Dynasty Stock Watch: Long-term values on the eliminated playoff teams
Through two weeks of the NFL playoffs, eight teams have been eliminated. Eight teams that had good seasons just not good enough. By definition, those eight teams must have good players, both in real life and fantasy, to get this far. But will they be this good next year? Obviously, we have the entire offseason to navigate but for dynasty leagues, the season never stops. Below are players from now-eliminated playoff teams to keep an eye on in your dynasty leagues as we count the days until the new season.
(PFF dynasty rank: 20)
If you’re like me, you had no idea just how good Hill was this season. Sure, he was a WR1 by all accounts with 75 receptions for 1,183 yards and seven scores, but only once you look beyond the raw numbers do you really appreciate how efficient Hill was this season. For starters, he had the best deep-pass catch rate, hauling in over half of his 24 deep (20-plus air yards) targets. That level of efficiency no doubt helped him finish sixth in yards per route-run at 2.35 (min. 80 targets) despite finishing 61st out of 120 qualifying receivers in average depth of target at just 11.8 yards.
Verdict: Buy. Hill would already be considered a hot dynasty commodity this offseason but count me among the people that is more excited if the Chiefs follow through with their quarterback transition to Patrick Mahomes. By all accounts, Mahomes has a bigger arm than incumbent Alex Smith, which means more of those deep targets for Hill to capitalize on. Furthermore, Mahomes had the seventh-best adjusted completion percentage in college his last season, which should help alleviate any concerns about a significant increase in turnovers from the Kansas City offense. Hill will be just 24 next season and has a clear path to targets despite the presence of Pro Bowlers Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt. His stock is already high but could go even higher.
(PFF dynasty rank: 19)
Most of us had high hopes for the Rams during this year’s playoffs before their unceremonious loss to the Falcons on Wild Card weekend. But there’s plenty to like about them going forward, including one of the least talked-about weapons in their new offense. Everett had a quiet rookie season, with just 16 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Now as we all know, it often takes young tight ends longer to start producing than other positions and, if that’s the case for Everett, watch out. As far as talent, it’s all there for Everett. He finished fifth among tight ends in college in yards per route run during his time at South Alabama with a lot of those yards coming from the slot, where he had the third-highest yardage total. But he also saw snaps in-line in college as well and was an adept blocker for his first year in the NFL, finishing 30th in run-blocking, second among rookie tight ends.
Verdict: Buy. Not only is the talent there but Everett is in a fantastic environment for a tight end. Head coach Sean McVay, who took Everett in the second round of his first draft last year, was responsible for making Jordan Reed into Jordan Reed. Reed’s per-game average during McVay’s tenure was five catches for 57 yards and half a touchdown. Extrapolated over a full season (though Reed could never stay healthy for 16 games) comes to a 88/912/8 line for a tight end. Everett will be just 24 next season and when the old guard of productive tight ends starts dropping in dynasty rankings, Everett should be there to fill the void.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills (for now)
(PFF dynasty rank: 16)
Taylor has been a good quarterback the last couple years. He had a winning record in three seasons in Buffalo, including taking the team to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. He’s also been a good fantasy quarterback, finishing third in points per dropback in 2015 and sixth in the same category last year. There was a noticeable dropoff this year but how could there not be when the Bills traded away Sammy Watkins and, seemingly, went into tank mode before Taylor started winning? His legs are his strength and what gave him such value as a quarterback, finishing third in 2015 and 2017 in rushing yardage and first last year.
Verdict: Sell. As much as I like Taylor, I don’t know that he gets another shot at a starting job. For as much as the Bills tried to move away from Taylor before and during the season, it wasn’t as if quarterback-needy teams were banging on Buffalo’s door. The chances are slim he returns to Buffalo but it doesn’t mean he’ll automatically get a starting job somewhere else. He’ll also be 29 next season, which is one more year on the legs that make him so valuable. Taylor has little value in two-quarterback dynasty leagues and even less in one-quarterback leagues.
(PFF dynasty ranking: 15)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I originally was going to recommend selling Olsen. After all, he’s had just three 100-yard receiving games over the last two regular seasons, after three in 2015 alone, due to general ineffectiveness and injuries. And last season’s three touchdowns were his lowest since his rookie season 10 years ago. But despite the obvious downward trend, there’s hope for Olsen. His poor 2017 can be forgiven due to injuries, while his 2016 wasn’t a complete disaster — he still registered his third 1,000-yard season and graded as PFF’s fifth-best tight end.
Verdict: At his current ranking of 15th, I would buy. Olsen will have newly named Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator, which is a positive sign for Olsen’s fantasy production. Turner oversaw both Kyle Rudolph‘s breakout season with the Vikings where he had a slash line of 83/840/7 and called Jordan Cameron’s huge 2013 season where he finished with 70 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. And despite the presence of Christian McCaffrey vulturing targets in Olsen’s part of the field, there is no Kelvin Benjamin anymore, which should offset any potential loss in volume from McCaffrey. Olsen should flirt with backend TE1 status again even if he’s not a top-five option like he has been.
(PFF dynasty ranking: 75)
While Julio Jones will always be the dominant presence in the Falcons offense, the team has another receiver who can provide value on the back end of your dynasty roster. Going for 67 receptions and 703 receiving yards, Sanu surprisingly finished 37th in fantasy scoring in standard-scoring leagues and 29th in PPR, both good enough for WR3/4 status. It’s even better when you consider Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a down year by his own standards. Ryan’s 342 pass attempts were the lowest he’s had in a season since his sophomore year in 2009, his 64.7 completion percentage was his lowest since 2011 and last, but not least, his 20 passing touchdowns were the fewest of his career save for his rookie season in 2008.
Verdict: Buy. To me, Sanu is much more in the 50-60 category when it comes to dynasty rankings. He’s just 28 and the Falcons offense shouldn’t see much change in personnel next year or for the foreseeable future. Sanu’s role is locked in and should benefit from bounce back candidate Matt Ryan.
(PFF dynasty ranking: 13)
Few would have seen the kind of production Walker has had in Tennessee after he left San Francisco as a free agent. After never topping 344 receiving yards as a 49er, Walker has now had four straight seasons of at least 800 receiving yards and has been a TE1 in each year as a Titan. And while age could take its toll any second with Walker, it hasn’t yet, after turning in another TE1 season in 2017 and finishing fourth among tight ends in yards per route run. The efficiency comes in handy as the Titans lean heavily on Walker as a receiver, lining him up the seventh most times in the slot of all tight ends and throwing him the third-most targets all while leading the team in targets.
Verdict: Buy. If anyone could challenge Matt Ryan for most likely to bounce back next season, it’s Walker’s quarterback Marcus Mariota. He battled injuries all season and took a major step back statistically. He’ll now have an entire offseason to recover and will have a new coach that has a good chance to be an upgrade over Mike Mularkey. Walker should still be able to produce back-end TE1 numbers and his lack of playing time early on his career should mean a longer shelf life.
(PFF dynasty ranking: 34)
This edition of the stock watch seems to be tight end-heavy, but I can’t help it. Any pass catcher on the Steelers offense, as it’s currently constructed, is intriguing, and McDonald is no different. Sure, he’s failed to top 30 catches or 400 yards in any season but he has shown flashes of better and is (at the moment) in a great situation in Pittsburgh. For starters, the Steelers averaged the most pass attempts per game this season at 38. And despite having an elite group of receivers plus running back Le’Veon Bell, it still accommodates a role for a pass-catching tight end. Jesse James saw 63 targets but failed to be productive, finishing dead-last in yards per route run at 0.82 and an anemic 8.7 yards per reception. Meanwhile, McDonald averaged 13.4 yards per reception in extremely limited action this season and finished 10th in yards per route run among tight ends with at least 20 targets this season.
Verdict: Buy. The passing game should remain intact next year with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, et al, all expected back. The two factors that are key to McDonald breaking out are the Steelers bringing McDonald back (and not making him a cap casualty) and them moving on from James. The Steelers had to have known McDonald was the better option after trading for him earlier this season but couldn’t get to see how true it was due to injuries. He showed glimpses of what we could do in this weekend’s playoff game with 10 receptions for 112 yards. For the price, I’d be making a play for McDonald as soon as my leagues opened up.
(PFF dynasty ranking: 15)
To many, 2017 is going to seem like a step back for Brees. And in many ways, it was. He threw the fewest touchdowns he ever has in New Orleans and had the fewest passing attempts and passing yards since 2009. However, the Saints as a team had their best year in five seasons thanks to an added emphasis on the run and, at least from a dynasty perspective, may have bought Brees a few more years. Obviously, Brees is old. At 39, there’s no way he should be able to continue playing at a high level. But with the Saints offense running more through running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, it may allow Brees to stave off Father Time longer, the less Brees has to physically do himself.
Verdict: Hold. Because Brees didn’t have a typical Brees season, it was viewed as a disappointment by fantasy standards. But he still threw for 23 touchdowns and 4,300 yards and finished as a low-end QB1. He may no longer be a top-five fantasy option but he could easily be in the QB1 conversation for the foreseeable future, making him a hold.