The DLF Mailbag

Eric Hardter


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. I’m in a 16-team PPR league and have been offered two second round picks for next season (likely in the middle, so say picks 24 through 30 range) plus Daryl Washington for Andre Johnson. As we have to start three receivers, is this too low-ball an offer to consider?Russ in London

By virtue of executing this trade you’d effectively be signaling your intentions to wave the white flag for the 2014 season. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that – choosing to engage in a rebuilding effort should always be done too early rather than too late. With that said, observing the “bird in the hand versus two in the bush” mentality, your side of the deal might as well represent a 60-foot tall spruce.

In last week’s Podcast we talked about assessing the risk of certain players, and one of the recurrent themes was subconsciously assuming the rosiest scenarios when it came to elite players. One of the most recent examples is Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who was being drafted in the early first round (sometimes number one overall) despite being a suspension risk. We all know what happened next – Gordon is likely out for the year and numerous owners have scrambled to sell for 70 cents on the dollar.

Arizona linebacker Daryl Washington is no different. Despite being a sublimely talented IDP asset, as well as one of the few pass-rushing middle linebackers in the game, Washington faces an even steeper climb back to fantasy relevance than Gordon. Already suspended for the entirety of 2014 due to a failure of the league’s substance abuse policy, Washington could be set to miss even more time due to an unrelated felony aggravated assault charge – while there exists a scenario where he’ll return sometime in 2015 and stay on the straight and narrow, are you willing to bet on that?

Houston receiver Andre Johnson comes with risk as well, but in comparison it’s definitively muted. Turning 33 in July it’s impossible to argue against Johnson’s truncated longevity, and as of now the onus remains on new head coach Bill O’Brien to even get his star receiver into camp. However, Johnson has been an elite PPR asset for the past two years, and if/when he reports it’s a virtual certainty he’ll once again function as the top option in the passing game.

As such I’ll easily take Johnson’s risk over that of Washington, and the two future second round picks aren’t nearly enough to sway me. I’d hold firm for a future 2015 first rounder or a younger proven asset, and if that doesn’t come I’d go to war with who you have. Once this “silly season” ends and the real begin your league-mates will recognize guys like Johnson win games, at which point you should be able to land a significantly better offer.

2. In a 12-team PPR league, would you trade Torrey Smith, Rueben Randle or Aaron Dobson for a 2014 first rounder? If so where would you draw the line? I have my doubts about all three but think I should stand pat with who I have.Glen in the Northeast

When it comes to trades involving veteran players for draft picks, I’ll nearly always side with the proven talent. While I’m certainly no ageist, it honestly has less to do with an aversion to untested youngsters and more to do with the ridiculous inflation of rookies during this time of the year. Even given that, however, I think making a trade or two could benefit your roster.

Starting with Giants receiver Rueben Randle, I’d honestly trade him for any 2014 first round pick. In an “actions speak louder than words” world, I’m more inclined to believe the selection of fellow pass catcher Odell Beckham Jr. with the 12th overall pick of the NFL Draft is more significant than the recent minicamp puff pieces. Quarterback Eli Manning has yet to show he can support three options in the pass game, and as such I’m not bullish on Randle’s outlook.

[inlinead]These feelings extend to the Patriots’ Aaron Dobson. Despite being billed as a sure-handed receiver Dobson dropped an astonishing nine of his 74 targets (12.2%), and on a per-play basis was truthfully no better than teammate and off-season faller Kenbrell Thompkins. It’s possible Dobson raw abilities will materialize in year two, but I’d rather have a pick in the 1.09 – 1.11 range instead.

Concluding with the Ravens’ Torrey Smith, it would take me a bit more to part with the emerging fourth year veteran. Though he regressed in terms of efficiency and scoring in 2013, quarterback Joe Flacco was a shell of his normal self due to problems across the entirety of the offensive landscape. Smith nevertheless posted career highs in receptions (64) and yards (1,128) en route to a finish as the PPR WR23. Still just 25 years old it would take a bit more to pry the Maryland speedster away, and I wouldn’t settle for anything less than pick 1.04.

3. I play in a 10-man, half-PPR salary sap league with contracts.  I like to target veteran running backs who are currently non-starters in contract years with the potential to change teams the following year with a chance to start (examples like Toby Gerhart or Ben Tate from last year).  Do you see anybody with that potential to target in 2014?Rob in IL

Let’s dive right into it:

Mark Ingram, NO – Easily the most high profile name included here, former first round pick Ingram is coming to a crossroads in his short career. Though I’m not a big believer in his talent and actually prefer former UDFA Khiry Robinson, it’s fair to argue that as of yet Ingram hasn’t received a true opportunity to flourish. A two-down volume back needs more than 156 attempts – Ingram might get the volume elsewhere in 2015, but leaving the cozy confines of the Superdome could very well mitigate that bump. He’s not someone I’m actively targeting, but if you are the time is now.

Roy Helu Jr., WAS – While I wouldn’t jump anywhere near the outlandish “he’s more talented than Alfred Morris” claims I’ve seen previously, Helu is better than his 2012/2013 stats indicate. When he got his shot as a 2011 rookie Helu showed well with three 100-yard performances and a 4.2 yards-per-carry average. More importantly he showed sticky hands in the passing game, catching 49 of 59 targets. He has the size and speed of a feature back, and 2015 should yield a better opportunity.

Mikel Leshoure, DET – See Helu above. Following an Achilles tear prior to his rookie season, Leshoure burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2012. His efficiency was lacking on a per-play basis but he showed a nose for the end zone and good hands in the passing game. Still only 24 years old it’s too soon to rule out his future viability.

DuJuan Harris, GB – Admittedly Harris is an extreme long shot here, but due to Johnathan Franklin’s unfortunate career-ending neck injury Harris could pick up some passing game duties. He’s not someone I’m actively targeting, but he played decently in some 2012 spot duty.

Daniel Thomas, MIA – Just making sure you’re still paying attention.

4. In a 10-team PPR keeper league we hang onto four guys, with a value assigned to each player corresponding to the pick you would lose. I’m going to keep Jimmy Graham (second round) and Randall Cobb (fourth round), so given the following players who would be your choices for the last two: Montee Ball (eighth), Antonio Brown (seventh) and Matt Stafford (ninth)?Mike in PA

The question above invokes two of my favorite dynasty/keeper tenets. First, in a shallow keeper setting it always makes sense to play with more of a redraft mentality, thereby hanging onto the guys who give you the best immediate chance to win. Second, in a smaller league format there’s no reason to place an emphasis on the quarterback position.

Given the totality of the previous paragraph it’s easy to see where I’m leaning here – Denver running back Montee Ball and Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown. Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford is certainly a fine QB1-caliber player, and the ninth round represents a relative bargain. However, I’m of the belief you’ll be able to snag a similar player like Matt Ryan or Tony Romo in the dispersal draft, and given your league settings it makes sense to stream quarterbacks on a yearly basis.

Meanwhile Ball and Brown will join Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham, providing an outstanding foundation for your skill position players. Ball seems primed to flourish by virtue of grabbing the running back reigns in a Peyton Manning-led offense, and snaring him for the price of an eighth round pick is a bargain. Similarly, you won’t find many (if any) 100-catch receivers like Brown for the price of a seventh rounder. This quartet could very well yield a RB1, two WR1-level players and the top overall tight end on the board – given this core it’s easy for me to view you as a 2014 favorite.

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eric hardter