Let’s face it, there’s an enormous amount of information out there on Sunday mornings. We’re not going to waste your time by repeating the news and notes about who’s in or out this week, since that’s really not what you visit us for. We’re also not going to do another article on starts or sits this week – we already have the personalized lineup advice for you on the premium content. Again, there are 100 places you can go for that, so no reason to repeat ourselves or others.
The Sunday Morning Huddle goes through each game and states what we’re looking to see from a dynasty perspective. One player will be picked from each team who has dynasty value tied to the game – players at a pivot point where their value could increase or decrease based on opportunity and performance.
As we close out the 2016 season with one final edition of Sunday Morning Huddle, I’d like to thank those of you who have read along through the year. I hope that you’ve gotten an early jump on some value changes that benefitted your dynasty teams. This week, I don’t see much of the point in analyzing players who have their value at a pivot point due to this week’s slate of games since most teams aren’t playing for anything important in week 17. Rather, I intend to focus on players who we can expect to have a volatile offseason – potentially moving way up or down.
Chicago at Minnesota
The Bears have plenty of players who may no longer be a part of the team in 2017. Among them, none have more fantasy relevance than wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. If he does re-sign with the team, he figures to be be the top wide receiver but question marks at other skill positions leave a bigger question mark for what that means for his fantasy value. In the event he moves to another team, he figures to be the top receiver there as well, but again question marks surround the value depending on which team he may end up with.
With a throwback contract of yesteryear, Adrian Peterson is extremely unlikely to be back with the Vikings in 2017. Furthermore, I doubt any team would be willing to trade for his current contract, so we’re likely looking at a situation where Peterson simply gets cut. Add in a strong draft class, and the number of teams already set at running back, and it is a very muddy situation for where Peterson might land and what role he might fill given his lack of recent production. While I believe he wants to continue playing, he might see the contract situations and roles being offered to him, and simply retire.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
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A true breakout at wide receiver for a converted quarterback, Terrelle Pryor was one of the fantasy success stories of 2016. Unfortunately, he both plays for the Browns and is a free agent, so even if he stays – who knows what that means? The Browns could play like they have for the past month and he will hold no value. Alternatively, he could move to another team, but can he thrive in another system? What role would he play? To be sure, I have no idea if this offseason will be good or bad for Pryor’s value, but it will be something to monitor closely.
Running back Le’Veon Bell is one of the premier fantasy assets, and he is set to become a free agent. Given his level of play, he should end up with a huge contract for a running back. Since he is a near perfect fit for what the Steelers need out of a running back, there is a pretty good chance that he either re-signs with them or gets slapped with a franchise tag. However, if neither of those things happen and he is offered a huge contract somewhere else, his value could actually decrease if he lands in a worse situation.
Houston at Tennessee
A huge disappointment for owners in 2016, DeAndre Hopkins was a victim of the Texans horrid quarterback situation. He has the demonstrated talents and abilities to thrive in the NFL, but he needs at least competent quarterback play in order to do so. What happens at the quarterback position for the Texans this offseason? Nothing will be more telling of Hopkins dynasty value over the next few years.
This year, DeMarco Murray rebounded in a big way for the Titans. His owner’s probably made the playoffs in your league. While he is still under contract for 2017, the Titans also have Derrick Henry waiting in the wings, having been productive when deployed. Add in that after Murray’s last huge season, he fell off of a cliff, and I strongly think we could be looking at a scenario in which Murray has an identical situation on paper for 2017 as he did in 2016, but he could play a significantly different role going forward as more of a timeshare.
Buffalo at New York (Jets)
As of this writing, Tyrod Taylor is said to be headed for free agency as the Bills intend to move on from him. He is a capable dual threat quarterback that will likely be a starter for one team or another in 2017. I figure his best case scenario from a coaching standpoint would be to play under Chip Kelly, but the lack of weapons in San Francisco plus the continued presence of Colin Kaepernick could hamper the ceiling there. Broncos General Manager John Elway has been known to make bold moves in the past, and Tyrod seems like a good fit for Gary Kubiak’s system as well despite the presence of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Taylor’s situation will be fun to watch.
After multiple reports in 2016 that Brandon Marshall has been a negative impact in the locker room, it is fair to question whether the team retains him for 2017. The Jets clearly aren’t going to win a championship in the window that Marshall has left, and Marshall previously said that the Jets were going to be his last NFL team. So, do they cut him? If they do, does he stick to his word from several years ago to retire after he parts ways with the Jets? After multiple injuries and a successful media career, does he still have the desire to sign with another team and make a run at a championship? He could either be a presence on multiple championship teams in 2017, or worth literally nothing.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
For the Jaguars, lots of hubbub surrounds Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson, but for me, running back TJ Yeldon stands to lose the most. The team is good on paper with a solid list of names at most positions, but production does not match that paper expectation. With two years under his belt, Yeldon does not have very much favorable film. Again, given the number of free agent running backs and the strength of the 2017 class, I think the Jags could simply give up on Yeldon.
While running back Frank Gore is still under contract for 2017, he is nearing an age unheard of for running backs with his career workload over the past decade. Guys simply do not play this long if they touch the ball as much as Gore has. Defying father time, Gore has remained a rock solid flex option for teams. Going forward, it will be fair to question whether he moves on to retirement, the Colts draft his replacement, or he simply gets his role further scaled back. Watch offseason moves to see how this develops.
New England at Miami
For the past few years, Julian Edelman has more than sufficiently filled the ‘Wes Welker’ role for the Patriots. This year, with roster changes and some apparent scheme changes, Edelman simply has not been as valuable for his fantasy owners. His longest catch of the season was 35 yards and he only has two touchdowns with one 100+ yard receiving game. I think Edelman’s best days are behind him as he is now 30 years old. Given the Patriots willingness to move on from players past their prime, Edelman looks like a cut/trade candidate, and at the very least appears likely to be further scaled back in 2017.
This could be a personal thing, I’m not sure, but Ryan Tannehill just doesn’t look like the long term answer for Miami to me. Despite the team heading to the Wild Card round of the playoffs, it isn’t really because of Tannehill at all. Multiple games were close, they rode Jay Ajayi when they could, and Tannehill simply didn’t play bad enough to keep them out of the playoffs. After two years with 4000+ passing yards, he may not even crack 3000 this year in the event he does not play in week 17, which looks likely. With several free agent quarterbacks looking to be available, keep an eye on what Miami does.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
To be clear, I’m not sure if Kelvin Benjamin is the culprit or the victim for the Panthers, as Cam Newton has had a terrible completion percentage recently. The difference is that Benjamin has had a terrible catch rate all season, even back when Newton was completing a NFL-caliber number of passes. I don’t think that the Panthers have the personnel to phase out Benjamin completely, but with free agent and/or draft additions and the development of Devin Funchess it is possible that he is scaled back in 2017. The likelihood of Newton himself being scaled back is low, so Benjamin is my choice here.
After a few stellar games in the middle of the year, Jacquizz Rodgers is closing out the season as the team’s starter. The problem for the Buccaneers is that they have a huge contract out for Doug Martin, who isn’t even playing anymore after ineffective play and a suspension for Adderall. So, does Rodgers parlay this opportunity into a long term contract with the Bucs? Does he get an offer to start somewhere else? Does it even matter, given his previous history of ineffective play and the strength of the 2017 running back draft and free agent classes?
Another potential victim of a strong 2017 class, Kenneth Dixon is a fourth round pick who hasn’t lived up to fantasy expectations to date. While he has played adequately, he’s still very replaceable both in terms of his on field play and his draft pedigree. I contemplated writing about Breshad Perriman, but his draft pedigree guarantees he will remain involved for another year or two at minimum. Dixon is yet another player that we simply cannot know the future of, but must monitor his play in week 17 as well as the Ravens offseason moves.
After exploding onto the scene in 2014, Jeremy Hill has certainly cooled off. In 2015, Hill managed just 794 rushing yards with 3.6 yards per carry. Through 16 weeks of the 2016 season – even with Giovani Bernard injured a good chunk of the year – Hill is only at 839 yards on 3.8 yards per carry. That simply won’t suffice for a two-down pounder in this day and age, and I fully expect the Bengals to invest in a running back to better complement Bernard this offseason.
Dallas at Philadelphia
While Jason Witten has played adequately in 2016, he isn’t the premier tight end that he used to be, either for the Cowboys or for fantasy owners. I do expect his decline to continue in 2017 if he does keep playing, but keep in mind that several outside factors could be playing on his mind this offseason. In the event that the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, which appears possible, he could simply retire on top at his age and be happy with it. He also has been best friends with Tony Romo for a decade, and Dallas looks very likely to move on from Romo via a trade this offseason. If either of these two things come to pass – or both – retirement could weigh on Witten’s mind.
On a per snap production basis, Ryan Mathews has been a stud for the majority of his career. Unfortunately, sporadic usage and seemingly constant injuries have kept him from ever being a truly elite fantasy running back. Enter that his running back compatriots are either old or unheralded and Mathews himself cannot be counted on week to week, and we have another running back situation where an infusion of talent via either the draft or free agency appears imminent.
Oakland at Denver
What a hard situation to project. Latavius Murray was an adequate bellcow through the mid-season before ceding significant work the past two weeks and looking like the least effective back on the team in week 16. As a free agent in 2017 with multiple capable backs breathing down his neck, the Raiders may move on from him. At the same time, as mentioned ad nauseum, 2017 is a loaded free agent and draft class at running back, so Murray may not find a hot market for his skills, and could be retained cheaply by the Raiders. Any way you slice it, though, Murray’s value may have already passed its peak.
With a hefty contract in hand, CJ Anderson is likely to be the starter for the Broncos once again in 2017. It was thought that Devontae Booker would threaten his hold on the position, but after Booker’s faceplant this year, it looks like this backfield is Anderson’s moving forward. The team has enough other positions to address that a worst case scenario for Anderson is that the team simply adds more depth. Look for his value to continuously rebound through the offseason.
Seattle at San Francisco
I’ve said it before, Thomas Rawls has the tools to be a star but has to show that he can produce consistently and stay healthy. The team has a running back behind him in CJ Prosise that also appears capable on the field and unable to stay healthy. The unfortunate reality for both of these players is that their lack of sustained health could potentially torpedo their value by forcing the Seahawks’ hand with acquiring another capable running back. On the other hand, the team could realize their biggest holes are on offensive line and devote the entire draft to the trenches – which should help their values.
Similarly, Carlos Hyde looks like a stud when he plays healthy, but keeps getting banged up and has the unfortunate distinction of playing for a bad team so game scripts don’t often go in his favor. Offseason roster moves will go a long way toward determining his future value. Additions of potential stud running backs obviously hurt him some, but investments in the defense, offensive line, at quarterback, or any receiving position will help him out. Given the number of holes, it seems very likely that this offseason can only be good for Hyde. Even if the team makes bad picks, the players will still probably be upgrades.
Kansas City at San Diego
Ending the year on injured reserve yet again, Jamaal Charles’ days as a featured back may well be in his past. New Chiefs starter Spencer Ware has played quite well in 2016 as a whole, but has trailed off in recent weeks. With Charles on a modest contract for 2017 given his past production, I expect the team to retain him but the role he will hold moving forward will be difficult to predict. This could be a situation where everyone loses value.
Rookie tight end Hunter Henry somehow looks even more like the heir apparent in San Diego today than he did a week ago after reports that he will be the featured tight end for the team in 2017 and that Antonio Gates will potentially be asked to take a pay cut. Henry has all of the lookings of a future star and these are continued indications that he is trending in that direction. Keep an eye on whether all of this comes to fruition over the offseason.
New York (Giants) at Washington
For a team mostly settled at skill positions, Will Tye has emerged as the tight end to own this year, but is a 2017 free agent. The Giants under General Manager Jerry Reese have a long history of developing tight ends out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant, and then simply not paying them and employing the next man up mentality. Frankly, I don’t think Tye is anything special, and is unlikely to make a huge impact anywhere, but if the Giants stick to their trend his value could move one way or another.
The Redskins are a tough team to pick a player for in this spot. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both impending free agents. For me, Jamison Crowder is the one to watch. Whatever happens with Jackson and Garcon will be indicative of the team’s belief in Crowder and his future role with the team. If one walks, bump for Crowder. If both walk, big bump for Crowder. I’ll double down and say that week 17 is also important for this, since the Giants are weak in the middle of the field where Crowder does damage.
Arizona at Los Angeles
Wide receiver legend Larry Fitzgerald has said he will keep his retirement plans secret, so we’ll be on the edge of our seats this offseason. If he sticks around, he should have a big role yet again for Arizona. Other receiving options for the team are underwhelming, undersized, and often injured. He could have huge value, or be worthless come September.
Has a running back that is still starting had a worse season for his value than Todd Gurley? Luckily, the team just canned coach Jeff Fisher. The future could be brighter if the right coaching staff is brought in and some good offseason roster moves are made. I have a hard time imagining a player of his caliber putting up a worse season than Gurley did in 2016. We won’t know for sure until next year, but things should be looking up for him.
New Orleans at Atlanta
As you’ve noticed, a large number of ‘good but not great’ running backs have their value in the crosshairs this offseason. Saints running back Mark Ingram is no exception, despite his contract. With all receivers young and on decent contracts, Ingram is the man with the most vulnerability should the team decide to make a move. This team would be scary if they could get a back capable of bellcow status and consistent health.
Don’t get me wrong, Matt Ryan has put up a stellar year, but I think he could stand to do even better next year. While most teams will be squabbling over running backs, the Falcons will have the luxury of targeting receivers to boost their corps as a top priority. The importance of this cannot be overstated, as I don’t believe any quarterback has done more with less than Ryan did in 2016. While he does have Julio Jones, Jones was constantly banged up and whether we got the real Julio week to week was up in the air.
Green Bay at Detroit
Among the free agent running back class for 2017, we have Eddie Lacy. Which Eddie Lacy will teams be getting if they bid on him? It seems unlikely that he’ll be back with the Packers, but I’ve been surprised before. An ideal landing spot for him would be a team that already has an established third down back but needs a good two down thumper. I believe that limiting what Lacy is asked to do can only help him to excel once more. Some ideal fits could be the Bengals, Giants, or Lions, and I could see him thriving on those teams.
Earlier this year, the Lions gave Eric Ebron a vote of confidence by moving on from Brandon Pettigrew. Then, he’s been heavily involved lately – including a 12 target game in week 16. A former first round pick, Ebron is trending in the right direction heading into his fourth year as a pro. Add in that Marvin Jones has been underwhelming and deserving of fewer targets than he is getting and that Anquan Boldin is a free agent that could simply retire or just not be back with the Lions in 2017, and Ebron could garner a huge role going forward.