Dynasty Watch: Rising/Falling (March Madness in the NFL)
Dynasty Watch: Rising/Falling (March Madness in the NFL)

This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.

This is our third edition of Rising/Falling during the 2020 offseason, breaking down the dynasty implications of NFL trades and signings from a month that otherwise was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Obsessing over the fantasy fallout of offseason moves is one of the few things keeping me sane in a difficult time, and I'm guessing there are other people out there feeling the same way.

For those interested in previous installments, here are links for the first two editions of Dynasty Rising/Falling:

Plus, we have recaps for the key trades and signing from the past two weeks, in case you haven't been following along closely with NFL offseason news:

Last but not least, we have a bunch of dynasty-specific content up on Rotowire:

Now, lets take a look at the fallout from March's biggest transactions,  keeping in mind that the "rising/falling" value label is relative to expectations from earlier this offseason, not a comparison to what a player has produced in past years.

Rising

QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Any questions?

QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

I still think Allen lacks the accuracy to be anything more than a low-end starter in real-football terms, but in the event I'm wrong — which is known to happen from time to time — the young QB's theoretical ceiling stretches even higher with Stefon Diggs replacing snaps that went to Isaiah McKenzie and Duke Williams last year. If nothing else, a receiver like Diggs can make Allen look better than he actually is, which might extend his tenure in the starting job. We already know Allen's rushing production makes him a viable fantasy starter for as long as he's a real-life starter.

QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady joins forces with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, playing under pass-first coach Bruce Arians in an offense that may or may not be able to run the ball. I guess there's some concern that an improved Tampa defense could push Brady into more run-heavy game scripts, but it's much less of a concern than last year's problem of being surrounded with lousy players in the Patriots offense.

QB Jarrett Stidham, New England Patriots

I discussed Stidham in my Free Agency Winners/Losers column last week, identifying the next couple weeks as a sell-high opportunity. My money is still on the Patriots using some cap space or an early draft pick on another QB, but someone in your dynasty league will buy into the combination of Stidham's preseason stats, the Belichick mystique and New England media hype. Maybe Stidham is the successor to Brady, or maybe he never starts an NFL game... it could still go either way.

QB Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

Minshew doesn't have any guarantees beyond 2020, but it at least appears he'll be uncontested for the Week 1 job after Nick Foles was traded to Chicago. Quarterbacks who perform at even a competent level as rookies usually go on to have impressive careers, and it's not like Minshew's rookie campaign was the product of some picture-perfect situation where any QB could pile up numbers. Dismiss him at your own peril.

QB Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

If you were an NFL quarterback, would you rather compete with Mitchell Trubisky or Minshew? Personally, I'd rather compete with Minshew, but that's because I wouldn't actually want to play in games. Anyway, Trubisky makes for softer competition.

QB Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers

If you've been holding on to Taylor, all you were hoping for was one more chance in a starting role. It isn't a lock just yet, but it at least appears he'll be part of a competition.

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

Bridgewater was solid but unspectacular in Minnesota and much the same in his five-game stint as the Saints' starter last year. Personally, I wouldn't give him a three-year, $63 million contract with nearly half guaranteed, but that's what happened, so get ready to watch Bridgewater make starts.

QB/OW Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints

I suspected the Saints of manufacturing hype to generate a trade or an offer sheet, but the decision to use a first-round RFA tender — instead of the cheaper second-round tender — suggests they truly view Hill as a valuable part of their future. Would I bank on him replacing Brees in 2021 or 2022? Well, I wouldn't bet money on it, but I can no longer dismiss the possibility. Much like with Stidham, there's a ton of uncertainty here.

RB Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

A return to Arizona was the best possible outcome for Drake, who signed his transition tender last Thursday. Ideally, he'd sign a long-term deal before the mid-July deadline, but the important thing for now is that he's staying in Arizona and doesn't seem to be planning a holdout. Also, David Johnson is gone, in case you hadn't heard.

RB David Johnson, Houston Texans

Johnson hasn't even sniffed 4.0 YPC since his monstrous 2016 campaign, but he apparently has at least one fan in Bill O'Brien, who will look like even more of a fool if he can't coax production out of the 28-year-old running back. As a founding member of the Duke Johnson fan club, I'm confident David is the second-best Johnson in this backfield. However, I'm also confident O'Brien will give DJ the same carries that went to Carlos Hyde last year (plus some targets). The new situation is much better than serving as Drake's backup in the desert.

RB Darrell Henderson + Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams

Some might see Todd Gurley's departure as a sell-high opportunity on Henderson, who seems to have an unmatched quantity of stans in the #dynastyfootball community. Personally, I wouldn't want to sell, which I guess makes me one of those stans? Then again, I'm also happy to invest in Malcolm Brown, who is lasting until the ~15th round of best-ball drafts even after the Gurley cut. Remember that the Rams are short on both cap space and draft capital, a situation thats unlikely to change any sooner than 2022.

WRs Will Fuller + Kenny Stills, Houston Texans

Randall Cobb won't come close to replacing DeAndre Hopkins' 150 targets, and the Texans likely will need to throw more passes if they take a step back from last year's total of 10 wins. It feels like we've been waiting forever on both Fuller and Stills, but any frustration should be superseded by the gorgeous opportunity ahead (not to mention the visible talent).

WR Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts entered the offseason armed with cap space and draft capital, leaving us to wonder what the offense might look like in 2020. So far, so good for Campbell, who hasn't received any competition in free agency but did get a modest QB upgrade in Philip Rivers. Furthermore, the Colts let Devin Funchess (collarbone) leave for Green Bay and traded their first-round pick for DT DeForest Buckner. I expect Indy to use a second/third-round pick on a WR, but Campbell at least seems to have avoided the worst-case scenario of someone like Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb coming in to team up with T.Y. Hilton.

WR Miles Boykin, Baltimore Ravens

This one could still get shot down during/after the draft, but it's at least worth noting that the Ravens have done nothing at wide receiver — besides losing Seth Roberts to Carolina — in what's otherwise been an active offseason for the franchise. Baltimore's prioritization of the defensive line over WR upgrades might be interpreted as a subtle sign of confidence in Boykin... or perhaps just confidence about the 2020 rookie WR class. We'll have a better idea by the end of April.

WR Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Thielen didn't get regular snaps until he was 26, and while his time as a useful fantasy asset may thus be limited, he should manage just fine in his age-30 season ahead. Already an obvious rebound candidate before the Diggs trade, Thielen now has a chance to match his career-high 153 targets from 2018, as Diggs is out of the picture and the Vikings defense looks awfully shaky (read: more pass attempts for Kirk Cousins). I'm not sure if Thielen will still be around in five years, but I bet he ranks top 10 in targets per game over the next two seasons. The Diggs trade is also good news for anyone invested in a second-year leap for Irv Smith.

TE Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

Hurst is a slam-dunk winner in terms of dynasty value, shifting from a No. 3 TE role for the run-heavy Ravens to a starting job for the high-flying Falcons. The same role saw Austin Hooper — hardly an elite player — average 14.6 PPR points and 7.5 targets last year, with Matt Ryan going over 600 pass attempts for a sixth time in the past eight seasons. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley should leave enough targets behind for Hurst and Gurley, considering the sieve-like Atlanta defense often forces Ryan into pass-heavy game scripts.

TE Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys made no effort to re-sign Jason Witten, instead inking Jarwin to a four-year, $22 million contract. I'm all-in on the Jarwin breakout, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I failed to mention that his contract isn't as strong as it first sounds. The Cowboys can get out of it after one year and $6.25 million or two years and $10.5 million. Even so, Jarwin will have a nice chance to prove himself, especially after slot man Randall Cobb left for Houston. The Cowboys don't have much else behind Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup on the pass-catching totem pole.

TE Tyler Eifert, Jacksonville Jaguars

Josh Oliver, a 2019 third-round pick who missed 12 games as a rookie, is the only other tight end of note in Jacksonville. It's a perfect situation for Eifert to build on his solid finish to last season, as the Jags likely will be forced to pass a lot, and they don't have anyone besides DJ Chark demanding heavy volume. Any of Eifert, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Leonard Fournette is a viable candidate to finish second on the team in targets.

Falling

QB Jameis Winston, Free Agent

It's bad enough being separated from Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and it's now clear Winston is in danger of being stuck with a backup job for 2020. That's not to say he won't get another chance to start at some point, but it does seem NFL teams are hostile toward Winston's high-variance brand of mediocre, while QBs that are average in a boring way have less trouble finding opportunities (Teddy Bridgewater! Nick Foles! 🙄). 

QB Cam Newton, Free Agent

Newton will get another chance as a starter, but it might not be in 2020 and it probably won't be as fantasy-friendly as working with Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel (and now Robby Anderson) in a Joe Brady production. I really thought the Panthers would give Newton another chance... oops.

QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

The DeAndre Hopkins trade presents two major problems for Watson:

  1. He doesn't get to throw passes to Hopkins anymore.
  2. It's increasingly clear Bill O'Brien is a buffoon who will mess up other decisions in the future.

RB Devonta Freeman, Free Agent

Freeman's dynasty managers had to be hoping for another year in Atlanta, where there's weak competition in the backfield and bigger problems to fix on the defensive side of the ball. Instead, it'll be Todd Gurley taking advantage of that situation, while Freeman's best-case scenario is a job battle elsewhere (a backup role seems more likely).

RB Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

Lindsay and Melvin Gordon both look great if you cherry-pick certain stats while ignoring others, i.e., par for the course when dealing with good but not great players. Regardless of who "wins" or "loses" the twitter arguments, the Broncos didn't hand Gordon $13.5 million guaranteed to ride pine, so Lindsay is looking at a 200-touch ceiling if both RBs stay healthy. I won't even mention the floor scenario, because I don't want to make Lindsay investors nauseous.

WR John Brown, Buffalo Bills

Wave goodbye to any notion of Brown serving as Josh Allen's long-term No. 1 receiver. The new role might be a better fit for Smoke from a real-life standpoint, but I doubt he'll match last year's average of 7.7 targets per game, and many of the looks he loses to Diggs will be the high-value ones — deep balls and red-zone passes.

WR Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

I was convinced 2020 would be the year when the Vikings finally used Diggs properly, feeding him a steady diet of short, deep and intermediate passes. The Bills likely will do a better job of that, except the throws will be coming from someone far less accurate than Kirk Cousins. I don't necessarily think Diggs will decline from his Minnesota production, but I think he'll do less than what he would've done in 2020 if he'd stayed with the Vikings. I guess that makes this a downgrade relative to my perception from a couple months ago, rather than a downgrade relative to Diggs' 2019 production... if that makes sense?

WRs Curtis Samuel + Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

Samuel is right up there with Darrell Henderson as a favorite of the dynasty community, inspiring devotion that hasn't been backed by on-field results... at least not yet. Kyle Allen was partially to blame for the failed breakout bid in 2019, but the second-round pick did play a role in his own stat-sheet struggles, dropping seven passes and averaging just 2.8 YAC per reception. Despite all that, I was ready to board the hype train again before the Panthers signed Robby Anderson to a two-year, $20 million contract. 

An optimist might say Anderson's presence frees up Samuel to focus on what he's best at, rather than carrying so much of the downfield burden. On the other hand, a pessimist might point to Anderson's contract as a sign the Panthers don't have confidence in Samuel. Then we have our realist, who might admit he isn't sure which is true — if either — and also would note that there's only one ball to go around120+3. (Anderson faces the same general problem as Samuel, competing for whatever's left after Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore are finished eating.)

WRs Christian Kirk + Andy Isabella, Arizona Cardinals

Kirk still has a shot to emerge as the No. 2 target in an offense with a solid floor and alluring ceiling, but his chance to be the go-to guy simply isn't a thing anymore. Murray, Hopkins and Drake are the safe bets to pile up fantasy points for AZ in 2020. Meanwhile, Isabella is probably looking at the No. 4 or 5 spot on the depth chart, waiting on Fitzgerald's retirement (or an injury) to open up a starting job.

WR Tre'Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

As a Smith owner myself, I was hoping the Saints would let Ted Ginn walk in free agency and wait until the middle rounds of the draft to find a replacement. Well, it does appear Ginn will be leaving, but that's because he's already been replaced with an upgrade, Emmanuel Sanders. The path to steady targets thus becomes even trickier for Smith, a 2018 third-round pick who has 10 touchdowns but just 46 catches through 26 regular-season games. I'm still intrigued by the talent but may not be patient enough to wait on the opportunity.

TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

I've never been a Njoku fan anyway, and the Austin Hooper signing hints that Cleveland brass agrees with my assessment. Anyone with Njoku shares should hope for a trade, as there's no way he averages more than four targets per game when Hooper, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are healthy. The good news? Cleveland still hasn't decided on Njoku's fifth-year option for 2021, which in any case is guaranteed for injury only. He'll likely end up elsewhere by next summer, if not this upcoming season.

TE Foster Moreau, Las Vegas Raiders

The Jason Witten signing suggests the Raiders either don't have much faith in Moreau's ability or aren't sure if he'll recover from his knee injury before Week 1. I'm guessing it's the latter, which is probably better than the former for dynasty investors. In any case, it will always be an uphill battle to establish fantasy value in the same offense as Darren Waller.

New Situation, Similar Value

QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Foles or no Foles, it's been clear since October that Trubisky doesn't have a future as an NFL starter. At his best, he makes some plays with his feet, completes easy passes and relies on his receivers to pick up yards after the catch. At his worst, he gives the offense no real chance to function, regardless of what the other 10 players are doing or not doing. The 2019 Bears offense wasn't exactly loaded with talent, but it also wasn't bad enough to justify Trubisky's dead-last ranking in YPA (6.1). Bye, Mitch.

QB Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts

This is much like the Trubisky situation where anyone paying close attention knew the QB in question wouldn't get another season uncontested in the starting job. In fact, Brissett is kind of like a slower, smarter version of Trubisky, i.e., overly reliant on short passes because he isn't accurate on the longer ones. Colts coach Frank Reich already made it clear Philip Rivers will be the starter, and the team seems okay with retaining Brissett as the highest paid backup in the league before he's able to hit free agency next offseason.

RB Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos

You might be surprised to see Gordon in this space, considering he's largely been an RB1 throughout this career and probably won't reach that level with the Broncos. However, his days of RB1 dynasty value evaporated long before March, and it's better that he ended up in Denver rather than somewhere like Buffalo (Devin Singletary) or Indianapolis (Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines). Gordon also got a stronger contract than I'd expected, landing $13.5 million guaranteed on a two-year, $16 million deal. There was a point not so long ago when it seemed like he might end up settling for a one-year contract to serve in the lesser half of a timeshare. Now he at least figures to have the better role — more goal-line carries and targets — in a split with Lindsay. Condolences to anyone who paid a premium earlier this offseason based on the expectation of Gordon signing with Miami or Tampa Bay.

WRs Mike Evans + Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

We knew the Bucs were headed for offseason QB drama, with outcomes ranging from Jameis Winston (fun) to Tom Brady (good) to Philip Rivers (meh) to Joe Flacco (ewww) to Teddy Bridgewater (but, why?) to a rookie draft pick (scary). In terms of 2020 value, the best-case scenario for Evans and his sky-high aDOT — 15.3, 15.7, 14.0 the past three years — was another year with the gunslinging Winston. But Brady is probably the second best outcome, and he might even be better or equal for Godwin (10.8 aDOT in 2019). The final few years of Brady's career might not match Famous Jameis levels of fantasy goodness for the WRs, but it's better than entering the wilderness or trying the mystery meat.

WR Randall Cobb, Houston Texans

Perhaps this should technically be a slight upgrade, considering Cobb signed a three-year, $27 million contract after settling for a one-year, $5 million deal last offseason. Will Fuller and Kenny Stills don't provide as stiff of target competition as Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, but I also worry Bill O'Brien won't give Cobb many chances to run deep and intermediate routes. The veteran slot man should surpass last year's mark of 83 targets; just don't expect anything close to 15.1 yards per reception or 10.0 per target. We're probably looking at something along the lines of 70-750-4 in the O'Brien offense.

TE Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Cleveland is a downgrade from Atlanta in fantasy terms, but we've known for a couple months that Hooper wasn't going to re-sign with the Falcons. Some of Hooper's dynasty managers might have preferred to see him in Green Bay, but I think we can all agree that Cleveland is a better outcome than Washington.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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