Now is the time of year in dynasty leagues where you can really get a jump on the 2012 season. Assuming your waiver wires are still open, dropping kickers, defenses and low upside veterans for potential diamonds in the rough is the smart thing to do. My feeling is this is a particularly good year for grabbing players because many rookies may have struggled due to the lack of a meaningful offseason and the limited reps available during in-season practices.
I have two different strategies depending on the type of league. In leagues where I have a deep in-season roster of 24 to 26 spots that has to be trimmed to 18 or 20 at some point, I’m targeting players who have the potential to make a splash in the playoffs that I trade for picks or package for other assets, or decide to hold onto for the future. In deep leagues that don’t require cuts, in addition to those types of players, I’m also looking for other opportunities, including talented backups to impending free agents, free agents who have the chance to land in a good situation or guys that landed on IR early in the season and may have been dropped by impatient owners.
Joe Webb, Vikings
Webb has flashed in limited action, scoring over 20 fantasy points in two of his three extended appearances in Weeks 14, 16 and 17. The Vikings may head into 2012 with a competition between Christian Ponder and Webb, and with Webb’s dual threat ability (including 7 carries for 109 yards and a TD in Week 14), he will always be lingering in the background even if Ponder wins the job in camp. Webb is a high upside roster stash.
Brian Hoyer, Patriots
Hoyer is a restricted free agent in 2012, and knowing the Patriot way, they may give him a first round tender hoping to get a haul if some quarterback starved team tries to sign him away. If he does end up in a new situation, Hoyer has shown some ability that he has a chance to be successful. This is a guy I’m hoping lands somewhere appealing so I can move him.
John Skelton, Cardinals
Even with the high price the Cardinals paid for Kevin Kolb, Skelton has looked good enough that he might be able to push Kolb for the starting job in 2012.
Mike Kafka, Eagles
Kakfa is appealing for two reasons. The first is that Vince Young is a free agent in 2012, and is not expected back with the Eagles. Michael Vick’s backup is likely to start several games, and Eagles quarterbacks tend to put up big fantasy numbers. In addition, assuming Kafka plays a few games next year and flashes, the Eagles may spin him off again like Kevin Kolb, and you may end up with a 2013 starter somewhere. If he ends up in a good situation, Kafka has a chance to end up as a valuable asset.
Terrelle Pryor, Raiders
Jason Campbell is a free agent in 2012, and there is an outside chance that he ends up as Carson Palmer’s backup next year. In addition, there is always the possibility that Pryor fails at quarterback and the Raiders move the incredible athlete to wide receiver. Pryor is a great high upside add in deeper leagues.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Kaepernick is the forgotten man in the 2011 rookie quarterback class, mostly due to Alex Smith’s newfound proficiency at being a game manager. Don’t forget he was still a second round pick that is being tutored by Jim Harbaugh. He may take longer to pay off, but with his running ability, if he develops, he can be a high scoring fantasy QB. If some impatient owner dropped him, he’s definitely worth a spot at the end of your roster.
D.J. Ware and Da’Rel Scott, Giants
Considering that Brandon Jacobs’ main talent is running his mouth, one of these guys projects to be Ahmad Bradshaw’s primary backup next year. Ware is signed through 2012 and may get the first shot at the job. With Bradshaw’s injury history, I would expect to get at least a few starts out him. The guy I really love is Scott, with his crazy straight line speed. Remember he had the fastest 40 yard dash time at the 2011 Combine, and TD runs of 97 and 65 yards in the preseason. I am very interested in Scott’s 2012 role after a full offseason, and very excited about his 2013 role when Ware projects to be gone.
Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper, Titans
Ringer is under contract for one more year and then becomes a free agent in 2013. He has shown a good ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (28 receptions on 36 targets in 12 games in 2011), and has a good chance to pull a Michael Turner after next year. If someone dropped him after he landed on IR at the end of this year with a hand injury, swoop in and grab him. Harper has a good combination of power and quickness, and could get an opportunity to be CJ1K’s primary backup in 2013. He’s another of those lottery ticket guys to keep around if you have the roster space.
Justin Forsett, Seahawks
Forsett is a free agent in 2012, is only 26 years of age and doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry on 114 carries in 2009, and 4.4 yards per carry on 118 carries in 2010. With Marshawn Lynch coming on in 2011 (and expected to resign in Seattle), Forsett didn’t really get much of an opportunity this year, but the guy has talent. If he lands in the right spot in 2012, he could have some real value.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars
Although Jennings ended up on injured reserve in early September with a knee injury, he did not need surgery and is expected to be a full go for 2012 – his last year under contract. With Deji Karim completely off the radar in Jacksonville, Jennings should resume his status as MJD’s primary backup, and is another candidate to land a Michael Turner-like contract somewhere in 2013. He’s worth a roster spot for both of those reasons.
Dion Lewis, Eagles
The Eagles already tried to trade Ronnie Brown unsuccessfully during the 2011 season, so it’s a safe bet that he won’t be back, leaving Lewis as Shady McCoy’s primary backup. The Eagles offense is a fantasy gold mine for shifty backs that can catch the ball and make people miss in space, and Lewis has a similar skill set to McCoy in that sense. Another guy that will likely improve dramatically with a full offseason under his belt, he’s a great guy to grab if his sitting on the waiver wire.
Jordan Todman, Vikings
Todman averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 569 combined carries his last two yards at Connecticut, a team that had no discernable passing game and often faced eight and man fronts. Todman also looked pretty good in the preseason with the Chargers, which is why I was so surprised when he was waived in favor of Curtis Brinkley, who went undrafted in 2009 out of Syracuse. My best guess is the Chargers felt more comfortable with the more-experienced Brinkley in pass protection, considering that Philip Rivers is by far the Chargers most valuable player. Todman has since resurfaced with the Vikings, and giving the fact that Adrian Peterson may start next season on the PUP list, he could be Toby Gerhart’s primary backup. If he gets an opportunity and flashes, Todman is a lottery ticket guy that could pay off in the next few years.
Chad Spann, Steelers
Spann is one of those guys whose smarts and worth ethic are going to be the keys if he ends up with a successful NFL career. A deep sleeper when he signed with the Colts as an UDFA after the 2011 draft, he got hurt and was ultimately waived. After resurfacing with the Steelers, he has been activated from the practice squad for their Wild Card game against Denver after the Mendenhall injury. He’ll be third on the depth chart behind Isaac Redman and John Clay, but he’s another super deep guy that could get on the field, flash a little and then have some value moving forward.
Danny Amendola, Rams
Amendola had five catches for 45 yards on six targets in week one before going on IR with a triceps injury. Amendola doesn’t average a ton of yards per catch and doesn’t get in the end zone a lot (3 TDs on 126 targets in 2010), but he still has WR3 value in PPR leagues and is a good pickup in a league where an impatient owner let him go. Amendola is a restricted free agent in 2012, and may end up somewhere else, which could obviously affect his value.
Dezmon Briscoe, Buccaneers
Arrelious Benn has a hard time staying healthy and Briscoe has been able to perform even in Tampa’s anemic passing offense (8 catches for 53 yards and 2 TDs on 11 targets in Week 17 vs. Atlanta). His value will depend on who ends up taking over in Tampa and Benn’s health, but Briscoe is a nice stash at the end of your roster.
Kyle Williams, 49ers
Braylon Edwards has been released and Kyle Williams seems to be emerging as the WR2 in San Francisco. Granted he is still the 3rd or 4th option in a conservative passing game, but he has shown good hands and the ability to go and get the football.
Riley Cooper, Eagles
DeSean Jackson re-signing with the Eagles is far from certain, and Cooper has played well when given the opportunity (5 catches for 75 yards and a TD on 12 targets in Week 11 and 5 catches for 94 yards on 10 targets in Week 13). If he ends up as the WR2 on the pass happy Eagles, he could have Top 25 value.
David Gettis, Panthers
Gettis went down with an ACL injury during the preseason when it looked like he was going to be the Panthers’ WR2. Probably dropped in most leagues before everyone saw how prolific of a passer Cam Newton turned out to be, he worth a speculative add. The Panthers offense looks like it will be able to support two fantasy wide receivers, and there’s no reason that guy can’t be Gettis if he can get healthy.
Greg Salas, Rams
Salas struggled early with drops after taking over for the injured Danny Amendola, then came on (8 catches for 77 yards on 10 targets in Week 6) before going on IR after week nine with a fractured left fibula. Brandon Lloyd is likely not to be back in St. Louis, and Danny Amendola, as noted above, is an RFA in 2012, so Salas (another rookie who will finally get a full offseason) has the possibility of extended playing time in 2012.
Jordan Cameron, Browns
Cameron is another of the now-famous converted basketball player tight ends, who started to see the field at the end of the season with Ben Watson dealing with concussion issues. Watson is a free agent after the 2012 season, and the Browns have shown no willingness to use Evan Moore as the primary tight end. Cameron is still raw, but has freakish athletic ability, and if you are patient, has the potential to really pay off going forward.
Julius Thomas, Broncos
Thomas is another converted basketball player and, according to some analysts, was an even better prospect than Cameron last year. He would have seen more action in Denver if not for a lingering high ankle sprain. He’s another very athletic guy who could pay off if he continues to develop and if the Broncos can find a way to throw the ball.
Wesley Saunders, Steelers
Saunders went undrafted out of South Carolina after having off-season surgery on a broken foot combined with lingering character issues. He seems to have kept his head on straight, and the Steelers really like his skill set. Heath Miller is a free agent after 2012, and Saunders has a good chance to succeed him.
Tony Moeaki, Chiefs
Moeaki has shown off his impressive pass catching abilities when he has been able to stay healthy. His talent is undeniable, and if an owner inexplicably dropped him when he went on IR, go ahead and grab him and start praying to the God of health to bestow some on Moeaki.
D.J. Williams, Packers
With the rumors that the Packers might use the franchise tag on Matt Flynn to preserve his trade value, there remains the chance that they might let Jermichael Finley walk. If that’s the case, D.J. Williams has a good chance to be the Packers starting tight end next year. I think you see where I’m going with this one.
James Casey, Texans
Casey has produced when given the opportunity (5 catches for 126 yards and a TD on 7 targets in Week 3 and 7 catches for 91 yards on 7 targets in Week 17). He’s a free agent after this year and could end up being a productive starter somewhere.
Managing the end of your roster is one of the keys to dynasty league success. Some of these guys could end up a major component of a championship roster in the future – why shouldn’t it be yours?