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Each week, Footballguys staff members will share the big movers in their respective Dynasty Rankings. Since the contributors will rotate, please check in weekly. The focus of this article will be on the “why” more than the movement itself. Dynasty Rankings are fluid and we hope that sharing the rationale will help you in your quest to create dynasties with all of your teams. The diversity of rankings will result in a variety of opinions weekly.
Kirk Cousins - Kirk Cousins has grown steadily as the season has progressed. Over the last eight games he has been a top 10 fantasy quarterback, and has 16-3 TD-INT numbers in Weeks 7-15 compared to 6-8 TD-INT in Weeks 1-6. He has 4-0 TD-INT games in Weeks 10 and 15. It appears Cousins has a secure future in Washington for 2016 at least, and Robert Griffin will almost certainly be moving on. Cousins needs to be bumped up my rankings.
Matt Ryan - Along with the rest of the Falcons, Matt Ryan has struggled in the second half of 2015. He has only three touchdown passes in the last four games along with five interceptions. He hasn't had 300 yard passing in any of the last five games. He has had just a single 3 TD game all year. Moreover, he hasn't measured up to expectations for most of the season and his overall 18-15 TD-INT numbers don't cut it. Aside from Julio Jones his weapons are limited at both WR and TE, and with Roddy Smith another year older and Leonard Hankerson now released, it will have to become a priority in the offseason to get some quality pass catchers on the roster.
Johnny Manziel - There was nowhere for Manziel’s value to go but up after his bye-week partying saw him demoted to third-string in Cleveland. The past two weeks have gone much better than expected for dynasty owners who stuck with Manziel however. His on-field play has shown real signs of growth and is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Browns. Manziel has two more opportunities to show management that he should get another shot to lead the franchise in 2016 and optimism has to be higher than ever that he can get the job done after what he has done in recent weeks.
Devonta Freeman - After a blistering-hot start to the season, Freeman has cooled off considerably. In his last seven games, he has just one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown. Aside from his three-carry game against the Colts in which he suffered a concussion, Freeman has not topped 3.4 yards per carry in any game since November 1st. Over the same stretch of games, backup Tevin Coleman is averaging well over 5.0 yards per carry. It is hard to know exactly what to make of Freeman going forward. He still is heavily involved in the passing game and Coleman hasn’t yet eaten into his snaps or touches to any significant degree, but there is some real risk going forward with Freeman. Is he going to end up part of a committee with Coleman next season? If he holds onto the true lead back role, is the Falcons offensive line talented enough to produce a top fantasy back? Will a possible change at offensive coordinator lead to a new scheme that does not involve the backs as much in the passing game? Overall, there are way too many questions to rank Freeman as an elite dynasty asset at this time and his stock continues to fall.
David Johnson - David Johnson has taken advantage of Chris Johnson's injury in recent games and really exploded in Week 15 with 44.9 PPR fantasy points. In Weeks 13-15 he has a combined 472 total yards and four touchdowns. He has staked his claim to the starting job for the long term it looks like. He has a strong surrounding cast. The dynasty ranking arrow is definitely pointing up.
Melvin Gordon - Melvin Gordon was placed on injured reserve with knee cartilage damage on Monday 12/21, thus ending his rookie season with only 641 rushing yards and a YPC of 3.5, 192 yards receiving, and zero touchdowns rushing or receiving. Much more was of course expected of the 15th overall pick in this year's NFL draft. Part of the problem was the offensive line, but a lot of it seemed to be Gordon not ever looking comfortable hitting the hole and getting to the second level where he could show the big play ability he had in college. Pedigree gives a rookie like Gordon the benefit of the doubt for much of a rookie season, but it will take results in 2016 for me to rank him highly again. He needs to be moved down until I see those results.
Sammy Watkins - Once Sammy Watkins got past his nagging injuries and made noise to his coach and quarterback about being featured more, things really got going. Over the last half season he is the #5 fantasy receiver (PPG basis), showing why he was the first receiver and the 4th overall draft pick in 2014. Watkins has immense ability and now the stats are coming, and he looks to be a fixture in the top group of dynasty rankings for the foreseeable future.
Davante Adams - I'm not quite sure what has gone wrong with the Green Bay offense, nor are they sure. But it has now been going on long enough that a hard look must be taken, and Davante Adams is part of the problem. He was supposed to be the big stat replacement when Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL before the season, but Adams never lived up to those expectations. He was hurt for part of the season, but even when healthy he has disappointed. With just 115 yards receiving yards and one touchdown in the last five games, and many drops along the way, it has become clear he has lost the confidence of coach and quarterback. He has now taken a back seat to other WRs and TE Richard Rodgers in the pecking order. Jordy Nelson returns in 2016 to his former role with no concern that Adams will be pressing for some of his playing time. Adams is beginning to look like a possible second round bust.
Sammy Watkins - Talent has never been a major questions with Watkins, but there was a real concern as to whether he was the type of rare, elite talent who could transcend a horrible offensive scheme. Three things have happened to answer some of those questions: (1) Watkins has finally been healthy for a long stretch of games, (2) finally healthy, his elite talent has begun to shine through in a major way and (3) he has demanded more targets and is finally starting to see enough volume in the Buffalo passing game to transform into a fantasy difference-maker. In some ways, the genie is out of the bottle now and the Bills are going to have to feed Watkins the ball on a consistent basis. He has shown he is too good to ignore, even in a run-heavy offensive scheme. Watkins should sneak into the back end of the first round of startup drafts this offseason.
Dorial Green-Beckham - Green-Beckham has produced two 100-yard receiving games in his past three outings and is beginning to show flashes of the skills that led many respected evaluators to rank him as the top receiver talent in the 2015 draft class. The strong finish to the 2015 season is likely to cause Green-Beckham’s value to skyrocket this offseason as he will be a popular pick by many to become a breakout star in 2016. Every summer, we see the value of the sophomore class become inflated with everyone hoping to find the next Alshon Jeffery or Allen Robinson.
Josh Gordon - The window to buy low on Gordon is starting to close. He is eligible to apply for reinstatement in February and appears to have been able to keep his nose clean for almost a full calendar year. There will always be a serious risk of relapse and another failed test for the mercurial receiver, but the fact he has made it this far and remains on track to get back into the league has to be seen as a real positive. He has also stayed in touch with his teammates and not disappeared like Justin Blackmon and other banned stars whose stories ended sadly. If Gordon is able to return, he could quickly regain his status as one of the elite fantasy players in the game in a Cleveland offense that is starved for playmakers.
Gary Barnidge - I bumped Gary Barnidge up pretty significantly earlier this season, and wrote about him in this column, but wondered at the time just how much can you bump a 30 year old guy who has never performed anything like this before. Well, he is still trucking along and is currently the #3 fantasy tight end this season (PPR), plus he just signed a new 3-year contract extension. Good tight ends can be productive into their mid-30s if healthy. Barnidge deserves a top 10 dynasty ranking.
Ladarius Green - Antonio Gates has hinted that he plans to return in 2016. In this and previous years the standard line was that Ladarius Green was this immensely talented player who was simply blocked by Gates, but as he completes his 4th season in 2015, again with little to show for it (35-402-4 so far), and no real signs he is earning a big part of the offense, he needs to fall down the rankings. If he were truly special he wouldn't be blocked by Gates, there would have been a way found to feature him, and that just has never happened even though the receiving corps has been hit hard by injuries. Who knows if it ever will. I made a mistake in ranking him as highly as I have for so long on potential. Time is up.