We will offer 2019 fantasy football outlooks and projections off of the most notable free-agent signings and trades throughout the early portion of the signing period.
NOTE: This column will be updated throughout the first couple of weeks of the free-agent signing window.
RB Le'Veon Bell to New York Jets
Former Steeler Le'Veon Bell is back in the league after signing a four-year contract with the Jets. Bell's signing figures to mean the end of the Isaiah Crowell era in New York and puts a serious dent in the dynasty prospects of youngsters Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon.
Bell infamously sat out the entire 2018 season, but even prior to that he had completed an entire 16-game regular season only once in five seasons. Of course, when Bell was on the field, he was an absolute workhorse.
Despite missing 18 of 80 possible games from 2013 to 2017, Bell ranked first among running backs in snaps (3,449), fourth in carries (1,229), third in rushing yards (5,336), fourth in rushing touchdowns (35), first in targets (390) and first in receptions (312). His efficiency was up and down during the span and settled right around league average in his most recent campaign. During that 2017 season, Bell averaged 4.02 yards per carry, 1.82 YAC and 7.7 yards per reception. All three were just below league average.
Of course, volume is king in fantasy, so Bell had no trouble posting a huge season. He ranked first at the position in snaps (890), carries (321), pass routes (499) and receptions (85). He finished second in scrimmage yards (1,946) and fantasy points (342).
Counting only weeks he was active, Bell was on the field for at least 83 percent of the snaps, was handed no fewer than 69 percent of the carries and handled at least 15 percent of the targets during each of his final four seasons with Pittsburgh. That's the definition of workhorse usage.
New Jets head coach Adam Gase's history with running backs is interesting. He certainly had a tendency to rely on a committee backfield in Miami, but he also handed Jay Ajayi 260 carries back in 2016, and just last season Kenyan Drake handled a generous 17 percent target share, which helped him to 53 catches and five touchdowns. Three of Gase's past four offenses have been extremely run-heavy. During his three seasons in Miami, Dolphins running backs ranked 28th in the NFL in fantasy points and 27th in carries, but third in yards per carry (4.5) and first in yards after contact per attempt (2.03).
If there's one item of concern for Bell, it's Gase's playcalling history near the goal line. Incredibly, Miami ranked dead last in the NFL with 23 carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line during Gase's three seasons. The next-closest team had 39, and the league average was 50.5 during the span. Bell has cleared seven carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line only once in his career and has never rushed for more than nine touchdowns. It's fair to wonder if rushing touchdowns could elude him.
At the end of the day, Bell is positioned for a huge role in an offense that should be better as Sam Darnold enters his second NFL season. Bell's year off and change of scenery makes him a riskier investment than in the past, but he remains no less than a midpack RB1 option. He should be off the board near the first/second-round turn in 2019 fantasy drafts.
Early 2019 projection: 284 carries, 1,215 yards, 7 TDs; 94 targets, 73 receptions, 569 yards, 3 TDs
RB Mark Ingram II to Baltimore Ravens
Ingram signed a three-year contract with the Ravens following an eight-year stint in New Orleans.
Ingram's career started slowly, which wasn't ideal considering the Saints spent a first-round pick on him in 2011. The tide turned in 2013, however, as he went on to average 4.73 yards per carry, including 2.10 after contact, during the next six seasons. Those marks rank first and second, respectively, among 31 backs with 650 carries during the span.
A force near the goal line starting in 2014, Ingram ranks second in the league in rushing touchdowns (39), second in rushing OTD (37.5) and is tied for first in carries inside the opponent's 5-yard line (61) during the past five seasons. Ingram has proven to be a capable three-down back, registering three career seasons with at least 46 receptions (2015-17).
Now with the Ravens, Ingram, 29, is a strong bet to pace the backfield in snaps, carries and possibly targets. It's a good situation to be in considering Baltimore is a heavy favorite to lead the NFL in rushing attempts in the 2019 season.
Consider: Lamar Jackson took over as the Ravens' starting quarterback in Week 11 last season. From that point forward, Baltimore called 236 passes and 319 runs. That 43 percent pass rate is almost unheard of in the modern NFL.
Assuming similar playcalling continues through 2019, Ingram can surrender roughly half of the team's carries to Jackson, Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon and still come close to or even eclipse his previous career-high carry total of 230 (2017). Add a carry total in that range to 30-35 catches and Ingram has the look of a solid flex option in PPR, with borderline RB2 appeal in non-PPR.
Early 2019 projection: 218 carries, 939 yards, 7 TDs; 31 receptions, 253 yards, 1 TD
WR Golden Tate signs with the New York Giants
Former Seahawks, Lions and Eagles WR Golden Tate has signed a four-year contract with the Giants. Tate will, of course, be a part of the effort to replace Odell Beckham Jr., who was traded at a discount to the Browns earlier this week. Beckham averaged 10.5 targets per game during his five seasons in New York, whereas Tate has averaged 8.0 per game during that same span.
Of course, "high volume targets" is roughly where the comparison of the two players ends. Beckham was a big-play machine down the field and didn't have trouble filling the touchdown column. Tate has been a short-area target over the past five seasons (his 6.9 aDOT during the span is lowest among 34 receivers with 400 targets during the span) and has scored more than five touchdowns in a season twice in nine seasons (2012, 2015).
Post-catch production is where Tate really stands out. Though there is some inverse correlation between aDOT and yards after the catch, Tate's 6.5 RAC over the past five seasons is also tops in the league. Tate's usage and production fell considerably following a trade to the Eagles last season, but he still managed his sixth-consecutive top-30 fantasy campaign.
Tate and Sterling Shepard will operate as the Giants' clear top-two receivers. Shepard (70 percent) and Tate (77 percent) have run a majority of their routes from the slot over the past two seasons, and though determining the team's primary slot receiver will eventually be important for weekly matchups, it doesn't matter a ton right now. The fact is -- both are positioned for massive offensive roles with Corey Coleman the next man up on the depth chart. At least as the roster stands, the Giants' 2019 passing game will run through Shepard, Tate, TE Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley.
Tate is primarily a short-area target who should push for a 20 percent target share, but is unlikely to add much in the touchdown department. He certainly has more value in PPR formats, but lacks upside in an offense unlikely to find the end zone often. The 30 year old is best viewed as a flex option in 10- and 12-team leagues.
Early 2019 projection: 104 targets, 71 receptions, 812 yards, 3 touchdowns
RB Tevin Coleman to San Francisco 49ers
Last offseason, the 49ers made Jerick McKinnon the league's fourth-highest-paid running back with a four-year, $30 million deal. McKinnon went on to miss the entire season with a torn ACL, but -- along with Matt Breida -- he remains on the roster for 2019. Both will now need to fend off former Falcons RB Tevin Coleman, who signed a two-year deal Wednesday.
Coleman, a 2015 third-round pick, was primarily used as a situational back behind Devonta Freeman during his time in Atlanta. Coleman has yet to clear 167 carries in a single season, and though considered a standout receiving back, he's maxed out at 32 receptions in a single campaign. Coleman has, however, delivered strong efficiency (4.4 YPC and 11.0 YPR in 56 career games) and touchdown production (29 scores). In fact, only five players in the entire NFL have scored eight or more touchdowns from scrimmage each of the past three seasons: Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Ezekiel Elliott, Melvin Gordon and Coleman.
Current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was the Falcons' offensive coordinator during Coleman's first two seasons in Atlanta. Coleman's most efficient season came under Shanahan in 2016 when he scored 11 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 YPC and 13.6 yards per reception.
Career efficiency suggests Coleman will be the 49ers' lead back, but salary suggests it will be McKinnon. Especially with Matt Breida and Kyle Juszczyk factoring into the backfield mix, this is a tough one to sort out. The 49ers are a bit shaky at wide receiver, so it's likely Shanahan will try to get multiple backs on the field together (Coleman aligned at wide receiver on 11 percent of his snaps when Shanahan was his OC in Atlanta).
It's tough to feel strongly about any of these backs as a solid RB2 as the roster stands, but if McKinnon is cut or one emerges as the feature back, there's certainly going to be fantasy value to be had. In the meantime, Coleman and McKinnon should be viewed as flex options, whereas Breida is not draftable.
Early 2019 projections: McKinnon: 147 carries, 587 yards, 4TDs; 43 receptions, 343 yards, 1 TD
Coleman: 121 carries, 537 yards, 4 TDs; 34 receptions, 286 yards, 2 TDs
WR Tyrell Williams to Oakland Raiders
Oakland's wide receiver overhaul continued on Wednesday, as the Raiders signed ex-Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams to a four-year contract.
Williams essentially was a full-time player, but primarily worked as a situational target throughout his four seasons with the Chargers. He's been limited to a target share of 13 percent each of the past two seasons despite running a route on at least 82 percent of the team's pass plays both campaigns.
A Week 1 Keenan Allen injury forced Williams into No. 1 receiver duties back in 2016 and he delivered with a 69-1,059-7 line and an 18th-place finish in fantasy points. That was, by far, Williams' most productive season. He has otherwise failed to eclipse five scores or post a fantasy finish better than 45th.
Williams will work opposite fellow newcomer Antonio Brown in Oakland, with Jordy Nelson likely ticketed for slot duties. Williams' résumé suggests he won't be a high-volume target, but his propensity for big plays and career 16.3 yards per reception provides optimism that he can push for flex numbers in deeper, non-PPR formats.
Early 2019 projection: 84 targets, 54 receptions, 725 yards, 4 TDs
WR DeSean Jackson traded to Philadelphia Eagles
Jackson wanted out of Tampa Bay. The Eagles wanted speed on the perimeter. Both sides got their wish on Monday. The Eagles reacquired Jackson and added a 2020 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a 2019 sixth-round pick.
Jackson is now 32 years old and has appeared in 16 games only twice in his 11-year career, but he continues to be a force when healthy. Last season, Jackson was limited to 47 touches, but he scored five touchdowns and averaged 18.9 yards per reception and 10.8 yards per target. Jackson has cleared 10.0 yards per target in seven of his 11 seasons. His 17.4 YPR and 10.0 YPT are tops in the NFL among 77 players with 550-plus targets since he entered the league in 2008.
Jackson is a poor bet to make it through an entire season healthy, but there's no doubt he'll be a major factor when active. He steps in as the team's No. 2 perimeter receiver opposite Alshon Jeffery, with slot man Nelson Agholor and tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert working inside. The Eagles rank fifth in the NFL in passing attempts and third in passing touchdowns over the past two seasons, so Jackson won't be short on opportunities for big plays and fantasy production.
Jackson is a flex option who could work his way into the WR3 mix.
Early 2019 projection: 95 targets, 51 receptions, 813 yards, 5 TDs
As for the Buccaneers, third-year WR Chris Godwin is a big winner following the departures of both Jackson and Adam Humphries. Tampa Bay probably isn't done adding at wide receiver, but Godwin is a strong bet to enter 2019 as an every-down player opposite Mike Evans. Godwin was limited to 57 percent of the Buccaneers' pass plays last season, but he still managed a 59-842-7 line and 27th-place finish in fantasy points. Godwin should be valued as a strong WR3 with WR2 upside.
Early 2019 projection: 113 targets, 73 receptions, 935 yards, 6 TDs
The Mark Ingram era is over in New Orleans, as the team has signed Murray as a complement to star Alvin Kamara. Murray has been the poster boy for mediocrity over the past four seasons. The former Raiders and Vikings back has finished each of the past four seasons with a yards per carry no higher than 4.13 and no lower than 3.90. He failed to clear a 1.89 YAC or fall below a 1.75 YAC during the span. Murray has never cleared 264 receiving yards in a season and has fallen short of 150 each of the past two seasons.
The area where Murray has stood out is in the touchdown department. Since 2015, Murray ranks second in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (32), fourth in rushing opportunity-adjusted touchdowns (27.7) and fifth in carries inside the 5-yard line (40). He's 10th among running backs in fantasy points during the span.
Murray is likely ticketed for eight to 12 touches per game behind Kamara. Because the Saints' offense scores at such a high rate, that's enough to put him in the flex discussion in non-PPR leagues. Murray's primary value, however, will be that of a handcuff. He'll be locked in as a RB1 option in the event of a Kamara injury.
Early 2019 projection: 143 carries, 580 yards, 6 TD; 21 receptions, 173 yards, 1 TD
WR Donte Moncrief signs with Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were on the market for a starting wide receiver after trading Antonio Brown to Oakland. The took a step toward that goal on Wednesday, signing Donte Moncrief to a two-year contract.
Moncrief has had an up-and-down and - at times - injury-plagued career since being drafted in the third round of the 2014 draft. Moncrief's best season came in 2015 - his second year in the league - in which he posted a 64-733-6 line and was fantasy's No. 36 scoring wideout. He was a touchdown force in 2016, posting career highs in touchdowns (seven) and end zone targets (nine), but missed seven games due to injury. Moncrief missed four more games during a forgettable final season in Indianapolis before posting a 48-668-3 line in 16 games with Jacksonville last season.
Though it's fair to say Moncrief has underwhelmed thus far in his career, he's certainly been more productive in fantasy with Andrew Luck under center. Of his 345 career targets, 139 have come from Luck. Moncrief posted an 84-1036-14 line on those plays. His other 206 targets have come from Blake Bortles, Matt Hasselbeck, Jacoby Brissett, Cody Kessler and Scott Tolzien, Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Freeman. Moncrief put up a 116-1511-7 line on those plays.
Assuming Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, Moncrief's quarterback situation will be much better in 2019 than it was last season in Jacksonville. Brown's departure opens up 11.3 target per game and Moncrief is good bet for significant playing time behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, with James Washington, Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers his only notable competition.
Moncrief is still only 25 years old and has good size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and opportunity in this high-scoring, high-volume Steelers offense. Same as Washington, he's risky, but holds enough upside that he's well worth a late-round flier.
Early 2019 projection: 95 targets, 54 receptions, 751 yards, 5 touchdowns
WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley, RB Frank Gore and TE Tyler Kroft to Buffalo Bills
As expected, the Bills have been busy adding weapons for second-year QB Josh Allen. After agreeing to sign TE Tyler Kroft and RB Frank Gore on Monday, Buffalo revamped its wide receiver corps by agreeing with ex-Cowboys slot man Beasley and former Cardinals and Ravens speedster Brown, according to sources.
Beasley turns 30 this year and spent his first seven NFL seasons in Dallas. His best season was a 75-833-5 line in 2016, allowing for a 33rd-place finish in fantasy points. His production plummeted in 2017 prior to rebounding for a 65-672-3 line last season. Beasley has aligned in the slot on 88 percent of his career routes and has never cleared five touchdowns or five end zone targets in a single season.
Brown, meanwhile, spent the first four seasons of his career in Arizona before signing on with Baltimore last offseason. Brown's best season saw him post a 65-1003-7 line in 2015. He was fantasy's No. 25-scoring receiver that season, but he has been unable to come close to that production since. Brown carries the sickle cell trait and it impacted him during his stint in Arizona, but he indicated last season that it isn't affecting his on-field production, and he backed that up; the soon-to-be 29 year old didn't miss a single game en route to a 42-717-5 line last season. Brown's 14.9 average depth of target is highest in the NFL among 41 players with 400-plus targets since he entered the league.
Beasley (slot) and Brown (perimeter) will compete with third-year Zay Jones and second-year Robert Foster for snaps and targets in Buffalo's run-first offense in 2019. The two newcomers will be ticketed for significant roles, but Jones and Foster figure to be plenty involved following heavy usage and strong play down the stretch last season. The combination of having several mouths to feed with Buffalo running the ball often and the inaccurate Allen under center means its hard to see any of these wideouts enjoying consistent fantasy production this season.
At tight end, Kroft is the heavy favorite to start over Jason Croom after spending the first four seasons of his career in Cincinnati. The 2013 third-round pick posted a 42-404-7 line in relief of Tyler Eifert in 2017, but he fell behind C.J. Uzomah last season and then was lost for the season with a broken foot. Kroft could snag the occasional touchdown, but he'll spend a lot of time blocking and is a poor bet for consistent fantasy production. Consider him a back-end TE2.
Gore will step in as a complement to LeSean McCoy after a bizarre 2018 season in Miami in which he averaged a healthy 4.63 yards per carry (2.27 YAC) but failed to rush for a single touchdown. Set to turn 36 this season, Gore won't see enough volume to allow consistent fantasy production and is no more than a handcuff to McCoy. Even if McCoy were to miss time, Gore would be no more than a back-end RB2.
Early 2019 projections:
Beasley: 85 targets, 60 receptions, 675 yards, 3 TDs
Brown: 85 targets, 41 receptions, 617 yards, 4 TDs
Kroft: 38 targets, 25 receptions, 270 yards, 2 TDs
Gore: 147 carries, 646 yards, 3 TDs; 18 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD
As comeback opportunities go, they don't get much better than the one Funchess is set up with in 2019.
Funchess was selected by Carolina in the second round of the 2015 draft and, following two seasons of limited action, stepped into a full-time role in 2017. The towering 6-foot-4, 225-pound receiver exploded for 63 catches, 840 yards and eight scores en route to finishing as fantasy's No. 22 wideout. Funchess appeared on his way to a repeat performance in 2018, but the wheels fell off in a hurry. Following a solid start to the season, in which he was averaging 7.8 targets per game, Funchess plummeted to fourth on the depth chart and was a non-factor in the offense down the stretch. Despite the rough season, Funchess' career has new life now that he has agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract with the Colts. The move is beneficial for Funchess' prospects for several reasons.
First of all, the Colts are one of the league's wide receiver-neediest teams. Funchess is a good bet to step in as an every-down player and the No. 2 wideout behind T.Y. Hilton. The likes of Deon Cain, Chester Rogers and Zach Pascal will compete for No. 3 duties. Second, the quality of Funchess' targets will increase significantly with Andrew Luck under center. Consider that 24.4 percent of Funchess' career targets have registered as "off target." That's fourth highest among 53 players with 300-plus targets during the span. Luck was charted as off target on 13.3 percent of his throws last season, which was sixth best among 30 quarterbacks with 300-plus attempts. Funchess also figures to be a force near the goal line; his 32 end zone targets since he entered the league ties him with Rob Gronkowski for 23rd in the league. Funchess has struggled with efficiency, but he's only 24 years old and set up with a golden opportunity in a high-scoring offense. There's some risk (as there was with "inefficient" Eric Ebron last season), but Funchess is well worth a midround flier in fantasy drafts.
Early 2019 projection: 83 targets, 48 receptions, 653 yards, 6 TDs
WR Jamison Crowder to New York Jets
After signing Quincy Enunwa to a long-term extension and tendering restricted free agent Robby Anderson at a second-round level, the Jets completed their wide receiver trio by agreeing to sign Crowder.
The former Redskins slot man aligned inside on 77 percent of his routes during four seasons with Washington and figures to play the same position in New York.
Crowder cleared 65 receptions and 780 receiving yards in both 2016 and 2017, posting his best fantasy campaign (26th) during the former. Crowder has averaged a healthy target share of 20 percent each of the past two seasons, but was limited by injury to nine games in 2018. Extremely undersized, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Crowder has 14 touchdowns (13.3 OTD) in 56 career games, seven of which came during the aforementioned 2016 season.
Jets head coach Adam Gase found creative ways to generate huge scoring plays for Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant in 2018 and Crowder figures to handle some of those opportunities in his 2019 offense. There's certainly some big-play potential and touches shouldn't be too hard to find in an offense without a clear-cut/elite No. 1 receiver. Additionally, the Jets' offense could make a big leap forward as promising quarterback Sam Darnold enters his second season.
Crowder won't be a good source of touchdowns and will share targets with Enunwa, Anderson and Chris Herndon, but he'll be ticketed for a large enough role to allow flex production in most formats.
Early 2019 projection: 94 targets, 61 receptions, 728 yards, 5 TDs
Foles won the Super Bowl LII MVP and now his paycheck reflects that. Carson Wentz's former backup agreed to a four-year, $88 million contract to replace Blake Bortles as Jacksonville's starting quarterback.
Despite his recent success, Foles has finished one season better than 29th among quarterbacks in fantasy points. The exception was the bizarre 2013 season that saw him throw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in 13 games en route to an 11th-place finish in fantasy. Since that season, Foles has tossed 35 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in 34 regular-season games. Incredibly, he has registered exactly two weekly fantasy finishes better than 16th over the past three seasons.
Yes, a large chunk of Foles' poor production came while playing for Jeff Fisher, but note that Foles threw eight interceptions and fumbled four times in seven starts (including the playoffs) last season.
Foles, who has never appeared in more than 13 games in a single regular season, is the unquestioned starter in Jacksonville. His supporting cast won't be nearly as good as it was in Philadelphia. The Jaguars' offensive line is solid, but nowhere close to the Eagles' top-end unit. Foles' top targets will be Marqise Lee, who missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, Dede Westbrook and second-year wideout DJ Chark. Foles will spend a lot of time handing the ball off to Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville's run-first offense as the team looks to win games with its terrific defense.
Foles is still a bit of a mystery, but his past production suggests we should expect inconsistent passing production and minimal rushing contributions. He'll occasionally make for a useful spot start and DFS option, but is no more than a back-end QB2 in 12-team leagues.
Early 2019 projection: 370-of-567, 4,107 yards, 20 TDs, 15 INTs
Former Buccaneers slot machine Humphries cashed in with a four-year, $36 million contract after a breakout 2018 season that saw him post career-high marks in targets (105), receptions (76), receiving yards (816) and touchdowns (five).
Humphries ranks 24th among wide receivers in receptions (192) over the past three seasons, but 65th in touchdown catches (8, 6.8 OTD) during the span. His role as a short-area target (6.2 average depth of target last season) who is rarely used near the goal line (12 career end zone targets) has left Humphries without a single top-50 fantasy season in his four-year career.
Humphries averaged 6.6 targets per game in Tampa Bay's extremely pass-heavy offense last season and is ticketed for a similar role in Tennessee's extremely run-heavy system in 2019. Humphries could push for a 20 percent target share (he never cleared 17 percent in Tampa), but that's far from a lock with Corey Davis, Delanie Walker, Dion Lewis and Taywan Taylor also in the mix.
As Tennessee's No. 2 receiver, Humphries will be on the field plenty, but he's unlikely to see much work near the goal line and also will be limited by Tennessee's run-heavy scheme. He's no more than a fringe flex option in PPR leagues.
Early 2019 projection: 87 targets, 64 receptions, 687 yards, 3 TDs
WR Danny Amendola to Detroit Lions
The Patriot is strong in this one, as Amendola has gone from playing in New England from 2013-17 to recently being cut by the Dolphins (ex-Patriots coaches Brian Flores and Chad O'Shea are now Miami's head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively) to signing with ex-New England defensive coordinator and current Lions head coach Matt Patricia.
Amendola has lined up in the slot on 83.3 percent of his career pass routes, which aligns perfectly with Detroit's need to replace former slot man Golden Tate between perimeter receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. The Lions had three or more wide receivers on the field for 80 percent of their pass plays last season (12th highest) and, though they did switch from Jim Bob Cooter to Darrell Bevell at offensive coordinator, that number doesn't figure to change much in 2019. At least as the roster currently stands, the team is weak at tight end and Bevell's past five offenses were above league average in three-plus-receiver sets.
That's the long way of saying that Amendola will be a de facto full-time player, though it doesn't necessarily mean the 33-year-old has much fantasy appeal. Amendola has never cleared four receiving touchdowns in a single season and has not finished a campaign with more than 689 receiving yards (that was way back in 2010) or better than 30th at the position in fantasy points. He is third in line for targets (at best) in an inexplicably run-first offense that ranked 23rd in offensive touchdowns last season, which makes Amendola no more than a late-round flier in deep PPR leagues.
Early 2019 projection: 88 targets, 52 receptions, 636 yards, 3 TDs