The DLF Mailbag


Welcome to the latest edition of the weekly mailbag.

Send me your questions using the DLF Mailbag Form and I’ll include the best in future articles.  Remember the guidelines to have the best chance at seeing your question get posted:

1.) Dynasty questions only, no start/sit questions

2.) Help me help you by providing sufficient information about your league (e.g. line-up requirements/PPR or non-PPR/etc.), and include your first name and where you’re from.

3.) Your chance of getting your question answered is inversely proportional to the length of the question.

Let’s get to it!

1.) If Tavon Austin was coming out this year, how would he rank with the current crop of wide receiver prospects? I have fourth overall pick this year in my PPR league and someone is offering me Austin for it.  Austin would be on five-year contract and return yards count.Craig in IL

Given the massive hype placed upon him by both the St. Louis Rams’ brass, as well as the fantasy community, Tavon Austin’s rookie season can’t be looked at as anything other than an abject failure.  Indeed, despite being the first skill position player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, Austin found himself outpaced by his fellow freshman pass catchers, including Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Terrance Williams and DeAndre Hopkins.  With a paltry 40 receptions (3.3 per game over 13 games), this forgotten season ultimately saw Austin finish as the PPR WR56, well off the fantasy radar.

Perhaps even more troubling is the manner in which Austin was utilized.  Averaging just 10.5 yards-per-catch, the diminutive receiver functioned mostly as the recipient of screens and slant routes, largely failing to capitalize on his long speed.  His only two big gainers (81 and 57 yards) both came in a blowout win against the Colts – while you can question the validity of selectively removing those two plays, doing so sees Austin’s yards-per-catch across his other 38 receptions drop to a pathetic 7.4.  For a player who only caught 58% of his targets, that’s unacceptable – simply put, he didn’t come close to resembling the playmaker he was billed to be.

The fact you can glean value from Austin’s return abilities helps, as between punts and kickoffs he gained an additional 52.2 yards per game.  With that said, there are no guarantees he’ll function as a prominent return man for the duration, or even majority, of his career.  Should he lose those abilities, his value takes a huge hit – as a 5’8”, 176-pound receiver who struggles to win contested catches and goes down too easily at first contact, I don’t envision him producing anything more than WR3 numbers.

Ultimately, this is a long-winded way of saying I’d take my chances with the pick.  Sammy Watkins seems like a lock to go with the 1.01, but after that you’ll have a real chance at more “prototypical” pass catchers such as Mike Evans, Jordan Mathews, Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams and Marqise Lee.  Truthfully I’d rather take my chances with any one of them over Austin – nothing is set in stone, but I have a hard time seeing Austin ever living up to our, admittedly unfair, lofty expectations for him.

2.) In my 12-man, non-PPR league I can hold onto three of the following players, losing the draft pick in the round I drafted them in 2013:  Russell Wilson (6th round), Doug Martin (1st round), Marshawn Lynch (got in trade, 1st round), Gio Bernard (4th round) or Montee Ball (8th round). Is it dumb for me to keep Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Beast Mode? Or should I hold onto either Bernard or Ball?Adam in NY

When it comes to the six players in question, I don’t think any combination of the three can be construed as a “dumb move.”  With that said, I think I’d choose a different tact.  Let’s start with the leading man of our most recent Super Bowl champions.

In just two short years, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson has already established himself as one of the league’s best young players, as well as a stalwart fantasy option.  Despite working with an unheralded cast of characters that would make MacGyver cringe, Wilson has finished as the QB11 and QB10 in successive years and the sky appears to be the limit.  But even with that type of talent, I’d rather see you hang onto players in positions of lesser depth.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times – quarterbacks just don’t have a ton of value in smaller league formats.  There are so many qualified starters in the league right now, it doesn’t make sense to spend a sixth round pick on Wilson when you could nab a player like Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger much later.  Since you’re essentially playing on a year-to-year basis with only three keepers, streaming your signal callers on an annual basis makes the most sense to me.

So with three positions still open, I’d choose to hang onto the trio of Doug Martin, Gio Bernard and Montee Ball.  Martin and Bernard are essentially self-explanatory – both combine youth and skill, and could form the backbone of your ball carrying corps for the next few years.  I especially expect Martin to bounce back in Jeff Tedford’s offense, functioning once again as a legit RB1.

With Ball, he’s essentially a discounted flier who could easily outperform his 8th round draft status based on the scope of Denver’s Peyton Manning-led offense.  While I still want to see him prove it with a larger sample size, Ball improved as the 2013 season progressed, and he appears likely to assume feature back duties.  With him as your RB3, you’ll have an enviable group of ball carriers, which is arguably the most important position in a non-PPR setting.

3.) I want to discuss Matt Forte – he’s a beast, but he’s getting older and his window is closing. In addition to my studs (Forte, LeSean McCoy and Doug Martin) I have some younger guys that could hit next year (Trent Richardson, Andre Ellington and Stevan Ridley), but they could also be busts. I’m asking what you would do if you’re me? Maybe I can parlay him and pick 1.08 in a trade? As this is a superflex league I would like a third quarterback. Would you consider trading Forte in attempts to upgrade at quarterback or tight end, or just use my pick to do so?Cameron in CA

Excluding the specifics of this particular question for just a second, this ultimately boils down to the age-old dynasty question – when is it time to upset the apple cart?  At some point we all have to deal with this conundrum, and usually it boils down to what we perceive to be a player’s apex value.  In this case, the man in question is Chicago running back Matt Forte.

I don’t feel the need to expound upon Forte’s transcendent year – put succinctly, Head Coach Marc Trestman turned him into one of fantasy’s most valuable players.  However, he’s still a 28-year old running back with over 2,000 career touches (including the playoffs), so it’s fair to wonder if the figurative end is near.  As such, we wind up asking ourselves if we should cash out now before he falls off that metaphorical cliff.

Truth be told, I’ve never been much of a Chicken Little when it comes to my players getting older.  I’m not saying any one strategy is right or wrong, but I think we often get to a point where we attempt to outsmart ourselves and it doesn’t always work out the way we plan it.  We convince ourselves we’re selling “high” based on nothing more than a generalized probability, thereby often eschewing guaranteed production based on the desire to populate our rosters with younger, theoretically talented players.  Obviously it would be amazing to be able to craft an elite roster comprised solely of 25-year olds, but in practice that quest is typically doomed to failure.

I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying I’d hold pat with Forte.  You currently have the ability to couple him with Doug Martin and LeSean McCoy, giving you a huge advantage over your peers – is that something you really want to jeopardize?  Andre Ellington is a better play in PPR leagues, Trent Richardson underwhelmed in 2013 and Stevan Ridley can’t seem to gain Bill Belichick’s trust.  They’re good players, but far from a lock for production.

If you want to improve your stable of signal callers I’d pair your first rounder (1.08) with one of Richardson or Ridley in an attempt to move up into the top four picks.  This would guarantee you a shot at one of the top tier of rookie quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr), providing you with the depth you covet.  More importantly, your starting line will remain intact, and you’ll be set to make another run in 2014.

4.) In my 12-team non-PPR league we keep three players, and can keep a fourth who would cost a pick in the same round as drafted in 2013.  I’m deciding between the following players (draft pick cost is shown in parentheses):  Drew Brees (1), CJ Spiller (1), Gio Bernard (3), Andre Ellington (6), AJ Green (1) and Alshon Jeffery (7). Right now I am leaning toward keeping Brees, Green, Bernard, and using my 7th rounder on Jeffery.  What do you think?Steve in VA

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think there’s a better way to utilize your keeper selections.  Though Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of the surest things in fantasy football, I just don’t see the value at the position in a 12-team setting.  As tempting as it is to hang onto a player who virtually promises you top-three production, I think you could find a comparable player in the dispersal draft – I’d cut Brees loose.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the players I’d undoubtedly find room for – Gio Bernard, AJ Green and Alshon Jeffery.  I touched on Bernard above, and needless to say my opinions haven’t changed in the past few paragraphs – he’s a foundation player.  Ditto for Green, who many view as dynasty’s most desirable asset due to his age and skill set.  This pair of Bengals should provide you with consistent and persistent fantasy output.

With Jeffery, I agree you should designate him as your “draft pick keeper.”  In just his second year, he showed the ability to function as a WR1 and you’ll be acquiring his services for the low cost of a 7th round selection.  Paired with Green, you now have arguably two of dynasty’s seven most desirable pass catchers.

For your last selection, I’d go with Bills’ running back CJ Spiller.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – his “down” year still resulted in over 1,100 total yards and an average of 4.6 yards-per-carry.  His yards per catch average was lower than his career mark and backfield mate Fred Jackson served as the goal-line specialist with nine touchdowns to Spiller’s two, both explaining his downturn in fantasy effectiveness and suggesting plenty of room for improvement.  I expect a bounce-back 2014 campaign for the dynamic ball carrier, and truly believe a return to the RB1 ranks is imminent.

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27

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Eric Hardter

Eric Hardter

Senior Writer at Dynasty League Football
Eric is a Boston College chemistry grad school survivor with a minor in dynasty football, as well as the DLF Mailman and Podcast analyst.He prefers to utilize both statistics and sarcasm whenever possible, believes in process over results and thinks "Hot Takes" are the scourge of the fantasy landscape.

You can find his (typically strong and hopefully reasonable) opinions on Twitter at@EDH_27.
Eric Hardter

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  1. Heisenberg

    February 10, 2014 at 6:55 am

    I am stacked at WR, could use RB help. What can I get for a Harvin/Hilton package?

  2. Dave

    February 10, 2014 at 7:56 am

    I’m looking for news about players on my roster and was hoping to find some on here. I’m in a 16 team TD point system. We have the option now at starting 3 wr’s or 3 rb’s if needed this season so I made deals to acquire Demaryius Thomas and Jimmy Graham to put with Josh Gordon. Problem is it has left me with just Zac Stacy as my only stable RB. I acquired Steven Ridley in a trade and have Latavius Murray and Stepfan Taylor on my roster. Has anyone heard if Taylor will be taking Mendenhall’s spot on the roster or if Murray will be given a chance to earn the starting spot? I love Ridley’s talent but dealing with Bellichek will drive any owner crazy. Just curious if or what rumors you guys have heard.

  3. Cameron

    February 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Thank you very much for the answer. Looks like I’ll hold on to Forte for another year and see what he brings me.

  4. Baker Boys

    February 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

    1.) If Tavon Austin was coming out this year, how would he rank with the current crop of wide receiver prospects?

    Jeff Haverlack wrote an interesting article that addresses this issue fairly nicely. Any WR selected outside of the first 6 picks of the NFL draft only has an 8% chance of being a stud. Although Austin was the 1st WR taken he was still the #8 pick overall. Now if you agree with Jeff’s analysis then Austin is a very risky option to be anything more than a flex and/or bench player.

    I wouldn’t take that trade.

    Good Luck

  5. Moishe

    February 10, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Thanks for the Q&A — I enjoy them! I do need to take great exception, though, to your final response. Spiller over Brees?? I get your thinking about Wilson earlier and your view of QBs being available late. But, Brees — he is a game-changing QB, with Rodgers and Peyton. Those three guys do not fit the “wait on QB” approach. There is no way that I keep a massively questionable RB like Spiller over him. Lynch, Forte, guys like that — maybe. But no way on Spiller. Thanks again for the Mailbag!

    • Robert

      February 11, 2014 at 4:09 am

      I agree with EricH(keep Spiller)–the payoff could be HUGE.
      I play in a keep-3 league (although round one goes back into the pool, & each keeper’s pick moves up only one round per year), and once the keepers are made, RBs are GOLD.

      Two years ago this month, I was the “You guys can have Spiller” guy, in the Spiller v. Demarco Murray debate. That was 2012, and Fred Jackson turns 33 next week.

      I think 1500 total yards + 6TDs is a worst-case scenario for Spiller, but he’s capable of finishing as the 2014RB1.
      Don’t forget FJax’s contract is up this year, too.

      Seems like Spiller will be pretty solid EVEN IF he doesn’t go completely off this year. I think the gamble’s worth a little trade-off at QB.

      • SJ

        February 11, 2014 at 7:44 am

        I think theres always a number of stats you can throw around as projections for Spiller next year, but the two things that really tell the story – and greatly limit is consistency – is the downturn in receptions and no goal line carries.

        If hes not getting cheap TD’s and forced to score from way out, that’s a huge detriment. The lack of receptions from 2012 to 2013 season also project poorly for him in 2014.

        End of story, Spiller is a great RB3, okay RB2 and not a good RB1 because you only want to use him when he catches fire. And if he catches fire – great – put him in your lineup. Thats what an RB3 is tailored for. But you need more consistency from a RB1 player, and hes definitely not it.

        • Robert

          February 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

          All great points, and they are the very things I struggled with in making a case for Spiller.

          Still, he has serious skills, and he’s already the team’s starting RB. His role will only increase going forward, and I can’t think of another player in a better position to make a bigger impact in ffb.

          Since the keepers kill the RB pool, I would give up the points in Steve’s QB trade-off for (an OK RB2 with stud-RB1 potential) Spiller.

          Besides, after 48 keepers are selected, who’s Steve going to draft to replace Spiller as his RB2? I’d keep Spiller and probably expect to snatch up another RB (at least) BEFORE grabbing a QB.

          • Moishe

            February 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm

            Thank you everyone for the replies!

            Here is where I diverge from your rationale, Robert. Going by your draft, the following needs to happen:

            1. Spiller or the RB that you take in the next round needs to hit big time to make up the point differential absent Brees, and

            2. The QBs that you draft late as a committee need to function comparably to Brees’s production.

            Only then will you get more points. But, for me, that’s a lot to bank on.

            I would MUCH rather:

            1. Keep Brees (his points are about as sure as possible AND are significantly above what any QB committee will likely produce).

            2. Then, with my next 3 or so picks, load up on RBs.

            As long as one of them just ends up as RB2, then this combo will outscore anything but a prefect-drafted strategy with Spiller. And, if one of the RBs (i.e., a 2013 rookie) exceeds expectations, then this will give the best opportunity to maximize points: Brees plus a guy like Lacy, Stacy, or L. Bell from last year!

            I don’t discount your thoughts or recommendation, Robert. I just see my strategy as both safer and with the higher upside. I guess it all rests on the fact that I consider Spiller highly unreliable — closer to a McFadden tease than a McCoy stud.

  6. Robert

    February 13, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Fun exercise in strategy. It looks like the age-old “wait vs. don’t wait on QBs” debate. I think it’s clear where we both stand lol.

    These days, I tend to discuss strategy in terms of what I’M doing, as opposed to a offering recommendations. I enjoy the process–that “seat of the pants” aspect of decision-making vs. outcome–so I tend to play rather wide-open with my strategies(I’m SICK that way!).


    GROUP I (likely keepers)
    RBs(19): mcoy charles martin ap forte lacy gio lynch bell dmurray stacy morris vereen mathews rice foster reggie cj2k mjd gore
    WRs(19): ajg dez dthomas marshall megatron gordon julio cobb jeffry antonio harvin fitz hilton djax vjax garcon kallen andre cruz
    TEs(2): graham gronk
    Qbs(4): peyton rodgers luck cam

    GROUP II (general dispersal pool)
    rg3 brady stafford wilson romo foles kap rivers cutler ben ryan
    trich moreno ball ivory lmurray btate lmiller lattimore ridley jbell abrown sproles ellington mcfadden dbrown dwilson
    crabtree floyd patterson jordy welker torrey wallace hpkins wright
    jthomas cameron vdavis witten pitta rudolph olsen bennett reed lgreen

    Give or take a few players among the keepers, GROUP II is the bulk of our dispersal pool. My decision is that I don’t have the luxury of keeping Brees. If I drop Spiller, I go into the season with Bernard as my RB1 (yikes!), and you-tell-me who else I end up with.

    In my 2013 keep3 league, Brees averaged only 6 (or less) points more than 15 other QBs. Gio and Spiller averaged 12ppg between them (RB2 avg.), and are virtual locks to improve in 2014. I’ll be lucky to get 10ppg from whoever I end up with in this dispersal draft.

    If I’m interpolating properly, my Gio-Spiller combo (versus Brees)costs me 2ppg, worst-case, when both players repeat their 2013 output, while my general dispersal RBs (RB3s & 4s) will cost me 4 ppg IF they exceed expectations.

    My calculated gamble pays off if(when) Gio &Spiller improve in 2014, and it gets better if I manage to hit on my other RB(s). If I pick a good QB & draft well at the other positions, then win, lose or draw–I’VE SEEN THE ELEPHANT!

  7. esloan35

    February 15, 2014 at 7:00 am

    Anybody in their right mind think Andrew Luck is worth RG3 and 1.7 in this years draft. I have been going round and round with a fellow owner.

  8. sixshooter

    February 17, 2014 at 7:21 am

    I’d have to say that I was surprised with the first question. I completely thought you would take Austin’s defense and am completely defending your decision not to. If I had a choice between a #4 or #5 pick or Austin…..I would take the pick!

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