In this series, I‘m going to take a look at each offensive position’s free agent class and break them down for potential fantasy production going forward. After taking a look at an underwhelming group of quarterbacks, an interesting mix at running back, and a so-so group at tight end, it’s time to look into the 2019 wide receiver free agent class. With several recognizable names and a mix of players who are either on the downslope of their careers or have yet to live up to their potential, landing spots will play a key role in fantasy values going forward. Overall, this is a weak free agent group, and with a highly touted incoming rookie class, I expect multiple veteran free agent wide receivers to be unemployed when training camps open in 5 months.
Golden Tate. One of the oldest free agents at the position, the 31-year old Tate will likely be the most sought after receiver among the group. Prior to his trade mid-season last year, Tate had averaged 93 receptions and 1056 yards over the previous four seasons with the Lions. Even if Tate starts to slow down a bit and trend towards his career averages, he’d still look at a stat line of 72 catches for 837 yards and four scores. The corresponding 170 fantasy points would keep him in the low-end WR2 conversation.
Fantasy Impact: The dream landing spot would be with the Patriots as they have needs at the position. There, Tate might even flirt with low-end WR1 numbers, especially if we see Rob Gronkowski retire after the season and vacate his 70+ targets. Two other lesser discussed spots might be in the Keystone state. With the Steelers needing to replace the void created by the pending departure of Antonio Brown, a veteran like Tate might bring enough to the table to draw defensive attention from Juju Smith-Schuster and James Washington. The Eagles might bring Tate back for 2019, seeing how they thought enough of him to trade a 3rd round pick for him knowing he was a pending free agent.
Tyrell Williams. After a breakout sophomore season back in 2016 that saw Williams finish the season as WR17 overall, He’s regressed a bit each of the last two years. At 6’4” and 205 pounds, Williams has the size many teams covet and has flashed enough over his four-year career that he may get several strong offers in free agency, with an outside shot at becoming a teams’ new lead receiver.
Fantasy Impact: If you search the interwebs, Williams has been linked to at least eight different teams, with the Browns name popping up the most. While I’d love that for their offense as a whole, there are suddenly lots of mouths to feed in Cleveland, and it hurts all the receivers for fantasy purposes. Maybe the downfield option for Lamar Jackson in Baltimore or with Sam Darnold in New York would make more sense. Depending on where he signs, we could see Williams potentially finish as a low-end WR1 or low-end WR3.
John Brown. Yes, this is a bit of a stretch, but in a group missing high-end talent, Brown has flashed more upside than many others available this off-season. His first two seasons in the league, Brown averaged 56 receptions for 849 yards and six scores. Much like Tate, those would be solid low-end WR2 numbers. Sadly, injuries have taken a toll on Brown’s career, but he did have a bit of a resurgence last season in Baltimore and was able to showcase what he is capable of when healthy.
Fantasy Impact: The thought of Brown catching passes from Andrew Luck in Indy is nice and could help him produce solid fantasy numbers. Aside from that as an ideal spot, the other possible suitors include the Raiders, Dolphins, and Jets- all of which are less than attractive fantasy options. Unless Browns lands somewhere good, he’s probably a WR3, despite his talent.
Donte Moncrief. I still can’t believe Moncrief got just under $10-million from the Jags last year. His agent deserves a raise. His best season was back in 2015 when he amassed 64 catches, 733 yards, and six touchdowns. At only 26, Moncrief is one of the younger free agent receivers and has five years of NFL experience under his belt (by comparison, Falcons 2018 first round pick, Calvin Ridley, will be 25 in December).
Fantasy Impact: Moncrief’s best finish was WR34 in 2015. It’s hard to imagine him doing significantly better than that even if the stars alight in his favor. He’s a low-end WR3 and probably a WR4, but might be worth a dart throw in best ball leagues with 11 of his 72 games producing more than 18 fantasy points.
Devin Funchess. Funchess was WR21 a year ago during his mythical “3rd-year wide receiver breakout” season. But he regressed in 2018, finishing the year as WR56. He has expressed interest in returning to the Panthers, but he was a healthy scratch to close out 2018, so that appears to be unlikely at this point.
Fantasy impact: At 6’4” and 225 pounds, lots of teams will come calling just due to match up problems he can cause with his size alone. Maybe the Giants could use a big body on the outside to help draw attention away from OBJ? No matter where he lands, he’ll be hard pressed to be anything more than a WR4 going forward.
Cole Beasley. Beasley seems like a player who might fall into a really nice situation in 2019. A slot receiver who has flashed some potential in small windows, he may turn into a quarterback’s best friend somewhere. He seems like a “Gruden guy” to me. Beasley has led the Cowboy’s receivers in targets two of the last four seasons and may be able to do the same in another city as well.
Fantasy impact: At 30, Beasley isn’t young anymore, but can still be useful fantasy weapon- especially in PPR leagues. If he landed in Oakland or with the Jets, I could see him approach high-end WR3 numbers.
There are quite a few “names” out there, but with my tier 3 players already dipping into WR4 territory, it’s hard to think any of the remaining free agents will ever be more than an occasional, single game, WR2 or season long WR4. A quick look at receivers like Phillip Dorsett, Justin Hardy, Chris Conley, Kevin White, Randall Cobb, Chris Hogan, Dontrelle Inman, Jordan Matthews, Rishard Matthews, and blah, blah, blah. Nobody moves the needle for fantasy. These players are WR5s with a few small potential bumps in production if injuries open up more significant roles as the off-season progresses.