Fantasy Football Mailbag: Isaiah Crowell a winner in free agency –

Sometimes, the biggest winners in free agency happen to players who don’t even get paid. For a quarterback like
Carson Wentz
, he benefits with the additions of
Alshon Jeffery
Torrey Smith
. For a receiver like
DeAndre Hopkins
, it’s addition by subtraction with
Brock Osweiler
being traded away by the
Houston Texans

And for a running back like
Isaiah Crowell
, it’s the
Cleveland Browns
upgrading the offensive line. Significantly.

Cleveland signed guard
Kevin Zeitler
from Cincinnati and center J.C. Tretter from Green Bay and gave guard
Joel Bitonio
a contract extension. Along with 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle
Joe Thomas
, this could be one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, especially if the Browns find a capable starter at right tackle. Incumbent starter
Austin Pasztor
became an unrestricted free agent Thursday.

According to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler was the ninth-rated guard, and Tretter was the ninth-rated center. Adding those guys, along with giving Bitonio a raise, was exciting for Thomas.

Quarterback remains a huge question mark for the Browns, but this offensive line should help Crowell and the running game immensely. Last year, Crowell was the No. 15 Fantasy running back in standard leagues with 198 carries for 952 yards (4.81 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns and 40 catches for 319 yards.

His production was somewhat fluky with eight games of double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league and seven games with six points or less, but we can probably nitpick plenty of players once you get past the elite guys. Crowell finished as a No. 2 Fantasy running back in 2016, and he should have the chance for a repeat performance this year.

If he remains the starter for the Browns in 2017 behind this offensive line — Cleveland can still add competition in the NFL Draft — then Crowell is worth drafting as high as Round 4 in the majority of leagues.
Duke Johnson
will again be in a complementary role, but the arrow is pointing up for Crowell with the additions of Zeitler and Tretter to go with Thomas and Bitonio.

Now that free agency is in full swing, you have plenty of questions about your Fantasy team. Keep sending me your offseason questions on Twitter @jameyeisenberg and on my Facebook page, and please use the hashtag #fantasymail. We’ll help you be prepared to dominate your league in 2017.

For this week, we’re going to cover the following topics:

  • How does
    Terrelle Pryor
    fit with the
    Washington Redskins
  • Does Wentz improve with the upgrades at receiver?
  • Is
    Kenny Britt
    better with the Browns than the
    Los Angeles Rams
  • Who will be this year’s
    DeMarco Murray
    on Draft Day?
  • Who has the better receiving corps, Tampa Bay or the
    New York Giants
  • What’s the upside for
    Jack Doyle
    this year?

From Twitter …

You should be happy that Pryor signed with the Redskins on Friday, and his one-year deal worth only $6 million, which could increase to $8 million through incentives, means he’s still trying to prove himself in another contract year. He was great in his first year as a receiver in 2016 with the Browns with 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns on 139 targets, and he was the No. 21 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues. The Redskins lost
DeSean Jackson
(Tampa Bay) and
Pierre Garcon
(San Francisco) in free agency, and that duo combined for 135 catches, 2,046 yards and seven touchdowns on 216 targets last year.
Jamison Crowder
Jordan Reed
will help replace those guys, but Washington is counting on Pryor and second-year receiver
Josh Doctson
to fill a big role. Pryor has the chance to remain a No. 2 Fantasy receiver this year, and he’s still got plenty of upside in dynasty leagues even though he will be 28 in June. We hope the motivation of a big contract helps Pryor build off what he did last year, especially with a quarterback upgrade in
Kirk Cousins
, who appears like he will remain in Washington in 2017.

Wentz won’t go into the year as a Top 15 quarterback even with the additions of Jeffery and Smith to go with
Jordan Matthews
Zach Ertz
Darren Sproles
, but there’s definitely plenty of upside for the second-year quarterback in Philadelphia. Wentz passed for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, and he opened last year with at least 20 Fantasy points in three of his first four games. He only hit that mark once again in 2016, which was Week 17, but with an improved offensive line and receiving corps there’s a lot to like about Wentz with a late-round pick. He can easily be a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback who makes the leap to No. 1 status in 2017.

This is an easy one to answer because I wrote about Britt after he signed with the Browns, and you can
read the full story here
. We can’t fully judge Britt with the Browns until we see who starts at quarterback, but the offensive line upgrades will help this entire offense. And Britt will be asked to replace Pryor, who as we said above had 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns on 139 targets last year. I’d plan to draft Britt as a No. 3 or No. 4 Fantasy receiver this year, and he could end up as a weekly starter if Cleveland gets improved quarterback play in 2017.

Last year, Murray was drafted on average at No. 47 overall, and he finished as the No. 4 running back in standard leagues. Some guys that could fall into that category this year are Crowell,
C.J. Anderson
Spencer Ware
Thomas Rawls
Rob Kelley
Paul Perkins
, who aren’t guaranteed to start for their respective teams, but are also in great situations if they do. I’d also keep an eye on where
Latavius Murray
Eddie Lacy
Adrian Peterson
Jamaal Charles
sign as free agents, and they could fall into this category. And rookies like
Leonard Fournette
Dalvin Cook
also have the potential for big seasons if they land with the right team.

From Facebook …

I love questions like this, and it should be fun to see how
Mike Evans
, DeSean Jackson and
Cameron Brate
stack up to
Odell Beckham
Brandon Marshall
Sterling Shepard
. I’ll take the Giants group because if Marshall
can still perform at a high level
then he’s a bigger difference maker than Jackson going to the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
. The nice thing is both of these teams made moves at receiver to upgrade their quarterbacks, and
Jameis Winston
Eli Manning
got a boost in their Fantasy value this week.

Doyle got a significant boost in his Fantasy value with the
Indianapolis Colts
Dwayne Allen
to the
New England Patriots
, and I
wrote about that here
. Doyle should be one of the best breakout candidates at any position in 2017, and I moved him into my Top 12 as of now. He could even creep into the Top 10, and he’s an excellent tight end to wait for on Draft Day in all leagues.