Dumpster Diving

Derek Willett

barner
Each year dynasty owners spend months scouting the upcoming draft class looking for the next big fantasy player. There’s nothing better than identifying a third or fourth round rookie draft pick who eventually becomes a top player at their position.  While the draft is certainly one of the most exciting periods of the fantasy football season for dynasty owners, the period after week 16 and before the draft is often when many owners manage to acquire that special piece that takes them to a title.  At this time last year, Knowshon Moreno, Julian Edelman, Julius Thomas, Nick Foles, and Danny Woodhead were just a few of the players who were either available on the waiver wire, or incredibly cheap to obtain.  My goal is to identify a few players who are readily available in many leagues that could be the final piece to a 2014 championship roster.  While many of these off-season pickups end up not panning out, the cost of acquisition is so low it’s easily worth the gamble.

Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinatti Bengals

Thanks to Marvin Jones’ huge week 8 performance (8/122/4), Jones is likely owned in every league, so you’ll likely have to throw out a trade offer to pick him up.  Fortunately however, many players see that game as a fluke and don’t expect him to ever reach that level again.  While they are correct that he’ll likely never have another four touchdown game, I believe many owners are missing the bigger picture.  After his big performance in week eight, Jones was targeted at least seven times in five of his last eight games, compared to zero games with that many targets prior to that point.  Simply put, he gained the trust of Andy Dalton and is clearly someone who has earned his spot on the team (over the more highly coveted Mohamed Sanu).  While the cost of acquisition for Jones is larger than anyone else on this list, he’s also the one that I believe is the safest player.  I fully expect him to at least continue to receive 5-7 targets per game in 2014, and with AJ Green demanding extra attention from nearly every opponent, he should have plenty of opportunities for success.

Levine Toilolo, TE, Atlanta Falcons

At 6’8, 285 pounds, Levine Toilolo has measurables that jump off of the page. Drafted in the fourth round last season, he is the odds on favorite to take over for Tony Gonzalez as the starting tight end for the Falcons. While he was only used sporadically in the redzone this season, he did get to learn behind one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, which is invaluable experience to someone who is admittedly raw.  Atlanta is currently saying that Toilolo will have to earn his reps, mostly based on his poor performances in the blocking game, but given his size he is going to be a player that will be difficult to keep off of the field.  He’s available on the waiver wire in many leagues, but even in leagues where he is owned, he can likely be acquired as a toss-in on another deal.

Tavarres King, WR, Carolina Panthers

Tavarres King had an interesting rookie season.  After being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round last year, he was cut during the preseason and eventually placed on the Broncos practice squad.  His big opportunity appeared to hit during the season when the Packers attempted to sign him off of the Broncos practice squad following the injury to Randall Cobb.  In an effort to keep him, Denver decided to sign him to their active roster.  Shortly thereafter, he was again cut by the Broncos in an effort to put him back on their practice squad.  Before he could clear waivers though, the Carolina Panthers picked him up. In what seemed to be a perfect fit to a receiver needy team, King never gained an opportunity to prove himself on the field.  I think that will change in 2014.  While Carolina is likely to draft a rookie wide receiver, the team still has opportunities for young players to make an impact in the receiving game behind Steve Smith Brandon Lafell will likely be cut and Ted Ginn is ideally a WR3/deep threat (assuming he resigns with the team).  What King offers is solid route running and quick initial moves that allow him to get open. With an off-season under his belt, I could him earning a chance to take Brandon Lafell’s spot on the team.  He’s owned in very few leagues.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Carolina Panthers

Another Panther player.  While the Panthers’ defense was elite last season, the offense continues to look for play-makers, and I believe Kenjon Barner has the potential to be one.  Barner wasn’t used much this season as he battled a nagging injury and never had a chance to be fully integrated into the lineup.  Given the salary cap (and the immediate payout the Panthers would have to pay), it’s unlikely that either Jonathan Stewart or Deangelo Williams will be cut this off-season, but I don’t think that matters when it comes to Barner.  He offers quickness that neither player possesses and could be a valuable piece in the screen game.  It’s also within reason that the Panthers will focus on addressing the offensive line and wide receiver holes in the draft, leaving Barner as the clear #3 running back on the team.  While Barner is unlikely to pay huge dividends in 2014, I expect him to be integrated into the offense, setting the stage for a potential larger breakout in 2015.  If you have the room to grab him now, he’s an intriguing pickup.

Zach Sudfeld, TE, New York Jets

I’m sure many of you are groaning at the site of Sudfeld’s name.  After being hyped during the pre-season as the new elite New England tight end, Sudfeld was a flop with the team, prior to being eventually cut.  While many dynasty owners saw this as the end of his potential fantasy value, I see him as a solid gamble to add to the bottom of your roster.  The tight end position remains one of the most difficult positions in the NFL to adapt to in a rookie season, which becomes even tougher when you are cut and have to learn a new playbook.  While he struggled with drops in his limited opportunities, he has the physical makeup to be a quality tight end in the NFL.  Looking back to the 2013 preseason with the Patriots, it was clear that he is a skilled player, he just needs the opportunity to develop.  Sudfeld will likely battle Jeff Cumberland for the top tight end spot in New York…and given what I’ve seen out of the two players, I don’t think it out of the realm of possibility that Sudfeld eventually wins the job.