In our previous installment, we came to the conclusion that rookie picks are at their zenith in purchasing power near the rookie draft and that players (particularly those that have underperformed) are at their lowest perceived value point. By exploiting that, owners on contending teams can take advantage of the situation by buying low. They can use the allure of picks to get deals done that otherwise may not be entertained at other times during the dynasty calendar. We took a look at some of the players that I feel are great targets for this strategy. In this installment, we’ll look at a few more players that owners may want to target using this idea.
Keenan Allen, LAC
Why his perceived value is deflated: Injuries. He’s missed games in all but his rookie season. Some owners are also worried about the emergence of Hunter Henry and Tyrell Williams cutting into his work.
Why you should target him: Allen is still relatively young and the focal point in a powerful passing game. Even with Henry and Williams in the offense, there’s plenty of production to go around. Think of how Gates, Malcom Floyd, and Allen all simultaneously experienced successful years together in this prolific system. While the Head Coach changed, Ken Whisenhunt will still remain the Offensive Coordinator, so I’m not expecting radical change to the system. It’s also too soon to slap the injury-prone label on Allen just yet. According to Adam Harstad’s research, a knee injury only has about a 6% chance of recurring to the same knee after the initial injury, which is quite low. The spleen injury of 2015 seems to have been a freak occurrence. All things considered, we should be rushing toward acquiring Allen, not scrambling to dump him for any first-round rookie pick.
Action plan: As my opening move, I love taking a late first and pairing it with a player who did well last season, but whose status I have little confidence he will maintain going forward (example: Tyrell Pryor + 1.12).
Where’s the line: Pony up anything up to the 1.04 pick only if you can’t negotiate something more palatable.
Julio Jones, ATL
Why his perceived value is deflated: Frequent ankle and foot injuries throughout his career have limited his upside. Jones is also an inconsistent option, doing little for some weeks, but “going off” a few games every season. Additionally, the offensive coordinator that revived Matt Ryan left for San Francisco.
Why you should target him: Some of the concerns are legitimate. Jones seems to have had chronic foot and ankle issues for a few years now. An offseason bunionectomy and rest will hopefully resolve those problems. As for inconsistency, that, unfortunately, is another frustrating part of his game. While he’ll usually end up near the top of the total points category, how he gets there year after year can be maddening to some owners. However, if you are willing to ride out a few tough games and keep rolling him out week after week, he’ll do his part to help you make the playoffs. It’s at that point you can evaluate whether you have a better option to start or if you need his upside to win your matchup. As for the change in Offensive Coordinator, the team plans to keep Shanahan’s system mostly intact. New Offensive Coordinator, Steve Sarkisian’s scheme is very similar to that of Shanahan’s, which is presumably why the team picked him-- to keep the continuity of last year.
Action plan: Let’s start with two late firsts and see how the other owner responds. Throw in a second if it’s close, but only if the other owner needs that extra push to make the deal.
Where’s the line: I’m willing to give the 1.03 for Jones straight up, but with the concerns listed above and the persuasive pull of rookie draft picks during this unique time of year, you should have a decent chance of getting Jones for far less.
Dez Bryant, DAL
Why his perceived value is deflated: He’s had injuries, including three missed contests last year. He laid a goose egg in the thick of the fantasy playoffs. He’s got a reputation of being a “diva.” Plus, he’s not had a monster year in a while and Ezekiel Elliott is now the focal point of the Cowboys’ offense. There are also questions about Dak Prescott’s development and his chemistry with Bryant.
Why you should target him: He’s a value at this price point. While it’s true that the Cowboys aren’t going away from Zeke, Bryant still remains the focal point of their passing offense. Even adjusting to a rookie signal caller, Bryant managed to finish in the top thirty in most PPR settings. The Cowboys defense is in shambles with the departure of many important pieces of the secondary, such as Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox. It’s easy to see how they will likely be playing from behind more often this year and thus will find themselves in more passing situations. Also, Prescott demonstrated great understanding and poise in his rookie year. He did not force things and took the opportunities the defense gave. I think the pendulum should swing back towards Bryant as defenses shift their attention back to stopping the run game.
Action plan: As with Keenan Allen, I want to combine a late first with a player in whom I have little confidence long-term (example: Tyreek Hill+ 1.11) as my opening bid. I’ll keep working my way up, always trying to get the other owner to throw in second- or third-round picks for next year as a bonus.
Where’s the line: If the opposing owner wants more than the 1.06 for Bryant, it’s time to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Josh Doctson, WAS
Why his perceived value is deflated: Tendonitis in both ankles hampered his rookie year. Also, the long-term uncertainty about Cousins staying in Washington is scaring off people.
Why you should target him: Just a year ago, Doctson was going as high as the 1.04 in many drafts. I know that would equate to a late first in today’s class, but I’m seeing some deals where he’s getting sold for an early second. He didn’t produce in his rookie year and the microwave society reacted accordingly. The medical staff in Washington are taking his rehab slow, doing their best to make sure Doctson doesn’t have additional setbacks, as he did when he pushed things too hard to come back last season. Looking back at his college tape, it’s easy to see that his feel for the game is already outstanding. There will be an adjustment to the game that Doctson will still need to undergo, but I feel that he is more pro-ready than many of the other prospects that came out in 2016’s class. I won’t try to sugarcoat the fact that Washington’s passer situation could get very bad in a hurry if Cousins doesn’t return in 2018. However, it’s important to remember that dynasty is played for the long-haul. I’m very confident in the player and feel that this is the time to scoop him up, especially while he's being grossly undervalued.
Action plan: Let’s see if we can join the owners who’ve bought Doctson at a deep discount. Try combining two mid-second round picks and see how your trade partner responds. Alternately, you could also offer a high second round pick.
Where’s the line: I think giving anything more than the 1.08 straight up is an overpay.
Eric Ebron, DET
Why his perceived value is deflated: He’s done little with his opportunity to date and dropped a lot of balls. Ebron also has been nicked up for a good bit of his early career.
Why you should target him: Something that owners don’t always realize is just how long it typically takes a tight end to hit. They have the longest maturation period of any of the skill positions. I had a dinner conversation with Travis May recently in which we were talking about Ebron’s prospects this year. He reminded me that Greg Olsen was left for dead in dynasty after a failed and injury hampered stint with the Bears. It took his second contract with Carolina to find a better fit and come into his own. I believe Ebron could be on a similar track. We’ve seen flashes of dominance at times. At only 24 years old, I think that Ebron can still put things together with the Lions. Should it not pan out, at worst, he’ll be with a new team in 1-2 years. Also, as Footballguy Chad Parsons has detailed in his work, tight ends selected in the top ten of the Draft (as Ebron was in 2014) rarely miss. They’ll continue to be force fed targets and given every opportunity to succeed before the plug is pulled.
Action Plan: Ebron’s value is such that you might be able to get him for a late second or an early third straight up. If that doesn’t persuade the other owner, I would consider combining two early thirds or a late second and early third.
Where’s the line: 2.04 is where I call it quits on acquiring Ebron.
Action Plan: In TE premium formats, I want to see if I can combine two high seconds or give one late first straight up for Ebron. That’s very doable with owners who have lost faith and want to bail.
Where’s the line: I’m not interested if I have to pay any more than a top six pick in the 2017 rookie draft to acquire his services.
Austin Hooper, ATL
Why his perceived value is deflated: Hunter Henry overshadowed him and the incoming rookie crop is pushing his value down.
Why you should target him: Long-term, Hooper may not surpass the likes of Henry, Evan Engram, David Njoku, and O.J. Howard. However, I believe Hooper will end up a solid contributor in his own right and he’s a year ahead in NFL development and experience of all but Henry. Hooper did a very nice job in year one, and normally this would have been enough for people to go bananas for him. While everyone is focused on overpaying for the other tight end targets, you can reasonably acquire Hooper and reap the rewards. A much bigger statistical year in 2017 is not out of the question.
Action plan: From what I’m seeing in the dynasty trade market, Hooper’s value is all over the map. I like the idea of taking an older player like Jordan Reed or Travis Kelce and getting Hooper and any first. I also am a fan of trying to throw out an early third or late second to see if I can snag Hooper while rookie fever is in full effect.
Where’s the line: A mid-second round pick is where I draw the line on Hooper.
Action plan: In TE premium formats, I would attempt something like combining two mid-seconds or a mid-second with an ancillary player to acquire Hooper.
Where’s the line: A late first is where I’m out on Hooper in this format.