Best Ball Journal: Free Agency Shakeup

Best Ball Journal: Free Agency Shakeup

This article is part of our Best Ball Journal series.

Now that we've had about a week to watch free agency shake up NFL rosters a bit, it's probably safe to assume some looming changes in the ADPs of numerous important players. This article will go through players based on descending ADP, harvested from BestBall10s March ADP.

Melvin Gordon, RB, DEN (40th, 47.85 ADP)

After joining Denver on a two-year, $16 million deal, Gordon has to be the favorite to start for Denver over Phillip Lindsay. I would guess that this fact alone is enough to juice his ADP a bit, perhaps somewhere into the third or maybe even second round. I will not be one of the buyers, because I think Lindsay is the better pure runner between the two, but Lindsay's pass-catching returns have been abysmal and I think we have to consider Gordon the favorite for passing down functions. You could figure the same about goal-line touches, but I'm more agnostic on that question – Lindsay hits the point of attack like a hammer. I still prefer James Conner (51st, 64.97 ADP) over Gordon in a vacuum, and for the price adjustment I additionally prefer Damien Williams (52nd, 64.99 ADP) and JK Dobbins (53rd, 66.65 ADP). I'm out on Lindsay until the 11th round or so.

Mark Andrews, TE, BAL (43rd, 50.49 ADP)

Andrews produced an average of 13.9 fantasy points per game in PPR scoring last year, which is absurd given that he played only 467 snaps. Part of that was due to the injuries he played through, but part of it was also due to Baltimore attempting, futilely, to justify Hayden Hurst and his former first-round selection. Hurst is gone to Atlanta (more on that later), though, and with him goes 466 snaps. That paves the way for Andrews to play around 700 snaps or more, and in last year's case that would project to 96 catches for 1,278 yards, and 15 touchdowns on 147 targets. If anyone can catch Travis Kelce at TE1, it's probably Andrews.

Todd Gurley, RB, ATL (46th, 56.37 ADP)

The Rams cut Gurley on Thursday and by early Friday he had found his new home, returning to the state of Georgia to start for the Falcons. With just Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison, and Brian Hill otherwise on the Atlanta roster, there is no meaningful competition for Gurley at the moment. I'd argue that they have bigger needs elsewhere, but the Falcons could still spend as high as a second-round pick on a running back since Gurley's contract is only a one-year deal. Until the draft, though, I'd imagine Gurley's price tag is poised to jump. Devonta Freeman had 184 carries and 70 targets in 14 games last year, so Gurley could very well secure a workhorse role in 2020 if nothing changes with the Atlanta depth chart. I'd guess he jumps from the late fourth/early fifth range into the late third/early fourth range, though he'll reasonably still have skeptics due to the knee and general recent history of decline.

Adam Thielen, WR, MIN (56th, 70.29 ADP)

Thielen's modest ADP to this point might mostly be informed by the durability troubles he endured last year rather than the specific fear that he had become obsolete in the presence of Stefon Diggs, but with Diggs in Buffalo and no obvious replacement incoming, Thielen's 2019 injuries alone are not enough reason to justify an ADP this low. Thielen's main competition for targets at the moment seems to be Dalvin Cook or Irv Smith. You don't have to think that highly of Thielen to see why he at worst belongs in the fourth round of PPR drafts wi Diggs gone.

Kyler Murray, QB, ARI (63rd, 77.22 ADP)

The Cardinals ran more wide receiver snaps and routes than any other team, and by a wide margin. It was also true to say the quality of the Cardinals' wide receivers was among the lowest in the league, making their wideout rotation among the league's most overexposed position groups on any team. Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald were fine, but Kirk only played the slot until roughly the second half of the year, meaning the Cardinals spent upwards of 130 outside wide receiver snaps per game split between the likes of KeeSean Johnson and Damiere Byrd. Taking 60 snaps from Johnson and giving them directly to DeAndre Hopkins will hold drastic repercussions for the overall complexion of the Cardinals offense. It's quite simply taking a high-volume liability and turning it into a high-volume strength – this is how you build a foundation. With Deshaun Watson's loss the direct gain of Murray's, the two ought to swap places in the ADP from this point after Murray previously went roughly one round behind Watson (55th, 66.18 ADP).

Kareem Hunt, RB, CLE (81st, 92.04 ADP) ↓↓

Even if Cleveland forces some sort of workload split between Hunt and Nick Chubb, that's (A) easier said than done given Chubb's All-Decade talent and (B) not enough of a 'best-case scenario' to justify spending a pick anywhere near this high. The Austin Hooper signing is more bad news that Hunt's stock didn't need. Hunt played an average of 39 snaps per game after his return from suspension in 2019, but many of those snaps occurred with both Hunt and Chubb on the field, with Hunt playing basically an h-back role. Of Hunt's 309 snaps, Pro Football Focus tallied just 209 in the backfield. Of the 100 remaining snaps, only 33 were out wide. That means 21.7 percent of Hunt's snaps were logged in locations that Hooper will instead play in 2020. I have no idea why anyone would draft Hunt before the 11th round or so.

David Johnson, RB, HOU (83rd, 96.10 ADP) ↑↑

Johnson's ADP in the eighth-round range implied a great deal of role uncertainty, which was of course appropriate after he got outplayed by Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds in Arizona. But it's a very different matter in Houston, especially after the Texans sent away DeAndre Hopkins in the same trade. Bill O'Brien clearly means to make more use of Johnson than the Cardinals did, and the ADP jump will be drastic in response. If you want Johnson going forward, you might have to pay up in a range similar to the likes of Kenyan Drake, Chris Carson, and Mark Ingram.

Darrell Henderson, RB, LAR (120th, 136.22 ADP) ↑↑↑

Henderson was a horrific bust in his 2019 rookie season, failing to overtake Malcolm Brown all year and finishing with just 147 yards rushing (3.8 YPC) and 37 yards receiving on 95 snaps before going on IR with a high ankle injury. Based on their release of Todd Gurley, though, it appears the Rams are resolved to throwing Henderson into the fire for 2020, and there's reason to think he'll do well. Henderson's talent as a pure runner is not really in question – it seemed that he for some reason struggled to pick up the Rams' zone-blocking run plays, and Brown by contrast provided steadiness. Brown may be an undrafted non-prospect, but he was once a five-star recruit at Texas who was widely regarded as the top running back in his class, so perhaps he's better than we all assumed. For that reason, we should boost Brown in our rankings as much or more than Henderson in light of Gurley's release. I'd expect Henderson to jump from the 12th-round range up to the sixth or so, in which case I'll instead pursue shares of Brown in the 14th or so, provided he's still available there. I like Henderson a lot as a prospect, but if he's substantially more expensive than Brown then I'll probably lean toward Brown for now.

Tom Brady, QB, TB (152nd, 161.32 ADP)

Even if you think he's toast, there might be reason for optimism in Brady's 2020 fantasy prospects, at least up to a certain price. The Bruce Arians offense will dictate substantially more air yardage per attempt than the New England one did, and receivers like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will almost certainly provide better per-attempt returns than the likes of Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and N'Keal Harry were able. It also helps that he'll be in one of the warmer, more high-scoring divisions after playing his entire career in the northeast. I'd expect Brady's ADP to jump into the 11th or even 10th-round range after previously going in the 14th-round range.

Eric Ebron, TE, PIT (164th, 175.21 ADP)

Ebron agreed to sign with the Steelers on Friday and with that he's penciled in for a starting role, an assumption that is sure to boost his ADP from the 14th-15th round range and up toward the 12th or so. Maybe higher. There's a common belief that Ebron is some prodigal son returned, his 2019 dominance only denied by Andrew Luck's retirement and Ebrons' ankle injuries, and that going to Pittsburgh will jumpstart his production back to its 2018 levels. The problem with that is even his 2018 performance was a poor one – his production was buoyed by 14 fluky touchdowns from scrimmage, distracting everyone from his dreadful per-target efficiency (60 percent catch rate, 6.8 YPT). That's the kind of stuff that will get you benched for a journeyman, and Pittsburgh figures to have one around even if they cut Vance McDonald. I don't mind Ebron in the 12th round or so, but I don't know if I would even once take him ahead of T.J. Hockenson or Blake Jarwin in that range. I probably prefer Ian Thomas, too.

Jordan Howard, RB, MIA (170th, 179.54 ADP) ↑↑

Howard could go down as both one of the best bargains in best ball up to this point, as well as one of the most regretted selections after this week. He had been going as late as the 16th rounds in drafts, in which range he could pay off enormously in the event that he starts at running back for the Dolphins. But now that he's there his price tag will jump drastically, perhaps as high as the ninth round or so. If you select Howard in that range, just know that there remains a substantial risk that the Dolphins draft a runner in the first two rounds, and there's even a risk they sign another veteran runner in free agency. I'll probably let others chase Howard in the meantime if he pushes for the single-digit rounds, but I can't fault anyone for picking him in the 12th-round area where there is mostly just trash otherwise at running back.

Philip Rivers, QB, IND (184th, 193.37 ADP)

It remains to be seen how high Rivers' price might jump now that he's the definite starter for the Colts, but those who invested up to this point clearly secured themselves some value. Going in the 16th/17th-round range, Rivers doesn't need to be good or even close to it to still pay off at that price. But there's also reason to believe Rivers could return value as something more like a 13th-round pick, because he's going from one of the worst offensive lines in the league to one of the best, and Frank Reich is probably smart enough to figure ways to limit Rivers' downfield exposure as his arm strength continues to decline. At the very least, Rivers will be better than Brissett.

Hayden Hurst, TE, ATL (221st, 230.49 ADP) ↑↑↑

Those who invested in Hurst before his trade to Atlanta stand to profit to the tune of at least eight rounds in the draft order, because with that trade he's promoted from Baltimore's TE3 to Atlanta's TE1, which is to say the role that made Austin Hooper so productive last year. Hurst isn't as good as Hooper and isn't especially similar as a tight end, but there's basically no chance that Hurst plays 16 games and finishes any worse than TE15 in PPR scoring. I expect him to start going in the 10th or 11th rounds.

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Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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