Unbelievably, we are at the mid-way point for the 2019 NFL football season. We've had some surprises, disappointments and as always occurs, player values are changing after every game. Following is a short list of players I'm buying for 2020.
The term "buying" can carry many different definitions, or at least varying levels of aggressiveness, based on the individual using it. For myself, I don't seek to purchase players when I feel their value is what I assess to be at a peak. Truth be told, I don't know many that do. There is a strategy of acquiring the best players at whatever cost needed to win in any given year but, while a perfectly acceptable strategy, it flies in the face of my usual strategy of trying to build a dynasty team even if it means foregoing a championship in the chosen year. There are always variables that lead to me adjusting my strategy for specific leagues but, generally speaking, I like building for the long haul.
2019 has been no different than most years in my estimation. We have a collection of Superbowl contenders, perhaps an even clearer picture in fact, along with a number of teams who fell to back of the pack out of the gate. Identifying players to buy and sell is far more than simply finding players under or over-performing to expectation. Also factoring greatly into my research is contract status, coaching/scheme, expected movement or development of key players who influence the production of the selected player and, of course, age and skill-set when factoring in expectations. My favorite targets tend to fall into two primary categories:
Under-performing players nearing the end of their rookie contract
Players suffering what I assess to be acute events which cause a significant drop in community value
Those who have followed me for a long time know I speak about the fantasy "parrots". These are simply the talking heads in fantasy, no one in particular, who shout their beliefs from virtual rooftops and move the fantasy community toward a group-think mentality. In the fantasy community, bold calls are far more attractive than ultimately correct calls. And it's true that a bold call which turns out to be correct has a much greater lifetime than multiple incorrect calls, so many take the "go bold or go home" approach. This is never more obvious and dangerous from a dynasty perspective than in the period following college declaration day and lasting until fantasy rookie drafts get underway following the NFL Rookie Draft each year. The purveyors of hype and misinformation are everywhere and each year many fall into the trap. This is why I always say to be very careful about who you choose to follow and always do your own research if at all possible. If you don't have that kind of time then return to the former statement.
But enough of that, lets talk about who is rising on my list and who I'm feeling around for acquisition of. Again, these are players who I believe carry better long term value than their current ranking represents.
Let's get started:
1. Jordan Howard, RB PHI
Howard was 'leased' for one year ahead of the 2019 season and will be moving on following the season in all likelihood due to the Eagles drafting of Miles Sanders during the 2019 draft. All Howard does is produce. He carries a career ypc. average of 4.3 and has totaled 29 touchdowns over four years. His hands are better than advertised and he's amassed 81 receptions over those same four years. Soon to be 25, Howard deserves to be a full-time starter and while his true value may be as an early-down workhorse, his three-down potential provides flexibility teams should/will covet. There exists a lot of need at the running back position currently and I expect Howard to be a hot commodity when he hits the market. Be careful of over-paying should Howard be acquired before the NFL draft lest he finds himself in all-too-similar situation (PHI) again. He's best acquired now on the cheap or following the NFL Draft in 2020 though waiting could bring a higher price if his situation improves.
2. Malcolm Brown, RB LAR
While not an unrestricted free agent until 2021, I think there's a chance the under-appreciated Brown is traded before kickoff of the 2020 season. This is an acquisition based on cost, which should be very minimal. There's even a chance he's in your free agent pool currently, especially with Darrell Henderson now factoring in the backfield. Brown doesn't have many carries (165) on his legs and has averaged 4.0 ypc. over his five years. His hands out of the backfield as a receiver are plus-level and he possesses three-down ability. Again, this is simply an acquisition based on a low value into a brighter future. He's not young and will be 27 in mid-2020 so there isn't a long runway here. If he sticks in L.A. for 2020, you'll need to wait another year and would have a decision to make about retaining him and any acquisition needs to factor this possibility.
3. Robby Anderson, WR NYJ
As a UFA at the end of the season, Anderson will be playing for another team in 2020 unless something magical happens to keep him as a weapon for Sam Darnold. Some players are much better than their production will show and this applies to Anderson. Even within a putrid offense over his four years in New York, he's still compiled 16 touchdowns on 172 receptions as the only receiver of note over that span. He possesses a knack for getting over the top and stacking defensive secondaries and can operate over the middle with precision and separation as well. Should he find his way to a noteworthy offense for 2020, he has a fine chance of well outplaying his current DLF WR46 ranking. Acquire Anderson now while his production and value both remain low.
4. Mike Williams, WR LAC
Williams' current DLF ranking sits as the WR36, bordering WR4 territory. He scored ten touchdowns in 2018 on only 43 receptions. Tyrell Williams departed for Oakland prior to kickoff of the 2019 season elevating Williams' role to WR2 behind Keenan Allen. At 6'4/218 lbs. and only recently turning 25, Williams needs to carry much more value than his current value depicts. There are injury flags with Williams due to a lingering back issue but there seems to be little long term concern. Aside from injury, there's little reason to expect anything but upside going forward. I expect a big breakout in his production in 2020 as long as Philip Rivers remains under center.
5. Terry McLaurin, WR WAS
I've always liked heady, intelligent and crafty receivers that fly under the radar in college but they are incredibly difficult to project into the NFL. But when one is able to make the leap and find a role early in his career, I like to strike early if I can catch a value. The problem with McLaurin is that he's performed so well out of the gate for the Redskins that his value may be a bit too rich for acquisition. I'm hoping for a mid-year slump when the "rookie wall" begins to take effect around week ten. In fact, in his last two weeks, production has begun to tail off but more due to quarterback issues than McLaurin's play. Regardless of the factors leading to his decline, a stretch of mediocre fantasy stats may set the table for a cheap(er) acquisition. I like him as a rookie and I'm buying.
6. Nelson Agholor, WR PHI
Agholor is in the same boat as Anderson above. He's an unrestricted free agent in 2020 and will likely move on to greener pastures where he should find work as a WR2/WR3 playing from the slot. Agholor's route running and receiving abilities are far greater than his production would suggest and while he should see better production in any new situation, the right situation could bring significant production and upside. The best part about any acquisition is that it should come at very low cost. He's virtually unplayable now in fantasy and at 26 years of age, still has many good years ahead of him. Should his new situation not pan out, it won't come at a huge cost such that you can't move easily.
7. Josh Reynolds, WR LAR
Reynolds isn't a free agent until 2021 but he's largely off the fantasy radar now and shouldn't be, at least not for savvy dynasty coaches. In fill-in duty following Cooper Kupp's season ending knee injury in 2018, Reynolds posted 29 receptions, 402 yards and five touchdowns before being pushed back down on the depth chart in 2019. Now playing behind Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and the aforementioned Kupp, Reynolds has become invisible again but is poised to rise again if/when opportunity presents itself. To wit, Cooks just suffered his second concussion of 2019 and may miss multiple games, providing near-term potential. At 6'3, Reynolds has size, speed and hands teams will covet when the time comes and may not have to depart the Rams to realize his true potential.
8. Ian Thomas, TE CAR
I fully expect veteran Greg Olsen to hang up the cleats after 2019 leaving Thomas to inherit the starting role. The 23 year old has good size, is a classic "move" technique player and plays within a scheme which highlights the position, an important aspect to tight end productivity. DLF's TE20 ranking is too low considering the opportunity ahead of him should/when Olsen chooses retire. Even if Olsen decides to play in 2020, which I seriously doubt, I believe Thomas' usage is going to increase going forward. Tight ends have a notoriously long integration period into the NFL, with few producing in their first two years. Thomas aligns perfectly with two years of experience into an increasing role. Acquire him now as a developmental TE3 with significant upside into his third year.
Do you have players you are buying, do you disagree with mine or have other comments to share? As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.