Dynasty Stock Watch, Week 14: Looking to 2017
It’s nearing the end of the year and many teams are entering their fantasy playoffs. But for dynasty leaguers, it’s time to start looking forward to next season. There are several interesting cases that could be the difference in your team making the playoffs next season or finishing where you started — at the bottom.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
To say it’s been an eventful season for Kaepernick would be an understatement. Off-field intrigue aside, the on-field drama swirling around Kaepernick was real. After starting the season on the bench behind Blaine Gabbert, which ended in predictably disastrous results, Kaepernick was thrown back in Week 6. All Kap has done since then is accrue a 10:3 touchdown-interception ratio, rushed for nearly 50 yards a game (15 more than his career average) and rank as the sixth-highest scoring fantasy quarterback between Weeks 6-12. He hit a speed bump in Week 13 against Chicago, going 1-of-5 passing for 4 yards and adding only 20 rushing yards.
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But the ceiling is there as evidenced, not just by his bounce-back 2016 season but a fairly lengthy resume of success. When he came on to start the last seven games of the 2012 season for San Francisco he was the sixth-highest-scoring fantasy quarterback during that span. In 2013 and 2014, both seasons he was a full-time starter, he finished ninth and 14th, respectively.
The run game played a big part in the success of both the 49ers and Kaepernick for fantasy (that’s not unique to Kaepernick; running QBs thrive in fantasy) and this year is no different. As long as Kaepernick can avoid any injury to his legs, that weapon will still be useful. Which brings us to his dynasty value. By no means do I advocate giving up anything significant for Kaepernick. However, Kap is a hell of a lottery ticket whose value could far outweigh what you paid for him. We’ve seen his (fairly consistent) ceiling as a QB1 while on- and off-field drama has severely tarnished his dynasty value. I would be very interested in adding Kap in exchange for later rookie picks or veterans on my dynasty team.
Verdict: Go bargain shopping
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
After a blistering hot start to his rookie season, Wentz has come back down to earth. The 7:1 touchdown:interception ratio through his first month in the league is a thing of the past — he now has a 12:11 ratio. And his top-10 ranking in fantasy points per dropback has fallen all the way to 30th. In short, he’s been bad. But there’s one important caveat to how bad Wentz has been — he’s still a rookie. In a year that has seen fourth-round pick Dak Prescott guide the Cowboys to the best record in the NFL, while also being a top-five fantasy option, it’s easy to forget that rookies like that don’t show up on trees. Rookies have bumps in the road but it’s hard to truly pass judgement on any player’s entire career from just three-quarters of a season.
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Take some of the critiques of Wentz entering the league, like passing under pressure. Because he played against lesser competition at North Dakota State, the general thinking was it would take time for him to get used to the speed of the NFL, which has mostly proven correct. He ranks last in the NFL in QB rating while under pressure at 31.6. But there are several examples of rookies dramatically improving that rating in just their second year, such as Derek Carr, who had a rating under pressure of 57.0 his rookie and 75.7 his second. There’s also glimmers of hope, even in this season for Wentz. Take his 63 percent completion percentage which currently ranks seventh all-time among rookie quarterbacks in the post-merger era. Or the fact that he’s still only 12th in the league in adjusted completion percentage which factors in drops, throwaways, etc.
His supporting cast hasn’t exactly been helpful either. According to our PFF ratings, Darren Sproles is the Eagles highest-rated running back (27th) while Jordan Matthews is the Eagles top receiver at 67th. The point is there are some positives to take away from Wentz’s rookie season and several areas to improve, making it much too early to jump ship. We have less a full season to decipher as opposed to a Blake Bortles, for example, who’s completing his third.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
If you thought Wentz has had a bad year, let me introduce you to Todd Gurley. After finishing his rookie season as, arguably, the top running back in any dynasty format, Gurley and his value have fallen off a cliff. After finishing third in the league in rushing yards, he’s just 17th this year. He also has the lowest yards-per-carry mark of any running back in the top 35 in rushing yards at 3.2. So what happened? It’s not as if the quarterback play has fallen off. Of the Rams starters last year, Case Keenum ranked 22nd while Nick Foles was 36th according to PFF while Keenum has ranked 30th this year (Jared Goff has only appeared in three games thus far). The offensive line is still bad, ranking 27th in run-blocking, also according to PFF, after ranking 26th year.
If anything, it’s that opposing defenses are focusing on Gurley as he is, by far, the best player on the Rams offense. Individually, Gurley has been below average. After accruing 42 missed tackles last year, he has only 20 this year. He also has a breakaway percentage of just 15.8, with just six runs of 15 yards or more, after totaling 16 last year.
So what’s the outlook for Gurley? Usually, when a team hasn’t had a winning record over the course of five years with the same coach, that coach gets fired a new regime takes its place. But not the Rams, who appear ready to bring back Jeff Fisher, and general manager Les Snead, at least through next year. This doesn’t bode well for Gurley as the Rams have failed to draft talented players around him and have mortgaged their immediate draft future for quarterback Jared Goff, robbing them of a first-round pick in this upcoming draft. Help, seemingly, isn’t on the way.
I would trade Gurley. It’s possible his name can still garner value but unless the team around him suddenly gets better and can support him, it will be tough to regain his form.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
A sophomore running back that has improved his dynasty stock, unlike Gurley, Ajayi has come on strong in just the past two months. After an uneventful, injury-stricken rookie season, Ajayi didn’t start 2016 any better, losing the starting job to veteran Arian Foster, until an injury to Foster pushed Ajayi to the starting lineup. Since becoming the starter in Week 6, Ajayi has led the league in rushing with 790 yards and is the fifth-best fantasy running back in both standard or PPR, all while running behind PFF’s last-ranked run-blocking unit. But is he a long-term piece of your dynasty team?
As good a story as Ajayi is, I would be looking to sell while he’s at peak value. Not only because running backs are the most replaceable position in the NFL but concern over his health that caused him to slide in the NFL draft last year. Originally thought to be a second-round pick, Ajayi slipped to round five due to teams being concerned about lower body injuries coupled with the heavy workload he endured at Boise State. The injury concerns solidified last season when he missed eight games with a broken rib.
If you can find a trade partner that is willing to fork over significant assets, I would make the move before it’s too late.
Verdict: Cash in
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If only Martin could stay healthy for a full season, he could have been much more productive over his five-year career. In his two, 16-game seasons (2012, 2015), he averaged 1,428 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), plus another 370 receiving yards. But in two injury-plagued seasons in between (2013-2014), where he played only 17 games total, he didn’t eclipse 1,000 yards and only averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Other stats like his elusive rating were also mixed. He ranked seventh his rookie year then 43rd and 39th, but shot back up to fourth last season.
The more interesting note is the different situations where he’s been both productive and ineffective. Martin has had no fewer than five quarterbacks in the backfield, from Josh Freeman to Mike Glennon to Josh McCown to Jameis Winston. He’s also had varying degrees of effective run-blocking, with Tampa ranking seventh as a unit during a down year in 2014 to 17th when he had his rebound year in 2015.
So which Martin should we expect next season? Unfortunately, he’ll be entering his age-28 season which is downright ancient in running back circles. But he’s on an ascending offense with a young quarterback in Winston and young receiver to draw attention away in Mike Evans. He also signed an extension to stay in Tampa before the season which sees his cap number remain unchanged whether he stays or goes meaning Tampa might as well keep him since they can’t save any money by cutting him.
Bottom line, you probably could not get a good return for Martin so I would hold him and hope he regains his form for next season.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins
On the surface, Crowder is not a sexy dynasty pick. He stands at just 5-feet-8-inches and comes off as more of a gadget player than bona fide fantasy contributor. His average depth of target of 8.2 yards ranks just 72nd out of 85 qualifying receivers and, when everyone in Washington is healthy, he might be no better than the fourth option in the passing game.
But Crowder has managed to carve out a niche in the slot, currently sitting second on the team in targets in Washington’s pass-friendly offense (the Redskins attempt the sixth-most passes in the NFL). He has done nothing but help Kirk Cousins this season, dropping only two passes thrown his way out of 78 targets and holding the sixth-best wide receiver rating (or passer rating of the quarterback when throwing to a specific player). And while his dynasty value could be of concern if the Redskins were keeping certain parts of their offense in place, they are most likely not, opening up even more opportunities for Crowder. Receiver Pierre Garcon will be a free agent after the year, as will DeSean Jackson. That opens up 160 targets for Crowder, along with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson — who is recovering from injury — and tight end Jordan Reed. A receiving corps of Crowder, Doctson and Reed has the potential to be very good.
Despite Crowder’s lack of size or deep-threat resume, he can still be a viable dynasty asset. For example, receivers like Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Doug Baldwin all have lesser aDOTs this season but have still eclipsed 800 receiving yards and are near locks for 1,000. Crowder is on the cusp of joining those receivers in fantasy relevancy.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens
I fear it may be time to pull the plug on the Breshad Perriman experiment. After an injury that wiped out his entire rookie season, Perriman has just not been an important piece of the offense in his second. While he’s caught a pass in every game this season but one, he hasn’t caught more than three in any game.
Billed as a raw but explosive talent heading into the NFL draft, Perriman has been exactly that. Sure he has a 15.3 yards-per-reception average but he has a drop rate of 8 percent, good for 60th out of 96 qualifiers. He also has yet to fully capitalize on that big-play ability, catching only 28.6 percent of balls thrown to him over 20 yards.
Furthermore, he may not have the quarterback to take full advantage of that ability. Joe Flacco has always been known for a big arm but he’s been well below average in recent seasons when it comes to deep balls. While he ranked an average of 12th in deep ball (20-plus yards) quarterback rating over his first five seasons, he’s ranked an average of 28th over his last four.
So you have a receiver whose best trait is supposed to be big plays (and he’s not making them) paired with a quarterback’s whose big-play ability has fallen off. Perriman will be entering his age-24 season next year and have plenty to prove but I don’t know that he follows through.
Verdict: Move on
Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
At long last, we got to see the Ladarius Green we all expected when he signed with Pittsburgh in Week 13. After dealing with an injury for most of the season, his snaps have increased each week since returning in Week 10. It culminated in leading the team in targets with 11 in Week 13, with Green pulling down six of them or 110 yards and a touchdown. So is it a fluke or is this a sign of things to come?
Only eight tight ends this season have seen more targets in a game than Green’s 11 this past week — Jordan Reed, Dennis Pitta, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, Lance Kendricks, Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph. Only Rob Gronkowski had a higher yards-per-reception average this season. To see a tight end that, not only, has the ability to put up big numbers but also be a significant part of the offense is encouraging.
An offense, by the way, that hasn’t averaged less than 36 pass attempts in the last five years and has an elite running back and wide receiver to draw opposing defenses best defenders. And if you take backup tight end Jesse James’ 32 receptions and multiply by the 18 yards per reception, you’re looking at (with rough math, admittedly) at least 576 yards that Green missed out on because of his injury.
You won’t find a much better situation for any tight end in the league. I’m back on the Green hype train.