Dynasty Watch: The Post-Cutdown Mega-Post
Dynasty rankings are in constant flux, and staying informed is the key to making roster decisions for your fantasy football team. The Dynasty Watch series is your regular season guide through the shifting dynasty landscape. This week, we’ll look at the fallout from the biggest roster cutdown day ever.
There’s a lot going on this week, and RotoViz has you covered. Let’s go around the league from a dynasty perspective.
Chris Johnson was cut by the Cardinals over the weekend and may have finally reached the end of the line. The running backs left behind are a ragtag bunch:
Kerwynn Williams is now officially listed as the backup to David Johnson. Williams was a receiving dynamo in college but has bounced back and forth from the Cardinals practice squad over the past couple seasons. It’s hard to envision Williams shouldering a heavy load if Johnson were to go down – he’s also slated to be the Cardinals’ primary return man – but he’s technically first in line for touches.
Andre Ellington is the most well-known of the bunch, but if the Cardinals are high on him, they have a funny way of showing it. The team tried and failed to convert Ellington into a wide receiver, not exactly an endorsement of his ability as an RB. They even once again kicked the tires on Chris Johnson. And after all that, Ellington still wasn’t able to beat out a guy who has spent more time on practice squads than NFL rosters over the last four years.
Elijhaa Penny is a guy the team carried on the practice squad last year and now he has a spot on the active roster. I’m not aware of a modern RB with a forty time greater than 4.8 who has achieved even moderate success.
T.J. Logan drew praise during the offseason and appeared to have the inside track for return duties until a preseason wrist injury knocked him out until at least midseason.1
The backup for David Johnson should be an incredibly valuable role, however none of the players behind him on the depth chart profile as a guy who is suited for three-down work. Logan is probably the most interesting of the bunch if only because he’s still an unknown at the NFL level, but with his injury, it’s hard to recommend owning him in all but the deepest of leagues. Williams might be worth a roster spot in very deep leagues, but only if all the better backup RBs are owned.
Farewell Larry Donnell. Even though there’s still no clarity on the Ravens’ tight end situation, there are still fewer competitors than earlier in the offseason. While it’s doubtful that any one of the three remaining TEs – Nick Boyle, Ben Watson, and Maxx Williams – secure a major role like Dennis Pitta did last year, it’s still an offense that will pass a lot. While Williams currently looks like the third man on the depth chart, he has the best prospect pedigree and is still only seven months older than O.J. Howard. Watson is comparatively ancient and Boyle is a fifth-rounder who already has not one, but two PED suspensions under his belt. In shallower one-TE leagues it’s probably safe to just keep Williams on the watch list, but he should definitely be owned in deeper formats.
The Ravens also cut down to just three RBs on the active roster. Terrance West is the first man up for early-down work, and Danny Woodhead is locked in as the passing down back. The third man is Javorius “Buck” Allen:
After a decent rookie year, Allen was only active for eight games in 2016, and the team clearly preferred Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon. Buzz has been positive for Allen this offseason though, and he was able to fend off competition from Taquan Mizzell and Lorenzo Taliaferro on his way to making the active roster. Allen has the pass-catching prowess to step into Woodhead’s role and some experience as a 3-down back if West should get injured. With Alex Collins and Jeremy Langford signed to the practice squad, there is more competition waiting in the wings – and Dixon should return in 2018 – but Allen has a clear path to relevance. Allen may not have the ceiling of some other backups, but he’s still basically free and could benefit from either of the backs in front of him being injured.
Jonathan Williams was never exactly an exciting prospect, but his situation as LeSean McCoy’s backup led to a 12th round dynasty startup ADP during the offseason:
His release by the Bills takes away the one thing he had going for him, and it’s now safe to drop him in most formats.2
The remaining Buffalo RBs make Arizona’s backups look downright exciting. Coach Sean McDermott has already said that Mike Tolbert, Taiwan Jones, and Joe Banyard will form a backup by committee. If you can find a reason to get excited about a 32-year-old fullback or either of the 29-year-old journeymen with fewer than 200 career rushing yards, I’d like to hear it.3
The release of Victor Cruz removes any doubt about Kendall Wright having a major role with the Bears.
Wright actually played reasonably well for the Titans when he was on the field but was used sparingly. Now he’s reunited with his old offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, who oversaw Wright’s 140 target campaign in 2013. Wright doesn’t have much competition for targets, and his value could rise quickly if the Bears target him heavily early on.
Another player who should get significant early playing time is Deonte Thompson. The 28-year-old Thompson started his career as an UDFA with the Ravens primarily as a kick returner, but he’s slated to be the Bears WR3 while Markus Wheaton misses the first game or two. Thompson is only of interest in very deep leagues, but his 4.3 speed makes him an interesting play at least until Wheaton comes back.
The Assman, Matt Asiata, did not make the Lions’ roster. Zach Zenner truther Anthony Amico rejoiced.
Zenner is still not much more than a low-value backup but could be worthwhile in the event of an injury to Ameer Abdullah.
Green Bay Packers
The top of the Packers depth chart is pretty much set, but with the Packers’ ability to develop star WRs, a lot of owners were holding out hope that DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre, or Max McCaffrey would make the team. Yancey did make it on to the Packer’s practice squad, and McCaffrey was snapped up by the Saints. None of these players should be owned in shallow formats.
Of the three remaining back-ups, Geronimo Allison looks like the next man up if injury befalls one of the top three WRs.4
Allison was not an impressive prospect, but any WR getting snaps for the Packers could be intriguing. Keep him on your watch list.
Los Angeles Chargers
The backup to Melvin Gordon is a valuable role, and the Chargers have less of a logjam behind him than the Bills and Cardinals have with their lead RB. The only two active RBs behind Gordon are Branden Oliver and UDFA Austin Ekeler.
Ekeler is the interesting name to know in dynasty. A player who led all of Division II in rushing last year, Ekeler was able to translate a strong preseason into a roster spot. Ekeler lacks the size of a typical NFL workhorse but possesses strong athleticism including a 128-inch broad jump, 40.5 inch vertical, and above average speed and agility. The RB Prospect Lab will naturally overrate Ekeler a bit because it doesn’t know he put up his stats against inferior competition, but he still compares well to other small-school players who are getting far more buzz, such as Tarik Cohen.5
|Austin Ekeler||Western Colorado||21.6||2016||195||4.43||6.85||23.2||149.5||1.8||1.8||61||40.5||128|
|Tarik Cohen||North Carolina A&T||21.4||2016||179||4.42||7.22||17.7||132.3||1.6||3||39||31.5||118|
Oliver should still be viewed as the primary handcuff for Gordon due to his experience, but Ekeler is a cheap target in deeper leagues where Oliver is already owned. In shallower leagues, Oliver will cost a significant portion of your FAAB budget if Gordon goes down with an injury, but grabbing Ekeler on the cheap might be the smarter play. Oliver was an unimpressive UDFA himself and didn’t do much to distinguish himself during his first two seasons with the Chargers, before missing all of 2016 with a torn Achilles.
Also, for the poor souls rostering Josh Lambo in their dynasty leagues, my deepest condolences. I don’t profess to be a kicking expert, but Yunghoe Koo immediately becomes a guy to watch by virtue of being on a Chargers team that was ninth in the league in total scoring in 2016.
New England Patriots
One of the bigger news items of the weekend was “the swapping of the etts” as the Patriots traded Jacoby Brissett for Phillip Dorsett. When a player who was a recent first-round draft pick moves to one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL, it seems like a big deal, but both players in this trade were likely to be cut by their respective teams. Dorsett looks like a depth piece and possible special-teamer for the Patriots and nothing more. Hasan Rahim comes to the same conclusion in his analysis of Dorsett’s likely role. There’s no need to acquire him, and he’s a definite sell if you’re still hanging on to him.
Austin Carr truthers who hoped that he could make the team and get some of Edelman’s vacated targets were also disappointed, as Carr was cut and ended being claimed off waivers by the Saints. Carr will start the season on the active roster.
New Orleans Saints
While no one was overly worried that Travaris Cadet would threaten anyone’s workload on the Saints, Alvin Kamara owners should still be happy that he’s off the roster.
New York Giants
The Giants parted ways with Will Tye, further solidifying Evan Engram’s role as the team’s primary pass-catching TE this season. I don’t typically expect much out of rookie TEs, but Rhett Ellison is just a blocker and Matt LaCosse and Jerell Adams have a combined 19 career receptions. While I still prefer David Njoku as a prospect long term, Engram may have more early opportunity. Tye’s departure gives him a slight bump in value for 2017.
New York Jets
The Jets traded for a guy who was one of the worst WRs in the league last year. If you’re gonna tank, might as well do it right. As bad as Jermaine Kearse was, he has more career production than the rest of the Jets WRs combined. Kearse may have been worth rostering in deep leagues just to see if he would get significant targets in a barren receiving corps, but then the Jets went and brought in Jeremy Kerley as well. Kerley’s addition makes predicting the usage of the Jets WRs even more difficult, and it’s hard to recommend rostering either of the newly acquired vets unless desperate.
The veteran additions also put a damper on the target projection for Robby Anderson, Ardarius Stewart, and Chad Hansen. Anderson should still be a starter, but Stewart’s role on the team is murkier.
Stewart and Hansen both had some sleeper appeal, and Stewart, in particular, was on track to be a starter. Deep-leaguers can probably get either player somewhat cheaper now, with Stewart looking like the preferred player.
One of my favorite rookie sleepers, Elijah Hood, was cut by the Raiders but then re-signed to the practice squad. Hood is still a name to know in the event of a Marshawn Lynch injury as the Raiders only have three RBs and a fullback on the active roster. DeAndre Washington is the priority Raiders backup to own and should have some standalone value as a third down option.
The Steelers sent Sammie Coates to division rival Browns for a sixth-round pick. While DeShone Kizer is a downgrade from Ben Roethlisberger, Coates has an easier path to playing time in Cleveland. As a Kenny Britt believer, I don’t see Coates being more than the WR3 on the team anytime soon, but his value unquestionably rose from where it was on the crowded Steelers depth chart. Coates’ list of similar players is riddled with busts, but it’s worth monitoring his snaps to see if he can secure the WR3 role over one of his comps, Ricardo Louis.
The move also opens up some opportunity for the WRs behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Eli Rogers could be a poor man’s Cole Beasley, while JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Justin Hunter will likely all get work in specific packages. Smith-Schuster is the long term dynasty play, and removing Coates from his competition gives him a slight bump.
On the RB front, Fitzgerald Toussaint and Knile Davis were released, leaving Terrell Watson and James Conner as the backups to one of the more valuable rushing workloads in the league. Watson has been a favorite sleeper here at RotoViz since entering the NFL in 2015 and is currently listed third on the depth chart behind the rookie Conner. All the hype has been around Conner this offseason, with his feel-good story and hard-nosed play, but Watson is still a name to know – and a cheaper play – if anything happens to Le’Veon Bell.
San Francisco Forty Niners
The Niners parted ways with veteran RB Tim Hightower and put rookie Joe Williams on Injured Reserve. UDFA Matt Breida immediately becomes a priority Zero-RB target as a backup to Carlos Hyde. Breida rushed for over 3,000 total yards in his first two college seasons (at more than eight yards per carry), but a new coach and offensive scheme change in his final season destroyed his production. Breida rehabilitated in a hurry at his pro day.
Matt Breida’s Ga Southern RB pro day #’s if at Combine
40yd: 4.37 (1st)
Vert: 42″ (1st)
Broad: 11.2 (1st)
225: 23 (3rd) @Frank_Frangie
— Tom Leonard (@Tommyboyinfla) March 31, 2017
Breida is now backing up an RB who has yet to play a full 16 games and is on the final year of his contract. Breida has quickly become one of the more interesting backups and should be rostered even in shallower leagues.
The other big Niners news was the trade of Vance McDonald to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The trade immediately bumps the value of George Kittle, however it’s best to temper expectations as Kittle performed poorly in Phil Watkins’ TE success model. With so many other good young TEs in the league, taking a shot at a player more likely to be successful is the better play.
McDonald was missing benchpress numbers in Watkins’ initial model run, but McDonald actually put up 31 reps at the combine,6 which bumps his success odds up above 60 percent. Mike Tomlin recently called his young TEs, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble, “not consistently varsity enough” which bodes well for McDonald’s chances to ascend the depth chart. The Steelers are hoping their new acquisition can bring what they hoped Ladarius Green would provide them last year.
McDonald has some question marks – he’s struggled to stay healthy thus far and has had issues with drops – but this will be by far the best offense he has been a part of. He’s a high upside play if he can carve out a role. McDonald is arriving late in the offseason, so he may be worked in slowly. If someone else in your league has him, he might actually be cheaper to acquire after a few games if he doesn’t immediately flash.
The preseason emergence of Chris Carson made Alex Collins expendable. The seventh-rounder from Oklahoma State was never a prolific rusher in college, but the Box Score Scout gives us one interesting comp for his path to relevance:
C.J. Anderson has been mostly successful when healthy, and there’s a chance Carson could follow his path. Carson wouldn’t be the first player to flash in the preseason and never achieve relevance though, so it’s important to temper expectations. Don’t be rash and break the bank based on some good film in the preseason, but make sure he’s not on the wire in your league.
The other preseason standout for the Seahawks, WR Kasen Williams, did not make the roster. Williams was claimed off waivers by the Browns. He’s currently buried on the depth chart, but is a name to know as the Browns WR3 job is far from settled.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jeremy McNichols was an exciting prospect, but he flamed out in Tampa Bay. His inability to grasp the playbook and uninspiring play in preseason games put him in coach Dirk Koetter’s doghouse. McNichols was actually offered a spot on the Buc’s practice squad, but opted to join the Niners instead. He’s a drop in most formats until he makes an active roster, but still a name to watch as San Francisco’s RB situation in 2018 is far from settled.
McNichols’ absence benefits Charles Sims’ value the most. Sims had a rough 2016 but has been generating positive buzz this offseason. Sims is a Zero-RB target for teams looking for inexpensive production. Sims has never been cheaper and looks like a great value now that McNichols is gone.
Week 1 is almost upon us, and there are sure to be some surprises with how players are utilized in the games that count. Tune back in for more analysis.
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- Logan was placed on IR, but will be eligible to return. (back)
- Williams ended up on the Broncos practice squad after clearing waivers. Not a great landing spot. (back)
- Editor’s Note: I’ll pass. (back)
- Allison is suspended for one game to start the season. (back)
- Cohen did play in Division I, but at an FCS school. (back)
- first among relevant TE prospects in the past six years (back)