Editor’s Note: This article is from Russell Clay, one of the newest writers here at DLF. We’re very lucky to have Russell join the crew here and you’re going to enjoy his work here moving forward.
The best time for dynasty leagues is now! Start-ups are in full force and it’s time to grab the value before deeper research is done. My favorite part of draft season is evaluating the landscape and deciphering who’s overvalued, undervalued and just right in terms of ADP(Average Draft Position). Since I’m an optimist, I’m going to start with the players I see being overlooked. I made my list, checked it thrice. Here’s the group that’s going from naughty to nice (I promise the list is better than this butchered holiday joke).
There’s going to be a common theme with this group – choosing to see ceiling rather than current status. While I wouldn’t suggest building your entire team like this, having jackpot players who could bump your roster to a new level of value should be a goal.
The easiest way to separate your teams from the pack? Getting players, regardless if you like them or not, because the value makes sense. The message I want to get across is that you must detach yourself from players and learn to fall in love with value. If you’re constantly buying and selling ahead of the market, you’ll have enough assets to eventually trade for any player you like.
Note: When mentioning rounds, I’m referring to a start up dynasty draft. This will save us a ton of typing and reading worthless words.
Robert Griffin III, WAS
I’m giving RG3 a mulligan for 2013. It was fairly obvious, even early on, something was MUCH different than the previous year’s model. But just because he had one bad poor season doesn’t mean we should forget about what happened. Griffin took the league by storm in 2012, in reality and fantasy. The golden age of RG3 was on, then it abruptly ended after he tore everything in his knee kept playing on it. Injuries (which is an obvious risk and one of the reason’s his ADP is where it is) and terrible coaching/management were there. However, he’s shown the ability to change an entire team and put them on his back – there aren’t many quarterbacks who have that ability. While I’m not his biggest fan, the value seems to be there in the 7th-9th round. If Griffin hits the ground running (literally?) in 2014 and he becomes a high end QB1 for any stretch, people will come running back to the idea of him as a top four dynasty quarterback.
David Wilson, NYG
He had a terrible injury and I understand the concern, but when you consider where he’s getting drafted vs. his talent/pedigree/rookie year flashes… it’s a no brainer. New York is in serious need of an offensive playmaker and they’ll continue to find him a role. Wilson is another one of those players who hugely disappointed in 2013 with a ton of hype around him, so his ADP and trade value is grossly exaggerated because of hurt feelings. I would be comfortable taking Wilson as high as the late fifth round, but you can get him currently in the 10th-12th round range, which seems to be a potential bargain.
Trent Richardson, IND
Well, if you’ve read this far, you know the theme. Richardson is pushing me to the ledge of trust. It’s really incredible how miserable he was last year, even considering he was traded. Pathetic, barftastic (?), irrelevant, smelly, gross and terrifyingly terrible are a few ways to describe it. But, you know what? He’s still a top-5 dynasty back for me and I’ll take him in the late third/early fourth in every single draft. I don’t throw out the word ‘elite’ very often (unless I’m talking about Calvin Johnson, then it’s every other word) – that is a term reserved for the best two or three players at a position or the cream of the crop. Richardson made that ‘elite’ bell go off as a prospect, and as they say, you can’t un-ring that bell. I realize it’s crazy to believe he still has elite potential, but that’s where I’m at. He’s 22, with an up and coming offense and on a team that traded a first round pick for him. Every opportunity imaginable will be given to him and no stone will be unturned before Indy throws in the towel – that’s why I keep the faith that T-Rich somehow regains the aggressive, strong, powerful, elite ability I saw at Alabama.
Maurice Jones-Drew, OAK
Plain and simple, MJD’s value is lower than what it will be in September. It’s early in the off-season, everyone wants their new, young toys and Jones -Drew just landed in Oakland. I feel the same way, if not better about his chances than I did with Steven Jackson last year. While SJax flamed out as a fantasy back, his ADP went bonkers when he went to Atlanta and re-draft season rolled around. People fall in love with potential and when people realize how banged up Darren McFadden always is, his value will rise. He’s 29, so his career is waning, but if you take him in the 10th-12th round, and he gives you two good seasons, what more could you ask for? Also, he is a great player to hedge your bets with if you grab T-Rich or Wilson a few rounds before.
Andre Johnson, HOU
(AHHHH HE’S 33). I’m not going to say I’m friends with Andre Johnson, but he did take a picture with me in a Miami airport when I was 18. That said, I think I have a pretty good read on his situation.
The time is now to buy Andre. He comes at an instant discount because of his age and if Houston drafts a solid young quarterback, Johnson could be in for a career season. While Matt Schaub played the part of a decent quarterback (and in some cases an above average one) the past five years, he was never a player who brought Andre to his true potential fantasy-wise, which is saying something. If you go back and watch the Schaub/Andre era, you’ll see a ton of big catches, but ones that were also severely underthrown (a.k.a. catches that would’ve gone for touchdowns). When I look at the 2013 Houston Texans, I see a team with TONS of talent that stuck with their quarterback for one year too long. If stability is restored in 2014 with a new, big armed quarterback, I could see Andre having a 100-catch, 1,600-yard and ten touchdown “Randy Moss-type” late career year. I reached for him in a recent mock in the mid-fifth round, but I could see him dropping to the sixth – if that’s the case, do it.
Vincent Jackson, TB
(AHHHH HE’S 31). I’ve never taken a picture with VJax, but I still enjoy him on my fantasy teams. He doesn’t have the ceiling of an Andre Johnson, but he’s also cheaper. What you see is what you get with VJax. He’ll get you 70-80 catches, 1,200-1,300 yards and six-to-eight touchdowns, mark it down. With a new coach in town and hopefully a better, healthier offense around him in 2014, VJax will be a great ‘set it and forget it’ player the first few years as your young players grow into their future roles.
Jordy Nelson, GB
He’s in the running for most undervalued fantasy player on the planet. What he lacks in ability compared to the top tier wide receivers, he makes up for in situation. Consider he had the worst possible situation last year (Aaron Rodgers going down) and he still put up 1,300 and eight touchdowns. He’s only 28, he’s in the prime of his career and he’s attainable two-to-three rounds lower than players like Alshon Jeffery and Keenan Allen. My money is on Nelson if I had to choose who scores more fantasy points the next three years.
Roddy White, ATL
(AHHHHH HE’S 32) – Hot Roddy crushed me last year in both redraft and dynasty, but I’m a forgiving man. While he’s getting older and coming off an injury-filled season, I’m willing to gamble it was an outlier rather than a new trend. Coming into 2013, Roddy had played in 128 consecutive games, quite a streak. It also helps his case that he finished the year really strong. From weeks 13-17 Roddy, was the WR4 in PPR leagues. With Julio Jones back and hopefully a healthier Falcons squad, I expect Roddy to fall back into that reliable high end WR2 who will put up two-to-three more seasons of 1,200-1,300 yards and six-to-eight touchdowns, much like VJax. He’s currently going in the 7th-8th round range. Do the right thing.
Justin Blackmon, JAX
Finally! A youngster! A youngster with a possible drinking problem, but a youngster nonetheless. Blackmon is on his last chance in the NFL, it’s put up or shut up time. One more drinking/drug mistake and you can kiss his NFL career goodbye. BUT, once again, I’m choosing to look at his ceiling and what’s to gain – he could be a top seven dynasty receiver. Blackmon was dominant in his return, posting a five-catch, 136-yard one touchdown game in week five and a 14-catch, 190 yard game in week six playing for the Jaguars. All had been forgiven in the dynasty community and he was seen as high as sixth in wide receiver rankings. Then he got suspended again. His value went down the tubes and his ADP spiraled down to where it is now – the 5th-7th round. I wouldn’t be trading for Blackmon if you have a top heavy team, but if you’re looking for a player to plop on the bench and bring big returns, getting Blackmon is a great idea. He was knocking on the door of the big boys before the suspension – the talent is 100% there.
Justin Hunter, TEN
It’s not often that a young player gets undervalued, but it happens every year. Last year it was Michael Floyd and Alshon Jeffery, this year it may be Justin Hunter. He didn’t have the volume of numbers to back it up, but Hunter flashed brilliance and potential fantasy gold last season. Hunter was my second rated receiver (behind Keenan Allen) in last year’s draft class and I expect big things out of him in his sophomore campaign. He won’t perform to to the level of Alshon Jeffery, but a startable, WR3/Michael Floyd-type of sophomore year is what I expect. Of all the players on this list, this is the one I’m the most ‘sure’ on. We’ll be talking about Hunter as a top 10-15 receiver by this time next year.
Vernon Davis, SF
(AHHH HE’S 30). Vernon Davis had 13 touchdowns last year along with 52 catches on 84 targets (catching the ball 62% of the time). Davis caught a touchdown in six of his last seven regular season games as well. Davis is my still my TE2. All the pub went to Jimmy Graham, and deservedly so, but Davis’ 2013 season was a borderline historic year efficiency wise as 25% of his catches went for touchdowns… 25%. He was the TE4 in PPR leagues and was only 14th in targets. He was the 23rd ranked receiver (wide receiver/tight end) in PPR and was 63rd in targets. Davis has always been that type of player – he did it in 2009 as well (78 catches, 965 yards and 13 touchdowns). With Michael Crabtree back, I do expect a little regression, but 800 and ten for the next three years works just fine for me.
In case you were wondering, I did the ‘AHHH HE’S 30’ thing for two reasons:
1) As a joke
2) To make it known that age is PART of a strategy, NOT the entire thing. Everyone has their own methodology – some like to go old/win now, some like to go young/win later and others like to mix it up. For me personally, I don’t see the need to do anything drastic, there’s value on both sides of the age pendulum, so why cut yourself off to potential gains on either side? If you’re drafting these older vets, you better have some young players or picks in your arsenal for the next few years. If you’re drafting a bunch of young players, why not rent a Roddy White or VJax for a few years while they develop?
As you can tell by now, there are multiple parts to this equation (note the Part One in the title). This first group is made up of the players I’m most confident in, aka the high % bets. Part two will be a bit more…daring.
Stay tuned and get drafting, folks!