"Things must be pretty slow for you these days, huh? Just staring at the walls, am I right? Heh, heh."
I am at a cocktail party.
I know no one at this cocktail party and have been dragged here by my wife.
I am, by all accounts, not nearly drunk enough for this.
The only thing I'm worse at than small talk is small talk with strangers. But here I am, trying to earn good husband points, talking with someone whose name has already escaped me 30 seconds after I heard it. I am trying to concentrate on what he is saying while my eyes desperately scan the room for a drink, my wife or, if she truly loved me, my wife with a drink for me.
Alas, no such luck, so I am locked in with hearty laugh guy, trying to explain that, while it's certainly not the workload of the NFL season, there is plenty going on to keep a fantasy football guy busy in March, starting with free agency.
He understands, he says. He's an underwriter and I wouldn't believe how nuts things get in his business, he laughs, jowls a-flopping. He's an arm gripper, this one, so as he braces himself on me for what I am sure will be a doozy, I grab a piece of paper and start writing a living will. I am convinced I will not get out of this one alive.
Eventually I manage to extricate myself by mentioning I had to leave early to start writing a free agency edition of Love/Hate. He doesn't know what this means, but I don't care, I'm halfway to the bean dip by the time he can ask.
You, however, gentle reader, know exactly what this is. No move in the NFL exists in a vacuum, so as players have left and joined teams, we have seen a number of players have their current fantasy values rise or fall accordingly. Things can still change with the NFL draft, of course, and there are still players who have yet to find a team (Has Colin Kaepernick landed yet? Can't seem to find anything about that.). But, there are more than enough to write about, so here we are.
For this edition, it's real simple. "Loves" are players whose fantasy value (whatever it may be) has increased. "Hates" are players whose value has gone down. So without further ado, come close, let me grip your arm and tell you all about free agency.
Quarterbacks I love after free-agent movement
Tom Brady, Patriots: Fantasy's second-best QB last year (on a points-per-game basis) adds Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Rex Burkhead to an already ridiculous offense. You know Cooks has speed to burn, but he also has a sure set of hands. His 68.7 percent reception percentage over the past three seasons is top 15 in the NFL among wide receivers with at least 30 games played. Allen is yet another good red zone threat for Brady (61.9 percent of Allen's career red zone receptions have been touchdowns), while Burkhead is yet another good runner with solid hands. When Rex has gotten a shot, he has performed and there's a reason the Patriots signed him to the most expensive running back contract they've given out since 2010. More weapons on an already loaded offense. Not fair.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers: The first QB in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons now adds a legit deep threat that will prevent defenses from rolling coverage to Mike Evans. DeSean Jackson needs to stay on the field, of course, but when he's there, Winston has a player who has led the NFL in yards per catch (17.1) since entering the league in 2008.
Carson Wentz, Eagles: From no one to everyone, the Eagles added stud wideout Alshon Jeffery and still-just-28 speedster (and my fantasy kryptonite) Torrey Smith to Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Suddenly, Wentz has some guys to throw to. The Eagles quietly were sixth in pass attempts last season and you don't go out and sign two guys like Jeffery and Smith after using a No. 2 overall pick on a QB the year before to, you know, throw less ... especially when the head coach is a former NFL quarterback. A year after suffering through the fifth-highest drop percentage in the NFL, Wentz has a lot of new help on the way.
Others receiving votes: Laugh all you want about Mike Glennon, but he should be the starter for a Bears team that got strong fantasy production from Brian Hoyer (QB4 from Weeks 3-5) and Matt Barkley (QB9 in Week 12, QB13 in Week 15) last season.
Quarterbacks I hate after free-agent movement
Joe Flacco, Ravens: Steve Smith Sr. retired, fullback Kyle Juszczyk went to San Francisco, even Kamar Aiken left town (he's on the Colts). And oh yeah, Kenneth Dixon is suspended for the first four games. Already a marginal fantasy QB, Flacco now has to rely on the inconsistent Mike Wallace (who returns) and hope former first-round pick Breshad Perriman can stay healthy and make good on his potential. They did sign good pass-catching running back Danny Woodhead, but he's 32 and coming off a major injury. All due respect to Michael Campanaro, you know, but at the moment, Flacco's receiving corps looks pretty bleak.
Running backs I love after free-agent movement
Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, Raiders: Look, I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, but I can do simple math. With Latavius Murray leaving Oakland, there are now 228 touches (and 12 touchdowns last season) now up for grabs. The trio has become a duo for now, running behind one of the league's best offensive lines. The Raiders were sixth in the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns while averaging 27 rushing attempts a game.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns: While people are focused on what the Browns will do at quarterback (again) and at the top of the draft (again), Cleveland quietly has upgraded its offensive line. They brought back guard Joel Bitonio while signing guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter to go along with stud left tackle Joe Thomas. All are top 20 at their position in run blocking per Pro Football Focus. That's a good offensive line now in Cleveland and we know Hue Jackson wants to run. As questions at QB remain, Jackson figures to lean on the underrated Crowell once again, and this year he has brought in the line to do it right.
Others receiving votes: Speaking of improved offensive lines, the Lions adding Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang to theirs will absolutely help the run game, starting with Ameer Abdullah. Of course, Theo Riddick is still there and you'll see some Zach Zenner as well, but if healthy, Abdullah has the makings of a post-hype sleeper. ... We'll see if Ben McAdoo will commit to one true running back this season, but the release of Rashad Jennings should mean more touches for Paul Perkins to build off a promising rookie campaign. ... I mentioned Rex Burkhead above in the Brady section and while he will have a lot of competition for snaps, he'll get more playing time than he got in Cincy and certainly, he's now on a more efficient offense. ... With the majority of work expected for Danny Woodhead in his first four games with the Ravens (with Dixon out), his stock has gone up, especially considering what the emergence of Melvin Gordon would have done to his workload in L.A. and Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's usage of pass-catching backs. Last season, 27 percent of all Ravens receptions went to guys out of the backfield. For comparison, Odell Beckham Jr. caught 26.8 percent of the Giants' receptions last season.
Running backs I hate after free-agent movement
Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls, Seahawks: Hopefully we will get more clarity on this situation as we get closer to the season, and certainly the health of all three running backs will play a part in that. My expectation as I sit here today would be that I'd rank them Lacy, Prosise and Rawls, but all will be involved, and while Prosise is certainly interesting in PPR, this has the initial looks of a running back by committee (RBBC). It makes sense for Seattle, especially after last year's debacle, to want real depth at the position, but Lacy's move from Green Bay (where he was, at least most of the time, "the guy") to a much more crowded backfield is not ideal for our purposes.
Kenneth Dixon, Ravens: Even if Dixon wasn't suspended for the first month, the addition of Danny Woodhead certainly would've hurt Dixon's value. The expectation late last season was that Dixon would take a big leap forward in 2017 and right now, that's tough to see. Terrance West is still around and even with Dixon's "emergence" at the end of last season, it's worth noting that from Weeks 12-17 Dixon accounted for just 52.6 percent of Ravens' RB carries. Even when Dixon comes back, this will be more of a RBBC than you might think at first glance.
Dion Lewis and James White, Patriots: These two were already competing with each other for touches, and Rex Burkhead being in the mix will only make it more frustrating for fantasy owners to figure out the New England backfield on a weekly basis. The Patriots are going to be an awesome offensive team that will drive fantasy owners of players not named Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski nuts.
Latavius Murray, Vikings: Going from one of the best offensive lines in football to one of the worst isn't good for any running back, but especially not for Murray. For his career, he ranks just 36th of 58 qualified running backs in yards after first contact per carry. Meanwhile, Minnesota averaged just 1.86 yards before first contact last season (only the Rams were worse). If you want to hang your hat on something here, there should be volume for Murray, but ... yeesh.
Wide receivers I love after free-agent movement
Michael Thomas, Saints: Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true. With Brandin Cooks out of the way, there is no question whom the No. 1 receiver -- and No. 1 red zone target -- is for Drew Brees. Now, Brees does spread it around and the Saints did sign Ted, ahem, Ginn to keep safeties honest, but still. Expect Thomas to improve on a rookie season that saw him have at least five catches in 11 of 15 games, have double-digit fantasy points in eight of 15, catch more than 75 percent of his targets and finish as a top-10 player at the position.
Robert Woods, Rams: Don't laugh. Woods is replacing Kenny Britt as the No. 1 guy in Sean McVay's new offense, and I expect L.A. to throw a lot more this season (and while the Rams may not be great right away, they will be much improved on offense). A talented player that was underused in the Bills' run-centric offense -- and often forgotten when Sammy Watkins was around -- now gets a chance to see a huge target share on a team that will throw. Last season, in a much more conservative offense, Britt had a 23.6 percent target share on his way to being fantasy's WR27.
Pierre Garcon, 49ers: Speaking of target share, Garcon will be a target monster in Kyle Shanahan's offense and that's a good thing. I hear you on the 49ers' QB play, but Shanahan has almost always had at least one elite fantasy wide receiver in his offenses, from Andre Johnson to Julio Jones to Pierre Garcon now. Yes, Kyle was the offensive coordinator in Washington in 2013 when Garcon had his ridiculous 113 catches (on 181 targets!), 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. Expect San Fran to be down and throwing a lot this season, and Garcon, who was paid well to come to the 49ers, should get a huge target share from his former coach.
Brandon Marshall, Giants: Anything would be an upgrade from the hot mess the Jets were last season, but this is a really nice landing spot for Marshall, a red zone machine who leads all NFL wideouts with 35 red zone scores since 2012. Over the past three seasons, the Giants have the sixth-highest rate of throwing on red zone snaps in the NFL, including 58.1 percent of them last season (seventh highest). In that same three-year span, only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have thrown more red zone passes than Eli Manning. And now, while Odell Beckham Jr. is busy being double-teamed, Eli has 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall in town.
Others receiving votes: Yes, he'll have more competition for targets, but Terrelle Pryor Sr. is getting a huge QB upgrade in Kirk Cousins (along with a much more efficient offense), which should bode well for him. ... I don't care who DeAndre Hopkins' QB is this season, just the fact that it won't be Brock Osweiler is a win for his fantasy value. ... With Alshon Jeffery leaving town and Kevin White still an unproven injury risk, the opportunity is there for 6-foot-3 Cameron Meredith to improve upon the flashes he showed last season. Call me crazy, but the Bears' offense is going to be better than folks think. ... I can't believe I am writing something positive about Ted Ginn, but playing with Drew Brees in 10 indoor games on turf (Saints play at Atlanta and Minnesota, plus the eight home games) is an improvement on his value. They will take a few shots deep to him every game. ... Corey Coleman saw at least seven targets in six of his 10 games last season and with 45 percent of Cleveland's wide receiver targets leaving with Pryor, Coleman's stock certainly improved. Yes, Cleveland added Kenny Britt, but as Hue Jackson noted here, expectations are that Coleman will be "the guy" this season.
Wide receivers I hate after free-agent movement
Jordan Matthews, Eagles: Love him as a player, but fantasy-wise his big calling has always been volume. For the past two years he has accounted for 45.7 percent of all Eagles wide receiver fantasy points. For comparison, that's just slightly below Antonio Brown's 48.3 percent during the same time frame. With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in town, Matthews' volume will obviously decrease.
Brandin Cooks, Patriots: Last year's eighth-best wide receiver in fantasy goes away from the turf to a team that is, yes, a great offensive team, but one that has an insane amount of weapons. Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, Dwayne Allen ... the list of pass catchers Cooks will compete with is dizzying. I love this fact: In each of the past two years only Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandin Cooks have had at least 1,100 yards and eight receiving touchdowns.
The Patriots haven't had a receiver total 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns since Wes Welker in 2011. Cooks makes the Patriots and Tom Brady much better from a NFL point of view, but for Cooks' fantasy value? Not so much.
Sterling Shepard, Giants: Shepard was already a "bust" candidate coming off last year's terrific but unsustainable rookie campaign. He was ninth among wideouts in terms of receiving touchdowns despite ranking 33rd in targets and 36th in total receptions, so the scoring rate was already on the way down. Now red zone machine Brandon Marshall is in town. The Giants run the most three-receiver sets in the NFL, so Shepard will still be on the field a lot, but his fantasy value is highly unlikely to finish close to last season's.
Tight ends I love after free-agent movement
Jack Doyle, Colts: Podcast fans know the name of Not Cool Keith's favorite player, but soon all fantasy owners will be aware of him. With Doyle getting a new deal to stay in Indy while Dwayne Allen moves on, it's clear who the Colts want out there with Andrew Luck. Luck loves his tight end -- over the past three seasons, 25.3 percent of Luck's completions, 24.3 percent of his passing yards and a whopping 37.2 percent of his passing touchdowns have gone to tight ends. It's loosey-goosey math, but just for kicks, if you combined what Doyle and Allen did last season, you'd get 94 catches for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns, or 165 points in ESPN standard scoring. Travis Kelce was the No. 1 tight end in fantasy last season with 133 points. There will be someone else out there with Doyle (at the moment, I am assuming it'll be Erik Swoope), but make no mistake, Doyle is a talented player who just saw his stock rise significantly.
Julius Thomas, Dolphins: It's always a struggle with health for Thomas, but being reunited with former offensive coordinator Adam Gase helps him. From 2013-14, with Gase as his coordinator, Thomas was the second-best TE in total fantasy points (and TE3 on a points-per-game basis), with 108 catches for 1,277 yards and a whopping 24 scores. Yes, he had peak Peyton Manning throwing to him, not Ryan Tannehill, but still. Gase noted they wanted improved production from the tight end spot at the combine in Indy this year and specifically went out to get his former player. He'll be an integral part of what they do this year.
Tight ends I hate after free-agent movement
Dwayne Allen, Patriots: Obvious Gronk insurance here, but as we saw last season with Martellus Bennett (a talented player in his own right), it's tough to find consistent value on the Patriots, even when Rob Gronkowski is out. Yes, the Patriots run a ton of two-TE sets (or did before they got Brandin Cooks to go along with all their other receivers), but with so many mouths to feed and Allen's injury history, it's hard to see Allen having consistent, predictable value in 2017.
And that's a wrap on free agency. We'll do another Love/Hate after the NFL draft, but in the meantime, check out the latest podcast and my updated rankings. Thanks as always to Thirsty Kyle Soppe of ESPN Fantasy for his help.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto - didn't forget about Jared Cook. He's just not a believer. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app.