When it comes to the “off-season,” in my opinion there are three critical zones of dynasty value influence: free agency, the draft, and training camp. With the former grinding to a halt, and there being months before the 2017 NFL Draft, it seemed as good a time as any to update my positional rankings. However, instead of simply moving players around and modernizing my comments, I decided to focus in on those who experienced a significant shift in my subjective valuation – the “movers and shakers,” if you will.
I’ll provide expanded thoughts on these players particularly, at all four positions. Included below is a listing of the players, along with my rankings of them both before and after my update. As a reminder, our rankings go 50 deep at both quarterback and tight end, and 100 strong at running back and wide receiver.
One final note: I tend to skew towards the conservative end of valuation. I value productivity over youth, and am often loathe to bump up unproven players to the ranks of the dynasty elite when they’ve yet to show anything at the NFL level. Depending on the specific player, this has worked both to my advantage and to my detriment in the past. Regardless, for those who think similarly, or those who adopt a diametrically opposed process, I hope this will serve as some food for thought.
I already evaluated the quarterbacks, so let’s continue today with the running backs!
Isaiah Crowell, CLE
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RB24 to RB17
Last year’s breakout star still can’t seem to get any respect! Yet here we are, with the Browns not only refusing to bring in competition for Crowell, but also beefing up their offensive line in the process. Based on personnel, the passing game still doesn’t appear to be the offensive focus, and I expect Crowell to continue to flourish. Going off last year, this ranking is still below his ceiling.
Rex Burkhead, NE
NR to RB27
I’ll admit that I didn’t buy too much into Burkhead’s end-of-season viability last year, and then simply waited to see where he landed before ranking him. So no, I didn’t truly believe he wasn’t one of the top 100 ball carriers, I was just lazy. Regardless, he gets a big bump by going to the NFL’s best offense. Though he lacks track record, he’s now the only “big back” on the roster, and he can catch passes as well. I think his weekly floor will be at the FLEX level with room to improve.
Danny Woodhead, BAL
RB39 to RB28
Again, I’m a conservative. With so few true bell-cow backs in the league, a robust floor can be achieved through pass catching prowess. Despite his age and injury, I don’t see any reason why Woodhead’s skills can’t translate in a manner similar to Darren Sproles. Kenneth Dixon didn’t show much of anything last year, especially as it relates to pass protection, and Terrance West is just a guy. I anticipate the Ravens adding via the draft, but also expect Woodhead’s role to remain secure.
Lance Dunbar, LAR
RB85 to RB60
People forget that for four glorious games in 2015, Dunbar was a straight PPR machine. And then, enter Ezekiel Elliott. Now Dunbar will wind up behind another (at least former) stud in Todd Gurley, but one who doesn’t play much on third downs. As the Rams are expected to be playing from behind for quite a bit, this could lead to a decent amount of playing time, and perhaps some surprising FLEX appeal.
Kyle Juszczyk, SF
NR to RB63
With 97 receptions through three years (78 over the past two), Juszczyk is more than just an impossible name to spell (hint: copy/paste is your friend here). There’s some actual PPR attraction. The addition of Tim Hightower doesn’t matter too much to me, as I’m a firm believer that only Sean Payton could get away with playing him as much as he did. Carlos Hyde is a good player, but Juszczyk could afford some sneaky value at the end of your bench.
Note: I was already higher on Eddie Lacy so he isn’t listed here.
James White, NE
RB23 to RB32
That was short lived, eh? The Super Bowl hero now stands to lose touches to Burkhead, and perhaps even Brandin Cooks if he’s utilized in the short passing game. There’s still a decent chance he receives the largest proportion of touches in the Pats backfield, but it’s impossible to argue that his outlook is now diminished.
Thomas Rawls, SEA
RB21 to RB36
As I often like to say, when it comes to the NFL, actions speak louder than words. Last year the Seahawks selected two ball carriers in the draft. This year, they signed Lacy in free agency. It stands to reason that they’re simply not as high on Rawls as his fans wish they were. And quite honestly, it makes sense. Rawls has been legit when he’s been on the field, but those games have been few and far between – Seattle felt like they needed an upgrade, and may have found one as long as Lacy stays motivated and his fork remains out of his reach.
RB30 to RB42
While I love Blount, the fact remains he wasn’t terribly efficient last year, doesn’t catch passes, and was overly reliant on touchdowns. He very well may wind up back in New England (that would just totally be the Pats thing to do, right?), but even if he does it would likely be in a diminished capacity. It is what it is, but if you own Blount take solace in the fact that you played it correctly. He helped you win last year, and it’s not as if you were selling him for a fortune anyhow. He lost value, and might not gain it back, but again – he did what you needed him to do.
RB37 to RB46 and RB38 to RB47
Nothing but the facts here. I love me some veterans, but the NFL certainly does not in these respective instances! Charles had a couple free agency nibbles, but AP hasn’t seen a thing. There’s a good chance neither gets signed until after the draft, when many of the available spots have been filled. Adjust accordingly.
Dion Lewis, NE
RB38 to RB54
It wasn’t too long ago when I proffered up my belief that the Pats were not significantly invested in Lewis, and despite how he looked prior to injury in 2015, it wouldn’t be surprising if they moved on in some way, shape or form going forward. And apart from a fine playoff performance versus the Texans, Lewis was the invisible man once he returned. See what I said about White above, and multiply it accordingly.
Jeremy Langford, CHI
RB58 to RB83
As the prophecy foretold, Langford’s star dimmed in a big way in his sophomore season, as he made room for impressive rookie Jordan Howard. With the addition of Benjamin Cunningham, Langford stands to fall even further down the pecking order. Much like with Blount above, there’s nothing you can do about it now. Langford is probably at the point where he’s nothing more than a roster clogger.
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