Potential 2018 Fantasy Football Starters To Stash

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
May 18, 2017

Duke Johnson is a player you can draft as a flex player in 2017 keeper leagues, but he may provide huge dividends in 2018

There are some fantasy players that pick up our draft guide, read articles, read magazines, and do mock drafts just a few weeks before their draft takes place. Then there are those who are spending the off-season reading articles, watching the NFL Draft, researching potential sleepers, essentially doing anything they can to get a leg up on the competition. They’re the diehards, the ones who don’t miss the playoffs.

Then there’s me. Of course, I’m doing those things as well, but I take it a step further, researching what you could be doing next off-season. Because, after all, if you play with multiple diehards, they have the same information that you do. But if you’re reading this article, you’re going to be one step ahead of them once this season ends.

If you’re a diehard, you’re likely playing in at least one keeper league. Whether it be everyone keeping X amount of players, or maybe your league is like my home league where you lose the round you drafted that player (it’s the best keeper setting, as it requires strategy when choosing your keepers, as well as knowing their trade value). This is where value is found, because while certain players may not have much value this year, they may be invaluable in 2018. Imagine drafting Davante Adams in the 15th round last year and being able to keep him for that cost going forward.

What we’re looking for here, are players who are slated to be starters in 2018. They are players who aren’t being drafted as starters in your draft this year, but you should be moving them up in your rankings for what the future brings. You can also apply this to dynasty, as you’re getting players before they get their shot and break out.

Quarterbacks

Jimmy Garoppolo (QB – NE)
We don’t know what the future brings for Garoppolo, but we know one thing – he’s going to be starting soon. His contract expires at the end of this year when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and we know the Patriots aren’t going to franchise tag him unless something happened to Tom Brady. If you have deep rosters and can stash Garoppolo on it, you may have something next season.

Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) 
We all know that the Chiefs have come out multiple times saying that Alex Smith is their starting quarterback. While I do believe that, I also believe that you aren’t completely happy with your current quarterback when you trade two first-round picks and a third-round pick in order to acquire a quarterback. Mahomes has the highest ceiling of all incoming rookies.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry (RB – TEN)
This one may seem obvious because Henry is already being drafted as a borderline starter, but this is your nudge to move him up into the RB2 conversation. Not only is DeMarco Murray 29-years-old, but the Titans have an out in his contract after the 2017 season where they wouldn’t have any dead cap by releasing him and his $6.3 million salary. The bonus with Henry is that he can still contribute to your team in 2017 with Murray on the roster.

Duke Johnson (RB – CLE)
Most seem to have forgotten about Johnson because of the way Isaiah Crowell ended the season, but you shouldn’t be one of them. Not only was Crowell an undrafted free agent, but he wasn’t very good outside of a few runs in 2016. Did you know that 47.5 percent of his yardage came on 16 of his carries? He’s also an unrestricted free agent at the end of this year. Crowell should have more value than Johnson in 2017 playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football, but Johnson is a great stash.

James White (RB – NE)
While everyone is guessing how the Patriots will use their running backs in 2017, White is set up to have much of this backfield to himself in 2018. I’m not saying that he’s going to carry the ball a ton, but the fact that Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead are going to be free agents after this season means something. The Patriots also paid White more than they have any other running back in a long time. He’s going to contribute in 2017, but may have carved out a bigger role than most think.

Jonathan Williams (RB – BUF)
This one is very interesting, as the Bills have a new regime and we don’t know if LeSean McCoy will be as successful in this scheme as he was with Rex Ryan. McCoy’s salary increases in 2018, all the way up to $9 million. Though it would require the Bills taking a cap hit of $5.9 million, it may be the way they choose to go. If that’s the case, Williams would be in for a big role behind a strong offensive line.

James Conner (RB – PIT)
We’ve been dancing around it, but Le’Veon Bell is going to be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 if the Steelers don’t get a long-term deal worked out. His franchise tag number of $12.1 million is a big number to hit in back-to-back years, so it’s a possibility that he hits the open market. If that happens, Conner walks into one of the best situations in football.

Wide Receivers

DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
I feel like it’s cheating putting Parker in here, but he’s being drafted outside of the top 40 wide receivers as of this moment. Not only have the Dolphins been praising him all off-season, but target-hog Jarvis Landry will be a free agent after this season. They just spent plenty of money on Kenny Stills, so you have to wonder if they’ll pony up to keep Landry. Either way, Parker is someone who could be drafted inside the top-20 next year if all goes as planned.

Chad Williams (WR – ARI)
Everyone should see this coming, but they won’t. There were a lot of analysts wondering what made the Cardinals jump to take Williams in the third-round, as he was projected to go in the fifth or sixth-round. They obviously felt like they wanted to get their guy and it’s easy to see why they took a wide receiver early. Not only is Larry Fitzgerald on the final stretch of his career, but his contract also expires after this season. Perimeter wide receivers John Brown and Jaron Brown are both slated to be unrestricted free agents after this season, too. Williams might be the No. 1 wide receiver in Arizona by default.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
Likely needing a year to get acclimated to the NFL at just 20 years old, Smith-Schuster landed in a high-powered offense, though it’s already filled with playmakers. The good news is that he’ll see time on the field when they go four-wide or if there’s an injury in front of him. Martavis Bryant is extremely talented, but is one strike away from being the next Josh Gordon. He also happens to be an unrestricted free agent after this year. In my scouting report on Smith-Schuster, I said that he made me think of Odell Beckham Jr. when watching him, so you can see why he’s here in this article.

Geronimo Allison (WR – GB)
If for some reason Davante Adams leaves the Packers next off-season when he’s a free agent, Allison is a very interesting stash in deep leagues. And it’s not just Adams, either, as Jordy Nelson is 32-years-old and will be hanging up the cleats at some time. Allison made the most of his opportunities last season, totaling 202 yards and two touchdowns on just 22 targets. If you can find a receiver who’ll be a starter with Aaron Rodgers, he’s worthy of being drafted.

Tight Ends

Erik Swoope (TE – IND)
As much as I love me some Jack Doyle, I noticed something when doing the research for this article. His three-year contract is essentially a one-year deal with team options for the second and third years. This is not to say that they’ll cut him after 2017 just because there is no dead money, but it’s something to pay attention to, especially if Swoope shows up in a big way. He’s 6’5” and weighs 246 pounds, which is essentially the size of a big wide receiver. Just last season he totaled 297 yards and a touchdown on 22 targets. His 13.5 yards per target ranked third-best among tight ends with at least 10 targets.

Nick Vannett (TE – SEA)
A year ago at this time, we were concerned about Jimmy Graham’s health and whether or not he’d come back as the same player. For whatever reason, nobody has mentioned that he’ll be a free agent at the end of 2017, as will Luke Willson, leaving Vannett, the Seahawks third-round pick from 2016 as the only tight end on the roster. He’s an extremely athletic tight end that could be a very good dynasty add before attention starts coming his way. He drew comparisons to Zach Ertz coming out of college.

Adam Shaheen (TE – CHI)
Prior to the NFL Draft, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was saying that Shaheen was going to go earlier than most expected, and that was exactly the case when the Bears drafted him in the second-round. He’s rumored to be taking over for Zach Miller almost immediately, though I think it’ll take a little bit of time to work his way into the starting lineup. Whatever the case, he’s going to be working with soon-to-be-franchise-quarterback Mitch Trubisky, building chemistry for when they both take over as starters in 2018.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.


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