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The final weeks of the fantasy season can be sad days for diehard dynasty owners. While the dynasty community is slowly moving towards no trade deadlines at all, most leagues still have a redraft-like deadline where there is still a month or so to go in the dynasty league season. Then the waiver wire closes up shop either before or after Week 16 - the final nail in your roster's coffin in terms of seeking to improve your squad for the coming season. Soon the dynasty calendar shifts to rookie draft (and startup draft) season, but final roster tweaks with deeper waiver wire moves remain as viable options for many this week.
First, unless you are playing in the title game (or third place game, or consolation title game) this is the time of year to drop your kicker and defense. There are formats where this can be an exception, but the subject was a discussion point on my weekly dynasty podcast, Under the Helmet, this week. Even top-scoring options this season are a luxury all but the deepest of roster depths cannot afford to keep through the offseason. This assumes their production is 'sticky' year-to-year (it is not) and their Week 1 matchup is preferred. Not having a kicker or defense in the offseason allows for greater flexibility come rookie draft time, churning upside positional players during the summer months, and using matchups and the 'new reality' of the defensive units for the new season to guide the initial plays to open the season.
Back to the stash player for this coming offseason. Recommendations will be for a medium-level roster depth (think roughly 25-man rosters) or deeper and ordered by their appeal to flash as a flip player by Week 1 or emerge enough to warrant keeping on the roster through rookie draft time:
Glennon and Cutler are the only two recommended in deeper start-1QB formats. The rest are QB-premium specials. Glennon meets my efficiency baselines to project more time as an NFL starter after being supplanted by Jameis Winston's drafting in Tampa Bay. Even Cleveland or the Jets are not horrible landing spots in terms of surrounding pass target talent for 2017.
Cutler looks to be out of Chicago by many speculations. While he technically has four years left on a massive deal starting in 2014, his dead money is next to nothing beginning in 2017. Chicago's window to wipe their hands of Cutler is wide open this offseason. Cutler was forgettable in six games this season, but as a long-term NFL starter and a solid season in 2015, there are more opportunities to start for Cutler in front of him.
Savage and Barkley are worthy stash players in QB-premium to close the season. Savage is preferred as his bar to win the Houston job for Week 1 is relatively low (be better than Brock Osweiler) and he performed well in his first effort in Week 15. Barkley, on the other hand, is a free agent. His floor is at least a quality NFL backup considering his tape from 2016 with the off-chance he gets a chance to start heading into a season.
Nassib barely makes this list. He is a free agent after a rookie contact filled with clipboard holding behind Eli Manning. Nassib has failed to show progression in his limited snaps even as late as the 2016 preseason, but was viewed by some as the top quarterback in his draft class years ago. Nassib is likely a backup at best and unlikely to turn a profit for the stash spot, but free agency offers boost potential. The good news is Nassib can be a quick cut if the landing through free agency does not offer promise.
Running backs are a tough bunch to stash as depth charts are very fluid in the offseason and shaken by free agency and the NFL Draft easily. McFadden is back from a broken elbow and immediately pushed Alfred Morris down the depth chart behind Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas last week. The former top-5 pick is a talent stash entering free agency. While unlikely to land an overt starting role, a primary backup role should be expected. High pedigree players continue to get shots and McFadden still has gas left in the tank.
Karlos Williams is more of a reclamation project. He produced early in his career before off-field (and weight issues) have derailed a promising start. In Pittsburgh with LeVeon Bell being a free agent, there is an easy story to Williams being a viable flip asset. If Bell explores free agency even just a bit, Williams will be discussed as the next in line if Bell should bolt. While I doubt Bell leaves the Steelers, even posturing creates market buzz for Williams.
Ellington has production in his rear-view mirror and is finally healthy (albeit blocked) on Arizona's depth chart. His role will be as a pass-catcher (think poor man's Theo Riddick) if realizing his upside in free agency. If he does not get the landing spot of free agency love, cut bait before NFL Draft time.
Chris Johnson follows the 'bet on high pedigree players until out of the NFL for good' rule. While he is likely done physically, Johnson was the 2015 early-season starter for Arizona seeing quality volume. He may require more patience as a later-offseason signing by a team with a running back injury, making him less ideal than the rest of the list as an ideal stash.
Vincent Jackson enters free agency and a critical juncture of his career. Once a high-level producer, Jackson has looked like a shell of himself for two years in Mike Evans' shadow (and being injured) with Tampa Bay. Now, Jackson is a free agent and could follow the Andre Johnson-type path of squeezing a little more life out of his expiring NFL time left. Jackson, like some of the names on this list, is ideal as free agency interest will gauge his dynasty roster viability. Jackson can still be a touchdown maven in the right offense even if his overt downfield skills are long gone.
Butler and Johnson are similar commodities. I prefer Butler as he flashed for two straight years with Dez Bryant in and out of the Dallas lineup. Now a free agent, Butler will affirm or deny the hard work put into translating his physical gifts to tangible production on the field. Johnson is a form of Butler, but later in his career arc. Johnson had a run of production with the Vikings, but since he has mired through injuries and Stefon Diggs and Cordarrelle Patterson emerging beyond him. Both are free agency dependent. Landing on a depth chart not well-defined triggers a hold or sell recommendation. If getting a marginal deal on a stacked depth chart, drop for other options or rookie pick selection in the offseason.
Jaron Brown has hung around a loaded Arizona depth chart for years without much opportunity. Michael Floyd is gone. Larry Fitzgerald has been non-committal about his 2017 status. John Brown and J.J. Nelson are smaller, speed-based options. Brown is under contract for just $775,000 next season and offers an exit window by default if Fitzgerald were to bolt.
Tight ends are the easiest position to find reasons to stash. Derby and Adams offer simple storylines to be Week 1 starters for their current teams. Derby was acquired for a mid-Day 3 pick by Denver and immediately began out-producing incumbent Virgil Green. Adams has been rising in playing time and it is clear Will Tye and Larry Donnell are not long-term options for the Giants starting spot.
Ryan Griffin is a free agent with quality movement skills from Houston. C.J. Fiedorowicz broke out in 2016 and is still under contract for 2017. Griffin is one of the more attractive tight end free agents, setting career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns this season.
DeValve and Waller are metric marvels early in their careers. DeValve has seen steady snaps behind a lackluster Gary Barnidge, now looking like a one-hit wonder in his 30s for Cleveland. DeValve has quality athleticism and ball skills. At best, Barnidge has one year left with the Browns as his salary balloons in 2018. The team would save more than $2 by cutting him in the offseason, a viable option after a forgettable season.
Waller is a positional convert (from wide receiver) just getting his feet under him as a move tight end. He was a straight-line speed merchant for his size during the draft process testing. Baltimore has plenty of tight ends, but none with the upside of Waller if his progression continues. Dennis Pitta's contract is likely safe for 2017, but Ben Watson (missed season with injury) has low dead money and Maxx Williams (also hurt) has been a shadow through two seasons as a former second round pick.
Gavin Escobar is the tight end example of 'bet on draft position' this coming offseason. Escobar has bene trapped behind iron man Jason Witten for his entire rookie contract, hurt for stretches, and sparingly playing as a split out receiver in the red zone for his relevant moments. Escobar is a free agent and offers pass-catching chops for a new team. Like others on this list, if free agency is a flop for Escobar, cut him and move on early in the offseason.
Finally, Braunecker is another strong metric prospect with shades of a poor man's Rob Gronkowski on college tape. Zach Miller was hurt this season (as he has been often in his career) and has one more year under contract as the incumbent Chicago starter. However, Miller barely has 1,000 yards in his now five-year career and is hardly a steady bet to keep the job. Braunecker is low on the list as he lacks the same 'clarity' potential early in the offseason to keep him or churn him based on free agency and a shifting depth chart.