March is quietly one of the best months for sports fans. The NFL off-season is in full swing, the NBA and NHL are rapidly approaching the playoffs, MLB players have reported to spring training, and of course, the NCAA tournament. March Madness is a time of underdogs, upsets, and non-existent workplace productivity. The excitement and chaos that the 64-team tournament brings culminates into one of my favorite weekends of the year, despite the firestorm that is my bracket.
Bringing the focus back to football, March is also the perfect time to begin tinkering with your dynasty rosters as free agency winds down and we approach the draft. This lull can create rifts in player value that an active and smart owner will take advantage of (See: Morris, Alfred) as well as a select group of under-the-radar players who could pay off come next season. I’m talking the Middle Tennessee and Stephen F. Austin’s of the NFL, underdogs that we all love to cheer for and relish if they produce any sort of positive.
The following five dynasty underdogs will cost you next-to-nothing and, at this point (pre draft/pre training camp), have a relatively decent chance of doing something on the field next season. But, keep in mind, underdogs are underdogs for a reason and don’t take this article as a precedent to go out and overpay for some relatively unknown commodities. Without further ado, here are five dynasty underdogs that you should buy extremely low on.
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Zach Miller, TE CHI
Zach Miller is 31. If you moved onto the next player after that sentence, I don’t fault you. But, if you were kind enough to keep reading, hear me out. Martellus Bennett is now a New England Patriot and the Bears suddenly have a hole, both in offensive production and at their starting tight end position. The next man up is Miller, the oft-injured sixth round pick out of Nebraska Omaha. 2015 was a career year for him, as he finally earned somewhat of a role, catching five touchdowns in backup duty for Bennett. The veteran re-signed with Chicago in March, and is currently head and shoulders above the other two tight ends on the Bears roster, “Inline blocker” Khari Lee and former Cardinal Rob Housler. If nothing else, Miller represents a shot at productivity at a position that is extremely top heavy. Bennett’s productivity will have to be filled in some form and a weak draft class at the position coupled with Miller’s familiarity with the offense and quarterback Jay Cutler give him the upper hand to be the 2016 starting TE for the Bears. Not the worst buy low for a dynasty team that has failed to attain an elite tight end (Note: that’s 11 out of every 12 dynasty owners who read this article).
Chase Daniel, QB PHI
The 29 year old quarterback recently became the highest paid backup in the league. Former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson convinced Daniel to follow him to Philadelphia, where he will sit behind the shaky and injury prone Sam Bradford. Sit may be the wrong word, as Daniel will breathe down Bradford’s neck trying to earn a starting job for the first time in his career. The 12 million guaranteed in his contract also point to the trust that Pederson and the Eagles have in him, a trust that could definitely result in a starting gig. Daniels potential to start, coupled with a familiar offense and decent weapons at his disposal, point to a conceivably quality quarterback if he is given the reigns. This potential alone, coupled with the likelihood of some type of Sam Bradford falter, make Daniel a nice buy at his current non-existent ADP in dynasty leagues.
Rishard Matthews, WR TEN
Like Miller, Matthews is a player currently in a position to have a fair share of production, with an extremely low price tag. The 26-year-old wideout recently inked a three year 15 million dollar deal with the Titans and is expected to start alongside Kendall Wright and Dorial Green–Beckham. The ability to produce was flashed during his four years in Miami; most notably last season where he recorded 43 catches for 662 yards, despite being on a crowded Dolphins receiver depth chart and missing the final five games due to a rib injury. Above average after-the-catch skills coupled with the ability of the players around him (Wright, DGB, DeMarco Murray) may open the doors for Matthews to be an unexpected weapon for Marcus Mariota in 2016.
Bilal Powell, RB NYJ
The veteran Powell received nearly as much money as Matt Forte from the Jets and I would advise against thinking of him as simply a backup. The third down runner only played in 11 games in 2015, but had his numbers been extrapolated over a full season, he would have posted around 100 carries for 455 yards, decent stats for a complimentary back. With an aging Forte in tow, Powell will likely see a slightly increased role in 2016. Rotoviz editor Ben Gretch had an interesting comparison for the Powell/Forte tandem that I really liked on twitter recently; feeding my optimism that Powell will be much more than a lowly backup next season. If he and Forte do indeed take up a 1a/1b pairing, i.e. Spiller and Jackson a few years ago, Powell will be nice bye week filler and a possible start in good matchups, especially if he earns goal line touches. His current dynasty ADP of RB59 actually has him below the Jets third string running back, Khiry Robinson. This is another example of a situation in which smart dynasty owners should snatch up Powell for pennies on the dollar, if nothing else then to have a better shot at production in the lower tiers of your roster than your league mates.
Bruce Ellington, WR SF
Bruce, meet Chip. The third year receiver is hoping that the offensive minded Kelly will give his career its needed jumpstart. With Anquan Boldin likely to leave San Francisco in free agency (although his market has been ice cold thus far), Ellington is in good position to be a starter alongside Torrey Smith and Quinton Patton in Kelly’s often used three receiver sets. While the position is almost certainly going to be addressed at the draft, Kelly has said himself that “[Ellington] can do some interesting things. It’s our job to figure out how we can use that to benefit us to help us win games.” This praise, coupled with the metrics of Ellington (97th percentile agility score) and an obvious team need at the position, culminate into a favorable situation for both Ellington and dynasty owners. An ADP in the Cordarrelle Patterson range offers another bargain price for a young player that is seeing his first shot at an established role in a NFL offense. Add in Chip Kelly and Ellington’s favorable metrics and, its not the worst lottery ticket in the world.
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