Shawn Siegele looks at the biggest winners and losers in superflex formats after a wild week of free agency at the quarterback position.
The first week of free agency has brought a flurry of fantasy stories, from the DeAndre Hopkins trade that inspired a fantasy tidal wave to Stefon Diggs’ controversial arrival in Buffalo. But the central narrative in 2020 has focused on the unprecedented movement at the quarterback position. And to really enjoy it, you needed to be in the best format in all of fantasy.
If you owned Jameis Winston and Cam Newton in your 1-QB dynasty league, this has been a tough week. For everyone else, you needed to be a Superflex owner where every one of these moves could be the difference between a title and finding yourself playing in the toilet bowl.
The Superflex format has exploded in popularity over the last several years. Salvatore Stefanile has been its top acolyte. Scott Fish uses it in the wildly influential Fish Bowl, and Ryan McDowell employs it in the industry’s craziest and most complicated leagues, The Kitchen Sink.
The RDL 2.0 rebooted last year in Superflex fashion under the leadership of Solis Report star and funniest man in fantasy, John Solis. A year ago, I discussed how to use QB tiers to fend off the brutal runs. In a recent startup I followed this approach by selecting six QBs: Sam Darnold, Tom Brady, Gardner Minshew, Derek Carr, Nick Foles, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. With the potential for these QBs to fall into starting jobs for the first month of 2020, this year’s free agency took on a special urgency.
Early drafters in 2020 have been faced with this dilemma while encountering an uncertain landscape. Who would have jobs when the music stopped?
Brady made it quite clear that he no longer believed in his ability to elevate the supporting cast and wanted a team where the supporting cast could elevate him. Tyler Loechner projected the best fits for Brady in free agency, and he landed in one of the spots with Tampa Bay. As the signal caller for the Buccaneers, Brady completely changes the fantasy landscape and puts himself in position for one more title.
Any 38-year-old QB coming off of a season with 20 interceptions is a big winner any time he lands a starting job. It will be downgrade in supporting cast, but an upgrade in fit as he reunites with Frank Reich, the Chargers coordinator from 2014-2015.
Rivers started out hot in 2019, but finished with only a single QB1 finish in his last nine starts. Desperate to make something happen, he tossed 14 INTs during that stretch.
Impact in Indianapolis
Rivers also struggled badly throwing to the receivers in 2019. His most efficient target was the incomparable Austin Ekeler, and TE Hunter Henry came in at No 2.
Rivers’ presence still counts as an upgrade for the Colts skill players across the board, but his willingness to pepper the backs – 160 targets to Ekeler and Melvin Gordon – is good news for Nyheim Hines. He could also finally unlock Marlon Mack in the passing game.
Bridgewater joins an ascending Panthers offense with a superstar in Christian McCaffrey, a star in D.J. Moore, and a cipher in Curtis Samuel. Finding a clear starting role and a role with such weaponry is such a big win for Bridgewater that he will be shooting up the board. How much of that can he justify on his own merits?
Bridgewater earns some justifiable criticism for his unwillingness to push the ball down the field, but part of that was the way the Saints offense is currently drawn up. The big difference between Drew Brees and Bridgewater was found in other areas. Brees owned a big lead in adjusted yards per attempt (AYA), success rate, and TD percentage. Of course, much of that gap is simply the comparison to an all-time great who was still playing well in his age-40 season.
Impact in Carolina
Bridgewater is unlikely to turn the Panthers offense into a juggernaut. When he did throw deep last season, he completed only 12 of 29 passes of 15-plus yards. Samuel was a constant breakout pick throughout due to the deep balls coming his way, but completed passes never materialized. The Panthers will need to be more savvy with his usage going forward.
A Bridgewater signing isn’t exciting news for Moore owners, but it should raise an already high floor. Despite trailing Brees in overall stats, Bridgewater did hold his own when throwing to the two stars.
The Jaguars have put themselves back in the mix for a rookie QB by dumping both Foles’ contract and his competition. Until the draft, Minshew shoots up the board. If the Jaguars are smart, they will eschew that route entirely and take a season to see what they have in the cult hero.
Minshew easily held his own against recent early draft picks, besting most of the first-round picks in both AYA and passing fantasy points over expectation.
Foles’ change of scenery gives him a competition that will be easier to win on its own merits and puts him on a squad that just embraced his outsized contract. Unfortunately for Bears fans, his regular season performances offer little reason for optimism.
Foles has been below average in paFPOE in every season of his career except for his breakout 2013. Chicago’s presumptive starter has enjoyed two magical runs in his career. That 2013 season when it looked like Chip Kelly might make his offense work at the NFL level, and the 2017 dream run to Super Bowl MVP.
Impact in Chicago
Leonard Fournette earned a whopping nine targets a game in Foles appearances last year, encouraging numbers for a bounceback from Tarik Cohen or an emergence from David Montgomery.
The impact for receivers is more mixed. Possession (Alshon Jeffery 10.7 AYA) and vertical (DeSean Jackson 9.9) receivers alike have flourished at times under Foles, but the results were not as good in limited 2019 appearances (D.J. Chark 8.0, Dede Westbrook 5.5). Foles should still be an upgrade for Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller.
Other Winners: Ryan Tannehill should benefit from staying put in the offense that made him a legitimate NFL starter. Marcus Mariota now gets the chance to do to Derek Carr what Tannehill did to him. Tyrod Taylor will probably have starting value for the first month with the Chargers, while Andy Dalton suddenly looks like the best fit in New England.
It’s hard to believe that last year’s QB4 could be out of a job in 2020, but that’s the harsh reality Jameis Winston faces after throwing 30 INTs. It’s equally hard to believe that Cam Newton, a fantasy MVP who started his career with five consecutive top-10 finishes in PPG, including a QB1 result in 2015, could have his career derailed by injuries.
The two former stars were going at QB15 and QB21 respectively in early startups. Those slots reflected an awareness of the risk, but owners who took the plunge still did so in the first 100 picks and with the assumption that they’d be starters in the Superflex format.
Derek Carr owners aren’t in such immediate trouble, but the Mariota signing introduces a weekly benching risk and torpedoes his trade value. In some ways, this was almost the worst-case scenario. If the Raiders had quickly landed a clear starter, they could have moved Carr to Chicago, a team with less competition for the job and better overall weapons.
The Next Step
We’ll keep you up-to-date on Superflex values with our Dynasty ADP Tool that includes FFPC and MFL startup results for you to compare and contrast. I’ve begun my Top 150 Dynasty CountUp, including Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. The series includes dynasty superflex tiers. I’ll also have 2020 superflex tiers and strategy articles out in the coming days.