NFL Free Agency Fantasy Football Losers: Alexander Mattison, D’Andre Swift, and Buccaneers Receivers Are Trending Down

Following the first wave of NFL free agency, let's take a look at some of the biggest losers from a fantasy football perspective.

NFL Free Agency Fantasy Football Losers: Alexander Mattison, D’Andre Swift, and Buccaneers Receivers Are Trending Down

With a week of NFL free agency in the books, dozens of players have signed with new teams. As with each of the three key offseason events (free agency, the draft, preseason), player values are impacted. Here are some of the key fantasy football losers after the first week of free agent signings.

NFL Free Agency Fantasy Football Losers

Free agency is one of the most exciting events of the offseason. From following the Super Bowl through fantasy draft season in late August/early September, there’s a whole lot of downtime. For much of the spring and summer, not much is going on. Right now, we’ve got news breaking every hour.

A whole host of fantasy-relevant names have been on the move. Those signings not only impact the players themselves but their new teammates, as well as the ones they left behind. Let’s take a look at some fantasy football losers.

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Are the Minnesota Vikings going to trade Dalvin Cook? It’s really the only plausible explanation I’ve got as to why Alexander Mattison was content to return to Minnesota. Mattison has more than proven himself capable of being a lead back in the NFL. He’s averaged 20.3 fantasy points per game in his six starts filling in for an injured Cook.

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It’s very strange to see lesser talented running backs get starting jobs while Mattison has played second fiddle for Cook. But this time, it’s difficult to not blame Mattison himself. After all, he agreed to this deal.

Mattison will be just 25 years old this year. In the right spot, he could’ve been a fantasy RB2, if not an RB1, for the next 3-4 years. Instead, he’s poised to be the same overdrafted handcuff he’s been his entire career.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions

Things change quickly in the NFL. Just two years ago, I was drafting D’Andre Swift everywhere. I was so excited about the prospect of this super-talented sophomore RB truly ascending to the ranks of the elite. And Swift did. In 2021, he averaged 16.1 ppg, en route to an RB8 finish.

Swift closed 2021 on the wrong side of a timeshare after returning from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury. Fantasy managers attributed it to injury and still drafted him at the 1/2 turn. I got plenty wrong in 2022, but if you read my player outlook on Swift, I wasn’t sold that injury was entirely to blame for his reduced usage.

Sure enough, by the middle of the 2022 season, Swift was mired in a three-way timeshare with Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds/Justin Jackson. Swift’s fantasy value was severely capped by Williams dominating goal-line work, who led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns.

Although the Detroit Lions elected not to bring Williams back, their decision to sign David Montgomery is even more concerning. Despite Williams clearly being the lead rusher over Swift, he was not a threat at all in the passing game. Williams had just a 2.9% target share last season.

Montgomery, on the other hand, is far more competent in the receiving department. His target share has consistently been within a few tenths of 12% each of the past three seasons. I cannot fathom Detroit simply never throwing to Montgomery as they did with Williams.

Additionally, we know head coach Dan Campbell doesn’t believe Swift can handle a three-down workload. His job as head coach is to maximize the value of his players. He believes the way to do that with Swift is by keeping him at 100%, which means using him situationally.

Swift has a three-down skill set and all the talent in the world. He just doesn’t appear to have the ability to physically handle one. Whether that’s true or not is irrelevant — the team believes it to be true. That’s all that matters.

Swift is more of a low RB2 this season and one without any path to an increased workload. Montgomery’s receiving acumen also lowers Swift’s floor. It’s just an all-around bad situation for Swift from a fantasy perspective.

Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, WRs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Not every fantasy football loser is a free agent who landed in the wrong spot. Now, to be fair, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans were always going to take a hit in fantasy value this season. After all, they were going from the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady, to, well, literally anyone else.

Over the past two seasons, no quarterback attempted more passes than Brady. At ages 44 and 45, Brady threw 719 and 733 passes, respectively, leading the NFL both times. Volume is king in fantasy football, and these two guys couldn’t have been in a spot where they saw more of it.

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Now, barring something unexpected, it will be Baker Mayfield in charge of sustaining the fantasy values of these two incredibly talented receivers. Well, we’ve seen what Mayfield can do to incredibly talented receivers before. Just ask Odell Beckham Jr. and DJ Moore.

If the Bucs so much as signed Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo, I would still view Godwin as a high WR2 and Evans as a low WR2. With Mayfield, they’re both middling WR3s, at best.

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears

We know Darnell Mooney was miscast as the Chicago Bears’ WR1 last season. He profiles much better as a WR2. That’s the role he’ll get to play this season, and one I think he can excel at for Chicago.

While that’s great for the Bears, that means reduced volume, which is never good for fantasy football. Even in his breakout 2021 season, Mooney only averaged 12.9 ppg. Technically, Mooney was the WR2 that year even though he was opposite a completely washed Allen Robinson II. Mooney turned 140 targets into 81 catches, 1,055 yards, and four touchdowns. That’s as good as it’s going to get for Mooney.

With DJ Moore in town, Mooney should be able to be more efficient as the WR2. However, the 25% target share he enjoyed last season is unlikely to return. Combine that with the Bears being a run-heavy offense, and Justin Fields is unlikely to support more than one fantasy-relevant wide receiver. That guy is going to be Moore, leaving Mooney a better real-life player than a fantasy one.

Other Losers

Daniel Bellinger, TE, New York Giants

The New York Giants’ rookie tight end showed some promise last season. There was definitely hope Daniel Bellinger could take a step forward in his sophomore season and become a viable fantasy TE, especially with the barren Giants’ WR depth chart. Following the team’s trade for Darren Waller, that’s no longer on the table.

Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets

Getting Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback shouldn’t be grounds for being a fantasy football loser. But Elijah Moore took a huge step backward last season. While Rodgers makes everyone better, the Jets signed Rodgers’ buddy, Allen Lazard. With Garrett Wilson as the alpha WR1, Moore is relegated to the team’s WR3, at best.