Fantasy Football All Redeem Team
We play dynasty for many reasons. We love the ability to construct a roster that is entirely ours. We love the ability to attempt various strategies to win a league. But most of all we love that these leagues let us own a player forever (in most cases). While we can theoretically roster the same player the entirety of their NFL careers, we often lack the long-term view to do so, giving up on players after one or two bad seasons. I’ve found three players that most have given up on that you should consider giving one more chance.
Note: All scoring is based on a weekly average and excludes any players who played fewer than 10 games.
Marcus Mariota (QB – TEN)
Mariota is a player who looked to be on the cusp of superstardom after the 2016 season. He threw for a career-high 26 touchdowns, added two rushing touchdowns, threw for a career-high 3,426 yards, and just nine interceptions. Finishing as the QB13, then being gifted an alpha wide receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft (Corey Davis) it appeared everything was moving in the right direction for Mariota. Mariota regressed badly in his third season though. He threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13), threw for fewer passing yards and rushed for fewer yards than the season prior and fell to a QB19 per game finish. Mariota was a popular buy-low candidate for the 2018 season with a head coaching change from Mike Mularkey, and an offensive coordinator switch from Terry Robiskie to boy wonder Matt LaFleur. No longer shackled to an antiquated offensive scheme, with another offseason to gel with Corey Davis it was expected Mariota would regain the form that he flashed in 2016.
Instead of a bounce-back season though, Mariota had a rock bottom season. Mariota limped to the QB29 finish averaging a lowly 12.5 fantasy points per week, while only connecting for 11 touchdown passes and 2,528 passing yards. Instead of being talked about as ascending asset Mariota is now fighting for his career as a starter in the NFL. He’s on the final year of his rookie contract, and if he fails to impress in 2019, the Titans could move on from him.
Context is important when discussing what’s gone wrong for Mariota over these past two seasons. During the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he played under an offensive coordinator (Robiskie) whose seasonal averages were 25th in passing yards and 23rd in passing touchdowns. We should probably ask ourselves how Mariots did so well in 2016, not why he failed in 2017. Though Matt LaFleur may be an offensive mastermind (TBD), there is only so much you can scheme up when Delanie Walker misses 15 games and running back Dion Lewis ends up being the defacto WR2 for the offense due to an absolute dearth of viable receiving options. Mariota only averaged 24 pass attempts per game in 2018, which also left a small margin for fantasy production. Injuries are a popular excuse when a player fails to live up to expectations. Most times, it’s just that. An excuse. But reading through the list of injuries Mariota played through I’m impressed he was able to walk let alone average over 10 points per game last season.
This offseason Mariota decided to bulk up and has reportedly put on 12 pounds of muscle to better withstand the effects of being a running quarterback. The Titans also added Adam Humphries in free agency and drafted A.J. Brown in the second round of the NFL Draft, giving Mariota easily his best cast of wide receivers since he’s been in the league. If Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith can return from injury and Dion Lewis continues his pass catching ways out of the backfield the Titans could have, dare I say it, one of the better offenses in the league. It’s a far cry from last season when Tawyan Taylor was the teams WR2. The public has soured on Mariota, forgetting the talent that he displayed on his way to winning the Heisman trophy in college, and in that 2016 season when he fell just outside of a top 12 QB season.
Jimmy Graham (TE – GB)
Coming off a TE7 finish in 2017, and joining the prolific Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, not many could have predicted Jimmy Graham‘s struggles in 2018. While there was some fear because Rodgers had rarely supported relevant fantasy tight ends in the past, most pundits probably had Graham penciled in for at least a top 12 season. That was not the case, though. Among tight ends who played at least 10 games last season, Graham ranked just 15th in fantasy points per game with 8.2. On the wrong side of 30 (32 years old), playing on what is essentially a one-year contract, and his apparent replacement (Jace Sternberger) in place, it’s easy to write off Graham. But you do so at your own peril.
When Graham moved on from the Saints and Drew Brees moving west to the Seahawks, many wrote him off. Then during a subpar first season (compared to his time with New Orleans) with Seattle Graham tore his patellar tendon and missed the final five games of the 2015 season, many (myself included) wrote him off (again). The injury itself looked career threatening when it happened, and it happened so late in the season (November 29th) it was hard to see Graham being ready to start the 2016 season. Not only did he start the season on time, but he also ended up turning in a top 10 season.
If you zoom in on Graham’s 2018 season you begin to realize it wasn’t actually all that bad. His 636 receiving yards exceeded his yardage total from the previous season when he finished as the TE7. His 89 targets and 55 receptions were all in line with the last three seasons, so it’s not as if he didn’t see sufficient usage. Graham’s 89 targets actually ranked sixth for tight ends, and his receiving yards ranked ninth, so statistically, his season wasn’t bad.
So what accounted for his dip in scoring? His 61.8% Catch Rate was the third worst of his career, his 7.1 Yards Per Target was tied for third worst of his career, and he averaged a half yard less per reception than his career average of 12.1 entering the 2018 season. The most significant cause of Graham’s dip in fantasy production though was tied to touchdown scoring. Entering the 2018 season Graham averaged a TD every 8.05 receptions but only scoring two last year on 55 receptions, or one touchdown every 27.5 receptions.
It’s fair to lay the lack of touchdown scoring at the feet of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers threw just 25 touchdowns last year, the fewest touchdowns he’s ever thrown for in nine seasons that he’s played at least 15 games, and his 4.2% Touchdown Rate was the lowest of his career. Unless you believe Rodgers is now suddenly washed, it’s fair to assume he’ll throw closer to 35 touchdowns than the 25 he threw for last year. What you should also expect is Jimmy Graham to regress to his career means in several area’s but especially in touchdown scoring. Graham’s value in dynasty leagues is as low as it has ever been and can be had for either a 2019 2nd round rookie pick (if you have any rookie drafts left) or a 2020 3rd rounder.
Jamison Crowder (WR – NYJ)
After a 2016 season when he finished as the WR38 with 12 points per game, many fantasy analysts touted Jamison Crowder as the next big thing. Following that season up with another WR38 season, but only scoring 10.7 points per game, wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t terrible. Just 24 years old, coming off his first 100+ target season and gaining the check down king himself in Alex Smith as his starting quarterback, 2018 was shaping up to be Crowder’s breakout season. That did not come to pass. Crowder only played nine games, dealing with injuries most of the season. Alex Smith played 10 games before a gruesome broken leg ended his season, but he only targeted Crowder five times per game anyway. Crowder saw his targets increase slightly to six targets per game with the rotating cast of QBs that replaced Smith. His finished the season averaging 9.2 points per game, his worst average since his rookie year.
Don’t give up on Crowder just yet though, because there are some positives to cling to now that’s joined the New York Jets. Crowder was signed to a three year $28.5 million contract with the Jets, with the first two seasons practically guaranteed based on the way the contract is structured. Unless cut post 6/1, the dead cap hit for cutting Crowder after this would be $10 million and cost the Jets$500,000 in cap space. The savings from a post 6/1 release would save the Jets a good chunk of money, but at a time of the season when that money would do them the least good, after free agency and the NFL Draft. The Jets slot receiver to start the 2017 season, Quincy Enunwa, averaged a healthy 8.4 targets per game the first five weeks of the season before suffering an ankle injury that cost him multiple weeks and ultimately the slot role. Over a full season, those 8.4 targets per week would have seen Enunwa hit 134 targets on the season. Jermaine Kearse took over the starting slot receiver role and averaged six targets per game from Week 7 through the end of the season, a 96 target full season pace. Jets head coach Adam Gase has some history with focusing his offense on slot receivers as well. Jarvis Landry averaged 146 targets in his two seasons with Gase as his head coach, and Danny Amendola captured an 18.7% target share as Gase’s slot receiver in 2018.
The Jets also added Le’Veon Bell in free agency and bring back Robby Anderson so thinking that Crowder could reach 130+ targets is not realistic. But a floor of 100 targets also seems extremely feasible, based on Bell and Anderson being the only other consistent options on the roster. Crowder is just 26 years old and has been left for dead. Buy low on him now.
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