If I’m grocery shopping and I see a great deal on chips, it’s really hard for me not to get those chips. Even if chips weren’t on my radar when I walked into the store — which, let’s be honest, isn’t often — just the thought of getting a good deal on something excites me. For me, seeing the word clearance is akin to chugging a Red Bull.
Those sentiments also ring true in dynasty football.
I love several things about the dynasty format, but undoubtedly my favorite part of roster construction is trading. While you can certainly swing deals in-season, I’ve found it much easier to acquire assets in the spring and summer months. During those times, as we approach rookie drafts, I think owners really become enamored with rookie picks, giving them their highest value. I also think owners are bitter about certain players on their team, especially if a player just under-performed in the previous season. I also think this is the best time to get your mitts on disappointing players from the last rookie class (more on that later).
My plan for the off-season is always the same: acquire undervalued assets. I’m probably the annoying owner who sends out too many trades, but I will pursue any player who just had a bad year. I heard an awesome saying about the stock market once — “Buy at funerals and sell at birthdays.” I love it, and it sums up how I operate in the offseason, particularly the buying at funerals aspect of it.
The football season is an exercise in small sample sizes. In baseball or basketball, a bad four-game stretch is barely a blip on the radar. In football, it’s a quarter of the season and cause for major concern. It’s our job to discern a random stretch of poor play from a sign of decline in future production.
This article isn’t going to go as in-depth as those individual pieces on Martin and Allen, but I’m going to give you more quantity. The goal is to present you with several players who you may be able to attain on the cheap. I believe all of these players are, to some degree, being under-valued. Even if one of these players isn’t someone you believe in, as long as he performs better next year and raises — or reestablishes — his value, you can flip him a month into the season for something you covet more. Every league and every owner is different. For any of these players to be a buy-low candidate, they need to be undervalued by their owner. You must be able to net a WR2 for the price of a WR3, so to speak.
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In one-quarterback leagues, I don’t place much value on the position. There’s enough depth and production to get by with streaming. Two-quarterback leagues, however, are a game changer. Both of these players don’t possess any real value in one-quarterback formats, but they could be cheap lottery tickets in two-quarterback leagues.
Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS
Griffin, for his career, has completed 63.9 percent of his passes and owns a 90.6 quarterback rating. Andrew Luck has connected on 58.1 percent of his throws and sports a quarterback rating of 85.0. Now, I’m not saying Griffin is better; I’m saying he possesses some real ability as a passer. Even if he never regains his breath-taking athleticism due to injuries, I believe he can be a productive quarterback based on his arm alone. I have no idea where he will wind up, but with the current state of the quarterback position — Matt Cassel, Blaine Gabbert and Johnny Manziel all starting — Griffin will get a shot somewhere.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF
The 49ers were a dumpster fire this season, and Kaepernick predictably struggled without quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh by his side. Much like Griffin, this is a case of a player’s value being so low it’s hardly going to hurt you to take a shot on him. There’s rumors of San Francisco cutting Kaepernick, which would probably slightly increase his value as rumors run rampant on his possible destinations. It’d be smart to acquire him before then.
Donte Moncrief, WR IND
Moncrief is a premier buy-low candidate. He’s extremely talented, but his production dropped off due to things out of his control — namely an injury to Andrew Luck and Luck’s poor play prior to the injury. In his six games with Luck this season, Moncrief averaged exactly nine targets per game and scored four touchdowns. I fully believe Luck will be back to his old self in 2016, and a receiver getting that kind of volume in a high-powered offense with a really good quarterback is a player I want. I’m a T.Y. Hilton fan, but I think Moncrief is going to eventually be the Colts’ No. 1 weapon. Additionally, Phillip Dorsett hasn’t proven to be any kind of threat to Moncrief. This is a future, in my estimation, WR1 who is on sale.
Keenan Allen, WR SD
After a solid rookie campaign, a lack of touchdowns and big plays led to a disappointing second year, which made Allen an attractive buy-low option heading into the 2015 season. He certainly bounced back before suffering a season-ending kidney injury. He makes the list because I don’t know if people truly appreciate how good he was in 2015. In eight contests, Allen was PPR gold, averaging 8.3 catches per game and 90.6 yards. He scored four times and had three games of at least 12 receptions. Most of the things I said in my piece prior to this season still apply. Antonio Gates can’t play forever, and Allen is going to be the clear-cut No. 1 target for Philip Rivers in the very near future. If he had stayed healthy, I think he would’ve cracked into the low-end WR1 range, and I don’t think his price tag is currently that of a WR1.
Randall Cobb, WR GB
Before the season, I had Cobb ranked as my No. 5 overall player behind Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones. I thought Cobb was an extremely safe bet for a run of sustained excellence. A 25-year-old coming off a 91-catch, 12-touchdown campaign who is playing with the game’s best quarterback on a high-powered offense — what could go wrong? I don’t know what’s happened this year, but I lean towards it being a combination of poor play from Cobb, a banged up offensive line and the offense struggling without Jordy Nelson’s big-play ability. I still view Cobb as a WR1, but I’m guessing I may be in the minority. If I didn’t have a whole mess of Cobb shares already, he’d be one of my top targets this off-season.
The Rookie Receivers
Fresh off the historic 2014 rookie receiver class, several of the top rookie wideouts under-performed (or didn’t perform at all) this year. Nelson Agholor, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker are guys on my radar as possible bargains. Cooper played well this year. His price tag will be high, but if he’s not being viewed as a top-10, elite asset, then you can get yourself a deal. The other three, for varying reasons, had disappointing seasons in terms of on-field production. Everyone wants to land Beckham or Mike Evans, the rookie who blows up in year one, but the fact of the matter is most first-year players, even highly drafted ones, struggle with the transition to the NFL. Then those rookies become second- and third-year players, and a lot of them become really good.
Breshad Perriman and Kevin White are wild cards. They basically redshirted this season, but they should have retained their value in the process. It’s worth seeing if their owner is possibly frustrated by the lost season. I think Dorial Green-Beckham is being valued right where he should be. He has flashed enough this year to maintain his status as a very enticing and valuable dynasty asset.
Demaryius Thomas, WR DEN
Before the season, I sensed some fear in the dynasty community about how Thomas would fare without Peyton Manning. I thought it was rubbish. Sure, his numbers may drop a tad, but Thomas is an elite talent. The perception is Thomas is having a down season this year, but I think it’s being overblown. Even with Manning’s implosion and Brock Osweiler’s subpar play, Thomas has caught 88 balls for 1,067 yards on 144 targets through Week 14. All of those numbers rank inside the top 10 among wideouts. The main difference in Thomas this year and Thomas in previous years is touchdowns, which can, at times, be extremely random for all players. After finding the end zone 10, 14 and 11 times, respectively, in each of the past three years, he has just three touchdowns this year. If you’re worried about Thomas’ ability to score touchdowns on an average offense, check this out: Despite missing five games in 2011, and with Tim Tebow starting 11 games, Thomas scored four touchdowns on just 32 receptions. He’s an elite receiver.
With running backs, I share the same philosophy as my DLF brethren Ryan McDowell. Because of the year-to-year volatility at the position (just look at our rankings), I just can’t invest much in running backs. To succeed with this strategy, you have to be able to acquire production off the waiver wire (think: Dion Lewis and Thomas Rawls) or hit on undervalued backs via trade. It’s imperative to pounce and gamble on under-performing players.
C.J. Anderson, RB DEN
Anderson got off to a brutally slow start and has only rushed for 538 yards and three scores on 124 attempts (4.3 YPC). I believe his poor start was the perfect storm of poor offensive line play and Manning being unable to threaten defenses down the field. Anderson has upped his production over the second half, averaging at least 4.5 yards per carry in each of the last six games. Denver’s revamped offensive line has improved as the year has progressed, but the offense has still underwhelmed as a whole. I don’t think Denver’s offense will return to it’s high-flying status, but I do believe Anderson is the Broncos’ best back by a good margin.
In 2014, as a rookie, Devonta Freeman racked up 473 total yards (248 rushing, 225 receiving), one rushing touchdown and one receiving score while gaining a putrid 3.8 yards per carry. It’s safe to say he was a little better in 2015. This is a reminder: most rookie running backs struggle.
With that said, and Gordon have both had pretty rough debut seasons. Abdullah has 437 rushing yards on 3.8 yards per carry with one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown (same as Freeman’s 2014) while adding 155 receiving yards. He’s starting get more work, recording at least 12 carries in three of the last four weeks after only doing so twice in the first nine weeks. Gordon has received significant work and really disappointed, totaling 600 yards on 169 carries (3.6 YPC) with 32 grabs for 186 yards. He has yet to reach the end zone.
The owners of both Gordon and Abdullah paid a steep price to acquire them, and they’re undoubtedly frustrated. Because both players are young, they may not be discounted much, but it’s certainly worthwhile to find out.
Tevin Coleman, RB ATL
It’s hard to remember, but Coleman appeared to have edged out Freeman for the job in the preseason, even out-touching Freeman 20-13 in Week 1. Then Coleman got hurt, and Freeman blew up. Freeman’s emergence this year has made a Coleman a nice buy-low option. Coleman hasn’t gotten as many opportunities of the two aforementioned rookies, but he’s performed better than both of them. He has carried the ball 82 times, rushing for 369 yards (4.4 YPC) and one score. He and Freeman are both averaging 4.4 yards per carry, although Freeman has done it with considerably more volume. Freeman has played so well, especially as a receiver, it’s hard to imagine a scenario, barring injury, where Coleman takes the job and dominates carries. However, I would’ve said the same thing six months ago about any Seattle back out-producing Marshawn Lynch.
Alfred Morris, RB WAS
Morris has been outplayed by rookie Matt Jones, averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per carry after being over the 4.0 mark in each of his first three seasons. Morris’ time in Washington appears to be coming to a close at the end of this season. Depending on where he lands, his value could see a significant bump. If he goes somewhere like New England (LeGarrette Blount is a free agent after 2015), he’d certainly generate buzz. Still, as a back who doesn’t catch many passes, his ceiling will always be limited.
DeMarco Murray, RB, PHI
Entering the year, most of the reservations around Murray stemmed from his unfathomable 2014 workload. Murray has managed to stay healthy, but he’s been a colossal wreck in his first season with the Eagles. Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles have each, to varying degrees, outperformed Murray. Assuming both he and Head Coach Chip Kelly are back in Philadelphia for 2016, I really like Murray as a bounce-back candidate. Kelly is too good of an offensive mind, and Murray is too talented for next season to go as poorly as this one did. Considering his age, recent struggles and injury history, Murray shouldn’t be too pricey.
Travis Kelce, TE, KC
Tight end is a real mess right now. There’s just not much you can count on outside of Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert, and both Eifert and Gronkowski have a lengthy injury history. Kelce was supposed to be a top-end commodity this season, but his usage has left a lot to be desired. Even sans Jamaal Charles, Kansas City has been a run-heavy team. Still, it’s never a bad idea to bet on talent, and Kelce is extremely talented. His ability to make plays after the catch will always make him prone to big weeks. Despite having a mediocre season, based on preseason expectations, Kelce is the seventh-ranked tight end this year in PPR.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE TB
For me, Seferian-Jenkins is the No. 4 tight end. If not for injuries, I don’t think he’d be on this list. In five games this season, he has hauled in 16 passes for 230 yards and three scores. He erupted for a 110-yard, two-score day in Week 1, but he was injured the next week and missed nearly three months. Jameis Winston has played well, for a rookie, and I think the two have shown a nice rapport when Seferian-Jenkins has been able to get on the field. At a position so thin, he’s a valuable player.