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.”
Philip Rivers (Jan ADP: QB22)
Rivers is about as consistent as it gets at the quarterback position in fantasy football on a year-to-year basis. In every season except one (2012) since 2008, the second QB drafted in the historic 2004 class has had between 250-290 fantasy points, a difference of about two points per game!
Much like some of the other great quarterbacks in the league right now (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, etc) it’s fair to question how much time Rivers has left playing in the NFL. Of his two counterparts in the 2004 draft class, Eli Manning and Big Ben, I think Rivers has the most value moving forward. Eli seems to have reached the age cliff and is falling fast, and Big Ben seems to seriously contemplate retirement every off-season. I don’t have these concerns with Rivers, and his supporting cast is just as good as the others’.
Rivers is under contract until 2020 currently, which gives him at least two more years of consistency with the LA Chargers. The Chargers’ “Big Four” of Rivers, Gordon, Allen, and Henry will all be together until at least 2020 (unless LA doesn’t pick up Gordon’s fifth-year option for some reason), so it’s fair to expect the same kind of production from this group for the upcoming years.
River’s ADP I believe is a little low, but I can see the rationale to why dynasty owners value him at that spot. Depending on my team makeup, I would consider Rivers over Mitchell Trubisky and Blake Bortles, and I would prefer him to Big Ben who is ranked one spot ahead. I would feel very confident moving forward with Philip as my QB2 on my dynasty roster, and I would feel safe for the next few years having him as my QB1. He’s certainly a value at the QB position, especially in one-quarterback leagues where it’s easier replace him in a few years.
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Coming out of Ohio State, Jones was seen as having big upside in the NFL. Though certainly not polished, the former Buffalo Bill has a cannon for an arm and gets to learn behind one of the better quarterbacks of this generation for the next few years. I do think it’s a long shot for him to be a consistent NFL starter, but you could do worse in deep 2QB leagues.
Clemens is the probable current backup in LA with more than ten years of NFL experience. He’s only worth rostering if he becomes a starter for a short period of time due to injury.
Melvin Gordon (RB9)
After a lackluster rookie year, dynasty owners have got to be happy with the past two seasons Melvin Gordon has provided. One of the biggest question marks Gordon had coming out of college was potential usage in the receiving game. This season, in particular, he quieted any worries dynasty owners had in that aspect of his game. Over the past two seasons, Gordon has 99 catches for nearly 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. That is more than good enough to sustain RB1 levels of production for PPR formats.
As an upcoming fourth-year back, Gordon is not without his skeptics and critics. He has yet to record 4.0 yards per carry or higher in any of his seasons to date, which leads to the conclusion that he is a volume-dependent runner. I don’t disagree with this. Gordon has big-play ability, which can lead to a lot of variation game-to-game. He gets tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage on a good chunk of his runs, but he’ll follow that up with a nice six-yard run or eventually bust one open for 80+ yards like against the Patriots this season. I’d like to see more consistency on a per-play basis from Melvin moving forward.
All this being said, Gordon is still an elite dynasty asset – don’t let yards per carry sway your opinion too much. Being a first-round draft pick, the Chargers have a fifth-year option they can pick up. Given Gordon’s production, I fully believe Gordon will be the team’s top back for at least the next two years. There are certainly long-term concerns about his consistency and knees (he had microfracture surgery in 2016), but there aren’t too many other running backs I’d rather have for the next two seasons. He’s cheaper to acquire than many other elite, young running backs. I’d be willing to take the risk at his current price.
Austin Ekeler (RB51)
Ekeler was a really nice surprise find for the Chargers this year. He certainly had his ups and downs, making some costly mistakes along the way, but he served as a solid change-of-pace back to workhorse Gordon. The undrafted free agent carved out a good role in this explosive Chargers offense, and I expect him to continue to be a part of their gameplan moving forward. He’s a good end-of-roster player to have on your dynasty team who could get a lot of work if Melvin Gordon sits.
Oliver was a name to watch before this past season as the backup to Melvin Gordon and possible receiving specialist. His playing time has taken a hit to the more explosive Ekeler, and it’ll be tough for him to find consistent playing time worthy of a dynasty roster spot. He did have a decent season the year before Gordon came to town, so it’s possible he finds a role on another team. He’s one to leave on the waiver wire for now.
Potentially started in your fantasy playoffs last year, Farrow is a pretty uninspiring runner. It’s possible he serves in a pass-catching role moving forward, but on a team full of playmakers he’ll struggle to find playing time coming off his season-ending injury. He can be left on the wire.
Keenan Allen (WR7)
As an avid Allen fan since his rookie year, Keenan’s comeback success this year has been one of my favorite storylines. Everyone knows about his explosive three-week period where he had 30+ catches, 400+ yards, and four touchdowns. His ceiling is up there with the elites, but what stood out to me this year as well was his floor. Allen only registered less than seven targets, four catches, or 40 yards once this year. He was a steady source of points with game-winning potential any given week.
Still only 25 years old, Allen still has his best football ahead of him. His career has been unlucky to date, with two significant injuries to his kidney and ACL. He still has only played about half of the games in his past three NFL seasons, so some might still view him as injury prone. This is a fair comment, but I would not worry about any injury concerns with Allen at this point. His injuries are not predictive of future injuries, unlike players like Jordan Reed. As WR7 in dynasty ADP, I think Allen is properly valued. He’s an elite WR1 for your dynasty team moving forward.
Mike Williams (WR35)
It was essentially a red-shirt year for the seventh overall selection in this past year’s NFL draft, and Mike Williams still remains a relative unknown. For those of you who selected him in early rookie drafts last year, you are surely disappointed compared to the historic rookie running back class we just saw. However, I would still be cautiously optimistic with Williams. While this selection by the Chargers back in April 2017 was always a head-scratcher, they took the former Clemson wideout with such a high pick for a reason.
Williams’ ADP seems about right at this point in the off-season. I think if Mike had stayed healthy this whole past season, his ADP could be up around JuJu Smith-Schuster’s (WR21). He’ll no doubt continue to be at best the second option in the Chargers passing game, but that’s a position, much like on the Steelers, that can hold a lot of value. If anyone in your leagues is selling Williams for an early to mid-second round pick valuation, I’d be buying at that price.
Tyrell Williams (WR68)
A 2016 season darling, Tyrell stepped up when the Chargers needed him after Keenan Allen’s week one injury. Posting over 1,000 yards receiving and a healthy 15.3 yards per reception, dynasty owners fell in love with Tyrell’s size, speed, youth, and production. His peak ADP was this time last year, January 2017, when he was the WR31 drafted. So what happened to Tyrell this season after being a waiver wire steal just one year ago?
For starters, the team essentially added two new weapons in the passing game with Keenan Allen returning from injury and Mike Williams coming through the NFL draft, though the latter didn’t see the field too much in 2017. Upon looking further into Tyrell’s season, I view him as a strong buy heading into next year. Though not garnering the same amount of targets this season as last (in fact just over half the amount), Tyrell posted better, more efficient numbers than a year ago. His catch rate improved to 62.3% while his yards per reception jumped up to an outstanding 16.9. He managed about the same touchdowns per target and improved his yards per target as well.
When it comes down to it, Tyrell’s worse season can be attributed mainly to reduced opportunity. A restricted free agent heading into 2018, and I expect him to have a good market for his services. There is, of course, the possibility that LA retains the former undrafted free agent, but I think a team out there tries to lure him away to be their number two option. He’s proven to be a very good deep threat in the NFL, and I expect him to continue making an impact both for an NFL team and your fantasy team. I’d be buying for a 2.06-2.10 valuation, which should get it done in a lot of leagues out there.
Travis Benjamin (WR 128)
Benjamin offers a lot to the Chargers as a team, and I think he’s been a relatively successful free agent signing for them coming from the Browns. He hasn’t produced to the level of his salary, but he’s made big plays when the Chargers needed them most. That being said, the team has the option to have $4.5 million on his contract by cutting him this off-season, a route I think they’ll seriously consider. I think Benjamin could have a couple more years left as a solid deep threat in the league, but he’ll be hard-pressed to earn a spot on your dynasty roster after this year’s rookie class claim those spots.
Hunter Henry (TE5)
Hunter Henry took a step forward in a lot of ways this year, but scoring touchdowns was not one of them. As a result, Henry actually finished with slightly fewer fantasy points in 2017 than he did in 2016 even though he finished a few spots higher on the tight end rankings. The tight end position suddenly has an influx of young talent, and I think Henry is right up there with Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, and other future stars. When it comes down to it, Henry needs more targets in order to take that next step and become a consistent, elite TE1 in fantasy.
Is this, though, something we can expect? Henry has registered 53 and 62 targets in his first two NFL seasons, respectively. Fantasy scoring is often about an opportunity, and while increased targets don’t always guarantee production, it’s very often a difference-making stat for tight ends. There was one thing in common with the top 14 tight end scorers this year; they all had at least 77 targets. I think Hunter Henry makes the leap into that target range next season, only needing one more target per game to get there. His valuation is such that this is also what people expect, and I agree with taking him as the fifth tight end off the board in dynasty startups.
Gates is an ageless wonder and truly a hall-of-famer at the position. He’s stated that he is considering coming back in 2018, but the main dynasty impact that has would be on Hunter Henry. While picking up and starting Gates was fun for one week this past redraft season against the Jets was certainly fun, that might be the last time I have Gates on any of my rosters. Unless you’re playing in 2TE leagues, he can likely be cut for a higher upside rookie.
Cumberland had a couple of decent seasons with the Jets a few years back, but he barely played behind Henry and Gates this past season. He’s a free agent now, but the team could re-sign him to a minimum contract for some depth. He’s not worth a roster spot in dynasty.
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