Although the majority of my leagues are dynasty-IDP formats I don't do dynasty rankings. Barring an unforeseen event, I don't have the time for at least another 2-3 years. But it's by far one of my favorite realms of this hobby. This week's column features some of my team-building philosophies and current tiers patterned after my ideas.
Whether you're in a startup league or you've inherited a team, these strategies are common across the dynasty landscape. You can usually identify which method is closest to what you're doing. There are hybrids of these blueprints as well as other strategies. I'm only naming the ones I use or consider.
The Sell-Off: Stockpiling as many 1st and 2nd-round picks as possible in exchange for your veteran starters or youth that others value more. A variation of this also strategy includes trading players at the later stages of their prime for ascending talents that haven't broken through. I've seen the entire gamut of outcomes with this blueprint. In one league there's an owner that has compiled a dream team that has outscored us by 200 points thus far. I'm also in a league where an owner has at least 3-4 first-round picks every 2-3 years because he's either too impatient with his players' development or he's made bad picks and going back to the drawing board. Some of the best owners I know do execute this blueprint well. They generally have a few anchor players on the roster to help this turnaround happen within a year or two.
Win Now: The most practical owners I know treat dynasty leagues like re-draft leagues with the exception of a few minor, but important considerations such as the value of rookie draft picks on the open market, the perception of older players on the open market, and finding ways to continually infuse talent onto your roster.
Slow Builds: The most idealistic blueprint. It's difficult to hit on enough rookie picks that remain injury-free and develop within a 2-4 year period to create a roster solely from a few draft classes where you haven't stockpiled 6-8 picks within the first two rounds. There used to be a strong appeal to organically grow a great roster mostly from the assigned draft picks and the waiver wire, but it also requires a certain amount of arrogance to do it this way in competitive leagues. Those who try eventually learn it was tragic hubris. Not that there aren't successful slow builds, but they're less common in my leagues.
IDEAS, TECHNIQUES, AND PLANS I USE
Three-Year Windows: I view my team in the scope of a three-year window. As each year passes, I'm continually updating whether that player still has a three-year window or less than a three-year window. I no longer view Peyton Manning, Steve Smith or Marshawn Lynch with a three-year window. Manning and Lynch may have 1-2 years left. Smith is done after 2015.
Whenever I assess my team, I look at players from this perspective and it helps me determine the makeup of my team and the type of blueprint I want to use.
Paying a Premium on QBs: Although I have learned a lot as an evaluator of talent over the past 12 years and it includes the quarterback position, I don't like drafting rookie quarterbacks unless I have a desperate need or a strong belief in his value compared to his draft position. Quarterback selection and development in the NFL is rife with problems. There are too many factors that can ruin a prospect: too much punishment, coaching and scheme changes, and a lack of focused development on core technical and conceptual issues in favor of enabling the player's limited, but game-changing athletic skills in the present.
Successful starting quarterbacks tend to have the longest careers. I'd rather pay Bentley prices for Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers or the tier below that includes the likes of Philip Rivers, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. It's safe and sensible.
I know what I'm getting. I can also limit my depth chart to 2-3 QBs and save room for the positions that comprise most of a starting lineup. And I'm not using up a high draft pick every 2-3 years that I'd rather reserve for other positions because of the up-and-down nature of passers that haven't reached the tier of the options above.
Anchor Players: A premium QB is an anchor player. So is a RB1, WR1, elite (top 3) TE, DE1, or ILB/MLB1 (and possibly an elite OLB in sack-heavy leagues). I determine my anchor players and player windows at the end of each season or before the trading window opens for the next. The more anchor players I have, the better. For most scoring rules, here is my order of priority for anchor players (and the amount of players at the position that generally keep on my rosters in parenthesis):
- QB (2-3): As I mentioned above, the fewer I need on my depth chart, the more room I have elsewhere. They also last.
- TE (1-2): For the same reasons as quarterback. If the scoring gives a premium for tight ends then I'll increase the allotment to 3-4 players.
- MLB/ILB (6-8): As our staff has discovered, scoring of tackles depends on the conservative/liberal nature of the stats keepers covering the team for the seasons. It's also hard to find tackling machines on the waiver wire and some of the best have careers that last almost as long as QBs and TEs.
- DE (3-6): The optimal depth chart amount is 3-4 for me, but durability and variability rarely allow me to be at the lower range. That said, I find that I can field a contender most years with one DE1 or multiple 2s/3s in a rotation if I'm strong elsewhere.
- WR (6-8): Career length tends to be strong, but it's a position that's easiest to acquire through the draft, trades, and free agency.
- RB (4-6): An elite runner is a most-prized commodity, but most leagues I'm in only allow 1-2 starters so 4-6 backs is more than enough to account for a position with high injury rates, shorter careers, and scheme and offensive line changes that render many of them less useful in any given season.
Cyclers: I know that some of my IDP colleagues argue that defensive back isn't just a position that one can cycle through free agency week-after-week, and year-after-year, but I tend do so with success. The exception is older or established safeties. I like to keep old safeties like Charles Woodson, who, for the past 3-5 years has defied the predictions of fantasy analysts that his reign of production is coming to an end "this year." I keep 3-4 corners and safeties on my squad at any given time.
About the Tiers: I love tiers because the order of the players within them aren't concrete. There's no single answer that fits all scenarios. Some players are better options for owners where they value a swing-for-the-fence mentality. Because wide receivers often holder their starter value longer than any position but quarterback, there won't be major differences between the "win-now" and long-term builds.
Where these differences occur, WR age may not be as large of a factor as the age of the receiver's quarterback. A repeatedly banged-up, 33-year-old Ben Roethilsberger brings down Antonio Brown's value compared to a less war-torn 34-year-old Eli Manning throwing to Odell Beckham Jr, although I believe a fantasy owner could make a good argument that Brown is a better all-around talent.
Win-Now Premium WRs: These players have at least two years left of a three-year window and can afford you to keep a minimal number of passers on your depth chart on a win-now team with a true window of contention.
Tier 1-A (Players I'd pay a mid-to-high first-round rookie pick and/or a starter to acquire)
- Odell Beckham Jr, Jr. : Eli Manning may be 34, but he looks like he could play another 3-5 years. I believe when the career bell tolls for Manning, the Giants also have enough organizational leadership to find a capable replacement. And if a healthy Beckham opts to leave New York when his first contract expires, he'll have the pick of the NFL. Only 23 years-old, Beckham is one of the top-15 receivers after the catch, one of the top-5 route runners, and arguably the best player at the catch point in the league. Although I could mount a good debate for 3-4 other receivers with the talent and quarterback play to earn this top spot, Beckham wins my tiebreakers because I can't imagine another wide receiver I'd rather build a team with if fantasy became reality.
- DeAndre Hopkins: There are generally two points along the spectrum of receiver skill types when it comes to earning the ball: technicians and rebounders. Most players have to possess enough of both skills to make it in the league, but most players' skills lean towards one area more than the other. Each side of the spectrum has great athletes. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson lean more towards the rebounder end of the spectrum. Antonio Brown and Jeremy Maclin lean more towards the technician side. Odell Beckham Jr is dead center on this spectrum. So is Hopkins, who, unlike Beckham, lacks a franchise quarterback. This little fact should be a concern, but consider that Hopkins was the No.6 fantasy receiver between Weeks 2-5 with Ryan Mallett mucking up the works and and he's still the No.2 fantasy receiver despite a Week 9 bye. It's one thing for Hopkins to do this work without an established second option at receiver or tight end, but without a franchise QB, also? This should give fantasy owners optimism that the needle is only pointing skyward for this 23-year-old option with otherworldly skill for attacking the ball.
- Antonio Brown: If you put him atop your list in the first tier I won't fight you on it. The only thing he doesn't do as well as the two players ahead of him is make incredible "rebounder" catches, but he's as good of a route runner and arguably better than both Beckham and Hopkins in the open field. He's also four years older and his quarterback is an "old" 33. That said, Le'Veon Bell should be fine next year, the offensive line is good, and there's enough surrounding talent on this roster to prevent defenses from taking Brown away from the passing game.
- Dez Bryant: It feels wrong placing Bryant this low on a wide receiver list, but I have to remind myself that this is a tier, not linear ranking. I could easily justify any argument that Bryant is first on a list for any team that wants to win now. Bryant has at least 5-6 years of top-5 fantasy WR value regardless of Dallas' quarterback situation. And if you believe the Cowboys will find a way to nab local boy Matthew Stafford in a couple of years (if not sooner) to replace Tony Romo, there won't be any questions about Bryant getting the ball enough between Bryant's fireworks intensity that differs from Calvin Johnson's quiet burn, and "Jerruh's" coaching from the owner's box. Depending on the day I'd put Bryant and Brown over Hopkins without regret.
- A.J. Green: This is where my conservative nature takes over. Julio Jones has been the better fantasy receiver the past two years, but Green has been much better during the first three and injury was the only reason Green wasn't more productive last year. Green's injury issues didn't create a long-term concern for his legs the way they have done Jones. Green also has more surrounding talent on offense than the Falcons and he's closer to that dead-center of the technician-rebounder spectrum than Jones (who isn't far away, either). It's close--and Jones will often have better fantasy production than Green in a give year--but I believe there are fewer long-term, boom-bust issues with the Bengals receiver.
- Julio Jones: Not only has Jones matured into a good route runner, Matt Ryan still as 4-6 years left, and despite the loss to Blaine Gabbert and the depleted 49ers, Atlanta is heading in the right direction. Falcons fans who use the first five weeks of this season as their frame of reference will disagree, but they are cherry-picking their perspective. Truth be told, Atlanta's offensive line was so bad 10 days before the season that Atlanta looked like the best candidate to go winless in 2015. What they did to fix that issue cannot be overstated in how exceptionally rare it is for a team to accomplish. Atlanta has the talent of a team +/- 1 game above or below the .500-mark. It still needs to address its line depth and overall talent across the board, especially with more depth along the offensive line, a secondary receiver capable of winning on the perimeter against man coverage, and more defensive talent. Jones is winning on volume, but the efficiency of those targets could be better, including more deep targets if Atlanta can find a second option who could do what Roddy White once did. Right now, Altanta doesn't have the personnel to let Jones be the great rebounder he is. Despite these issues, Jones remains one of the top-5 fantasy receivers in the game and despite some nagging foot/leg issues in recent seasons that will crop up, I think he has another 4-6 years of excellence and with the same quarterback on a team that has the right road map. Don't mess this up Arthur Blank.
- Alshon Jeffery: He's only played two games this year, but he's posted top-10 production during that span. He's only 25, he's one of the best rebounders in the game, and there's still hope that Jay Cutler plays well enough to remain in Chicago beyond 2015.
Tier 1-B (Players I'd pay a mid-to-low first-round rookie pick and/or a starter.)
- Calvin Johnson: Megatron has been the No.13 fantasy receiver since Week 6. We all know the talent is still there even if the offense went off the rails under Joe Lombardi. Even if Matthew Stafford doesn't inspire hope for most fantasy owners, Johnson is only 30 and despite some of the nagging injuries in recent years that left him a decoy for weeks at a time, he's still capable of 3-4 years of WR1 play.
- Jordy Nelson: The Packers miss Nelson terribly. James Jones is a bit of a boom-bust substitute for Rodgers' top option. There is no reason to expect that Nelson won't return to peak physical shape after the ACL tear and perform well as he enters his 30s. The 29-year-old also has the best quarterback in the game. If not for the ACL tear and the age, Nelson would be in the top tier. I wouldn't argue with you if you put Johnson and Nelson up there.
- Amari Cooper: He's a better technician than rebounder, but he's close to the middle of that target-point spectrum I described earlier. I prefer precision route runners if all things are equal, because they tend to have longer careers of productive football as their physical skills diminish slowly over time. Derek Carr is on the right track, Michael Crabtree is experiencing a renaissance, and Cooper's only getting started.
- T.Y. Hilton: If there's a player in these first two tiers whose skills haven't been maximized in the NFL, it's Hilton. In recent seasons, Andrew Luck and the Colts offense have targeted Hilton more like a rebounder than a technician. Where Hilton did his best work at FIU was on targets where he could run after the catch. I don't know if Hilton could perform as well as Antonio Brown in the Steelers' offense, but I'd love to see the switch for a Sunday afternoon. I think many would be surprised. I'm not worried about Phillip Dorsett taking Hilton's role any time soon.
- Mike Evans: Although there were lots of drops on Sunday against the Giants, but Evans is normally sure-handed. He's also becoming one of the top rebounding deep threats in the game paired with a quarterback skilled enough to feed him.
- Kelvin Benjamin: The routes aren't great and he still has some careless drops, but as long as that ACL holds up, he has the quarterback and youth on his side to become a long-term WR1.
- Demaryius Thomas: If Brock Osweiler has developed into a future starter, he has the big arm that could put Thomas back into the top tier. If not, Thomas might be seeking a ticket out of Denver post-Manning. Still a viable WR2 in this Broncos offense that has been less willing to smoke-and-mirror the areas where Manning is noodle-armed, I'd rather not pay a first-round pick on hope for the future that's known. But if there's a player to do that with, Thomas is the kind of receiver worth the risk.
Tier 2-A Starters (An early-to-mid second-round rookie draft pick and/or a starter):
- Julian Edelman: If you think Brady has another 3-4 years, then you should feel the same about Edelman. He's not as crafty as Wes Welker, but he's a better athlete. He's producing like a top-tier guy and on track to reach the century mark for receptions, but you can make a good argument with his current fantasy owner that the Patriots' receivers in recent times are more interchangeable parts than most top offenses and it might help you get him for a second-round pick and a starter.
- Larry Fitzgerald: The Cardinals' decision to move Fitzgerald to the slot has sparked a revival in his production. I'm confident Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer have a three-year window of strong production. If you're rebuilding to win now, a second-around pick and a player is absolutely worth it in this loaded offense.
- Brandon Marshall: Where Fitzgerald is a great rebounder with route skills, Marshall is a great rebounder with excellence after the catch. That YAC part has slowed down a bit, but Marshall has developed more savvy with his technique as his athletic skills incrementally diminish with each advancing year. He has another 2-3 seasons of strong WR2 value with low-end WR1 upside.
- Sammy Watkins: The early season injuries and the turnover in Buffalo's coaching staff and offense has been worrisome, but Watkins was still the most talented receiver of the 2014 class in my book (Beckham was second and Evans was third). Watch Watkins torch the Dolphins' Brent Grimes--no slouch of a cornerback--and the route skills and athletic ability all come to the fore. I like what Tyrod Taylor is doing, I believe in Watkins, and I think we're about to see a spate of production that will warrant this dynasty ranking by season's end. It might even be too low.
- Martavis Bryant: I'd pay more for Bryant, but if you can use the threat of additional drug-related suspensions that could sink his stock like Josh Gordon's then do so in your negotiations. It's a real concern and one you shouldn't take lightly. If Bryant has figured out machinations of the NFL's drug policy (and I believe with many players in professional sports and Corporate America it's about figuring it out rather than stopping what they do that gets them in trouble) his on-field ability gives Ben Roethlisberger a great 1-2 punch for the next 3-4 years. Bryant isn't nearly as powerful as Julio Jones, but he's shifty and strong in the open field in addition to what he can do with the ball in the air. He's a risky fantasy WR2 with WR1 upside, but worth slating for that WR2 spot if you have a strong team that can afford his off-field bust factor.
- Josh Gordon: If there's evidence that the NFL's drug enforcement policies are stupid, Gordon's case will be front and center. He'll enter the 2016 season as a restricted free agent because he didn't earn enough playing time to earn unrestricted rights. It will make him a bargain for any NFL team that wants to take a chance on his great talent. He'll be 25 in 2016 and there's no reason to believe that if he can stay on a productive career path moving foward that he can't return to the top tier of dynasty receivers. Ability-wise, I'd put him above Alshon Jeffery and arguably in the range of Bryant, Green, and Jones.
- Keenan Allen: The Chargers' receiver is neck-and-neck with Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, and John Brown in this tier. I'd arguably place them above Edelman and Fitzgerald on any given day. Allen gets the nod short-term because of Philip Rivers and Allen's ability to win the ball in the air as well as earn yardage after the catch. Robinson is awfully close and arguably has more long-term upside because Blake Bortles should be starting in the league longer than the remainder of Rivers' career.
- Allen Robinson: The only thing I dislike about Robinison is that he's a finesse receiver for a rebounder. He's not that Dez Bryant banger despite having the physical-athletic traits that put him in a similar spectrum. Still, he's young, capable of big plays, and he's productive.
- John Brown: Brown has the best short-term surrounding talent of the quartet of receivers that I mentioned, but because he's not leaned on as much, it limits his upside just enough that he's virtually tied with these three receivers in my tiers. He's the best deep threat of the four and skilled against tight coverage. I also believe that Bruce Arians will demand a big-time quarterback or quarterback prospect to take over for Carson Palmer when Palmer's end comes and the Cardinals will comply.
- Emmanuel Sanders: One of my absolute favorite receivers in the league, Sanders has a great all-around skill set with routes, deep speed, quickness after the catch, and toughness. A little on the fragile side for the way he likes to mix it up with defenders, that, and the fact he's 28 years-old are the only minor issues I have with Sanders. The major issue is what Denver's passing game will look like when Peyton Manning moves on--more so than with Thomas, because Sanders' game is more technical and precise and requires that kind of passer to excel. I'd love to see him in Green Bay or New Orleans, but if Atlanta wants to elevate its passing game back to the days when Roddy White and Matt Ryan where surgical, give the Falcons QB Sanders.
- Randall Cobb: One thing we've learned his year is that Randall Cobb is a high-end gadget/slot player. I hate saying it, but he's not an outside receiver and he's not getting open like a big-time playmaker. It might be usage and it might be Cobb's A/C joint, but if we didn't have an inkling before, we've learned that Jordy Nelson is the key cog to the explosive element of this passing game. Maybe it works out differently if Cobb goes elsewhere later in his career. After all, he's only 25, but I don't think there's much difference between Cobb and Edelman in skills. Edelman is on the better team this year.
Tier 2-B Starters (Mid-to-late second-round rookie draft pick and/or a starter):
- Allen Hurns: The former Miami Hurricane is Jacksonville's new Keenan McCardell. Hurns is a slower, more physical Emmanuel Sanders if that old Jaguars' reference throws you off. Or, as my buddy Eric Stoner--a Jaguars fan and recapper at Footballguys--says, the better Allen receiver in Jacksonville. I agree with Stoner, Hurns is the better all-around receiver, but Robinson has the unadulterated speed to earn the glory throws for big yardage whereas Hurns can get deep, but he's a better route runner than Robinson and earns the tougher targets when Blake Bortles is in crisis mode. Give me a high-volume security blanket with big-play ability over pure speed any day.
- Brandon Cooks: If this second-year receiver could show more consistent rebounding skills or a greater variety of route proficiency, he'd be a tier higher than he is. Cooks is fortunate that Drew Brees remains one of the best deep ball throwers in the game and can consistently lead Cooks down field without forcing a jump-ball target. Cooks is inconsistent at best when forced to make tight-coverage catches with the prospect of contact. When a quarterback can hit Cooks in stride, he's hard to stop. It makes him a good deep threat with after the catch skills, but less versatile than his draft status suggests.
- Jeremy Maclin: I'd move Maclin up a tier with a more aggressive quarterback with deep game prowess. Right now, he's a faster Jarvis Landry without the same skills as Landry after the catch.
- Jarvis Landry: If Julian Edelman, Randall Cobb, and Jarvis Landry constituted a spectrum of slot receivers, Edelman would land on side of speed and finesse, Cobb would be in middle, and Landry would be on the rugged end of the spectrum. For Landry to earn better fanasy production long-term, hewill need a big-play threat and a quarterback capable of connecting with said vertical option. I'm not sold Miami has found both.
- Stefon Diggs: He's the most precise route runner of the starting rotation and has similar big-play ability to Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson. Teddy Bridgewater operates best with technicians, not rebounders. Having one of both (Diggs and Johnson) will be good, but he won't thrive without a player of Diggs' ilk. I'm sold that Diggs is for real on the field. If he can remain a mature presence between 2015 and 2016, he'll move up a tier.
- Vincent Jackson: Still a quality rebounder with enough route skills to give Jameis Winston a poor man's Brandon Marshall.
- Eric Decker: I actually think Decker performs better when the targets are tough ones. If you're seeking a rock-solid WR2 with a lot of what Allen Hurns brings to the table, Decker is a good choice.
- Michael Crabtree: Considered one of the smoothest route runners in the NFL, Crabtree has found a home in Oakland. During the past three weeks, Crabtree has gone 20-273-4--top-five fantasy production among receivers. Don't expect this torrid pace to continue, but Crabtree's career is far from over. At 28, Crabtree should offer the Raiders a great complement to Amari Cooper for the next 3-4 season--if he's wise enough to stay in the Bay Area.
- Michael Floyd: He's still earning red zone targets, deep targets, and producing within the range of a fantasy starter despite a slow start due to his hand injury. He's only 26, the Cardinals have opened the window of contention, and he'd be wise to stick around as part of a formidable WR threesome rather than pursue the money with a much worse team. If he sticks around, bump him over Vincent Jackson--especially if his rest of the season performance remains top-24 at his position, which has been the case between Weeks 5-9.
Tier 3 Luxury Picks (Either a late-first round pick or a combo of no more than a late-second round pick and a starter):
- Dorial Green-Beckham: Dynasty owners should exhibit patience with rookies. Green-Beckham deserves at least this year and next. He's earning high-leverage targets right now and if he and Marcus Mariota can get enough stability with a coaching staff in Tennessee, he could become a top dynasty receiver for years to come. My greatest concern is that the Titans lack a proven veteran receiver in Green-Beckham's style of play to show the rookie how to become a great pro. Harry Douglas isn't that kind of player.
- Kevin White: This guy is the reason I believe Jay Cutler will earn another year or two in Chicago. White has athletic ability to dominate the open field and the size and rebounding to eventually replace Brandon Marshall.
- Marvin Jones Jr: I hope the Bengals don't get too cheap and let Jones walk. He's the best route runner of the receivers not named A.J. Green and I think if any other team was pressed to acquire a Jones and put him into its lineup as a WR1, he could do the job. Most of the NFC South teams should be salivating at the thought of acquiring Jones if the Bengals don't keep him.
- DeVante Parker: He must learn how to beat press coverage. Once he does, he has the ball-tracking skills and physical upside to be money.
- Jordan Matthews: He's a big slot receiver like Marques Colston. As long as the Eagles continue to feature Matthews as one, he'll be productive.
- Donte Moncrief: His work against press coverage was a mixed bag at Ole Miss and he's not a great route runner. Other than T.Y. Hilton, I feel like the Colts have encumbered Andrew Luck with great athletes who have a ways to go as route runners.
Dynasty Duct Tape: Bargain players worth considering for quick fixes in "Win-Now Mode." Most of them should come at a discount depending on their landing spot or their 2016 status with their current team.
- Travis Benjamin: I think he's for real. I don't trust the Browns to believe it nor do I trust the Browns to remain stable enough for us to find out. But I'll buy-low where I can (3rd round pick or less with a player thrown in) to wait and see.
- DeSean Jackson: Whenever he's healthy, Jackson is instant production. He'll turn 30 next year, but he still has the skills to perform as a fantasy starter in 3-4 WR leagues for the next 3-5 years. He could enter my priority tiers above depending on next year's landing spot.
- Golden Tate: He has never been a great route runner and he's more of a playground option who adds to a good team. I have doubts he has the skills to become reliable option long-term.
- Steve Smith: When Jene Bramel doesn't seriously doubt Steve Smith's return from an Achilles' injury despite his age, it's either because my wife is correct that Bramel doesn't know anything about the Achilles' or Smith is that amazing of an athlete and competitor. I've had Smith on my dynasty rosters well before he was too old to be good anymore in Carolina. I'll give another year a shot if Smith comes cheap.
- James Jones: Hopefully both the Packers and Jones have figured out three things: a) Jones is not a primary receiving talent. b) The Packers' recent additions of Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams and Jeff Janis have limited upside and c) if the Packers want to keep its window of contention open with Aaron Rodgers at the helm and Jones wants to have another year of production for a good team, the two parties need to work something out where he's the WR3 in the starting rotation for another year or two.
- Tavon Austin: Until he shows that he can win deep with greater consistency, I'm not buying Austin as anything more than one of those sucker fish attached to that great white shark in braids. I won't be that harsh. I love what Austin is bringing to the table as a runner and receiver. Right now he's a productive gadget player and not a primary wide receiver.
- Nate Washington: At 33, he still gets it done in the vertical game even with less than stellar quarterback play. I think he has at least another year in him.
- Ted Ginn Jr: I think there's another 2-3 years left for Ginn to produce in Carolina. He should come cheaply to dynasty owners waiting on Devin Funchess to emerge and Kelvin Benjamin to return to form. His hands were always the reason he didn't become a top-flight option, but he has improved over the years. You still have to put up with untimely drops, but you get what you pay for.
- Willie Snead IV: Nope, I can't give him his full props just yet, but I will recognize his connection with Brees is excellent. He's also the No.13 fantasy wide receiver during the past month. If he sustains this production I'll put him in Tier 2-B. Even that may seem low, but remember Lance Moore was never really part of the long-term plan for New Orleans as a primary guy. I wonder if Snead is more of "good for now," kind of option.
Long-Term WRs: These players have multiple three-year windows and they're best matched for teams where the expectation isn't to win this year or next. Players without multiple three-year windows are listed: Steve Smith, Pierre Garcon, James Jones, Anquan Boldin, Malcom Floyd, Steve Johnson, Mike Wallace Roddy White, Andre Johnson, and Marques Colston won't be found here. At the same time, if the player is 28-30 and likely has not more than one three-year window, but the talent to make it a great three years, a 24-year-old in a more murky situation or less developed talent does not get a bump on my board.
Top Tier (Players I'd give a mid-to-high first-round rookie pick and/or a starter)
- Odell Beckham Jr, Jr.
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Antonio Brown
- Dez Bryant
- A.J. Green
- Julio Jones
- Alshon Jeffery
- Amari Cooper
- T.Y. Hilton
- Mike Evans
- Sammy Watkins: I think he's just getting started and will climb this tier within the next 16-24 months.
- Kelvin Benjamin
Tier 1-B (Players I'd give a mid-to-low first-round rookie pick and/or a starter)
- Calvin Johnson
- Jordy Nelson
- Demaryius Thomas
- Martavis Bryant
- Keenan Allen
- Allen Robinson
- John Brown
- Dorial Green-Beckham: If you believe a player has top-15 potential as a receiver for years to come you have to be willing to pay a first-round pick to get him.
- Kevin White: See above.
- DeVante Parker: Ditto.
Tier 2-A (Players I'd give a high-to-mid second-round rookie pick and/or a starter)
- Julian Edelman
- Larry Fitzgerald
- Brandon Marshall
- Randall Cobb
- Josh Gordon
- Allen Hurns
- Jarvis Landry
- Stefon Diggs
Tier 2-B (Players I'd give a mid-to-low second-round rookie pick and/or a starter)
Tier 3 (Players I'd give a high-to-mid third-round rookie pick and/or a starter)
- Jordan Matthews
- Eric Decker
- Michael Crabtree
- Vincent Jackson
- Kendall Wright
- Donte Moncrief
- Travis Benjamin
- Tavon Austin
- Golden Tate
- Kenny Bell: I think Bell can be a long-term steal because Vincent Jackson's career is coming to a close and Bell has perimeter skills with big-play ability over the middle, after the catch, and he can take a punch.
- Tyler Lockett: There's a lot of excitement about Lockett and I like what he offers as a secondary starter (the team's WR2), but I'm not convinced he's the next Antonio Brown. I don't see the same consistency over the middle on tough throws.
- Breshad Perriman: Can he develop into the route runner he needs to become for that great speed to come to the fore?
- Nelson Agholor: Can he earn playing time next year?
- Chris Conley: The ability is there, the quarterback play to complement his rebounding vertical skill is not.
- Devin Funchess: The playing time will help him down the line, but he must get better as a route runner and gain more consistency as a pass catcher.
This list could go a lot deeper, but this covers most of the obvious options (barring an oversight or two).
Next Week: Dynasty Tight End Tiers.