Now that Free Agency has begun to wind down, and the dust has settled, this is an excellent time to wipe away the hype and find the under the radar players who benefited from the 2018 free agent signings. Of course, as all the news is breaking, everyone is focused on the value of the players that changed teams, but what about the teams they left behind? What about the other players affected by their new landing spot? I contemplated five players who I feel saw a bump in value based on their changing situations or even based on what teams didn’t do so far this off-season.
Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
I’m not sure any team did more to improve their offense than the Cleveland Browns did this off-season, beginning with the trades for bridge QB Tyrod Taylor and slot WR Jarvis Landry. Like many others, I quickly started picturing Saquon Barkley walking across the stage in Dallas next month donning a Cleveland Browns hat and figured the bell-cow RB would be another addition to this offense. However, after the signing of free agent Carlos Hyde, I think that vision might be less of a reality. If that is the case, and the signing of Hyde does pull the Browns out of the Saquon sweepstakes, then I think that Duke Johnson is a winner.
Johnson could be in line for another under-the-radar season in 2018. While Duke was not an elite RB in 2017, he did post an RB1 (#11) finish in PPR and an RB2 finish (#21) in standard scoring. Although Hyde did have a career-high 59 receptions last year for the 49ers, he had never been much of a pass catcher, totaling just 50 receptions in his first three seasons. With this, I think Duke will continue to handle the passing catching duties from Tyrod Taylor, which should lead to a high volume of targets. LeSean McCoy was top 10 in receptions among RBs the previous two season with Tyrod in Buffalo.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins
He may be a bit of a surprise, but based on the other possibilities, I see Kenyan Drake as a winner so far this off-season. We all knew Miami was going to add an RB this off-season. So any of you that were living the pipe-dream that the Dolphins would be rolling with only Kenyan Drake and Senorise Perry in 2018, my condolences.
Seeing little action behind Jay Ajayi, Drake started off 2017 pretty much the same, only seeing seven touches the first seven games of the season. However, after the Jay Train was shipped out of town, the door was opened for Kenyan. In the final nine games of the season, Drake averaged 94.55 total yards per game and put up 8+ points in standard scoring in 7 of 9 games, including five double-digit performances. Projected out, Drake’s 11.9 standard fantasy points per game would have been good enough for 10th among qualifying RBs on the season.
Of course, if you listen to the podcast (The Fantasy Football Fellas), then you’re more than aware of my Francis Gore “love.” Regardless, if Gore is the only significant addition the Dolphins make this off-season, I think that’s enough to read between the lines and know that they trust Drake as the lead back in Miami.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
After finishing 27th among WRs in standard leagues and 25th in PPR, this young Rams WR might be in line for an even better 2018. While Sammy Watkins grabbed all the headlines after signing with Kansas City, his departure might have opened the door for Kupp. Watkins is leaving behind just under 600 yards and 8 TDs in LA from last season.
Despite not being the prototypical jump-ball WR, Kupp found himself tied for third in the league among WRs in red zone targets in 2017 with 23. Watkins is leaving behind seven red zone TDs, and logic would tell you that there’s a good chance a few of those could fall into the hands of Kupp. Jared Goff did look for Kupp in the red zone last year, and I think that continues in 2018. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kupp ended up being a substantial value on draft day, and sneaky pick to put up double-digit TDs.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers
We’ll go with a deep name here. While I’m not sure life can be much better than having “Geronimo” as a first name, Mr. Allison might have struck gold in Green Bay with the departure of Jordy Nelson. Anytime you can get a piece in an Aaron Rodgers offense, there’s the potential for greatness. Now before we move on, here’s a test. Find an NFL mock draft. I’ll bet you almost anything that Mr. Draft Expert has a WR to Green Bay in the 2nd round. I get it. It’s a need. But, are we just assuming that a 2nd-round rookie WR will jump right into this offense?
Allison will be entering his third year in the league (cue the “Third Year WR Breakout” chant!) and has shown glimpses over his first 25 career games. For example, last season in Week 3, Allison posted an impressive six catches for 122 yards. Geronimo also put up four catches for 91 yards in a TD in the season finale in 2016. Now I know it’s an insufficient sample size, but even with the addition of a rookie WR, I think Allison could be a sneaky late-round pick in 2018.
Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Ah, RSJ. Never has a season of 12 receptions and 201 yards meant so much to me. Okay, all kidding aside, the 2017 UDFA Rookie TE out of Texas A&M saw a nice two-game stretch and ended up on streaming lists everywhere after that. Why? Because the Tight end position is a wasteland. With the loss of Jack Doyle (and Eric Ebron if that’s your cup of tea) from the “Usable TE Camp,” it looks like fantasy owners will be scrounging around again to find useful TE options from week to week.
While I can appreciate the flashes we saw from RSJ last season, having him on this list might be more about what the Cardinals did (and didn’t do) so far this off-season. First, the departure of the Brown brothers leaves an increased amount of targets for the takings in 2018 as they’ve yet to add any replacements. Second, and probably most important, “Senior Check Down” himself has arrived in Arizona. With the Cardinals signing Sam Bradford this off-season, this only helps Seals-Jones. Everyone is more than aware that Bradford doesn’t take many shots downfield. After a handful of mediocre seasons in Minnesota, Kyle Rudolph led all TEs with 132 targets, 83 receptions for 840 yards and 7 TDs with Bradford under center. Health is always an issue for Bradford, but if he can stay on the field, I like RSJ as a sleeper TE this season.