If your dynasty league allows trades or waivers at this time of year, you should be out there working to improve your roster. To that end, here are some players you might consider adding now. If things break just right in free agency, their value could increase significantly.
I started with our team-by-team free agency previews, then scoured rosters for situations where a player could see a big bump in value. The idea is to acquire these players as cheaply as possible. Then, after free agency and the draft are done, see what you’ve got. If a few see their value proposition come to fruition, you’ll have come out ahead.
Speculative Wide Receiver Dynasty Adds – Pre Free Agency
Top Tier Targets
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
Okay, neither Adam Thielen nor Stefon Diggs is cheap. But there’s potential for their value to climb still higher. Specifically, if the Vikings sign Kirk Cousins, it’s likely that Thielen and Diggs will see at least a temporary value bump. If you want them, it will be even harder to get them after Cousins arrives.
While there’s room for their perceived ceilings (and values) to climb, there’s also really no downside. Let’s say the Vikings don’t sign Cousins.
|QB||Thielen AYA||Diggs AYA||Rudolph AYA|
The Vikings’ primary receivers have been decently effective in terms of adjusted yards per attempt regardless of who is throwing them the ball. At worst you should get something similar to last year’s performance, with the potential for more if the QB situation improves.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Baldwin is another high-end fantasy asset whose value still has room to improve. Consider that Russell Wilson’s pass attempts have increased every year of his career and that Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson are free agents. It’s already rumored that Graham won’t return, and if Richardson doesn’t either, that opens up 176 targets. The Seahawks could sign a new WR and give him 140 targets, and there could still be an extra 36 for Baldwin. Such a boost would make him one of the six most targeted WRs last year. And if the Seahawks don’t add a significant receiving option,1 Baldwin could get even more targets.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ QB duo of Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler was truly horrific last year. Among all QBs with 100 or more attempts, here’s where they ranked:
|QB||Expected Points Rank||Points Over Exp. Rank||AYA Rank||TD Rate Rank||INT Rate Rank|
Almost by default, but particularly if the Broncos land Cousins,2 Thomas and Sanders will get better quarterback play next year. That will help their fantasy production. Three of the Broncos backup WRs (Cody Latimer, Bennie Folwer, and Jordan Taylor) are also free agents. Between them, they vacate about 100 targets. If Denver commits a lot of its available cap space to a free agent QB, they’ll have less available to bring in any WR competition. The most likely scenario seems to be that Denver will re-sign one of these three, then bring in a rookie(s), or a marginal free agent. None of those will threaten Thomas and Sanders’ workloads. In fact, they could see an uptick in targets to go along with the improved QB play.
TY Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Hilton had a down 2017, posting career lows in both total and per-game PPR scoring. What’s worse, Andrew Luck’s outlook is murky at best.
For the purpose of this article, however, that’s actually good news, since it should depress Hilton’s acquisition cost. Let’s assume the worst and say Andrew Luck is unavailable or ineffective in 2018. What can we expect from Hilton?
Over 26 career games (the better part of two seasons) without Luck, Hilton has averaged 11.3 PPR points per game. So the floor here looks like Hilton’s WR27 2017 campaign.
There are two pathways to a better 2018. First, Luck could return to form. Second, Hilton could grab a lot of extra targets. Both Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken are free agents, and Phillip Dorsett was jettisoned last year. That leaves just Chester Rogers and K.J. Brent behind Hilton.3 The Colts will need to add some bodies at the position, but a rookie WR is likely to need time to develop. A lesser free agent will get some targets, but Moncrief and Aiken are vacating nearly 100 combined targets, so Hilton would still pick up some. A premium free agent acquisition could cap any growth in Hilton’s targets, but as long as you aren’t overpaying, you’ll still end up with a borderline WR2.
Second Tier Targets
Will Fuller, Houston Texans
DeAndre Hopkins put up over 300 PPR points last season, and Fuller was injured yet again. Those two things should keep his price down. Hopkins is a stud, but he’ll be hard-pressed to match last year’s numbers. Fuller, on the other hand, should be able to improve his.
Fuller has three pathways to a better 2018. The first is if he just manages to stay healthy. The second is if Deshaun Watson stays healthy. Small sample disclaimer, but check this out.
The third pathway is the potential for a marginal increase in targets. Hopkins earned 174 targets, a monster number that could see some regression. Also, Bruce Ellington is a free agent and vacates over 50 targets himself. As of now, Fuller would be the beneficiary.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, LA Rams
This one is predicated on the idea that Sammy Watkins departs in free agency. Tavon Austin should also be gone. That frees up just over 90 targets based on last year’s volume. Some of that volume could go elsewhere of course, but Woods and Kupp remain the most likely recipients.
On a per-game basis, Woods was the WR1 for the Rams last year, although Kupp wasn’t far behind. Given the potential plethora of available targets, both make solid acquisition targets. In particular, Woods’ price should be somewhat depressed based on his injury last year and a generally mediocre career arc.
Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson, Washington Football Club
Terrelle Pryor, Ryan Grant, and Brian Quick are all free agents. That frees up 110 targets. Doctson has the draft capital but hasn’t been very impressive so far. I’d prefer to get Crowder, who’s been a more effective player than Doctson has.
Crowder was PPR WR32 last year; a few more targets could push him into WR2 range. Granted, it’s a different offense, but Alex Smith has supported top-24 WRs multiple times in his career.
Ted Ginn, New Orleans Saints
Ginn averaged over 10 PPR points per game last year, on just 70 targets. Now Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead are restricted free agents. They only free about 50 targets, but it’s hard to picture the other Saints pass catchers getting more. Michael Thomas already had 149 (sixth-most for WRs), while Alvin Kamara had 101 (third-most for RBs) and Mark Ingram had 71 (11th in RB targets).
Ginn is an older WR who wasn’t a fantasy useful player for most of his career, so his price shouldn’t be too high. But he’ll still be catching passes from Drew Brees and could absorb a few more targets, either from Snead and Coleman’s departures or from his already-saturated teammates.
Rishard Matthews, Tennessee Titans
Eric Decker vacates 83 targets. Last year’s top pick, Corey Davis, is the obvious breakout candidate and beneficiary, but Matthews makes for a cheaper acquisition target.
Matthews was slightly better than Davis on a per-game basis last year. Davis can obviously improve, but his rookie season was inauspicious. According to the Screener, his top rookie comps are Greg Little, Tajae Sharpe, Charles Rogers, and Donald Jones. Not great, Bob.
If Davis fails to launch, that clearly helps Matthews, but even if Davis breaks out and gets three-fourths of Decker’s targets, Matthews could still pick up enough to clear 100 targets himself. Matthews was a PPR WR3 last season on just 87 targets. Any uptick in targets could boost his value and make him a weekly candidate for your starting lineup.
Keelan Cole and DeDe Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
I might already be too late here, but the Jaguars aren’t franchising Allen Robinson. Marqise Lee is also a free agent. If either one leaves, Cole and Westbrook seem assured of decent roles. If they both leave…Cole and Westbrook could be Jacksonville’s top WRs.
On a per-game basis, Westbrook had a more valuable workload, but Cole had the better yards per target and points over expectation. The difference between the two really shows up in the AYA App.
Cole had more targets over the course of the season and was much more productive with them. He’s my preferred target here, but Westbrook could also be valuable with a bigger workload.
Bargain Bin Targets
Chris Moore, Baltimore Ravens
Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro are free agents, and Jeremy Maclin is a potential cut. The remaining Ravens WR with the most name recognition is Breshad Perriman, but let’s face it, he hasn’t done much yet.
Moore is only about three months older than Perriman, and although it wasn’t great, he had a more successful 2017. Neither player should cost much, but Moore is likely on waivers in most leagues. Need a reason to like Moore? How about this?
Cam Meredith, Chicago Bears
The track record here is mighty thin, but so is the Bears WR room. Dontrelle Inman and Kendall Wright are free agents. Kevin White has managed just five games in two years. Meredith’s sample size is small but encouraging.
I wouldn’t pay very much for Meredith, but he’s potentially hashtag good, and could end up with a lot of targets.
J.J. Nelson, Arizona Cardinals
Both Jaron Brown and John Brown are free agents, freeing up 124 targets from last season. Assuming neither return, Nelson could see a sizable increase in work. Oh sure, there are plenty of negative indicators: a new quarterback and coach, and a marginal history of production. But just for fun…
On a per-game basis, Nelson looks similar to players like Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin, Malcolm Mitchell, and Paul Richardson. None of those guys are great WRs, but each saw a big spike in value when either their situation (Hogan playing with Tom Brady) or workload (Goodwin getting lots of targets in the absence of other options) changed. If the Cardinals end up with a decent QB situation or don’t bring in a lot of competition, Nelson could see a similar outcome.
DeMarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs
Albert Wilson and De’Anthony Thomas vacate 78 combined targets. Robinson earned 39 targets on his own, so there’s potentially a big jump in workload here. There are lots of caution flags, however: a new quarterback, the return of Chris Conley, and Robinson’s lackluster performance on the targets he did receive. Still, he should be free, so he’s all upside.