Free Agency Winners & Losers: Wide Receiver

AJ Brown Tennessee Titans

This week is winner’s week here at Football Absurdity. Unfortunately, it’s also losers week. Put them together, and what do you get? Free agency winners and losers! That’s right, every team still hasn’t finished adding players via free agency and the draft is in four weeks, but it’s time to make declarative statements about fantasy football and free agency! Let’s continue this series by looking at the biggest winners and losers at wide receiver in free agency.

Wide Receiver Winner: A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans

This is the flip side to calling Ryan Tannehill a loser in the quarterback iteration of this article, for the same reason. A.J. Brown will undoubtedly top his 7.5 targets per game he averaged in the 2020 season, mostly because the Titans have 192 targets up for grabs, and as of right now, he’s fighting with Anthony Firkser and Josh Reynolds for said targets. The only question is if the offense will even pass the ball enough for it to happen. I’m not worried about the Titans losing Corey Davis and forcing teams to focus on A.J. Brown. I would wager that teams worried about A.J. Brown far more than Corey Davis last year, and we all saw how that worked out for him (77 yards per game and 11 touchdowns in 14 games).

Wide Receiver Winner: Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team

Last year McLaurin caught passes from some insane hodgepodge of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke. In 2019, he caught passes from Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, and Colt McCoy. Somehow, with that mishmash of guys throwing him the football, he has over 2,000 yards combined in his first two seasons in the league. Now he gets an actual deep-passing quarterback to fully unlock his potential for 2021. Last year, his average depth of target dropped from 14.0 to 9.7 Given that Ryan Fitzpatrick loves the YOLO pass attempt (deep, double covered, doesn’t matter), that can only mean good things for McLaurin. The Football Team will get a bunch of pass-catchers left (Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, etc) but none of them are existential threats to McLaurin’s looming third-year breakout.

Wide Receiver Winner: Gabriel Davis, Buffalo Bills

This one might be controversial to a lot of people, but I firmly believe the offseason moves made by the Bills only help Gabriel Davis going forward. First, they let John Brown walk. John Brown had an average depth of target (aDOT) sitting at about 12.5 last season, after two years of it topping 14 yards downfield. That is to say that the Bills look at him downfield more than anything else. In his one year in the league, Gabriel Davis’ aDOT sits at 15 yards downfield.

Now, the Bills replaced John Brown with Emmanuel Sanders. People who think that it’s still 2015 want to tell you that Emmanuel Sanders is a deep threat target for the Bills. Don’t believe them. In four different stops in the last three seasons, his average depth of target has been: 9.5, 9.7, 11.0 and 8.8 yards from scrimmage. That sounds more like a Cole Beasley problem than a Gabriel Davis problem, to me.

Honorable Mention(s): Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Wide Receiver Loser(s): Steelers Wide Receivers

The offseason dealt Steelers’ wide receivers two hard blows. First, Ben Roethlisberger, whose rapidly decaying elbow caused everything to fall apart last season, returned for his 84th season under center for Pittsburgh. They also retained JuJu Smith-Schuster, so the three-headed committee (and James Washington) continues unabated, with Roethlisberger getting one year older and one year further from being able to sustain three guys. Two of the three guys will likely finish top-30, but one guy will fall far outside it. At this point, it’s likely Diontae and Chase Clapyool inside the top-30, with JuJu looking in from the outside.

Wide Receiver Loser: Will Fuller, Miami Dolphins

The markets for Will Fuller must have been absolutely bleak for him to end with a one-year, $10 million deal on the heels of a breakout PED usage campaign. Unless Fuller stayed with the Texans, the list of places where he could go without it being a stepdown from Deshaun Watson was shockingly low. Basically, unless he was a Chief, he was in for a bad time. Instead, the basic reason for naming him one of free agency’s losers merely comes down to failing to secure a multi-year deal.  Even Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne secured multi-year deals! Granted, maybe Will Fuller’s agent didn’t call the Patriots, but it still is a bad look that one of the leading wide receiver options on the market barely cracked eight figures with his contract. For that reason, Fuller is one of the biggest losers of free agency.

Wide Receiver Loser: DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins

Unfortunately, so is DeVante Parker, for fantasy football purposes. Will Fuller’s new teammate suddenly has a dearth of talented wide receivers to contend with for targets. With Mike Gesicki’s emergence and the impending addition of a wide receiver (or Kyle Pitts) at #6 in the 2021 NFL Draft, Parker suddenly has a lot of competition for targets. Long gone are the days of jostling with Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, and Allen Hurns for targets. It’s starting to look like a real receiving corps, and Parker is entering his seventh season with one (1) year of over 800 receiving yards. With a suddenly dense set of weapons at Tua Tagovailoa’s disposal, Parker could never reach his 1,200 yards and 9 touchdown mark again.

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About Jeff Krisko

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