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We have come to close of another redraft season, but for dynasty owners (and NFL teams), the season never really ends. It’s time to make your shopping list of players to target as we get further from the season and perspective on the commodity that the player represents gets more removed from how they actually played this season. Season-end stats can skew valuations of players, so this is your chance to take advantage of that slippage.
Offseason Buy Lows
Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE - Gronkowski is thought of an injury-prone player and a guy with too much mileage to be the elite player we’ve watched him become for much longer. He doesn’t have a history of knee injuries, and he is only 24. It took him less than six months to get back to dominance after back surgery this summer. Gronk is one of the true trump cards in fantasy football. Pester his owner until you get a bottom line price. If it’s anything less than a top 10 overall player, pounce.
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL - Smith is still dealing with being the only quality game in town in the Ravens passing game, but his ceiling is extremely high as a 24-year-old receiver who is continuing to add route-running and advanced ball skills to an established deep threat game. He has a quarterback with no conscience who will give him chances to make plays downfield. A long stretch of WR1 years is ahead of Smith. Think Vincent Jackson.
C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF - Spiller has been playing through a high ankle sprain for most of the season. Each time he has had a week off, he has responded with a huge week. The 2012 elite Spiller is the real Spiller, and smart owners will chalk this down year up to an injury. See if his owner is smart via some probing trade offers this offseason.
Marvin Jones, WR, CIN - Though he failed to keep the momentum from his four-score game going, Jones’ talents are real, and he fits the profile of a player who just needs more opportunity to become an everyweek fantasy starter. Although there are obstacles in his path that could indefinitely delay that increased opportunity, in general it is better to bet on talent eventually creating opportunity in dynasty leagues.
Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE - Speaking of talent, Cameron is only looking up at Gronk, Graham, and maybe Vernon Davis among pass-catching tight ends. The Browns quarterback carousel and Josh Gordon show short-circuited his breakout for now, but Cameron best years lie ahead. He’s one of the few tight ends that would make me feel like the position is settled for my team long term.
Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ - Ivory is still only 25, he has actually stayed healthy (and looked as talented as he did in New Orleans) in the second half of the year, and the Jets offense can not possibly get any worse. If he is available for throw-in prices, you’d be smart to park him on your bench for 2014 and see what happens.
Markus Wheaton, WR, PIT - Wheaton had his rookie year sidelined by injury and healthy, good play by Emmanuel Sanders, but Sanders is a free agent, and the Steelers are in a bad cap situation. Look for him to start and become an outstanding deep threat in 2014.
Michael Floyd, WR, ARI - Floyd was almost as impressive as second-year breakout wide receivers Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery at times, but the limitations of the Cardinals pass offense and late-season injuries deflated his stats. He has a very bright future and could be the next “it” wide receiver of fantasy football if the Cardinals get the offensive line settled.
Jordy Nelson, WR, GB - Nelson’s 2013 numbers are a big disappointment, but it’s not his fault. He is still playing at an extremely high level, and he’ll be back to WR1 status as soon as Aaron Rodgers is back. Foolish owners may look at the 29-year-old and think he is at the end of prime years, when in reality he should be very good well into his 30s.
Victor Cruz, WR, NYG - Cruz, like the rest of the Giants, endured a disastrous season with resulting poor numbers across the board. As long as the team gets out of the doldrums in 2014, he’ll be back among the top 12-15 fantasy wide receivers.
Matt Ryan, QB, ATL, Roddy White, WR, ATL - The Falcons were the NFC’s biggest underachievers this year, so it follows that Ryan and White (who like CJ Spiller played hurt most of the season) are also below their real value right now. I am loathe to trade for quarterbacks as the position becomes less valuable, but if Ryan is available for a reasonable price and the cupboard is empty at quarterback, he’s worth a look. If White’s owner is looking to rebuild, the 32-year old should be available for a song. Usually elite wide receivers can still produce until their mid-30s, so age shouldn’t be as big of a drag on White’s dynasty value as it likely will be this offseason.
Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN - 2014 will be the offseason of workload concerns for Peterson. Some will predict that his best days are clearly behind him because of mounting injuries, mileage, and age. It is certainly possible that is true, but it is also possible that Peterson will continue to defy all reasonable expectations of a human being playing running back in the NFL. Unless you are selling the farm to get him, trading for Peterson in dynasty leagues this offseason will likely be profitable.
Christine Michael, RB, SEA - Hopefully the uneventful season for Michael will cause his owners to forget how dominant he was in the preseason. Chances are his owners will have a vise grip on Michael, but if that grip loosens, you might be able to acquire the back who has a legitimate chance to be a fantasy cornerstone top five running back once he gets his shot. I would happily give up a late 2014 first for him.
Vincent Jackson, WR, TB - Jackson is a target if he is on a rebuilding team. At age 31, he might be seen as a commodity to move on from before the bottom drops out, but the reality is that Jackson produced through injuries and tons of team turmoil, showing that he is still playing at the highest level he has played at in his entire career.
DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL - Murray’s yards per carry tells the story of a back who is about to enter his prime and put up the best numbers of his career. His cumulative yards tell the story of a team that couldn’t commit to the run even when every sign the universe gave them was urging them to do it. While Murray failed to play in 16 games this year, he is leaving the injury prone label behind him with only two missed games.
Kenny Britt, WR, TEN - Britt is a longshot coming off of a lost season and potentially shot knees, but he has flashed truly transcendent talent in the past, and he is still only 25. If he lands in the right organization, he could have a revival, and if that happens, the sky is the limit, assuming good health and decisions off of the field. You might scoff that assumption, but the payoff will be massive if you can get Britt at penny stock prices.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, PIT - Yards per carry folks will hate Bell when they stare at his 2013 numbers for too long. Let that be an opening to try to get this long-term three-down feature back. The Steelers offensive line will eventually end their streak of terrible injury luck, and Bell should benefit from a healthy offseason and camp this time around. I wasn’t a fan when the team took him in the second round, but he has ended up being an excellent fit.
Mike Wallace, WR, MIA - Wallace’s year-end numbers will paint him as a disappointment in 2013, but they will also mask a second-half of the season that saw better chemistry between him and Ryan Tannehill, and run of WR1 weeks down the stretch that helped his owners immensely.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC - Bowe’s 2013 was like the Hindenburg for his owners, but quality receivers like Bowe don’t turn bad overnight. His interest and execution have been inconsistent, but in general it is better to bet on the bounce back of receivers like Bowe after a season like his 2013 than it is to bet on it as the new norm.
Offseason Buy Low and Sell High
Nick Foles, QB, PHI - Before you get mad at me for playing both sides of the fence, hear me out. It is a good time to sell Foles if you have another strong fantasy quarterback. You’ll get QB1 value and there’s always a risk that Foles will see competition eventually in the way of a more athletic quarterback. Quarterback is the easiest position to fix, so if someone will really give elite QB1 value for him, I would trade Foles even if I had nothing behind him. On the other hand, some might doubt the staying power of Foles and Kelly, and they may give him up for too little, such as a non-elite prospect or a package of picks that doesn’t a premium pick. Whether you own Foles or not, the market for his services should be volatile and very compelling to watch this offseason.
Offseason Sell Highs
Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS - Cousins didn’t look that great against Atlanta, but the defense was worse. If he finishes strong, it will be more due to the Cowboys and Giants defenses than his status as a budding QB1. As you’ll see, I am a big fan of unspooling the trade value in your quarterbacks this offseason.
Ben Tate, RB, FA - Tate flashed against the Patriots, but otherwise injuries deprived him of a chance to really impress as he enters free agency next year. There will be a glut of good backs, so don’t surprised if Tate doesn’t fare much better than Michael Bush did two years ago.
Eric Decker, WR, FA - Decker’s year-end numbers will look great, but they will hide his inconsistency. His offseason free agent contract will be lucrative, but it will be because he is the marquee name in a weak class. Without the Peyton Manning offense, he is going to be a dicey weekly play, especially if he is facing his opponent’s #1 corner. There’s always a chance that the Broncos bring him back, but they have a ton of players to pay this offseason, and the passing game is not the area in need of investment.
Harry Douglas, WR, ATL - Douglas will have his first 1,000-yard season this year, but he is Nate Washington at best. Get what you can for him.
Rashad Jennings, RB, FA - Jennings has played the best football of his career, but as a 29-year old back entering next season in that same crowded free agent running back market, he is more likely to lose than gain value in the offseason. It is possible that the Raiders could bring him back to pair up with Latavius Murray, but if that doesn’t happen, he’ll enter the season as a second fiddle in an RBBC at best.
Andrew Luck, QB, IND - Hopefully the owner(s) in your league with a Luck fetish haven’t been too discouraged by his choppy 2013. Of course, a change from offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and more development could bring better numbers, but the reality is that quarterback is the least essential fantasy position. If you can get anything approaching the top 25-50 overall player value he had before the season, do it.
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN - Dalton will have 4,000+ yards and 30+ touchdowns when the season is over, but those numbers are pedestrian at fantasy quarterback these days. Dalton’s stat line will cover up for a season that saw him put up elite numbers in easy matchups and terrible numbers in tough matchups. He is not going to get the Bengals to a Super Bowl, and he’s not an answer for your fantasy team, either. I’d happily take a pick or mid-round prospect for him.
Philip Rivers, QB, SD - Rivers is back to having a very impressive line featuring that 4000/30 combo, but he hasn’t been as essential to the offense since Ryan Mathews has emerged. He’ll be a safe QB1 for a few more years at least, but that kind of production at quarterback is far from difficult to come by.
Alex Smith, QB, KC - Smith will have a good year-end stat line that will create an impression of consistent, low-end QB1 fantasy play. And while he has mostly provided that, some of his stats are counterfeited by Jamaal Charles’ game last week and an offense that is the essence of playing it safe. Smith has had the best year of his career both in fantasy and real terms, and there is always the chance that he blossoms for fantasy if circumstances cause the offense to open up, but I would rather cash in his modest value this offseason than wait around for that.
Cam Newton, QB, CAR - Newton’s numbers are going to come in below the elite QB1 levels he set in his first and second year, but I’m not telling you to sell high because I think that his 2013 is his new mean. It is more than waning value of quarterback as a fantasy position and Newton’s likely inability to shake a choppy week-to-week profile because of the nature of his game and team. If you can get elite quarterback value for him in a trade this offseason, make it happen.
Offseason Stash Tight Ends
Perhaps it is because I play in a handful of tight end premium leagues, but I spend way too much time putting tight end prospects under the microscope. These players are listed in order of preference.
Dwayne Allen, IND / Travis Kelce, KC / Ladarius Green, SD - Allen and Kelce were two of my favorites going into the season. Injuries stole their 2013 from them, so hopefully that equals a discount this offseason in the trade market. Green was an intriguing size/speed prospect, but no one could have imagined he was translate in such a striking way entering the season. He looks like a future passing game centerpiece.
Luke Willson, SEA - Willson is fluid and athletic, and he plays with Russell Wilson. Zach Miller will limit his value for the time being, but a run of mid-low TE1 seasons might be in Willson's future.
Joseph Fauria, DET - Fauria has a real shot to add solid fantasy numbers to his array of end zone dances. He already has been able to carve out a big red zone role despite playing on the same team as Calvin Johnson.
Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless, GB - Jermichael Finley may never see a football field again, and the conservative Packers staff certainly won’t endorse the idea of the team bringing him back. Bostick is high-end talent, although Quarless is no slouch and he is playing well down the stretch. Both are worth stashing in deep leagues and TE premium leagues to see if they take over next year.
Fred Davis, FA - Davis has dropped off of the face of the fantasy earth, but he can redeem himself on a new team two years removed from an achilles tear. Watch the free agent market for him as a good clue on when to pounce on the waiver wire.
Adrien Robinson, NYG - Robinson has been on the active roster all year despite not being healthy enough to play. That sounds suspiciously like the way the Broncos treated Julius Thomas the last two years. While Robinson is set up to play with the wrong Manning brother and he’s far from the natural passcatcher that Thomas is, Robinson also drew “Jason Pierre-Paul of tight ends” comparisons from Jerry Reese and the Giants took him in the fourth despite a very limited body of work in college.
Ryan Griffin, HOU - Griffin might be more talented than Garrett Graham, and he is getting a chance to show that in late-season duty while Graham is out. He could impress the new regime next offseason and move up the depth chart very quickly.
Chris Gragg, BUF - Gragg is a former wide receiver who still has the speed and agility to resemble a wide receiver on the field. The Bills aren’t exactly fertile ground for fantasy passcatchers, but Gragg’s talent could be hard to ignore if he gets an opportunity next year.
Zach Sudfeld, NYJ - Sudfeld will get a longer look in the last two weeks, and there had to be something there to earn the nickname “Baby Gronk”. It didn’t show up on the field, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a zero percent chance that Sudfeld has a delayed arrival.
Mychal Rivera, OAK - Rivera is not a flashy talent, but he is a good route-runner with good hands and has left David Ausberry in his wake after a successful rookie year.
MarQueis Gray, CLE / Matt Furstenburg, BAL / Jake Stoneburner, GB - Now we are getting to the deepest of the deep sleepers at tight end. Gray is former college quarterback with the physical talent to hit. He will get snaps in place of Jordan Cameron. Furstenburg is a long target will good speed and Dennis Pitta is a free agent in 2014. The Ravens should bring Pitta back, but if they don’t, Furstenburg’s status could be enhanced. Stoneburner is a poor man’s Dallas Clark who has a wide receiver background. The Packers tight end situation is wide open long term, so Stoneburner could figure into the 2014 season with a strong offseason.