Fantasy Football Free Agency Winners to Target in 2021 Redraft Leagues

by Joshua Kellem, March 28, 2021

Let’s forego the long-winded intro and jump right into the fantasy football winners of free agency using PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics.

Below are key statistics to know while following along:

Route Participation – How frequently a pass-catcher runs a route on his team’s pass plays.

Target Rate – Targets Per Routes Run. How frequently a pass-catcher commands a target in context with his Route Participation mark.

Weighted Opportunities – Determines which backs receive the most meaningful touches.

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Melvin Gordon

Here’s a fun fact: Melvin Gordon averaged 20.8 Touches per Game, 18.4 Carries and 2.4 Receptions on 3.6 Targets, in five games without Phillip Lindsay last season. Well, Lindsay’s now in Houston, but we don’t have a problem. In those five games sans Lindsay, Gordon averaged 85.8 Total Yards per Game, scored four Touchdowns, and logged three top-20 weekly finishes. He averaged 15.7 Fantasy Points per Game in that time. For context, that would’ve been good for RB11 on the season on a points-per-game basis.

Quietly averaging 13.2 (No. 22) Fantasy Points per Game last season on a Broncos team averaging 27.6 (No. 13) Team Run Plays per Game, while splitting touches roughly 16-11, Gordon is primed to be a high-floor, high-ceiling fantasy asset. High floor because of the proven capability to produce on a capped workload, high ceiling because of the direct path to a three-down role in Lindsay’s absence. If you’re still on the fence, we can name $7 million additional reasons why Gordon is likely to hit his ceiling this season.

Lindsay vacates 10.7 (No. 34) Carries per Game and 1.3 Targets per Game, or a whopping 42.6-percent (No. 39) Opportunity Share in the Broncos backfield. He also vacates 92.8 (No. 54) Weighted Opportunities. Meanwhile, Gordon just has to fend off Royce Freeman (15.5-percent Opportunity Share, 35 Carries, and 13 Targets in 2020) and newly-signed Mike Boone (71 Carries and nine Targets in three pro seasons) for a three-down role. No, we do not foresee the Broncos drafting a back in the first three “starter” rounds of the draft.

Action: Gordon is going in the sixth round as RB28, according to Fantasy Football Calculator data. We like him over these backs: David Johnson (RB27), Kenyan Drake (RB25), Kareem Hunt (RB22), David Montgomery (RB19).

Aaron Jones

With Jamaal Williams vacating 8.5 (No. 45) Carries per Game and 2.5 (No. 32) Targets per Game, or a 36.2-percent (No. 52) Opportunity Share, Aaron Jones is set to be unleashed. The Packers have averaged 27.7 (No. 12) and 25.7 (No. 13) Team Run Plays per Game, respectively, in 2020 and 2019, while Jones averaged 14.4 and 14.8 Carries per Game in that span. Expect that number to balloon up to 18-plus carries, while his 4.3 (No. 9) Targets per Game should jump to the 6.0 range. It can be assumed that a $12 million annual salary will bring on a heavier workload. Jones totaled 15-plus carries in 9-of-14 games last season. Averaging 5.9 (No. 4) Yards per Touch, efficiency hasn’t been a problem either. Screenshot this: Jones is set to rival Christian McCaffrey as THE RB1.

While A.J. Dillon lurks, he’s not a pass-catching threat – totaling 10 Routes Run, one Target, and one Reception in his Week 16 breakout game. For context, Jones averaged 17.3 (No. 21) Routes Run per Game. Williams averaged 13.8 (No. 36) Routes Run per Game, including 29 and 39 in Weeks 7 and 8 when Jones did not play. This 29-39 Routes Run per Game usage is what we foresee Jones rivaling with Williams gone. In addition, we believe Dillon is a liability in pass protection and will struggle to see the field and occupy no more than half of Williams’ vacated 8.5 Carries per Game – if that.

Action: Aaron Jones is going in the second round as RB10. We like him over these backs: Austin Ekeler (RB9), Jonathan Taylor (RB8), Ezekiel Elliott (RB7), Nick Chubb (RB6), Saquon Barkley (RB5).

Chase Edmonds

In Kenyan Drake‘s absence in Week 9 of last season, Chase Edmonds totaled a 100.0-percent Snap Share and 28 touches (25 Carries, three Receptions). He totaled 31 Routes Run and three Targets. Edmonds parlayed the opportunity into 88 Total Yards and a top-24 weekly finish. Drake is now in Vegas, so let’s try our luck with Edmonds as an RB2 in redraft leagues. The only backs currently on the Cardinals roster that he has to fend off for a three-down role are Eno Benjamin, Khalfani Muhammad, and Jonathan Ward. Drake vacates 15.9 (No. 9) Carries per Game and 2.1 Targets per Game, or a 66.0-percent (No. 13) Opportunity Share. He vacates 14.5 (No. 32) Routes Run per game as well.

On a 45.1-percent (No. 40) Snap Share last season, Edmonds totaled 6.1 (No. 65) Carries per Game, 4.2 (No. 14) Targets per Game, and 18.1 (No. 15) Routes Run per Game. He also recorded an 8.4-percent (No. 2) Slot Rate. Even with a dual-threat quarterback in Kyler Murray, and playing on a Cardinals team averaging 29.9 (No. 6) Team Run Plays per Game, Edmonds commanded 68 (No. 6) Targets and created 165.0 (No. 25) Weighted Opportunities on limited playing time. When Drake was out, Edmonds simply ran more routes, so he should occupy most, if not all, of Drake’s per-game receiving production. Given that earning targets is a skill, the additional 14.5 Routes Run per Game opens the door for Edmonds to increase his targets-per-game average.

With his receiving prowess, we don’t need much from Edmonds on the ground to return RB2 value – the addition of even half of Drake’s vacated carries puts him roughly at a respectable 14.0 Carries per Game. Hell, we don’t care if Edmonds occupies half of Drake’s vacant carries. We do, however, have our eyes on Drake’s 35 (No. 1) Green Zone Carries from last season. If Edmonds is positioned for scoring opportunities, forget about being an RB2, we’re looking at an RB1. That, with six-plus targets per game to a back with a 77.9-percent (No. 18) Catch Rate and a 5.7 (No. 7) Yards per Touch clip, is why we are all in on Edmonds. Drake’s fantasy value last season was buoyed by touchdowns. Edmonds may be buoyed to RB1 status.

Action: Edmonds is going in the seventh round as RB32. We like him over these backs: A.J. Dillon (RB31), Leonard Fournette (RB30), James Conner (RB29).

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

From Weeks 1-6 last season, before Le’Veon Bell signed with the Chiefs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was fantasy football’s RB16 on a points-per-game basis. Bell is now a free agent, and last season’s opt-out Damien Williams was released. Edwards-Helaire is primed to be one of the best values in redraft leagues. In those six games to start the season, he totaled 20.3 Touches per Game (17.8 Carries and 3.5 Receptions). He averaged 21.2 Routes Run per Game and 5.2 Targets per Game as well, parlaying the opportunity into 113.7 Total Yards per Game, one Touchdown, and three top-12 weekly finishes with six in the top-26.

With Sammy Watkins gone, Edwards-Helaire has the chance to solidify himself as a premier pass-catching back. He had 55 (No. 14) Targets and a 65.5-percent (No. 33) Catch Rate last season. Both numbers should increase substantially in 2021.

Action: Edwards-Helaire is going in the third round as RB17. We like him over these backs: Joe Mixon (RB15), D’Andre Swift (RB14), Miles Sanders (RB13).

James Robinson

The Jaguars signed Carlos Hyde to a two-year, $6 million deal. For context, his annual salary makes him the league’s 33rd-highest-paid back, according to Over The Cap. Hyde averaged 8.1 (No. 48) Carries per Game and 2.0 Targets per Game, or a 36.3-percent (No. 51) Opportunity Share in 10 games as Chris Carson‘s backup in Seattle last season. Consider this a win for James Robinson, who totaled 17.1 (No. 6) Carries per Game and 4.3 (No. 13) Targets per Game, averaged 17.7 (No. 5) Fantasy Points per Game, and recorded a league-leading 85.2-percent Opportunity Share on a Jaguars team that averaged a league-bottom 21.0 Team Run Plays per Game.

In his two seasons as Lions offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020, Darrell Bevell’s offense averaged 25.5 and 22.9 Team Run Plays per Game, respectively. The decrease last season can be attributed to the defense ranking dead-last in Football Outsiders’ Weighted DVOA to end the season. While the Jaguars defense ranked just two spots higher, they’ve added nine players to that side of the ball in an effort to improve. Although it’s inevitable Robinson loses part of his Opportunity Share, we’re looking at a potential increase in Team Run Plays per Game.

Action: Robinson is going in the second round as RB11. That’s fair value.

Anthony Firkser

Anthony Firkser re-signed with the Titans on a one-year deal, while Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis left via free agency. Although the Titans averaged 31.8 (No. 30) Team Pass Plays per Game, the passing tree is narrow. Last season, A.J. Brown totaled 106 (No. 30) Targets, Davis totaled 92 (No. 42), Smith totaled 65 (No. 17), and Firkser totaled 53 (No. 25). No other pass-catcher commanded more than 35 looks. That said, Smith vacates 4.6 (No. 19) Targets per Game, 19.6 (No. 30) Routes Run per Game, and nine Green Zone Targets. Smith also totaled nine (No. 3) Touchdowns. Davis, meanwhile, vacates 6.6 (No. 43) Targets per Game, 26.3 (No. 83) Routes Run per Game, and three Green Zone Targets. He scored five (No. 35) Touchdowns.

Obviously, Davis and Firkser run routes on different parts of the field, but with earning targets being a proven skill, it’s possible for some of Davis’ targets funnel over to Firkser if he impresses Ryan Tannehill. Between Smith and Davis, there are 11.2 Targets per Game and 12 Green Zone Targets up for grabs in one of the most narrow passing offenses in football. Firkser totaled 1.82 (No. 6) Yards per Route Run last season, one of the most predictive stats for tight end fantasy production. We acknowledge the team signed Josh Reynolds, but Firkser needs to be on draft boards – especially if you wait on tight end.

Action: Firkser is not being picked within the first 29 tight ends in redraft, but we like him over Hayden Hurst (TE13), Evan Engram (TE12), and Hunter Henry (TE8).

Adam Trautman

Like with Anthony Firkser, Adam Trautman benefits from being the last man standing on his team. Jared Cook signed a one-year deal with the Chargers, while Emmanuel Sanders signed a one-year deal with the Bills. Cook vacates 4.0 (No. 24) Targets per Game, 20.5 (No. 28) Routes Run per Game, and four Green Zone Targets. He also scored seven (No. 6) Touchdowns. Sanders, meanwhile, vacates 5.9 (No. 56) Targets per Game, 23.2 (No. 90) Routes Run per Game, and seven Green Zone Targets. He scored five (No. 35) Touchdowns himself.

Combined, Trautman’s in line to contend for 10.9 Targets per Game on a Saints team that averaged 34.4 (No. 26) Team Pass Plays per Game and 11 Green Zone Targets. Unlike the Titans, the Saints did not sign a receiver. Trautman’s quarterback situation isn’t settled, but he’s worth a flier.

Action: Trautman is not being picked within the first 29 tight ends in redraft, but we like him over Dallas Goedert (TE19), O.J. Howard (TE17), and Jonnu Smith (TE16).

T.J. Hockenson

T.J. Hockenson became a winner in fantasy football once Jared Goff became his quarterback. Goff’s 6.3 (No. 34) Air Yards per Attempt aligns nicely with his new middle-of-the-field target and his 7.4 (No. 22) Average Target Distance. In fact, Goff targeted tight ends at a 22.4-percent (No. 15) rate last season. That may have been because of Sean McVay’s scheme, but we believe it was the coach playing to Goff’s strengths. We believe the Lions will do so as well.

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That said, Goff targeted his tight ends seven times in the Green Zone last season, which aligns with Hockenson’s nine Green Zone Targets. For Goff’s tight ends, the problem was that they split the job almost right down the middle. Luckily, Hockenson won’t have that problem. On a Rams team averaging 38.4 (No. 14) Team Pass Plays per Game, Goff’s tight ends totaled a combined 8.1 Targets per Game, 38.6 Routes Run per Game, and the aforementioned seven Green Zone Targets. They also scored seven Touchdowns. It’s wheels up for Hockenson!

Action: Hockenson is going in the sixth round as TE5. We like him over Mark Andrews (TE4), and as the only legitimate tight end that’ll threaten the places of the Big Three at the positions.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton averaged 17.8 (No. 16) Fantasy Points per Game last season, and while his passing numbers weren’t great, he proved he’s still an elite rushing option. Newton totaled 9.1 (No. 2) Carries per Game, parlaying the totes into 39.5 (No. 5) Rushing Yards per Game. He totaled 592 (No. 3) Rushing Yards and paced all of his QB counterparts with 12 Rushing Touchdowns. He also accounted for 31 (No. 6) Green Zone Carries. That was among all players – not just quarterbacks.

Newton is not as bad a passer as you think. With a 48.3-percent (No. 4) Pressured Completion Percentage, he excelled under pressure – skeptics be damned! Although he had a 53.8-percent (No. 4) Deep Ball Completion Percentage, he attempted just 26 (No. 31) Deep Balls – throwing for 2,465 (No. 26) Air Yards. Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t have the necessary pass-catchers around him. His -3.97 (No. 22) Supporting Cast Efficiency rating suggests just that. Enter Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor. Newton’s 6.7 (No. 32) Air Yards per Attempt align perfectly with Smith’s 5.8 (No. 38) Average Target Distance and Henry’s 7.9 (No. 16) mark. Bourne, meanwhile, totaled a 31.4-percent (No. 41) Slot Rate and a 9.3 (No. 68) Average Target Distance mark- demonstrating inside and outside flexibility. Newton is a draft target for quarterback streamers.

Action: Newton is going in the 14th round as QB33. We like him over these quarterbacks; Carson Wentz (QB22), Tua Tagovailoa (QB18), Ben Roethlisberger (QB17).

Nelson Agholor

Nelson Agholor signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Patriots to be Cam Newton‘s de facto No. 1 receiver. A former first-round pick, Agholor will unlock a consistent Deep Ball threat for the New England offense. He totaled a 15.1 (No. 5) Average Target Distance mark, 22 (No. 12) Deep Targets, and 1,273 (No. 17) Air Yards with the Raiders last season.

Pairing Agholor with Newton’s 53.8-percent (No. 4) Deep Ball Completion Percentage is a match made in heaven, and prevents defenses from stacking the box and playing shallow against the Patriots offense. He is a sturdy draft target as a WR4.

Action: Agholor is going in the 14th round as WR78. We like him over these receivers: Christian Kirk (WR50), Michael Pittman (WR49), Henry Ruggs (WR48).

John Brown

Speaking of de facto No. 1 receivers, John Brown signed a one-year deal with the Raiders to basically replace Nelson Agholor. While the Raiders averaged 36.2 (No. 22) Team Pass Plays per Game in 2020, Agholor vacates 5.1 targets (No. 64) Targets per Game, 26.6 (No. 76) Routes Run per Game, and eight Green Zone Targets. He also totaled eight (No. 13) Touchdowns. Brown, meanwhile, is less than two yards removed from a 72-catch, 1,060 receiving yardage season. Last year, he totaled a 12.9 (No. 27) Average Target Distance, 12 (No. 50) Deep Targets, and 672 (No. 68) Air Yards in just nine games. He makes a great WR4 draft target.

Action: Brown is going in the 12th round as WR57. We like him over these receivers: Michael Gallup (WR43), Jamison Crowder (WR40), Jarvis Landry (WR39).

Corey Davis

Corey Davis signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract with the Jets. With new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur coming from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, Davis is set to be the Deebo Samuel of the offense. His 11.9 (No. 38) Average Target Distance isn’t as high as new teammate Denzel Mims14.1 (No. 12) mark, while he totaled 285 (No. 34) Yards after Catch last season with the Titans. He also commanded a 25.0-percent (No. 41) Target Rate.

Davis totaled 65 (No. 32) Receptions on 92 (No. 42) Targets for a 70.7-percent (No. 32) Catch Rate, also recording 12 (No. 50) Deep Targets and 1,092 (No. 33) Air Yards. The last two stats are to show that he isn’t a deep threat, so a volume-based role close to the line of scrimmage allowing him to make plays after the catch makes sense. He also totaled 2.67 (No. 4) Yards per Route Run, one of the most predictive stats for fantasy purposes. He’s another great WR4 draft target.

Action: Davis is going in the 10th round as WR46. That’s fair value (for now).

Mike Davis

Mike Davis signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal with the Falcons ($3 million guaranteed). We talked about the Falcons being an optimal fantasy football destination for backs during the season. Assuming Todd Gurley doesn’t re-sign, he vacates 13.0 (No. 20) Carries per game, 13.7 (No. 33) Routes Run per Game, 2.3 (No. 40) Targets per Game, and 1.7 (No. 41) Receptions per Game. He vacates the 24 (No. 9) Green Zone Carries as well. That, and the addition of new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, makes this a great fantasy football landing spot for Davis. He averaged 14.8 (No. 14) Fantasy Points per Game last season with the Panthers. We like him as a draft target for the “RBs don’t matter” crowd.

Action: Davis is going in the ninth round as RB40. We like him over these backs: Todd Gurley (RB33), A.J. Dillon (RB31), David Johnson (RB27).