Dynasty Stock: 5 Less Obvious Players Who Won In Free Agency

Isaiah Crowell wins Free Agency

It’s easy to focus on the big splash moves of free agency: does new Philadelphia Eagle Alshon Jeffery‘s dynasty stock go up? How do we value the recently-traded Brandin Cooks, now that he’s a New England Patriot? There’s reason to believe that skill position players that change teams are more likely to underperform expectations, and that the real winners of free agency tend to be the players that inherit opportunity in the form of target/carry volume with the departure of a teammate, or through the investment the team and coach make in them. Let’s run down a short list of some of the underappreciated players whose dynasty stock went up in NFL free agency:

Isaiah Crowell
A 2014 undrafted free agent, Isaiah Crowell has always been a sneakily talented running back. Despite the Browns poor offensive line play  – and even poorer quarterback play – Crowell averaged an impressive 4.8 yards per carry in 2016, and ranked #3 in the NFL in yards after contact per touch (PlayerProfiler.com).  Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar also shared this nugget regarding Crowell’s production last season:

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Hue Jackson and Cleveland must have been impressed, too, as they opted to place a 2nd round tender on Crowell this off season, a restricted free agent. Still only 24, this indicates a strong interest in keeping Crowell around as the lead back in Cleveland, a team whose offensive production can really only go up from here. Perhaps more importantly, Cleveland invested big capital in beefing up the offensive line in free agency – signing G. Joe Bitonio to a 5-year extension, and signing FA OL J.C. Tretter and OL Kevin Zeitler. Making the O-line a priority suggests that Hue Jackson may be looking to focus on building up the power run game, and to both protect and take the pressure off of Cody Kessler, or whatever QB ends up starting in Cleveland next season.

I am calling my shot now – Isaiah Crowell will be an RB1 next year.

Cameron Meredith

Most of the free agent buzz this offseason centered around the consensus top available wideout – Alshon Jeffery. After a lot of hemming and hawing – “will he or won’t he return to the Chicago Bears?” – Jeffery opted to move on via a one-year, prove-it contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears responded by signing free agents Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton. Yep.

While early dynasty Twitter talk seems to expect the highly drafted (#7 overall in 2015) Kevin White (whom I wrote about trading last week) as the current favorite to lead the Bears in market share next year, I wouldn’t count out Cameron Meredith to have a significant role on the offense.  In what was just his second year in the league, the former UDFA Meredith enjoyed a breakout year – and was the first name on new Bears starting QB Mike Glennon‘s lips when asked  about the Bears current WR corps.

While Meredith still has plenty of room for improvement –his strong athletic profile, and encouraging production last season will ensure that Bears aren’t going to be able to close up Pandora’s Box. Expect him to be a strong contributor to the offense next year, and a value in both dynasty and redraft rankings.

Fellow Fakepigskin writer Fantasy Fugazi tells the story of Cameron Meredith’s journey in the league thus far and how he can project going forward in this excellent Tweet stream. Check it out!

Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder

It looks like another year of a spread-it-around, high volume pass offense helmed by Kirk Cousins is in the plans for the 2017 Washington Redskins. With the departure of Pierre Garcon to SF, and Desean Jackson to TB – about 214 team targets are freed up, and newly signed free agent Terrelle Pryor can’t take them all. Both Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson both figure to be heavily involved next season.

As a first round NFL draft pick, and consensus top 4 dynasty rookie pick in 2016, Doctson is the shiny object with appealing upside. Early usage suggested that the Redskins want to use him as a red-zone weapon – he collected a whopping 3 red zone targets in his 2nd game starting! But his price tag of an early/mid 1st round draft pick, coupled with his injury history make him more of a risky investment. Plus his upside may be slightly capped in terms of red zone volume with a healthy (LOL) Jordan Reed on the field.

Crowder, on the other hand, carries a slightly cheaper price tag than Doctson, and has already flashed some solid ability on the field in his first two seasons with the ‘Skins – including posting a respectable 67/847/7 line last year. He’s also only 23 years old! He may be the more ‘sneaky’ pickup of the two, with the stigma that slot WRs can carry in fantasy, but he’s a much safer bet for production than Doctson given the injury history.

Jack Doyle

No, he’s not “the last clean cop in this dirty town – two weeks away from retirement,” (shoutout to @FantasyDouche and his always outstanding riffs on NFL player names) – he’s the new TE1 for the pass-happy Indianapolis Colts. With the departure of Coby “Goldilocks” Fleener, and the inconsistent production of Dwayne Allen (and subsequent trading to the Patriots), Jack Doyle is Andrew Luck‘s new best friend.

Jack  Doyle is Andrew  Luck's New Best Friend

Jack Doyle is Andrew Luck’s New Best Friend (original source)

Doyle finished as a high end fantasy TE2 last season, despite being 2nd on the depth chart behind Allen. With no further obstacles in front of him (though the Colts will likely add to the position in this stacked TE draft class), Doyle is now on the back-end TE1 radar. Any pass catcher tied to Andrew Luck has fantasy value, and Doyle’s just went way up. If you don’t already own Doyle and are interested in acquiring, consider waiting until after the NFL Draft: if the Colts draft a TE – whose fantasy relevance is typically slow to ramp up – you may find a buying window from a concerned owner.

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