It’s that time of year again! Time to determine what sort of team you have. Within the next few weeks, it is important to evaluate and determine the direction of your team for the rest of this season. You should always be evaluating your team, but this is the most important time of year. Hopefully your team is in the playoff hunt or even better, a title contender!
If you are a playoff team and don’t want to give up much, you will need to take a risk on an older player in the last couple years of his career. Jordy Nelson, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, and Larry Fitzgerald are players I would consider adding. Nelson leads the Raiders with three touchdown receptions this season and is averaging 14.7 yards per reception. If Amari Cooper is traded or out for any time with the concussion, Nelson could be in line for more targets and production. You should be able to get him for a second round rookie pick. Another Raider, Marshawn Lynch has had double-digit touches (carries and receptions) in all six of the Raiders’ games. This provides a solid floor in his fantasy production. His contract ends this season, so it isn’t guaranteed he will be playing in 2019. Lynch has a groin injury and will be out for at least a month, but can be acquired for a third round pick. He is a risk, but may help you in the playoffs if healthy. LeSean McCoy is the only player on the Bills team getting the volume needed to be a fantasy asset. McCoy is getting two-thirds of the running back touches in the games when he has been healthy, including his past two games with 23 and 19 touches. I would expect to pay an early to mid second round pick to get McCoy on to my roster. Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t performed up to his standards this season and can be acquired for a third-round pick in many leagues. He may be a good 2018 flier if you think his production will increase with Josh Rosen as their quarterback and Byron Leftwitch as the new Cardinals offensive coordinator. That being said, it’s more likely Fitzgerald is in the broadcast booth than on the field next season, so don’t expect anything beyond 2018.
What players do we look to acquire if building for next year? One option is to look for players a team making the playoff push won’t miss this season. Hunter Henry, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, and Jay Ajayi are some of the injured players I may target. This will help you in two ways: if you sell a productive player for someone injured, your current year production will take a hit, so you may end up with a higher draft pick. You will also be getting these players at a discount as their value has decreased because of their injury. Hunter Henry was a player being projected as the TE5 in many preseason dynasty rankings, as the Chargers looked to be planning on using Henry as their full-time tight end. They added Antonio Gates after Henry’s injury and he has 67% of the tight end targets this season. As Henry is certainly a more useful player than a diminished Gates, he will be a major piece in the Chargers offense when healthy next season. His current value is a high second round 2019 rookie pick. Before his injury, Jimmy Garoppolo struggled and this may still be fresh in an owner’s mind. In Superflex leagues, Garoppolo has a value of a 2019 first rounder. This is low for a player recently paid a large contract in an offense many project to be prolific. Jerick McKinnon is a polarizing player in fantasy circles. He has the measurables fantasy owners look for in a running back but has not turned that into consistent fantasy production. Even if you don’t believe in him, it may be worth taking a flier on McKinnon as a value play. He is going for mid to late second round value. If his 2018 preseason value is any indicator, you may be able to flip him for a profit next year. The injury for Jay Ajayi is fresh and owners may be panicking to replace his production. You may be able to get him for an aging veteran like Marshawn Lynch, or Frank Gore and a late round pick. Ajayi may never meet the early expectations placed on him, but he could end up being another value play like McKinnon.
Another option, if you believe in the talent of the players drafted in 2017 and 2018 who have underperformed, you can probably get them at a lower price than if you had picked them up in a rookie draft. Ronald Jones, Rashaad Penny, John Ross, and Mike Williams are some players fitting the description. Jones’ value has plummeted since rookie drafts done in early May. He currently has a value similar to an early second round rookie pick. This is a more than a half round later than two months ago. He has gotten a little opportunity lately, but maybe all he needs is more time to grow into the NFL. Penny is in a similar situation as Jones but has produced more when playing. He looks the part of a starting running back, but it seems the Seahawks like Chris Carson and Mike Davis more. His value is all over the place, but if you can find a disgruntled owner you may find a price similar to Jones. Ross and Williams have had similar NFL careers to this point. They both had injury packed rookie seasons with little to no production and have flashed early this season - or preseason, in Ross’ case. Ross has done less to this point and can be acquired for a late second round pick, while it will take a late first or early second to get Williams on your roster.
You can, also, target players with potential situation changes next season. Players in the final year of their contract, like T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman, Latavius Murray, and Teddy Bridgewater may shoot up in value if they join a team giving them more opportunity. Yeldon has shown his abilities these last few weeks with Leonard Fournette out with injury. He is a good-sized running back with above average receiving skills and can be picked up for a second round pick from many owners. You may need to wait until Fournette returns and takes over again before making a move for Yeldon. Coleman has been projected as the next backup running back to jump into the starting role for a new team. His 2019 situation has been compared to McKinnon’s from last off-season by some analysts, which has driven his value up some. While Devonta Freeman has been out, Coleman hasn’t really stood out as the go-to guy. This may have lowered how some owners value him. Neither Freeman nor Coleman has performed to their preseason expectations. Perhaps this has more to do with scheme or offensive line woes than it does the running backs. Take advantage of this lull in efficiency and try to get Coleman for a late first or early second round pick before his value shoots up this offseason. Murray is similar to Yeldon in that he has produced when playing for the oft-injured Dalvin Cook. He is almost four years older and doesn’t have the long-term value Yeldon does, but he may be signed as a bridge starter for another team in the off-season. He is going for a third round pick and looks to be a low-risk acquisition. Bridgewater may be one of the better quarterbacks to pick up for a Superflex league right now. He is playing behind a legend in Drew Brees and has the opportunity to go to another team to start next season. The other possibility is he may stay with the Saints to be the planned starter once Brees retires. This off-season will show us which direction Bridgewater is headed, but you may need to be patient if he signs with the Saints. You can get Bridgewater for a second round pick in most leagues.
Other players to consider are those who will benefit from the players leaving their team. Ito Smith looks to have a great opportunity if Tevin Coleman signs elsewhere. Randall Cobb’s contract is up, so maybe you like Geronimo Allison or one of the rookie receivers drafted this year by the Packers. As I said earlier, Fitzgerald looks to be closing out his career, so Christian Kirk should have an even greater opportunity next season. A little less likely, but if Ben Roethlisberger retires, it may be worth taking a shot on Mason Rudolph as a young quarterback to take over the starting duties.
Take some time to examine your league and determine where your team fits in the pecking order. Sometimes it is difficult to see for yourself, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask a friend to do an evaluation. They will, oftentimes, have less bias when looking at your team and can provide a more accurate assessment. After doing that, hopefully you are looking to acquire some players to help you win the championship this season. If not, the moves you make now can help you be in position to win in 2019.
Follow me on Twitter @SupaDupaFlex and let me know what you think. Good luck!