Hope is a dangerous thing, Saints fans...
In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter by Upside:
- Big stories across the league
- Fantasy Fixers: Cowboys
- K.J. Osborn is a hero
- Dynasty Rookie Profile: Anthony Richardson
- It's 3/7. Take it away, Peter Overzet.
Yesterday was a busy, busy day on the NFL news front. Here's everything you need to get caught up on, quick-hitter style:
🎭 The Saints land their QB
For better or worse (worse), the Saints made the bold decision to give Derek Carr $100 million guaranteed over the next four years as part of a massive four-year, $150 million dollar deal.
Carr is fine and they'll certainly be in the mix to win a hilariously weak NFC South, but this is a classic case of a team getting stuck in QB purgatory instead of bottoming out and trying to rebuild through a true franchise QB.
Earnings per career win:
Derek Carr: $2.2 million
Aaron Rodgers: $1.9 million
Tom Brady: $1.2 million
Patrick Mahomes: $1.1 million
*these numbers only count career earnings through 2022 season*
Gotta hand it to Carr, he is a smart business man.
— Michelle Magdziuk (@BallBlastEm)
Mar 6, 2023
While this doesn't move the needle for the long term trajectory of the Saints, it'll at least solidify the 2023 fantasy value for skill position players like Chris Olave and Juwan Johnson.
Oh, and Lamar Jackson would like to have a word.
🏷️ 3 intriguing franchise tags: Jacobs, Pollard, and Engram
Less than a year after declining his fifth year option, the Raiders aren't ready to part ways with Josh Jacobs after his monster 2022 season:
The Raiders have placed the franchise tag on Josh Jacobs, per @RapSheet
— Fantasy Life (@MBFantasyLife)
Mar 6, 2023
He'll earn a guaranteed salary of $10.1 million for the 2023 season, which is a nice pay bump compared to what the fifth-year option would have been. He remains a Top 12 RB, provided the Raiders can figure something out at QB.
Dallas also got in on the franchise tag fun yesterday and did the smart thing by retaining their second biggest playmaker on offense behind CeeDee Lamb:
Cowboys now have placed their franchise tag on RB Tony Pollard, per source. RB franchise tag is $10.09 million.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter)
Mar 6, 2023
Dwain has previously explained why Tony Pollard has high-end RB1 fantasy upside and now we are in wait-and-see mode with how they handle Ezekiel Elliott. I think for fantasy purposes, you root for a washed up Zeke to return rather than risk a more talented rookie coming in and forcing a timeshare with Pollard. Check out Dwain's thoughts on the situation below.
Not to be outdone, the Jags also locked up their TE Evan Engram via the franchise tag in a move that cements the Jacksonville offense as one of the most talented in the entire league.
🧱 The trade block is filling up
With A.J. Brown shipped off to Philly and Ryan Tannehill on his last legs in the league, Derrick Henry is the last veteran holdover on a rebuilding Titans team. The question is: how long will that be the case?
Here's Michael Silver of Bally Sports on the situation, along with a few other players being shopped around:
According to my sources — all of them current general managers — Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins are among the players who’ve been shopped in recent days.
It's hard to know how much the Titans could get back for a near 30-year-old in Henry. But in doing so they'd save $6.2 million in 2023 (while also incurring a dead-cap hit of $10.1 million) and would be fully committed to the rebuild.
📁 Misc. files
- The Seahawks re-signed Geno Smith to a three-year, $105 million dollar deal. They wrote him off, but he ain't write back (unless it's the back of a check).
- Brock Purdy's surgery to repair his right elbow has finally been scheduled for Friday. His status for Week 1 is firmly in doubt, but he has lots of stuff going for him:
Let’s check in on how the #49ers feel about Trey Lance…
— Rob “Stats” Guerrera (@StatsOnFire)
Mar 3, 2023
Never a dull moment...
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The NFL offseason is now in full swing with coaching changes, free agency and the NFL draft reshaping the 2023 fantasy football landscape. With that in mind, the Fantasy Life squad is breaking down every NFL team to determine what went wrong in 2022 and identify paths to improvement. Dwain is here to take on our next project, the Cowboys...
👷 Team Summary
The Cowboys have delivered back-to-back 12-5 seasons on the back of strong play on both sides of the football. However, they haven’t been able to translate their regular season success to the postseason, leading the team to move on from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
The team promoted Brian Schottenheimer to replace Moore, and Mike McCarthy will take over play-calling duties. The head coach suggested the Cowboys won’t make wholesale changes, but an estimated 30-35% would differ. However, when pressed about the differences, McCarthy provided a puzzling reply.
Mike McCarthy praised ex-Cowboys OC Kellen Moore's growth as a play caller while acknowledging philosophical differences. "I’ve been where Kellen’s been. Kellen wants to light the scoreboard up, but I want him to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense."
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL)
Mar 2, 2023
The Cowboys ran the ball above the NFL average in close (8th) and trailing game scripts (6th) and ranked fourth in rushing plays per game, excluding overtime. So, McCarthy’s response doesn’t make much sense on that front.
However, no team left more time on the play clock in neutral situations than Dallas (11.6 seconds).
Moore’s formula worked to the tune of 26.8 points per game (4th), ranking sixth in the percentage of drives converted to TDs (27%). The Cowboys played with a lead of four or more points on 39% of snaps – the third-most in the NFL.
Those leading scripts played perfectly into Dan Quinn’s aggressive defense that wants to unleash the pass rush, where Dallas ranked No. 1 in pressure rate (40%). Of course, it also kept them from worrying about run defense – where they ranked No. 20 in PFF grades.
From a macro perspective, the Cowboys have young centerpieces on both sides of the ball with Micah Parsons and CeeDee Lamb that can provide big plays that win games. However, they have multiple former superstars that are aging and making big dollars.
- Edge: DeMarcus Lawrence (31) – $26M
- Guard: Zack Martin (33) – $19.9M
- Tackle: Tyron Smith (33) – $17.6M
- RB: Ezekiel Elliott (28) – $16.7M
Dallas must get their succession plan in order on the offensive and defensive lines. Smith could be a cap casualty, with the team currently $11M over the cap. Cutting Smith and Elliott would provide Dallas with about $14M in cap savings.
The team also faces a decision on Dalton Schultz, who was a big part of the 2023 attack after the trade of Amari Cooper for a bag of chips in the 2022 offseason. The Cowboys will use the franchise tag on Tony Pollard.
🚧 Fantasy Fixer Recommendations
1. Cut Ezekiel Elliott and Feature Tony Pollard
Elliott’s contract is $16.7M this season, but the team can save almost $5M by moving on before June 1st. A post-June-1 cut would save them nearly $11M but add dead cap money to 2024.
The eighth-year veteran has been below average in key efficiency metrics over the past three years. In 2022, those numbers hit a crescendo, with Elliott ranking outside the top 24 across the board.
It is hard to imagine any NFL team paying Zeke even $5M per year, much less his current number. If they want a complement to Pollard, they can pick one up later in a loaded draft class. Dallas must move on from this contract.
Pollard was the opposite of Elliott, ranking as my No. 1 potential free agent ahead of Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs.
The fifth-year RB is a true dual-threat option that has upside similar to Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler in the passing game. In 2021, Pollard was even better than in 2022, with a 2.01 YPRR and 26% TPRR.
If McCarthy & Co. want to find ways to tweak the 2023 offense, maximizing Pollard in the passing attack should be priority No. 1. He is a mismatch that can work past the line of scrimmage (1.5 aDOT) to create mismatches with linebackers and safeties.
🤯 Matthew's 23 most interesting things he heard at the NFL combine. A bunch of juicy nuggets here.
💪 Find yourself an NFL WR who can save lives. What a story.
🧳 Updates on Allen Robinson. Where would you like to see him land?
📅 The Bears plan for the No. 1 pick. This feels definitive.
💪 Some people hit the gym in the offseason. We train to become better bettors.
😡 Tom, stop it. There are not enough eyes to roll.
☕ Will Levis gets a coffee. Mmm, delicious.
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 profiles the buzziest QB in the class...
👑 Anthony Richardson
- Underdog ADP: 152 (& rising)
- Rookie Draft ADP: 19 (& rising)
Richardson was a one-year starter at the University of Florida who declared for the NFL draft after his junior year. He is the most physically gifted QB of the class and oozes fantasy upside.
You can’t break down Richardson without discussing his simply elite athletic traits.
He tested as the single most athletic QB in the history of the combine (1st of 868). Richardson scored a perfect 10 RAS (relative athletic score) after showing up to the combine at 6’4, 244 lbs, he set the record for both the broad and vertical jumps and also clocked a blazing 4.44 forty-yard dash.
I can hear it now…
“Who cares how high a QB can jump, that won’t help him play the position in the NFL.”
Fair points, QBs aren’t graded for their ability to leap vertically. However, these testing numbers show just how explosive Richardson has the potential to be at the NFL level.
Video game type run from Anthony Richardson
— Barstool U (@BarstoolU)
Oct 16, 2022
On the field, Richardson has shown a massive ceiling.
He has a cannon for an arm, and there isn't a throw he can’t make. While his rushing ability is a huge strength, he doesn't rely on it. He is able to sense pressure, with a strong feel for the pocket, while also keeping his eyes downfield.
He has flashed pinpoint accuracy when he has his feet underneath him but needs to work on the consistency of his footwork.
During Richardson’s college career, he displayed a massive ceiling and tons of legit upside, but overall, he lacked consistency.
If you watched his game against Utah you would think he was the slam dunk first-overall pick. On another tape, you would say he isn't a first-round prospect.
While he has a cannon for an arm, he needs to work on consistently throwing with touch, getting his feet underneath him, and completing the easy passes.
If he is able to improve his accuracy, the next step in his development is improving his ability to manipulate defenses with his eyes. His running ability will lead to teams playing heavy zone coverage against him. He has reportedly interviewed well, a very encouraging sign for his maturity and for his ability to take the next step in his development.
🚀 Fantasy Upside
As soon as Richardson touches the field, he will be in the QB1 conversation due to his rushing upside.
At Florida, he had touchdown runs of 45, 60, 73, 80, and 81 yards. Only Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields currently possess that type of rushing upside on a weekly basis.
While a team may draft him and give him time to develop, he is worth attacking in best ball drafts due to his massive ceiling, and he is my slam-dunk QB1 in dynasty formats.
His most likely landing spots are: Seahawks, Panthers, and Colts.
Saints Super Bowl Odds
• Sunday: +4000
• Currently: +4000
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM)
Mar 6, 2023