A year ago at this time, Michael Crabtree was someone who very few dynasty owners coveted. After being a top rookie pick a few years prior, he had failed to impress during his first three seasons in the NFL. When Crabtree fully recovered from a lingering foot injury and enjoyed a change at quarterback, the years of owner frustration were finally rewarded. Unfortunately, many owners who initially invested in Crabtree were not rewarded with their patience because they traded him away before he finally broke out – that frustration allowed many to take advantage of the situation and acquire a future top wide receiver at a very small cost. Of course, Crabtree’s situation has changed for the worse now, but you get what we’re saying here. Even with the recent injury news, his value is is much higher than the low investment owners had to pay for him at this time last year.
It happens every year.
A player who was previously seen as a bust, washed up, or just underwhelming will break out with a big season that completely changes the overall opinion of them. The purpose of this article is to provide a few examples of players who have the potential to allow you to take a very small investment and turn it into a vital piece of your team.
Disliking any of the players listed below is completely understandable, but remember, Michael Crabtree was the WR40 drafted in start-up dynasty leagues last season.
Santonio Holmes, WR NYJ
Why you hate him – Since his breakout season with Pittsburgh in 2009, Holmes has been a bust with the Jets. In those three years, he has only averaged 3.8 receptions and 55 yards per game. He was suspended for four games in 2010, struggled with consistency in 2011 (along with having a rocky relationship with Mark Sanchez), and finished last season on IR after suffering a Lis Franc injury in week four.
Why you should love him – While Sanchez is officially listed as the starter for 2013, there is little doubt Geno Smith will be starting sooner, rather than later. As we’ve learned in recent years, rookie quarterbacks tend to heavily lean on a single receiver in many situations, leading to unexpected and impressive numbers. We’ve seen this consistently over the past few seasons, as we’ve seen a large number of rookies quickly gain starting roles. Cam Newton (Steve Smith), Andrew Luck (Reggie Wayne), RG3 (Pierre Garcon – although injured through much of the season, he was clearly the top target by a wide margin when healthy), Andy Dalton (AJ Green), Ryan Tannehill (Brian Hartline), and Christian Ponder (Percy Harvin) all made quick connections with their top receiving options.
Make no mistake, Santonio Holmes is not at the same level of any of those receiving options, but he is the clear top option in New York and should make for a competent receiver for Smith to lean on. With a current dynasty ADP of 158, the risk is minimal, while the reward could be quite large.
Tony Gonzalez, TE ATL
Why you hate him – He’s old.
Why you should love him – He’s one of the best tight ends in the NFL. One of the most common mistakes I see dynasty owners make is passing up the present for the future. While acquiring the trendy rookie or up-and-coming younger player is something most owners hope to accomplish, there is something to be said for taking advantage of aging players who others are giving away for pennies on the dollar. While it’s probable this is his final season (it’s all but guaranteed he’ll be out of the NFL after next year), he offers elite level production for minimal cost.
While he may not be the best option for a team in the process of a rebuild, he should be an immediate target teams that are playoff contenders. Based on current trades, he is being valued at the level of a second round pick (and lower in some cases). Rather than gambling on a second or third tier rookie in a relatively weak class, give up the pick for someone who is essentially guaranteed to give you a weekly advantage at the tight end position. It’s also worth stating he’s only missed one game in his entire career, so the injury risk is minimal.
Mark Ingram, RB NO
Why you hate him – There is no denying Ingram has been a fantasy (and NFL) bust over his first two seasons in the NFL. In addition to having limited carries in a crowded New Orleans backfield, he’s been fairly unimpressive with the opportunities he’s received.
Why you should love him – He’s getting better, and he’s still young (23). Last season, he started off the year with limited carries, averaging just 6.5 per game and managing only 3.4 yards per carry. Over the second half of the year, his carries increased to 12.75 per game with an average of 4.1 yards per tote.
It was clear as the year progressed that Ingram was beginning to earn more playing time and as the playing time increased, so did the production. While it’s fair to say the New Orleans backfield is still risky to invest in, his only true competition for carries at this time is Pierre Thomas. Darren Sproles is still in town, but his role is almost entirely within the passing game.
Ingram’s current ADP places him number #89 overall (#31 at the running back position), which makes him a gamble worth taking.
Jonathan Stewart, RB CAR
Why you hate him – For years, fantasy players have been frustrated by the Carolina Panthers running game. Most owners agree Stewart is extremely talented, but being forced to compete with DeAngelo Williams, Cam Newton, Mike Tolbert, and other assorted players causes his value to take a huge hit.
Why you should love him – The patience could pay off. While DeAngelo Williams will play for the Panthers this season, it is almost certainly his final year with the team. Although Newton and Tolbert eat into the running back usage in Carolina, Williams is the only player on the team who truly keeps carries away from Stewart.
While many in the fantasy community are confused by the Panthers unwillingness to allow Stewart to take over a workhorse role in Carolina, the simple fact is they have two very talented options. When Williams is cut after this season for financial reasons, it will leave just Tolbert (their fullback) and newly draft pick Kenjon Barner as the secondary options with the team. On the surface, Barner is just another headache for investors in the Carolina running game, but his signing is actually quite good for Stewart owners. By picking Barner, the Panthers likely drafted the future replacement for DeAngelo Williams. Unlike Williams however, he is much less likely to take significant number of carries away from Stewart, since he will likely fill more of a backfield receiver/third down option – this sets up a situation next season where Stewart is likely to receive the bulk of first and second down carries, while Barner is the third down back. While Tolbert could be used in short yardage situations, his role as fullback will limit him from being used significantly at running back. Cam Newton obviously takes a few carries away, but only a small number of his runs are by design. A vast majority Newton’s rushing attempts are from passing situations.
In short, Stewart is still a year away from adding a significant amount of carries per game, while his cost is the lowest it’s ever been. His current ADP is #65, but based on a number of off-season trades, he seems to be available for a significantly smaller investment. It’s worth the time to make a offer to his frustrated owner to see what his cost would be. The price may surprise you.
Josh Freeman, QB TB
Why you hate him – After a promising start to his NFL career, Freeman has disappointed his owners over the past two seasons. In addition, Mike Glennon was picked up by the Bucs in this year’s draft, who could present future competition for the Tampa Bay starting job.
Why you should love him – Defense creates offense, and the Tampa Bay defense is significantly better. With the signings of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, along with drafting Johnthan Banks and getting Mark Barron back from injury, the NFL’s worst secondary from last season has the potential to be one of the best this year. As a result of this much improved secondary, and in turn a much improved overall defense, the Bucs will likely have better field position in nearly every game. They should also cause more turnovers. Touchdowns are king when it comes to the quarterback position in fantasy football, and the improved overall defense will give Freeman an opportunity to have the ball on the opponents side of the field more often, leading to more scoring opportunities. With Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, and Doug Martin out of the backfield, the extra scoring opportunities are almost guaranteed to lead to more passing touchdowns for Freeman.
On top of all of this, it’s worth noting Freeman had his best statistical NFL season last year following the signing of Vincent Jackson. With a year of working together under their belt, the connection between the two should be even stronger. Freeman is currently being drafted as the QB20 in start-ups. Let others overspend on backup quarterback options, while you invest very little to grab Freeman.
What are your thoughts on the players I’ve mentioned in the article? Leave a comment below or locate me on twitter (@dereksdaycare) to share your thoughts on who you think could be this year’s version of Michael Crabtree.
I think in recent years we’ve all been spoiled by players that come out and immediately produce. Guys like Cam, AJG, Julio, RGIII, and Luck (to name a few) are really an exception, not the rule. So, finding those impatient owners and grabbing up those players perceived to have talent, but have not shown it right away is a way to pay pennies on the dollar.
Absolutely true. At this time last year, Michael Crabtree was essentially the same player that Greg Little is right now. Outside of the players I addressed in the article, there are a ton of options that you could take a gamble on. Just choose the guys you’re confident in and take a chance. Nearly every team I own has 5-6 similar options sitting on the bench, ready for a potential breakout.
This year, outside of the guys I mentioned, I’m a heavy investor in Leonard Hankerson, Jake Locker, and Greg Little.
I’ve also found that pairing up Jonathan Stewart and Mark Ingram as my RB2 or 3 is something that I’m fond of. I am confident that one of the two will break out this season, so I lock up both of them and let it play out.
Can we please stop with the JStew love? The guy will be RBBC for life. Get over it!
The thing is, he is being drafted at RBBC prices now, so you aren’t paying the crazy prices of a few years ago. Like the others on this list, he’s moved from a point where he was overvalued to a point where he is undervalued.
Now is when you can take advantage of the situation… and owners who have a similar view as you. Is it a risk? Absolutely, but the cost is cheap, so it’s not a big loss if you miss.
Other than being RBBC, he’s also always banged up. Problems with his Achilles, ankle, hamstring, etc. Although he hasn’t missed many games in his career, I just think he’s a bit soft which is why he probably never will be The Guy. I have a feeling he loves being in a RBBC situation…extends his career, which maximizes his earning potential, and with little stress of being the lead back.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather take my chances on some other RB.
I definitely agree on the injury front. I am a Panthers fan (I’m fairly hard on Carolina players, so my opinion of him isn’t clouded by homerism), and he has frustrated me a lot with the missed practices and regular illnesses, etc. as you pointed out though, it usually doesn’t cause him to miss playing time, so it’s just an annoyance more than anything.
I understand preferring to go in another direction. I tend to like to take a chance at a home run option, and I think he offers that. As with everything else though, it’s just my. opinion.
Yeah…..I still say DeAngelo is with another team this year but have been saying that for a year and a half and am still wrong….LOL!
Nice article Derek. I agree in principle that acquiring players who have disappointed owners can pay off handsomely. I like Ingram as a buy low this year. PT Cruiser and Sproles are both getting older. It sounds strange but Sproles will be 30 at kick-off. Pierre Thomas is 28. Another factor is stability in the coaching staff. Sean Payton isn’t going anywhere, and he traded up to get Ingram. With so much invested in Ingram, I think he will pay off for dynasty owners who trade for him now, IF you can get him at a reasonable discount.
I was one of those owners who traded Crabtree last year. I didn’t give up on him, but I could only keep 9 offensive players, and had to move somebody. I ended up trading Crabtree for the pick that got me Lamar Miller. I hope it works out, but last year I was really bummed about it.
I will say, I am off the Jonathan Stewart bandwagon. The guy is in a horrible situation, has a terrible coaching staff that is about to be flushed in 2014, and is injury prone. I’m not touching Stewart in start-ups no matter how far he falls, and I won’t trade for him either.
Keep up the great work Derek! Insightful stuff…
I understand that Stewart is a guy that seems to have a lot going against him, but I firmly believe that his time is here. With Chudzinski out as offensive coordinator (and with him, the over-complicated play calling that crippled the team last year), I think the Panthers will return to a more focused run game.
While DeAngelo Williams is still going to be a part of the offense, I believe that they will give Stewart the chance to take over a defined top role in the offense.
If you’re correct, as I think you will be, about this being the final year of the coaching staff, it’s likely to be a positive for Stewart’s future. Jerry Richardson and now David Gettleman believe in a coaching staff that is focused on running the ball into the ground. Regardless of who is hired, you can bet that they will have a run-first approach to the offense. With DeAngelo likely gone, you’ll have Stewart with Kenjon Barner and Tolbert behind him. Neither guy would be a serious threat to steal a huge amount of touches.
I’m a long-time Panthers fan and have stayed away from Stewart in dynasty leagues because I always knew that DeAngelo Williams was more of a threat than most realized. This is the first year that I’m actually targeting him…and I think it’s going to pay off.
Santonio Holmes is definitely on the same level as Brian Hartline. Probably higher.
Good point. I agree with you.
I see what you did there. Not falling for it. I only have one team left to purge Jonathon Stewart then I’ll never have to own him again.
If I’m wrong so be it, but I would much rather gamble on Ingram or another young rookie than continue waiting for the payoff that will never come. He’s already 26 and has yet to earn his lead role. If and when he earns it he’ll be like Michael Turner and have 2 good years…I’d rather gamble on a lottery ticket in the rookie draft.
Great article! I was just curious if you think that Ryan Mathews might finally break out this season?
Thanks for the kind words.
I do like Mathews to perform well if he manages to stay healthy (I know…huge IF). For me, his cost is still at the point where the reward doesn’t outweigh the risk.
A little off subject, but I’m investing heavily in Danny Woodhead. Not only is he likely to get a ton of playing time if another Mathews injury happens, but he’ll be involved quite a bit regardless.
He is an insanely cheap option for the bottom of your roster. He may even replace Pierre Thomas as my favorite emergency fill-in RB.
Thanks for the response 🙂 About a month ago I accepted a trade of Percy Harvin and Ryan Mathews for Reggie Bush and Eric Decker…so I hope to the football gods that Mathews stays healthy. lol. I’ll see if I can pull something off to acquire Woodhead.
Even is Mathews doesn’t stay healthy, you won the deal. Good job.