Free agency begins at 4:00pm ET on March 14, but legal tampering and verbal agreements have already been flying in hot. We’ll break down each fantasy-relevant free agency move throughout the week. After starting with Tuesday’s five most impactful free agent commitments, let’s check out the receiving groups that have changed significantly in the last few days.
Green Bay Packers
2017 receivers: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Martellus Bennett
2018 projected receivers: Adams, Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jimmy Graham
Only Dez Bryant and Rob Gronkowski have scored more touchdowns than Graham since he entered the league in 2010. Last season Graham scored double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2013, but with it came career-low marks in yards per reception and target. Graham’s performance on a per-route basis in 2017 is incredibly concerning for his future outlook.
I know he scored 10 TDs last year, but Jimmy Graham has lost a step fam.
Graham's average yards per route run by year with TE rank:
2010: 2.23 (3rd)
2011: 2.42 (1st)
2012: 1.9 (2nd)
2013: 2.26 (2nd)
2014: 1.7 (9th)
2015: 1.8 (8th)
2016: 1.91 (10th)
2017: 1.12 (32nd)
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 13, 2018
Nelson’s release leaves a massive red-zone target share for Graham to help fill, but both may have already seen their best days on the gridiron. While Nelson scored six touchdowns in Aaron Rodgers‘ first five starts last season, he went scoreless the rest of the way and failed to surpass 80 yards receiving in a game all season.
2018 outlook: Despite Graham’s opportunity for plenty of red-zone targets, expectations should be tempered considering that Jermichael Finley is the only tight end ever to manage either 60 receptions or 600 receiving yards with Rodgers under center. Still, Rodgers ranked among the league’s top-two quarterbacks in red-zone pass attempts from 2014 to 2016, so each of his top receivers and tight ends should have plenty of fantasy-friendly chances to cash in. Adams is one of just 10 receivers over the past 25 years with multiple seasons of 10-plus touchdowns at age 25 or younger.
2017 receivers: Dontrelle Inman, Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Zach Miller, Adam Shaheen
2018 projected receivers: Allen Robinson, Kevin White, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton, Shaheen
Robinson has played 43 games since entering the league in 2014. He’s established himself as one of the league’s finest contested-catch artists, but A-Rob has also already demonstrated severe highs and lows in yearly performance. Robinson’s 2017 ended in Week 1 thanks to a torn ACL. Still, the Bears have the cap room and need at receiver to warrant the risk of taking on a volatile 24-year-old coming off a serious knee injury. Even if A-Rob is unable to return to his 2015 highs, he offers an immediate red-zone weapon for second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Overall, Robinson is one of just seven players with 12-plus red-zone touchdowns in a single season since 1995.
Burton played behind Zach Ertz for most of his four seasons in Philadelphia, but he didn’t disappoint in the five games Ertz has missed since 2015:
- 2 targets, 2-49-0
- 7 targets, 5-49-1
- 6 targets, 2-19-0
- 4 targets, 2-41-1
- 6 targets, 5-71-2
Overall, Burton’s average of 1.47 yards per route run ranked 16th among 43 tight ends to see at least 25 percent of their team’s targets last season (Pro Football Focus). Burton played more snaps from the slot than as an in-line tight end, which makes sense given that he’s just 6’2″ and 225 pounds. His 4.6-second 40-yard dash is fast for a tight end, and he will provide a much needed vertical threat up the seam for Trubisky.
2018 outlook: Bears head coach Matt Nagy featured Tyreek Hill upon being handed play-calling duties with the Chiefs in Week 13 of last season. Barring injuries or a severe dip in performance, it’d be surprising if Robinson saw fewer than seven targets per game in 2018. Burton’s athleticism should be put to good use by Nagy considering the ways Travis Kelce was utilized in Kansas City. Still, the Bears spent a second-round pick on a ‘true’ tight end in Adam Shaheen last year, and the likes of Cam Meredith, Tarik Cohen, and even White will also be involved.
2017 receivers: DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry
2018 projected receivers: Parker, Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola
Wilson is precisely the shifty slot receiver the Dolphins needed to replace Jarvis Landry and complement outside threats Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker. He was the only receiver in the league to average over four yards of separation per target on his way to posting career-high marks in receptions (42), yards (554), and touchdowns (3) in 2017. Maintaining high efficiency while increasing volume is undoubtedly a skill in and of itself, but Wilson has gained at least 50 yards or scored a touchdown in four of his five career games with eight-plus targets. Wilson compared very favorably to Landry in a variety of efficiency statistics in 2017.
Albert Wilson is a rich man's Jarvis Landry.
-Average depth of target: JL – 6.3. AW – 6.2
-Yards per target: JL – 6.3. AW – 9.9
-Yards per reception: JL – 8.8. AW 13.2
-Average yards after the catch: JL – 4.7. AW 7.5
-Yards per pass route run: JL – 1.65. AW – 1.64
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) March 13, 2018
It’s unclear why the Dolphins also felt the need to sign Amendola. He’s played all 16 games just once since 2011 and carries a low year-long ceiling considering he’s never surpassed 600 yards or caught five touchdowns in a season. The glass half-full view of the signing: Amendola’s presence provides another quarterback-friendly option for whoever winds up under center in Miami, given his history of sure hands and precise route running. The glass half-empty view: The Dolphins have no idea what they’re doing.
2018 outlook: It seems unlikely that Wilson will fully inherit Landry’s gargantuan workload given the talents of incumbent starters Parker and Stills as well as Amendola and the speedy Jakeem Grant. Wilson in the best-case scenario will be the offense’s No. 3 receiver. Stills averaged 83 targets over the past three seasons as the No. 3 option, and only the Chargers and Lions ran a higher percentage of plays from three-wide sets last season. In the worst-case scenario, Wilson will play ~50 percent of the offense’s snaps while rotating with Amendola.
- The Redskins signed Paul Richardson to replace Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant. Richardson will likely join Josh Doctson as the offense’s outside receivers with Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder working at tight end and in the slot. Richardson and Doctson were used in a similar fashion last season, posting average target depths of 15.4 and 15.5 yards. Still, Richardson averaged more yards per route run with a higher average separation. He infuses speed and playmaking into a unit that badly needed both.
- The Ravens never-ending search for receivers to help quarterback Joe Flacco continues. Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin have been replaced by Ryan Grant and John Brown, and Breshad Perriman isn’t guaranteed to be on the Week 1 roster either. Brown has never averaged fewer than 13 yards per catch during his four-year career, but he has missed seven games over the past two seasons due to recurring injuries stemming from his sickle-cell trait. Grant is reliable but carries a relatively low ceiling and floor: He’s yet to have 100-plus yards or more than five catches in any game.
- Alex Smith and Albert Wilson have been replaced by Patrick Mahomes and Sammy Watkins. The ‘Sammy Watkins effect‘ is very real, although it remains to be seen if there will be enough targets to feed Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as well, given that the Chiefs haven’t ranked higher than 17th in pass attempts since Andy Reid took over. Watkins ranked fifth and 22nd among all wide receivers in yards per route run in 2015 and 2016, although he fell to 68th last season.
- The Jaguars signed Donte Moncrief away from Indianapolis to ‘replace’ A-Rob. He’ll fight for targets alongside Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, and Allen Hurns. Moncrief stands 6’2″ and weighs 221 pounds, and at the combine four years ago he had elite jumps and a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, but he hasn’t put everything together yet. He’s failed to rank among the league’s top-50 receivers in yards per route run over the last three seasons.
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