As the 2016 season grows long in the tooth, your team is either a force to be reckoned with, in the playoff hunt or, sadly, simply going through the motions as your focus shifts to 2017. And focused you most certainly should be.
It’s very possible, likely even, that as you read this your trade deadline has passed and the window is closed for a late-season trade acquisition. But one of my favorite tactics is being early to the table when the season comes to a close and pouncing on opportunities when “last season” is still fresh in the minds of fellow coaches.
The goal here isn’t simply to add high priced players in hopes that they continue their productive ways but, instead, feeding on disappointment, frustration and lack of production as catalysts to add upside to my roster at bargain-basement prices. Understanding which players could be getting a change of scenery next year is a fantastic strategy to capitalize on injury, suspension or poor team situation. Best of all, many coaches in your league(s) likely aren’t paying attention to off-season free agency targets.
Following is a list of those players I’m buying now or early in the off-season as risk-reward upside plays if I can add them for rookie picks or depth-chart excess. Again, focus on players that carry a significant opportunity to increase production in a new situation, but at an attractive cost (in draft pick(s) or return player value). My preference has always been to use draft picks singly or in combination when I target a player, always starting from late round selections, moving toward the first.
An important point to remember when targeting players in return for draft picks is to ensure you understand the depth of the incoming rookie class as it pertains to your own team need(s). It’s all too easy to go rookie-blind, a term that I use to explain coaches who set their gaze upon young players with zero NFL experience instead of the opportunity to add proven NFL production. Any time you can add youth and production over youth and opportunity, I’ll take the former as long as we’re not talking true first-tier marquee names. Even then, it’s still worthy of consideration.
Let’s get to a few of the players I’m targeting for 2017. Note that this list is in no particular order and all “Target” value assumes the highest value offered – lower value is always preferred.
You can find Jeff on Twitter at @dlf_jeff