Best Free-Agent Fits From A Fantasy Football Perspective – Part 2

With free agency approaching, take a look the best fits for the top free agents for their fantasy football outlook in 2014.

| 3 years ago
Brown creates a fantasy nightmare in San Diego.

Brown creates a fantasy nightmare in San Diego.

Best Free-Agent Fits From A Fantasy Football Perspective – Part 2


Donald BrownWith NFL free agency nearly upon us, it’s time to start thinking about fantasy football again. You took your month off, assuming you played in a fantasy playoffs league, and now it’s finally time to clean off your computer screen so you can get a clearer look at your Excel spreadsheets.

Here at PFF Fantasy, we will have updated rapid fantasy reactions as each free agent signs. In this article, I will attempt to whet your appetite for what’s to come. As I break down each player, remember that my “top 20” that I selected for this article is based on a combination of factors. Even after a few good games that have removed him from being considered a complete first-round draft pick bust, Donald Brown won’t make my list.

This is part two, which features the free agents I rank 11-21. I threw in the 21st-best as a bonus because he has in the past displayed talent that would warrant him a top 10 free agent in fantasy football and real life. If you want to find out about those ranked 1-10, check out part one here.

*All salary cap information comes from Overthecap.com

 

Jermichael Finley

Best Fantasy Fit: New England Patriots

There are no certainties when evaluating Jermichael Finley as an NFL player or in fantasy football. At just 26, with an impressive size and speed combination, Finley has occasionally flashed greatness in open space with the ball, down the seam and in the red zone. On the other hand, he has never put together a consistent and complete season, and he is coming off of spinal fusion surgery in November. The Patriots could be in the market this offseason for a “move” tight end who can do all the things Finley is able to when he is at his best. Because Finley has never graded out better than the 42nd-best overall tight end since the 2009 season, a contract with the Patriots seems unlikely.

Surprise Team: Buffalo Bills

With currently the 11th-most salary cap space, at $25.667 million under the cap, the Bills could use their offseason to upgrade their offensive weapons. Even if the Bills do re-sign disappointing in-house option Scott Chandler, he is best suited in a complementary role. Adding Finley would give the Bills a seam-stretching weapon who can be utilized in the slot — an area that the Bills struggled to find consistent production from in 2013.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons

With the 13th-most salary cap space, and a major need to fill following the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, I think the pieces are in place for Finley to sign with the Falcons. At the tight end position, the Falcons’ roster is left with just Levine Toilolo, who showed shaky hands and no ability to stretch the seam during his rookie season. Finley would provide Matt Ryan a red zone option and speed down the seam and through the middle of the field. Something similar to Dustin Keller’s one-year, $4.25 million contract in 2013 could be what it takes to get Finley signed.

 

Rashad Jennings

Best Fantasy Fit: Oakland Raiders

After several forgettable seasons behind Maurice Jones-Drew with the Jaguars, Jennings became a second-half fantasy football hero with the Raiders in 2013. Jennings’ numbers are better than most expect — he graded out with positive grades in both the pass and run game and finished as our 15th-best running back overall despite playing only 567 snaps. As long as the Raiders can re-sign left tackle Jared Veldheer, Jennings’ fantasy value should be at its highest with the Raiders.

Surprise Team: Cleveland Browns

As I mentioned in part one, the Browns have the third-most salary cap space and a major hole at running back. If Ben Tate exceeds the price range they have set for him, they could look to Jennings, who is one of the few backs on the market without major wear and tear who can also play all three downs.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have the most salary cap space and Jennings knows where his bread is buttered. I expect him to receive something close to three years and $12 million from the Raiders.

 

Donald Brown

Best Fantasy Fit: Denver Broncos

We all remember “God Dammit, Donald!” but the former 2009 first-round pick really came into his own during this past season at 26. After seizing the majority role in the backfield from Trent Richardson, Brown went on to finish as our 20th-best overall running back (+6.9), despite playing just 379 snaps. More impressively, he finished with the best elusive rating (73.8), which is a stat we use to judge the impact of a runner independent of his blocking, in the entire league. To play with Peyton Manning, as noted above, you will need to block, and Brown has really improved in that area as well. He finished with the 11th-highest pass blocking efficiency, allowing just eight total pressures on 242 pass blocking snaps — he was more efficient as a pass blocker than Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte.

Surprise Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have the second-most salary cap space and they are just over $56 million under the cap. For the team, Brown presents a back with three-down potential who might be entering the prime of his career after taking a little longer to get going. For Brown, the Jaguars present an opportunity for him to seize a feature back role with a team that just spent last year’s first-round pick on an offensive lineman.

Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars

No rumors have linked Brown to the Jaguars yet, but it won’t surprise me when he signs the dotted line. According to our game charters, Brown was a plus runner, receiver and pass blocker in 2013 — all while playing behind a spotty offensive line. Given his age and lack of wear and tear, I expect him to get something close to a four-year, $15 million contract.

 

Emmanuel Sanders

Best Fantasy Fit: Cleveland Browns

Sanders is a lean and lanky wide receiver who operates best in space and while running underneath routes, but also possesses 4.40 40-yard-dash straight-line speed. He posted career highs in catches (67), yards (740) and touchdowns (6) in 2013. A union with the Browns would reward him with many opportunities for soft coverage underneath with defenses focusing their attention on the wide receiver who lines up across from him — Josh Gordon. A big vertical receiver lining up across from him will mesh with Sanders’ skill set by getting him out in space.

Surprise Team: Washington Redskins

The Redskins will certainly be in the market to upgrade their second wide receiver, and they have the cap room to spend somewhere in the range of players listed on this page. Both Sanders and Andre Roberts are fits for their scheme and will come aboard as mid-priced free agents.

Prediction: New York Jets

The Jets leaked their interest in Sanders back in early February. In a season of misinformation, leaked rumors aren’t always true, but in the case of the Jets they tend to be. Sanders fits nicely into Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offensive scheme. From a fantasy perspective, the Jets are an odd fit because Sanders doesn’t possess the size to be a true number one target and the Jets don’t have other weapons or the quarterback to complement him. I expect Sanders to get something close to a four-year, $18 million deal. Teams need to be careful not to overpay Sanders — when given the chance at a full-time role this past season, he graded out as the 45th-best wide receiver out of just 75 qualifiers who played at least 50% of their team’s snaps.

 

Knowshon Moreno

Best Fantasy Fit: Denver Broncos

You can probably go down the list of every running back in this article and list the Broncos as their best fit. This goes tenfold for Moreno, who had a career year in 2013 finishing as the fourth-best fantasy running back. Moreno would be returning to an offense that he feels comfortable with and blockers that he is in sync with.

Surprise Team: Indianapolis Colts

With the Colts likely to let Donald Brown walk in free agency, they could look to replace him with another back who could add competition to their backfield. In 2013, Moreno finished as the 10th-best running back in pass-blocking efficiency.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts

Moreno will likely face the choice of signing a more lucrative contract with a team like the Jaguars or Raiders, or signing for less with a contender. After his past season, I see him choosing the latter. A three-year, $10 million contract seems about right.

 

Darren McFadden

Best Fantasy Fit: Cincinnati Bengals

McFadden supporters were few but strong last offseason, and they claimed that the Raiders switch back to a power-blocking scheme would make McFadden a value pick in the middle rounds. It only took him four games to get injured again, and when he returned he never averaged more than 3.3 yards per carry. He beat seven total carries in just two more games the entire season. At just 26, a reunion with former coach Hue Jackson in Cincinnati could help to remind us of the 218-pound back who ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. McFadden’s breakout season came under Jackson, but for another productive season, his health will carry the greatest weight.

Surprise Team: Tennessee Titans

At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Titans will release Chris Johnson and by doing so save $6 million against the salary cap. It seems unlikely that after allocating prime resources last offseason to guards Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, that they will now choose to abandon the running game. Shonn Greene is no feature back, and by signing McFadden they can replace one home run threat with another for a fraction of the price.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals

His agent put out a rumor that he won’t join the Bengals, but in reality, McFadden is unlikely to receive a big contract offer that his agent is expecting. McFadden needs to be smart this offseason and choose the team that offers him the best chance at reviving his value. A one-year, “prove it” deal with the Bengals, for something like $3.5 million should do the trick. The Bengals offer him a great offensive line, a coach’s system he’s familiar with and an established passing game. The Bengals need someone to lessen Giovani Bernard’s workload, and cutting BenJarvus Green-Ellis will save them $2.5 million in cap space.

 

Andre Roberts

Best Fantasy Fit: Washington Redskins

After racking up 759 yards and five touchdowns on 64 catches in 2012, Roberts lost his starting job last season to Michael Floyd, who was a better fit for Bruce Arians’ offense. Having just turned 26 and with experience at outside receiver and in the slot, there is untapped potential with Roberts in fantasy football. The key to tapping that potential is finding Roberts a starting role where he can become a PPR threat. In Washington, new head coach Jay Gruden led a Bengals’ offense that attempted the eighth-most pass attempts in 2013 despite often playing with a lead. The Redskins are desperate for a second wide receiver after failed attempts with Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan. If Roberts signs, he could be in line for a healthy amount of targets.

Surprise Team: Tennessee Titans

Roberts posted his best season under Titans’ new head coach Ken Whisenhunt in 2012. As mentioned above, the Titans have enough salary cap room to be players in free agency.  By releasing Nate Washington they can save his entire $4.8 million against the salary cap, but it would leave them with only Justin Hunter behind Kendall Wright. A reunion makes sense here.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I think the Redskins might have their eye on a bigger outside receiver who can also be an asset as a blocker. The Buccaneers have ties to Roberts with new general manager Jason Licht, who drafted him originally when he was a scout with the Cardinals. Roberts fits into the Buccaneers’ plan to sign several mid-priced free agents, and a three-year, $10 million deal makes sense.

 

Maurice Jones-Drew

Best Fantasy Fit: Arizona Cardinals

Jones-Drew needs to get back into a power-blocking scheme after a failed experiment behind a zone-blocking scheme in 2013. Bruce Arians runs a power-blocking scheme in Arizona and he is on the lookout for a big back who can pass protect and play all three downs. Jones-Drew is not big in stature, but he plays much bigger than his size. In 2013, he was the best running back in our pass blocking efficiency statistic. He had a perfect 100.0 PBE, allowing zero sacks, hits or hurries on 110 pass block snaps.

Surprise Team: New York Giants

If Andre Brown opts to sign elsewhere in free agency, the Giants are not likely to enter the draft with just David Wilson and Michael Cox at running back. They will be in the market for a running back who can protect Eli Manning, offer something in the passing game and get tough yardage. Jones-Drew is a nice fit.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have more pressing needs along the offensive line, but finding a bigger back who can protect Carson Palmer is probably next on their list. With just over $17 million in cap space, they are likely to be looking on the cheaper end rather than breaking the bank on someone like Tate. For Jones-Drew, at 29 he is likely looking to latch on to a team on the rise like the Cardinals. A four-year, $14 million deal makes sense.

 

LeGarrette Blount 

Best Fantasy Fit: New England Patriots

There’s no doubt that if you watched the end of the 2013 season and postseason, you saw Blount flash bursts of elite running ability. He was shifty in open space, found holes, and exploded through them, taking wimpy tacklers with him. He finished as our 12th-best back in elusive rating over the course of the season. Re-signing with the Patriots would provide him with a plus group of blockers, a scheme he is comfortable with, and an organization that gets the best out of him.

Surprise Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Blount played at Oregon under Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and the two have stayed in contact since Blount entered the league. Kelly was never pleased with Bryce Brown in 2013, often limiting his touches. Blount would offer the Eagles a different style at running back that could complement LeSean McCoy better than Brown. He also offers more upside as a north-south runner than their current big back, Chris Polk.

Prediction: New England Patriots

The Patriots are not flushed with cap room, but I think both Blount and the team understands that it’s probably a good idea to get together again in 2014. Ridley’s fumble problems are not going away and the Patriots have other needs to fill in the draft with Aqib Talib and Brandon Spikes potentially leaving in free agency. I expect Blount to sign a team-friendly deal in the range of two years and $6 million.

 

Andre Brown

Best Fantasy Fit: Cleveland Browns

Brown fits exactly into the running back mold that new Browns’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has outlined. As I mentioned in part one, Shanahan is not looking for a home run hitter and instead wants a back who can consistently get him 4 yards each carry. Brown excels in getting positive yardage, can play all three downs and his “pick a hole and burst” running style is a great fit for Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme.

Surprise Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars moved to a zone-blocking scheme last offseason, and Brown can fit in there nicely as a one-cut runner who likes to get north-south. With the team likely to let Maurice Jones-Drew walk in free agency, it would not be surprising to see them bring in someone like Brown to compete with Jordan Todman and anyone they might draft.

Prediction: New York Giants

Brown’s injury history is going to lead to a cold market and the Giants have too many other needs to allocate salary cap to the running back position. Instead of going after Tate or Jennings, the Giants can likely bring back Brown on something close to a two-year, $5 million deal once the market settles down.

 

Kenny Britt

Best Fantasy Fit: Baltimore Ravens

There are two things that should take priority on Britt’s personal free agent wish list, and if he finds both he can also find fantasy relevance again. First, Britt needs to find an organization and a head coach that can keep him focused on football and not anything going on off the field. John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ management can do that. Next, he projects best in a vertically attacking offensive scheme that allows him to be isolated in one-on-one situations down the field where the quarterback can throw the ball up in his catching radius. Joe Flacco can do that. According to our signature stats archive, in 2010, he turned 23 targets of 20-plus yards into 13 receptions for 450 yards and six touchdowns.

Surprise Team: New York Giants

Jerry Reese has been known to take a flier on free agents with checkered pasts who want to prove themselves. In 2012, he added Martellus Bennett on a one-year, $2.5 million “prove it” deal. Eli Manning is at his best when he has a big outside receiver to compete for 50/50 balls in one-on-one coverage.

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens

I think the fit with the Ravens makes sense. Britt is looking to revive his value in a good situation and the team will be shopping for bargains at the wide receiver position as they opt to use most of their cap space on rebuilding their offensive line. A one-year, $2-2.5 million contract seems about right.

Just Missed: Toby Gerhart, Jacoby Jones, Dexter McCluster, Sidney Rice, Brandon LaFell, Josh McCown

Dan Schneier is a staff writer for ProFootballFocus.com. You can follow him on Twitter, or add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his material.



Dan Schneier is a staff writer for PFF Fantasy, a former FOX Sports NFL scribe, and an auction format enthusiast.

  • Legend

    Holy shit you guys really do hate the Panthers.

    • Jared Wenzel

      Hey brainiac, you do you realize that the Panthers have like no cap space right?