The dynasty staffers at Footballguys will have regular Dynasty Roundtables throughout the offseason. This is the fourth and final installment with several staffers contributing.
How are you handling the injury situations of A.J. Green, Julian Edelman, Derrick Henry, Andrew Luck, Damien Williams, and Antonio Brown? These players have missed some time. Which are you using the injury situation to buy or sell?
In dynasty leagues, I'm far more tolerant of nagging injuries because my investment in the player should span more than 16 games. All the players mentioned are still projected to be active for most, if not all, of the regular season. The only player in this list I'm concerned about is A.J. Green. He's been dealing with injuries for several seasons, and while this is technically a different issue, it's still another lower-body problem. I worry, at his age, if this is the beginning of a cascade to ineffectiveness. I don't have A.J. Green on any dynasty rosters, but if I did, I would be willing to sell him for 70 cents on the dollar.
I have not adjusted any of them much in dynasty with a big-picture view. I will say I have softened A.J. Green's outlook some due to age and the combination of missed games being a bigger deal for an older player with less longevity left. I am not overly high on Damien Williams maintaining a lead role for long so working through his injury and the crowded depth chart fit my assessment more than conflict.
Not moving any of them other than Green. With A.J. Green, I was holding out a little hope that he could return to form -- maybe not all the way, but to borderline WR1 status. But I just don't have any faith that his body can hold up.
There are players who are healthy when you finalize your weekly starting lineup, but you don't know if they are going to be healthy when their game is over. Those guys are not players you can build around. Green has become one of those guys to me.
With A.J. Green, I admire the talent, but it seems that he is on the downward slope of his career arc. I don’t currently own Green anywhere in dynasty, and it will probably remain that way unless I can get him at a deep discount. Most general managers aren’t going to flip him for a contending team’s second-rounder, so it’s a moot point.
Edelman’s injury is not one I’m worried about long-term. He is one of those older players that dynasty players tend to shy away from but can be had cheaply compared to the impact he can have for your team. Chad Parsons calls this type of player a “bridge player.” If you are contending and need an option to give you depth or spot starts, I would be looking to throw out a third and a minor player or a second to acquire Edelman.
Derrick Henry’s calf strain won’t impact his availability for the season, so it’s not really a concern or something for which the typical owner is going to give you a discount. He’ll have a bigger workload this season, but I expect his season-end totals to be similar to what they were last year.
Andrew Luck’s calf injury sounds like something he could play through if he needed to, but the team wants to be cautious with their star quarterback. Perhaps you could negotiate for a lower price on Luck with a general manager who is skittish about Luck’s lengthy injury history.
I’m more worried about Damien Williams being able to hang on to his role than I was a month ago. When you consider Andy Reid’s comments that seem critical of Williams missing practices and both Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson having strong camp performances, it seems like the gap between them has closed somewhat. This will be one situation we need to monitor more closely as the preseason progresses.
I talked in this roundtable about how I feel Antonio Brown’s outlook has diminished significantly with his team change. Seeing a foot specialist doesn’t make me feel any better about Brown. Neither does the helmet spectacle.
A.J. Green is the one that is most concerning. He has had injuries to his lower legs for the last few years and now has another one heading into 2019. He is at an age, 31, where even elite receivers struggle to maintain form and consistency. Even if he were fit, he will have a new offense to come to grips with and should be moved on from in dynasty leagues and only taken in redrafts at a considerable value.
Antonio Brown is even older than Green and a weird situation regarding his feet won’t be fully known until and if he comes back and practices and plays. I have been fading him for the last couple of years due to his increased volatility, but this makes it more difficult to gauge where is at on a new team, with a new quarterback and for him new coach. Best to avoid him where possible as well.
Julian Edelman is older than both Green and Brown. At 33, he is being expected to perform to an ADP that he has never reached in his career and only got close a few times. That is not mentioning the fact that he has only completed a full season twice in his career, has been suspended for PED’s and opposing defenses can attack until other options on offense make themselves known. The thumb injury doesn’t actually bother me at all. He will recover from that, it’s everything else.
Andrew Luck and his calf do not bother me one bit. If it were his neck or shoulder, then alarm bells would be ringing. He is playing the one position where he could actually play with an injured calf. The Colts do have the luxury of Jacoby Brissett playing for a week or two should that be required, but I doubt it.
Derrick Henry and Damien Williams are in different situations. Williams has returned to practice, so we can worry less about that for now. What we do need to worry about with him is his draft price and relative replaceability in the offense. Williams was relatively washed up when Andy Reid resurrected him late in 2018 and he could quickly go back to nothing if he gets injured again or a player such as Carlos Hyde or Darwin Thompson plays as well or better in the preseason.
Derrick Henry, on the other hand, is the Titans offense until a quarterback elevates this team. The Titans will be very cautious in his return from a calf injury but should be fine to start the season. Not worried about his situation yet.
Damien Williams also seems to be at no risk of missing Week 1. However, the injury could have an impact on how big his piece of the backfield pie will be in Kansas City. We know the Chiefs running backs as a group are going to rack up touchdowns, yardage, and receptions. We should feel relatively confident Williams will lead the way. However, there is a world of difference between leading the way with something like 50-60% of the touches and leading the way with 80%+ of the running back touches. Trying to pin down how big Williams' workload will be is one of my biggest focuses in August and the missed time makes me less bullish on his prospects.
The Andrew Luck injury sets off some red flags from a redraft perspective and I’ve moved him down a bit to reflect the uncertainty. As such, it has to have at least some small impact on his dynasty value. However, we are expecting another strong decade of play from Luck, so even if he does miss some games, the dynasty value hit is minimal.
The injuries to A.J. Green and Antonio Brown have a more material impact on dynasty values. The likely window for difference-making fantasy seasons is not long when you are talking about 31-year old receivers. When you take into account missed games (a certainty for Green) and the potential for a slow start whenever these guys get back on the field, you have to apply an injury discount. For now, Green takes the bigger hit because we know the injury is serious and he will miss multiple games. We are still guessing on how long Brown will be out.
Which rookie receivers have impressed you the most during training camp?
The most exciting players are the deep-cut running backs and receivers who somehow went undrafted in rookie drafts and yet have a chance to make an impact. It's very early in the preseason, but right now a handful have cropped up.
- KeeSean Johnson, Arizona -- Johnson was the other rookie receiver drafted by the Cardinals this year, in the 6th round. Both Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler were top-30 rookie draft picks, but Johnson went undrafted in many leagues. That's a mistake because beat writers have characterized Johnson as a clear-cut starter alongside Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
- Jakobi Myers, New England -- Flashbacks to Kenbrell Thompkins are inevitable for this undrafted rookie free agent, but Myers has been hard to ignore in Patriots training camp. The Athletic said Myers is Tom Brady's favorite target, which may be hyperbole, but any time you can grab a potential piece of the Patriots offense, it's worth the lottery ticket.
- Jon'Vea Johnson, Dallas -- Finally, the deepest cut of them all. Johnson was undrafted out of Toledo -- and played second fiddle to Diontae Johnson. But Johnson is a physical marvel with a 35-inch vertical and a sub-4.4 forty-time. He was a dynamo in rookie mini-camp and has carried the momentum into training camp.
Wide receivers have a steep learning curve and I try to reserve strong swings in their dynasty value, sticking to their prospect profile, longer than most folks. My biggest comment from the rookie receivers early on would be to be patient with them, especially someone like N'Keal Harry who has had up and down reports thus far. A Round 1 pick with elite metrics is a safe bet historically and downgrading them for a 'slow' start in these early stages is a mistake.
For me, I’ve been most impressed with Miles Boykin. He has been a huge standout at Ravens camp. I know the receiver versus defensive back drills are typically set up for the receiver to win, but it has still been fun and encouraging to watch him work in drills against the Jaguars cornerbacks, who are practicing jointly with the Ravens at the time of this writing. Buzz that he may crack the starting unit in his rookie year is both surprising and encouraging.
I am 100% where Chad is with this one. They can look great in camp, but against a real NFL team in the spotlight, things change, especially for undrafted rookies who can shine in training camp, but quickly get overwhelmed. I do worry about the negative reports of elite prospects, such as N'Keal Harry, but ultimately they have plenty of time to get to grips and each player has a different learning curve. Until we get to the real NFL season, it is rare I move a rookie wide receiver too far down or up the draft board.
One dynasty strategy is to invest in good offenses and avoid bad ones. Which offenses are you targeting, and which are you staying away?
Offenses I'm avoiding...
Arizona -- I'm open to the Arizona Cardinals being successful, but I'm mystified at how quickly the consensus has accepted Arizona as a can't-miss offense. Very few teams in NFL history finished both 32nd in passing and rushing in the same season. Now we're supposed to accept that team as a potential fantasy dynamo because of the Air Raid? Hard pass.
Washington -- I'm avoiding the Washington situation. Trent Williams is disgruntled and wants out. Case Keenum and Colt McCoy are battling for the starting role. Trey Quinn (who?) may be the team's best receiver. Adrian Peterson may be the best running back. It's a mess.
Miami and Jacksonville -- I also want no part of the Miami Dolphins or Jacksonville Jaguars, including Leonard Fournette. Miami is in Year 1 of a multi-year rebuilding project and is effectively punting this year for a high pick. Jacksonville is a more contrarian take, but I don't think Nick Foles outside of the confines of Philadelphia is a winning quarterback, and their skill position players are uninspiring.
I am all-in on the Arizona Cardinals this year. At a minimum, Kyler Murray and the new system will open things up and be conducive for fantasy production - the opposite of last year's dismal showing. On the flip side, I am buying Houston. Aside from being one of the biggest Will Fuller V proponents out there, Lamar Miller is the perfect veteran running back for a contending dynasty team especially with D'Onta Foreman out of the mix.
I would look at acquiring up-and-comers on the cheap in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and with the Los Angeles Rams. James Washington, Byron Pringle, and Josh Reynolds, in particular, are players whose shares I am collecting.
I want no part of Washington’s offense until there is a culture change. I talked about the reasons I feel it could be a very poor unit in this piece. The Dolphins’ offense is also a group I’m not terribly interested in for fantasy purposes, at least for the short-term. If I were to collect any of their assets, I would be looking at cheap, back-end-of-the-roster guys that might have a future with the new regime, like Preston Williams.
Like Jason, I am avoiding Miami, Washington, and Arizona. Miami and Washington because of lack of talent. Arizona because it just looks like it has disaster written all over it. The worst offensive line protecting a rookie quarterback, a veteran receiver and a bunch of inexperienced guys. David Johnson is the only reason I hold out any hope here, the rest looks like is optimistic thinking at its best. Like Daniel, I would be looking at proven offenses where younger players are filling in holes. The perfect example is Pittsburgh following the departure of Antonio Brown and I suppose Le'Veon Bell.
There are offenses we know are good (Kansas City, New Orleans, Atlanta, New England, etc.) but that is already mostly baked into the dynasty values of their key players, so there isn’t an edge to be gained by buying specifically due to the offense. Arizona and Cleveland are teams that many expect to be very good and the hype has already driven up the dynasty values of their key pieces as well.
The real key is investing in offenses that are undervalued. Specifically, I am looking for teams that have more upside than the dynasty community may be giving them credit for. Here are a couple of potentially undervalued offenses I am investing in:
Carolina- The Panthers offense has only been slightly above average recently, finishing between 12th and 18th in offensive touchdowns each of the last three seasons. Their key offensive pieces are valued with that in mind. However, we aren’t so far removed (2015) from this being the league’s top-scoring offense. Injuries to Cam Newton, the offensive line, and key pass-catchers kept a potentially elite offense from reaching its full potential. The planets could be re-aligning for Carolina to re-emerge as a top-5 offense, which makes guys like Cam Newton and Curtis Samuel intriguing options who, even with some building hype, are still potentially undervalued.
Cincinnati- As with Carolina, the Bengals offenses have been in the middle of the pack in recent years. The Bengals have finished between 13th and 22nd in offensive touchdowns each of the last three seasons. Similar to the Panthers, it has been a string of bad injury luck at nearly every offensive position which has slowed things down. It wasn’t so long ago (2015) that the Bengals finished as a top-five scoring offense. With a new offensive coaching staff in place and real investment being made in the offensive line, this is an offense that could bounce back. If it does, Tyler Boyd is a player who is probably undervalued.
One of the teams I am staying away from is Miami. This season is basically just an extended tryout for future seasons when the team expects to actually compete. It is hard to feel confident about the long-term staying power of any player on the Dolphins offense.
How are you accounting for the potential holdouts of Melvin Gordon III and Ezekiel Elliott in dynasty leagues? Are you buying Pollard, Jackson, or Ekeler or investing in the stud amid the messy situation?
I'm intrigued by Justin Jackson and have him rostered in a few leagues already. Ekeler's price is already elevated, and his durability is a question, particularly in a dynasty setting. Pollard doesn't interest me, at all. Dallas raced to re-sign Alfred Morris at the first hint of Elliott's hold out, and I didn't love Pollard's college tape. Pollard is a special teams contributor at the NFL level, in my view.
I am not reacting much to the holdouts...yet. Both are different situations than Le'Veon Bell and with less clarity for the backup role than James Conner in Bell's case in 2018. Until Alfred Morris is not on the roster, he is my poker chip to be the 1A option if Elliott starts missing games. For the Chargers, Austin Ekeler is the better back than Justin Jackson and, even if Jackson sees more carries than Ekeler, I would bet on Ekeler to be the more impactful fantasy play.
There’s a very real chance that Melvin Gordon III could sit out this season. Gordon is friends with Todd Gurley and has compared himself to Gurley since entering the league. He was glad to see his friend get his massive payday and now wants the same type of deal. I am absolutely investing in Austin Eckler and Justin Jackson, who I believe will form a committee to replace Gordon should he decide to sit.
I am afraid of Elliott not so much from the standpoint of a holdout, but because he continues to make poor decisions outside of football. Though his most recent incident did not result in suspension, it shows me that he is still lacking in maturity and insight into his behavior. Is it possible that he grows to become a better person? Absolutely! Yet as a dynasty general manager, I must operate on the information that I have today. Today, Elliott has not shown signs of change and is an incredibly risky asset in my estimation. I’ve sold my shares and I won’t be buying again until I see some evidence that he “gets it.”
I can’t see the Melvin Gordon III situation resolving itself, but who knows? Maybe they can work out a deal. I don’t think Gordon is amongst the best 10 backs in the league and a lot of his output was thanks to volume rather than talent. If he lands on another team that commits to him, we can see. Until then Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are worth considering but lack talent.
A completely different situation is Ezekiel Elliott who may be one of the best backs in the league, is the teams' offense and is still young. Would not be considering any other Cowboys running back and Jerry Jones would sacrifice a lot to make sure Elliott stays in Dallas.
Where I have Melvin Gordon III, I am willing to move him if I can get 80 or 90 cents on the dollar compared to his pre-holdout valuation. I see a better than 50% chance that he misses a big chunk of this season, which is significant when considering how few prime years running backs typically enjoy. There are also much higher odds that Gordon is going to leave in free agency after the season. The Chargers have a very running back-friendly offense so the increased uncertainty about where Gordon will be in 2020 and beyond also slightly decreases my expectations regarding his long-term outlook.
With Ezekiel Elliott, I am not selling low at all. This feels like a deal that will get done and there isn’t too much reason for concern at this point. That being said, I do have increased interest in Tony Pollard. Even with an extended holdout unlikely, that outside chance has to be taken into account with Pollard. Plus, the training camp reports have been glowing enough that it is fair to expect Pollard to carve out a role similar to Giovani Bernard or Theo Riddick. He also looks like he would be a prime beneficiary of any Elliott injury, so he has handcuff value as well.
The two Chargers backs both get a solid boost in value. For as long as Gordon is away, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson have another opportunity to show that they can excel in a two-man committee in 2020 and beyond. They passed this test with flying colors over four games in 2018.
Last year, several quarterbacks stepped up to the fantasy QB1 status, who do you think makes the jump this year?
By definition, there are only 10 to 12 QB1s in a given season, so for someone to ascend, another has to drop out. I'm open to Lamar Jackson ascending because every quarterback in league history to run for 700+ yards has been a QB1, at least dating back 20 years. He doesn't have to be a great passer to be fantasy-relevant. But he does need to stay healthy.
Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and Jameis Winston are on my shortlist of undervalued quarterbacks for 2019 compared to their potential output. Winston is in a critical year to produce and surrounded by one of the best collections of weapons in the NFL. Murray has the trump card of his rushing ability and is hyper-accurate to boot. Prescott gets a full season with Amari Cooper, Jason Witten should help an anemic tight end group from last year, and Michael Gallup is a lid-lifting secondary option, plus Randall Cobb is an underrated bounce-back candidate.
The most likely candidate to make that leap is Lamar Jackson. He showed positive development in year one, despite the difficult circumstances in which he found himself. He looks to be showing the things you want to see in camp. Furthermore, as Footballguy Justin Howe brought to light in a recent Spotlight, his expected rushing production plus any uptick in passing production from last year will lead to a finish among the top options.
Generally, we should be looking at second, third or fourth-year quarterbacks, although rookies and older players can join this group in the right circumstances.
From the fourth-year group, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz have already established themselves, but surprisingly the only one from this group, Dak Prescott has finished as a QB1 in his first three seasons. Once again, he is expected to finish well out of the QB1 range.
In the third-year group, Patrick Mahomes II and Deshaun Watson are considered among the elite, but the highest-drafted in that year, Mitchell Trubisky is yet to reach this level. The Bears aren’t expected to make this happen in 2019, but he has shown glimpses.
The top candidate for me is Kyler Murray. With his rushing ability and arm talent in what should be an extremely fantasy-friendly offense, Murray is a player who could be valued right alongside Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson in dynasty in quick order. Baker Mayfield is also a strong candidate to make the jump, though he is already valued as if a major breakout is a foregone conclusion. Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold are also candidates to make a big leap. Jackson has a better chance of putting up QB1 numbers this season due to his rushing ability. His upside is through the roof. Darnold doesn’t have the same fantasy potential but is an even safer bet to emerge with QB1 dynasty value in Superflex leagues because he looks likely to solidify his status as a franchise passer and potential 15-year dynasty contributor.