The Dynasty Roster Dance – Year End 2013
The early offseason is the most difficult time to rank players in dynasty. So much will change between now and the summer, from coaches to free agents to new rookies. However, that difficulty can also make this the best time to find values. If you can land the free agent back who is a few months from a starting job on a new team or trade away the veteran receiver who may lose his job to an incoming rookie, you can get a major head start on a 2014 title run.
As always, but especially at this point in the year, I caution you to not blindly follow my or any rankings without consideration of your team situation. As an example, I recently rejected an offer of David Wilson (26) for my Marcus Lattimore (32) on a team with a very young roster. I believe Wilson has a better chance to make an impact in 2014, but I see Lattimore as a more likely workhorse long-term. Similarly, Drew Brees (4) or Peyton Manning (6) may be the No. 1 dynasty quarterback for a veteran team whose title window is closing.
Here is a link to my dynasty rankings.
Dual Threat Two-Step
|QB||Team||Games||Pass Yards||Rush Yards||Weighted Yards||W-Yards / Snap|
|Robert Griffin III||WAS||13||3203||489||4425.5||4.79|
|Alex D. Smith||KC||15||3313||431||4390.5||4.36|
Note: The listed per snap numbers are the individuals, not the teams, as they were in my in-season column. For quarterback weighted yards, I added passing yards to rushing yards times 2.5, which is consistent with standard scoring.
Robert Griffin III (3) has received most of the criticism for the Redskins’ disastrous season, but in fantasy, he was the 11th-best quarterback in standard points before he was benched in Week 15. That was better than Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick, and it was about 10 points behind Andy Dalton, the eventual No. 3 quarterback. There are plenty of reasons for concern. One is his deep accuracy. His 30.4 percent accuracy percentage on deep balls was worse than all but Joe Flacco — funny, since Flacco has a reputation as an exceptional deep thrower — of 21 qualified quarterbacks. He also declined from 815 rushing yards to 489 rushing yards. Those negatives are outweighed by my positive expectations. First, a near-500 rushing yard season off a torn ACL establishes a baseline for future seasons in my mind, and he will likely never fail to score a rushing touchdown in a season again, even if he never reaches the seven from his rookie season. All told, Griffin was tied for fourth with Aaron Rodgers with 4.79 weighted yards per snap, and the breakout of TE Jordan Reed will add balance to an offense that was overly reliant on Pierre Garcon in 2013. I ranked him third, which may overstate his value since the likes of Drew Brees and Peyton Manning will clearly be better — or at least safer — in the short-term. Still, there may not be a better time to try to trade for Griffin, and I would encourage you to do so.
Speaking of Andy Dalton (14), his third-place finish at the position shocked me. Yes, it was more than 100 points behind Manning and more than 50 behind Brees, but nearly 4,300 yards and 33 touchdowns are solid numbers. I doubt anyone will buy into Dalton next season, but his elite supporting cast that should continue to improve as Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert develop makes him safe. And for all of the criticism Dalton receives for his lack of arm strength, he shares some traits with elite quarterbacks, notably his 2.43 seconds to throw on average, which was second-best behind Peyton Manning of 27 qualified quarterbacks in 2013. Frankly, the only reason I ranked Dalton as low as 14th was his potential lack of job security. His high-profile playoff losses have everyone thinking that Dalton is the weak link in an otherwise top-level offense.
I’ve spent most of the last two months declaring my lack of faith in Nick Foles (17), and to his credit, he has continued to flourish in fantasy. For the season, his 0.72 standard points per dropback was best at the position, better even than Peyton Manning. He was also third with 4.82 weighted yards per dropback. However, beyond the visual evidence that Foles seemed to benefit from his receivers frequently coming down with balls he lobbed into coverage, there are several red flags. First, his 79 yards in the air on drops was the lowest of 27 qualified quarterbacks. Foles did play a full season of snaps, but as a basis of comparison, Cam Newton, Chad Henne, and Ryan Fitzpatrick each had 250-plus yards in the air on drops with similar yard-in-air totals. Overall, his 4.1 percent drop rate was fifth-lowest despite a 9.8-yard average depth of throw that was tied for sixth-highest. In addition, Foles took 3.11 seconds to throw the ball, the second-longest of 27 qualified quarterbacks. It is a highly unusual total for an immobile quarterback, and it led to a 22.6 percent sack rate under pressure, the third-worst at the position. Chip Kelly’s offense will be favorable for whoever starts, but I’m not sold Foles will be the long-term starter.
Meanwhile, I only have Michael Vick (20) ranked three spots behind Foles. The depth of serviceable starters — I have Alex Smith and Mike Glennon outside the top 20 — I think allows one to take a chance on a player like Vick, who continues to be elite on a rate basis. His 0.63 points per dropback was third-best behind Foles and Manning, and he has historically produced similar numbers. I expect to him find a starting job, and I think he makes the ideal complement to a safe, low-end starter such as Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, or Andy Dalton. If Vick returns to Philadelphia, I would not be surprised if he started some games, and I would rather use him in those starts than Foles in his.
Perhaps Marc Trestman is the quarterback whisperer, or maybe it was just Alshon Jeffery. Whatever the case, journeyman Josh McCown (25) performed like a QB1 when he replaced the injured Jay Cutler (18). McCown’s 0.56 points per dropback and 4.69 weighted yards per snap were both seventh-best at the position. Meanwhile, Cutler was on his way to his best fantasy season before he missed five weeks. With Cutler now the $126 million man, he becomes a solid QB2. However, recognize that his seven-year deal is more like a three-year deal with four option years, so his window may be shorter than you expect. McCown probably earned a shot at a starting job, but he is as likely to retire as he is to return to fantasy prominence next season.
Neither E.J. Manuel (19) nor Geno Smith (27) measured up to the recent rookie performances of dual-threat rookie starters. It may surprise you to learn that Smith actually outproduced Manuel with 0.43 points per dropback compared to 0.40. And that was with the abysmal collection of Jets receivers. Still, I have a definite preference for Manuel going forward. His 11:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio reflects a clear advantage in judgment over the 12:21 of Smith, and I am optimistic for the development of C.J. Spiller, Robert Woods, and Marquise Goodwin behind Stevie Johnson.
With a talented set of incoming college quarterbacks, the rookie non-starters for 2013 will likely be ignored. The one I still have an eye on is Ryan Nassib (36). Some analysts believed Nassib was the best quarterback in the 2013 class. In school, he struggled with his accuracy, but Eli Manning is coming off a 27-interception season with a 67.2 percent accuracy percentage, the lowest of 27 qualified quarterbacks. If he fails to bounce back, the Giants may give Nassib a look.
Deep Flex Jeté
The 2013 rookie backs all excelled, and I would not talk you out of drafting any of Giovani Bernard (6), Le’Veon Bell (7), Eddie Lacy (8), and Zac Stacy (10) in the top 10 at the position. However, since I have to pick, I will take Bernard and Bell just head of Lacy because of their receiving production. Bernard matched expectations with 56-514-3 receiving, and he should be in line for an increase in touches with BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ declining effectiveness — he has rushed for fewer than four yards per carry the last three seasons. Bell surprised with 45-399-0 receiving in just 12 games. He was on a full-season pace for nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage and double-digit scores. Lacy may be the best of the four players. He edged Bernard (2.26) and Bell (2.11) with 2.28 yards after contact per attempt. He still trailed Stacy (2.45), but Stacy added the least as a receiver and saw an alarming five games with 26-plus carries over the second half of the season, a trend that makes me question his potential durability.
Shane Vereen (18) was the first back compared to Darren Sproles (21) to actually mirror his production. For the season, they were second and first at the position with 2.14 and 2.28 yards per route run. They were also 11th and 3rd at the position with 66 and 84 targets, respectively, and Vereen was on pace to run away with the mark but missed half of the season. Double Vereen’s eight-game total of 134 PPR points and he would have finished sixth at the position. It is unwise to project him to do so, but it illustrates his upside. Vereen is six years younger than Sproles, but I have him just three spots ahead because he does not share Sproles’ track record of health and because the Patriots backfield has been impossible to predict for close to a decade.
There is no question who the best running back is on the Cardinals. Andre Ellington (25) finished second of 49 qualified backs with 3.14 yards after contact per attempt and first with a 47.9 breakaway percentage in 2013. Rashard Mendenhall (65) was on the other end of things with 1.81 yards after contact per attempt (46th) and with an 8.4 percent breakaway percentage (45th). However, while I expect Mendenhall to be shown the door, 2013 rookie Stepfan Taylor (55) could be in line to inherit his role. Ellington is undersized at around 200 lbs., so at the very least, Taylor is a threat to steal touchdowns.
With both Darren McFadden (42) and Rashad Jennings (43) unrestricted free agents, 2013 rookie Latavius Murray (48) may be the starter next season. Murray was a bit of an unknown out of UCF, but excelled in his workouts. He spent much of 2013 on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Jennings was solid in his time as a starter in Oakland, but he will be 29 in a couple of months and may have trouble finding a starting job. McFadden, meanwhile, is still just 26. I think he has a shot to reinvent himself as the outside runner in a split backfield. His injury history is such that, wherever he lands, he should not be considered in the top 30 at the position.
Chris Johnson (28) has hardly inspired over the last three seasons, but a combination of health and a heavy workload have kept him in the top 10 at the position. However, his decline in production and with a new coach coming in 2014, Johnson may be released. Shonn Greene (56) was quietly productive over the last five games, totaling 191 yards and three scores on 51 touches. For a rebuilding team, the Titans could do worse than rely on Greene for a season or two while they spend their money on less fungible positions.
The Browns may be the odds-on favorite to land a free agent back like Ben Tate, but they gave 22-year-old Edwin Baker (63) a look over the last three weeks, and he produced with 43-171-2 rushing and 8-57-0 receiving. I see Baker as more of a third-down back, but even in that role, he could have value. That would be especially true if that went with Tate, whose minus-5.6 pass grade was the worst of 55 qualified backs.
The Patriots will be a difficult team to rank in 2014, especially with Rob Gronkowski a question mark for the start of the season. Julian Edelman (32) emerged in 2013 with a 105-catch season, but he is a free agent and has a history of injuries, besides. Danny Amendola (46) was nearly as productive as Edelman when on the field, with 1.70 yards per route run compared to 1.78 for Edelman, but he is even harder to count on. Aaron Dobson (39) has the most potential, but it does not matter how easily he can get open if he continues to drop nearly a fifth (19.6 percent) of his catchable passes.
The free agent class of receivers has a lot of interesting names, but Eric Decker (21) and, to a lesser extent, Hakeem Nicks (33) are the two I’m interested in. If either of them ends up as the No. 1 receiver in an offense like Carolina, they would have top-10 potential. The other names of interest are Anquan Boldin (43), Jeremy Maclin (51), James Jones (52), Emmanuel Sanders (55), Golden Tate (56), Kenny Britt (59), Harry Douglas (60), and Riley Cooper (63). Boldin was second at the position with 0.53 PPR points per opportunity in 2013, but even if he returned to San Francisco, it is difficult to see him repeating that production with Michael Crabtree back in the fold. Maclin will likely become a fashionable sleeper, especially if he returns to Philadelphia. I think his name brand exceeds his actual value. He has never reached 1,000 yards in a season. Tate was tied for 20th of 94 qualified receivers with 2.01 yards per route run and finished 22nd with 0.41 PPR points per opportunity, but I think he benefited as the de facto No. 1 receiver in Seattle without Percy Harvin on the field. His more natural fit is as a second receiver on a team, where he would still have some touchdown upside.
Tight End Shuffle
|TE||Team||Games||Targets||Yards||Targets / Snap||Yards / Snap|
|Zach J. Miller||SEA||13||51||387||0.07||0.52|
Rob Gronkowski (2) continued to out-produce Jimmy Graham (1) on his opportunities in 2013 with 2.75 yards per route run compared to 2.26 for Graham. However, Graham is used exclusively as a receiver and actually edged Gronkowski 1.57 yards per snap to 1.52. Couple that with Graham’s touchdown explosion and I think it is impossible to favor Gronkowski anymore with his history of health issues. I still do prefer Gronkowski when both are on the field.
Vernon Davis (3) solidified himself as No. 3 at the position as the No. 1 deep threat on the 49ers. His 407 receiving yards on deep throws was easily first at the position. Graham was second with 321 yards, and no other tight end even reached 200.
Rookie Jordan Reed (5) had a small window of production last season. He only started four games before suffering a concussion that prevented him from returning to the field after Week 11. He sure made the most of his time, however. His 1.30 yards per snap and 2.19 yards per route run were third-most at the position, and his 0.50 PPR points per opportunity was fifth-best. I ranked him fifth because of his potential, but the risk has him rounds after the elite four of Graham, Gronkowski, Davis, and Julius Thomas.
Three other rookies had their share of moments in 2013. Zach Ertz (11) was probably the best with 1.02 yards per snap (seventh), 1.93 yards per route run (sixth), and 0.46 PPR points per opportunity (eighth). Tyler Eifert (12) may be another year away from joining the elites, when Jermaine Gresham’s (38) contract expires. And do not overlook Tim Wright (15). He was the least heralded of the rookies, but he was extremely productive as a rookie with 54-571-5. Mike Williams may eat into that next season, but Wright was 10th at the position with 0.91 yards per snap in 2013.
Miami and Indianapolis each suffered early-season injuries at tight end that create some uncertainty at the position for next year. For the former, I am somewhat buying into Charles Clay (18). His 188.4 PPR points were eighth-most at the position. However, his 9.2 percent drop rate was second-worst of 18 qualified tight ends. I think he has more risk due to 2013 rookie Dion Sims (31) than from Dustin Keller (unranked), who is a free agent who I do not expect to return to the team.
For the latter, I was firmly in the Dwayne Allen (20) camp before the season. However, while Coby Fleener (17) did not light the world on fire with 52 catches, 608 yards, and four scores, he dropped just one pass on 53 catchable balls to lead the position. In addition, he will not share in Allen’s blocking duties. He’s much safer, and so I ranked him three spots ahead of Allen. But I expect Allen to end up on more of my teams next season.
The two big free agents at the position are Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta, but both seem like locks to return to their respective teams. Among players who could be elsewhere, Garrett Graham (40) intrigues me most. He managed a 49-545-5 line in 12 games replacing Owen Daniels last season. There are several attractive destinations that would raise his stock considerably, including Green Bay, Detroit, and Atlanta.
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research associate for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt
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