Every owner in a dynasty league is looking for “the next.” Having that one elite superstar can vault virtually any team immediately into contention. While a well balanced team is obviously a key to win, there are always a few players who can make a good team great, just about every Sunday.
In the past, we’ve seen many players carry franchises to the elusive championship. Adrian Peterson has been a workhorse for dynasty teams for years. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, Arian Foster and Ray Rice are just a few players who have brought home fantasy glory for many owners in recent seasons.
If you look beyond the past couple of years, you’ll see names like Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and a host of others etched on dynasty trophies.
Point is, having that one stud player can be the key for you in winning your league. Having a consistent performer at one position can ensure you contend in those weeks where your flex or secondary players have off weeks.
In this installment, we take a look at some players who could vault themselves into the upper echelon of fantasy players – those who could possibly lead their respective positions in scoring in a given season. While the chances of this happening may not be better than 50/50, all of them have a realistic chance, and that’s why you’re crossing your fingers.
Let’s break down this group of players and unearth some of the obstacles that stand in their way of being “next.”
AJ Green, WR CIN
Green was simply phenomenal in his rookie season, posting 65 catches, 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. For a veteran, those are great numbers. For a rookie, those are ridiculous. You obviously have to hope he doesn’t turn in a Mike Williams-like performance next year, but unlike Williams, he’s shown the talent and maturity to be an elite player in the league. He may not catch 100 passes each year, but the ones he does catch are going to count.
We have Green ranked third at the position in our new compiled rankings and he’s poised to do nothing but grow as the centerpiece of the Bengal offense. Cincinnati is extremely young, but Green’s presence made them quickly forget about Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
With any player on this list, there are obstacles. Green has only one of them standing in his way of reaching the next level and that’s his quarterback, Andy Dalton. During the preseason, it looked like Dalton was ready to face plant last year. Surprisingly, he did the opposite and posted a solid rookie campaign in 2011. As long as he doesn’t go Rick Mirer on us, Green should develop into an elite weapon in dynasty leagues.
Julio Jones, WR ATL
Much like Green, Jones posted a great rookie season. His 54 catches, 959 yards and eight touchdowns in just 13 games gave his owners a glimpse of what’s to come. His 17.8 yards per catch average was also astounding, especially when you consider only Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz and Vincent Jackson posted a higher per catch average among players with at least 50 receptions last season.
What you may love the most about Jones is how he finished. From weeks 13-16, only two other receivers outscored him in most PPR leagues. From weeks 14-16, only ONE other receiver outscored him. The problem is that receiver was his own teammate – Roddy White.
The obstacle for Jones is pretty obvious at the moment. The existence of White is going to limit his production, at least in the short term. After all, White is an absolute target monster. Even if Jones can stay healthy for an entire season, it’s possible (even likely), that White gets the lion’s share of the pass attempts.
Matt Ryan has shown he’s good enough to make two receivers viable options – it’s just unlikely he can make two of them into week-to-week elite options. Once White moves on, the sky’s the limit for Jones. With his talent, he may make that day come sooner rather than later.
DeMarco Murray, RB DAL
We at DLF weren’t as high as others on Murray coming out of Oklahoma last year. We saw a player who had a tendency to get hurt, underperformed mightily and looked at times like he was simply out of gas.
Turns out, we may have been wrong. Well, at least partly.
Murray’s performance from weeks seven through twelve last year was amazing. In fact, he trailed only Ray Rice and Arian Foster in scoring during that period in most leagues. Murray took over for a hobbled Felix Jones and ignited a stagnant rushing attack in Dallas, highlighted by a 253 yard performance against St. Louis. During that stretch, Murray showed great burst, the ability to break tackles and a toughness we hadn’t seen from him in a long time. Simply put, he had the “it” factor.
Murray gives Dallas a great deal of hope, as he does his dynasty league owners. With an offense that suits his abilities, skill players on the outside to make defenses honest and an offensive line that’s improving, Murray has a recipe for success laid out for him. Felix Jones is still in the mix, but you just can’t deny that Murray brings an added dimension to the Cowboy attack.
So, what could possibly stop him?
Murray simply has to stay healthy. The recovery from the broken right ankle he suffered last season is said to be ahead of schedule, but that’s simply the latest in a list of nagging injuries for Murray. His tendency to be hobbled should be a major concern for his dynasty owners and could even result in them selling high on him if he starts out the season strong. Just consider yourself warned – Murray could be the next big thing, even if it is for a Larry Johnson-like short burst of time.
Ryan Mathews, RB SD
Mathews finally showed his owners what he could do last year when he posted his first 1,000 yard season and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. He also added 455 yards receiving and scored a total of six touchdowns. The production from Mathews was solid, but he’s capable of much, much more.
This next season will be a pivotal one for him. If the Chargers let Mike Tolbert go in free agency, his touchdown chances could double. Add the eight scores that Tolbert vultured and Mathews is all of a sudden a more than viable RB1 in dynasty leagues. This whole situation reminds me of the Willis McGahee and Ray Rice situation we had in Baltimore a couple of seasons ago.
There’s no doubting Mathews’ ability, but much like DeMarco Murray, he’s had trouble staying healthy and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy and Tolbert leaves town, Mathews could be a fantasy goldmine and a commodity in the upper echelon of dynasty leagues.
Dez Bryant, WR DAL
Bryant showed steady improvement in all categories last season by recording a career high 63 catches, 928 yards and nine touchdowns. There were times when he took over games and looked like the best player on the field. At just 23 years of age, that’s no small feat. Dez has shown the talent and ability to be an elite red zone threat and possible game breaker for the Cowboys. Multiple experts say he could eventually be the best receiver in the game.
No brainer, right? Well, not quite.
This season is going to be huge for Bryant. Simply put, his biggest obstacle is himself. Sure, he finds himself in an offense that’s loaded with other weapons, but he has the highest ceiling of any of them. Bryant won’t come close to realizing that potential if he doesn’t show the maturity necessary to be a professional. When Deion Sanders bails on you, it’s not good news.
For dynasty owners, you can at least be sure he’ll attempt to play as long as possible if for no other reason than to pay off what seems to be a mounting pile of jewelry expenses.
Bryant’s performance this year begs to be one of the biggest stories in dynasty leagues. Does he make the third year leap or continue to just be a good, but not great, fantasy option?
Andrew Luck, QB STAN
It’s probably nuts to put a quarterback who’s never played a down in the league in this list, but Luck fits the bill. At this point in time, collegiate players are being put under the microscope like never before. Faults are magnified to a ridiculous extent and every mistake they’ve ever made is scrutinized. The amazing thing about Luck is that nobody can find anything really wrong with him. They certainly will at some point, but that’s really telling right about now.
Many experts are saying Luck is the best quarterback prospect since John Elway. Stop and think about that for a second. Better than Peyton Manning? Better than Matt Stafford? Better than Aaron Rodgers? Better than Michael Vick? The list goes on and on. The experts have been wrong before, but you could be looking at one of, if not THE, premier signal caller in both the NFL and dynasty leagues if they’re right.
The obstacle for Luck is pretty simple – you just have to hope he doesn’t get David Carr-ed in Indianapolis. He should be taken number one overall and be thrown into the mix from day one for the Colts. If he doesn’t get blown up early in his career, you could very well be looking at the next decade of excellent quarterback in Indianapolis.
How lucky could the Colts be? While other teams have been searching for decades to find an elite franchise quarterback, the Colts may end up with two of the best we’ve seen in the last twenty years.
So, who do you think is “next?”
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