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The Best of Week 17

Matt Waldman scouts our in-season content and shares five must-knows and his takes on each.

You guys have a ton of articles. 

This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week. 

If this describes you, let me be your scout. This week, I'm supplying five insights from Footballguys articles that I found compelling in Week 17 — all happen to be dynasty or related to 2018.

This week:

  • Dynasty Lessons Learned
  • Waivers of The Future
  • The New Reality
  • Roundtable: Best 2018 Rookie
  • IDP Dynasty Sleepers

Let's begin. 

What 2017 taught us in dynasty formats

Like many features at Footballguys this week, Jeff Tefertiller's Dynasty Rankings Movement reflected on the 2017 season. There were a number of worthwhile insights — here's a few that I liked:  

Daniel Simpkins: One lesson I think dynasty owners can learn is not to overreact to one year — one way or the other. There were a great many player performances and trends that I do not feel will hold past this year, yet many owners will fall into the trap of assuming next year will be like this one.

I think we saw an outlier year in terms of wide receiver production. Part of that was marquee names like Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, and Amari Cooper getting hurt. Part of that was offenses that had been humming taking a step back, thus causing the connected assets to also lose steam. Tennessee (Rishard Matthews), Tampa Bay (Mike Evans), and Cincinnati (A.J. Green) come to mind. Conversely, we saw running backs (Todd GurleyLe'Veon Bell, and Alvin Kamara in particular) end up as top performers in PPR leagues. With a very good running back class on the way in 2018 and the memory of running backs dominating the landscape, we’re going to see people overpay for these rookie picks and sell off valuable assets that will rebound in the near future.

That said, I think the smart play is to go after some of these guys who disappointed or didn’t live up to expectations. For example, Corey DavisChristian McCaffrey, and Mike Williams are going for less today than they were going for at rookie draft time last year. Even if it’s only a slight discount, it’s an opportunity you aren’t going to have once these guys begin to produce. Your buy-low window will slam firmly shut when they do become weekly contributors.

Chad Parsons: Make Quarterbacks Prove It. The position with the most one-year wonders is at quarterback. It is dangerous to anoint young signal-callers and assume they will be annual strong QB1-level performers for the next decade. While an owner may occasionally miss out on the next great one by eschewing investment after one good season, waiting for another season or two of confirmation mitigates plenty of false positives with high-level investment prices (specifically in premium formats). Examples like Jameis WinstonMarcus MariotaDerek Carr, and Dak Prescott are cautionary tales from the past season or two. Deshaun Watson and Jared Goff could be in a similar boat in the offseason.

My Take: Daniel's thought about maintaining a steady year-to-year outlook on proven producers coming off a down year is a mature perspective that many inexperienced and impulsive fantasy owners lack. Discerning the difference between a bad year due to factors outside a player's control — injuries, problems with surrounding talent, and coaching turmoil — and factors well within their control such as opponents exposing clear weaknesses that haven't been exposed before prevents fantasy owners from overreacting. 

It's also a vital factor for knowing when it makes sense to remain patient with players who haven't emerged as consistent starters. You won't always get the right answers using this process, but I've found over the long haul that it's better to be wrong for the right reasons than be right for the wrong ones. Otherwise, that decision-making compass never gets calibrated. 

Chad's thoughts on quarterbacks echo mine when it comes to building dynasty rosters: Pay the premium for proven talent. Even if that talent is older. I remember acquiring Tom Brady in his early 30s and hearing comments from my competition that I was playing to "win-now." If you project player usage in three-year windows, veteran quarterbacks are more valuable and less volatile than unproven youth. 

There are exceptions. While Chad teases the possibility that Watson and Goff could fade next year, I'll note that if your process for evaluating quarterbacks is sound, you might land a young player worth holding onto.

Goff's play wasn't as scheme-based as football writers made it sound this year.  Sean McVay's offense helped a lot, but the public has often seen it as the magic pill that has turned Goff into a good quarterback when a more accurate way telling the story is that McVay's scheme and personnel acquisitions were logical building blocks that allowed Goff to be the good prospect that he always was.

If you understand how the running and passing games work together, you've likely seen a lot of weeks between October and December where defenses were forced to honor the threat of Goff beating them to the point that Todd Gurley's job became easier. McVay's offense has smart play calls, but it also demanded a high level of traditional quarterbacking that's rooted in strong technical and conceptual skills.

While fantasy owners are excited about Jimmy Garoppolo — and rightfully so — Goff could be had at a greater discount if the glamor of a Brady understudy with early success overshadows the Rams' franchise starter.     

dynasty bargain shopping

Daniel Simpkins' Waivers of The Future listed a lot of fun players worth monitoring, if not buying outright. I cherry-picked from his list: 

Teddy Bridgewater, MIN- He’s still out there in a few shallow leagues, so I’ll mention him. It’s going to be interesting to see what occurs at quarterback next year with the Vikings, but my guess is that Bridgewater will take the reins.

Jacoby Brissett, IND- Like Hundley, Brissett may be back out there on the wire after the Colts tanked. However, savvy dynasty owners will pick up Brissett because he showed something in a very difficult situation. We still don’t have clear answers on Luck’s shoulder situation and Chuck Pagano is unlikely to remain with the team according to reports. All these things are good reasons we should hold Brissett and wait to see how things shake out.

Cardale Jones, LAC- The Chargers traded for Jones and it didn’t take him long to become the primary backup. Rivers is aging and Jones has shown in the snaps that he has gotten that he is a bold thrower not afraid to trust his targets.

Malcolm Brown, LAR- He is the Rams’ second-string back now, but could see a change of team next year when he hits the free agent market. He’s out there in many dynasty leagues. Brown was back in action after being sidelined for several weeks with an MCL sprain and looked fine on the limited touches he got behind Gurley.

Matt Dayes, CLE- Dayes flashed in preseason and in the limited opportunities he had throughout the year. With Crowell not locked in beyond this year, Dayes is an interesting player to monitor heading forward.

Trent Taylor, SF- As the Shanahan offense comes together, we’ve seen some flashes from Taylor out of the slot. He’ll not be a factor until his usage improves, but he is someone we want to keep an eye on for future days, especially as promising as Garoppolo has looked thus far.

Mack Hollins, PHI- The re-signing of Alshon Jeffery wasn’t the best news for Hollins, but there’s still a role for him on this team. Though he’s a project, his size/speed combination is enticing. We could see Hollins move up the depth chart this offseason if the Eagles don’t retain Torrey Smith.

Ryan Switzer, DAL- I like Switzer to be Beasley’s long-term replacement. I think he’s an even better version of Beasley with more quicks. It may take some time, but Switzer is worth the hold in deep bench PPR leagues.

Cody Latimer, DEN- I’ve liked Latimer’s skill set for a long time, but he could never get it together in Denver. Perhaps in a different system, Latimer will be able to come alive. There is talk that they could keep him, but we’ll hope to see him move on and get a fresh start somewhere else. Either way, he should go up in value and be someone that you can potentially flip, even if you are not a fan of the talent.

Tyler Kroft, CIN- Kroft is someone I’ve seen back out on the waiver wire after Cincinnati’s season took a turn for the worst. If he’s out there, I recommend you grab him. The oft-injured Tyler Eifert will be a free agent, leaving a talented Kroft to fill his spot. Kroft showed well when the offense was not completely stagnant this year. Hopefully, the new regime will be one that helps lift the sagging fantasy assets, including Kroft.

Trey Burton, PHI- Burton is one of the better backups in the NFL. We saw what he could do in relief of an injured Zach Ertz. He will get a chance to be a nice free agent addition somewhere in 2018. Landing spot will be important, but Burton is worth a speculative hold to see if he can be fantasy relevant with his new team.

Nick Vannett, SEA- He’s got the physical profile we look for in tight ends. We’re also not sure how much tread is on Jimmy Graham’s tires and Vannett has made a nice play here and there for the Seahawks. Additionally, Graham is a free agent after this year, a fact that should help Vannett. We’ve seen Seattle develop late and undrafted talent well before, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Vannett catches on as the starter in a year or two.

My Take: Quarterbacks are a lot like top musicians — there's constant fine-tuning happening behind the scenes and a bad environment or lack of effort or exposure to proven development techniques can lead to a regression in performance. Bridgewater showed real signs of emerging the summer before his injury. With a remade body, I wouldn't be surprised if Bridgewater takes another positive step in his development despite two years away from the field. He was developing along a solid baseline despite a bad offensive line and didn't have a ton of bad habits. 

Brissett did a lot of good work in a bad situation but I would note Brady's lament about Brissett leaving New England just as he was on the verge of really turning a corner. I'm hoping he lands somewhere that will have a long-term plan for him. The talent is there for him to emerge as a starter. He's worth a late flier. 

I'm holding Brissett and Jones in our Footballguys Staff IDP league (where I also have Brady and Russell Wilson). Jones is a raw talent but the upside is much better than Buffalo's treatment of him. Think I'm wrong? Look at how this team handled Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin.

All three had starter potential entering the league and there were reports that their first receiver coach was teaching them techniques that the industry regarded as bad. If Sean McDermott can survive the blunt force of implementing his vision as he's throwing out the one from the past regime, we may see the Bills turn things around. However, at this point, I have far more skepticism about the team's view of Jones than I do Jones' potential. 

Chad Parson's New reality: the return of the early-round workhorse back?

Parson's feature The New Reality mentioned a thought that I think many writers will have this summer. 

For the second year in a row, stud running backs ruled dynasty championship. Last year it was David JohnsonLe'Veon Bell, and Ezekiel Elliott. This year Alvin KamaraTodd Gurley, and Kareem Hunt were additions to Le'Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott(back in Week 16) as cornerstone performers to fuel playoff runs and late-season dominance. For folks who have followed my work over the years, you know I built many dominant teams with the stud receiver theory and going cheap at running back in startup drafts and being selective in rookie drafts. Much of that strategy had to do with the landscape of running back up until a year ago. The producers were on the old side and the draft classes were not all that great in terms of pedigree. As a result, the position was stocked with tenuous bets as foundational dynasty assets.

All of these factors are flipped now as running back is stocked with younger producers with a strong pedigree. Add another strong class in 2018 and having a roster built on a few workhorse backs is paramount to success. 

My Take: I have to disagree with Chad a bit. The landscape of running back and the players he mentioned as examples don't completely add up. Kamara was rarely taken as a first-round pick in the rookie drafts that I was in. The perception on Gurley changed from 2016 no-brainer stud to potential bust heading into 2017.  Hunt was a mid-round dynasty sleeper whose re-draft value skyrocketed with Spencer Ware's injury but he was not an elite back. 

In other words, I think there's a bit of hindsight analysis happening here. Even so, the basic point is worthwhile. I've been advising my readers for the past 2-3 years that running back classes have been strong enough to invest earlier than in recent years. 

At the same time, I wouldn't write off building dynasty squads around wide receivers. It may not be done this year with multiple first-round draft picks at the position, but receivers still have longer career lives than runners. If you can get fantasy owners to trade you players like Adam Thielen, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, and other potential studs in return for high picks that they plan to take a running back, why not consider it — especially if you have good backs on your roster?

Roundtable: Best 2018 Rookie

Speaking of rookie running backs, our Footballguys Week 17 Roundtable took turns predicting the best fantasy rookie for 2018. As you can imagine, a certain Penn State runner was mentioned the most...

Justin Howe: Saquon Barkley is the only rookie I'm currently (it's still December) tracking especially closely. Part of that is due to projected draft value —I think there's a strong chance he winds up the only RB taken in the top 20.

I do like Chubb, Guice, etc., but all seem flawed enough to wind up in uncertain situations. Barkley, on the other hand, looks poised to wind up a featured back off the bat. Now, I'm not sure he is that prolific featured back many project him to be.

He's not a power guy, and I don't think he boasts a Todd Gurley/Ezekiel Elliott outlook. But if he goes early to a team desperate to capture Christian McCaffrey's rookie kinda-success, he'll be worth an early rookie pick. And at the moment, that's all I can ask for of a soon-to-be-rookie.

Daniel Simpkins: The best rookie is going to be easier to guess at when we see team fits, but it would not surprise me if it were Saquon Barkley. The vision, footwork, and pad-level are all things that stick out when I watch him. Nick Chubb is also someone I see as having a potentially amazing rookie campaign. Like Barkley, his vision and footwork are also superb, but he seems a little bit more instinctive as a runner than Barkley. You will want shares of these two in your rookie drafts.

Clayton Gray: Trying to pick a rookie before he's on an NFL roster is a crap-shoot, so I'll just take the running back who goes to San Francisco.

Jason Wood: It's super-boring if I parrot everyone else and say Saquon Barkley, but how can we not be excited about this kid? He's NFL-ready and has the size, speed, and strength to be an every-down player. Plus, as we saw this year, rookie running backs can be elite workhorses. Barkley's abilities as a receiver make him a good bet to push for RB1 value immediately, as long as he goes to a team that isn't completely bereft of talent.

It's also hard not to like Derrius Guice (RB, LSU), Bryce Love (RB, Stanford), and Marcell Ateman (WR, Oklahoma State). Ateman is massive and has the physicality that other receivers in the OSU scheme haven't. 

My Take: Nick Chubb is my rookie. In order to explain why I have to broach Barkley. The Penn State back is a fantastic receiver with size, speed, agility, and creativity. He has the highest ceiling if he matures as a decision-maker, but he often makes 1-2 moves too many and doesn't stick with the blocking scheme. 

Many fans will point to the Penn State line as the problem, but I have already posted a video of Barkley runs that illustrate his tendency to ignore productive creases for high-risk choices. This is a common flaw with many elite athletes at the running back position. I've had these conversations with the likes of DeMarco Murray and other NFL backs learned early in their college or NFL careers that they had to become more discriminating with their choices.

The successful elite athletes at the position learned to base their risks on down-and-distance, field position, the score of the game, the blocking scheme, and the defensive alignment. These players include Murray, Jamaal CharlesLeSean McCoy, and Alvin Kamara

It took Reggie Bush a few years to stop trying so hard to break plays wide-open at the wrong time. C.J. Spiller, Laurence Maroney, Bryce Brown, and Bishop Sankey never learned. 

I like Barkley and there's a good chance we'll all love Barkley if he matures. However, if I'm predicting a rookie without the benefit of knowing his team, then I'm picking the back who has the mature game and the elite physical makeup — and that's Chubb. 

The best way I can compare Barkley and Chubb is to compare Marlon Mack and Frank Gore. Don't take this a literal comparison or you've got your engineer-accountant hat on and you'll miss the point. Mack was the drool-worthy athlete at the position who had fantasy owners and analysts counting the hours before he overtook the aging Gore. 

However, Mack's career at USF was filled with immature moments, ignorance about short-yardage running, and ball security woes. Most knowledgeable NFL running back coaches use Gore's tape as a teaching tool to young backs entering the league because Gore understands how to use his physical tools within the context of the field. 

Barkley has greater on-field maturity than Mack and Chubb is faster than Gore, but in terms of who has the most well-rounded game, it's Chubb and it's not a contest. Chubb actually reminds me of Gore in his prime but with more strength and breakaway speed. 

With the right fit, Barkley could have a Kamara-like year. Chubb belongs in the same conversation with Ezekiel Elliott as a talent.  

IDP Dynasty Sleepers

To end this Dynasty-themed article, let's conclude with Darien Tietgen's weekly feature. He listed 2018 prospects we should be monitoring for rookie drafts:

Rashaan Evans (Alabama): Evans will not come out as highly touted as the long line of former Crimson Tide linebackers, but don't sleep on Evans' talent. He has decent speed (4.75 40-yard dash) and accumulated 57 tackles in 14 games this season as a senior. He has excellent footwork and shows a good nose for the football, meaning there is 3-down potential here. A name to keep an eye on, especially if he shines at the combine this spring.

Kylie Fitts (DE - Utah): Fitts has had a couple of quieter seasons rounding out his career at Utah, but in 2015, he showed flashes of dominance.  He had 7 sacks, 41 tackles, and a whopping 10 pass breakups. If he has a strong showing at the combine he could be a name to watch entering the draft.

Sean Chandler (S - Temple): With the speed to chase down ball-carriers and the ability to thump in the box, Chandler is an interesting prospect. He's been a mainstay in the Owl defensive backfield since stepping on campus. He's a name that keeps popping up as a sleeper in the scouting community and impressing at the combine will only make his name more known.

My Take: I have seen all three players and they intrigued me for similar reasons. Not much more to add; I just spent the past 12 hours studying more tape of Lamar Jackson, Tanner Lee, Greg Auden, and Marcell Ateman. 

Enjoy the NFL playoffs and see you next year!