2022 NFL Free Agency: The Fantasy Football Fallout
NFL free agency officially kicked off at 4:00 PM EST today but many deals have been agreed upon before the official start time. A number of these moves will have some large fantasy implications. Let’s take a look at the latest NFL transactions that will have an impact on fantasy football leagues.
Tom Brady Unretires
He’s back. Forty days after Tom Brady posted a farewell message to the NFL, he announced that he will be returning for his 23rd season. He’ll return for his third season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and continue his quest for an eighth Super Bowl ring. In most fantasy leagues Brady was the QB2 and a top-five scorer last year. He’s given us no reason to think there will be any regression in his game and is in fact statistically in his prime right now. He should be one of the first three or four quarterbacks off fantasy draft boards and is worth keeping in keeper leagues somewhere between the second and fourth round depending on league size and scoring settings. As usual everything Tom Brady touches turns to gold (although even he couldn’t save Antonio Brown). Chris Godwin and Mike Evans will remain top-end receivers and won’t see the significant decrease in value had Brady retired.
Former Falcons WR Russell Gage Heads To Tampa Bay
Going into his fifth season, Russell Gage will be wearing a slightly different shade of red in 2022 after agreeing to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gage spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. After working his way into the rotation in his second season, Gage saw his volume and value go up as Julio Jones left. With Ridley now suspended for the 2022 season, Gage had the chance to be the WR1 in Atlanta. He’ll now settle in with the Bucs as their WR3. With Tom Brady at the helm, he could still certainly surpass his career marks in receptions (72), yards (786), and touchdowns (4). Overall his fantasy value should see a slight increase from years past and he should be considered in the mid-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Falcons Tender Olamide Zaccheaus
The Falcon’s tendered fourth-year wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus before the official free agency period began. In years past, Zaccheaus was the fourth or fifth option in the Falcons’ offense. Over the last two seasons, the Falcons have seen three of those options leave. Julio Jones and Russell Gage are on different teams while Ridley will sit out this season after breaking the NFL’s gambling policy. Zaccheaus has a big opportunity to step up and be one of Matt Ryan’s top pass catchers. It’s unclear exactly how big of a bump in the opportunity he’ll get, but his stock will certainly rise and he’ll deserve consideration in all fantasy drafts.
Lions Agree To Sign Former Jags WR D.J. Chark
Fifth-year receiver D.J. Chark signed with the Detroit Lions to provide aide to Jared Goff in a receiver room that desperately needs some veteran talent. Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 912 yards in 2021 are the most yards any current pass-catcher in Detroit has ever had. Chark cracked the 1000-yard mark in 2019 and had 706 yards over 13 games in 2020. Chark and St. Brown will battle it out as the WR1 and WR2. Chark’s big-play ability will be a great asset for Jared Goff, who probably dearly misses his old receiver room right about now. Chark deserves mid-round consideration in fantasy drafts. That said, St. Brown is an absolute stud, particularly in PPR leagues. If I had to choose between one or the other, I’d go with St. Brown all day. The way he finished the season was uncanny for a rookie with such a less-than-mediocre quarterback.
The Deshaun Watson Chase
The Atlanta Falcons have joined their division rivals, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, as well as the Cleveland Browns in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Despite the questionable decisions Watson had made off the field, not to mention the fact that he hasn’t played competitive football in almost two years, he is still very young and considered among the top-five signal-callers in the game. His fantasy value is uncertain because it significantly depends on where he lands.
Several teams would love nothing more than to land the former Houston Texans quarterback now that he will not face criminal charges on allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. That said, Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits.
In his last season back in 2020, Watson led the league in passing yards (4,823) while finishing with a very strong 33:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Without Watson, the Texans would have been horrible that year. Instead, they made the postseason.
Watson’s value would probably be the worst if he lands in Atlanta. They simply don’t have any trustworthy weapons in the passing game outside of second-year tight end Kyle Pitts. Rumors surfaced that Watson would like to head to the San Francisco 49ers but for now, the Niners are happy with Trey Lance. So out of the teams attempting to acquire the 26-year-old former Texan, the Panthers might be the best landing spot. DJ Moore is a very talented wideout and Robby Anderson has shown that he can have big games; you just can’t expect consistency out of him. And of course, having Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield would be very beneficial for Watson. The Saints are an interesting potential destination as well with Alvin Kamara but we need to see that status of Michael Thomas. New Orleans doesn’t have many solid receivers for Watson to build chemistry with.
This is a situation to keep an eye on. No matter where he lands, it will certainly shake up the fantasy football landscape.
Jacksonville Jaguars Agree To Sign WR Christian Kirk & TE Evan Engram
After departing ways with perhaps their most talented pass-catcher in D.J. Chark, the Jaguars needed to bring in some fresh faces. Former Arizona Cardinals wideout, Christian Kirk, will hopefully continue to improve despite the downgrade from Kyler Murray to Trevor Lawrence (Lawrence struggled more than anyone could have anticipated last season). Jacksonville also signed former New York Giants tight end, Evan Engram. A first-round draft pick in 2017, Engram had 722 receiving yards in his rookie season and has unfortunately underperformed ever since. A change of scenery could help get him back to his rookie form, but if Trevor Lawrence doesn’t turn things around Engram could find himself in the fantasy abyss. If Clemson Trevor Lawrence ever decides to appear, it could mean big things for Kirk and Engram.
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