Dynasty Watch: High Profile Trades and Rookie Explosions
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 the impact of the big trade deadline deals around the NFL.
Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills
The obvious first question here is how does this trade affect Kelvin Benjamin? Since we can’t accurately predict exactly how he will be used within the Bills offense, let’s just look at what their wide receivers have done as a whole.1There’s really not much reason to believe a move to the Bills is a good thing unless Benjamin gets a huge bump to his market share of targets or significant red-zone usage.
Benjamin is under contract through 2018, and although his cap hit is fairly large next year, the Bills will have an opportunity to renegotiate and extend if needed. With the price they paid for him, it’s likely they’re looking to keep him on the team long-term. If anything, this looks like a small downgrade for Benjamin’s value.
However, I’d call it a large downgrade for both Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones. With such an anemic passing offense, their primary hope for being startable players was to emerge as the top target on the team. Benjamin’s presence certainly complicates this, and it’s not unfair to think he’s the current leader in the clubhouse for being the WR1 going forward.
On the other side of the trade, there is now increased opportunity for pass-catchers in Carolina. Devin Funchess has cooled off over the past three weeks after scoring a total of three TDs on 14 catches in Weeks 4 and 5, but his primary competition for WR targets now is Russell Shepard, and it’s hard to envision a scenario where Funchess isn’t used heavily the rest of the season. Carolina’s willingness to trade Benjamin also seems like a vote of confidence in Funchess’ ability to fill the role of their WR1. And then there’s his schedule.
With the No. 3 rest-of-season schedule for WRs, Funchess will have an excellent opportunity to meet the increased expectations owners have for him. I wouldn’t rank Funchess any higher than I’ve had Benjamin previously, but he definitely gets a big bump after this trade.
The next two WRs on the depth chart – Curtis Samuel and the aforementioned Shepard – are also likely in line for an increase in targets. Shepard had a mini-breakout in Tampa Bay last year as he had his first double-digit target season in his fourth year in the league.Will Shepard be able to capitalize on his increased opportunity? There’s not a lot in his college profile – where he started as an RB and played sparingly as both an RB and WR at LSU – or his pro profile to suggest he’ll have a fifth-year breakout, but in deep leagues where live bodies are scarce he’s probably worth picking up.
The more exciting player from a dynasty perspective is Samuel. Like Shepard, Samuel was a “slash” player in college, spending time as both a WR and an RB, but unlike Shepard he actually produced.Samuel has yet to do much of anything as a pro, but this is obviously a positive development for him. He could be the next Dexter McCluster, but he could also be the next Randall Cobb. The Carolina offense will cap his upside, but he’s still worth owning, and in shallow leagues he may have been dropped.2 Now is probably not the time to acquire him via trade, but make sure he’s not available for free.
Jay Ajayi to The Eagles
Let’s start again with the man being traded, Jay Ajayi. RotoViz already deployed our resident Brit, Neil Dutton, to provide a good look at the possibilities for the London-born Ajayi’s rest of season with the Eagles. The short version is that the Eagles have a tough schedule, but if he’s able to take control of the backfield he could be a big piece down the stretch on their potent offense.
Taking control of the backfield is a big question mark though. The Eagles have employed somewhat of a committee all year,and GM Howie Roseman has already said that LeGarrette Blount is still his starter. Prior to last week though, Blount as a “lead” back didn’t always mean he actually led the team in snaps or touches.
In the long-term, Ajayi will still be on his rookie deal through 2018 whereas Blount will be a free agent at the end of the year. Ajayi has a chance to lose his primary competition next year, and there’s little reason to think the Eagles offense won’t continue to outperform the Dolphins through next year. Ajayi’s floor may be lower now, but his ceiling on a good offense is also much more enticing if he can separate himself from the other RBs.
I regrettably touted Wendell Smallwood as a buy-low last week, and now it’s an open question whether he’ll even be active on game days. As a Smallwood apologist, I was fully prepared to mention the gnarly weather conditions during the Eagles game this past weekend, and how it made sense to limit their young RB coming off a knee injury on a muddy field and stick with the bruising combo of Blount and Corey Clement as they were grinding out a win with a sizable lead. This move obviously torpedoes Smallwood’s value for the moment, but I’m still holding in deep leagues.
Kenjon Barner really shouldn’t have been owned much of anywhere anyway, but he’s a sure drop now. Clement also takes a major hit, but there may be a few leagues deep enough where it still makes sense to own him.
How about the players left behind on the Dolphins? Which of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams should we be targeting?Williams has clearly been the preferred back over the past two seasons, but neither back has distinguished himself this year. Six of Drake’s 10 carries came in the second half of last week’s blowout loss to Baltimore. This can either be viewed as using the third-stringer in a game that was out of reach, or giving a chance to a guy who hasn’t frustrated the coaching staff as much as the other RBs.
As a prospect, Drake – who shared a backfield with Derrick Henry at Alabama – is more interesting than the UDFA Williams.
Drake is under contract with the Dolphins through 2019 on his rookie deal whereas Williams is currently on just a one-year deal. The only other RB under contract with the Dolphins is Senorise Perry, who doesn’t even have a single rushing attempt since entering the league in 2014. It’s likely the Dolphins add some more depth, but Drake and Williams will both have a chance to emerge as starters this season.
A case can be made for targeting either player, but in dynasty Drake is the more enticing add. Williams has been a good receiver, but his 3.3 yards per carry over 328 rushing attempts leads me to believe he’s never going to be a great runner. Drake has the better pedigree and is still largely an unknown with just 43 career rushing attempts. Roll the dice with Drake if you’re hoping for a player who will be useful past 2017.
Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers
Obviously, this is a positive for Jimmy Garoppolo as he will get a chance to start. His destination is a positive too, as Kyle Shanahan has had success offensively before. Make no mistake though, this is a rebuilding franchise, and it’s hard to really guess at how his presence will affect any of the other players on the roster. Garoppolo obviously justifies a hefty bid in Superflex and 2QB leagues if he isn’t already owned, but I’d only be targeting him in shallower leagues if my team is in rebuilding mode.
Sleeper of the Week
The hot Bengals rookie finally caught his first TD pass. No, not John Ross. Fourth-round pick Josh Malone caught two of this three targets for 35 yards and a TD in Week 8. Malone is somewhat of a forgotten man on a crowded Cincinnati depth chart, but there’s reason to believe he could be more exciting than his draft pedigree would indicate. Anthony Amico first revealed his crush on Malone back in February, and then Cort Smith questioned if we were ranking him too low right before the NFL draft.
Malone’s landing spot put a damper on some of that enthusiasm, as first-round pick Ross and 2016 second-rounder Tyler Boyd both came in with better draft pedigree and A.J. Green is firmly established atop the depth chart.
Malone comes into the league with excellent speed and solid production at a young age. Boyd has had multiple issues on and off the field in his young career, and Ross has struggled to stay healthy. Stash Malone now in deeper leagues and hope he can keep playing himself into a major role down the line.
Adam Shaheen – I touched on Shaheen’s gradually increasing snaps last week, and with the injury to Zach Miller, he’s set to get even more playing time. As a rookie TE on a poor passing offense, I wouldn’t predict much production for Shaheen this year – in fact Dion Sims stands to benefit the most in 2017 – but in deep and TE-premium formats he’s no longer flying under the radar.
John Ross – Only played six snaps and was targeted once. His struggles to overcome injury and secure playing time will continue to suppress his value until he can put together some kind of a breakout game. I’d bet that he can put together a big play sometime this season that will get owners excited about him again, but it might not happen until late in the year at this rate. I’m still buying low if I can get him for cheap.
Joe Mixon – The other highly drafted rookie in Cincinnati, Mixon finally gave owners something to be excited about with a 67-yard reception. Unfortunately, he didn’t get into the end zone and rushed for just 18 yards on 11 carries. Still a buy-low target if he can be acquired for less than this year’s draft cost.
D’Onta Foreman – Was his reduced role due to him walking out in protest during the week? Sure, Lamar Miller has played well, but Alfred Blue is not the answer behind him. I’m still buying Foreman if anyone is concerned about his reduced playing time.
Marlon Mack – Continues to produce. I’m still not completely sure the Colts will ever use him as a total workhorse back, but his usage thus far is extremely encouraging.
Dede Westbrook – Set to make his debut on Sunday. I’ve been advocating adding him for a while, so make sure he’s not floating around on waivers in shallower leagues.
Dalvin Cook – With the heavy bye weeks upon us and teams deciding whether to make a playoff push or abandon their season, now is a good time to make offers for players on IR. Cook may never be easier to acquire than he is right now.
Alvin Kamara – Mark Ingram’s recent fumbling issues could translate into a few more touches for Kamara.
Elijah Hood – Unfortunately Hood was brought up just for depth and was signed back to the practice squad. Back to monitoring in shallower leagues.
Mack Hollins – Though he’s still the WR4 or WR5 on the Eagles, his usage has been trending up slightly. Brian Malone noticed his training camp buzz and great collegiate YPR back in August, and right now it’s looking like investing in the Eagles offense is a smart play. Worth picking up in deeper leagues.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Well, that escalated quickly. I thought the hype surrounding Smith-Schuster last week was getting a bit out of hand, but now that he’s notched a game with 193 receiving yards, the hype-train is full speed ahead. It’s important to remember that prior to his somewhat disappointing final year, Smith-Schuster was being talked about as potentially the top receiver of the last two draft classes. His play thus far in the NFL hints that this could still be in his range of outcomes.
Jonnu Smith – I’ve been hyping Smith all season. With Delanie Walker still not practicing, Smith may garner more targets this week against a Ravens defense that is stout versus the pass but still susceptible to TEs.
Deshaun Watson – I wasn’t a big believer in Watson coming out of the draft, but there’s really not much to criticize as he smashes all kinds of records for rookie QBs. In leagues where QBs are more scarce, obviously he’d be ranked higher here. I do think he’s due for some regression, but it’s impossible not to consider him a premium dynasty asset at this point.
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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.
Alex Collins – I started writing up Collins last week, but never finished it, so let me touch on him a bit more in-depth here. Although Collins only has 80 rushes on the season, his efficiency is up there with the best backs in the league and miles ahead of his counterpart.Collins has barely been used in the passing game so far, and he’s had fumbling issues in the past, but the Ravens coaching staff has said it wants to get him more involved. His usage last week confirms it. Collins’ usage will continue to be somewhat dependent on game script, with Javorius Allen getting more touches when the team is trailing, but Collins was targeted twice this week for the first time since Week 4. While his efficiency is likely to regress, his play thus far is earning him more touches, and volume is key.
That being said, Danny Woodhead is also on track to return after the Ravens’ Week 10 bye. While he’s more likely to eat into Allen’s role, he’s still makes the backfield more crowded. Collins will continue to be a two-down bruiser. For more on Collins’ outlook this year, Cort Smith has you covered.
In the long-term, Collins is locked into the Ravens for at least one more season. He’s an exclusive rights free agent in 2018, meaning his only option is to accept a minimum contract from Baltimore. Collins has been an exciting runner to watch this year, but Kenneth Dixon is also scheduled to return to the fold next year.
Collins’ bruising primetime performance rightfully has owners excited, but his ceiling appears limited as the Ravens will likely always scheme in a passing down back. The other big concern – fumbles – could also reappear on any touch, and it’s hard to shake the “Scarlet F” once you’ve been branded as a fumbler. Collins has done enough to establish himself and ensure he’ll be a valuable asset in the short-term, but his long-term outlook still has a great deal of uncertainty.
Ezekiel Elliott – Unless there’s a contending owner who’s desperate, you’re probably not getting a discount here.
Devontae Booker – Scored a TD and ran well. He’s a backup that should be owned in most leagues as there’s the potential he’s the RB of the future in Denver. Jamaal Charles is a free agent in 2018, and C.J. Anderson can be cut with no cap hit.
Eddie Lacy – Every Seattle RB outside of Chris Carson has looked terrible. Coaches are now saying they’re going to give Lacy a shot as the lead back again. I was a believer in Lacy during the preseason and still think it’s possible he’d be a useful piece in a different system. If he’s getting touches though, he’s probably worth adding to the bottom of a roster once again just to see if he can recapture some of his old magic.
Breshad Perriman – Lost in all the talk about Zay Jones is just how dreadful Perriman’s season has been thus far. With just four catches on 20 targets for a measly 26 yards,3 Perriman is in the running for this year’s worst WR. I was looking to buy Perriman on the cheap before the season started, but it’s hard to find any reason to be optimistic after this start.
Bryce Treggs – Yet another WR to get significant snaps for the Browns. At this point they’re just throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.
Corey Coleman – Due back in two weeks, still time to buy before he comes back.
Will Fuller – I said this two weeks ago:
I’m a huge Fuller fan, but even I have to recommend shopping him around if you’re an owner just to see if anyone is buying his huge TD outburst to start the season.
That outburst has continued, and it has driven his value even higher. I still love Fuller, but I also think it’s still wise to see if you can turn his insane start into another asset you covet, but only if you’re getting great value.
Josh Gordon – So he’s officially reinstated. Honestly, no idea, but I won’t fault anyone for going for him. Stranger things have happened.
Leonte Carroo – He’s played more snaps in each successive week since DeVante Parker’s injury and that playing time finally translated into usage with eight targets and a team-leading six receptions. With Parker expected back soon and the Jarvis Landry trade rumors not coming to fruition, Carroo is likely moving to the back burner again. It’s worth noting though that Adam Gase seems thoroughly dissatisfied with the current state of his offense and is clearly willing to shake things up with the Jay Ajayi trade. The dream isn’t dead yet.
Robby Anderson – I actually had Anderson in my list of guys to write about last week, but as I was already up somewhere around the 47,500 word limit, he didn’t make the cut. The future of the Jets QB situation is very uncertain to say the least, but Anderson has been a solid player for the Jets dating back to last year. He’s on pace for 100 targets and it’s likely he’ll be starting again next year. He is – at minimum – a great depth piece in leagues where starters are hard to come by.
Martavis Bryant – This is a volatile situation. I’ve never owned any Bryant, and I’m not looking to start now. I have a hard time seeing how any of this ends well.
Paul Richardson – Even though Russell Wilson isn’t going to throw for 450 yards every week, Richardson showcased what he’s capable of when given an opportunity. With two TDs in a high-profile game,4 the buy-low window on one of my favorite bargains of the offseason has probably shut.
Martellus Bennett – Announced he would be retiring after the season. Whether or not he holds to that, it at least temporarily destroys the value of a player who probably still had a few good years left in him. He can’t be counted on this year with the QB situation in Green Bay, and his future value will be nonexistent unless he announces a change of heart.
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- It’s probable he becomes their top receiving option, but a long history of WRs switching teams with mixed results should caution us against being overly confident in that assumption. (back)
- He was dropped in a few of mine. (back)
- No, that’s not a typo. (back)
- and a third called back by penalty. (back)