Post-Free Agency Buy High/Sell Low: Rex Burkhead, Martellus Bennett, and the Buccaneers Passing Game

by Kevin McHugh ·

Welcome to another edition of Buy High/Sell Low, as we discuss the players whose value increased as a result of their respective teams’ offseason moves, as well as the players in situations that are, in fact, as bad as they look.

Buy High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Game

Signing DeSean Jackson was football’s version of cold fusion providing the Buccaneers’ passing game with a field-stretching wide receiver who must be accounted for on every offensive play, which will in turn, provide higher quality targets for Mike Evans. Evans’ production fell off a bit down the stretch in 2016, as defenses began to focus full attention on him. This affected Jameis Winston’s production as well, as he averaged only 15.4 Fantasy Points Per Game after Week 9, after averaging 19 Fantasy Points Per Game over his first 8 games. However, Winston made 86 (No. 3) Deep Ball Attempts in 2016, a number that could increase with the addition of a real deep threat.

With DeSean Jackson in the fold, Mike Evans will see a drop in targets, but an increase in efficiency, while Jameis Winston has a chance to finish as a Top-10 quarterback in 2017. Jackson himself will be worth a flier, as Winston digs the long ball.

Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

So far this offseason, no quarterback has received a weapons upgrade like Carson Wentz. The Eagles went all out to correct their wide receiver problem, signing Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, as colossal bust Nelson Agholor looks all but finished.

Carson Wentz-Quarterback-Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Having attempted 608 (No. 5) passes in his rookie season, Carson Wentz made 91 (No. 6) Red-Zone Attempts, while registering 71 (No. 12) Deep Ball Attempts. With the additions of Smith and Jeffery, expect Wentz’s efficiency metrics to improve across the board in 2017. Smith will help open up the middle of the field for Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz, while Jeffery will provide the red-zone threat Wentz needs. Expect Wentz’s 49.5-percent (No. 23) Red-Zone Completion Percentage to increase in 2017, and expect way more than 16 touchdown passes.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots

Rex Burkhead landed with New England, and the constituency rejoiced. This is what the Patriots do; acquire solid contributors and find a way to get the most out of them. However, Burkhead could be more than just a solid contributor.

Rex Burkhead-Running Back-New England Patriots

Rex Burkhead Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Rex Burkhead displays plenty of athleticism; with a 128.8 (90th=percentile) Burst Score, 10.94 (93rd-percentile) Agility Score, and a 120.5 (71st-percentile) SPARQ-x Score. While Burkhead’s 34.5-percent (38th-percentile) College Dominator seems underwhelming, he was competing with Ameer Abdullah for touches at Nebraska, and he still posted an 8.9-percent (62nd-percentile) College Target Share. Burkhead also dealt with injuries that limited him to 8 games during his final college season, which damaged his draft stock.

In Cincinnati, Rex Burkhead was criminally underutilized, as Jeremy Hill completely tricked the Bengals into thinking he was a good running back; to the point where Hill was given a full two seasons of opportunity to disappoint. When Giovanni Bernard tore his ACL in Week 11, Burkhead was finally able to get some meaningful carries, and when Hill missed Week 17, it was Burkhead’s time to shine. Burkhead touched the ball 29 times for 144 total yards and 2 touchdowns, displaying the speed, burst, and versatility of an NFL feature back.

In New England, Rex Burkhead will presumably assume the LeGarrette Blount role in the Patriots offense. As Blount proved in 2016, the Patriots can turn anyone into a star, and 2017 could be Burkhead’s time to shine. While Dion Lewis and James White are still on the roster, someone will need to replace Blount’s 299 carries, and Burkhead is a prime candidate.

Pierre Garcon, WR, 49ers

Pierre Garcon isn’t the most exciting name in fantasy football, nor is San Francisco an exciting offense at this point. However, Garcon could provide some sneaky value in 2017. While San Francisco’s offense is a clear step down from Washington’s, Garcon is in line for a boatload of targets, and should easily surpass the 114 he received in 2016.

Pierre Garcon-Wide Receiver-Washington Redskins

Pierre Garcon Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Keep in mind; Pierre Garcon had to compete for targets with DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, and Chris Thompson in Washington. In San Francisco, Garcon will be competing with Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, and Eric Rogers, who are interesting in their own right, but far from target hogs. In addition, the speed of Marquise Goodwin could open up the middle of the field, an area where Garcon excels. Throw in the fact that Garcon dropped exactly zero passes last season and posted a +7.4 Production Premium, and you have an established and consistent receiver who you’ll pay practically nothing for.

Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington

Terrelle Pryor could have seen his stock rise if he landed anywhere besides Cleveland this offseason. Fortunately, Pryor signed with Washington, essentially replacing DeSean Jackson as their deep threat. In 2016, Pryor’s transition to from quarterback to wide receiver was finally complete, as he became Cleveland’s best receiver with over 1,000 receiving yards while averaging 5.8 (No. 7) Air Yards Per Target. His 54-percent (No. 74) Catch Rate can be attributed to the fact that he wasn’t receiving consistently accurate targets from the Cleveland quarterbacks, and he did post an 81.8-percent (No. 9) Contested Catch Rate.

Terrelle Pryor-Wide Receiver-Washington Redskins

Terrelle Pryor Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Moving to Washington on a 1-year deal, Terrelle Pryor should be motivated to prove himself as a legitimate number-one wide receiver, and he’ll have the quarterback to do it. In 2016, Kirk Cousins lead all quarterbacks with 94 Deep Ball Attempts and 3,121 Air Yards. An offensive line ranked 5th in the league in pass blocking efficiency certainly contributed to those numbers. Due to the fact that Washington lost both Pierre Garcon and Jackson to free agency, Pryor stands to see a ton of targets. In a high-octane offense, the sky could be the limit here.

Robert Woods, WR, Rams

Robert Woods went from an undesirable fantasy situation to, well, another undesirable fantasy situation, at least on the surface. Woods signed with the Los Angeles Rams in a misguided attempt to make a big splash. Unfortunately, Woods has done absolutely nothing to suggest he is worth the money the Rams gave him, as he has been one of the least efficient wide receivers in football over the past two seasons, posting a Production Premium of -7.1 (No. 75) and -1.9 (No. 58) in 2015 and 2016, respectively, in a low-volume passing offense.

Robert Woods-Wide Receiver-Los Angeles Rams

Robert Woods Advanced Metrics Profile

However, the Rams brought in the youthful Sean McVay, who is expected to liven up their stagnant offense, and they didn’t sign Robert Woods to not throw him the ball. Woods will look to replace Kenny Britt’s 111 targets in 2017, and presuming McVay brings the offense out of the Stone Age, Woods could possibly surpass that number. In addition, Woods will be dirt-cheap come draft time, and could be worth a late round flier.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Packers

Martellus Bennett, the hired-gun tight end of the NFL, chose Green Bay as his latest destination, and while he is downgrading from the greatest quarterback of all time to perhaps the second-greatest quarterback of all time, he has a chance to put together a career season. In 2016, playing with Tom Brady, Bennett was quite efficient, posting the following efficiency scores:

Production Premium: +27.5 (No. 6)
Target Premium: +26.9-percent (No. 9)
Yards Per Target: 9.6 (No. 7)
Catch Rate: 9.6 (No. 7)
Fantasy Points Per Target: 2.30 (No. 5)

Martellus Bennett-Tight End-Green Bay Packers

Martellus Bennett Advanced Metrics Profile

Unfortunately, Martellus Bennett received a mere 13.3-percent (No. 25) Target Share in 2016. That’s what happens when you have to share the field with Rob Gronkowski, at least for the eight games in which he was healthy. Luckily, in Green Bay, Bennett will be the unquestioned starter at tight end, and Aaron Rodgers targeted his tight ends 98 times in 2016. With quite possibly the best setup of his career, look for a huge year from Martellus Bennett in 2017.

Sell Low

Chicago Bears Offense

The Bears offense took a serious hit with the subtraction of Alshon Jeffery and the addition of Mike Glennon. While Glennon was somewhat serviceable during his time in Tampa, the reality is he just isn’t very good. Glennon’s Throw Velocity of 49 MPH ranks in the 3rd-percentile amongst NFL quarterbacks, and he posted a -9 (No. 32) Production Premium in his most extended action in 2013, while averaging 6.3 (No. 47) Yards Per Attempt.

Mike Glennon-Quarterback-Chicago Bears

Mike Glennon Advanced Metrics Profile

Mike Glennon will be placed in an offense with a strong offensive line and the emerging Cameron Meredith, but not much else. Glennon’s presence will not help Jordan Howard, as the collection of Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in 2016 were at least able to push the ball downfield in order to open up the running game. The Bears also acquired Markus Wheaton this offseason, although Wheaton disappointed time and time again despite multiple opportunities in Pittsburgh. It may be a good idea to steer clear of Chicago’s skill position players in 2017.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Andy Dalton was a disappointment in 2016, and the moves the Bengals have made in free agency won’t help him in 2017. Cincinnati allowed their two best offensive linemen, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, to walk in free agency, weakening a front that was average at best in 2016, posting a 74.2 (No. 15) pass-blocking efficiency score. This will not help Dalton’s 28.0-percent (No. 23) Pressured Completion Percentage or his average Attempt Distance of 8.3 Yards (No. 20). Missing out on a Rex Burkhead breakout won’t help matters either.

Andy Dalton-Quarterback-Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton Advanced Metrics Profile

Cincinnati did, however, re-sign drop machine Brandon LaFell, who has been maddeningly inconsistent from year to year. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton may lose that sneaky value he has been able to provide over the years.

Eddie Lacy/Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks

Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls both took a hit to their value when Lacy signed with the Seahawks. First of all, the Seahawks offensive line woes have been well documented, as they posted a 72.7 (No. 29) run-blocking efficiency score last season, while utilizing ‘offensive linemen’ who had never played offensive line before! Second, the fact that Rawls and Lacy now have to share carries with each other creates a mess of a fantasy situation. Neither back has demonstrated the efficiency over the course of their respective careers to suggest they could be more effective with fewer carries, and neither has been a significant contributor in the passing game.

Eddie Lacy-Running Back-Seattle Seahawks

Eddie Lacy Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

If anything, the signing of Eddie Lacy could make C.J. Prosise even more valuable if the general public views Lacy as a real threat to Prosise, who won’t be giving up passing game duties.  Also, do you seriously want to own a player who actually has a weight incentive built into his contract?

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Ravens

Kenneth Dixon is another back who may be a victim of the numbers game. With the addition of Danny Woodhead to an already crowded backfield, Baltimore is getting a running back that does everything Dixon does, only better. Woodhead caught more passes for more yards than any running back in 2015, and looked to be on his way to another productive season in 2016 before tearing his ACL. Dixon has also been suspended for the first 4 games of the 2017 season due to PEDs, which kills any chance he had of establishing early-season momentum.

Kenneth Dixon-Running Back-Baltimore Ravens

Kenneth Dixon Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Until Baltimore realizes Terrance West is mediocre, it’s going to be hard for Kenneth Dixon to find touches going forward.

Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings

Latavius Murray could almost be considered a more competent version of Christine Michael, as he’s as athletic as anyone, yet has consistently underwhelmed over the past two seasons. The Oakland Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in football, yet Murray was never able to take full advantage, averaging 4.6 and 4.2 Yards Per Touch over the past two seasons. Murray’s 4.43 (93rd-percentile) 40-Yard Dash and 115.8 (96th-percentile) Speed Score indicate he should be able to break long runs, yet he made only 7 (No. 21) Breakaway Runs in 2016. Factor in Murray’s mere 201 (No. 26) Yards After Contact, and it’s easy to see why DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard were rotated in so often.

Latavius Murray-Running Back-Minnesota Vikings

Latavius Murray Advanced Metrics Profile

Latavius Murray landed with Minnesota in the offseason, which is about the worst possible landing spot for a running back. If Murray couldn’t muster more than 4.0 Yards Per Carry in Oakland, how is he going to produce with the Vikings and their 32nd-ranked run-blocking offensive line? Murray will also have to share carries with Jerick McKinnon, who is superior in both the running and passing game. Also, please ignore the 12 touchdowns Latavius Murray scored in 2016, as he won’t receive 40 (No. 7) Red Zone Carries again.

Jared Cook, TE, Raiders

Having been replaced by Martellus Bennett in Green Bay, Jared Cook landed in Oakland, where he will presumably assume the number-one tight end duties. Cook has disappointed everywhere he’s been, save for a short stretch towards the end of the 2016 season where he was basically Aaron Rodgers’ only healthy receiver.

Jared Cook-Tight End-Oakland Raiders

Jared Cook Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

With the Raiders, Jared Cook will be joining an offense on the rise, but don’t be fooled by his recent hot streak. Raiders’ tight ends received a mere 77 targets in 2016, as Derek Carr prioritized Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and his staple of running backs in the passing game.  With Cooper expected to take a step forward in 2017, there won’t be enough targets to go around for Cook.