Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
January ADP: 181, QB 21
Retirement concerns about Big Ben were recently put to rest, as the soon-to-be 36-year-old has confirmed that he will be returning for the 2018 season. Roethlisberger has finished as a top 13 fantasy quarterback four of the last five years but has only finished top eight once since 2010. Given the large sample size, it’s safe to assume we’re looking at a range of low-end QB1 to high-end QB2 for the remainder of his career.
How long that career will last remains up in the air. Roethlisberger has hinted at retirement multiple times only to return each season. Regardless of how many more seasons he will play, his ADP is low enough that he represents good value. He is a cheap, low-risk starting QB for owners waiting on younger QBs to emerge. Considering possible coaching changes that the Steelers face after a disappointing playoff loss, a top six season could be within Big Ben’s range of outcomes.
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January ADP: N/A
Jones profiles as a career NFL backup and is unlikely to be the successor to Big Ben. He doesn’t hold any dynasty value except in the deepest of 2QB leagues.
January ADP: 4, RB2
Since being drafted in the second round by the Steelers in the 2013 NFL draft, Bell has been quite possibly the best running back in both fantasy football and the NFL. Despite missing 18 games over the past five seasons, he is first in RB PPR fantasy points and second in standard scoring during that time. His skills as a runner and receiver arguably make him more valuable to an NFL team than any other running back. He’s simply on another level. Owning those kinds of players in dynasty leagues is one of the biggest factors in winning fantasy championships.
There is one big question mark surrounding Bell’s future: his pending free agency. The Steelers are surely looking to have Bell return. The 25-year-old is looking for a big payday and reportedly would consider sitting out the season or even retire if the Steelers franchise tag him for the second year in a row. I doubt Bell would follow through, but his contract status is still a situation to monitor. Both sides were close to a long-term deal last season. My prediction is that Bell ends up locked up to a long-term deal with the Steelers.
One other small concern is Bell’s suspension in 2016, dating to an incident from 2014 in which he violated the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Almost four years have passed since this transgression, but it’s worth noting that 50% of players suspended for substance abuse end up suspended again. Given how long it’s been since Bell’s violation, I don’t think the chance of another suspension is 50%. However, the risk is still present to some degree.
With a top five overall ADP, Bell is certainly costly to acquire. I am normally someone who wouldn’t consider running backs that high in a dynasty startup. He and Todd Gurley are the only two exceptions I’d make to that rule this off-season. Bell is my overall dynasty RB1 and a great top-five dynasty startup selection. If the Bell owner in your league believes the sitting out/retirement talk, don’t be afraid to make a significant trade offer.
January ADP: 132, RB41
It’s awfully difficult to analyze backup running backs on the Steelers given the fact that Bell dominates touches. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015, Conner completed an amazing comeback and recovery to find himself drafted in the third round of last year’s rookie draft. The former ACC player of the year was a highly regarded prospect but didn’t get a chance to play much behind Bell. Furthermore, an MCL injury in week 15 put a premature end to his season.
Conner is the “handcuff” to Bell, but an ADP of 132 seems a bit too big of a price to pay. In order for acquiring Conner in dynasty to pay off, you’re hoping that Bell leaves Pittsburgh or suffers an injury. In either case, you’re also hoping Conner is the beneficiary, which is no guarantee. If an owner is looking to sell low on Conner after not seeing anything in year one I’d be happy to inquire, but I’m avoiding him at his current ADP.
January ADP: 7, WR3
If Bell is arguably the best running back in the NFL, Brown is unquestionably the best wide receiver in the NFL. In a down year for fantasy wide receivers, the 29-year-old finished first in PPR fantasy points per game, far ahead of almost every other receiver. Like Bell, Brown’s dominance began in 2013. Since then, Brown leads all receivers in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. His clear dominance in every major category ironically makes it difficult to articulate just how great he’s been during his career. Even as he gets older, there appear to be no signs of slowing down for the former sixth-round draft pick.
Big Ben’s eventual retirement is the only concern going forward for Brown’s future production. Historically, Brown’s production takes a modest dip without Roethlisberger throwing him the ball. It’s more likely than not that Roethlisberger will remain the Steelers’ starting QB for the remainder of most of Brown’s prime.
Antonio Brown’s ADP seems close to spot on for me. He’s my WR3 after Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins. I’d take him over any running back beside Bell and Gurley. Brown makes a great startup dynasty pick in the mid first. It may be difficult to trade for him in a league if his owner is competing. If his owner is in a rebuild, don’t let Brown’s age deter you from making an offer.
January ADP: 37, WR21
Drafted in the second round of last year’s draft, JuJu immediately became the NFL’s youngest player. His tremendous age-adjusted college production had him high on rookie draft boards going into the 2016 season. A comparatively underwhelming final college season caused his dynasty stock to fall before his NFL rookie season began. Juju proved his doubters wrong with a WR20 PPR finish, hauling in 917 yards with seven touchdowns. He won’t be 22 until next November, where he will look to improve on an impressive rookie season. Even with Brown ahead of him in the pecking order, JuJu’s future looks incredibly bright.
Normally, second-year receivers coming off of promising seasons see their ADP rise into the stratosphere. If you told me a highly regarded prospect finished as the overall WR20 his rookie season, I’d expect his ADP to be at least that high, if not higher. Surprisingly, JuJu clocks in at the overall WR21 which is lower than his actual rookie output! This is a rare situation where a rookie’s production, age, and draft capital are clearly not in line with his ADP. For this reason, I expect his ADP to rise throughout the off-season. Try and capitalize on this now by acquiring JuJu via trade. If his ADP does not change much when startup season rolls around, look to acquire him then as well.
January ADP: 79, WR43
What a roller coaster of a career Bryant has had thus far. A fourth-round pick by the Steelers in 2014, he spent his first six games inactive. This was followed by a strong finish to the season with eight touchdowns in ten games while holding the league lead in yards per reception. He began the 2015 season suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Another substance abuse suspension forced him to miss the entire 2016 season.
Dynasty owners held hope and his value was high heading into the 2017 season. Unfortunately, the season was a disaster, as the suspension-free Bryant only managed 603 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games. At various points during the season, he found himself demoted to the scout team offense in practice, a healthy scratch, and demanding a trade. The drama faded as the season went on but the season was ultimately a disappointment by any standard.
There’s clearly a wide range of outcomes going forward for Bryant, but with Brown and JuJu ahead of him in the pecking order, I lean away from expecting a return to his previous form. It’s possible that his ADP sees a dip as the off-season continues and the JuJu hype increases, in which case he may become a sneaky buy. With his current ADP of 79, however, he’s out of my price range.
January ADP: N/A
Rogers flashed a bit at the start of the 2016 season but has not shown anything since to indicate he will become fantasy relevant barring injuries to starters. He’s only worth rostering in the deepest of leagues.
January ADP: 208, TE25
Nicknamed “The Outlaw,” James has shown glimpses of production since drafted in the fifth round in the 2016 NFL draft, finishing as the PRR TE26 this season in his sophomore season. Tight ends tend to progress slowly, so it’s possible James progresses into a reliable starting fantasy TE. Given the presence of Vance McDonald (see below) it’s unlikely that James ever emerges as a valuable fantasy asset.
January ADP: 232, TE29
A brief dynasty riser at the start of the 2016 season, McDonald was acquired by the Steelers just before the 2017 season. Despite the change of scenery, he only managed a TE51 finish in ten games. When healthy, McDonald has seen more targets and receptions than James, who has primarily been used as a blocker. In fact, in the divisional round playoff game against the Jaguars, McDonald caught ten passes for 112 yards on a whopping 16 targets!
With a full offseason to prepare and an injury-free season, he could emerge as a reliable fantasy asset. The presence of James and the historical lack of use of the tight end position by the Steelers in the receiving game are factors against a McDonald breakout. Ultimately, he’s very much worth a dart throw at his current ADP, and I prefer him to James.