The NFL offseason is one of the best times to start getting a leg up on your competition for next year’s Fantasy leagues. Before we even get to the Combine, free agency or the NFL Draft, there is plenty to analyze during the playoffs. Here’s an inventory check on the teams that were just eliminated in the divisional round last weekend.
It’s Funky Enough By The D.O.C.
“So I will play the game like it should be played. Drop the funk into the mix so the place will never fade.”
- Ezekiel Elliott (RB)- The Cowboys crushed the 2016 NFL Draft, nabbing perhaps the best pure running back in the game along with a franchise quarterback. Elliott is helped by a tremendous offensive line, but he is the real deal as an elite player. It is not always smart money to bet on a running back in dynasty, but Zeke, Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson are exceptions to that line of thinking. While I would certainly explore the idea of selling him for a young wide receiver plus additional players, Elliott is one of those rare backs that you will want to hold onto for a long time. Turning 22 in August, there is no reason to think he won’t continue approach 2,000 total yards and double-digit TDs for the next five years. He is a no-brainer first round selection in dynasty startup drafts.
- Dak Prescott (QB)- As dominant as Elliott was, Prescott outshined him thanks to minimal expectations and a much later draft slot. He completed nearly 68-percent of his passes and threw only four interceptions all season. Part of that was due to conservative play-calling, but make no mistake – Prescott is a game-changing talent. In dynasty leagues, he was a late round rookie selection or even a waiver wire pickup who turned into an invaluable asset. Much like Elliott, thanks to all the hype around his performance, Prescott is likely to be overvalued by other owners. That is something to strongly consider this offseason as you assess the rest of your team. If you have another franchise QB on your roster, it may be time to shop one or both around to see what kind of return you can get. Regression in overall numbers is possible as a sophomore, but you have to be excited about the situation and talent around him.
- Dez Bryant (WR) – Bryant is the third-best dynasty asset on the Cowboys? Yes, and that speaks to just how good the first two guys are. There is a case to be made for him over Prescott for sure, but it depends on your league settings and roster construction. Bryant was a solid buy low last offseason and again once he got hurt early on, but his dominant finish to the year should wipe that opportunity off the board. He is back in the WR1 conversation for at least the next couple of seasons. Bryant is too strong and athletic to be guarded downfield and especially in the red zone. Expect a return to double-digit TDs and over 1,000 yards for the first time in three seasons in 2017. Injuries have hampered his numbers the past two seasons, but he still has elite upside.
- Terrance Williams (WR) – Williams is a deep threat receiver who has long teased with his Fantasy potential. He seemed to have an inconsistent role week to week and, even with Bryant missing significant time, he has not been able to capitalize. Playing opposite Bryant would seem to be an ideal situation, so free agency might not increase his actual value much. There is still some untapped upside here, but he’ll really need a perfect situation and strong-armed QB to maximize it. Williams is a WR4/5 and that makes him nothing more than decent bench depth and a bye week fill-in.
Stash Material: Alfred Morris is currently the obvious handcuff, especially with Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden in free agency. Jason Witten is nothing more than a security blanket for Prescott and that gives him some PPR appeal for 2017, but not much after that. The Cowboys could have their future pass-catching TE in Rico Gathers, a former Baylor basketball player. He is worth stashing in deeper formats. Gavin Escobar could land in another situationin which he could surprise a bit, but it is not worth getting excited about just yet. If grit was a Fantasy category, Cole Beasley would be a first round pick. He had a terrific season for his standards, but is a replaceable talent in the long-term. With Williams a free agent, Brice Butler could step into the WR2 role unless the Cowboys (wisely) upgrade via free agency or the draft. Still, he’s worth a roster add until the dust settles. Tony Romo is going to give another team a couple more years of solid production (and probably a bunch of injury scares). It will be very interesting to see where he lands.
Kansas City Chiefs
All The Things You Are By Charlie Parker
“Someday my happy arms will hold you. And someday I’ll know that moment divine.” (Probably after Alex Smith gets benched).
- Travis Kelce (TE) – Kelce made good on his immense upside in 2016 with a breakout season. He has experienced a three-year increase in yards, targets and receptions. The only category that has been stagnant throughout his career is the TDs. With only 14 for his career and no more than five per season, Kelce has not been given the opportunity to dominate in the red zone like he does between the 20s. He turns 28 years old in October and has positioned himself as dynasty’s number two TE, ahead of more injury prone stars Jordan Reed and Tyler Eifert. Kelce had six 100-yard performances this year, compared to just two previously. He has become the focal point of the Chiefs offense and his Fantasy ceiling is sky high.
- Tyreek Hill (WR)- Ignoring the checkered past, the Chiefs took a shot on the speedster in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft. He has paid immediate dividends, scoring 12 total TDs as the league’s most dangerous player in open space. He caught 61 of 83 targets for 593 yards at his primary position, but he also averaged 11 yards per rush (24 attempts) and added nearly 1,000 return yards. Each week, analysts would suggest that you cannot continue to bank on Hill breaking a long play and seemingly every week that is exactly what he did. There is no doubt he will be overvalued in 2017, and 12 TDs from a player without a true position will be difficult to repeat. Still, if he can touch the ball 100 times, good things are going to happen. Sell high if you can find an owner who loves the highlight reel.
- Jeremy Maclin (WR) – Maclin was a reliable WR2 during his first year in Kansas City, but struggled in 2016. Even before he missed time, the production was simply not there for him. Then, Kelce and Hill emerged as legitimate weapons and it made Maclin completely unreliable from a Fantasy perspective. It is a shame, because Maclin has the ability to be a game changer at the position. Unfortunately, he has three years left on his deal and is no more than a WR3/4 as long as Alex Smith is under center. I still believe in the talent, but he is squandering prime years with a mediocre QB.
- Spencer Ware (RB) – Ware got out of the gate strong and even when Jamaal Charles was healthy for those couple weeks, he earned lead back duties. Still, owners were left uninspired by his first season as a full-time starter. Ware managed just five TDs, one game with more than 82 rushing yards and only one game with more than three receptions. He opened with four games of 100-plus total yards in his first six, but then did not have another one all season. The offseason is pivotal to Ware’s 2017 value. Will the Chiefs add a back in the draft or via free agency? What happens to Jamaal Charles? Ware would be a solid RB2 value on a run-first team if he’s the starter.
Stash Material: Jamaal Charles cannot be expected to bounce back to previous form, but is worth holding onto for name value. He is a candidate for release. Charcandrick West still has some intrigue, especially if Charles is out of the picture. Do not give up on Chris Conley, who could be an explosive receiving option if they ever correct their QB problem. Albert Wilson and Demetrius Harris are backups who could be role players if their number is called. James O’Shaughnessy is an extremely deep league prospect worth monitoring. I was a fan of Demarcus Robinson’s skill set entering the draft, but he did not do much of anything in his rookie year. He’ll need a strong summer to remain on even the deepest of dynasty rosters.
Big Dogg Status By Scarface
“I came here to exercise my game. Spread love to the hood is how I do my thang.”
- DeAndre Hopkins (WR)- Hopkins fell victim to a terrible QB situation in 2016 and saw his reception, yardage and TD totals drop by more than 25-percent. The good news here is that Hopkins is still really, really good and one of the Top 5 WRs in all of dynasty. The bad news is he is under contract for one more year with Houston and the QB situation does not appear to be drastically changing in the offseason. That is unless Tony Romo comes to town. Even with all that, the 25-year-old receiver is a strong buy for the long-term. He is too talented not to produce.
- Will Fuller (WR)- We saw exactly what we thought Fuller was, a receiver with game-changing speed, questionable hands and inconsistent production. He was also victimized by the QB situation and that should carry over into 2017. Fuller opened his career with back-to-back 100-yard performances, added an 81-yard effort in Week 4, and then posted no total higher than 60 for the rest of the year. He battled hamstring injuries and dropped at least a few potential TDs along the way. With a big-armed QB, he could be a DeSean Jackson type of Fantasy asset. Until then, he’s a high risk, medium reward WR4/5. Fuller’s price has come down considerably from where it was at the end of the summer and beginning of September, so he is worth checking in on.
- Lamar Miller (RB) – As with the rest of the Texans offense, Miller failed to live up to expectations in 2016. After being coddled in Miami, Miller received more than 21 touches per game with Houston. Unfortunately, it sapped him of his big play ability and he was more banged up through the year. Keep an eye on what the Texans do at the position during the offseason, as he could have company in the backfield. The Texans and Miller need to find a happy medium with his workload to get back that explosive ability. He will only be 26 years old this offseason, so he is far from a lost cause.
- Braxton Miller (WR) – A converted QB, Miller entered the NFL dedicated to the WR position. He is an explosive athlete with the ball in his hands and was drafted as a project player. At his best, Miller could be a true difference maker thanks to his speed. He is still learning how to play the position, but the untapped upside is very intriguing. Miller could develop into a viable Fantasy option by 2018. Continue to stash him in dynasty formats, as any return on the trade market would likely be selling him short.
Stash Material: Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler should only be rostered in two-QB and Superflex formats. Jaelen Strong flashed some promise, but he will battle Miller for a prominent spot in the offense. He might need an injury or change of scenery to maximize potential. Alfred Blue is the obvious Lamar Miller handcuff, but the most intrigue belongs to Tyler Ervin. He did not do much to impress as a rookie, but the skill set is there for him to be a quality change of pace back. Akeem Hunt and Jonathan Grimes are lingering as well. The TE position is crowded. C.J. Fiedorowicz emerged as a legitimate streamer and daily play. Ryan Griffin showed to be a decent fill-in when called upon. The potential gem of the group, though, is former Cal receiver Stephen Anderson. Built to be a move TE, Anderson has the pass-catching acumen to be a surprising Fantasy asset.
Come As You Are By Nirvana
“Come as you are, as you were, as I want you to be. As a friend, as a friend, as and old enemy. Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours, don’t be late. Take a rest as a friend as an old memory.”
- Russell Wilson (QB)- It was an up and (mostly) down season for Wilson, who battled nagging injuries and inconsistent offensive line play throughout. He ran for just 259 yards, easily the lowest total of his career. At 28 years old, Wilson still has plenty of long-term Fantasy appeal and still remains a Top 5 Dynasty QB. Everyone knows what he is capable of, and if you can get him at even the slightest discount, you should jump at the chance. Expect him to bounce back in a big way in 2017.
- Doug Baldwin (WR)- Everyone (myself included) expected regression for Baldwin, but that only happened in one category – TDs. Receptions, targets and yards all went up and were new career highs in 2016. Nothing about Baldwin screams stud, but he fits in perfectly with Seattle and Wilson has a great rapport with him. He was an interesting buy last offseason, but now that he has done it two years in a row, the price has gone up. Baldwin is a perfectly acceptable WR2/3 for the next couple years, but I would be looking to sell, if not this summer, then definitely next.
- C.J. Prosise (RB) – This ranking is not simply based on a couple of really nice games from Prosise, but about his potential and skill set. He is more versatile than fellow RB Thomas Rawls, especially given his elite receiving chops. Prosise does not run with the same authority as Rawls between the tackles, which means we could be looking at a timeshare situation. He was seemingly banged up all season, but really flashed when healthy. He’s a high upside RB2 long-term, but more of a RB3 for the immediate future.
- TIE: Thomas Rawls (RB) – Rawls deserves to be on this list, but I like Prosise more in the long-term. That makes me question what Rawls’ true role will be next season. He’s a solid blue collar version of Marshawn Lynch as a bruising rusher. Rawls was not healthy for much of the 2016 season and it definitely showed. He’s an excellent buy low considering that and the questions surrounding his workload for next season.
Jimmy Graham (TE) – Graham’s first season with the Seahawks couldn’t have gone much worse. From the unpredictable usage to the torn patellar tendon, Graham’s Fantasy value was in a freefall. He proved the doubters wrong rather quickly this past season, with back-to-back 100-yard efforts in Weeks 3 and 4. He totaled 923 yards and six TDs in a terrific bounce back effort. At 30 years old and looking like he did pre-injury, Graham has at least 2 to 4 seasons of productivity left. He’s a mid-range TE1 for 2017 and increased red zone opportunities could lead to even better production.
Tyler Lockett (WR) – Lockett is an exciting player, something we were constantly reminded of while he was a rookie. He was slowed by injury early in 2016, but turned it up in the last month. He adds a new dimension to the receiving game when he’s on the field. A broken fibula and tibia in Week 17 will have him rehabbing all offseason. His box scores should remain inconsistent week to week as a receiver who relies on big plays. He has a WR3 ceiling, but will enter 2017 as nothing more than a high upside prospect.
Stash Material: Jermaine Kearse is pretty much buried and could be axed. Even in a new city, he’s bench depth at best. Alex Collins is a grinder and does not possess much in the way of long-term upside. Still, if Rawls were to go down, he should be ready to step into a between-the-tackles role in 2017. Paul Richardson showed well in the playoffs with Lockett out and remains an intriguing stash player.