Dynasty fantasy football is all about one word – VALUE. Although some would disagree, I feel player values are almost constantly changing, due to a variety of events. These could include injury, poor play, off the field occurrences, or team dynamics and performance.
Each week, I will closely examine my rankings at each offensive skill position and make the necessary adjustments based on all the factors mentioned above, while watching as many games as possible. What will follow is a log of adjustments that have been made, including players who are moving up my rankings as well as those sliding down. While I will not include every player who changes, I will focus on the players making the most significant moves in either direction. While your rankings undoubtedly will vary from my own, the point is these are players who I feel are experiencing a price (or value) change in dynasty leagues.
Price On the Rise
Joe Flacco, QB BAL
Moves from QB25 to QB17
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has long had expectations his fantasy numbers might someday match his arm strength. He has consistently led his Ravens team to victory while managing to only post mediocre fantasy numbers. In 2010, when Baltimore acquired wide receiver Anquan Boldin, expectations for Flacco grew even greater. Boldin though, only provided the team with a possession receiver and Flacco’s statistics changed very little. In the 2011 NFL draft, the team chose wide receiver Torrey Smith, an athletic deep threat. Although Smith was inconsistent, he gave Ravens fans and fantasy owners the hope he could be Flacco’s first legitimate deep threat. This off-season, the Ravens signed speedy wide receiver Jacoby Jones. While this move flew under the radar, adding Jones to Boldin and Smith was a major upgrade to Flacco’s receiving corps.
In his week one matchup against the Bengals, the Ravens made some bold changes in their offensive scheme as the offense often operated with no huddle and Flacco responded as he passed for nearly 300 yards and two scores – good enough for top ten fantasy numbers at the quarterback position. Flacco’s jump up my rankings has as much to do with my undervaluing him as it does his strong week one performance. Honestly, I had Flacco ranked too low at QB25 behind players like Brandon Weeden and Christian Ponder. Now, I think I had adequately adjusted his ranking, without basing too much on one week’s performance.
In dynasty leagues, Flacco is a high upside QB2 and could be acquired relatively cheaply, even after his impressive play on Monday Night Football. Flacco is a player I would be buying in my dynasty leagues.
Other Quarterback Risers: Jay Cutler; Blaine Gabbert
Stevan Ridley, RB NE
Moves from RB30 to RB19
During the 2011 NFL draft, the New England Patriots made a statement by selecting not one, but two running backs; LSU’s Ridley and Shane Vereen from Cal. The pair each offered a unique skill set and Patriots fans had to be ecstatic that Head Coach Bill Belichick had two new weapons to use in his high powered offense. Neither player made a huge splash during their rookie year as BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the load for the Patriots, but this off-season, the Law Firm moved on to the Bengals. This situation garnered a great deal of discussion as dynasty owners tried to predict how it might play out.
In the end, Vereen suffered a hip injury that cost him some preseason time and even caused him to miss week one. The starting job was Ridley’s for the taking and that is just what he did against the Tennessee Titans in week one. Ridley rushed for 125 yards and a score, while adding two catches for another 27 yards. Those numbers were good enough to place him at RB5 for the week in PPR leagues and it gave his value a huge boost.
I have always liked both Patriot running backs, but in my rankings, they have somewhat canceled each other out. That is not the case as of now. Ridley moves this week from RB30 all the way to RB19 and I now consider him an every week starter and a prime trade target in leagues where I do not own him. If he is available in a trade in your league, make a move. Buying high is not a smart move in most cases, but Ridley has a strong chance to continue this play and post RB1 numbers for the entire season.
Other Running Back Risers: Jonathan Dwyer; Alfred Morris
Stephen Hill, WR NYJ
Moves from WR47 to WR38
The New York Jets drafted wide receiver Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech with their second round pick. Coming from a college team that uses a triple option offense, Hill had meager receiving statistics and was labeled as raw and deemed a project. But, like realtors say – location, location, location. The Jets lack playmaking wide receivers and that is exactly what Hill can be.
He was drafted in most rookie drafts somewhere between the late first round and early second round, in the midst of a slew of rookie wide receivers that dynasty owners had trouble separating. Among them were Hill, Alshon Jeffrey, Rueben Randle, Kendall Wright and Brian Quick.
Hill exploded in his first professional game against the Buffalo Bills, collecting five catches for 89 yards and two scores. He finished as the WR4 in PPR leagues this week and it is easy to see a scenario where Hill displaces the whiny Santonio Holmes as quarterback Mark Sanchez’ top target. In fact, it may have already happened, as Holmes had fewer catches and yards than Hill did against the Bills.
I initially had Hill ranked as my WR47, below many of his fellow rookie wide receivers. While I am not ready to move him ahead of players like Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd after just one game, his value is on the rise and he is now my WR38. If you have been a believer in Hill, it is best to wait for a down game (which all rookies experience), before making an offer to acquire him.
Other Wide Receiver Risers: Alshon Jeffrey; Pierre Garcon; Brandon LaFell; Randy Moss; Kevin Ogletree; Andrew Hawkins; Jordy Nelson; Dexter McCluster
Kyle Rudolph, TE MIN
Moves from TE8 to TE4
The Minnesota Vikings drafted tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round of the 2011 draft. Lacking a playmaking tight end, many expected Rudolph to quickly step in and replace Visanthe Shiancoe as the team’s starter. Instead, Rudolph saw no starts and few receptions at all, totaling only 26 catches for 249 yards, though he did score three touchdowns. As he posted most of those statistics in the latter half of the season, the off-season hype surrounding Rudolph grew and grew, as did his value.
Now, Shiancoe is gone and Rudolph is the starting tight end for the Vikings. The team lacks weapons on offense and Rudolph started off strong grabbing five catches for 67 yards in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was the team’s second leading receiver, which will likely continue throughout the season.
The bold jump Rudolph made up to TE4 on my rankings sheet is not only based on his performance and my expectations for him over the next few years, but also about the concerns I have about other tight ends in that tier, including Fred Davis and Jermichael Finley.
Other Tight End Risers: Dennis Pitta; Coby Fleener
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB BUF
Moves from QB29 to QB37
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick bounced around the league, serving as a backup for the St. Louis Rams and Cincinnati Bengals before earning the full time starting role for the Bills in 2010. Although he has posted some high scoring games (often due to his running ability), Fitzpatrick has not been a reliable weekly option for fantasy owners. In 2011, Fitzpatrick posted seven games with more than 20 fantasy points, but he also had five games with 12 or fewer fantasy points. This is not a player you can start each week as it is impossible to guess when things will click for him.
Against the stingy Jets defense in their week one matchup, disaster struck for the Bills. The team lost starting running back Fred Jackson to a leg injury that will keep him out for up to eight weeks. Later in the game, starting wide receiver David Nelson suffered a torn ACL, ending his 2012 season. For a team already lacking weapons on the offense, these are huge blows. Fitzpatrick was able to post modest fantasy numbers as he threw for three scores in the game’s final twenty minutes with the Jets already looking toward their week two matchup.
Entering the 2012 season, I valued Fitzpatrick in a large and mostly unimpressive tier of quarterbacks who deserved to be rostered only because they were starters for their team. These are players I would never feel comfortable starting for my fantasy team, yet I could not outright drop them either. With his performance this week and the loss of some key offensive players, I now expect this to be Fitzpatrick’s final season as the starter in Buffalo.
I have moved Fitzpatrick from QB29 to QB37, meaning there are several backup quarterbacks I would prefer to take a chance on ahead of the Bills starter. Among those are Tim Tebow, Ryan Mallett, Nick Foles, and Colin Kaepernick. If any of these players are on the waiver wire in a shallow dynasty league, I advise you to drop, or shop, Fitzpatrick and find a younger replacement, before the Bills do the same.
Other Quarterbacks Chopped: Sam Bradford; Brandon Weeden
Rashad Jennings, RB JAX
Moves from RB46 to RB57
Rashad Jennings, the backup running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, was one of the hottest names in the fantasy football world in the month leading up to the regular season. Starter Maurice Jones-Drew was holding out for a bigger contract and Jennings was healthy and ready to take over as the starter for the Jaguars. Oh, how quickly things can change. Just days before the opening kickoff, Jones-Drew reported to the team and that alone was enough to earn a split of the carries for week one. In the first half, Jennings injured his knee and did not play the remainder of the game. Now we learn that the injury is to the same knee that cost Jennings his 2011 season.
It is unknown how long the latest version of this injury will keep Jennings out, but there are some things we do know. Jennings is already 27 years old and has never been counted on as a starter, or even as an equal part of a running back by committee. He has been bothered by knee injuries, which can obviously be a career killer for a running back. His career highs for carries and yards came in 2010 when he rushed 84 times for 459 yards – these are very nice numbers for a backup running back, but they do not scream possible starter.
It is very possible that Jennings’ peak fantasy value came in the past month when it looked like he would have one or two weeks to himself in the Jaguars backfield. Instead, he is back to being an injured backup, one who is a free agent after this season. If you are in a league where the Jones-Drew owner is still a little anxious, take this chance to sell Jennings for a future rookie pick.
Other Running Backs Chopped: Mark Ingram; Beanie Wells; Isaiah Pead
Greg Little, WR CLE
Moves from WR30 to WR39
The knock on the Cleveland Browns wide receiver never seems to change – he struggles to catch the ball. This is obviously very important for a wide receiver, especially one who is being counted on as a team’s top pass catcher. The Browns have few receiving options and if Little could improve, he has the opportunity to catch a hundred balls as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s top option.
Instead, Little posts games like he did in week one against the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was not able to muster a single catch among his four targets. I assume the Browns will continue to rely heavily on Little, but I am starting to wonder if he will be able to break into the elite tier of wide receivers or if clumsy play will continue to plague him.
In my rankings this week, I moved Little from WR30, where he was in the same tier as fellow young wide receivers like Titus Young of the Detroit Lions and Oakland’s Denarius Moore down to WR39, near fellow unproven wide receiver like the Chiefs Jon Baldwin and Giants rookie Rueben Randle. After all, if the Browns can’t rely on Little to catch the ball, neither can dynasty owners.
Although many owners seem to be cooling on Little’s long-term prospects, he still has his share of fans. I recommend seeking out those owners in your league and find a wide receiver you like better. I recently dealt Little for the Panthers Steve Smith and a future first round rookie pick.
Other Wide Receivers Chopped: Wes Welker; Greg Jennings; Michael Floyd
Fred Davis, TE WAS
Moves from TE5 to TE8
Although my rankings do vary greatly from other DLF staff members, I feel very confident with my tight end rankings. After watching the games, studying the news and closely observing the happenings in all of my leagues, there are no tight ends falling greatly in my rankings.
One tight end who did slide slightly was the Redskins starter Fred Davis. Davis took over as the team’s starter in 2011 when Chris Cooley was lost for the season. Davis excelled and that spelled the end of Cooley’s time in Washington. Trouble hit Davis as the season drew to a close though as he was suspended for the final four games of the season – this is a concern because one more brush with the commissioner’s office could result in a year long suspension.
When the Redskins chose quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, expectations for all members of the offense exploded, especially for Davis. Instead though, this off-season featured reports of how Griffin and Davis have not meshed well. Evidence of this report have shown throughout the preseason games and now into week one. Davis was only targeted four times, catching two balls for 38 yards. While he is still certainly capable of producing TE1 numbers, I previously had him over ranked, especially when considering the above information. With that said, Davis is a player I would target in dynasty leagues if his owners are willing to sell.
Other Tight Ends Chopped: Taylor Thompson
Check back next week when we take another deep look at dynasty rankings and changing values. Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanMc23.