The best dynasty teams are built on talent and having the best players. Getting your hands on the best players is a different story. It takes a savvy owner to identify when it’s the best time to move in on a player they’ve had their eye on. In my opinion, the best time is when a different player on your target’s team starts getting some attention. Every year around the NFL draft people get rookie fever and fall in love with players.
It’s like when you were a kid and you had a favorite toy you took everywhere and it was the coolest thing ever – mine was the Optimus Prime and Starscream Transformers. Then something happened. My birthday rolled around and I got these four new toys, they weren’t Transformers at all. Their names were Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael, more commonly known as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yup, the “heroes in a half shell.” Overnight I went from “more than meets the eye” to “Turtle Power.” For months (if not years), my dad would come into my room and take Optimus and Starscream from me after I fell asleep. I went from not sharing these toys with anyone to them being old news and carelessly thrown onto my bedroom floor. My brothers took advantage of my new love affair with my Ninja Turtles by focusing on my old Transformers. I let them play with what was once the focal point of my adolescent existence without thinking twice simply because I had something new.
This happens a lot in fantasy football, especially in dynasty leagues. A rookie or a free agent is brought in and all the sudden someone we’ve been high on gets carelessly thrown to the wayside. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them, it just means we have a familiarity with them and we’re excited for the new toy. Being able to identify that look in another owner’s eye is key. Second year players who had a slow rookie campaign are the perfect targets in this scenario. People get antsy if their rookie picks didn’t light it up in year one and owners are often quick to pull the plug. The value is trying to buy low when owners drop their guard.
Let’s look at some situations where the guy not getting the national attention should be getting yours.
Brandon Marshall / Alshon Jeffery
It’s hard to not get excited for Marshall who caught 118 passes for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012, but Marshall’s price tag in dynasty startups will cost you a late first round pick or, at the very least, an early second. He’s worth every penny, but with Marc Trestman in town you can’t expect Marshall to have four times as many catches as the number two wide receiver (Earl Bennett had 29 catches) in Chicago.
Look for Alshon Jeffery to step up in year two and at least double his 24 catches, 367 yards and three touchdowns from his rookie campaign. Jeffery can be acquired for far less than Marshall and it’s quite possible the current owner is fielding offers right now after his sub-par rookie year.
Tavon Austin / Brian Quick / Chris Givens
Right now the big name in St. Louis is Tavon Austin. The pint sized rookie out of West Virginia has everyone excited as possibly the next Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb. He’s going to be the first wide receiver drafted in dynasty rookie drafts and he’s quickly dragged down the value of Quick and Givens.
Quick’s rookie year was essentially a redshirt year after coming from Appalachian State. He admitted the playbook was overwhelming at times on top of coming from a Division II school. Reports out of OTAs have been glowing. Quick reportedly looks like a different player, catching everything, making plays, and dominating red zone drills. At 6’3”, 220 lbs with 4.45 speed, Quick is built like Dez Bryant and has the potential to play like him. Now is the time to buy on Quick, if he continues this upward trend you’re going to have to pay inflated hype prices by the time pre-season games roll around.
The other forgotten Rams pas catcher was the team’s leading receiver from a year ago, Chris Givens. Givens hauled in 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns as rookie out of Wake Forest. Unfairly pegged as just a deep threat, Givens proved he was more than just a guy with 4.41 speed. Filling in for an injured Danny Amendola in week 13 versus the San Francisco 49ers, Givens caught 11 passes for 92 yards. I look for Quick and Givens to start on the outside with Austin in the slot. Givens has nice WR3 value right now on a potentially explosive Rams offense. Due to Austin’s presence, Givens can be had for pennies on the dollar.
Dez Bryant / Miles Austin
In Dallas right now it’s all about Dez. In a “what have you done for me lately” world, Austin has quickly been forgotten about. Apparently (hopefully), the light has finally clicked on for Bryant. In 2012, Bryant set career highs in every major statistical category by catching 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dez is currently being drafted as a top five dynasty wide receiver and if you’re considering trading for him, you better be prepared to pay over market value.
Lining up across from Bryant is Miles Austin who was bothered by hamstring and leg woes last season but actually appeared in all 16 games. He finished the season with 66 catches, 943 yards, and six touchdowns on bad wheels. He’s reportedly focused on strengthening his hamstrings this offseason to prevent future issues. Austin will be 29 years old at the end of June but still offers a lot of WR2 upside and potential with Tony Romo chucking the ball around in Big D. With all the love and focus Bryant is getting, now is the time to move in on Austin.
Vincent Jackson / Mike Williams
The free agent signing of Vincent Jackson was a perfect match in Tampa Bay. It gave Josh Freeman the deep threat he so desperately needed and it drew attention from Mike Williams on the other side. Not the mention the defensive attention he commanded opening up running lanes for Doug Martin.
Coming over from San Diego, VJax finished his first season in pewter with 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight scores. Jackson was an elite option as a WR1 in fantasy leagues last year and even though he probably one of the more reasonably attainable WR1s, he still expensive and there is better value lining up across from him.
Mike Williams is a victim of his own creation. During his rookie season, Williams caught 65 passes for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns and was called a steal for being drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. In 2011, he again caught 65 balls, this time for 771 yards and only three touchdowns. People quickly turned on Williams and when VJax was signed he was sold for pennies on the dollar. His third season, last year, he bounced back with 63 catches, 996 yards and nine scores. Outside of the touchdowns (which are a fickle stat to predict), Williams has been as consistent as they come. You can put him down for 65 catches every year. With Jackson across from him, I look for Willimas to finally get his first 1,000 yard season. The best news is you can get a rock solid WR2 for WR3 prices right now while rookie fever is at it’s peak.
David Wilson/ Andre Brown
I won’t harp on this one. I talked about it extensively in the “Over / Under: David Wilson” article.
David Wilson has seen his ADP continually rise all off-season. According to Ryan McDowell’s ADP tracking, Wilson is at his highest price right now coming off the board with an ADP of 24.5 in startup drafts as the RB12. His touchdown vulturing committee partner, Andre Brown, is being selected as the RB36 with an ADP of 101 in May.
Obviously, Wilson will end the year with way more yards than Brown, nobody can deny that. If anyone believes he will finish the year with more touchdowns than Brown, they may be kidding themselves. I expect Wilson and Brown to finish the season with similar fantasy points and you can get Brown seven rounds later. He’s good value.
There are plenty more situations out there just like these. You know your leagues better than we ever will. If you see another owner lusting over a new toy and you see an opportunity to finally get your hands on his Transformers, make your move. Timing is everything.
Let’s have some fun in the comments section here. Feel free to tell me who you’re going after as a value target or as a buy low, but also tell me what your favorite toy was growing up. I’d love to hear about it.