⏰ Fantasy Fallout from the Frachise Tag Deadline

And now we wait for the chaos of free agency...

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I don’t think anybody wants to be “It” in this version of Tag…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Underdog Fantasy:

  • Franchise Tag Period Ends: Who got tagged and who didn’t

  • Houston signs their TE1 to an extension

  • Free Agent TEs: Dwain tells us what matters and the top options

  • It's 3/6. Take it away, Chris Allen…

Teams can’t lie with their wallets.

We heard rumblings about who might get tagged and their relative value after the Super Bowl. And speculation continued through last week’s Combine. But the window for front offices to apply a tag to one of their players has closed, and there’s no doubt how much each front office thought their potential candidate was worth.

But yesterday’s deadline wasn’t just about which skill players were designated for a tag. Their potential extensions over the offseason (or any impending drama once camps start) will be a constant storyline. Those left to test free agency should also have our eye as draft season kicks up into a high gear.

Let’s look at a few across both categories.

💪 Michael Pittman Stays in Indy

GM Chris Ballard had already indicated the team had no plans to move on from Michael Pittman. However, both sides couldn’t reach a deal in time so the Colts made sure their former second-round WR wouldn’t hit the open market.

The USC product ended 2023 with career-highs in target share (28.6%) and YPRR (2.04) while being one of 18 WRs to eclipse 1,100 yards. And while he doesn’t typically stretch the field (7.9 air yards per target), Dwain highlighted why Pittman has mid-range WR1 upside.

“Based on data back to 2011, his comps averaged 17.2 points with a WR11 finish. Most of his closest comps were possession WRs.

  • Keenan Allen

  • Larry Fitzgerald

  • Michael Thomas

  • Robert Woods

While none of these WRs were known for their deep prowess, three of the four enjoyed one or more mid-range to high-end WR1 finishes during their careers.”

Post-Combine mocks have Indy focusing on defense or taking TE Brock Bowers at 15th overall. If Pittman can avoid a significant investment at WR, he’ll be a popular option to stack in drafts with the return of Anthony Richardson.

😤 Saquon Barkley On the Move?

Let’s walk through the last year for Saquon Barkley:

After all that, and accounting for 27.9% of the Giants’s all-purpose yards when healthy this year, Barkley’s looking for a new home.

Unsurprisingly, New York’s (potentially) former RB1 was one of eight RBs who handled more than half of his team’s carries and also had a target share north of 10.0%. At 27, his dual-threat nature should have teams considering his potential value for ‘24 and beyond. So, let’s have some fun with projecting where he’ll land.

Rumors of Barkley’s desire to join the Texans came out during the Combine, with mutual interest from CJ Stroud. An offense with Stroud, Nico Collins, Tank Dell, AND Saquon? Every draft would be a race to acquire the most Houston players.

🤨 The Curious Case of Calvin Ridley

Calvin Ridley’s fit in Jacksonville’s offense was easy to see when the Jaguars traded for him. After relying on Christian Kirk and Evan Engram in 2022, a true X receiver was just the piece they needed to push Trevor Lawrence and the rest of the offense into the post-season.

And then the 2023 season happened.

Ridley enters the free-agent pool after what appears to be a down year. But I’m with Ian that it wasn’t THAT bad of a season for the Jags’ WR1. Ridley led or was close to leading Jacksonville’s receiving corps in every scenario that mattered for fantasy:

  • When Lawrence was pressured: 1st (in target share)

  • Deep-ball target rate: 1st

  • Red-zone target share: 1st

  • Inside the 10-yard line: 1st

  • Obvious passing situations: 2nd

While the results weren’t top-12 worthy, the opportunity aligned with the expectation. Regardless, with a season after his suspension under his belt, I’ll be buying back in on Ridley once a team signs him.

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💰 The Texans lock up their TE1 for the next three years. Houston’s offense is going to be so fun to watch.

👋 Panthers cut their TE1 after one season. A reunion with Cincinnati has some potential.

📝 Matthew gives us his notes from the Combine. So many good nuggets in here.

😲 Mike Macdonald makes some personnel changes on defense. Apparently, it’s time to start fresh in Seattle.

📽 Scott Fish announces the theme for SFB14. My closet is ready for more T-shirts.

😱 Kirk Cousins leaving Minnesota? The betting market says yes.

🐬 Jonnu Smith visits Miami. Jaylen Waddle managers beware.

😭 Jason Kelce's trainer shares a story about the future Hall of Famer. It must be dusty in here...

Top FA TEs

With the NFL offseason underway, it is time to dive into available free agents. Focusing on the data points that matter most for TEs, Dwain analyzes the top free agents from a fantasy football lens.

📈 Dalton Schultz

Schultz has been a borderline TE1-level target earner over the last three seasons, with at least 5.3 targets per game every year. However, his air yards and YPRR marks have been underwhelming.

Dalton Schultz

This type of TE profile has more value in PPR formats but has challenges in standard leagues. In a pass-friendly offense with low target competition – especially at the slot and RB positions – Schultz should find his way into the low-end TE1 conversation.

Schultz is now set to return to the Texans on a three-year $36M deal. That means he gets to play with one of the best young QBs in the NFL. However, the target competition will be strong, with Nico Collins and Tank Dell flashing high-end ability in 2023. Despite the challenges, Schultz could have landed in a worse situation in free agency.

Fantasy outlook: Schultz is a borderline TE1 who offers upside if Dell or Collins misses time.

Top FA TEs

🤔 Gerald Everett

It feels like we have been waiting on the Everett breakout since the Reagan administration, but his highest PPG finish is TE16 in seven campaigns. Last season looked like an opportunity for Everett to break free of his limited route participation woes under Kellen Moore, but it didn’t come to fruition.

His target share came in below low-end TE1 levels due to his 53% route participation, but per usual, he teased us with a mid-range TE1-worthy TPRR of 21%. Everett has reached 21% or higher in three of his last five seasons.

While Everett is an athletic TE who can create after the catch, he has never been a high aDOT player. When you add that to his limited routes, it is bad news for his air yards. 

Gerald Everett

After so many coordinators have passed on giving Everett a significant role, he might be type-cast as a situational player. The best-case scenario for Everett is landing on a pass-first team that doesn’t deploy heavy personnel packages often.

Fantasy outlook: If Everett ever gets an 80% route participation, he would profile like Evan Engram. However, it will require a great landing spot and some imagination to forecast that role, keeping Everett in the mid-range to low-end TE2 conversation in most landing spots.

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