Undervalued Dynasty Players (Fantasy Football)
February can seem like a sad time in the life of a football fanatic. As exciting as the Super Bowl is, it marks the end of another NFL season and the beginning of a long, torturous wait until the next fantasy draft season opens, six months later.
For dynasty football players, there is no offseason. There doesn’t have to be a period of inactivity or an arduous wait for the NFL draft to proceed. In dynasty, it’s always open season on trades and now is the time for the proactive owner to start capitalizing by acquiring players whose stock appears to be down.
A ‘down’ year, new coaching staff, injury concerns, and over-reacting to rookie rumors are some of the ways that veterans fantasy stock can take a hit in the offseason. When that happens, savvy dynasty owners know when it’s time to start making trade inquiries to impatient league-mates.
Of course, there’s an inherent risk involved in trading for any player whose value is down, but that’s all part of the game. The 2018 rookie class is considered an excellent crop, so now is the time to start buying low on some of these fantasy veterans.
Andrew Luck (IND)
During the season, we heard varying reports about Luck’s shoulder, including rumors that he could be forced to retire. Recently, the news has been trending in the right direction and Luck is close to resuming throwing.
The arrival of offensive guru Josh McDaniels is definitely a positive, not only towards Luck’s prognosis but also in getting the 28-year-old veteran back in shape and putting up the gaudy numbers that we saw from 2014-2016. Luck finished 2014 as the QB1 and was the QB4 in 2016. He also had an outstanding 2015 season that was cut short after seven games.
Luck’s dynasty stock is definitely down due to concerns about his shoulder. The recent influx of talented young signal-callers and a strong rookie crop could also make acquiring Luck even easier. Assuming he can return to his 2014-2016 form, where his 16-game averages were 4,443 passing yards and 35 TD tosses with a total of 351 yards on the ground, Luck is being overlooked as an elite fantasy QB for 2018 and beyond.
Marcus Mariota (TEN)
Mariota was hyped as a potential top-five fantasy quarterback last offseason but injuries and poor play from Mariota sabotaged his season. Mariota’s yardage and completion percentage were in-line with 2016’s totals, but his turnovers spiked and touchdown production fell in half.
After such a poor showing, it’s no surprise that Mariota owners might be ready to cut ties. Maybe they think they can easily replace his production with that growing group of talented young passers.
The good news here is the arrival of offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who has coaxed excellent seasons out of Robert Griffin III, Matt Ryan, and most recently, Jared Goff. LaFluer’s offenses have been predicated on play-action, which suits Tennessee’s run-first personnel perfectly, and Mariota led the NFL, averaging 11.2 yards-per-attempt out of play-action.
Even though Mariota missed a game and his running ability was severely hampered by a quad injury, Mariota still ran for 312 yards and five touchdowns. Mariota is a strong bounceback candidate that’s definitely worth an inquiry.
Aaron Jones (GB)
This one doesn’t come without risk. Fellow rookie Jamaal Williams looked like the featured back down the stretch, which relegated Jones to change-of-pace duties in Green Bay’s backfield. Chances are, Williams, Jones, and Ty Montgomery will enter camp and battle it out to see who starts for the Packers next season.
Mike McCarthy could also simply utilize a committee, which would effectively hurt the fantasy values of all three backs. That said, Jones looked like the best running back on Green Bay’s roster last season. In a three-game stretch as the starter before he himself got hurt, Jones rushed for a pair of 100-yard games and scored three touchdowns in the four games that he received double-digit carries.
Jones also led Green Bay’s backs with an impressive 5.5 yards-per-tote, well ahead of Williams (3.6) and Montgomery (3.8) It looks like Jones offers up the most upside of Green Bay’s three-man backfield and he could be easy to acquire if his current owner thinks Williams sewed up the starting gig.
Jerick McKinnon (MIN)
After Dalvin Cook went down with a season-ending torn ACL in Week 4, McKinnon stepped up and ended up playing a significant role for the Vikings. Now an unrestricted free agent, McKinnon is going to attract some substantial attention on the open market.
McKinnon excelled as a pass catcher, where he hauled in 51 of 68 targets and two scores while also rushing for 570 yards and three additional touchdowns. While the 3.8 yards-per-carry doesn’t look overwhelming, McKinnon finished as the No. 8-graded running back at Pro Football Focus, one spot ahead of LeSean McCoy.
That pass-catching prowess is going to land McKinnon a role, the question is will it be as a change-of-pace and passing-down back, or will he get a chance to earn a starting gig? Either way, McKinnon is definitely on the PPR radar as an upside RB2/3 next season and he could be easily acquired if the fantasy owner in your league just assumes that Dalvin Cook is coming back and McKinnon will be irrelevant.
Marlon Mack (IND)
Mack had an up-and-down rookie campaign but flashed some big-play ability and looked good as a receiver out of the backfield. Frank Gore will be 35 years old and is an unrestricted free agent, so Mack is currently listed as the Colts’ starter. Indy’s line has major issues and the new regime will undoubtedly acquire competition, but Mack could earn a decent role for the new-look Colts.
Matt Breida (SF)
Similar to Marlon Mack, Breida is a second-year running back that has his direct competition currently slated to depart as an unrestricted free agent, making Breida a good bet to earn plenty of reps in camp for Kyle Shanahan, who has never been shy about utilizing running backs in unorthodox ways.
Breida is listed at only 5-foot 11 and 190-pounds but had a pair of solid performances down the stretch for the 49ers last season. Regardless of other backs that Shanahan could bring in, including re-signing Carlos Hyde, Breida could have a solid role and be used in a similar fashion to Tevin Coleman.
Amari Cooper (OAK)
2017 was quite the roller coaster season for Cooper, who had a monster 11-catch, 220-yard performance sprinkled in with a whopping eight games with less than 10 PPR points. Overall, Cooper was a top-15 draft pick last season who ended up finishing a disappointing WR35 overall. Drops continued to also be a problem for Cooper and some fantasy owners simply can’t handle the swings of watching an intriguing talent like Cooper post gaudy numbers one week and then simply disappear for weeks at a time.
On the positive side, the Raiders finally got Cooper– who entered last season with 0 career catches inside the opponent’s 10-yard line– involved in the red zone and he caught three touchdowns inside the five-yard line. The arrival of Jon Gruden and his West Coast offense is also a very favorable development for Cooper, who could approach triple-digit receptions in this offense, especially if Michael Crabtree is sent packing.
That said, Cooper is also just 23 years old, which will make him quite expensive to acquire. Still, it can’t hurt to see if his current owner is one of the many fantasy owners frustrated by Cooper’s lack of consistency and is ready to sell a potential difference maker.
Jakeem Grant (MIA)
Jarvis Landry had a prolific run out of the slot for the Dolphins and is not expected to return to South Beach. That opens up a lot of opportunities for other Miami receivers to make an impact and Grant profiles as the potential slot receiver.
Grant had a four-catch, 107-yard performance in Week 16 at Kansas City and scored a pair of December touchdowns to enter the offseason with some positive momentum. Listed at only five-foot-seven, Grant is too small to consistently play from the outside, so he’s most likely to end up in Landry’s old role. Of course, we can’t expect 100-catch totals, but Grant is a sneaky offseason targets that might even be available on waivers.
Quincy Enunwa (NYJ)
Enunwa was expected to be New York’s No. 1 receiver but suffered a severe neck injury in camp and ended up missing the entire 2017 campaign. Neck and back injuries are notoriously difficult to recover from, but assuming Enunwa can fully heal, he’s a forgotten man in dynasty circles.
Robbie Anderson did quite well in Enunwa’s absence, but Anderson is surely looking at a suspension due to an offseason arrest. This could open the door for Enunwa to potentially reclaim his No. 1 role, making him a solid dynasty acquisition.
Adam Shaheen (CHI)
Entering his second season, Shaheen probably isn’t a player that is looking to get dropped in most dynasty leagues, but he only caught a dozen passes as a rookie as he battled various injuries. What’s interesting that of those 12 receptions, three went for touchdowns and two of them were from Mitchell Trubisky. Shaheen has an excellent shot at opening the 2018 season as Chicago’s starter and from the sound of things, Matt Nagy and Matt LaFleur plan on implementing an innovative, high-paced offense that should lead to a lot of opportunities for the Chicago passing game.
Tyler Kroft (CIN)
Kroft was excellent last season, stepping in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert to catch 42 passes, including seven touchdowns. Eifert is a free agent and will likely command a sizable contract. With the healthier Kroft in the fold and under contract for just $720,000, there’s a good chance that Eifert will be playing elsewhere in 2018.
Cincinnati brought back Marvin Lewis, so we should expect a similar offensive approach as we’ve seen over the last few seasons, which have featured a ton of red zone scoring opportunities for the tight end. At 25, Kroft is a decent bet to put up top-12 tight end numbers next season.