Identifying bounce-back or breakout players for the following season is a long-standing strategy to maximizing roster value in the offseason. Here are my favorite bets for a value uptick in 2018:
Jimmy Garoppolo: With strong tape in his early starts in San Francisco and a good chance for a weapons upgrade in the offseason, Garoppolo is likely to settle as a mid-QB2 or lower in offseason startup drafts even before 2018 rookies are added to the mix. Garoppolo is an ideal QB2/3 in start-1 formats and a target player in premium formats.
Mitch Trubisky: The rookie has put together quality tape despite the fantasy production not following. Remember Trubisky has arguably the worst set of passing game weapons in the NFL, especially outside the numbers. Kevin White and Cameron Meredith are return-from-injury wildcards in 2018 and a key veteran or rookie addition is likely. Trubisky offers mobility to boost his fantasy upside and is a good candidate to improve his QB30+ per-game results in 2017 by 10-15 spots next season.
Eli Manning: If the Giants do not want Manning, a line of NFL teams will be ready to add the veteran to a playoff-hopeful roster next season. Manning has oscillated from good to bad over his career, but the down years have always popped back up. Manning dealt with Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all missing significant time and his 18 touchdowns (through Week 15) are set to be the second or third-fewest since his rookie season. Manning is a prime candidate to move back to the 25-30 touchdown range in 2018.
Joe Mixon: Jeremy Hill is likely gone (not that he was a big hurdle this season) and Mixon mired through poor offensive line play (and offense overall) this season. Mixon had one game of more than 14 PPR points as a rookie but offers an elite two-way skillset to rival elite RB1 fantasy options with a better offensive environment.
Jamaal Charles: The tape was solid for Charles in his injury recovery season of 2017. Denver ran a three-back rotation for much of the season and Charles did not gain much leverage over C.J. Anderson or Devontae Booker for a significant work. However, Charles is a free agent to garner a rebound opportunity elsewhere as a former elite producer still in his historical window to be productive. Charles may land as a No.2 back on a depth chart but offers starter upside with a dynasty ADP beyond RB75.
Sammy Watkins: The upcoming free agent has been minimally used with the Rams this season after a surprising trade from Buffalo. The past two season have been lost ones after a promising start to his career with more than 2,00 yards and 15 touchdowns spanning 29 games. Few doubt Watkins' talent and he will be one of the more attractive free agents at any skill position in the offseason.
T.Y. Hilton: The Colts receiver is miring through a season beyond the top-36 fantasy options in points-per-game (PPR) and his worst fantasy season since he was a rookie. Andrew Luck has been the missing piece for Hilton in his career, averaging 4 PPR PPG less with any other quarterback under center. With Donte Moncrief a free agent in the offseason and (fingers crossed) Andrew Luck back, Hilton returns to his WR1 upside status.
Kevin White: His stock has been beaten to a pulp with injuries and missed games to-date in his career. White has yet to prove he can or cannot play with only five regular season games under his belt. Chicago may address the position in the offseason, but top-10 NFL Draft picks get plenty of chances to make good on their pedigree in the NFL. White has dipped in market value to throw-in status, making him the perfect stash on a dynasty roster's perimeter.
Tavon Austin: Like Kevin White, Austin fits the draft pedigree investment strategy. Austin has devolved in his role with the Rams all the way to be a backup running back more than wide receiver in 2017. Austin, however, possesses elite athleticism and a change in scenery seems likely with only $5 million of dead cap left.
Gerald Everett: Tyler Higbee is nothing more than a placeholder as the Rams de facto tight end starter. Everett has flashed on occasion as a prototypical move tight end. Everett is buried as a lower-end TE2 by early ADP for the offseason, an outstanding price as a backup dynasty option with TE1 upside as early as 2018.
George Kittle: Many redraft analysts dug Kittle as an upside play for 2017. It was an up-and-down season as a rookie with three games of 40+ yards, but otherwise, his efforts were reserved for best ball type formats. With Jimmy Garoppolo shining to close the season and the Kyle Shanahan factor, the 49ers offense is one of the units with a chance to rise up like the 2017 Rams and Kittle falls into the same price bucket as Gerald Everett.
Adam Shaheen: Like Everett and Kittle, Shaheen is a bet on team, quarterback, and metrics. Shaheen's metric draft profile reads like the closest version to Rob Gronkowski since the Patriot was drafted in 2011. Shaheen was a second round pick, where tight ends are drafted to be starters for their NFL squad. Mitch Trubisky has flashed without much around him as a rookie and the Bears passing offense has been a punch line in 2017. With better perimeter weapons next season and Year 2 improvement from Trubisky and Shaheen, the small school size-movement-production stud from college is a prime candidate to come from outside the top-20 in positional ADP to break into fantasy relevancy.