Dynasty Rankings Movement, Week 17 - Footballguys

Footballguys staff rankings and the reasoning behind the movement.  A big thank you to our contributors this season: Daniel Simpkins, Dan Hindery, Chad Parsons, Andy Hicks, Jeff Haseley, Will Grant, and Jason Wood.

Each week, Footballguys staff members will share the big movers in their respective Dynasty Rankings. Since the contributors will rotate, please check in weekly. The focus of this article has been the “why” more than the movement itself. This week – our final edition of the season – includes tips and players to stash for the offseason. We appreciate the thoughtful efforts of the staffers who contribute to making this article what it is …. chock full of dynasty goodness.

Simpkins (Waiver Wire or Inexpensive Stashes)

Teddy Bridgewater - Bridgewater could very well be the future starter for the Saints or another team, depending on what New Orleans decides to do during the offseason. The years left on his deal void in early March, so if he’s not locked up by the Saints by then, he’ll explore a free agent market that will be clamoring for his services. Either way, we probably have not seen the best of Bridgewater yet and should be excited about it if we can land him on our dynasty teams.

Jacoby Brissett - He’ll hit free agency in 2020 unless the Colts decide to deal him to another team. Brissett remains one of the few backups that may get another shot at starting down the road. He played well in a really bad situation in 2017 and earned the respect of many around the league. There were rumors in the offseason that multiple teams tried to trade for Brissett, but the Colts declined their offers. Perhaps we see a needy team up their offer to Indianapolis this offseason.

Malcolm Brown - He’ll be a restricted free agent this year and the Rams may be too cap-strapped to match his tender if another team comes calling. He’s looked great in limited opportunities behind Todd Gurley and has the skill set to carry the load if a team will trust him to be their lead guy in a committee.

Rod Smith - Smith is heading to free agency in the offseason and remains an interesting stash candidate. He has done good work with his touches this year and filling in for Ezekiel Elliott last year. He could end up as a valuable backup or even a starter for another team.

Ameer Abdullah - Abdullah still has the traits of a good NFL running back but has yet to land in the situation where his value can be unlocked. He’ll hit free agency this year and perhaps he can find a favorable landing spot.

Chris Warren III, III - The team put him on IR early in the year, almost as if they were looking for a way to stash him without having to use the practice squad or 53-man roster to do so. Both Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin have expiring contracts and Warren caught the eye of both his coaching staff and his fellow players with his preseason performances. Stash him in deep leagues if you have the room. You can let him ride in your IR spot in some leagues.

Laquon Treadwell - Treadwell hasn’t panned out how dynasty owners have hoped to date, but he has made steps forward this year. He’ll have one more year on his rookie deal before getting to test the market. One significant injury to Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen could change everything for Treadwell’s career trajectory.

Kevin White - White hits free agency this year and I could see a scenario where he takes the Robert Woods path to relevance-- as an excellent blocker getting a chance on an emerging offense to showcase what else he can do with another team. The first-round pedigree will be intriguing to teams looking for help at the position.

Chad Williams - Williams is a bit forgotten on a team that’s been very bad, but if they can hire a better coaching staff in the offseason, I’m optimistic that the offense will improve. Williams could eventually end up starting opposite of Christian Kirk. The quarterback situation is also more promising for the long-term with Josh Rosen in the fold.

Richie James - James is a favorite deep stash of mine. he has the skills to eventually play from any receiver position in this offense. His trademark skills are being very shifty and great on contested catches, despite his smaller size. The players ahead of James have documented injury concerns, and that may lead to an unexpected opportunity for him in the future. He is being used on special teams for the time being and had a return touchdown in week fifteen.

Jordan Lasley - Lasley did not have a flashy preseason, but he did make the cut over first-round pick Breshad Perriman, which shows you what this organization thinks of him long-term. It was obvious when watching practices that he and Lamar Jackson have developed a rapport, much in the way Phillip Rivers and Malcolm Floyd did years ago. It may be a year or two before Lasley has a big role, but he’s worth holding on to if you have the room and placing on your watch list if you do not.

Justin Watson - Recall that Watson made the initial 53-man roster, despite how crowded Tampa Bay’s wide receiver corps already was. Watson impressed from the Senior Bowl on and made tough contested catches often in camp. If this is truly DeSean Jackson’s final year, Watson may have a chance to jump into his role next year if the same regime is still in power.

Javon Wims - Wims was constantly making plays throughout the preseason, so much so that the Bears dared not put him on the practice squad. It’s a crowded depth chart at present, but Wims can easily work his way up, especially if Kevin White does move on in free agency next year, as I expect him to do.

Anthony Firkser - Could the Titans have made a significant discovery with the undrafted Firkser? It’s a possibility. He has size, reliable hands, and the ability to box out defenders in the middle of the field. Jonnu Smith and Firkser could become quite the duo when Delanie Walker moves on in a few years.

Jacob Hollister - Hollister is a big, athletic tight end that the Patriots have been grooming for a while now. With Gronkowski’s future uncertain after this season, it’s wise to stash Hollister and see what comes to pass.

Jeremy Sprinkle - Jordan Reed can’t stay healthy, Vernon Davis is aging, and Sprinkle is an able blocker and receiver. He’s someone we want to monitor and pick up if we see him start to get more opportunities.

Demetrius Harris - Harris will be hitting free agency this year and if he had not been stuck behind Travis Kelce, he may have been the star and not the afterthought. Harris has been simmering behind Kelce for years but is a similar talent. If he does end up re-signing with Kansas City, Travis Kelce owners would do well to roster him as injury insurance.

Hicks

Quarterback

Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, and Mitchell Trubisky - Each of these three quarterbacks is young and has looked elite at times but struggled at others. They seem to have stability on the coaching staff and should be franchise quarterbacks for years to come. Whether they turn into Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford remain to be seen, but they will be able to carry a fantasy roster as a starting quarterback well into the future if you either have them or can get them for a reasonable price.

Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton - These quarterbacks have all been fine fantasy quarterbacks, even as recently as this year, but at this point of their careers, their teams must be asking the question, “Can we do better?” They all have surety in their roles for 2019, but at some stage in the next year or two their teams may consider moving on from them or a change in coaching structure may prompt such a consideration. If these players have been the staple of your roster, I would be looking at a younger option for roster depth and protection if the move comes quick. All these guys will be snapped up by a quarterback-desperate team in the NFL, but their fantasy use may diminish quickly.

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Dak Prescott - What do their respective teams think of them as long-term prospects? Will they get wishy-washy long-term extensions that can be dealt with in a year or two like Blake Bortles or potentially at the time Andy Dalton? Do these teams need to keep them in a holding pattern for another year or have they seen enough to genuinely commit for the long term?

Running Back

LeSean McCoy and Mark Ingram II - Both guys have reached the end of the line with their current teams, contractually in the case of Mark Ingram II and practically regarding LeSean McCoy. Any fantasy manager should take any decent offer they get, even if free agency lands them in a nice situation. McCoy has his own issues that may crop in the offseason, but these guys will not be full-time backs wherever they end up and could theoretically be out of the league if their demands are too high.

Tarik Cohen, Philip Lindsay and Tevin Coleman - Each of these backs has been a good story in their own way this year. Each of them has a high likely value heading into 2019. Anyone who has them on their rosters should consider moving them if they get a deal that is good. All these backs are undersized from a prototypical running back point of view and look to have difficulty handling a long-term heavy workload. Tarik Cohen has not even had a 100 rushing attempts for the season and his heavy use out of the backfield is harder to rely on for the long term. Tevin Coleman hasn’t really taken advantage of the loss of Devonta Freeman and made a case for becoming a feature back. He has been good from a fantasy point of view, but I would be wary of expecting it to result in a long-term future. Philip Lindsay is the tricky one. He has proven capable of being a feature back, but it is highly likely a new coach is going to neuter any potential he had. The presence of Royce Freeman also makes it difficult to see 20 touches a game in the future. Lindsay is likely to be a trivia question regarding undrafted running backs rushing for 1000 yards, but although it would be great if he broke the mold, I worry about his viability even as early as next year.

Royce Freeman, Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, and Ronald Jones - Each of these backs was drafted with a high pick in the 2018 draft by their respective teams and each has underperformed on their expectations. These are excellent buy-low candidates that could be worth an investment in 2019 or they could flame out quickly. Royce Freeman and Ronald Jones are likely to have new coaches and therefore could be at an immediate disadvantage. Derrius Guice has had setbacks in his recovery from injury and Adrian Peterson has been an excellent stopgap in Washington. Rashaad Penny has looked good at times, but the coaching staff can’t trust him yet and Chris Carson has done well with his opportunities. Another veteran performing better than expected is Peyton Barber, but the way Ronald Jones has looked and played it wouldn’t have mattered. Jones needs to click with a new coach or he will be out of the NFL really quick. That said, his price is likely to be dirt cheap and he has upside. Some managers who drafted these players with high picks may be reluctant to let go but prizing them away should not be that hard if you still believe in these running backs.

Wide Receiver

Davante Adams - When the Green Bay Packers extended the contract of Davante Adams, they did it in the best way possible, signing the fifth-year man before he had a career year. Now that he is under lock and key for another three years at a very reasonable rate for an elite receiver, he can be re-evaluated with certainty. He is the go-to man in this offense and as he is just about to turn 26 can be seen as a valuable dynasty option for the rest of Aaron Rodgers career. It’s taken me a long time to get on board here, but he has truly evolved into a great player.

Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods - These two players can be grouped together for several reasons, but the main ones are that they are both in the prime of their careers, highly productive and lacking in touchdowns in comparison to elite receivers. This essentially makes both players top of the range WR2 receivers, with the upside to be ranked among the elite with a few more touchdowns. Where this offense is headed will remain one of the mysteries of the offseason. Sure, Cooper Kupp makes this whole offense sing better, but the obvious reality is that there is now a template to disrupt Jared Goff. Sean McVay will need to stay ahead of the opposing defenses to keep this offense elite.

Kenny Golladay and Courtland Sutton - These are another two receivers who have similar situations and issues. Both are the current and future WR1s for their teams, both have legitimate questions on their offenses and quarterbacks. Both haven’t even tapped their full potential yet. Kenny Golladay is one year ahead of Sutton on their career progressions and he is already a 1000-yard receiver and number one following the trading of Golden Tate and the injury to Marvin Jones Jr. Courtland Sutton has been thrust into a similar situation a year earlier with Demaryius Thomas traded and Emmanuel Sanders getting injured. These players are on the way up with even a stable offensive situation and the staples of dynasty rosters for years to come.

Tyler Lockett, Julian Edelman, Adam Humphries, and Golden Tate - These wide receivers all play similar roles and have had similar output in 2018. All are risky guys heading into future years as their roles are offensive scheme dependent and maybe this is as good as they get. Julian Edelman and Golden Tate are not the youngest guys either, so perhaps now is a good time for dynasty managers to move on while they still have value. Adam Humphries is having a career year but with a new coach likely and a new scheme next year, who knows how that will pan out? Tyler Lockett is finally reaching the end zone on a regular basis, but his reception totals drop him way down the list for consistent output.

Tight End

Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, and Jimmy Graham - These players still have name recognition, but effectively are trending down sharply. You may attract a good price, given the scarcity of quality at the position, but if you have a reasonable alternative or can get one, then each of these players should be moved on from any dynasty manager looking past 2019. Olsen and Gronkowski have been either injured or limited by injuries for years. In the case of Graham, his inability to be found by Aaron Rodgers in the end zone is a serious issue. On the bright side, his first year in Seattle resulted in only two touchdowns and he turned it around with and second and the fourth ranking in the next two years. At his age, though it is hard to see that in Green Bay.

Chris Herndon, Mark Andrews, and Dallas Goedert - All these rookie tight ends have the potential to be elite options in the future given their impressive debut seasons. Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert have serious rivals for playing time and receptions and still are ranked inside the top 20 tight ends for 2018. The effort of Chris Herndon is even more impressive. On an offense that struggles for serious options, he has developed a strong rapport with Sam Darnold and he is probably the most attainable of these three guys with perhaps the highest upside given the competition for targets of the other two.

Hindery (6 Offseason Tips)

1. Do what it takes to secure one of the elite running backs. In startup drafts, you should do what you can to position yourself to draft one of the elite young running backs in the first round. There is simply nothing that compares to the weekly advantage of having a top running back, especially since so many of the top guys are also putting up WR2 numbers as pass catchers in addition to everything they are doing on the ground. For example, Christian McCaffrey is going to end up with over 2,000 total yards, 110+ receptions, and at least 13 touchdowns. No wide receiver has that type of upside in today’s game. It should be an easy choice in the first round of startups to pick one of the top-5 running backs over any receiver. In established leagues, these top backs are much tougher to acquire but it makes sense to at least try to put a trade package together to see if you can get something done.

2. Aggressively take risks to find the next elite back. If you don’t have an elite back and don’t have the trade chips to get one without decimating your roster, your best bet is to be aggressive in trying to find the next big thing at the position. For example, Kerryon Johnson has at least shown some flashes as both a runner and receiver when he has been healthy. He is the ideal target in the third or fourth round of a startup draft. Johnson also looks like a strong trade target who should come at a fraction of the price of the top backs. Joe Mixon is another nice target. He is coming off the board in startups in the same range as Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen, and Julio Jones. Mixon is an easy pick for over those guys and another strong trade target given his age and immense upside.

3. When in doubt trade back. It is possible we see a running back or two emerge from the 2019 class as exciting prospects over the next few months. Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery, and Josh Jacobs are some names to watch. If so, again it makes sense to be aggressive to try to land a potential impact player at the position. However, it isn’t a great running back group and there might not be a true star in the bunch. Plus, the 2019 class is very deep at wide receiver and has a few potential impact players at tight end as well. Don’t be afraid over the next few months to trade back in the first round of your rookie draft if it helps you get what you want in a trade. The real strength of this class is depth and there are fewer obviously elite players than we’ve seen in recent classes. Don’t overvalue picks in the top half of the first round.

4. Trade for 2020 rookie picks. If you are a planner and have the patience to pull it off, the best plan might be to make moves now for 2020 picks. The class looks loaded at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. The group of potential 2020 running backs is especially intriguing and we could even see someone like D’Andre Swift or Travis Etienne emerge as an elite prospect along the lines of Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott.

5. Build an advantage at tight end. An elite running back probably provides the biggest advantage over your competition, but a top tight end isn’t too far behind. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz lapped the field at the position this season. In fact, compared to replacement-level production at the position, Kelce gave you an advantage of over 10 points per week, which is absolutely massive. Both Kelce and Ertz are slightly undervalued still and solid acquisition targets. However, the better move may be to target the next potentially elite tight end before their cost skyrockets. Injuries have depressed the trade value of O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, and Evan Engram. It is a great time to try to buy low on these guys.

6. Don’t sleep on the slot guys. The size/speed freak outside wide receivers are like dynasty catnip. Meanwhile, the smaller guys who often line up in the slot are underappreciated. Guys like Tyler Boyd, Cooper Kupp, Adam Humphries, Christian Kirk, and Anthony Miller all fly a bit further under the radar than they should. If you are aggressive in trying to build an advantage at running back and tight end, you can take advantage of the discount on slot receivers to find multiple guys capable of WR2 production at a bargain price.

Tefertiller (2 Dynasty Thoughts)

1. As in most parts of life, the art of self-reflection is one of the keys to growth. This plays a part in fantasy football. After the season, take time to reflect on your job as a dynasty owner and what you can learn from your mistakes. Which parts of the role did you do well (e.g., rookie draft, trades, waiver wire, etc.) and which ones did you not fare so well? Also, use this as a chance to implement ways to address what may be improved. Ask for help. Many in the dynasty community are happy to help, especially those on Footballguys staff.

2. Understand the cycle of value. Veteran fantasy players less expensive in the offseason while draft picks are sold at a premium as people get rookie-itis. So, if you do not have a strong track record in rookie drafts, maybe you should examine the possibility of trading these picks for established players. Further, the 202 NFL Draft looks to be loaded with talent so trading 2019 picks for 2020 picks appears to be a winning strategy. Things change quickly so there are no guarantees. We are quickly entering the time of the year where top players in their 30s are sold for a discount. The better dynasty owners capitalize on this market inefficiency.

Grant (Waiver Wire or Inexpensive Stashes)

Damien Williams - I talked about him last week and there’s still no guarantee that he’ll be the starter next season, but if Damien Williams is still available in your league, you should grab and hold him now. He’s not a critical to the KC offense as Hunt was, but he continues to post games with more than 100 yards from scrimmage and about 20 touches per game. That is a pretty solid performance for a guy who went undrafted in all but the deepest dynasty leagues.

Kalen Ballage - Frank Gore has vowed to return next season, but even if he does, his role will be that of a backup/injury fill-in. That will leave Ballage and Kenyan Drake as the two backs in Miami. Drake has had decent games this year, but Ballage looks special. With another full off-season under his belt, I like him to take over the #1 running back job in Miami next year.

Nyheim Hines - I’m not buying that Marlon Mack as the primary running back for the Colts next season. He’s had some big games, but he’s had plenty of 10-carry, 30-yard type games as well. I’ve added Hines in a couple leagues because I think he’s going to be one of those ‘do a little bit of everything’ type of guys next season, and I hope to take advantage of it. Even if Mack returns as the primary back, I think Hines remains a solid flex option in any PPR leagues.

Zay Jones - There is no one who looks at the Buffalo offense and thinks ‘Give me more of that!’ – but Zay Jones is quietly piling up targets as the Bills wind down a very forgettable season. Jones has 33 targets over his last four games, and while his production has been up and down at best (5-67 yards and a touchdown this week, 1-11 the week before), a guy who is getting that much may eventually start to produce. If the Bills can get ANYTHING going on offense this off-season, Jones might be a nice WR3 / bye week fill in for your team.

Chris Herndon - As Sam Darnold begins to emerge as a legitimate NFL quarterback, the guys catching the ball on his team are going to start to rise. Guys like Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse all have their swim lanes, but the tight end position is often overlooked. Chris Herndon has attracted 27 targets, 17 receptions for 237 receiving yards and a touchdown over his last five games. Those numbers are just good enough to make it worth buying and holding Herndon on your roster for next year and hoping Darnold and him develop more chemistry next season.

Parsons (General Dynasty Advice)

Each season brings a new environment for dynasty player value and how the market looks at each position relative to each other. Here are a few takes at each skill position:

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes II is lapping the position in interest for early 2019 startup drafts, but the quarterback position has seen a number of historic seasons in 2018. The 2019 offseason value will be in the veterans also enjoying quality years like:

Matt Ryan

Drew Brees

Philip Rivers

Aaron Rodgers

Russell Wilson

Mahomes will get all the buzz in the offseason, but even the historically great quarterback seasons from Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning were met with significant regression the following season. While Mahomes has the look of a strong long-term producer, I am on the skeptical end of the spectrum of him being a quality return on startup draft investment, especially in Superflex formats, in 2019 drafts.

Running Backs

My takeaway from 2018 for running back was being the year of the stash running back. Spot starters and spending preemptive pickup waiver wire capital and roster spots were rewarded throughout the season. James Conner was not available at the end of the season for dynasty GMs but he was a major contributor to playoff berths coming from handcuff land to produce more than two wins over replacement in the fantasy regular season. Other running backs who emerged from backup status for spot starts in 2018 include:

James White

Aaron Jones-Jamaal Williams

Phillip Lindsay

Nick Chubb

Kerryon Johnson

Adrian Peterson (out of NFL in preseason)

T.J. Yeldon

Giovani Bernard

Matt Breida

Josh Adams

Latavius Murray

Austin Ekeler

Mike Davis

Derrick Henry

Alfred Blue

Elijah McGuire

Spencer Ware

Damien Williams

Jaylen Samuels

Jeffrey Wilson

Gus Edwards

Jamaal Williams

C.J. Anderson

In deeper formats, the list could be even longer for relevant running backs for lineup consideration throughout the season without a 1A projection to start the year. While the 2019 NFL Draft class is lackluster in comparison to the 2017-18 classes at running back, this offseason will shake up the primary backup roles around the NFL through free agency and being on top of the new landscape of injury benefactors will once again be the key to 2019 dynasty team results.

Wide Receivers

The lesson I have learned (or reinforced) from 2018 with wide receivers is to be conservative in valuing secondary receivers on NFL offenses and especially ones with the allure of *maybe* becoming a lead receiver in the future. There are a select few who are cornerstones to NFL passing games and dynasty starting lineups for years to come. However, the marketplace likes these upside receivers more than is warranted to routinely take a big step forward in their initial NFL seasons. Investing a few select targets is fine on a dynasty roster, but cost is key to ensure there is profit or upside from the investment instead of paying as if they have already done what one is projecting as possible.

Tight Ends

Like wide receivers, one takeaway from 2018 is being cautious in investing the alluring second-tier of tight ends who could take a step forward and join the elite production group. George Kittle emerged in 2018, but Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, and David Njoku are examples of not taking a huge step forward to rival the top tier. Also, investing in rookie tight ends in a rookie or startup draft have little Year 1 upside. Instead, passing and trading for (or drafting) them in their next offseason will be of similar (or lesser cost) in most situations.