Dynasty Watch: Making Moves Down the Homestretch
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. Contending owners are starting to load up for the stretch run, while the pretenders are selling and stashing. Here are some of the guys making moves heading into Week 10.
Keenan Allen and Friends
The 2017 Chargers are boring. They haven’t scored fewer than 10 points or more than 27 points. Their record is a middling 3-5 and other than Melvin Gordon – who leads the team in touchdowns with eight while no one else has more than three – they’ve been disappointing from a fantasy perspective.
It’s fair to wonder if Philip Rivers is showing signs of his inevitable decline, much as his classmates from the 2004 draft, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, have begun to to fade from fantasy relevance. The underlying stats tell a bit of a different story though. While Rivers may not be as good as he was in his prime, he’s still at least playing as well as last year where he managed to throw 33 TD passes. The Chargers schedule thus far hasn’t really been conducive to success for wide receivers, with two tough matchups with the Broncos highlighting the second-hardest schedule through the first half of the season.
There’s no rest for the weary here as they’ll follow up their bye week with difficult matchups against the Jaguars and Bills. The schedule clears up after that though, with a favorable stretch from Weeks 12 to 16.
Lost in all this is the fact that Keenan Allen has stayed healthy and has quietly been a WR1 in terms of expected points.
I made a similar argument for buying Alshon Jeffery a couple weeks ago despite his tough schedule, and owners were finally rewarded during the Eagles’ thrashing of the Broncos. While there are legitimate concerns about Rivers’ longevity, Allen is still a young, productive asset who has slightly underperformed this season. He’s a good candidate to get hot during the stretch run and continue paying dividends in the future.
A similar argument can be made for the other pass-catchers on the Chargers. The long-term future of Tyrell Williams as the WR2 on the team is in serious jeopardy, but that also means owners will probably be willing to part with him for a bag of balls as his underwhelming performance has them looking to get out. Mike Williams is the future, but Tyrell has a good shot at holding on to his job at least through the rest of the season. I’m not a huge Tyrell fan, but the price may be right for teams who are thin at WR.
I’ve already been beating the drum for Hunter Henry as a buy-low in dynasty. While there’s no guarantee he rebounds this year, his future as the locked-in top TE on the Chargers is no less likely than it was at the start of the season when he was going at the end of the sixth round in startups.
Jordy Nelson and Friends
Things are looking bleak in Green Bay. I can’t really put a rosy spin on Brett Hundley’s start, and it’s hard to trust any of the Green Bay pass catchers moving forward. Importantly though, owners of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb also won’t be able to trust them going forward. For teams that have slipped out of contention this year, now appears to be a good time to test the market on the Packers WRs, but there are some question marks heading into next year.
Nelson will play next season at age 33 and has an injury history still fresh in the minds of most owners. Betting on any non-QB to stay productive at that age is a risky proposition, but for a player with his track record of success, it’s not unprecedented. He’s a player to buy for a team that has thrown in the towel on 2017, but believes it can compete in 2018. If you’re an owner whose season was sunk by injuries to young studs like David Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr., Nelson may be a cheap piece to add for a run at the title again next year. His owners know the clock is ticking.
Adams is still young enough to command a high price, but his future catching passes from Aaron Rodgers isn’t guaranteed. He’s an unrestricted free agent after the season and will almost certainly test the free agent market to try and score a big contract. While Adams has looked like a solid player, it’s worth remembering that he’s only had one really big year thus far, and even that one was buoyed by catching 12 TDs as he failed to reach even 1,000 yards.1 I’m willing to take a shot at Adams if I can get panic-sale prices,2 but I won’t be actively pursuing him.
Does Adams’ potential departure open up opportunity for someone else? The next man up right now is Geronimo Allison.Allison’s prospect profile isn’t very encouraging. He wasn’t particularly productive, particularly young, or particularly athletic. That being said, he has thus far fended off challenges from younger, more productive, and more athletic players to retain his spot on the Packers depth chart despite a one-game suspension for marijuana possession and a history of some NSFW tweets. Clearly the Packers see something in Allison to use him as their fourth WR. Allison has three games with more than five targets in his career, and here’s what he has done with them:
I don’t consider Allison a priority stash since it’s likely the Packers will bring in more depth if they don’t re-sign Adams, but in deeper leagues he should definitely be on the radar heading into the offseason. However, there’s another Packers WR who might not be around next year either.
Cobb cooled down after a hot start, but still looked like a player with a safe floor as long as Rodgers is the one throwing the passes. That’s not just a commentary on this year. There’s a shot Cobb won’t be catching passes from Rodgers in 2018. Cobb’s cap-hit next year is huge, and the Packers are already in a tight cap situation. It’s possible they could look to restructure Cobb’s deal, but that just kicks the can down the road on a contract Cobb has failed to live up to. The dead cap for cutting Cobb this offseason drops down to just $3.2 million, making him a potential cap casualty. This is a situation I’m staying away from as Cobb’s value would plummet on any other team.
Sleeper(s) of the Week
With news of Jeremy Kerley’s four-game suspension coming out, Ardarius Stewart suddenly becomes a lot more interesting.While there are no real stars among his comps, there are some players who have had flashes of usefulness at the NFL level. Stewart’s snaps all year have indicated that he should be the next man up and stand to benefit the most from Kerley’s absence.
But that might not necessarily be the case. When Kerley exited the Week 9 contest early with a foot injury, it was Chad Hansen who took most of his vacated snaps against the Bills.
I try not to read too much into snap counts when a player is injured mid-game, as there isn’t time to change the game plan on the fly. For instance, Jakeem Grant heavily out-snapped Leonte Carroo in the game where DeVante Parker was knocked out, but in subsequent weeks the job was clearly Carroo’s. For what it’s worth, Todd Bowles has said that both receivers will see an increased role in Kerley’s absence.
Neither player is likely to win you any fantasy championships anytime soon, but they should both at least get an opportunity to flash their skills against NFL defenses. I personally prefer the younger, more productive Hansen over Stewart, and RotoDoc made a strong case for Hansen over Stewart after the NFL draft. That being said, Hansen has yet to be targeted a single time in his career, while Stewart at least has had eight balls thrown his way. As with many guys I highlight in this section, these are adds for deeper leagues where usable players can be scarce, especially on bye weeks. If you’re desperate for a warm body in the short term, Stewart seems like the best bet, but Hansen may be the better speculative add for future production.
Zay Jones – In an act of defiance, Jones finally showed some signs of life before being forced to leave the game with what looked like a hyperextended knee. He’s considered day-to-day moving forward, but this game was a positive sign for Jones even as Kelvin Benjamin threatens to push him down the depth chart.
Christian McCaffrey – He garnered his highest snaps and rushing attempts of the season after Jonathan Stewart was ineffective and fumbled the ball twice. If you’re the Panthers, what’s the benefit of having Stewart on the field? While it’s true McCaffrey hasn’t done much as a rusher either, at least he forces defenses to account for his receiving ability. Stewart won’t be completely phased out, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if McCaffrey’s increased usage continues past just this week.
Tarik Cohen – I’m not crazy high on Cohen, but he still seems like a player to try to buy coming off some games with weird usage leading up to his bye week.
D’Onta Foreman – I’m still high on Foreman long term, and his decreased usage in Week 8 appears to have been a blip on the radar. The Texans claim it had nothing to do with him walking out of practice over owner Bob McNair’s comments, but how else do you explain that Alfred Blue – who had a grand total of four snaps all year – suddenly played nine snaps while Foreman only played one. Oh, and then Blue was immediately back down to zero snaps this week. I’m not buying that Foreman’s dip in playing time was football related.
Alvin Kamara – He just keeps on rolling. The future is bright for Kamara as long as he plays in Sean Payton’s offense, and he’s cementing himself as one of the premiere rookie RBs in a class full of studs.
Corey Clement – His three-TD outburst looks like an anomaly. This is a game where the Eagles took a big lead and Clement was used heavily in the second half. Only four of his 13 touches came before the Eagles already held a 21-point lead. While he may get some more goal-line looks as the season progresses, he is not someone I’d be rushing to acquire in most leagues.
Chris Godwin – The one-game suspension for Mike Evans opens up some opportunity for Godwin. If I need someone to play this week, I’m still targeting Adam Humphries, but Godwin could see a spike in value if he’s able to convert more playing time into a big game with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm.
Aaron Jones – I was initially skeptical that Jones would maintain a stranglehold on the Green Bay backfield, but his performance in Week 7 had me worried.
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.
Sometimes your first take is the best one. This could end up being a game-script dependent committee, but either way it appears that Jones has not done enough to take control.
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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.
Devonta Freeman – He’s averaged a robust 4.5 yards per carry this season and is on pace for similar rushing stats as last year, but his receptions are way down. I still think a second-half bounce-back is possible and wouldn’t hesitate to buy if an owner is souring on him.
Tevin Coleman – Meanwhile, Coleman is actually ahead of his pace from last year, with the notable exception of TDs. Coleman is a guy who has consistently shown talent as a runner and receiver, but it might take another year before he gets the opportunity to emerge from Freeman’s shadow. Whether that happens in Atlanta or not will depend on where he goes once his contract is up after the 2018 season.
Kenneth Dixon – Just a reminder he exists and is worth a stash for teams who are out of contention.3
Devontae Booker – Continues to play a role in the Broncos backfield committee. C.J. Anderson’s injury during the game benefited Jamaal Charles more than Booker, but Booker is still a guy who could have his role increase as the season goes on.
C.J. Anderson – That being said, I don’t think Anderson is quite dead yet. Poor QB play will continue to hinder the Denver offense, but their schedule gets considerably easier for RBs down the stretch – particularly in the playoffs – and there’s a chance they may be able to lean on the run game for some victories against teams like the Jets and Colts. Anderson still appears to be the lead back, and fear of Booker may drive his price down.
Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams – As expected, the role broke down to a committee with both backs getting nearly equal touches. Also as expected, Drake was more explosive with a 42-yard run while Williams couldn’t get much going on the ground. Williams came away with the TD, but both backs had solid fantasy days. I don’t think we’re going to see 12 RB receptions every week though, so it will be hard to predict who will have the good week going forward. Still, in dynasty my preference is the younger, more explosive Drake.
Jay Ajayi – The Eagles said they would work him in slowly, but a long run gave him a big fantasy day regardless. Concerns about his knees still have some owners spooked, but in the short-term he could be a valuable player for the stretch run despite a middling schedule.
C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls – After yet another injury to a Seattle RB, Rawls took over for Eddie Lacy in the backfield last week and performed reasonably well with limited touches. Still, Rawls has just 98 yards on 39 carries this year, good for a meager 2.5 YPC. The Seahawks are desperate to get their running game on track, and Prosise is supposedly finally healthy and ready to play this week. The injuries with Prosise may be maddening, but he’s easily a better prospect than Rawls, and any kind of a decent showing could thrust him into the lead role down the stretch.
Alshon Jeffery – Rewarded owners who bought low on him. His schedule will continue to be tough, but his opportunity has been extremely consistent. Both his health and his play have been solid.
Martavis Bryant – I’ve gone on record as saying I’m avoiding Bryant, but last week’s benching may have his price at rock bottom for those looking to acquire.
Marvin Jones – Both Josh Hermsmeyer and @CmonTumbleweed were on the Jones bandwagon heading into 2017 based on his air yards profile, and he’s been on fire the past three games. I consider him a hold if you’re an owner.
Maxx Williams – Every time I suggest picking up Williams in deep and tight-end-premium leagues, he goes and gets injured again. All my past arguments still apply now that he’s healthy, but the constant injuries are extremely frustrating. Still, he wouldn’t be the first TE to shake the injury bug and go on to find success.
C.J. Fiedorowicz – Set to finally get activated from the IR, I’ve been advocating acquiring him for a while now. The injury to Deshaun Watson obviously puts a damper on his return, but he’s still a player I’m targeting for the long-term.
Teddy Bridgewater – He should be long gone in Superflex and 2QB leagues, but Bridgewater is worth a look in shallower dynasty leagues as well. The Vikings offense is a different beast than it was when he was putting up pedestrian fantasy numbers in his first two seasons, and with Sam Bradford’s injury, his path to starting again is obvious.