We will be discussing various dynasty topics, including rookies and how to value youth versus experience.
Most have one of Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck at the top of the dynasty rankings. Do you have another quarterback ranked above these two? How do you rank the elite veterans (Manning, Brady, and Brees) in comparison? What is your strategy for dynasty leagues at the quarterback position?
Chad Parsons: I have Cam Newton second to Andrew Luck in my rankings. Aaron Rodgers is nearly even with Newton in my long-term values as Robert Griffin III III is right there in the fourth position. The quarterback position comes down to longevity and exactly how much of a difference in the short-term the older signal callers make for dynasty teams. My opinion is the small advantage in points-per-game a player like Drew Brees or Tom Brady MAY provide over a Luck, Newton, Griffin, etc. does not outweigh the additional dynasty market value and production of a player five or more years younger. In terms of startup Average Draft Position (ADP), Brady is in a similar range to Russell Wilson and Griffin. Considering equal costs today, Brady better greatly enhance a team's chance of winning a title in 2013 and 2014. Brady's value is sure to fade as he approaches 40 years old and Wilson and Griffin will still be in the their mid-20s. I will gladly sacrifice the potential that Brady outscores them in the near-term slightly for the long-term stability to be in the running to win many titles over the course of a decade. Traditional head-to-head fantasy playoffs are already a roll of the dice, regardless of the regular season dominance of the roster. I would rather invest my quarterback capital on a younger option that will keep me in the hunt for many years. In terms of the veteran options, Brees has the highest ceiling of the bunch and he is close to Matthew Stafford in my dynasty values. Brady and Manning are in the same tightly-bunched tier as low-QB1 options when incorporating their full timeline of potential value.
Heath Cummings: I'm an outlier at the quarterback position with Cam Newton #1 and Rodgers #2. This ranking doesn't have near as much to do with the fact that Newton is younger as it does with the fact that I expect Newton to be better in 2013. What he's done in two years from a fantasy perspective is unprecedented and we still haven't seen his best as a passer. The Big Three you mention above are quite the opposite, we likely have seen the best they have to offer, and it's doubtful they'll duplicate that again in 2013. I'm lower on all three than the consensus rankings and I believe that's because I use a longer window with quarterbacks than I do with any other position. Quarterback is the one position I'd like to "set it and forget it" and their longevity makes that possible as long as you get an elite one. Much like Chad said, even if one of these aging quarterbacks is better in 2013, it's unlikely they provide enough of a boost to make up for the fact that you'll be looking for another QB1 sooner rather than later.
Stephen Holloway: My rankings match consensus with Aaron Rodgers at QB1 and Andrew Luck QB2. Both of these two have enough athleticism to use their feet when they have to and are smart enough to avoid taking the punishment that most of the running quarterbacks endure. They also have command of the offense and I expect them to remain the focal point for the long term.
As for the elite veterans, I have them as Drew Brees (age 34) QB7, Tom Brady (age 36) QB8, and Peyton Manning (age 37) QB13. I think Brees is definitely a candidate to finish as QB1 for the next couple of years and being younger than the other two is ranked higher. I like Brady a little less based on the Patriot's injuries and influx of new receivers. As I write this, Peyton Manning seems more of a certainty to finish above Brady over the short term and even at his age might be the better choice in start-ups, particularly if he lasts much longer.
I really think that my dynasty quarterback strategy would be based on perceived value. I would much prefer to get one of the younger quarterbacks, but would definitely consider the elite veteran if I could continue to pick up value at other positions.
Jeff Pasquino: I think youth is an overrated attribute when it comes to quarterbacks. I have Drew Brees as my #2 dynasty quarterback and I would take him over anyone not named Rodgers. Even though he is 34, so what? The guy has been the #1 or #2 fantasy quarterback four of the past five years. That's 80% of the time you can count on him being one of the top two quarterbacks in all of fantasy - and he may be way out in front. The Saints throw the ball a ton, and Sean Payton is back at head coach. New Orleans has a stud tight end in Jimmy Graham, two strong options at wide receiver (Marques Colston, Lance Moore) and a solid scatback receiver in Darren Sproles. Throw in the fact that the Saints usually have both a bad defense and play in one of the highest scoring divisions with Atlanta and Carolina and you can count on the Saints scoring a bunch of points and racking up big fantasy numbers in the passing game practically every week. Brees has topped 40 touchdowns and 5,000 yards in each of the last two years, and I see him getting in that ballpark for the next two to three as well. I'll be glad to take Brees for the next four to five years as my starting fantasy quarterback and worry about replacing him after then.
Adam Harstad: Aaron Rodgers is the no-brainer #1 dynasty QB. He's never finished lower than 3rd at his position, and he should be able to easily play at least six more years. Sure, some of the other options are younger than he is, but any investment that requires at least six years before it starts giving positive returns is a dynasty investment I want nothing to do with. Many dynasty leagues will fold before some of these young quarterbacks start providing stronger value than Aaron Rodgers.
I don't have Andrew Luck at #2, though. In fact, I don't have him at #3, either. I would prefer both Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III III to Luck, simply because rushing production is the biggest trump in fantasy. Cam Newton has only been in the league for two years, but he already has two of the top 25 fantasy seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees are proof that you don't need to be the most prolific rusher to be a fantasy dynamo, but it certainly doesn't hurt. For instance, prior to his injury in 2005, Daunte Culpepper averaged 23.54 fantasy points per game for his career. To put that number into perspective, in Peyton Manning's fourteen seasons as a starting quarterback, he's only topped 23.54 fantasy points per game once, during his record-setting 2004 campaign. Since the year 2000, pocket passers have led the league in fantasy points per game just four times: Brees in 2012 and 2008, Brady in 2007, and Warner in 2001. Aaron Rodgers, who averages about 280 yards and 4 touchdowns rushing a year, led the league in points per game in 2011 and 2009. Peyton Manning has never managed to lead the league in fantasy points per game. Meanwhile, the pure scramblers have led the league in points per game a whopping seven times: three times by Culpepper (2004, 2003, and 2000), three times by McNabb (2006, 2005, and 2002), and once by Vick (2010). And this doesn't count the numerous other top 3 finishes by prolific runners such as Jeff Garcia and Steve McNair.
This isn't to completely ignore Andrew Luck's rushing ability. Luck is significantly more mobile than Tom Brady or Drew Brees, and can easily be as productive on the ground as Aaron Rodgers. This is simply meant to reinforce how much of an advantage huge rushing totals are for a fantasy quarterback. Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III will see more hits and probably miss a bit of time to injuries over the years, but I think they'll be such difference makers when they're in the lineup that I would prefer either of them to Andrew Luck in dynasty.
Sigmund Bloom: I have Griffin, Newton, and Brees ahead of Luck. Luck was actually very inconsistent game-to-game and within games last year. I believe he needs to grow more than Newton or Griffin does to be a consistent every-week QB1. Luck is also not as good of a running threat as Griffin or Newton. Brees is my #4 quarterback, as he is still in his prime and should get a bump with Sean Payton back. Manning is my QB10, and Brady my QB11, as they are both QB1's this year, but the inevitable erosion that comes with age could creep up at any time. Since they are hall of fame level players, perhaps it is smart to assume that father time will be gentler with them, but it is still not a great long-term dynasty position to have a starting quarterback who is over 35.
Which rookie(s) do you expect to make the biggest splash in 2013? Which rookie do you expect to be worth the most in dynasty leagues next offseason?
Chad Parsons: According to my projections, the rookies with the best chance to have productive value in lineups in 2013 are Montee Ball, Le'Veon Bell, and Tavon Austin. Coincidentally, they are three players I am not overly high on with a long-term lens. If they each have at least flex value as rookies, they may very well be valued higher than the fifth round startup range they are currently. Addressing the more interesting part of the question about the valuation of the rookies a year from now, many other factors are involved. Christine Michael interests me very much. I think he blazes past Robert Turbin as the primary backup in Seattle. What if Marshawn Lynch ages like the 28-year-old power back he will be next offseason? He will then be owed $16 million over 2014 and 2015. Michael then does not appear so "blocked" in his situation as he does today. What about Justin Hunter? Kenny Britt is in a contract year and has yet to put together any significant stretch of realizing his potential, healthy or otherwise. Jake Locker is also running out of chances to prove himself capable of running an NFL offense. Whether Locker improves or not, the quarterback situation cannot be much worse in Tennessee. I bring up Michael and Hunter because they are two affordable rookies that have high upsides if they hit. Rookies are all gambles in one capacity or another. Give me the ones that can be impact players if things come together.
A couple more names that are very intriguing to me if certain things happen in 2013 are E.J. Manuel and Latavius Murray. The Bills are building a speed-based offense around the highly-mobile Manuel. If that vision fully forms, it could be a Cam Newton-type situation where Manuel sees a rise from the current Round 12-13 range to top-50 overall. Is that the most likely outcome? No, but it is within the range of possibilities to make betting on Manuel with a second round rookie pick or mid-round startup pick worthwhile. Finally, Latavius Murray sits in an ideal position to become fantasy-viable early in his career: playing behind the set-your-watch-to-an-injury Darren McFadden in Oakland. My stance on Murray this offseason has not deviated: he has some physical similarities to Adrian Peterson (not the Chicago Bears one) as a prospect and landed before one of the most injury-riddled backs in the NFL. Murray's buzz is picking up steam, but is still very affordable in dynasty formats. With a string of starts at some point in 2013, Murray could be one of the hot young names that vaults up 2014 dynasty draft boards, a huge value boon for owners that invested a third round-level rookie pick this May or June.
Heath Cummings: I have Montee Ball and Eddie Lacy as my top rookie running backs in 2013, but I'm lower on both than the consensus rankings. Le'Veon Bell has the best opportunity in terms of competition, but I don't see him as a special talent and I'm down on the Steelers offense as a whole. I See DeAndre Hopkins and Tavon Austin as the best bets at receiver, with Austin being #1 in PPR formats. Hopkins is in a really good situation with all of the attention that will go Andre Johnson's way, and I also like his long term prospects as Johnson moves towards the end of his career. I really like Travis Kelce's opportunity in Kansas City. He has a chance to start right away at tight end on a team that is desperate for someone to be a #2 option in the passing game behind Dwayne Bowe. I expect Kelce will be the top rookie tight end in 2013 with borderline TE1 upside.
One name that I think will disappoint early this year, but may be huge in 2014 is Giovanni Bernard. I don't see the Bengals giving Bernard enough touches early in the season for him to be a contributor but I can't imagine BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be more than a short yardage back in 2014, if he's even on the team. Bernard's value is already high, but it should be the highest in the class heading into 2014.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with Chad and Heath again on Tavon Austin being one of the most productive rookies as I expect him to see abundant targets with the Rams hoping to develop a Percy Harvin type role for Austin. I think that both Montee Ball and Le'Veon Bell could have very productive rookie campaigns, particularly if Ball can learn how to protect Peyton Manning and if the Steelers have more success on offense that I expect.
The rookie that I expect to have the biggest jump in 2014 is Cordarrelle Patterson. I think that he could see a slow start this season as he gets acclimated to the NFL, but I see a huge jump for him in year two. Greg Jennings will be a great mentor for Patterson and the Viking offense will develop alternatives to Adrian Peterson left and Adrian Peterson right this year and next.
Jeff Pasquino: I tend to go along with the consensus here that we are either looking at Tavon Austin or a rookie running back for 2013. The QB position is rather meager from a rookie perspective, with just E.J. Manuel in Buffalo and Geno Smith with the Jets as possible starters (I am not counting Tyler Wilson in Oakland, sorry). Tight end could produce a sneaky name in Zach Ertz, Tyler Eifert, or even Travis Kelce, but odds are we are looking at wide receiver and running back. The easiest position for a first year player to hit the ground running is as a tailback, so talent plus opportunity will lead to your rookie stud for this year. That narrows my list to the situations in Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Denver. I believe that the Packers are going to try and establish a ground game to compliment Aaron Rodgers, but this is a passing team first until proven otherwise and I think Johnathan Franklin gets enough work and steals enough touches to limit the upside for Eddie Lacy. That leaves Le'Veon Bell with the Steelers and Montee Ball with the Broncos. Denver is going to throw quite a bit with Peyton Manning and three strong wide receivers, plus Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno will get some work (and pass blocking assignments to protect Manning).
All of that leaves me Bell in Pittsburgh. He has the clearest cut case to be the top rookie this season. With virtually no one behind him on the depth chart (Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are not much to write home about) and Pittsburgh being rather consistent in working their running backs into the offense. Over the past three seasons, the combined running backs have produced over 2,000 total yards for the Steelers. The problem has been finding a workhorse back to take 60% or more of that workload. That is what I think the Steelers believe that they have found in Bell, and they will work him as much as they can this season to get him around 1,000 yards rushing and another 200 or so as a receiver. If Bell racks up 1,200 total yards and finds the end zone 8-10 times this year, I expect him to finish in the Top 20 for fantasy running backs in 2013, especially with the lack of feature tailbacks in today's NFL.
To answer the second part of the question, I think that the guy with the most upside and value after the 2013 season will probably be a rookie that gets hurt and is minimized for 2013. Sad to say that but that's how it often goes. Injury discussions aside, we are looking for someone who will be stuck behind a guy on the depth chart and go relatively unnoticed but may have a breakout next year. That sounds like Markus Wheaton in Pittsburgh, who may be the WR3 at best behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders this year - but Sanders may not be back for Pittsburgh in 2014, paving the way for Wheaton to start next year.
Two other names to watch will be Marcus Lattimore in San Francisco and Joseph Randle in Dallas. If Frank Gore starts to really fall off of the proverbial cliff and not be productive after this year, and if Lattimore can get back to full strength and return to health for next year, he could be poised to push for the lead back role for the 49ers next year. Randle should win the backup tailback job for the Cowboys, and DeMarco Murray is far from a stranger to the injury report. Murray has a favorable contract number for next year but that's his last season under contract with Dallas, so Randle may get a bigger role next year if Murray isn't the long term answer.
Jason Wood: I wish I could veer from consensus but alas, I too rate Lacy, Ball and Bell as key contributors this year. If Ball wasn't dealing with an equally talented Ronnie Hillman and John Fox' distrust of rookies I could see buying into him as a high end RB2, but for now I'm content to put him as a low end RB2, ideal flex. I believe Bell can and will be the starter from Day One, and reestablish Pittsburgh's ground game. Where I'll differ from my colleagues is on the WR front. I'm optimistic about Austin certainly, but I think the rookie WR I'm most excited about is DeAndre Hopkins in Houston. The Texans have been DESPERATE for a worthy counterpart to Andre Johnson and have finally found him. Hopkins is a mature player, runs crisp routes and is NFL-ready.
Sigmund Bloom: Tavon Austin could easily be a 80- to 90-catch player this season that debuts as a WR2 in PPR leagues, and he is the best bet to be the biggest impact wide receiver, but Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy, and Le'Veon Bell will go ahead of him in redraft leagues. They all have great potential value in theory, but only Bell seems to clear path to dominate touches in his backfield, and the Steelers have been reluctant to use rookies heavily early in their careers. Whichever one of those three backs (or Gio Bernard) that comes out of 2013 the strongest will be the most valuable 2013 rookie next offseason, and I expect that to be Bernard.
James Brimacombe: It is Giovani Bernard for me. Sure both Bell and Ball may have better opportunities in place for them currently heading into the year but Bernard has the talent and is on a rising offensive team in the Bengals who are looking more and more like they are going all in for Dalton and giving him additional weapons. I am not scared of BenJarvus Green-Ellis stealing carries, as I feel Bernard has more to offer this offense in the passing game and on the outside stretching the field. I like the comparisons to both Ray Rice and Brian Westbrook for Bernard, but I also think he could have a similar season to what Doug Martin had last year as a rookie for the Bucs. Entering his rookie season Martin had LeGarrette Blount as his competition and beat him rather easily, I am not saying Green-Ellis is in the same category as Blount but I think Bernard will have every opportunity at winning the starting job before the season even starts.
Chad Parsons: I have a tier of five wide receivers that are closely valued in dynasty. In addition to Johnson, Green, and Jones, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas are in the mix. My argument for actually having Johnson fifth in that group is that the other four are on a similar career path to early years Calvin Johnson and have the benefit of two-to-three additional years of a production window. All five receivers are gone by the middle of the second round in startups right now, but what happens in two years when Johnson is staring at 30 years old?
The dynasty community is a fickle bunch and Johnson's market value will start to show cracks in his immortal stature. Maybe it is down to a mid-to-late second round pick, maybe more. As a general example, Andre Johnson was a top-15 startup pick until he hit 30 years old. Since, he was 27 overall last year and 39 this offseason. In that scenario two years from now, the other four horses will be in the 26-27 year-old range and still chugging along. Those differences are just enough to move Johnson down on my board, especially when considering in a startup an owner can trade out of the top-5 picks (where Johnson would be drafted) for additional value and still get one of the other studs in the late first or early second round.
Heath Cummings: For me, Dez Bryant is a very close fourth and that's the end of my first tier. For all the heat he's taken, Bryant's career has developed just about like we'd expect an elite receiver to develop and he looks like he should have several years of dominance in front of him. There's quite a logjam in my second tier, but Brandon Marshall and Percy Harvin would be next on the list. Both players' rankings are a reflection of the fact that our dynasty rankings are based on PPR scoring, as I expect Demaryius Thomas to see a reduction of targets with Wes Welker in town. Harvin could be a PPR monster in Seattle on an offense that should be one of the best in the league.
It's a statement about the depth at receiver that there are so many good answers to this question, as I expect Dez Bryant to be the only consensus answer. In my personal projections there is a 13% dropoff from Bryant to Marshall, and less than 10% separating the next eight receivers.
Stephen Holloway: I agree with Chad and Heath on Dez Bryant being in that next set of three, for me he is WR5 and the only thing that slides him down from the top three is his questionable attitude. In the end though, talent wins out and that is evidenced by my other two wide receivers at WR4 and WR6 which are Brandon Marshall and Hakeem Nicks. Marshall is close to a consensus pick here along with Bryant, but Nicks is my outlier choice as only two other staffers have him in the top ten. I just think that he has the highest potential of this group to compete for the top wide receiver on a year to year basis. He has yet to play all 16 games in a season and that is the biggest knock that most people have on Nicks. This is definitely a huge year for him, coming off his worst season and entering free agency, unless he signs a long-term deal. Most of the questions on Nicks should be answered in 2013.
Adam Harstad: In my opinion, I don't think Julio has earned a place as a "no-brainer" top 3 dynasty receiver. Johnson and Green are my clear top two, but after that there's a wide-open competition for the WR3 spot. I currently have Percy Harvin occupying that position; my favorite stat of the offseason is that in Harvin's last 16 games, he has 112 receptions, 1492 offensive yards, 11 offensive TDs, and an extra kickoff return for a score. It seems like Harvin has been around forever, but he's only a year older than Jones. Also, unlike Jones, Harvin has answered all of the questions I could ask. We know he can handle being the focal point of the offense. We know he can shine with terrible QB play. He shined as a deep threat in his rookie season with Brett Favre. He's the best receiver in the league with the ball in his hands. He already holds the record for most career rushing yards by a wide receiver. Pete Carroll sounds like a kid on Christmas whenever he mentions the dozens of ways he can use his new toy.
Rounding out my top 5 are Dez Bryant and Julio Jones. Dez would have made it to the top 3 if not for his red flags off the field. He's simply a dominant talent who still has plenty of room to improve, and his quarterback is locked in long-term, ensuring him situational stability going forward. Julio "falls" to fifth because I have minor worries about what he might look like once Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White are no longer around to keep defenses honest. Finally, Brandon Marshall comes in at number 6. The season he had last year was absolutely amazing, and for my money, more impressive than Calvin Johnson's. Johnson put up eye-popping statistics on a 4-12 team that shattered the NFL record for pass attempts and which had nothing to play for except helping Johnson chase records. Marshall put up 1,500 yards on a 10-6 team that ranked 27th in passing attempts and was in the playoff hunt until the very end of the season. If Marshall were two years younger, he'd join Calvin in my top 3. Instead, he's 29 years old, and I rank him 6th under the assumption that he has four of five elite years left in him.
Jeff Pasquino: My "next three" after Calvin, Julio and AJ are Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant and a new entry to this discussion - Larry Fitzgerald. I, for one, tend to lower the impact of age, as I tend to look at 3-4 years for my valuation of players in Dynasty. That may sound strange to some, but consider how much change the NFL sees year over year. In 3-4 years, a player may be on a different team or have a new quarterback, coach, offensive scheme, or have some other big outside force that changes their value. That's why I give the coming 3-4 years the most value, and use youth as a next level tiebreaker if I have two or more players at about the same value.
Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall have been discussed quite a bit by the rest of the guys, so I am going to focus on the inclusion of Fitzgerald and a few knocks on the other players that my fellow staffers are ranking in their own Top 6 lists. Fitzgerald is a stud wide receiver, plain and simple, and he is coming off of the worst year he has ever had - thanks mostly to the atrocious state of the quarterback and the offense for Arizona in 2012. Fitzgerald has been a Top 5 fantasy wide receiver for four of the past six seasons, with just 2010 (16) and 2012 (42) being the outliers. The common thread for both seasons was the terrible state of the quarterback for the Cardinals - last year Arizona threw out Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, while three years ago it was Skelton and Derek Anderson under center. It is no wonder that Fitzgerald saw a drop in production both years. Now with Carson Palmer, I expect Fitzgerald to return to Top 10 status once again with Top 5 upside - the only limitation from assuring him a Top 5 finish this year is the improvement overall for the NFL pool of WR1 options. Even with Fitzgerald turning 30 this year on August 31st, I see at last four years and possibly more from him as a solid fantasy WR with WR1 fantasy upside over the next 2-3 seasons.
Now, as far as Demaryius Thomas, I agree with Heath that he will see less targets and that will limit his upside. I cannot rank Hakeem Nicks in the Top 6 because of his health history and fellow teammate Victor Cruz challenging for both targets and big plays / touchdowns on the same club. While Adam puts up great numbers on Percy Harvin, he is on a new team so that will take some adjustment, plus Harvin carries a similar injury risk. I have Thomas at 12, Nicks at 15 and Harvin at 9, respectively - all solid choices, but about a tier or so below my Top 5.
All have the best parts of their prime ahead of them. Bryant has overcome early character and inconsistency issues, and Thomas has overcome early durability issues. Cobb is just scratching the surface of his fantasy potential and he has maybe the best quarterback in the game, in the middle of his prime, throwing to him. Other wide receivers like Brandon Marshall may offer a little more this year, but that trio has the ability to get to Marshall's level and stay there for a long time.
For many, the Rob Gronkowski injury has propelled Jimmy Graham to the unquestioned TE1 status. If Graham is not your top-ranked tight end, who is and why? How far down the rankings did/will you move Gronkowski? Lastly, what is your advice for Gronkowski owners (buy/sell/sold/who to acquire until he comes back)?
Chad Parsons: Gronkowski has remained the top tight end on my dynasty board through this offseason. Tight ends are historically one of the most consistent fantasy positions year-to-year, basically if a player is good, they remain good for a while. Both Graham and Gronkowski are good. In addition, they both have great older quarterbacks for the time being. Both have similar ceilings of production on an annual basis and a very safe points-per-game floor. The main difference is Graham will be 27 years old before the end of the 2013 season, two-and-a-half years older than Gronkowski. I am not reacting to the injury concerns through my rankings at this time in redraft or dynasty formats with Gronkowski. Until it becomes a chronic issue and leads to a pattern of missing games over a significant stretch, Gronkowski is an elite dynasty asset and should be valued as such. The discount being applied to Gronkowski is far too much for my taste. One final note about the pair, Graham is in a contract year in 2013 (even though it would be unlikely for him to hit the open market), while Gronkowski has been locked up to a long-term deal through 2019.
Heath Cummings: I'm a little more skittish about Gronkowski's long term future than Chad is. While he's right about the consistency of tight ends, it's also a position that can have a very short career arc at times, Tony Gonzalez excluded of course. Gronkowski is going to continue to take a beating, and that's why his back is much more worrisome to me than the arm issue. Also, I think the age of his quarterback is a solid point to bring up, and there is no telling where is value goes once Brady starts to inevitably decline. That being said, now is not the time to sell with Gronkowski. He's going to get healthy at some point this year and history tells us once he does he's going to be dominant. When he's healthy and dominant is when dynasty owners are really going to have a decision to make.
Stephen Holloway: I have Graham ranked TE1 and Gronkowski TE2, so I didn't see a drastic reduction for him. I agree with Chad about the staying power of the position and both of these guys have a great combination of athleticism, speed, power and will that should keep them near the top at tight end production for a while. It is always challenging to me to guide other owners on whether to buy/sell/hold on a particular player as that decision is based as much on their roster's make up and ability to win now and also the team that you are considering as a trading partner, as it is the particular player. I would lean though on being a buyer on Gronkowski as I expect him to recover fairly quickly and his cost will once again rise immediately. As to replacing him over the short term, a few guys that I like better than consensus and should be fairly inexpensive acquisitions are Brandon Pettigrew, Owen Daniels, and Dustin Keller.
Adam Harstad: It took until the latest round of injury updates for me to finally drop Gronkowski down from my #1 tight end in redraft, where each game he potentially misses counts as 1/13th of the entire regular season. It'll take a lot more than the threat of missing time to drop him down in my Dynasty rankings, where each game he potentially misses might only count as 1/100th or less of his remaining career. The idea that tight ends typically don't age as well as wide receivers is going to be tested in the years to come, as the league's new wave of elite pass-catching tight ends starts to turn 30. Shannon Sharpe and Tony Gonzalez both held up very well to the ravages of time. Jason Witten will be the next to see the wrong side of 30, and I suspect we'll be debating when he'll begin to decline for years to come. In the meantime, it's worth pointing out that while Graham has a cleaner bill of health than Gronkowski, Gronkowski remains two and a half years Graham's junior, so the idea that tight ends have shorter careers than wide receivers cuts both ways.
I'm a big believer in the power of modern medicine. I believe that while his total surgery tally this offseason seems terrifying, most of those were due to relatively common medical complications that have no bearing on Gronkowski's "injury proneness". I also believe that Gronkowski has been so far ahead of even Jimmy Graham over the last two years that he's worth a bit of risk. I know I'm way outside the consensus, but I think Rob Gronkowski is a no-brainer top 10 player in dynasty, regardless of position, and anyone who does not own him should be doing everything in their power to acquire him while this brief window remains open. When he's healthy, he's basically A.J. Green, except with TE eligibility. If he had stayed healthy and continued producing at his pre-injury pace last year, Gronkowski would have more VBD over the last two years than anyone except for Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady.
In general, I disagree with the aphorism that you cannot win your league in the first round, but you can lose it. Typically, winning your league requires getting huge VBD totals. Those totals can come from any round, from the first to the last, all that matters is that you get them from somewhere. Rob Gronkowski is the kind of guy who can get you a huge portion of the way to your VBD goals. Rob Gronkowski is the kind of guy who can win you leagues. The fact that he's only 24 years old is just the icing on the cake. That kind of combination of youth and production is very rare, and it's well worth a bit of risk.
Jeff Haseley: I agree with what Adam said. Chances are Greg Olsen or Jared Cook or any other mid-ranged TE1 won't have the production to win you a championship. However Rob Gronkowski does and that's what ultimately matters. I am of the belief that he will be productive games for the Patriots sometime in September. The arm should be fully healed and his back will be right at the point where it can be back to 100%. He may miss a game or two, but I fully expect to see the young, energetic Gronkowski playing quality football for the majority of the season and beyond. Unless there is a legitimate setback, the Patriots would be ill-advised to place him on the physically unable to perform list to begin the season. As for the comparison to Jimmy Graham, I'd still put Gronkowski as the number one dynasty tight end, simply due to his end zone efficiency. If there's a 1a and 1b ranking, Gronkowski is always the 1a, in my opinion.
Jeff Pasquino: I think tight end is a rather deep position right now in the NFL, and it is getting deeper, but the elite value at the top of the chart is hard to come by. With that said, I have 4-5 names at the top of my list (Graham #1, Jason Witten #2, Gronkowski #3, Vernon Davis #4, Aaron Hernandez (until we know more about the outcome of his legal issues) #5, that I think are the cream of the current crop. All of them aside from Witten are under 30 (Witten is 31) and either have a stud quarterback or a strong case for fantasy production.
This all comes down to personal preferences to me. Right now, I would have started to consider Hernandez more than Gronkowski, with Gronk's back injury woes, if not for the legal issues hanging over his head. Sure Gronk is a dominant player when he plays - but when he doesn't he has zero value. In fact, he's a negative because he's chewing up valuable roster space. Throw in the fact that Tom Brady may only have 4-5 more seasons at best left in the tank and I can see people really going after Jimmy Graham as their top tight end for the next five seasons. Now that Hernandez is having legal issues (to say the least), I am not sure how far I'd drop Gronkowski down the list. I could have seen him at fourth or fifth overall after Davis and Hernandez, but with all things considered I probably would hold him at three. So with all that said, if you love Gronkowski and see nothing but a positive trend after he gets healthy, by all means go out and make a trade for him - but buyer beware. I would definitely be stockpiling young tight ends behind him on my fantasy bench if I was a Gronkowski owner for fear that the end of his career comes up rather quickly and unexpectedly.
Sigmund Bloom: You have to hold Gronk if you own him. Most indications are that this back surgery is "minor" (if there is such a thing), and the Patriots personnel moves don't give an impression that they are worried about his long term future. I've only moved him down to #2, as he is maybe the most valuable player in fantasy when healthy, and he's only 24. Even if his career is shortened so that he only plays five more years, he easily presents more value than any other tight end not named Jimmy Graham, now that Aaron Hernandez is in legal hot water.
Chad Parsons: I have no problems acquiring older running backs that can provide top-15 or higher production in the short-term as a whole. The issues I have with this type of move is first off the cost. Many dynasty owners throw around something like a current or future first round rookie pick. I would not make moves like that for a back like Steven Jackson or Frank Gore as two examples. That type of investment really dials up the pressure on the dynasty owner to sell out going into that year or in-season for other declining assets to bolster their short-term chances. That cascade effect can be really detrimental to the long-term health and viability to a dynasty franchise. I would rather draft well, identify undervalued ascending assets, and bolster a roster from the bottom up, where a plays like a Frank Gore heading into 2013 are not part of the plan. That said, if a rebuilding team falls out of the playoff hunt and is willing to part with a productive older player for a discount using non-premium assets, then that type of move is absolutely fine.
Jeff Pasquino: One point I would argue against Chad is that I think Dynasty team owners overvalue first round picks. Every year you waste with a Dynasty team (meaning you are not willing to trade a rookie pick to save it), your entire roster ages by a full year. So when you decide to hold on to a first rounder, your resulting team may have a better prospect but the rest of your roster is one year closer to retirement. Plus, if you really want a first rounder next year, that is something you can go and seek in a deal (or trade something else for a player like Steven Jackson). As an example, some thought I was crazy in a league where I gave up a first for Peyton Manning two years ago, but I needed a top notch QB, Peyton's value was at a "local minimum", and my team moved into contention immediately after having a true QB1 on the roster. Sometimes bold moves are rewarded.
Heath Cummings: I agree with Chad completely here, it's all about what you're giving up. If you think you're one player away and you want to over pay, that's one thing, but it's really important that you value these types of backs based on what they'll likely be in 2013 and beyond, and not what they've been in the past. Running back is the most likely position for a player to simply fall off a cliff in terms of production, even after a productive year, once they approach the end of their career arc. I'd rather "rent" at just about any other position.
Jeff Pasquino: If a guy is a starter-quality player, even on the downside of his career, I will gladly go out and get him. Usually they are cheap acquisitions as their fantasy owners see the downside instead of the upside. I'd gladly give up an unknown or unproven asset like a rookie pick for the chance to get a veteran startable player who is both a proven commodity and may have more tread than expected. Sometimes it is better to hope for one more year left from a veteran player than to assume the his value will fall off the table. For Steven Jackson, I love his upside this year with a new team and a strong offense (especially in the passing game) to revitalize and re-energize him not just this year but maybe for a few years to come. I'd be less motivated to go and get Gore as he has started to fade more and has more players on the 49ers to compete with him for touches, but with San Francisco losing Michael Crabtree this season he could have one more big season in 2013. I would pay more to get Jackson than Gore.
Stephen Holloway: I agree somewhat with Jeff in that I would be willing to consider trading future assets for more certainty now, even if it is for a short time frame, like two years. I think this perspective is peculiar to the running back position because of the lack of career longevity combined with the lack of three-down running backs in today's NFL. The importance and potential willingness to pay appropriately for the acquisition would be particularly driven by a roster need of a second or third productive running back.
Sigmund Bloom: Err on the side of doing it. I have Jackson as a low RB1 and Gore as a strong RB2 this year, which rates out to second round value in a redraft league. Imagine being able to get an extra second round pick in a redraft league and what advantage that would give you. I would be willing to part with a late first if my team was in a championship window. While it is great to have a lot of young talent on your roster, the name of the game is still winning championships.