Frascella's Fantasy Corner: NFL Free Agency Report Cards, AFC East
I’d like to take the opportunity to use this lead and opening paragraph to commemorate the birth of my first child, beautiful Ava Nicole Frascella on Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 9:22 p.m. EST!
That being said, it’s currently 3:08 a.m. – yup, in the morning – and I’m awake writing this article. Welcome to the world of parenting a newborn!
So I guess there’s no better time than now – while she’s asleep - to fully analyze NFL free agency. Here’s the way it’s going to go: (1) I’ll give a team grade for the signing (in the “real” world, not fantasy); (2) Then I’ll give an individual blurb about the fantasy implications for the signee. No time to waste. Let’s get right into it…
QB Mitchell Trubisky, Bills, 1 year, $2.5 million.
Team Grade (A-): This is completely affordable, and the Bills are showing that they are a serious organization by planning for the worst if anything happens to franchise QB Josh Allen. Trubisky immediately becomes one of the best backup QBs in the game, and the Bills could still compete if something unfortunate happened to JA. Obviously they wouldn’t be anywhere near the same level, but I think Trubisky is a top-40 QB in the game right now.
Fantasy impact: There goes Mitch’s fantasy value in Superflex leagues. He’s worthless at the moment, of course.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, Bills, 1 year, too lazy to double-check amount.
Team Grade (B): I do feel like Manny is finally losing a step, but he remains a good teammate and true route technician. Sean McDermott and the boys will easily find ways to make this savvy veteran useful within their complicated offensive schemes. Upgrade over John Brown? Probably yeah, but just a little.
Fantasy impact: Manny becomes a late Redraft play, but Stefon Diggs gets a ton of targets, while Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis will still get their looks. I could see Dawson Knox’s role expanding a bit this season, as well.
QB Jacoby Brissett, Dolphins, 1 year, $5 million.
Team Grade (B): Brissett is a solid midlevel QB in the overall context of the league, but this pricetag makes the Phins look a little silly. Dollar for dollar, skill for skill, we can’t really separate Brissett from Trubisky. The Bills simply showed better business acumen in this particular scenario. Still, we have a similar situation going on here with Miami: if something goes wrong with Tua, they want to remain completely relevant. This is a sign of an organization on the up and up.
Fantasy impact: See Trubisky’s blurb. Same idea.
RB Malcolm Brown, Dolphins, 1 year, $1.75 million.
Team Grade (B): For my money, he was the best third-string running back in the NFL this past season. Is that a backhanded compliment? Sort of, but I don’t mean it as such. Brown is just a good, solid NFL player – he’s an intangibles guy and he’s a lot better than you think when you give him opportunities. Why not a higher grade? I think if I’m Miami, I’d rather save money at the position and really see what I have between Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. This transaction just muddies the waters.
Fantasy impact: In reality, I personally think he could outplay both Gaskin and Ahmed if you consider the all-around aspects of the running back position (including blocking and assignments, of course). However, a similar fantasy situation will probably arise here: the Dolphins will go with the fresher guys (Gaskin and Ahmed), just like Sean McVay and the Rams did with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson. Brown becomes the safety blanket. Injuries would have to open the door to any potential fantasy impact for him.
WR Will Fuller, Dolphins, 1 year, $10.625 million.
Team Grade (C+): Just doesn’t seem like the right fit, to me. Earlier in his career, most of us considered Fuller a simple streak runner, but his game has vastly improved beyond that. The bad news is, I don’t think Tua and the Dolphins provide the right fit for the evolution of his game at the wide receiver position. This really has to be a ball control team with Tua under center. I don’t foresee an explosive-type offense. In a different spot, Fuller could have been an A- or B+ signing for a different team. Don’t forget, this guy is super injury prone too.
Fantasy impact: Fuller’s value takes a bit of a hit, here. Yes, the Dolphins will try to justify their move by designing many plays for Fuller, but Deshaun Watson and Houston’s come-from-behind game scripts were straight money from a fantasy perspective. That was a great spot last year, with DeAndre Hopkins out of the way in Arizona. Miami is going to try to be creative here, but I can’t be too confident in Fuller’s fantasy stock at this point. I probably won’t have many shares at all.
WR Nelson Agholor, Patriots, 2 years, $26 million.
Team Grade (C+): Feels like an overpay, doesn’t it? C+ is the right grade because the situation parallels Fuller’s in my mind. And like…wasn’t Fuller Agholor before Agholor was Agholor? You know what I mean, you can see the similarities in the way these guys play. This move screams new-wave analytics to me: Agholor gets separation and I happen to think he’s a very good player; but… Cam Newton? Is that what is happening, here? Will New England really go into another season with him under center? Either way, bad spot for Agholor. It’ll be interesting, but what exactly could Josh McDaniels be dialing up, here?
Fantasy impact: Yuck. Fuller and Agholor just chasing the money, here. They can’t possibly think these are the right spots for their particular skillsets. I would have loved to see Agholor in a more wide-open offense, elsewhere.
WR Kendrick Bourne, Patriots, 2 years, $22.5 million.
Team Grade (D): Can I say it? I’m not entirely sure the Patriots know what they are doing anymore. Their time has come and gone. Yes, Agholor was another overpay, but Bourne’s salary being close to his is also a problem for me. I highly doubt other teams were competitive at this market price. Obviously Belichick is looking to look smart here, but this move ain’t doin’ it for me. Worst signing – relative to pricetag – up to this point in my piece.
Fantasy impact: I could see Bourne suiting Cam’s style more than Agholor actually, but who the heck knows what is really going to happen with this quarterback position? Still, let’s say New England uses Bourne the same way San Fran did (two “smart” teams, if you ask most) – well, what did he ever really accomplish there from a fantasy perspective? I find his hands to be inconsistent and he doesn’t wow you with any particular skill or ability. Again, I’m not buying this move.
TE Hunter Henry, Patriots, 3 years, $37.5 million.
Team Grade (A-): There’s a lot to unpack, here: (1) Didn’t this team just draft Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene? What was the point of that, then? (2) I’m pretty sure that, in a moment or so, I’m going to be writing about another tight end that the Pats just signed and (3) Like Fuller and Agholor, I don’t like this move from Henry’s personal perspective. Don’t these guys wanna max out their dollars in the long run? Fuller, Agholor and Henry all could have put up better stats elsewhere. Yet and still, Henry is a frontline tight end in his prime. I wanted to give New England a B+ here because of the surrounding circumstances, but Henry is such a strong player in a vacuum that he earns the A- in this spot.
Fantasy impact: I liked him a lot better with Justin Herbert and the Chargers. But, like the Dolphins with Fuller, the Pats will look to flash their shiny new watch and justify their move. The designs will be there. Henry’s best bet is in the redzone with this team, obviously. Overall, again though, I don’t like the fit. This has been a weird offseason in terms of player decision-making, no?
TE Jonnu Smith, Patriots, 4 years, $50 million.
Team Grade (B-): Where is all this money coming from? (Cue the famous GIF of P-Diddy making it rain in one of his classic rap videos.) I mean, let’s just come right out and say it here: New England is trying to turn back the clock and mirror the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end duo. Here’s the problem with that idea… they don’t have Tom Brady anymore! (Haha, a discussion for a different day but, did Brady just prove that HE was the “system” all along?) Jonnu Smith was never particularly good prior to this past season. In a vacuum he’s probably a top-12 to 15 tight end for me, but I dunno about this situation, man. This whole Patriots’ offseason is making my head hurt. I can’t make heads or tails of it, other than the fact that they were supremely frustrated that they missed the playoffs for the first time in forever. But again, guess what? You can’t bring back the GOAT. The rest of this just may end up being noise.
Fantasy impact: I sort of like the way he plays, relative to what I know Belichick and McDaniels like to do with tight ends. I could see Jonnu being neck-and-neck with Henry in fantasy production, despite the fact that Henry is clearly a better player to me. The nature of the playcalling may benefit Jonnu, in a comparison between the two. Still, I’d rather him be getting those wide-open playaction looks from Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee’s run-heavy attack. Jonnu could potentially become just another face in the crowd on a now-crowded Patriot team. Again, what’s the quarterback situation here? Messy, messy stuff in my mind.
RB Tevin Coleman, Jets, finalizing a contract.
Team Grade (B+): Oh man, here you go: Frascella’s a homer! We all know he’s a diehard Jets fan! Yeah, but, I’m tougher on them than anyone. This one just happens to be a good signing. The story is simple, here: Robert Saleh is the Jets’ new head coach and Mike LaFleur is his anointed offensive coordinator; they are going to be running Kyle Shanahan stuff, gang. This is going to be an exotic run-heavy attack with a lot of backfield motion and misdirection, and Tevin Coleman is already very familiar with all this stuff. He’ll be a calming presence in this improving Jets’s backfield. Could have gone for an A- if Tevin could ever stay healthy. Jets will need Josh Adams and maybe Ty Johnson to keep the veteran Coleman fresh over the long haul of the season.
Fantasy impact: I’d think Coleman would become the de facto starter, but I still envision a committee here. Despite being a different position, this is a similar fantasy scenario to Emmanuel Sanders – Coleman is only a Redraft play in the later rounds.
WR Keelan Cole, Jets, 1 year, $5.5 million.
Team Grade (C+): Simply doesn’t do it for me. This is a “typical Jets signing” as I’ve said to my fellow diehard fans in my area, because it’s a “nothing” sort of move. It doesn’t move the needle for you, at all. I mean, what are we really talkin’ about, here? Pickin’ up leftovers from the Jacksonville Jaguars? A kid that really doesn’t stay healthy? He has some talent, but the whole package isn’t there.
Fantasy impact: Feels like he will be the Jets’ WR4 in a run-heavy attack. You can safely stay away from Mr. Cole.
WR Corey Davis, Jets, 3 years, $37,5 million.
Team Grade (B): Coming off the best season of his enigmatic career – as I’ve already said on Twitter @LegendSports7 – there are two ways to look at this deal for the Jets: (1) They are signing a wide receiver on the up and up, he’s finally putting things together or (2) Last season was a bit of a fluke. Well…which one is it? We honestly can’t know right now, so B seems like a safe ground for a grade. Davis is essentially in his prime here, but how much can you really get done with Sam Darnold tossin’ the rock around? (Often to the opposing team.)
Fantasy impact: At least this move makes sense from Davis’ perspective. Think of it from his angle: right now he just jumped up from a WR2 in Tennessee to the current WR1 with the Jets. And, not much changes in terms of system. Again, run-heavy attack from the Jets, and Saleh and LaFleur are going to use playaction. Davis isn’t afraid to go over the middle and run physical routes. He’ll get his intermediate connections off playaction, no doubt. I think his fantasy stock is about the same as it was last year, and he was actually quite good.
I hope I can bring you report cards for the other divisions, soon!
John Frascella is a published sports author and fantasy football analyst with over two decades of experience. Follow him on Twitter @LegendSports7 for all things fantasy football.