Ekeler, Sanders on the rise in fantasy football leagues

The NFL's free agency frenzy has sent plenty of big-name players into different uniforms (and scenarios), which I've covered in my winners and losers column. But there are also a number of players who haven't changed teams but have still seen their value rise or fall as a result of player movement. Here's a look at some of the more notable fantasy players whose stock has changed the most.

Winners

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: Ekeler established himself as a fantasy star in the making a season ago, and the absence of Melvin Gordon (signed with the Broncos) has thrust him even deeper into the fantasy spotlight. In fact, the versatile runner is now in the mix to be a first-round pick in all fantasy drafts. At worst, Ekeler is locked and loaded as a top-15 overall fantasy selection.

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Sanders looks like the clear-cut No. 1 runner in Philadelphia after Jordan Howard signed with the Miami Dolphins. The Penn State product was a star at the end of last season, averaging almost 20 fantasy points per game over a four-week stretch when Howard was injured. I would project Sanders to be a top-30 pick and a high-end RB2 in 2020 drafts.

A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans: Brown busted out in a big way during the second half of his rookie season, posting seven touchdowns and the seventh-most fantasy points among wide receivers in his final 10 games. All of those totals came with Ryan Tannehill under center. The Titans were able to sign Tannehill to a new contract, so Brown will continue to roll with the same quarterback in 2020.

Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams: The Rams released former star running back Todd Gurley, which will open the door for Henderson to move up the depth chart. While he failed to meet expectations as a rookie, Henderson does have the skill set suited to succeed in coach Sean McVay's offense. Unless the Rams add another impact runner, Henderson will be in the RB2 conversation in drafts.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals: Murray's stock went through the roof when the Cardinals acquired DeAndre Hopkins from Houston. In fact, I'm projecting him as the third quarterback to come off the board in fantasy drafts behind Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. Murray, who put up close to 18 fantasy points per game as a rookie, should average north of 20 with his new offensive weapon.

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Thielen was a disappointment last season, missing six games due to injuries while averaging just 11.4 fantasy points. However, the trade that sent Stefon Diggs to Buffalo opens the door for Thielen to see more targets in 2020. While the Vikings will no doubt add another wideout or two, Thielen is the clear-cut favorite to be the top option for Kirk Cousins.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Hilton missed time due to injuries a season ago, but he had produced 1,000-plus yards in five of his previous six years. With Philip Rivers now under center, Hilton will be in a good spot to get back to that level and re-emerge into a reliable, productive fantasy wide receiver. I could see him being a tremendous bargain as a No. 3 option in smaller leagues.

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Allen, who finished sixth in fantasy points among quarterbacks last season, figures to be ranked no worse than that heading into 2020 drafts after the addition of Diggs. A vertical threat who is in the prime of his career, Diggs gives Allen another target in the pass attack, along with speedster John Brown, who can stretch defenses and make an impact.

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans: The loss of Hopkins to Arizona opens up 150 targets from last season, or about 30 percent of Deshaun Watson's overall pass attempts. Fuller has the talent to become a valuable asset in fantasy circles, but his proneness to injuries will keep his draft stock from soaring. At this point, he's in the WR3 conversation with the potential for more if he stays healthy.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: The Browns are doing everything they can to help Mayfield forget the failures of last season. That includes adding Austin Hooper, who gives him yet another talented weapon in the passing game. The team also signed the top offensive tackle on the market, Jack Conklin, to allow Mayfield added protection. He's looking like a late pick as a No. 2 option.

Losers

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns: Chubb finished eighth in fantasy points among backs last season, but his totals declined with Kareem Hunt in the mix. In fact, he ranked just 23rd among backs in points per game over the final eight games (with Hunt) after ranking sixth in his first eight games without him. Hunt will remain after being tendered by the team, so Chubb's ceiling takes a big hit.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: Watson was the QB4 a season ago, but he will struggle to reach that level of success with Hopkins out of the mix. In fact, 30 percent of his pass attempts last season went to the talented wideout. While the Texans did add Randall Cobb as a free agent, he won't be enough to make up for Nuk's absence. Watson will remain a QB1, but he won't be in the top five.

Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots: Edelman is still the top option in the Patriots pass attack, but he's not going to be catching passes from the G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, anymore. Instead, it could be Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer or someone else throwing him the football. So while he should still see a good number of targets, how catchable and accurate those targets are remain to be seen.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Kirk would have been a breakout candidate entering his third NFL season, but the presence of Hopkins is sure to put a cap on his ceiling. The Cardinals also have Larry Fitzgerald and Andy Isabella in the mix, not to mention a pass-catching running back in Kenyan Drake, so Kirk could be in a targets crunch. I'd project him to be drafted as a WR3 in most drafts.

John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills: Brown ranked 20th in fantasy points among wideouts a season ago, and his 115 targets were a career high. Those totals are likely to fall in 2020 though, as the Bills added Stefon Diggs to come in and be their new No. 1 wideout. While Brown will have his share of nice stat lines, the projected decline in opportunities will hurt his stock in fantasy football leagues.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos: Lindsay saw a decline in his fantasy totals last season, and that trend will continue with the addition of Gordon. In fact, Lindsay will go from being a potential No. 2 fantasy back in 2019 drafts to a No. 4 and occasional flex starter in 2020. Regardless, his usage and ceiling are in serious question with Gordon and Royce Freeman in the backfield mix.

David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns: Njoku has had some luster in fantasy land since he was drafted, but he's failed to meet expectations thus far. He won't have much of a ceiling in 2020 now either, as the Browns have added Austin Hooper. While new coach Kevin Stefanski likes to run a lot of "12" personnel, there still won't be enough targets to go around to make Njoku draftable next season.

Jameis Winston, QB, Free agent: Winston was the QB5 a season ago, but he played in a quarterback-friendly offense and had Mike Evans and Chris Godwin at his disposal. Now that he's been replaced by Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, Winston will have a tough time finding a new landing spot that will allow him not only a starting job, but an offense that will be as beneficial from a statistical perspective.

Cam Newton, QB, Free agent: Newton was released by the Panthers, so he's in a state of flux from a fantasy standpoint. He could end up being a "push" or maybe even a winner if he lands with the right team (maybe the New England Patriots?), but at this point he doesn't have a starting job and there's still question marks about his health. For now, Newton should be seen as a No. 2 option.

Will Dissly, TE, Seattle Seahawks: Dissly was emerging into a reliable fantasy option last season before injuries put him on the sidelines. While his proneness to injuries is a concern, the addition of Greg Olsen and tendering of Jacob Hollister make Dissly a major risk in 2020 fantasy leagues. At this point, depending on his health status, Dissly might not even be draftable in most formats.

More losers:
Carlos Hyde, RB, Free agent
Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders
Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Chris Thompson, RB, Free agent
Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTubeand Instagramfor the latest fantasy football news and analysis!

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