Dynasty rankings are in constant flux, and staying informed is the key to making roster decisions for your fantasy football team. The Dynasty Watch series is your regular season guide through the shifting dynasty landscape. Leagues with trade deadlines may be down to just waivers, but these final two weeks before the playoffs will make or break a lot of seasons. After a one-week hiatus, I’ll look at the key dynasty developments of the past two weeks.
A Shakeup in the Desert
Bruce Arians has always been willing to shake things up when he’s not getting the results he wants, and two straight losses have his Cardinals on the brink. The players who stand to gain are guys who are on the waiver wire in most leagues, so let’s see if any of them are worth picking up.
The Running Backs
Let’s start with the guy who is leaving the Cardinals roster, Andre Ellington. Fantasy players should be well acquainted with Ellington by this point as he’s bounced in and out of relevance in Arizona for years now, including a few excellent fantasy weeks to start this season. Now 28 years old, it’s unlikely that Ellington is going to hold any long term value. If you’re a team desperate for running back help, he’s worth an add, but the chances of him reviving any dynasty value in Houston are virtually nil.
So who is coming in to replace him? The first player to get a crack at the job was D.J. Foster, a player who is most memorable for some big RB receiving numbers during his first two preseasons with the Patriots. Foster had some buzz heading into last season as a player who could emerge as a pass-catching back in New England, but was never able to break into a crowded backfield. The Cardinals signed him off the Patriots practice squad early in the season and he finally saw game action this week with two catches for 26 yards.
Foster converted to a wide receiver in his senior season at Arizona State, but his numbers as an RB in his junior year1 are remarkable for his receiving prowess. In fact, Foster racked up 163 catches as a running back during his first three college seasons. He’s only had very limited game action at the pro level, but with 25 receptions for 293 yards in his six preseason games and solid agility, he looks like the very definition of a profile three RB.
The Cardinals also added Bronson Hill to the mix. If you don’t know who that is, well, you’re not alone. An undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan in 2015, Hill has bounced around multiple practice squads and has just two carries for the Jaguars on his professional resume. Unlike Foster, Hill’s preseasons have been completely forgettable, and there’s very little in his prospect profile to suggest he’s worth adding.2We all know David Johnson is eventually coming back and should be a Cardinal at least through the end of his rookie deal in 2018. When healthy, Johnson dominated the workload and left little but scraps for any other backs on the roster. It’s worth wondering if his playing time could decrease following his injury though, or if a potential new coaching staff next year might be more careful with him than Bruce Arians has been.
I’m not interested in Hill, but Foster is an intriguing player who could emerge as a viable third-down back. It’s unlikely he’d have a PPR explosion like Ellington did earlier this year as the team appears much more committed to using Adrian Peterson than they were to using Chris Johnson,3 but he could easily play his way into a bigger role on a team that has been struggling. He’ll be an exclusive rights free agent after 2017, so if he does play well then he’d likely be stuck on the Cardinals for another year where his role would be questionable, but he’s worth a speculative add in deeper leagues or on teams that are desperate for live bodies at RB.
The Tight Ends
Two touchdowns for a tight end who had previously played just a single snap will get dynasty players to stand up and take notice. Ricky Seals-Jones is a converted WR who got his chance as the backup TE thanks to an injury to Ifeanyi Momah. His time spent on the third string with Blaine Gabbert paid off with a ridiculous six targets on just eight snaps played, resulting in three catches and the aforementioned two TDs.So should we be rushing out to add Seals-Jones? Even being charitable and using his junior numbers in the Box Score Scout, it’s hard to make a case for him. Aside from his young age, he fails miserably on the important metrics from Phil Watkins’ TE prospect model. Neil Dutton took a more thorough look and also came to the conclusion that it’s safe to leave him on the wire. I’m with Neil on this one and would only give him consideration in TE-premium formats with deep rosters.
The Wide Receivers
Arians also expressed displeasure with his WR corps and said that rookie Chad Williams will be active this Sunday for the first time since Week 3. I touched on Williams early in the season and noted that I wasn’t too excited about him mostly because his athleticism was his main calling card over his age-adjusted production.
However, I also noted that there is ample opportunity for Cardinals WRs beyond this year. Williams was selected in many rookie drafts but has since been dropped in shallower leagues as teams struggled to fill out bye-week lineups. I’m not keen on targeting Williams in trades or even expecting him to be usable this season, but he makes for a smart stash for non-contending teams or anyone with space to roster a project for next year. Like with Seals-Jones, Williams has been spending a lot of time developing chemistry with Gabbert, so it’s not impossible that he could flash if given the opportunity.
Sleeper of the Week
With the Jimmy Garoppolo era looming in San Francisco, it’s important to figure out which young pass-catchers might have a chance to develop into his favored targets. Pierre Garcon is injured and aging and Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor are likely already owned in most deep leagues. Aldrick Robinson and Louis Murphy are both older players picked up off the scrap-heap with little to suggest they’re a big part of the future.
Enter Kendrick Bourne. After recording three snaps in the season opener, Bourne didn’t see the field again until Week 7 where he was targeted twice, and then had another two targets in Week 8. Once Garcon went down with a neck injury though, Bourne was targeted six times in Week 9 and another three times in Week 10, collecting his first five catches for a total of 81 yards. It’s the first signs of life for the rookie after a preseason Week 1 where he caught four balls for 88 yards and a TD, but with Garcon out for the year he should get an extended look.
So should we be excited about that? Maybe. Bourne went undrafted largely due to a poor 40 time and a small-school pedigree. He was living in the shadow of Cooper Kupp at Eastern Washington University, so even though he tallied 1,200 yards and seven TDs as a senior, his market share numbers paled in comparison to a player who broke the college record for receiving yards and just about every FCS record there was to break. The important thing to note, however, is that Bourne is over two full years younger than Kupp. That doesn’t mean that Bourne is necessarily a better player, but it does offer a plausible explanation for how he could be legitimately good without even being the best receiver on an FCS team.
With a fairly young breakout age and an opportunity on a poor depth chart, Bourne could easily play his way into relevance this season. It’s also worth noting that – with the exception of Murphy who was just signed before the team’s Week 10 game – Bourne is easily the tallest receiver on the active roster. Standing at 6-foot-1, Bourne towers over Taylor (5 – 8), Goodwin (5 – 9), and Robinson (5 – 10)4 Being a top receiver in today’s NFL doesn’t require prototypical WR1 size, but it does help a player like Bourne fill a niche that the team is otherwise lacking in its personnel.
As with all the players I highlight here, he’s a longshot to turn into anything special. But he’ll have an opportunity to prove himself and is definitely worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.
Zay Jones – With Jordan Matthews out with an injury and Kelvin Benjamin going down as well, Jones pulled in four catches for 68 yards. His early-season struggles seem to be behind him, and he’ll have a chance to be relevant with the players in front of him hurt. Matthews may be gone after this year, so even if Benjamin remains the WR1, Jones could still be a useful piece.
Curtis Samuel – Samuel was injured during what was looking like a breakout game for him. I like Samuel, but also think it’s likely the Panthers add more depth at WR next year, so his role as the WR2 on the team may not be as secure as it appears.
John Ross – A gameday inactive in Week 11 after quitting on a play in Week 10. His inability to get on the field for the Bengals as such a high draft pick is a huge cause for concern. It’s entirely possible there’s a new coaching staff in place next year in Cincinnati, but Ross is hardly a sure thing despite his high draft capital. I’m still willing to roll the dice for the right price as he’s getting cheaper by the week – his ridiculous speed hasn’t disappeared – but with a limited college production profile it also wouldn’t be shocking if he busted.
Kenny Golladay – Continues to make big plays, but Marvin Jones and Golden Tate aren’t going away anytime soon. I still like Golladay long-term, but on contending teams that need immediate help, he might be the type of player you can flip to a non-playoff team for an older, proven asset.
Dede Westbrook – While he fell well shy of his 200-yard goal, Westbrook had a solid debut and garnered six targets. Marqise Lee is the clear WR1 on the team, and it’s questionable what Westbrook’s role will be after Allen Hurns returns from injury. With Hurns the only starting WR locked into a contract for 2018 though,5 the WR corps in Jacksonville could look significantly different next year.
Christian McCaffrey – I noted a couple weeks ago that Jonathan Stewart’s fumble-induced lack of playing time may continue. Oops. Though some of this was due to game-script, Stewart’s big game on the ground in Week 10 shows that Ron Rivera wasn’t frustrated yet by his lack of production through the early part of the season.
Adam Shaheen – If you didn’t pick him up after the Zach Miller injury, this is probably your last chance.
Tarik Cohen – After touching the ball just twice in Week 10, Cohen had nine rushes and six targets in a similar game script against the Lions. John Fox’s usage of Cohen is maddening, but he continues to produce when given the opportunity.
Joe Mixon – Continues to underwhelm, but the entire Bengals offense can be placed in that category. I’m not among those who think he’s a guaranteed stud, but I also think it’s unfair to judge him based on where this offense is at right now. Even the usually reliable Giovani Bernard has been shut down behind an offensive line that ranks near the bottom of every metric. Jeremy Hill is out of the picture and it’s unlikely the Bengals sink a lot of draft capital into another RB next year with so many other pressing needs, so the volume looks secure for now.
Jamaal Williams – Was solid but unspectacular filling in at RB for the Packers. He should get at least one more week as the lead back with Ty Montgomery questionable to return for Week 12 and Aaron Jones set to miss an extended period of time. If you’re a Williams owner, now is probably the best chance you’ll ever get to move him to a team looking for RB help.
D’Onta Foreman – In the midst of his best day as a pro, Foreman tore his Achilles and will be out for the remainder of the year. I’ve made my love for Foreman well known, and this is a crushing blow to his young career. With the injury coming this late in the season, he may not be ready to play by the start of 2018. In leagues where I don’t already own him and have roster space to hold him long-term, I view this as a buying opportunity.
Kareem Hunt – While his pace has slowed as the season has gone on, he’s still a premium asset at RB. I was among those who said to shop him around early in the year for a premium WR, but now I’d actually look to buy him if an owner is nervous about his reduced production.
Austin Ekeler – Probably my best Sleeper of the Week all season, Ekeler continues to get significant usage in a third-down role. He’s not quite Danny-Woodhead-lite yet, but he looks to have cemented a role in the offense.
Alvin Kamara – I’m running out of superlatives for him. I do think he’s benefiting from his team’s potent offense and strong offensive line – it’s no coincidence that Mark Ingram is also having a career year – but there’s no reason to believe the Saints won’t continue to be good beyond this season.
Corey Clement – Over his last four games, Clement has five TDs. He also has a grand total of three targets and two receptions. Each of those games was also a fairly large blowout where it wasn’t necessary to overwork Jay Ajayi’s knees or the aging LeGarrette Blount. Clement can continue to be a part of this offense – and it’s clear the Eagles like him in the red zone – but it’s best to temper expectations until next year when the backfield may become less crowded.
Samaje Perine – With the injuries to Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson, the Redskins had no choice but to turn to Perine. He responded with 117 yards on 23 carries, by far his most efficient game running the ball so far. If I’m a contender who owns Perine, I’m holding as he’s in for a large workload the remainder of the season. If I’m out of it though, I’m probably looking to sell.
|Name||POS||This Week||Last Week||Change|
My personal rankings are up over at the RotoViz rankings page. Here are some of the guys who have made moves this week.
Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead – The current flavors du jour in the Patriots backfield, both players will be useful as long as they’re getting significant snaps in this potent offense. Both players are free agents at the end of the year, however, so their future is uncertain. Both players likely lose value away from New England, even if they get more touches elsewhere, but with just James White really locked in for 2018,6 there’s a decent chance the Patriots could bring one, or both, of them back.
Seattle RBs – Go ahead, add one to your roster. I dare you. They’re all just going to get hurt. For right now, the guy I want is J.D. McKissic, but I don’t think any of these guys have much value next year outside of the injured Chris Carson.
Devontae Booker – Continues his charge up the depth chart with a clear lead in Week 11 workload. It’s probably worth noting that the Broncos have spent most of the latter part of the season playing from behind where Booker’s pass-catching ability is more valued, but that might not change anytime soon with their dreadful QB situation.
Terrance West – Supposedly fully recovered from his injury, but was still inactive on Sunday.
Danny Woodhead – Targeted six times in his return from injury in a game where Baltimore never trailed. He looks like he could go right back to being the PPR dynamo everyone expected.
Javorius Allen – Well, it was a nice ride while it lasted. Allen is no longer startable as long as Woodhead is healthy and his long-term prospects are bleak after failing to do much with a heavy workload this season.7
Travaris Cadet – His usage probably isn’t indicative of what to expect going forward, seeing as how it’s unlikely the Bills will get so horribly blown out every week, but he’s still the most interesting backup that’s been on the roster all season. He’s worth an add as a hedge against a LeSean McCoy injury.
Devin Funchess – Funchess’ two TDs in Week 10 have owners riding high, but it will be interesting to see if his usage changes at all with the return of Greg Olsen. With Samuel out and Benjamin traded, he should continue to be an integral part of the passing game. It’s still a good opportunity to sell if you can find an owner who is excited by his breakout, but if you already own him, chances are that owner is probably you.
Dontrelle Inman – The latest in the rotation of top receivers for the Bears, Inman may be useful this year down the stretch in deep leagues. For me, it’s just a reminder that Cameron Meredith should be stashed if he’s unowned in shallow leagues without IR slots.
Corey Coleman – Back with a vengeance. If Coleman can stay healthy there’s no one on the team that should challenge him for targets except…
Josh Gordon – What will Gordon look like after not playing serious football for so long? We’ll find out in Week 13 when he’s eligible to return. It’s worth noting that if Gordon plays well, he’s actually a restricted free agent next year due to how much playing time he’s missed, meaning the Browns will have a good chance to retain him or at least get value in return if another team is willing to take a chance on him.
Breshad Perriman – For anyone holding out hope for the former first-rounder, it may be time to give up. Perriman has been awful and was benched this week in an effort to motivate him. I don’t know of anywhere that tracks how well “motivational benchings” play out, but I can’t really remember any cases of a player sucking for 1.5 seasons and then getting his career on track after being benched. Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro could see more snaps going forward, but only Moore is really worth a look in deep leagues.
Bruce Ellington – It’s unclear when Will Fuller will return, but Ellington is locked in as the WR3 on the Texans and the WR2 in Fuller’s absence. I’ve been streaming Ellington in some places during bye weeks, and he’s come through with some decent production. He’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end but could stick around as a solid piece in deep leagues.
Keenan Allen – He broke out a week sooner than expected, and now the buy window is shut. With a solid schedule the rest of the way, Allen could be a league winner down the stretch.
Julius Thomas – His glory days are long gone, but over the past three weeks he’s been sixth in expected points among TEs. The Dolphins have been targeting him in the end zone and taking some deep shots to him as well. He’s not a sexy option, but for TE streamers8 – especially those in TE-premium leagues – he’s suddenly looking more serviceable than he was through the first eight weeks.
Maxx Williams – Played a season high 58 percent of offensive snaps while Ben Watson played a season low of 44 percent. Unfortunately, William only parlayed that into two catches for six yards, but it’s worth monitoring if his increase in playing time was just a one game aberration or a trend moving forward.
Martellus Bennett – I was always skeptical of his retirement announcement, and it now looks obvious that it was just part of his ploy to get out of Green Bay. It’s hard to say what his future holds as any team looking to sign him for 2018 will be extremely wary due to how he forced his way off his last team, but he’s a talented player and shouldn’t be ignored if he was dropped in your league.
- Used in the Box Score Scout above. (back)
- Hill spent most of his senior year injured, so I used the stats from his junior season to give him the benefit of the doubt. (back)
- The nominal starter when Ellington was winning weeks in fantasy. (back)
- And Victor Bolden (5 – 8) if we want to count him, though he’s not really a factor. (back)
- And even that contract isn’t a guarantee. With a large cap hit and zero dead cap, it’s not unthinkable the Jaguars could move on from Hurns. (back)
- Mike Gillislee is under contract for 2018, but as a gameday inactive with zero dead cap, projecting him to be a part of the team next year is dicey at best. (back)
- He was useful for fantasy purposes due to all the receptions and a few TDs, but he was extremely inefficient. It’s hard to see him getting another big shot barring more injuries. (back)
- You know, like Eric Ebron, and Martellus Bennett owners. (back)