Undervalued Fantasy Football Dynasty Players
Austan Kas sheds light on which dynasty players may be undervalued.
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Part of what makes the dynasty format so great is this time of year. While redraft leagues are in hibernation, dynasty leagues are in full swing.
The predraft process is heating up, with everyone doing their homework for rookie drafts and salivating over this year’s seemingly loaded class. But one of the other things that makes dynasty leagues so great in the offseason is trading.
A player’s value can swing wildly from year to year. In redraft formats, such fluctuations in value impact a player’s average draft position, but we can’t take advantage of those situations in the same way we can in dynasty leagues.
If you have a player who you think overachieved in 2016, causing his value to rise above where you believe it should be, you can cash in on it by moving him this offseason for a hefty sum. The opposite is also true, and that’s what we’re going to focus on here. Across the dynasty landscape there are players who are currently being undervalued, and it happens for a variety of reasons — with past performance, age and injury being three of the common culprits.
Let’s take a look at four dynasty assets who are currently being undervalued and dig into why these players may be in store for some nice production down the line. These may not be the most eye-catching moves, but they can be smart acquisitions that help improve your dynasty roster in the long term.
Breshad Perriman (RB – BAL)
Perriman is the definition of a post-hype sleeper. Drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Perriman was typically a mid-to-late-first-round pick in rookie drafts that summer.
Outside of his draft pedigree, the two things which made him very attractive were his superb combine numbers and a nice situation with the Baltimore Ravens, who desperately needed playmakers on the outside. At 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, Perriman ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash, which, per PlayerProfiler’s metrics, put him in the 99th percentile for height-adjusted speed score.
Well, Perriman is still a great athlete, and the Ravens still have a gaping hole at wideout, even more so with Steve Smith Sr. retiring. Only now, we can nab Perriman as a discount because, to this point, he hasn’t done much.
Perriman essentially took a redshirt in his rookie season, missing the entire campaign with a knee injury. He had another injury scare prior to the 2016 season, but he ended up seeing action in all 16 games. Perriman ended the year with 33 catches on 66 targets, totaling 499 yards and three touchdowns.
Perriman didn’t have a monster year by any means, but when you consider that it was basically his rookie season, things weren’t too bad. He flashed his game-breaking ability and red-zone potential. With Smith out of town,
Mike Wallace is the only known commodity at receiver in Baltimore, and Perriman should have a much easier path to snaps going forward. In fact, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is already saying he is hoping Perriman can become the team’s top wideout.
Receivers taken in the first-round of the NFL Draft aren’t given up on easily in the dynasty community, but per the average draft position (ADP) data at Dynasty League Football (DLF), Perriman is currently coming off the board as the 79th overall player and 46th receiver. That’s a bargain price to pay for a player who could be his team’s top target, and Perriman’s cost will likely rise if we hear positive reports this summer, making now the time to buy.
The man is an elite athlete in a sport of elite athletes, ranking in at least the 89th percentile in all of PlayerProfiler’s metrics. The term “shot out of a cannon” gets tossed around for running backs, but McKinnon has some serious burst.
The other thing that has made McKinnon worth keeping tabs on is that he’s been the backup to an aging starter, Adrian Peterson. In 2016, everyone who had been burning a roster spot on McKinnon felt justified as Peterson missed most of the year, but McKinnon didn’t fully capitalize on his chance to be the lead guy, finishing with 539 yards and two scores on 159 carries and adding 43 grabs (on 53 targets) for 255 yards and two touchdowns as a pass-game option.
McKinnon’s value was somewhat capped this past season due to the presence of Matt Asiata, who snagged goal-line duties and vultured six rushing touchdowns. There was also the not-so-small matter of the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line struggling mightily. Minnesota was pummeled with injuries up front, starting three different players at left tackle, three at left guard, two at center, two at right guard and three at right tackle. As a result, they graded out as one of the worst run-blocking units in the league, per Football Outsiders’ ratings.
Peterson is owed $18 million in salary and bonuses next season — way too much for any running back, particularly one entering his age-32 season. It sounds like he won’t be in Minnesota next year, and that’s obviously a positive for McKinnon.
All in all, things are looking up for McKinnon, who is currently being valued outside the top 30 running backs, according to the ADP on DLF. It makes sense as he got his chance in 2016 and seemingly didn’t seize the opportunity, but the Vikings would have to be really unlucky to suffer as many offensive line injuries in 2017.
The offense, as a whole, was better than expected with Sam Bradford at the helm, and McKinnon’s pass-game involvement — he’s caught 91 of 123 targets through three seasons — gives him a nice floor in points-per-reception leagues. With his freakish athletic ability, he has league-winning upside, and his value will likely see a boost in the coming months if the Vikings do indeed move on from Peterson.
Per DLF’s ADP data, Bernard was the 15th running back off the board last July, but he’s now being taken as the 34th running back. That’s way too big of a drop, especially considering the minefield which is the running back position outside of the top three guys (Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell).
Bernard has proven to be a very consistent and very valuable commodity in points-per-reception (PPR) formats. Prior to last season’s injury-shortened campaign, Bernard had never finished worse than RB18 in PPR leagues, posting end-of-season rankings of RB13 in 2013, RB18 in 2014 and RB16 in 2015.
In 10 games in 2016, Bernard made 39 catches on 51 targets, and he ended the season with career-best clips in catches per game (3.9) and receiving yards per game (33.6). As a bonus, Jeremy Hill, his main competition for backfield touches, averaged under 4.0 yards per carry for the second straight season, so it’s not like Bernard is going to be phased out of the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense. He should jump right back into a meaningful role when he’s healthy.
Obviously, the elephant in the room here is that we don’t know when exactly Bernard will be healthy. ACL recovery times can vary wildly for different players, but if we assume Bernard will need 12 months to get back to 100 percent, then he’s going to miss at least the first half of the 2017 season, which is why his value is what it is.
However, once we get closer to his return date, Bernard’s value will rise, so if you can stomach getting nothing from him for half of the 2017 campaign, he’s a prominent buy-low candidate this offseason.
Zach Miller (TE – CHI)
It’s not a sexy move, but Miller can be a nice pickup this offseason. Similar to Bernard, Miller’s value has cratered due to a season-ending injury as he suffered a broken foot in Week 11 and was placed on injured reserve.
Before he went down, Miller was quietly having a very good year for the Chicago Bears. Through Week 11, he was the sixth-ranked tight end in PPR formats, averaging a solid 11.96 points per game. Somehow, he’s being drafted right now as the 34th tight end, according to DLF’s ADP numbers.
You don’t need me to tell you that Miller is a screaming value, but here are a couple other reasons to invest. For one, Miller’s role is fairly secure for 2017. Daniel Brown assumed starting duties in Miller’s stead, but he made little impact, finishing the season with 16 catches for 124 yards. Even if Chicago takes a tight end in the NFL Draft, rookie tight ends notoriously struggle in their first season, so Miller should, at a minimum, be in line for a significant role in 2017.
Secondly, while Miller put up career-best marks in catches (4.7) and yards per contest (48.6) last year, he had shown flashes prior to 2016, so his production wasn’t a fluke. Over the final three weeks of 2015, when Martellus Bennett had his falling out with the Bears, Miller caught 18 of 20 targets for 211 yards and one score.
Miller was on his way to a breakout season a year ago before an injury derailed his ascension. Now, he can be had for peanuts, and he should be a solid contributor next year at what is still — even with an influx of talent in the 2017 class — a fairly shallow position.