Yes, I know. It’s not 2017 anymore. Well, since I’ve written one of these in December the last few years, and I appended the year each time, I didn’t want to confuse everyone. I thought of people asking me “where’s the 2017 version?” and I just couldn’t bear it. But hey, it is the 2017 fantasy off-season, after all, right? Right??
Anyhow, with my obtuse rationale for the title out of the way, let’s get to it. The keeper league off-season is a little different than standard dynasty leagues. You often have to make harder choices on who exactly you’re going to keep and who you’ll let go. This article is all about some players to think good and hard about as possible keeper trade targets or even players you can scoop up if other owners drop them.
As before, I’ll break it up into three sections depending on just how many players you keep each season. The goal here is to find players who I think can over-perform their current value within a given range. This also might be a good time to read my article about team evaluation – it helps to know where you stand before making your off-season moves. But first…
I thought I’d shake things up just a little this year and first take a brief look back at my picks last year before getting to this year’s crop of keeper targets. As expected when looking back, I had some hits and some misses.
I hit on Doug Baldwin, Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram, Dion Lewis and Jordan Howard. Not too shabby. Ingram and Lewis alone turned many a fantasy playoff matchup, and Michael Thomas was as good as advertised.
But it ain’t all sunshine and roses, as I ended up with egg on my face by picking guys like Josh Doctson, Kevin White, Thomas Rawls, Michael Floyd (Michael Floyd? You picked MICHAEL FLOYD?) and Tyler Lockett. Yes, it is quite a murderer’s row of fantasy let-downs, isn’t it? There are still glimmers of hope for Doctson and Lockett, at least, but things aren’t looking good for the other guys.
On to the 2017 (or 2018 or whatever you want to call them) picks!
3-4 Keeper League Targets
Jay Ajayi, RB PHI
Ajayi has been a bit of an odd bird, hasn’t he? I was one of those guys who invested fairly heavily in him last off-season, coming off his 2016 in Miami. I kept Ajayi myself last year in my own keeper league. But man, what a disappointing season. I do think, however, he found himself in the right place. I expect him to get more and more of the backfield share in Philly, and hope to see him as the lead back behind a very good offensive line next season. Now is the time to take advantage of other people’s disappointment in Jay Ajayi.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR PIT
I drafted JuJu with the 12th pick in one of my drafts this off-season. I didn’t love the guy, but that was the point where I couldn’t watch him drop any more. Then, I tried to flip him for someone else that I liked more, and I couldn’t get anyone to touch him with a ten-foot pole. I’m sure glad they all turned me down. Sure, there will be some changes for the Steelers in the off-season, but I really like what I’ve seen out of JuJu regardless. I think he can’t help but get more work in that offense in the future, and you can still get him at a reasonable price in your keeper league.
Josh Gordon, WR CLE
I’ll admit, I fall more on the side of “I’m worried he’ll make another mistake” than on the “this guy is a generational talent at receiver” side of the old Gordon argument. Gordon will be staring down that third strike for the rest of his career, but man, if he can hold it together. When Josh Gordon wants to do it, he can’t be stopped. He’s really got it all, and he could conceivably end up just about anywhere. Can he latch on with a quarterback who could really bring out the superstar in him? He could. He’s worth a last-keeper stash in any case. Talk about upside (and downside…)
Derrick Henry, RB TEN
I know. We were here last year with Henry. But I swear, THIS IS HIS YEAR! He at least really showed us what he could do at times this year, and Tennessee can’t possibly keep holding onto DeMarco Murray, can they? I really do believe 2018 is the season where we’ll see Henry get full-time work behind a good offensive line. (Though we should keep in mind that the Titans line did underperform quite a bit this season.) Still, remember that Henry can do things like this.
WR TE, NYG
Let’s get down to brass tacks here, tight end was a nightmare this year. I mean, it’s tough to figure out most years, but 2017 seemed like a total train wreck at the position. With that in mind, why not get yourself an enormously talented, young TE talent like Engram? Rookie tight ends rarely perform, but Engram decided to ignore that trope and carried the Giants offense at times this season. Get him if you can, and forget about TE for the next ten years.
Zach Ertz, TE PHI
See above, to be honest. While Ertz isn’t the same young “stunning” talent that Engram is, he had himself a phenomenal year in that Philly offense. Carson Wentz obviously likes him a lot, so that may be a very long-term connection in Philly. Besides, Ertz has been a “sleeper’ pick at tight end for years, he just finally paid off this year. I expect it to continue. Again, get yourself a young TE and laugh at your league mates.
5-6 Keeper League Targets
David Njoku, TE CLE
As we expand into the next group, our picks will be riskier. I’m going to the young TE well again here, and I honestly have one more coming as well. I think it’s a lot easier to shore up other positions than TE at this point. And Njoku was my favorite TE in this class. He has elite abilities when the ball is in his hands. He just needs more time to develop than the other guys. I think Njoku could develop into a top option at the position in the very near future.
Hunter Henry, TE LAC
It was an up and down here for my guy Hunter Henry, but man does he have a great skill set for the position. He catches everything you throw at him, he can block, he runs good routes, he does it all. He’s also just flat good at football, which not all the guys on this list are. He makes plays that help his teammates with regularity, and I love that. I think he was misused a bit this year, but I think the Chargers realized their mistake and corrected it as the season wore on. I also think you might be able to get a discount from an owner that overpaid for Henry last year.
Duke Johnson Jr, RB CLE
Did you know that my other guy Duke finished ahead of Devonta Freeman in PPR leagues this year? Duke is the very model of the modern split backfield running back. A phenomenal catcher of the football, he could likely play wide receiver (and often did for the Cleveland offense.) I also think he may have opened some eyes in Cleveland at the end of the season and may end up with a bigger share of the work next year. You’re still my boy, Duke.
Chris Thompson, RB WAS
Thompson and Duke are players cast from very similar molds. Thompson also finds himself in a time-share, but also can really pay off both running and catching the football. But hey, around here you aren’t going to get the Leonard Fournettes of the world so you have to find your points elsewhere, like with a journeyman third-down specialist who can take it to the house.
Sterling Shepard, WR NYG
I’ll admit it. Shepard is one of those guys who I tried desperately to trade away this off-season, but I just couldn’t get it done. I once again find myself pretty happy with my failure. I get it, there are a lot of mouths to feed in that offense once Odell Beckham Jr makes his return, but that doesn’t kill Shepard’s value. He still has an awful lot of talent on his own and can likely continue to produce. He won’t win a lot of weeks for you, but he’s a guy I like to have around.
Deshaun Watson, QB HOU
Here we are, our first QB on this list and it’s an injured rookie. But man, what a rookie. The story on Watson was that he was the most “NFL ready” in this class. And that readiness was on full display as he tore up the both the NFL and fantasy leagues for a time. Yes, the injury stinks, but that’s also why you might be able to land him on your keeper team. You could be set up at QB for a long time, and that’s one thing I love to do in deeper keeper leagues.
7-8 Keeper League Targets
Marlon Mack, RB IND
We’ve now moved into the realms of “no guarantees” and Mack certainly fits that. He could be in line for more work in Indy, but maybe he isn’t. Some people like his long-term value, but others are down on him. He’s really a bit of a gamble, but again that’s what you’ll get as you get into your deeper keepers. If you have a spot to burn on a speculative RB, Mack is a good choice.
Cooper Kupp, WR LAR
No, he’s not a stud receiver in the making. There’s no Julio in his game, nor any OBJ. But man does he know how to get open and CATCH THE BALL – a skill that not every wide receiver has, sadly. He’s on an exciting offense with a young everything, and he had himself a superb rookie season. Get him if you can.
Nelson Agholor, WR PHI
I was all-in on Agholor in his rookie year. I loved his open field ability. He’s a player who just gets it done when he has the ball in his hands. And part of the Chip Kelly offense? The thing is, it took him longer to develop. Classically, this is what we expect out of wide receivers – a couple of years to figure things out and then they get good. The 2014 class spoiled us, we just have to remember they are the exception, not the norm. Now I’d love to own Agholor all over the place. I think he still has a much higher ceiling with Wentz.
Aaron Jones, RB GBP
Aaron Jones is the poster boy of how we just flat get things wrong. Nearly everyone I heard from in the off-season was in the Jamaal Williams camp, and some of them were heavily in it. But hey, Green Bay drafted Williams first, too. Once Jones hit the field, he just looked like someone who knew exactly what to do in the NFL. Some guys just get it, and Jones is one of them. I’d love to own him, and think he should be the lead back next year. I just don’t know if he WILL be.
Chris Godwin, WR TB
Tampa Bay was quite a disappointment this year. Perhaps our expectations were just too high for a team that is still very young. Godwin was a boutique second or third round rookie pick in many dynasty drafts, the kind of guy the sharks were all over. While he had a slow start to the season, he had a very strong finish. He still sits on an ascendant offense and may have just won a starting job for next season.
Robby Anderson, WR NYJ
There are always players in fantasy who owners just refuse to like. Maybe they don’t fit the WR “prototype” we all love to see, with size and speed – and Robby most certainly doesn’t fit that! Maybe they don’t like the situation. It can be a lot of things. But sometimes we have to hold our noses, look at the production, and turn our irrational fantasy hive-mind OFF and take a guy. All Anderson did this year was put up 200 points in PPR leagues. Don’t ignore him just because he’s not big enough and on the Jets.
- Sunday Six Pack: Week Seven - October 25, 2020
- DLF’s Dynasty Predictions: Fantasy MVP - September 8, 2020
- DLF’s Dynasty Predictions: Fantasy Rookie of the Year - September 7, 2020