NFL Free Agency Fantasy Fallout: Teddy Bridgewater lands in best possible fit with Carolina

After announcing Cam Newton should seek a trade, Carolina reached agreement with Teddy Bridgewater on Tuesday, reportedly to be their new starting quarterback. Bridgewater is an accurate quarterback with a career completion percentage of 65.2%, but that is in large part due to his willingness to take what the defense gives him and throw underneath. 

Among quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks last season, Bridgewater’s average throw depth was lowest at 6.2 yards. Of course, New Orleans is known for a system that emphasizes easy completions — the Saints rank among the most running back receptions annually, for example. With a low aDOT, Michael Thomas is the type of No. 1 receiver who pushes those statistics into overdrive — over the past three seasons, Drew Brees has the three highest single-season completion percentages in NFL history for quarterbacks who threw at least 200 passes. 

Brees also had the second-lowest average throw depth in 2019, behind only Bridgewater, so some degree of Bridgewater’s game-managing tendencies can certainly be chalked up to the Saints. That said, he’s successful operating that way, and while we might expect him to open things up a bit more anywhere outside New Orleans, Carolina was the single best fit, where Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore might be the league’s best doppelganger tandem for Kamara and Thomas. 

Carolina’s coaching staff is also new this year, with former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule taking over top duties and handing the offensive coordinator role to Joe Brady, the oft-praised passing game coordinator for LSU’s title run last year. Dave Richard broke down Brady’s system earlier this offseason and mentioned Joe Burrow’s relatively low percentage of deep passes in his writeup of the prospect, but the Cliff’s Notes are that Brady’s spread system needs an accurate quarterback. He now has that in Bridgewater.

For Fantasy, this move is as positive as possible for McCaffrey and Moore, and their targets should now be locked in as the focal points of the passing offense. It’s a little trickier to find optimism for Curtis Samuel, and the downfield threat’s potential breakout may again be stalled in 2020. At first blush, tight end Ian Thomas seems like a better third Fantasy option in Carolina’s passing game, at least relative to expectations.

But digging a little deeper into Samuel’s profile, he’s not completely without merit. Samuel finished ninth in the NFL in air yards in 2019, but Kyle Allen’s struggles down the field led to an incredibly low 63% catchable target rate. That led to Samuel finishing with just 627 receiving yards — he was the only receiver in the top 15 of total air yards to not record a 1,000-yard season, and he wasn’t even close. 

So while Bridgewater is a perfect scheme fit and this news is as good as possible for the Fantasy values of McCaffrey and Moore, Samuel’s still a decent bet on positive regression should Bridgewater be an improvement on Allen’s extremely poor downfield accuracy. That’s a fair bet simple by the very nature of how bad Allen was. 

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