Editor’s Note: We realize many newer visitors to DLF are new to the dynasty format. With that in mind, we had a Member Corner contributor put together his own “dream team” to help stimulate some conversation within the community and ask a very important question: “Who would you want if you could have anyone in a dynasty league?”
The 2014 fantasy football season is at an end and it’s a good time to look into the 2015 season and beyond. In this article, I will be discussing who to target for the upcoming years and why you should have these players on your radar. Because of the various scoring systems in the world of dynasty fantasy football, I have streamlined a typical starting roster down to one quarterback, two running backs, a wide receiver and a tight end.
Andrew Luck, QB IND
Is there a better young quarterback in the league? He had his best season of yet, nearly doubling his touchdown mark of the last two seasons (40-46), and the good news doesn’t stop there. How good can Luck be? Let’s compare the greatness of former Colt, Peyton Manning to Luck over their first three seasons. I skewed some data to represent what Peyton Manning would be able to accomplish through the passing offenses of today.
Andrew Luck finishes with 134 more attempts, which equates to about 3.8 more games played than Manning in those three years. Therefore, in three years, Luck has played about four more games than Manning. What I found out is Manning is a great deal more accurate than Luck, as in each season his completion percentage is about two percentage points higher. Because Manning has a higher percentage completion rate, he is going to have more passing yards. But the dispersion of 98 yards is a very small difference, as Manning is up on Luck by only one quarter of game time play. (98 yards passing in one quarter is a capable statistic for Andrew Luck) of the 192 quarters of NFL game time (4 quarters a game*16 games*3 seasons).
In the touchdown and interception area, you’re going to find Manning is the leader in both. He has five more passing touchdowns than Luck, but 15 more interceptions. Manning throws one more interception than Luck in every 2.4 games (20 more interceptions in 48 games played). Obviously this number is skewed as in his rookie year, he had 28 total interceptions, and it took him nearly two seasons to match that number again. Even so, Andrew Luck has not thrown more than 18 in a season.
The yards per completion average is nearly identical, but Luck does come on top here, and as for the yards thrown on a-per game average, Manning is just above Luck 271.9 to 269.9. Because Peyton Manning has more completions in fewer attempts, I think the biggest difference is the offensive line protection. For someone as traditional a drop-back-passer as Peyton Manning is, he has been sacked 250 times less than the more mobile Luck (634-384). I think this attests to how great Luck really is. If he can be competitive with someone like the future hall of famer in Peyton Manning, yet get far less protection, imagine the statistical output if Luck actually received some protection. Obviously Luck outperforms Manning in the running department, as he has 250 more yards rushing, or close to 84 yards more per season. By looking at these numbers alone, Luck is on the same path as Manning, and anytime you can recycle one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, you make no mistake and you grab him in each and every one of your drafts if you can.
In today’s NFL, the game has been revolutionized. Quarterbacks are passing more, running backs are running less and a majority of teams will use more than one running back. For instance, just look last year at the Saints with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Travis Cadet and Khiry Robinson or the Falcons with Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rogers and Devonta Freeman. The reason is to save the wear and tear on the ball carrier – this is not what we want as fantasy and dynasty owners, because if they are not on the field, how in the heck are they going to score any points for us? Let’s take a closer look at two of them – Le’Veon Bell, followed by Jamaal Charles.
Le’Veon Bell, RB PIT
Despite facing a two-game suspension at the start of next season, I still believe Le’Veon Bell is a top choice to make. No doubt his pro career has been shaky. In his rookie season he didn’t even see the field until week four due to a right foot injury and he suffered a concussion during the Thanksgiving game against the Ravens. Then before he could even begin his sophomore campaign, he was busted for driving while under the influence of marijuana. This, of course, will have an impact toward his third season because of the possible two-game ban. The solid aspect is that when on the field, he could easily be the best back in football.
Let’s take a closer look at his two-year career.
[inlinead]Several things make Bell important in Dynasty leagues. First, the Pittsburgh offense is one of the best in the NFL. When looking at how they are ranked, they’re 11th in rushing, and first in passing. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger is getting older, but the offensive line is young and starting to gel. Their eldest is Ramon Foster who was drafted in 2009 as a free agent. Their left tackle Kelvin Beachum was a seventh round selection in the same year they drafted right guard David DeCastro, and at this time Beachum is the fourth rated tackle in the NFL (according to PFF), so it’s easy to see why the Steelers are ranked fourth overall in the NFL.
Not only does Bell have that sturdy offensive line in front of him, but he is only 22 years old and already showing he can be an easy first round draft choice for any type of fantasy league. He has stud written all over him, as he is light on his feet, even for a large running back (240 pounds) he adds the dimension of being a receiver out of the backfield for PPR owners. Bell came into the league as a rookie in 2013 amassing 1,259 yards from scrimmage and eight rushing touchdowns despite missing three games.
In his rookie season, he had 860 yards rushing on 244 attempts, which translated into a 3.5 yard per carry average (Y/A) and eight touchdowns. On the receiving end, he caught 45 passes on 66 targets for 399 yards. Which translates into 218 PPR (point-per-reception) points and 173 standard points, Bell finished the season solidly in the tier two range of running backs.
In the 2014 season he got even better. He saw both his yards and receiving stats increase. He finished with 290 carries for 1361 yards, which correlates into a 4.7 Y/A, and he added another three touchdowns through the air. Bell was actually a second receiver for the Steelers as he was targeted 105 times and caught 83 passes for 854 yards.
To break down the 2014 season, let’s review how Bell did.
He was dominant in the first three weeks of the 2014 season, he totaled 315 yards on 53 carries and one touchdown, including 13 receptions for 146 yards. He then went on a dry spell for about seven weeks in the rushing department. He rushed for 432 yards on 109 carries (3.46 Y/A) and zero touchdowns, but caught 42 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns. So he was brutal in standard leagues, but had a reprieve in PPR leagues due to his ability to catch the ball.
From week 11 to 14 Bell went on a magical run. He garnered 484 yards – 52 more than the previous seven week bad spell and had four touchdowns, good for an outstanding 6.91 yards per carry average. He also padded his stats with 16 receptions for 227 yards and one touchdown. Included in this stretch was a 204 rushing day against the Titans, and a 185 rushing performance against the Bengals and it didn’t stop there, how about an eight catch 159 yard receiving day against the Saints.
Bell struggled in week 15, 16 and 17. In the final week of the season, he left early after he injured his knee. Even though he totaled only 130 yards rushing on 48 carries for a paltry 2.7 yards per carry, he did score three rushing touchdowns, and caught 12 passes for 161 yards with no touchdowns.
What makes Bell so tremendously awesome is he has the rare talent to be effective in both standard and PPR leagues. There are not too many players who can make a living at both, but when a player can catch 80+ receptions, have three touchdowns through the air and run for another 8-10 scores, he is doing everything right. In a running back heavy league, he should be the first to go in all dynasty fantasy formats.
Jamaal Charles, RB KC
A key dynamic to building any dynasty or keeper team is balance. Balancing your team as a dynasty fantasy owner is about getting the right temperament and mix. Therefore, you don’t want a bunch of youngsters who may never amount to anything. For instance, having two running backs in your stable who were named David Wilson (NYG) and Marcus Lattimore (SF) did not do you any good, as both players showed tremendous talent but injuries wiped their career. You also don’t want to many of the elder statesman, meaning those on the verge of retirement. Both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning didn’t have their typical stud-filled seasons, possibly because they are long in the tooth.
The perfect blend is both experience of being great and talented with the youth of owning the star for a solid amount of time – Charles is one of those types of athletes. He is 5’11″ and weighs 200-pounds, but is a well-built back who can bounce off tacklers. His primary characteristic, of course, is his pure speed. Charles is capable of reading the defense and has the patience to run behind his blocks. He is explosive and as many owners know, he can hit a hole and be gone. Smooth and elusive in the open field, he can start and stop on a dime.
In six seasons, he has only had 1,511 touches (1,249 rushing+262 receiving), which averages out to be 251 touches a season. In fact, his first four seasons saw him only carry the rock 409 times, in the mix was his 2011 injury where he tore his ACL after only 12 carries. In 2012 and 2013 he only carried the ball 554 times, but had 153 receptions, which correlates to 707 touches over the last two years. In 2014, he had 246 overall touches (206 carries + 40 receptions). He has been surprising durable as well. With the only exception of tearing his ACL in 2011, and needing rehabilitation time, he only missed a total of three games in the three seasons following.
In 2014, he didn’t quite have the same kind of season as he did in 2013, it would have been almost impossible to match those kinds of numbers, nevertheless he was still successful. The first two weeks were duds for him, as he had only 23 yards rushing on nine carries, while catching five receptions for 23 yards. He was also blanked in the touchdown department, and missed week three due to an injured ankle.
In week four, he bounced back against the New England Patriots rushing for 92 yards and one touchdown, while catching three passes for 16 yards and two touchdowns. In week five against the 49ers, he finished with 80 yards rushing on just 15 carries and also had one reception for four yards and zero touchdowns. Then after the bye week, he went on a studly eight week run, where he scored at least one touchdown in eight straight games. He finished those eight weeks with 703 yards rushing on 130 carries (5.4 Y/A), and eight touchdowns, and added 23 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He then went on to finish the year in a disappointing fashion. In the final three weeks he rushed for 125 yards on 34 carries and 57 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. None of these efforts yielded a touchdown. Despite this performance, Charles remains one of the best running backs in the league. He offers the value of a receiver with his main talent in the running game, and when you add the fact that he is the sole back of that offense, he is destined to perform at high levels for your fantasy team.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
I will now delve into the wide receiver/tight end department. There are two receivers who really stand out to me who should be at the top of your draft board in dynasty leagues. I chose A.J. Green and Jimmy Graham to represent these positions. I will get into Graham later on, so let’s take a look at Green. First, it was a tough decision for me between A.J. Green and Dez Bryant. I have both equally on my draft board, as both have played their last six years with the same quarterback and have put up similar numbers. (Bryant: 93 catches, 1,233 yards, 13 TD vs. Green: 98 catches, 1,426 yards, 11 TD). What made the difference for me is the quarterback situation. Tony Romo is getting older, and his continuous injuries have plagued him for the last few seasons. Andy Dalton is younger, healthier, and a more solid quarterback going forward.
A.J. Green, WR CIN
There are very few wide receivers that make the quarterback; A.J. Green is one of them. The fourth pick of the 2011 draft, has been nothing but great. He has a strong consistency with Andy Dalton as they both came into the league only one year apart. He is a fluid athlete with great acceleration, a solid leaping ability, and seems to always get separation. When Green is on the field, you will see someone who is a solid route runner with great hands and the ability to make that superior catch amongst defenders.
[inlinead]In his 2011 rookie year, he showed the world why the Bengals drafted him so high. Many people covering the NFL felt he had all the talent, but would take him awhile to learn the league. In week two, he proved all those spectators wrong. He destroyed the Broncos, catching 10 passes on 14 targets for 124-yards and a touchdown. He finished the season with 65 receptions on 115 targets for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns. Then he took it up a notch in 2012 and 2013. In back-to-back seasons, he caught 97 balls for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns (2012), and in 2013, he caught 98 receptions for 1426 yards and again 11 touchdowns. The 2014 season saw more of the same Green. Even though he was out four weeks, due to a foot issue, he still put up strong numbers. He finished with 69 receptions for 1041 yards and six touchdowns.
To take a look at this season performance, we will see that in the first five weeks of the 2014 season, he missed two weeks, one was due to an injury and the other was a bye week. But in the three games he did play, he was targeted 25 times, catching 17 balls for 314 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, in practice, he went down with a toe injury the following week causing him to miss a month of the season. Upon returning, he wasn’t his best in the first two weeks, but in week 11 he began an explosive hot streak that didn’t end until week 15 at Cleveland.
In those five weeks he caught 38 passes for 578 yards and three touchdowns on 58 targets, including a monster performance against rival Pittsburgh Steelers in week 14, where he had 11 receptions for 224 yards and one touchdown. In the last two weeks of the season, he struggled against Denver, but the whole team did that week, and in week 17, he finished off right with eight receptions for 82 yards and no touchdowns.
When Tony Gonzalez was drafted in the NFL in 1997, he began a revolution of the tight end position. When Antonio Gates arrived in 2003 he solidified that revolution. Before these tight ends came into the National Football League, the tight end was more of a blocking position. More athletic tight ends such as John Mackey, Mike Ditka, Todd Christensen, and Shannon Sharpe were decade players, as in once in a decade they came around. The mold Gonzalez and Gates broke was the tight end being fundamentally athletic and versatile – a power forward position in the game of basketball brought to the football field. Through college basketball these players learned how to use their body to shield off defenders, use the small space given to them, and go high for a pass or rebound. Like Gonzalez and Gates, more college basketball players began to come into the NFL to be the tight ends we see today. Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist spoke on the situation. “It’s a copycat league. The tight end position is perfect for the basketball player, in that you’ve got to have the size and strength to be able to handle the line of scrimmage and block, but at the same time, you’ve got to have the athleticism, the speed, the quickness and agility and balance to be able to separate from the defender. The great thing about this group of players is they’re big enough to take on defensive backs and ‘out-rebound’ them. We see that all the time in the red zone, where you throw it up in the back of the end zone and they just go up and take it.” Players such as Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, and of course, Jimmy Graham, are now making a living from it.
Jimmy Graham, TE NO
There are tight ends and then there is Jimmy Graham.
In his four seasons, he has simply dominated the game. He puts up numbers like a wide receiver and when you’re a favorite target of a future hall of famer in Drew Brees, things just don’t get much better. This former third round pick has just finished his fourth season in New Orleans. When you see Graham, he shows off his great athleticism, and can run almost any route. He separates himself from defenders and can be a suitable blocker. Obviously, his size and speed make him one of the most dominating tight ends in football.
In 2010, Graham’s rookie season showed a progression to learning the pro game. He started only in five contests and finished with 31 receptions and 356 yards and five touchdowns. His sophomore season showed a burst in production – he caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and eleven touchdowns. His totals did not reflect a tight end, it was high talent wide receiver numbers. He was third in the NFL in catches, fourth in yards and sixth overall in touchdowns. In 2012, he saw some regression. He still caught 85 passes for 982 yards and nine touchdowns. When 2013 came around, his touchdown totals jumped from nine to sixteen, which led the NFL.
This last season saw him struggle, mostly due to a shoulder injury and Drew Brees underperforming a bit.
In the first five weeks of the season, he caught only 34 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints had a bye week in week six, and Graham stumbled in weeks seven and eight. He turned it around though in week nine at Carolina as he caught seven passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, then the following week against the 49ers he went off for 10 receptions 76 yards and two touchdowns. Then his production dipped from weeks 11-15, where he had 14 receptions for 159 yards and two touchdowns. His week 12 performance against Baltimore saved these weeks from being a complete disaster, as he caught six passes for 47 yards and scored those two touchdowns in that one game. In week 13, he was out due to his shoulder, but returned in week 14, against the Carolina Panthers. Against the Panthers, and then in following week against the Chicago Bears, he caught only eight passes for 112 yards and no touchdowns, pretty much a week’s production for him, he did in two weeks. He turned it around a bit the following two weeks against the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished the season with 12 receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown. I would not be overly concerned about his dip in totals this year, the fact that he was still the second top producing tight end with injuries, is a fine example what he could be when not injured.
So, who would you pick if you could take one quarterback, two running backs, a wide receiver and a tight end? Post your “dream team” below in the comments section.