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This week, we’re taking a look at four of the most challenging players to evaluate in dynasty leagues. There are a variety of reasons that could cause dynasty owners to struggle when placing value on specific players. A player’s age or team situation, their production or lack of production in relation to expectations, their health issues or off the field concerns are all factors that can muddy the water when determining value.
If you are happy with the current status of your team (are we ever?) then the value of your players may not really matter to you. But, if you are like most of us dynasty fanatics, you are always looking for trade possibilities to bolster your roster. Trade discussions are the primary time when value, and the process owners go through to place a current market value on players, becomes important.
Here, I take a look at some players that I find hard to decipher when considering their current value.
Peyton Manning, QB DEN
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has had a long and successful career. In fact, over his thirteen years, he has yet to finish outside of the top ten among fantasy quarterbacks, which includes eight seasons in which he finished among the top three passers. Barring injury, this will be his fourteenth season to finish as a top ten quarterback and he’s currently among the top five. While the statistics can not be denied, the doubt and difficulty when placing a current value on Manning comes about when considering his age (36) and the neck injury that cost him the 2011 season.
As Manning was dealing with that serious injury a season ago, dynasty owners were quick to drop him from among the top five quarterback rankings to outside of the top twenty. While he has shown the ability to pick up where he left off, some are still not believers.
Some recent trades involving Manning include an even swap for veteran quarterback Tom Brady. Another owner packaged Manning with Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
These trades place a much higher value on Manning than I am willing to at this time. From what I have learned, as well as what Manning has displayed this season, it does seem that his neck injury is fully healed and should not be a concern. At the same time, he is still 36 years old and can’t have many more years of production like he is showing this season. If you are a Manning owner, but not contending, now is a great time to look to unload him. Obviously, take a look at the top teams in your league who are lacking a weekly high performing quarterback. Possibly target the Cam Newton or Michael Vick owners, if they have managed to stay near the top of the standings.
Jonathan Stewart, RB CAR
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has been a recent topic here at DLF, especially the past couple of weeks since he has taken over as the lead back in Carolina. Although Stewart has four full years of experience in the league, he is still only 25 years old and just signed a contract extension to remain in Carolina for the next six seasons.
Stewart has been a perennial disappointment for dynasty owners, especially those who have had him rostered the past five years, continuing to hope this will be the year he truly lives up to his potential. It all began in the last month of Stewart’s sophomore season for the Panthers when he totaled 470 yards and four touchdowns over the Panthers’ final three games. With Stewart’s success in college and first round pedigree, owners expectations were already high, but this late season performance cemented the hyped status we now know so well.
In the two and a half years since, Stewart has played well as one half of the Panthers running back by committee, alongside DeAngelo Williams. Stewart has averaged just under fifty yards per game during that time and has scored a total of six rushing touchdowns. Stewart’s relative lack of success has been attributed to coaching decisions, offensive schemes and of course, the presence of Williams. Whatever the reason, the numbers don’t lie. Stewart is a solid dynasty running back, but has been overvalued by many, including myself.
When the recent news broke that Stewart would see increased touches and could now be considered the starting running back, his value again shot up. While it has only been two weeks since this news, the results have been underwhelming. Stewart has 27 carries for 93 yards and no scores in two games as the starter.
Stewart is a challenge for me to evaluate as I try to weigh the immense talent he has displayed at times, along with the confusing decisions made by the coaching staff and general manager in Carolina. These factors together make Stewart a challenging case. Most of his owners have likely waited and waited for the payoff of their investment and are not likely to sell at a discount.
In recent trades, Stewart was moved for two future first round draft picks. He was also traded for injured Cardinals running back Ryan Williams and a future first round pick and finally he was moved for Packers wide receiver James Jones and a future second round rookie pick.
As you can see, his value is all over the board and most owners don’t seem willing to give up current value for him, but are more comfortable using risky draft picks in exchange for a risky, yet high upside, running back.
Mike Wallace, WR PIT
Following an explosive, but inconsistent rookie season in 2009, Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace entrenched himself as a top dynasty wide receiver with back to back top ten seasons in 2010-2011, in which he averaged over 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.
Also in 2011, we saw the emergence of another speedy wide receiver for Pittsburgh as Antonio Brown burst onto the scene. This off-season, while the Steelers and Wallace were battling over the details of a potential new contract, the Pittsburgh brass gave a huge new deal to Brown and left Wallace holding the (empty) bag.
This season, although Wallace is on pace for a career high of 78 catches, to go along with over 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns, he has again been inconsistent. Add to that the unknown future Wallace has to look forward to this off-season. We all have seen that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not afraid to chuck the ball down the field for Wallace and Brown. The uncertainty about where Wallace will play in 2013 clouds his value and makes him a risk for dynasty owners to acquire at this time.
Recent trades involving Wallace show us that his value has slipped from where it was a year ago at this time. One owner gave up Wallace along with tight end Vernon Davis for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. A second trade was an even swap of Wallace for running back CJ Spiller.
Wallace’s fall down the ranks can ultimately be attributed to his holdout last offseason, but the truth is that he was likely being overranked when he was placed among the top eight wide receivers by many dynasty owners.
Tony Gonzalez, TE ATL
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is one of the best and most reliable players of all time. Excluding his rookie season of 1997, he has never finished outside of the top ten among fantasy tight ends. He has also never missed more than one game in any season, missing only two games his entire career.
The ageless one is at it again this season and currently ranks as the TE4. Even though he is competing for targets with two top wide receivers (Roddy White and Julio Jones), he is still on pace for 100 catches and nearly 1,000 yards, as well as eight touchdowns.
Of the players mentioned so far, Gonzalez is the easiest player to identify the cause of our troubles. His age of 36, along with multiple reports that this will be his final season in the NFL have greatly affected his value. In fact, in the off-season, he was being traded for future third round picks, which is dirt cheap. There would have been no discussion had he come out and played like a typical 36 year old. Instead, he is one of the top tight ends in the game yet again and contending owners are scrambling to acquire a reliable tight end.
Trading for Gonzalez at this point is a 100% “win now” move. There is a very good chance retires at the conclusion of this season and he would obviously have no value at that point. However, if you are a contending team and you have a gaping hole at tight end, Gonzalez could be a very valuable patch that might make all the difference in your season.
For teams out of the playoff race, he is the top sell candidate in fantasy. Take anything you can get for him.
This discrepancy in how Gonzalez is valued by different owners has caused there to be very few trades involving him recently. He was moved for Texans running back Ben Tate. Another trade I actually made netted me Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew and a future second round pick – both of those trades represent very good value for the future Hall of Famer.
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