ends in fantasy. Cook finished as the TE5 last year with Derek Carr as his quarterback. Drew Brees is obviously an upgrade and with the lack of a true WR2 in New Orleans, he could be primed for a big increase in production. You can read an in-depth article on Cook’s outlook here.
Jared Cook set a career high in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 2018. He has always been long on talent but short on opportunity. The Oakland Raiders featured him heavily giving him 101 targets. This was good for fifth among targets for tight ends. He turned those targets into 68 catches, 896 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
Jared Cook was finished above the positional average in over half of his games played. At 6’5″ and 245 pounds, he is a matchup nightmare. His 40-yard dash time was 4.49 at the 2009 scouting combine. That is exactly what Dalvin Cook ran in 2017.
A look at the spider charts from the combine show how freakishly athletic Jared Cook is. Here is the Cook vs. Cook combine charts from FFS.
Cook did struggle at the end of 2018 or he may have passed Eric Ebron as the TE4. He actually had more catches and yards than Ebron but fell short in the touchdown category. Draft him as a top-five tight end in 2019.
Jesse James (Detroit Lions)
Jesse James signed a four year, $22.6 million deal with the Detroit Lions on March 11th. As a result of the Eric Ebron departure to the Indianapolis Colts last year, the Lions were a wasteland at the position last year. Look for James to be Matthew Stafford’s outlet and consider him in all formats. James did well given the limited chances he had while he was a Pittsburgh Steeler. The Penn State grad was up and down but showed the ability to be a fantasy monster at times in 2018.
James is worth a speculative selection in startup dynasty leagues and worth a watch in redraft leagues.
Other Notable Tight End Roster Changes
- Charles Clay signed a one year, $2 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals. This is only relevant because Clay was a good tight end at one time. Injuries have sapped him of that.
- The Miami Dolphins signed Dwayne Allen, formerly of the New England Patriots. Allen will likely have the same blocking role in Miami that he did under Chad O’Shea in New England.
- Tyler Kroft left the Cincinnati Bengals and joined the Buffalo Bills on March 11th. The size and length of the contract are significant. It was for three years and $18.75 million. Kroft filled in admirably for Tyler Eifert while with the Bengals. See how Josh Allen vibes with him during the pre-season. In a position void of depth, Kroft is a dynasty stash.
- Austin Seferian-Jenkins signed with the New England Patriots on April 10th, thus setting the fantasy community ablaze. Hold your horses. The contract was only for one year and $895k. Let ASJ make the team before we crown him the next Rob Gronkowski.
As with the quarterback and tight end position, there were several moves that shaped the fantasy landscape in a lot of places for next year. I hope you enjoyed this two-part look at some of the potential spots to target in your drafts this year.