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The Grass IS Greener: Free Agent Moves that Will Increase Value

We've had a couple of months to fully digest what happened with NFL free agency now and to see how the NFL Draft impacted things, so now it's time to reflect on some of the changes around the NFL.

No player leaves one team for another and finds himself playing the exact same role. New teammates, new coaching, and an added year of development and/or wear-and-tear mean that something will always change. Value goes up, or value goes down.

Today, let's look at five players who changed teams this offseason who should find themselves in a better position now than they were in before.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


Jordan Howard (RB, Miami Dolphins)

Look, I'm not saying that Jordan Howard is going to recreate his first two NFL seasons now that he's in Miami, but I do think the Dolphins are a great landing spot for him, as he'll get a lot more opportunities than he would have if he'd stayed in Philly.

The big reason is that Howard heads to a team that's clearly in a position where they need to just ignore the entire group of running backs who were on their roster last year. Three backs are set to return this year:

Player Carries Yards Per Carry
Kalen Ballage 74 1.8
Patrick Laird 62 2.7
Myles Gaskin 36 3.7

Not a pretty picture. I'm not sure I can put into words how much Ballage in particular struggled last season. Laird got some hype late in the season and was okay as a receiving threat, but he also averaged under three yards per carry. And Gaskin might be the most promising of the trio, but an ankle injury prematurely ended his season.

This is part of why they added both Howard and Matt Breida, who should combine to dominate the touches out of this backfield. Howard isn't the big winner of free agency that he was before the Breida trade, but this is a running back committee that should result in Howard getting more of the early-down and goal-line work than Breida. He wasn't getting that in Philly this year, and a healthy Howard should get somewhere around 60 rushing yards per game on average, plus a handful of touchdowns. There's fantasy value in that. Not a ton, but...some.


Chris Thompson (RB, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Thompson gets away from the complete mess that was the Washington backfield and steps into what should be a fairly defined role as the passing down back for Gardner Minshew II and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Last year, Leonard Fournette led Jaguars running backs in targets with 100, converting 76 of those into receptions, but I think it's fair to say that Fournette's passing production was more a product of necessity than anything else. His 6.9 yards per reception were the second-fewest of anyone with 100 targets, and among the 155 players overall who qualify for the yards per reception leaderboard, 25 running backs rank higher than Fournette, including Chris Thompson, who had 9.0 YPR in 11 games last year.

The addition of Thompson signals that the Jaguars realize that their offense can be a lot more efficient and effective if instead of dumping off passes to Fournette, they dump those same passes to the quicker, better-receiving Thompson. I don't think a healthy Thompson gets 100 targets like Fournette did last year because he won't be on the field as much as Fournette was, but he should see something in the range of 70ish targets, with the potential for more.

The big concern with Thompson is his health. He's played a full 16 games once, back in 2016. But in games where he's on the field, he's got FLEX appeal in PPR leagues and should see around five or six targets per game.


Randall Cobb (WR, Houston Texans)

I don't really know if Cobb's value increases -- he did have 828 yards and three touchdowns for the Cowboys last year -- but I do think Houston's a great landing spot for Cobb.

The Texans traded DeAndre Hopkins this offseason and look to be going into 2020 with four main wide receivers: Will Fuller V, Kenny Stills, Brandin Cook, and Randall Cobb. Three of those guys are likely going to see the majority of their usage coming via the vertical passing game. Fuller's been quarter Deshaun Watson's speed threat when Fuller's been healthy. All three players had an average target depth of at least 10 yards last year, with Fuller leading the trio at 14, while Cooks had 13.8 while playing for the Rams. Those two both ranked in the top 20 among qualifying receivers in aDOT.

Cobb's 9.5 aDOT is near the middle of the pack. He's not the same kind of field-stretching threat that the other three are, though he does have a 77th-percentile 40-yard dash time. Cobb played out of the slot 86.4 percent of the time last year for the Cowboys; he'll serve as Houston's primary slot option as well, and the go-to receiver on short and medium routes for Watson to throw to. This is a talented receiving group, but don't be shocked if Cobb leads it in targets simply by offering something different than the other three receivers offer.


Breshad Perriman (WR, New York Jets)

Perriman's not going to play like 2019 Week 16 and Week 17 Breshad Perriman on a weekly basis in New York, but his future if he'd stayed in Tampa would have been fairly limited, existing as the third receiver behind two high-usage wideouts in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Now, he's in a worse offense on a worse team with a (probably) worse quarterback, but he's also got a chance to play a key role moving forward, something that boosts his fantasy floor a good bit higher than it would have been in a reserve role with the Bucs.

Jamison Crowder will man the slot for Adam Gase's offense, leaving just two real options to play outside:  Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims. I love Mims's potential, but for now, Perriman should be the main outside threat for Sam Darnold.

Granted, being the main outside threat for Sam Darnold isn't a great position to be in. Darnold's struggled as a deep passer last season, ranking 32nd in deep ball completion percentage. He was 14th in intended air yards per attempt, but just 20th in completed air yards per attempt. Perriman's not going to be a stud playing with Sam Darnold.

But there are positives here. First, Darnold was sixth as a rookie in completed air yards per attempt and fourth in intended air yards per attempt, so it's not like he's got some type of noodle arm. Accuracy needs to improve, but he can push the ball down the field. Of course, Adam Gase has to call plays that actually do push the football, so that's a concern.

The other thing is that having relatively no competition for his role means that Perriman is set to have a role that can usually be considered fantasy relevant in at least some leagues: he's the No. 1 outside guy on an NFL offense. Sure, it's not a perfect situation, but the Jets have a weak receiving corps, allowing Perriman to step in and contribute right away in his new home.


Marqise Lee (WR, New England Patriots)

Here's my hipster pick of the article. Marqise Lee was on the verge of becoming a very good wide receiver after the 2017 season, but he then suffered a devastating knee injury that cost him the whole 2018 season. Last year, he returned, but never seemed to be fully healthy, missing time and ultimately appearing in just six games for the Jaguars, catching three passes for 18 yards.

Lee's on the move to New England now, and while I don't have too high of hopes for what he'll do up in Foxborough, I do think he's heading to a better situation for him. Lee needed a fresh start. He was out of the plan in Jacksonville; now, he has a chance to be at least somewhat part of the plan in New England.

The Patriots depth chart at wide receiver is a mess. Julian Edelman is obviously a lock to start, but beyond that, it's a lot of unproven names. Mohamed Sanu is good, but he and Edelman are both best as slot guys. N'Keal Harry is still young, but is coming off of a lost rookie season. The team signed Damiere Byrd, who has been in the NFL for four years now -- seriously, four years! -- and has totaled 44 catches for 488 yards and three touchdowns.

Lee's got a good chance of entering the season as a key rotational piece in this receiving group. I'm not drafting him in any fantasy leagues, but I am hitting that watch list button, because I've seen that a healthy Marqise Lee is a productive player, and if he gets thrust into a larger role during the season, he can have deep-league flex potential.

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