Wtf does 'sull' mean...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by BetMGM:
- What's up with Rodgers and Ekeler?
- Free Agency Roundup: Day 1
- The Niners & Dolphins land QB insurance
- Fantasy Fixers: Chargers
- Dynasty Rookie Profile: CJ Stroud
- It's 3/14. Take it away, Peter Overzet.
Free Agency kicked off yesterday with the legal tampering window opening up—more on the flurry of moves below, including Jimmy G heading to Sin City—but two of the biggest headlines from yesterday revolved around the absence of news...
😡 Make up your mind, Aaron Rodgers
The worst kept secret in the league right now is that Rodgers is heading to the Jets. The Packers have made it clear they are moving on. The Raiders pivoted to Garoppolo. The Jets are trying to sign his friends. And yet we don't actually have anything definitive on it, other than this Trey Wingo tweet from yesterday that sent everyone into a frenzy:
Hearing Rodgers to the Jets is done. History about to repeat itself between New York and Green Bay. Time is indeed a flat circle
— trey wingo (@wingoz)
Mar 13, 2023
Ian Rapoport later said, "Hey, not so fast" and that nothing official has happened.
And so we are all left waiting...dare I say, in the dark. Please hurry this up, Aaron (unless you are setting us all up for an epic bit).
— Aaron Rodgers (@AaronRodgers12)
Mar 14, 2023
🤯Wait, Austin Ekeler wants out?
The biggest surprise from yesterday was Ekeler requesting permission to speak with other teams about a potential trade after initial contract extension talks with the Chargers failed.
The Chargers are already tight on cap space and Ekeler is due $6.25 million in the final year of his contract in 2023, so it isn't entirely unlikely that they'd entertain offers.
For fantasy, this is actually worrisome because it's hard to imagine a more fantasy-friendly environment for Ekeler than the comfy, check-down confines of Los Angeles. Maybe the Bengals if they move on from Joe Mixon, but it's slim pickings out there as far as attractive landing spots.
Regardless, let the Bijan Robinson to the Bolts rumors commence...
Let’s add Bijan Robinson to this Chargers offense and see what happens
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz)
Mar 13, 2023
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The first day of free agency wasn’t a true frenzy, but we saw some big names change teams on both sides of the ball. The biggest moves came on defense, and while that might not have a huge impact on fantasy, it can make a big difference in the betting market. There’s still plenty of chips left to fall, but in the meantime Matt LaMarca looks at four of the biggest developments following the first day of free agency.
🦅 The Eagles Defense Takes a Hit
The Eagles made it to the Super Bowl last season, and their defense was a big reason why. They ranked sixth in Football Outsiders defensive DVOA – including first against the pass – and they were third on defense in terms of Pro Football Focus grade.
The Eagles aren’t necessarily going to be bad on that side of the ball next season, but they took a few major hits in free agency. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave signed a four-year, $84M deal with the 49ers, while linebacker T.J. Edwards signed a three-year deal with the Bears.
Hargrave was considered one of the crown jewels of this free agent class, ranking as the No. 3 option on PFF’s free agency big board. He graded out as the No. 12 interior defensive lineman for the year, racking up 11 sacks and 10.0 tackles for loss.
Edwards checked in at No. 29 on PFF’s big board, and while inside linebacker isn’t considered a premium position in the modern NFL, Edwards ranked sixth at the position per PFF in 2022-23. He led the team with 159 tackles, and Kyzir White was the only other member of the Eagles with more than 94.
With both players gone and James Bradberry and C.J. Gardner-Johnson still TBD, the Eagles’ defense is not expected to be nearly the same force that it was last year. That’s great news for those who are drafting the Eagles’ offensive options in fantasy leagues, but it’s not a great development if the team hopes to make it back to the Super Bowl.
🐻 The Bears Start Their Shopping Spree
The Bears entered the offseason with nearly $100M in cap space, by far the most in the league. It hasn’t taken them long to start putting their dollars to work.
It started when the team dealt the No. 1 overall pick to the Panthers. They acquired D.J. Moore in return, giving Justin Fields a legit No. 1 option to work with. Moore is on the books for more than $20M next season, so that type of deal wouldn’t have been possible for most rebuilding squads.
The Bears continued to spend during free agency. In addition to Edwards, the team added another outstanding linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds.
He blossomed into one of the best coverage linebackers in football last season, ranking third at the position in PFF coverage grade. With more and more dynamic pass-catchers entering the league at tight end and running back each season, having a linebacker who can cover is a necessity.
The Bears also addressed their offensive line, adding an interior blocker in Nate Davis. Davis isn’t a marquee blocker, but he’s an above average player at a position where the Bears had a major weakness.
Even after their shopping spree to start free agency, the Bears still have plenty of money to continue to making moves. Add in four draft picks inside the top 64, and the Bears have the potential to be a completely different team in 2022-23. Their odds to win the NFC North have already dipped to +300 on BetMGM, putting them in a dead heat with the Vikings. Their odds are only going to continue to dip as we get closer to the start of the regular season.
💰 Jessie Bates Gets a BAG
Safety was considered one of the strongest positions in this free agency class, and Bates was arguably the best available option. That said, I’m not sure anyone expected him to get as much money as he got from the Falcons.
His deal is reportedly for four years and $64M, with $36M of guaranteed money in the first two seasons. Overall, it’s the fourth-largest contract for a safety in NFL history:
It's a 4-year deal for$16.005M per year. Wow.
4th highest paid in NFL history twitter.com/RapSheet/statu…
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet)
Mar 13, 2023
Bates has historically been one of the best safeties in football, earning the No. 1 spot at the position per PFF in 2020. He wasn’t quite as impressive last year, finishing just 24th at the position, but it’s still a massive upgrade for a horrendous Falcons defense. They were 30th in defensive DVOA, including 29th against the pass, and the Falcons were among the busiest teams in football on Monday. Like the Bears, they’re another team that could be vastly improved in 2022-23, and they just so happen to play in the worst division in football.
🎰 Jimmy G Finally Finds a New Home
After what seems like an eternity, Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
While I suggested that the Raiders forgo a mid-level free agent at quarterback in my Fantasy Fixers piece, I do think Garoppolo is an interesting option. He’s one of the tougher quarterbacks to get a feel for since he’s dealt with injuries and played in a very quarterback-friendly Kyle Shanahan offense.
That said, his production when on the field last season was outstanding. He ranked third at the position in terms of Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/play), trailing only Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. PFF didn’t view him quite as favorably, but he still appears to be a solid upgrade over Derek Carr.
The Raiders also got Garoppolo on a friendly three-year, $67.5M deal. Only in the NFL can $22.5M per year be considered “friendly,” but that’s well below the going rate for a starting QB in the currently market. Heck, Daniel Jones isn’t much better than Garoppolo, and he got four years and $160M from the Giants.
Our crew broke down Garoppolo and the rest of Monday’s signings from a fantasy perspective on the FantasyLife website.
🎨 The best bit on NFL Twitter comes to an end. What a ride.
🥵 Every Free Agency move in one place. Stay up to date.
🎱 Can Deshaun Watson turn it around? Signs point to maybe?
🏴☠️ What does Jimmy G do for the Raiders? Matthew breaks it down.
🛡️ The Niners land some QB insurance. Maybe Purdy's recovery timeline is dicey.
🐬 Miami pulls a similar move. Nice backup option for Tua.
🌴 Uh oh, don't tell Garrett Wilson. Just let him think it's a done deal.
With the Combine behind us, it is time to turn our attention to the NFL Draft and the 2023 rookie class. Today our CEO Eliot discusses the pros and cons of CJ Stroud as a dynasty prospect and how to bet on him in the NFL Draft.
Stroud has prototypical size for a QB at 6’3 and 214 lbs. and is an accomplished passer, and there is no throw that he can’t make.
He has elite arm strength and a picture-perfect deep ball. In fact, Stroud averaged 10 yards per attempt in 2022, with 1,082 of his 4,435 passing yards coming on deep passes. While many college QBs have passing stats inflated by the screen game, only 224 of Stroud's passing yards came from screens, ranking just 109th most in the country.
In addition to deep balls, Stroud also throws the ball with touch and accuracy. He completed 71.6% of his passes last season, which was 9% higher than the college average. Moreover, Stroud can deliver the ball between the numbers and knows how to lead receivers to maximize yards after the catch.
Stroud is this draft class's most accurate passer and when passing from a clean pocket. When not under pressure, Stroud picked defenses apart. Per PFF, he had a 71.7% completion rate, 35 passing TDs, and a 93.4 PFF grade in 2022 when playing from a clean pocket.
Finally, Stroud didn't just beat up on bad opponents. He also excelled in the biggest games against Ohio State's toughest opponents. Stroud’s performance against the country's best defense, Georgia, in a playoff game remains the best tape of any QB in this year's rookie class.
The first rule of scouting is to scout the player, not the helmet. Many will hold the fact that Stroud attended Ohio State against him, likening him to other Buckeyes QBs like Dwayne Haskins, Cardale Jones, and JT Barrett, all of whom had short NFL careers.
But comparing him to such QBs simply because of their shared alma mater would be disingenuous. None of these players had the pedigree that Stroud does.
That being said, one concern for Stroud will be the drop in receiving talent going from Ohio State to the pro level. Stroud played with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave during his redshirt freshman season, the two best rookie receivers from 2022.
After that year, Stroud's top targets were Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the current favorite to be the top wide receiver drafted this year, and Marvin Harrison Jr., who is a near-lock to be first WR prospect selected in the 2024 NFL Draft.
If Stroud were to go first overall to Carolina, he would be throwing to one of the worst wide receiver groups in the NFL.
Additionally, while Stroud excelled from a clean pocket, as mentioned above, he completed just 41.3% of his passes when under pressure. While he has the athleticism to evade defenders, he rarely used it to buy time outside of the pocket other than in his performance against Georgia.
Although Stroud showed in that game that he is capable of feeling and managing pressure, it's definitely still an area of improvement for him as a prospect.
Stroud also had a habit of locking onto his top option too often in his final collegiate season, though it's a hard to blame him for doing so when that top option was Marvin Harrison Jr.
🚀 Fantasy Upside
Stroud checks in as the No. 3 ranked player in my superflex rookie rankings, and I am extremely bullish on his future in the NFL.
I am, however, passing on him at current ADP for 2023 best ball drafts. Likely playing with the Panthers, Stroud will have one of the league's worst NFL rosters around him. His lack of supporting talent could greatly reduce his fantasy potential as a rookie even if he were to be the Week 1 starter in Carolina.
Some teams play chess, some checkers
Atlanta is sitting in the corner eating paste
— Peter Howard (@pahowdy)
Mar 13, 2023