Fantasy Forecast
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 20th, 2011

The most difficult thing to do in dynasty leagues is forecast a player's value a year in advance. Yes, we all have different risk tolerances. But, the key to building a true dynasty is to accurately forecast if a player's value will be higher, or lower, this time next year. We will use weather forecasting terms for a player's dynasty outlook. In addition, please keep in mind that the 2012 season will be the paradigm. Which players will see their dynasty value increase exponentially and whose will plummet?

Anyone can predict that a 29- or 30-year old running back will decrease in value in a year. Who would not predict the decreased 2012 values for Michael Turner or Steven Jackson? Both are "sells" for many owners. That is the normal evolution. We will focus on the players whose futures are not so obvious.

So, which players' forecast will be sunny and who will be stormy?

The Forecast is Sunny

These are the players to buy over the next few months with the expectation that their respective values will increase.

  • Jacoby Ford - The Raiders have to look for ways to get the ball into the speedy receiver's hands. He scored four touchdowns in just 35 offensive touches as a rookie. Think about that for a moment. How many NFL players can boast about such potency? The Raiders are a team void of play makers. The coaching staff has already come out and stated the desire to get Ford more offensive touches. Given a normal development from year one to year two, the lightning fast Ford could become a startable fantasy wideout in the near future.
  • Jordy Nelson - Nelson looks to benefit over the coming months from a couple of key factors. Donald Driver's age will push him further down the depth chart as he makes fewer and fewer plays down the field. Also, James Jones is likely a free agent this offseason. Even if not, it will be next summer. Since we are looking at 2012 as the timeframe, Nelson is sitting on a breakout year ... in 2012. He already has gained the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers while producing down the stretch last year. The situation, with tight end Jermichael Finley back healthy, looks muddled but will be sorted out in the next year with Nelson playing a key role. This is the time to buy while others are overly concerned with target numbers for 2010.
  • Steve Smith (CAR) - Dynasty owners give up on the 30-something wideouts way too quickly. Smith is coming off a horrible fantasy campaign due to the poor quarterbacking of Jimmy Clausen. This is the same passer who averaged under 125 passing yards per game last year. Whether Smith is traded or gets an upgrade with Cam Newton taking the reins at quarterback, his receiving numbers should rebound dramatically in 2011, resulting in increased value next summer. The veteran receiver will benefit with anyone other than Clausen under center.

Storms Likely

These are the players to hold or sell in dynasty leagues due to value. The players below may not be worth the same this time next year.

  • Aaron Rodgers - This recommendation is purely due to his value relative to other fantasy quarterbacks. Rodgers is coming off his third consecutive Top 2 fantasy finish for his position. He gets tight end Jermichael Finley back healthy. But, his pass attempts and yardage declined in 2010, and interceptions increased. This was with the concussions. Could they be a threat going forward? With so many good dynasty quarterback options, Rodgers' value is inflated in comparison. Should he really be drafted several rounds before Philip Rivers in new dynasty leagues? Should Rodgers be drafted in the first round of dynasty start up drafts ahead of elite players like Larry Fitzgerald, Ray Rice, or Maurice Jones-Drew? It all depends on the parameters of the league, but there are too many good dynasty quarterbacks for there to be value in spending a first round pick on a quarterback (in most leagues' scoring). I fully expect feedback from the ardent Rodgers' owners. He is a great player. There is no doubt. But, what happens if he has a "down" season and finishes as QB5 this year? In addition, what are the chances of missed games to injury (including concussions)? What will happen to his value at that time? The reality is that the dynasty of Aaron Rodgers is as high as it can be and the time to sell is here.
  • Chris Johnson - Johnson has been incredibly durable the past two seasons while carrying such a heavy workload. But, can the sub-200 pound back keep up the pace? He has touched the ball a whopping 781 times over the past two seasons. Johnson is considered an elite player, worthy of one of the first three picks in a dynasty start up draft. He is an elite player. But, even last year, his 372 touches still only translated to a RB5 finish. Can he continue to keep up the pace of such a heavy workload and not break down? Add in a shaky quarterback situation and it is easy to be scared of the risk compared to the reward. Expect opposing defenses to continue to stack the line, making it difficult for the running game while challenging Jake Locker or veteran stand-in to beat them through the air. The Kenny Britt situation will only make things more difficult on the ground attack.
  • Mike Thomas - As one of the few Thomas supporters when he was coming out of college, even I see him now as a possession receiver with speed ... not a viable WR1 candidate. Those dynasty owners who pursue Thomas as fantasy starter are asking for trouble. Do not scoff. That is his value in some leagues. He will struggle to make big plays after the catch. The Jaguars are really hoping for his emergence to be the prominent pass catcher. The quarterback situation will hinder any upside and Jacksonville is looking to upgrade the receiver position after free agency opens. While Thomas is still a good bet to begin the season as the main threat at the wide receiver position, he is more of a fools gold player than a buy low. It remains a virtual impossibility that Thomas can be a weekly fantasy starter in non-PPR leagues.

Severe Weather Ahead

These are the players whose value will be in sharp decline very soon so sell quickly.

  • Peyton Manning - A 35-year old quarterback coming off another neck injury has to raise the red flags. Will he recover to full strength? What are the chances of re-injury? Manning is as good as they come when healthy. But, can we really assume another season without injury? I do not think so. He has survived too long behind a poor offensive line and the odds will catch up to the perennial All Pro sooner rather than later. His prolific career may go unmatched for a long while. Manning has been in the league 13 seasons, and finished as a Top 5 fantasy passer in all but two of those years. His dynasty value is based on this production over the many years. Even without injury, at what point do we need to start discounting the Colt star due to his age? Manning's neck injury illustrates how impressive it is for him to play 13 seasons without missing games due to a major in-season injury. Any injury resulting in a few missed games during the 2011 season will plummet his value. It is best to move him, like other stars, a year too soon rather than one too late.
  • Knowshon Moreno - Gone is the wide-open passing game of Josh McDaniels. In walks the conservative John Fox. The former Panther leader will look to utilize multiple ball carriers to pound the rock. With the Broncos' sieve of a defense, a strong running game would be a welcome sight for the home crowd. Moreno has not finished higher than RB17 in his first two professional seasons. Why would we expect more in the future? In dynasty leagues this Spring, especially those offering PPR scoring, Moreno was bought and sold as a RB1. What a leap of faith for a player who has never topped 1,000 rushing yards and now will be splitting carries. Look at what offensive coordinator Mike McCoy had to say about the new offense, "We need to get back to the old Bronco way of running the football here ... With our head coach, John Fox, he is determined to run the ball. When I was in Carolina with him, we had a two-headed monster every week." As if that news was not bad enough, Denver Post beat writer Mike Klis wrote about how the Denver organization views the twelfth overall pick in 2009, "His role in the (John) Fox era likely will be more of a third-down player ...". Ouch. That will leave a mark. This is the time to sell, before free agency begins. The Broncos could be in hot pursuit of former Carolina back DeAngelo Williams. He and Fox have a good relationship and a monster season together. Whether it is Williams or another ball carrier arriving in the Mile High City, Moreno's role looks to be limited ... matching his upside. We have seen the best Moreno has to offer and it will only get worse.
  • Pierre Garcon - Garcon only has value getting a ton of pass targets from quarterback Peyton Manning while better receivers are injured. But, even so, the former sixth round pick from tiny Mount Union still has struggled to become fantasy relevant. After setting the league on fire the first part of the season, Austin Collie was sidelined for much of 2010. Also, All Pro tight end Dallas Clark missed ten games. Still, Garcon was only able to finish the year as fantasy WR32 in the Indianapolis offense. Why could he not take full advantage of the situation? First of all, Garcon drops way too many passes. He is toward the top of the NFL in the dropped passes statistic. To illustrate this point, Garcon only caught 57% of Manning's pass targets last year and 51% in 2009. There is no way a dynasty owner can assume Garcon will see 8.4 targets per game going forward with Collie and Clark back healthy. Plus, there is the possibility that Indianapolis brings in a viable receiver in free agency. The team could be looking at making a run for another title in Manning's last few years. This is the time to sell before everyone realizes that Garcon only had 26 receptions for 335 yards and one touchdown in the seven games both he and Collie played. Those are not starter's numbers in any league. If you own Garcon in a dynasty league, sell him quickly.

Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any suggestions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.

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