2021 Fantasy Football: NFL Free Agency Winners & Losers

Michael Fabiano takes an in-depth look at the winners & losers of the 2021 NFL free agency period

The free-agency frenzy in the NFL has been a wild ride, as several players will be wearing new uniforms in 2021. So, who have been the biggest winners and losers among players who have been signed? Here's 

Free Agency Winners

Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks: It looked like Carson's time in Seattle was over, but he ultimately returned to the Great Northwest on a two-year deal. It's a terrific landing spot for fantasy purposes, as he'll remain the top runner in a Seahawks offense that wants to lean on the ground attack. Carson has dealt with minor injuries from time to time, but he's still in the prime of his career and a No. 2 fantasy back in 2021 drafts.

Curtis Samuel, WR, Football Team: This is one of my favorite "fantasy" moves, as Samuel goes to Washington. He ranked 27th in points among wideouts last season, but he was the WR12 over his final 10 games. During that time, he averaged more than seven targets and nearly 17 fantasy points per game. A versatile playmaker, Samuel now has a chance to earn a bigger target share and could be a valuable No. 3 wideout.

Mike Davis, RB, Falcons: Davis put up top-12 totals among running backs last season in the absence of Christian McCaffrey. He's durable, versatile and has proven he can be the lead back at the NFL level. While Davis is currently atop the Falcons depth chart, I believe the team will add competition in the NFL draft. For now, he's a winner who could bring back RB2 value if the Falcons decide to feature him in 2021.

Gerald Everett, TE, Seahawks: Everett was the best free-agent tight end in the league behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, and he could be a nice bargain in 2021 drafts. He rarely had a chance to be a true featured tight end in Los Angeles, which was evident because he never has more than 62 targets in a season. Now with the Seahawks, he'll have a chance at a bigger target share and a more reliable role on fantasy teams. 

Cam Newton, QB, Patriots: Newton is a fantasy winner not simply by re-signing with the Patriots, but because he's got more weapons in the passing attack. New England has added Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne to a team with Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers under contract. That's good news for Newton, who threw for a pitiful eight touchdown passes as a starter in 2020.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Football Team: Fitzpatrick has been underrated in fantasy land over the last two seasons, scoring 19-plus points in 10 of his last 14 games with at least 15 pass attempts. Now the favorite to start in Washington, the Amish Rifle will lead an offense that fields talented young players like Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, and Logan Thomas. The magic man will have late-round value in 2021 drafts. 

Andy Dalton, QB, Bears: Dalton isn't a world-beater among fantasy quarterbacks, but he landed in a good spot for his value. The Bears will allow Dalton a chance to start in a competition with Nick Foles, and some would suggest the Red Rifle is the favorite to be under center in Week 1. Dalton isn't likely to be selected in most drafts that don't have two quarterbacks or a super flex, but the chance to start still makes him a winner.

Mike Boone, RB, Broncos: Boone signed with the Broncos and will be the main fantasy handcuff behind Melvin Gordon. That comes after the team decided to let Phillip Lindsay (Texans) walk as a free agent. Boone will be worth a late-round pick, especially for those who land Gordon earlier in their 2021 fantasy football drafts.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Titans: Reynolds is coming off a season with a career-high 81 targets for the Rams, and now he'll be in line for a slightly bigger role in Tennessee. He's the early favorite to replace Corey Davis, who left for the Jets and leaves behind 92 targets in 2021. Reynolds will be worth late-round selection in most fantasy drafts.

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Free Agency Losers

Kenyan Drake, RB, Raiders: In one of the worst 2021 fantasy free agent moves, Drake takes his talents to Las Vegas, where he'll form a one-two punch with Josh Jacobs. That might be fun for coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders, but it stinks in fantasy circles. You can say goodbye to Jacobs's 37.1 percent touch share and Drake's 31.5 percent share from last season and expect a committee that will limit both players' fantasy stock. 

Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants: Golladay has signed with the Giants, where he'll have to share targets with a crowded group of receivers that includes Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph. He'll also be catching passes from Daniel Jones, who has yet to prove that he can be a consistent quarterback. Instead of being a No. 1 or 2 fantasy wideout, Golladay will now be more of a No. 2 or 3 receiver.

Will Fuller, WR, Dolphins: Fuller was on pace to have a career season in 2020, but he was suspended for the final five games. When he was on the field, he averaged 17.2 points a game. His value takes a hit in Miami, though, as he'll be playing in an offense with a lot of young talent. Fuller will also see a downgrade at quarterback from Deshaun Watson to Tua Tagovailoa, so look for him to be drafted as a No. 3 wideout.

Hunter Henry, TE, Patriots: If you told me the Patriots would be signing Henry before free agency starts, I'd have been excited. But Henry and Jonnu Smith? That throws cold water on the stock of both players. There have been just four instances of tight end teammates finishing in the top 12 in fantasy points in the same season since 2000, so Henry and Smith are likely to struggle to produce consistently good numbers.

Jonnu Smith, TE, Patriots: Smith's value looked to be on the rise due to signing with the Patriots, but the team later added Henry (doh!). That puts a cap on the fantasy appeal of both players. The Patriots will undoubtedly run a ton of 12 personnel as they did back in the Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez days, but Tom Brady isn't here anymore. Smith is the lesser of the two tight ends and now has just late-round appeal.

James Conner, RB, Cardinals: This move could be considered a push, but I'm putting it into the loss column because Conner and Chase Edmonds hurt each other's value. Conner's ceiling overall takes a hit because he won't be involved in the passing game as much as he was in Pittsburgh, and Edmonds is likely to lose early-down and goal-line work. At best, Conner will be a risk-reward flex starter with his new team.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Texans: Lindsay becomes the second running back to sign with Houston this offseason, joining Mark Ingram in a crowded backfield behind David Johnson. The Texans have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, and touches won't be guaranteed on a week-to-week basis. At best, Lindsay will be worth a late-round choice in fantasy drafts if he can earn the No. 2 role in the backfield.

James White, RB, Patriots: White has seen a decline in production in recent seasons, and the Patriots have added a ton of pass catchers during free agency. That clouds White's target share. New England also has a crowded backfield that's certain to be a headache for fantasy fans, so White won't be worth more than a late rounder.

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts: Mack, who is coming off a torn Achilles, decided to remain with the Colts on a one-year deal. It's not ideal for his value, and some fantasy fans might think it hurts Jonathan Taylor too. I still see him as a first-round pick, though. Mack will likely see some work and be a good handcuff if Taylor misses time, but you have to wonder how much of his quickness was left on the operating room table.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Bills: Sanders lands in Buffalo, where he'll take over the role left behind by John Brown (Raiders). The veteran finished 41st in fantasy points among wideouts a season ago, and I don't think he'll be much better for the Bills while playing behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Gabriel Davis. His presence might take a little of the luster away from Davis, but Sanders won't be worth more than a late draft flier.

John Brown, WR, Raiders: Brown signed a one-year deal with the Raiders and will (at least for now) replace Nelson Agholor. He'll play with Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow when the Raiders go three-wide, and Bryan Edwards will also be in the mix. Brown, who saw his numbers tumble last season while missing seven games for the Bills, could be worth a late flier in drafts but won't be more than a No. 5 wideout.

Nelson Agholor, WR, Patriots: Agholor is coming off a career season in Las Vegas that saw him finish with eight touchdowns and nearly 190 fantasy points. He also had a team-high 16.5 percent target share. New England also added Kendrick Bourne and still has Julian Edelman, Jacobi Meyers, and N'Keal Harry under contract, not to mention the additions of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Agholor's stock has seen a decline.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: Rudolph saw a meager 7.6 percent target share in his final season in Minnesota, and that total won't improve at all with Evan Engram on the New York depth chart. He won't have much re-draft value, but his presence in the offense does make Engram a bit less attractive as a potential No. 1 fantasy tight end.


Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Jones didn't switch teams, so this one falls under the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" category. He's been a top-five fantasy runner in two straight years, and at 26, he's still in the prime of his career. The Packers also let Jamaal Williams leave for the Lions, so Jones won't be contending with two other runners (including A.J. Dillon) for touches. He should remain a top-15 overall pick in drafts.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: Smith-Schuster opted to return to the Steelers on a 1-year deal, despite offers from the Ravens and Chiefs. Pittsburgh does have a lot of mouths to feed with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool also in the mix, but their offense threw the ball nearly 65 percent of the time last season. Ben Roethlisberger will be back under center too, so Smith-Schuster should retain WR2/WR3 value.

Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Jaguars: Jones was the WR18 a season ago, but that was due largely to a major increase in target share with Kenny Golladay injured. That share is likely to decrease in Jacksonville with D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault in the mix, and the Jaguars might not be done adding offensive pieces. Jones does know the offense from his time in Detroit with coordinator Darrell Bevell, thus the push label.

Corey Davis, WR, Jets: Davis is coming off a career season that saw him produce 984 yards, five touchdowns, and a WR30 finish based on fantasy points. Still, even as the top option in New York (maybe?), I don't see this as more than a lateral move from a fantasy perspective. The Jets also field Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder, and they aren't done adding weapons. Plus, who will be their starting quarterback in 2021?

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts: Hilton, who turns 32 in November, finished an unimpressive 42nd in fantasy points among wideouts last season. However, the veteran did turn things on late in the year and was far more productive. He'll have to gain a rapport with new quarterback Carson Wentz, but overall I'd still be looking to target Hilton in the later rounds as a high-end No. 4 fantasy wideout in 2021 drafts.

Damien Williams, RB, Bears: Williams is a nice fit for the Bears, as he knows the offense of coach Matt Nagy well from their time together in Kansas City. He didn't play last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he'll see enough touches to make David Montgomery a bit less attractive in 2021 fantasy drafts. Overall, Williams will be one of the more attractive late-round handcuffs with possible standalone value.

Jameis Winston, QB, Saints: The decision to remain in New Orleans could be a good one for Winston, but time will tell. Most Saints beat writers project him to be the Week 1 starter, and we know the offense can be a real advantage for quarterbacks in terms of fantasy points. Winston is a push, however, because he'll have to compete for the top spot on the depth chart with Taysom Hill. It'll be a competition to watch this summer.

A.J. Green, WR, Cardinals: Green, who turns 33 this summer, looked like a shell of his former self last season. He did have 104 targets, but he turned them into a modest 47 catches for 523 yards in the stat sheets. The Cardinals' offense can be wide receiver friendly, but it'll be tough for Green to be worth anything more than a late-round flier (at best) in fantasy drafts while playing behind DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk. 

Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers: Fournette was integral in the Buccaneers taking home the Super Bowl title and is back with the team on a 1-year deal. He finished just 35th in fantasy points among running backs last season, but he was an absolute star in the postseason when "Lombardi Lenny" was born. He'll continue to share work with Ronald Jones in 2021, however, so it will be tough to trust him as a weekly starter.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Lions: Williams was one of the better fantasy handcuffs over the last two seasons behind Jones in Green Bay, and I think he'll fill a similar role for the Lions behind D'Andre Swift. You could argue his value will rise a bit because Swift has yet to be established as a true featured back, but I still see the Georgia product as a viable No. 2 fantasy running back in 2021 drafts. Williams will be a mid to late rounder.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Ravens: A former 1,000-yard wide receiver, Watkins wasn't a reliable fantasy factor despite playing with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Now with the Ravens, he'll be the favorite to start opposite Marquise Brown in an offense that threw the football 44.1 percent of the time in 2020. What's more, no team had fewer receiver routes run or targets at the wide receiver spot. Watkins will be a late rounder.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Jets: Coleman joins former Niners DC and current Jets head coach Robert Saleh in the Big Apple. Saleh's offense should be similar to the one Kyle Shanahan runs, so Coleman could have the early edge on incumbents like La'Mical Perine, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams. Still, I'd look for Gang Green to add a featured-type runner in the NFL draft. At this point, Coleman would be worth a late-round look.

Jared Cook, TE, Chargers: Cook signed with the Chargers and joining one of the league's best young quarterbacks in Justin Herbert. He'll be the projected starter for the Bolts, leaving fantasy truthers of Donald Parham in a state of shock. Playing with Herbert is a positive, of course, but I don't expect Cook to be much more than he was last season. A mid-tier No. 2 fantasy tight end worth no more than a late rounder.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Chargers: Jackson still has plenty of speed at the age of 34, but he hasn't played a full 16 games in a single season since 2013. He'll be third in line (at best) for targets among Rams wideouts behind Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, and Van Jefferson is also in the mix. He'll be worth a late flier in deeper leagues.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the best analysis in the business!

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