Free Agent Winners and Losers: Wide Receivers

Dustin Ludke takes a look at the Wide Receivers whose stock has improved and those whose stock decreased based on NFL free agency.

Last offseason there were a ton of wide receivers moved via free agency and trades. This year it shapes up with a lot less movement so far, but there were moves made that impacted wide receivers’ values both good and bad. Below are three pass catchers whose situation got better and three that got worse.

 

Winners

 

Jakobi Meyers: Las Vegas Raiders

 

Jakobi Meyers has been stuck on the low-volume Patriots offense for his first four years. He has struggled to get into the end zone up until last season. In his first three seasons, he only had two touchdowns which came in 2021, his third year. This past season the floodgates seemed to open and Meyers reached pay dirt six times. Meyers has always been a consistent wide receiver. He has seen 80 or more targets in the past three seasons and has caught at least 66% of them. He now leaves New England and signs with the Las Vegas Raiders. He will be opposite Davante Adams and fight for slot snaps with Hunter Renfrow but he gets an upgrade in offense and quarterback. The Raiders brought in Josh McDaniels before 2022 who had been the Patriots’ offensive to be the head coach. He had previously been the head coach of the Denver Broncos back in 2009 and 2010. In his 3 years of being a head coach, McDaniel’s offense has thrown the ball on average 59% of their plays and has never been outside the top 15 in that category. Compare that to the four years that Meyers spent in New England where they averaged 55% and were never in the top 15. He gets an upgrade from Mac Jones to Jimmy Garoppolo. Over the past two years, Jones was completing 66.5% of his passes and has an INT% of 2.5. Garoppolo has completed 67.75% with an INT% of 2. It’s not a massive upgrade but an upgrade altogether. Meyers also benefits from not being the alpha on the team. Defenses will have to roll top coverage and double coverage towards Adams opening up room for Meyers

 

Juju Smith-Schuster: New England Patriots

 

At the end of the 2018 season, it looked as if we had a new wide receiver that would be in the conversation of top ten wide receivers for the foreseeable future. Ohh how Juju Smith-Schuster has struggled since then. Since that season finishing as WR8 with¬† 111 receptions, 1,426 yards, and 7 touchdowns he has failed to get back to those marks. He has only two full seasons out of the four after that. In those seasons he has had over 100 targets each but has failed to get above 1000 yards. He left Pittsburgh after 5 years where he was always in competition with others and signed with the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Even on a team with no other notable wide receivers, he was behind tight end Travis Kelce. He now goes from Andy Reid as his coach to Bill Belichick. Juju signed with the New England Patriots to be their main passing weapon. Smith-Schuster gets the option to walk into that room and be the true alpha. The team has 187 vacated targets. He can take over the role that Jakobi Meyers had in the slot as well as Nelson Agholor outside. Juju’s ability to move around the formation makes him the perfect fit for the Patriots. Belichick has a knack for using versatile players and getting the most out of them. Juju can revitalize his career.

 

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine: Tennesee Titans

 

The Tennesee Titans are not known as a passing team and why should they be with Derrick Henry in the backfield? That doesn’t mean that they can’t have decent receivers who can produce for fantasy. The Titans might be lacking some higher-end talent in that department but they have players who can do well. One of those players is Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. He re-signed with the Titans during free agency after they released veteran Robert Woods. He will still be opposite Treylon Burks and will have to fend off Kyle Phillips. The Woods subtraction vacates 91 targets. Westbrook-Ikhine has only seen around 50 targets in the past two years but has scored seven touchdowns over that time. He has chemistry with both Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis and three years of experience in that offense which will give him the leg up even if they do bring in a rookie or free agent.

 

Loser

 

Corey Davis: New York Jets

 

Corey Davis hasn’t had the best of luck since joining the New York Jets. In his first year there they drafted Elijah Moore. The second-year Garrett Wilson. He has dealt with inconsistent quarterback play and a revolving door under center. This off-season was looking up. The Jets were and still are the front runners to land Aaron Rodgers which would solve the quarterback woes. The issue for Davis is that with Rodgers game wide receiver Allen Lazard. They did release Braxton Berrios but he was not competing with Davis for targets. Lazard’s signing puts Davis on the roster bubble and at age 28 years old he is on the wrong side of the age apex for wide receivers. Davis also hasn’t played a full season since 2018. He will struggle to find a role on the offense and build chemistry with Rodgers once he does get to the Big Apple.

 

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. It’s what helped them win a Super Bowl in 2021 with Tom Brady at the helm. After another good season by the G.O.A.T., he finally hung up his cleats and left the Bucs and Mike Evans and Chris Godwin wondering who will be throwing the ball in Tampa for the 2023 season. They drafted Kyle Trask back in 2020 in the second round and this year brought in former first-overall pick Baker Mayfield to compete for the starting job. Trask is unproven on the NFL level despite a good college career. Mayfield is on his 4th team in two years. This could be the year that Evans’s streak of 9 straight 1000-yard seasons comes to an end. Godwin has had over 120 targets in three out of the past four seasons. The passing volume looks to drop with either Trask or Mayfield at the helm. There were other more capable starters available on the market but the Bucs’ management decided to stick with what they had and go with a cheaper option in Baker over making another big splash.

 

Sterling Shepard: New York Giants

 

The New York Giants started the 2022 season hot and then faltered down the stretch. This offseason they re-signed quarterback Daniel Jones and put the franchise tag on stud running back Saquon Barkley. All that was left was bolstering the receiving core. They had a classic addition by subtraction by releasing Kenny Golladay. They also brought back long-time fan favorite Sterling Shepard. He is coming off a knee injury that cost him most of the 2022 season. Having to come back from that injury alone would be a daunting task. What made matters worse is the Giants also brought back Darius Slayton and signed Parris Campbell. Those additions along with sophomore Wan’Dale Robinson make for a crowded room with a lot of mouths to feed. The Giants only threw the ball 52.85% of the time and Jones ranked 14th in attempts. It will be tough for Shepard to find relevancy this year.

 

 

Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

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