Fantasy Football: Best NFL Free Agents

Alshon Jeffery

Fantasy football’s regular season is over, which means our work here is set to begin again.At FakePigskin, we never rest when it comes to bringing you the best fantasy football information. Whether or not you were able to hoist your league’s trophy, it’s time to look ahead. The Super Bowl has yet to be decided, so a lot can change between now and March 9th, but it’s never too early to start planning for next season.

Today, I’m going to take a look at the top fantasy football options for fantasy. A full list of players that are set to be free agents can be found here. This is a comprehensive list, but remember that some of these players will likely get franchise tagged, or signed to a long-term deal. I will focus on players that are not expected to be retained by their current team.

Alshon Jeffery

Here’s the question NFL GMs need to ask themselves before making an offer to Jefferey: is he a #1 WR option in the NFL?

In his two full seasons alongside Brandon Marshall, Jeffery averaged 5.4 receptions and 79.8 yards on 9.1 targets per game along with 17 touchdowns. In the two years since, he’s down to 5 receptions and 77 yards on 8.9 targets per game with just 6 touchdowns. Jeffery hasn’t been the dominant force we thought he would be when Marshall left for New York. In his defense, his 2015 season was hampered by injuries and his 2016 season was hurt by the QB carousel in Chicago. That being said, we expected a lot more out of Jeffrey these past two seasons.

The issue for Jeffrey from a fantasy perspective is his drop in red zone effectiveness. From 2013-2014, he averaged 1.25 red zone targets per game, converting at a 22.5% clip. With Jeffery as the primary option in 2015 to 2016, his red zone targets increased to 1.29 per game but his touchdown rate dropped to 14.8%. Without Marshall, the Bears lacked any red zone threat outside of Jeffrey, so defenses were able to lock in on him.

I’ll be really excited if Jeffrey were to land with a team that has a solid tight end already, but lacks a big WR threat. The Tennessee Titans come to mind. Even if other red zone targets take away some of his looks, if he can increase his success rate, he’ll easily return WR1/2 numbers.

Terrelle Pryor

Pryor’s first season reuniting with former head coach Hue Jackson was a major success. The QB-turned WR had a fantastic season, finishing with 77 receptions for 1,007 yards. He was able to do all this despite potentially being the best QB option on his own team.

The Browns lacked any other real receiving options, which lent to Pryor having 140 targets, 12th most in the league. While his targets may decrease depending on where he goes, the quality of his targets should increase. Cleveland’s QBs combined for just 15 TDs, tied for second fewest in the league. They fared a bit better, though not much, in adjusted yards per attempt, as they finished just 5th worst.

Wherever Pryor winds up, even if it is in Cleveland, the QB situation should be improved. Cleveland will either take a talented young QB in the early rounds, or look to trade for one. If he goes elsewhere, well, the QB situation will easily be better than what he had to deal with last season.

DeSean Jackson

For the fourth straight year, Jackson finished in the top ten in yards per completion. That should not come as a surprise for the still lightning fast 30 year old WR. It also shouldn’t have surprised anyone that Jackson came on strong to finish the 2016 season during a contract year. Between Weeks 12 and 16, Jackson eclipsed the century mark four times on just 17 receptions. He also added a pair of touchdowns.

Jackson still has the ability to stretch the field, and when focused, he’s a dangerous WR that can score any time he touches the ball. The obvious concern is if that mental focus will be there after he gets paid. As long as he lands in the right situation with a big-armed QB and coach that keeps him in check, there’s no reason to think Jackson can’t have another productive season.

Eddie Lacy

Regardless of where he ends up, Lacy is going to be one of my favorite post-post-hype sleepers. Yes, I know that’s what he was supposed to be last season, but a season-ending ankle injury ended what was turning into a pretty nice year.

In five games in 2016, Lacy had 360 yards on 71 carries, good enough for a 5.1 YPC average. He also chipped in 4 receptions on 7 targets for 28 yards. For an offense that was no where close to what it is now, those were solid numbers. The main ingredient missing for Lacy was touchdowns.

After scoring 20 touchdowns in his first 31 games, he has just three in his last 20.

While his touchdown numbers have decreased, Lacy has actually become a better running back in short yardage situations. In his first two seasons, Lacy averaged just 2.38 yards per carry in short yardage (1 to 3 yards to go) situations. In his previous two, that number jumped to 3.09.

The concern around Lacy is still going to revolve around his weight, so that’s something to keep an eye on during the preseason. If he manages to keep that under control, he’s still a capable runner who is also an above average receiving option. He’s also still very young, as he’ll turn just 27 years old by the start of next season.

Other Names to Watch

Kenny Britt and Latavius Murray both just missed my cut. Britt has been a reliable option for the Rams during his three-year stint, despite poor QB play. He had his first career 1,000 yard season last year, and will have plenty of upside if he’s signed as the #2 option on a team with good QB play.

Murray didn’t quite make the cut because I think the best option for him is to stay in Oakland. In Oakland he has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, which helped him score 12 touchdowns, a career best. He had just eight in his first two season. The Raiders have Super Bowl aspirations, so they’ll likely do what they can to keep Murray from leaving.

Your Turn

Who’d I miss? Is there anyone else you’re intrigued on where they wind up? Feel free to leave me a comment, or find me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

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