The Contrarian: My Top 50 Mid-Season Dynasty Rankings
Heading into Week 9, we’ve reached the point in a dynasty campaign where competitive teams try to grab pieces for the stretch run. Meanwhile, rebuilders attempt to stockpile picks and simultaneously improve their 2017 draft position. As I’ve been updating my rankings for personal trade discussions, I thought it would be valuable to share my current board and get the feedback of the RotoViz community.
No. 1 through No. 10
Amari Cooper will be a surprise No. 1 for many, but all of his draft position and production-based projections led in this direction. That was before he entered Week 9 third in yards at WR, a result for the 22-year-old that continues to solidify the ultimate high floor. Squeaky clean in the personality column and paired with a young gunslinger in Derek Carr, the touchdowns will come. You could easily flip Cooper and Odell Beckham, a young superstar with more flash, sometimes to his detriment.
David Johnson doesn’t possess quite the straight line speed of Adrian Peterson, but otherwise answers the question, “What if you gave Purple Jesus the receiving ability of a starting caliber NFL WR?”
Only A.J. Green leads Mike Evans in fantasy points per game. Antonio Brown remains the most unstoppable force in the game with Big Ben healthy. Ezekiel Elliott enthusiasts look very good in the early going as the rookie rampages behind an o-line opening massive holes.
Julio Jones has a 300-yard game in 2016 and three with fewer than 30. The heir to Megatron remains an injury risk but one with unparalleled upside and a future likely filled with soft NFC South defenses.
Le’Veon Bell would be neck-and-neck with Johnson if not for the specter of future drug suspensions. I like his chances to stay clean or would ding him further. Considering Rob Gronkowski’s injury history and Tom Brady’s age, skepticism about Gronk’s elite window is warranted, but he’s a field-tilter at a barren position.1
No. 11 through No. 20
The second tier is almost entirely populated with WRs who are either injured or held hostage by ridiculous QB situations.
With WR1 scoring down this season, Keenan Allen would look awfully good as a high-volume WR with an elite QB.
The only RB in this group, Todd Gurley is a captive of a different kind. His upside remains capped by a terrible offense and four yearly dates with the Seahawks and Cardinals. As his receiving acumen develops, he’ll threaten to punch through to the top five.
DeAndre Hopkins’ per game scoring has cratered from 20.6 in 2015 to 12.7 in 2016. While I warned something like this was possible, I obviously expect him to bounce back. Unfortunately, Will Fuller isn’t going anywhere, and sadly, Brock Osweiler probably isn’t either.
Allen Robinson plays with the king of garbage time, but Blake Bortles is barely an improvement on Ryan Leaf during a game’s first three-and-a-half quarters. Robinson’s overall opportunity profile remains robust, but the presence of Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, and Julius Thomas doesn’t help either.
After a college career and rookie season that put Sammy Watkins on the Cooper trajectory, foot injuries and the presence of Rex Ryan have landed him temporarily in the darkest of timelines.
Speaking of held captive, Stefon Diggs currently ranks No. 16 in points per game despite playing with a groin injury and catching passes from Sam Bradford. The Vikings rank No. 25 in passes per game and No. 31 in yards per play.
Competing with his former college teammate for the label of Most Ostentatiously Intense WR, Jarvis Landry may have ended Aaron Williams’ career with a hit two weeks ago. He’s also the best possession receiver in the NFL.
From a seasonal perspective, Brandin Cooks and TY Hilton fit the lower floor/lower ceiling mold of insanely-talented vertical threats. The New Orleans offense is more explosive but Indianapolis features less competition.
No. 21 to 30
As dependability dries up at the WR position, we see a third tier replete with the young guns at RB who have at least the possibility of yielding a long-term edge at the position.
Melvin Gordon hasn’t impressed in the yards per carry department, but a mixture of tough runs and occasional flash plays has led to a big fantasy season as he monopolizes receptions and goal line carries post-Danny Woodhead. Devonta Freeman lacks that 2015 upside in a committee with Tevin Coleman, but he provides a high weekly floor with mitigated injury risk.
Corey Coleman looked like easily the top WR from this class during his Week 2 scoring blitz. He represents a wider range of outcomes than most of the players in this range but could quickly climb higher.
Probably one of the five biggest injury concerns among offensive skill players, Jordan Reed would be a borderline top 10 player with a cleaner health history. He looks like the now-and-future No. 1 of a strong passing offense that features Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson in complementary roles.
After playing a low-volume but high-market share role in the Ohio State passing offense, Michael Thomas has burst onto the scene as the big-bodied possession receiver and safety valve for Drew Brees. With Coby Fleener busting and a decreased dependency on RBs in the passing game, Thomas possesses a very high floor despite competition from his fellow receivers.
Lamar Miller is the multi-faceted and explosive bell cow in a broken offense, Coleman the turbo-charged change-of-pace to Freeman, and Jay Ajayi the thrashing, sprawling answer to a trivia question.
The Kansas City offense keeps Travis Kelce from emerging as their answer to Gronk, but Zeus owns a high yearly floor with big weekly upside.
Playing with a rookie QB in a slow-paced offense,2 Jordan Matthews has disappointed, yet still averaged more points than Hopkins and Robinson.
No. 31 to No. 40
Still only 26, Randall Cobb has arguably been exposed as a “system slot receiver,”3 but that’s a valuable role in Green Bay.
One of the few RBs to provide a real weekly advantage, LeSean McCoy slides due to age and frequent injury.
Emerging on schedule in his third season, Eric Ebron (23) has many more years left in the peak window than fellow young TEs like Reed (26), Kelce (27), and Tyler Eifert (26).
Fuller roared onto the scene with three big games in his four NFL contests. Derrick Henry rumbled through the Jacksonville defense in Week 8. Both rookies would be higher in better situations.
Alshon Jeffery combines consistent soft tissue injuries with a ceiling that places him outside the superstar tier.
You are what you do. Crowder is in the midst of his fifth straight season with strong age-adjusted performance. The No. 15 WR at the halfway point of his second campaign and fresh from a 9-107-1 performance, it’s still fair to wonder if Crowder has upside beyond mostly replaceable production.
Greg Olsen is the oldest player so far in the rankings, but Greg Olsen is a monster.
Purely on production, Willie Snead should be right there with Cooks and Thomas, but his athleticism and draft status create more risk. Demaryius Thomas is the star hurt most by situation.
No. 41 to No. 50
Terrelle Pryor has been the weekly star of Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards column, but he’s lost much of his prime to the protracted position switch. Playing opposite Coleman should raise his floor and lower his ceiling.
In the midst of his fourth consecutive disappointing season – although this time due to factors largely outside his control – Donte Moncrief is the anti-Crowder. He’s still a young, big-bodied receiver playing with Andrew Luck in an offense that has Hilton and nothing else.
DeMarco Murray provides a large enough weekly advantage to make the list despite negative age-based trends and the presence of Henry.
With a 22 percent target rate and only one TD in his last five games, Kelvin Benjamin owners are understandably concerned. An opportunity collapse could be the next domino.
QB has been reduced to the point of irrelevancy in most leagues,6 but Luck provides a high floor and a high ceiling for the extremely risk averse. He’s young enough that he might man the position throughout the life of your league.
The struggles of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro, and Maxx Williams knocked Hunter Henry down 2016 rookie boards even in a weak draft. While Ladarius Green could never make inroads against Antonio Gates, the 21-year-old managed four consecutive double figure games in his first six weeks. The current injury might provide a small buying window.
Among struggling veterans, I have a slight preference for Jordy Nelson over Brandon Marshall.
You might prefer a safer selection at No. 50 than C.J. Prosise – an unproven rookie RB in a daunting timeshare – but it was about this time a season ago that David Johnson was an unproven rookie battling Andre Ellington to handcuff Chris Johnson. Prosise probably isn’t Johnson, but Week 8 again teased with intriguing similarities.
A few other thoughts
I don’t believe in constructing teams or making moves based on the “championship window.” Owners consistently overrate the likelihood of their team winning a four-team playoff and underrate the importance of simply being among those four playoff teams every season.
It’s also my contention that the age premium in dynasty accurately reflects player value. If anything, we overrate the value of high-scoring veterans in fragile situations even in redraft.7 We’ll examine this question from multiple vantages this offseason.
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- Every year we want to believe TE is finally deep enough to treat like QB, and every year we’re wrong. (back)
- In 2016, the Eagles have averaged two percent fewer passes than expectation and -1.21 plays. (back)
- Even as a Cobb skeptic myself, I think this is accurate while not being quite the epithet some might suppose. You have to be pretty good to be a slot receiver of relevance, which is a compliment in its own right. (back)
- League-wide No. 1 receivers average 8.1 yards per target. Jones is at 11.1 despite falling below 7.5 in three of the last four games. (back)
- He has only one game over a 20 percent target share since Week 2, and that was only 21 percent. (back)
- Scarcity is nonexistent and 2016’s No. 1 QB, Matt Ryan, was valued outside the dynasty Top 150 this summer. (back)
- Every year we see strange valuations of specific young players with poor track records of performance, but this does not invalidate the broader premise. (back)