Dynasty Watch: Buying Low on the Busts
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 take a look at some potential buy-lows.
I’d like to start by thanking Hasan Rahim for taking time out of his busy schedule running the ring toss booth at Colonel Tex’s Traveling Carnival and filling in for me last week. Make sure you’re following him @hrr5010 as he’s the most insightful carny-cum-fantasy-analyst you’ll find east of the Mississippi.
It was a quiet return from injury for Wendell Smallwood, but there are reasons for optimism. He led the Eagles RBs in snaps in Weeks 3 and 4 after Darren Sproles went down and then drew the start Monday night after his two game absence. Smallwood played just one fewer snap than LeGarrette Blount who was used heavily once the Eagles were leading.While it’s likely that the Eagles will stick with a committee approach this season, Smallwood is the only RB on the roster who profiles as a three-down back, and his offensive coordinator agrees.
“I think Wendell is a true three-down back,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich. “When we first drafted him, I looked at him more as like a first- and second-down back. I thought he would be okay on third down. But, really, he’s turned out to be better on third down than I thought.
“So I think he is a very versatile back who knows protections very well, who runs good routes, who catches the ball well and then I think he’s a slashing runner on first and second down.”
With Blount only on a one-year deal and none of the other RBs on the roster stepping up, Smallwood will have an opportunity this year to prove he can be the lead guy in Philly going forward. Even if he never becomes a true workhorse, the lead back on what looks like an ascendant offense is still a valuable commodity. Whether or not he can capitalize on that opportunity is uncertain, but it shouldn’t cost much to find out.
Shawn Siegele pegged Smallwood as an elite sleeper coming out of the 2016 draft, but his health has thus far kept him from any chance for consistent production. That lack of consistency has kept him under the radar, but all it will take is one big game for his value to skyrocket. The Eagles’ rest-of-season schedule for RBs is just middle of the pack, but Smallwood gets to face San Francisco this week, and the ‘Niners are getting absolutely gashed by RBs.
His lack of production in his first game back from injury probably keeps his price down, so look to buy him now with the hope he can improve his stock quickly.
Since we’re talking about the Eagles, did you know that Alshon Jeffery is a WR1 in receiving expected points per game? Ok, well, just barely. He’s overall WR12, and since he hasn’t had his bye he’s not a WR1 on a per game basis, but the point stands that he’s quietly been getting decent volume and underperforming. While that doesn’t sound great from a dynasty perspective, there’s reason to believe it’s not an indication that he’s lost any of his ability.
Much was made of Dez Bryant’s difficult matchups heading into this season, but so far it looks like Philadelphia has the hardest season-long schedule for wide receivers based on the Buy-Low Machine. Unfortunately, Jeffery’s schedule is actually harder in the second half of the season, so it’s difficult to predict a huge rebound even with the usage he’s been getting.
This puts Jeffery in the territory of a player I’d like to buy on a team looking to compete in 2018. Still just 27 years old, Jeffery could come back to the Eagles after his one-year contract expires this year, or he could end up in an equally attractive situation elsewhere. If you’re one of the many squads that have been sunk by injuries so far this season, but with a strong outlook for the future, Jeffery may be an under-the-radar stud who can be acquired cheaply from a frustrated owner. He’s right in a sweet spot of not being too young anymore, not having strong recent production, and having recent health and suspension issues that will keep his price suppressed.
Buy Jeffery for 2018 and hope that he can still parlay his receiving opportunity this year into some bigger numbers despite more difficult matchups.
One of the most hotly debated dynasty assets of the past few weeks has been Joe Mixon. Some talent evaluators thought he could be the best RB in a stacked class, while others questioned why he couldn’t wrest full control of his backfield away from Samaje Perine. Now he’s being given a shot as the lead back for the Bengals, but has yet to put together an elite performance and is averaging a measly 3.2 yard per carry. In the second half of Week 7, he didn’t get a single carry and angered his coach by publicly questioning the decision. What do we do with Mixon?
85% of Joe Mixon's rushing yards have come after contact in 2017.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 12, 2017
The highest % among HBs this year. pic.twitter.com/5hzx5Hnuef
There were concerns all offseason for how the Bengals’ O-Line rebuild might negatively impact their offense, but much of that was centered around the passing game. A Mixon apologist would point to this and say that the O-line has been the main culprit for his lack of success so far, but it’s hard to ignore that his backfield mates Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard are both averaging a yard per carry more than he is.
Still, we often preach here not to get overly concerned about efficiency stats like YPC, especially over a smallish sample. Todd Gurley looked like garbage on a bad offense last year, and is now riding his high volume to huge fantasy success. I don’t think we can say for sure what Mixon is after just 74 career carries and 14 targets,1 and he still has some serious upside in his range of outcomes.
There will continue to be volume concerns for Mixon in the short term. His pass blocking has been panned by analysts, and Bernard will remain a significant part of the Cincinnati offense for as long as he’s there and healthy. It’s unlikely we see a major ascendance this year.
However, his value may also be at a low point right now. I’ve had Mixon offered to me in several leagues as concerned owners are looking to get out or contenders are trying to buy players with a better rest of season outlook. With a rookie like Mixon, all it will take is one or two big games to see a huge bump in value. If I can get him for a late 2018 first or equivalent value, I’m probably buying.
Sleeper of the Week
Elijah Hood, activate! Will he get to play, or is he just depth? There’s a decent chance he gets sent back down to the practice squad once Marshawn Lynch returns from his one-game suspension, but I’m still adding him and hoping he can show out on a few touches. None of the backs in Oakland look like a long-term solution thus far, and Hood was an interesting prospect.2
Lynch hasn’t regained his old form back in Oakland and can be cut with zero dead cap in 2018. Hood isn’t about to supplant Lynch no matter what he does3 in one game, but there’s also a chance he’s no longer basically free like he is now.
Adam Shaheen – His snaps have quietly been trending up, but you wouldn’t know it since the Bears never throw the ball. He’s only relevant in deeper leagues and tight end premium formats, but definitely a player to keep in mind for 2018 when Zach Miller will likely be gone.
Tanner Gentry – Speaking of the Bears, the former Sleeper of the Week has easily led the WRs in snaps the past two games but has only been targeted twice. The arrival of veteran Dontrelle Inman might knock him down a peg on the depth chart, but he’s still worth monitoring.
Tarik Cohen – Just to keep the sadness going, Cohen touched the ball one time on offense and turned it into 70 yards. Yes, this game was an outlier and Mitch Trubisky won’t throw it just seven times every game, but it’s alarming how uninterested the Bears have become with getting the ball in Cohen’s hands. John Fox has yet to be extended in Chicago, so there’s still hope beyond this year.
Jake Butt – Hasan noted last week that Butt was practicing, however he’s been held out thus far this week due to soreness. Still a name to watch in TE-premium formats.
Aaron Jones – I said I’d be hesitant to break the bank for Jones as I expected there was only a small chance he’d play so well to completely shed a committee with his fellow backs. I may have been wrong. After the Packers bye this week, we should get a better idea of whether Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomerry were limited by injuries, or if Jones has really gained full control of this backfield. Right now, I’m betting on the latter.
Marlon Mack – The injury to Robert Turbin helped propel Mack to his first game outsnapping Frank Gore. Mack is the future here but will likely continue to split carries with the iron man Gore – who hasn’t been awful – for the rest of the season.
Dede Westbrook – Eligible to return in Week 9, now is the time to stash Westbrook after he showed flashes in an electric preseason. The Jaguars under Doug Marrone certainly want to run more than throw, but there’s opportunity in the receiving corps and he’s been dropped in some shallower leagues.
Mike Williams – The aforementioned trade of Dontrelle Inman was likely precipitated by Williams finally getting healthy. While he’s still running as the WR4 for the Chargers, he has started taking snaps away from Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams. It’s worth remembering that WRs usually take time to develop, so patience is required when evaluating him at the pro level.
Elijah McGuire – Has come back down to earth and is stuck back behind Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. He wasn’t an elite prospect, but there’s still a chance he plays a role for the Jets next year. He’s being dropped in shallower leagues during the bye weeks but makes for a decent stash if you have the roster space.
Amara Darboh – Hasn’t done much yet, but snaps are slowly creeping up. Monitor in deep leagues.
O.J. Howard – Well, that escalated quickly. This was a huge breakout game for Howard, and any buy-low window is firmly shut.
Jonnu Smith – With Delanie Walker battling nagging injuries, Smith is getting an increased snap share. That hasn’t translated to an increase in targets yet, but it’s a situation worth monitoring.
Juju Smith-Schuster – I like Smith-Schuster, but the circus surrounding Martavis Bryant and the saga of Smith-Schuster’s stolen bike have him in the spotlight this week. I wouldn’t necessarily be shopping him, but I’d be willing to listen to offers if anyone is getting caught up in the current hype.
Samaje Perine – Didn’t get a single offensive snap and hasn’t done much in past weeks with the ones he did get. His value has plummeted and may not get a chance to recover.
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My personal rankings are up over at the RotoViz rankings page. Here are some of the guys who have made moves this week.
Dion Lewis – After a slow start, Lewis may have ascended to the top of the New England backfield, at least temporarily. I had been holding Lewis in a few spots, so this is welcome news. He has a chance to stay on top if he can stay healthy.
Devontae Booker – Though he didn’t do much to follow up his big receiving numbers in Week 6, Booker is still firmly on the radar as a player who could be a factor down the road for the Broncos.
T.J. Yeldon – Didn’t see that one coming. After not playing at all the first six weeks, Yeldon exploded in Week 7. A big day against a bad Colts defense isn’t an indication of greatness, but it could finally earn him some playing time, or entice another team into trading for him at the deadline.
Jerick McKinnon – The Ravens rush defense has been porous, and the return of Brandon Williams did little to change that. Latavius Murray will continue to get touches, but I still prefer McKinnon for the rest of this season and wouldn’t expect too many more days like Murray had this past week.
Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa – It appears the Giants prefer Gallman as a pass-catcher, so the playing time split here will be dependent on game script. I covered the situation a couple weeks ago and not much has changed from my initial evaluation.
John Brown – With no contract for 2018, Brown’s eventual destination is uncertain, but it’s promising that he’s looked healthy again. What is certain is that Drew Stanton is not good for him this season.
Chris Moore – RotoViz liked Moore as a prospect last year, and injuries among the Ravens WRs have propelled him to 15 targets over the past two weeks. He’s only caught five of those targets but is still worth keeping an eye on. He’s a deep threat who could easily catch a long TD.
Deonte Thompson – Put up a huge week after being picked up by the Bills. Not much to see here in that offense, but worth a flier in deep leagues.
Ricardo Louis – Still hasn’t produced, but the quarterback play for the Browns has been putrid any way you slice it. He’s worth a look for as long as he continues to lead the team in snap share.
Corey Coleman – Louis’ snap share may be short-lived though, as Coleman is set to return in Week 10. He’ll be eligible to practice soon, so now is the time to put out offers if you’re looking to acquire. Contending owners with him on their squad may be willing to move him for a piece that will help them through their bye weeks and playoffs.
Chester Rogers – Not an exciting prospect, but Rogers was being discussed as the Colts WR3 during the preseason before being sidelined by an injury. He played 50 percent of the snaps in Week 7 and could work his way into a larger role.
Demarcus Robinson – Has led all Chiefs WRs in snaps the past two weeks and accumulated eight targets in Week 7. It’s hard to imagine his role being much different that Chris Conley’s, but it is noteworthy that those eight targets doubled Conley’s highest total of the year.
Amari Cooper – I was banging the buy-low drum for Cooper but was unable to find any sellers in my leagues. Kudos to all of those that did though. I don’t get them all right, but this was an easy call.
Michael Thomas – Speaking of buy lows, Thomas has been solid this year, but not spectacular. He’s also a bit dinged up with a knee ailment. Now is probably a good time to send out offers if looking to acquire him.
Sammy Watkins – And here is the weekly reminder that Watkins is a free agent at the end of this year. He could return to prominence at any moment.
Josh Doctson – Washington is saying they will go with the “hot hand” between Doctson and Terrelle Pryor going forward. There are lots of Doctson true believers out there, but I’m not among them. I’m not sure Washington will give any receiver enough targets to dominate regardless, so I’m selling on the current hype.
Laquon Treadwell – The return of Stefon Diggs is imminent. Outside of one highlight reel catch, Treadwell has done nothing to suggest he’s going to emerge any time soon.
Nelson Agholor – It’s unlikely that his gaudy TD pace continues, but Agholor has cemented himself as a part of the Eagles passing game. Expect TD regression, but otherwise it appears he may have turned a corner.
Rico Gathers – Eligible to return in Week 9, now is the time to stash in deep and TE-premium formats.
Erik Swoope – Also eligible to return in Week 9, but there’s been no word on his timetable.
C.J. Fiedorowicz – Returned to practice this week and is on track to return in Week 10. Fiedorowicz scored well in Phil Watkins’ TE prospect model and played well in 2016 leading to a nice extension with the Texans. With a promising rookie QB now at the helm, Fiedorowicz is an overlooked dynasty asset and someone I’m looking to acquire, especially in TE-premium formats.
Logan Thomas – The athletic converted QB garnered his highest snap share of the season in Week 7 and caught his first TD. He’s a very deep stash of a prospect though and may be blocked by Charles Clay for years to come due to his difficult to shed contract.4
Hunter Henry – I still consider Henry a buy as it’s likely this is finally Antonio Gates’ final season.5 His price has gone up since his slow start, but it’s still likely lower than it will be by season’s end.
Vance McDonald – Don’t look now, but Jesse James hasn’t been targeted in two weeks. Some of that is a more run-heavy game script, but McDonald has been starting to siphon snaps and targets away from James.
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- of which he’s caught of all 14 (back)
- Note this Box Score Scout uses his healthy 2015 stats. (back)
- if anything (back)
- His contract was restructured to provide salary-cap relief last year, but it ends up making him hard to cut in future seasons. (back)
- No, really. It eventually has to be, right? (back)