Chandler Jones to Arizona is a death knell for his fantasy value
Chandler Jones was acquired by the Arizona Cardinals from the New England Patriots in exchange for OG Jonathan Cooper and a late round two pick in this year’s draft (61st overall). The deal comes as somewhat of a surprise as the 26-year-old Jones is widely regarded as one of the league’s top edge rushers, but a few off-field incidents in the last 12 months led to the Patriots off-loading him.
The move from New England’s perspective is typically savvy. A potential problem player on his rookie contract, who was headed into free agency in 2017 and likely to demand a deal that puts him among the highest paid players at his position in the league, is now off the roster. However, for fantasy owners, this move is a nightmare.
Jones has recorded 36 sacks in 55 career games and was considered one of the top-five defensive linemen in dynasty league formats, offering an excellent blend of pass rush skills, run stuffing ability and playmaking dynamism. His tackle floor gave him a higher floor than many of his defensive lineman peers, but that value has evaporated with the move to Arizona as he will be designated as an outside linebacker. Jones is already listed as an OLB on the Cardinals depth chart, and although his primary role will still be to get after the quarterback, pass rush OLBs rarely hold elite fantasy value.
Before we throw Jones’ fantasy value totally under the bus it is worth noting that he was primarily used as an OLB in 2014 (six sacks and 43 total tackles in 10 games), so he is capable of playing well in that particular role, it’s just he is going to join the likes of Von Miller and Justin Houston as boom-or-bust LB3s, who only really offer value as a potential starter in big-play scoring formats.
Jones’ departure leaves the door open for someone to step up and start alongside veteran Rob Ninkovich (who is unlikely to see a real change in value himself). Trey Flowers was popular with PFF college analysts last season after leading Arkansas in sacks (six) and tackles for loss (15.5) in his final season, but was unable to make any impact during his first season in the NFL, being active for just one of 11 games before being sent to injured reserve. He’s a player to keep an eye on in the preseason and potentially stash in dynasty formats.
If Flowers can’t seize his opportunity then Jabaal Sheard and newly signed Chris Long will compete for snaps, and both players have shown during their careers to date that neither has elite fantasy upside. Sheard saw time as a situational pass rusher and relief player last season and should have a leg up on Long who only has four sacks in the last two seasons (albeit in 16 games), despite playing alongside the likes of Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald.
The net result of this trade sees Jones’ fantasy stock plummet. Highly frustrating for his owners, but that’s how fantasy works at times. If you do still want to roster him I’d consider him a volatile LB4 with LB2 upside on his best days. Ninkovich should retain his fringe DL1 status, and neither Sheard nor Long have enough appeal to make me want to assign either player more than a shaky DL4 value. To my mind the biggest winner here is Trey Flowers, but we still don’t know the answer to whether he is good enough to take his opportunity, so he’s a speculative add at best.