2017 Fantasy Football – Free Agency Risers and Fallers

By Chet Gresham – @ChetGresham
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Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
Newton gets two play-makers in Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel, both who should help secure his shorter and higher-percentage pass plays. No longer will he rely completely on Ted Ginn deep, Kelvin Benjamin making a play with his size, or needing to run himself and expose his body to hits. I’m still not sold on Newton as a top-12 pick this season, but the additions to the short passing game will help.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
I don’t think Deshaun Watson is going to miraculously be the answer for the Texans this rookie season, but I do like his arm so much more than Brock Osweiler that I can’t help but see a big boost in targets and overall offensive numbers for Nuk. That connection should also help Lamar Miller see more space to run, but I’ll lean more toward Hopkins getting the big fantasy boost for this year.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Rivers had already seen his team acquire some offensive line help, and now the Chargers have added another good target by drafting Mike Williams in the first round. The Chargers then went on to beef up the offensive line in Rounds 2, 3 and 6. That gives Rivers a strong line; plus Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Williams, Henry Hunter, Antonio Gates and a decent pass catcher in Melvin Gordon to work with this season.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
I wish the Bengals would have helped their offensive line out in the 2017 NFL Draft, but Dalton will see a boost from John Ross and Joe Mixon. Ross was needed to help stretch the field and give the Bengals a big-play threat other than A.J. Green, and Mixon has a lot of ability as a receiver. Add in Green and Tyler Eifert, and Dalton will have a top group to throw to like he did the last time he put up good numbers in fantasy.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Like Dalton, a better overall offense should help Green. Defenses won’t be able to key on him with a healthy Tyler Eifert and John Ross taking away some coverage.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
Mariota looks poised for a breakout after a strong 2016, and Corey Davis should help boost that breakout potential. The No. 5 pick was the top wide receiver on many draft boards and has the ability to come in and contribute day one. And the fact that the Titans were looking to help the pass game rather than beefing up the run game or defense early in the draft is a good sign that they plan on giving Mariota even more work this season.

Jameis Winston, QB, Eagles
The additions of O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin to go along with DeSean Jackson in free agency and an already top receiver in Mike Evans mean Winston has all the weapons to make a fantasy jump this year.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Manning looked awful last season, but he’s been gifted Brandon Marshall in free agency and an offensive-minded tight end from when the Giants picked Evan Engram in Round 1. Engram will have trouble being fantasy relevant this year with Odell Beckham Jr., Marshall and Sterling Shepard already in the mix, but that sure is a nice group to throw to, especially when your starting running back is probably better suited as a third-down back. Manning will throw the ball a whole bunch this season.

Breshad Perriman/Mike Wallace, WRs, Ravens
The Ravens did little to nothing to add to their offense, which will likely hurt Joe Flacco’s overall numbers, but should help Wallace and Perriman see the bulk of the targets. Perriman has the most upside, but Wallace is likely a bit safer.


Cameron Brate, TE, Bucs
I don’t expect O.J. Howard to put up top-10 numbers this year, but now I really don’t expect it from Brate, who Howard will be competing with for targets. Howard is a first-round draft pick and an athletic marvel, who will be able to get on the field this season, which is bad news for Brate.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers
Benjamin was already falling after knee surgery this offseason, but now with the addition of Mike Williams, there’s a good chance we won’t see much of Benjamin this year even if healthy.

Tajae Sharpe, WR, Titans
After a quick start his rookie year, Sharpe had a steep decline as the season went on. Now, he’ll be the fourth target on a still run-oriented offense with the addition of Corey Davis. Sharpe will need injuries to others in order to be relevant this year.

Brandon LaFell/Tyler Boyd, WRs, Bengals
Both will take a back seat to A.J. Green, a healthy Tyler Eifert, and newcomer John Ross.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers
Benjamin showed up to OTAs overweight, while the Panthers drafted a receiving back in Christian McCaffery and a slot receiver in Curtis Samuel. The Panthers have grown weary of Benjamin and are looking to expand their offense. That doesn’t mean Benjamin isn’t helped by defenses needing to look underneath more, but I think Devin Funchess will start seeing more work, which will hurt Benjamin.

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
The Ravens have Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman as their starting receivers, and I guess Dennis Pitta is still their top tight end. But instead of adding some offensive talent, the Ravens decided to go with the defense for their first four picks. That might turn out to work for them in real life, I don’t know, but in fantasy, Flacco is going to have trouble putting up top numbers.

Sammie Coates, WR, Steelers
The Steelers took JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round, which likely means the end for Coates, at least as a fantasy play this season. Martavis Bryant is back, so with Bryant, Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers and now a second-round receiver, there’s not much room left.

Ty Montgomery, RB, Packers
I still like Montgomery, but he was just given some good competition via the draft with Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. I believe Montgomery will still see plenty of work this year in the receiving game, but Williams and Jones have the ability to cut deep into his touches.

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