This is the deadest of dead times for fantasy football enthusiasts. The Philadelphia Eagles’ thrilling win in Super Bowl LII is in the rearview mirror, but we’ve yet to really get rolling on the 2018 campaign yet. We’re still months away from the 2018 NFL Draft. The start of the 2018 league year (and the beginning of free agency) is still almost a month away.
It’s quiet – too quiet.
Unless, of course, you play in a dynasty fantasy football league.
In dynasty formats, there are no breaks – at least not if you want to be successful. Truly savvy fantasy owners are constantly tracking the changing fantasy value of players in the offseason, whether it’s in the hopes of buying low on players whose value is trending upward or selling at the right time on players who may have crested.
Now, is there any guarantee that the players listed in this piece won’t see their value change again in March when the free agent market place gets underway? Or when the NFL Draft takes place in Dallas at the end of April? Or this summer in training camp? Nope, nope, and nope.
There are no guarantees in the NFL – other than that the Browns won’t be good.
But for each of these quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers there’s a trend emerging (or about to emerge), even this early in the offseason. For some it’s positive. For others it’s negative.
But for all it’s at the very least worth mentioning.
Make of that information what you will.
Marcus Mariota – QB, Tennessee Titans
Given the season Marcus Mariota just had for the Tennessee Titans, it’s fair to ask whether I’ve been drinking.
I haven’t. Honest.
Yes, the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 and won a postseason game. But after posting top-10 fantasy numbers in 2016 in NFL.com default fantasy scoring, a nicked-up Mariota free-fell all the way to 21st in fantasy points.
Per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, new Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said he has some things in mind to help Mariota rebound in his fourth NFL season. “We’re going to be extremely detailed with his fundamentals and his footwork because that leads to more consistent quarterback play,” LaFleur said. “There are going to be some different techniques that we are going to implement with him.”
A more inventive offense can only help Mariota’s development. So will a developing and maturing receiving corps. And an offseason to get healthy. Mariota didn’t have the transcendent year some expected in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he can’t.
Now’s the time to make a play for him – while last year’s faceplant is till fresh in owners’ minds.
Aaron Jones – RB, Green Bay Packers
There isn’t a harder position to find dynasty bargains at than running back. If a player has half a pulse, he’s rostered. If he has half a pulse and is young, many fantasy owners will hang onto those backs like grim freaking death.
But I feel like I gotta put someone here—and maybe, just maybe it’s possible to pry Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers away from an owner worried about his injury or the cloudy state of the Green Bay backfield.
Jones was impressive as a rookie in Green Bay, averaging 5.5 yards per carry and finding the end zone four times. Despite never carrying the ball 20 times in a game, Jones topped 100 rushing yards twice in his four starts. Over a three-game stretch from Week 5 to Week 7 last year, Jones was fantasy football’s seventh-ranked PPR running back.
Per Evan Western of SB Nation, advanced metrics also bear out Jones’ effectiveness in 2017. “In looking through FO’s stats for NFL running backs in 2017,” he said, “I noticed something interesting: Aaron Jones, the Packers’ rookie runner, finished the season with the third-highest DVOA rating of any running back with more than 20 carries on the season and the second-highest DVOA of anyone with more than 30 rushing attempts. Jones posted a +31.1% rating on 81 rushes, finished behind only fellow rookie Alvin Kamara of the Saints (+44.2%) and the Jaguars’ Corey Grant (who recorded a +53.8% but on exactly 30 carries).”
Jones probably isn’t a threat for 400 touches in 2018. Or even 350. But assuming he recovers from his knee injury it’s a safe bet that Jones will be the clear lead back in Green Bay this year. I don’t expect the team to invest heavily in the position in free agency or the draft.
And with Aaron Rodgers back to keep defenses offense, Jones’ already impressive per-touch effectiveness could get even better this year.
Terrelle Pryor – WR, Washington Redskins
OK, that isn’t completely accurate. Pryor’s technically on Washington’s roster at the moment. But after making just 20 catches for 240 yards in one miserable season in the nation’s capital, the odds of the Redskins bringing back Pryor are between none and negative-none.
Back in November, after an ankle injury ended his season, Pryor allowed to ESPN that his decision to gamble on himself in 2017 with a one-year deal had backfired.
“It’s probably not going to work out with the plan as of right now,” Pryor said. “That plan isn’t working. I’ll come and compete, man, and whatever next year brings me, it brings me. As of right now, it hasn’t been working, fitting. It is what it is.”
That’s an understatement – Pryor’s season in D.C. was a disaster. Even with Washington’s receiving corps in need of an infusion of talent it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pryor’s not changing teams this offseason.
That’s OK though – because at this point Pryor’s at his fantasy nadir. There’s nowhere to go but up.
The odds of prying Pryor (clever, ain’t I?) away from fantasy owners might get better still. There’s been more than a little smoke re-connecting Pryor and the Cleveland Browns, with who he topped 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. The Browns reportedly tried to re-acquire Pryor via trade last November, only to be rebuffed by Washington.
That’s just what Pryor’s owners need to push them over the edge—visions of him chasing down DeShone Kizer air-mails.
But a return to the shores of Lake Erie could be a blessing. Pryor enjoyed the best season of his career with Hue Jackson in Cleveland two years ago. Now, he’d be the team’s No. 2 receiver behind Josh Gordon – a pair of big-bodied speedsters who would pose all kinds of matchup problems. And whether it’s through free agency, the draft or both, the Browns are going to address the quarterback position this offseason.
The key here could be timing. Don’t even wait for Pryor to find a new home—lest that landing spot drive up the asking price. Roll the dice on a rebound and try to get the 29-year-old at as deep a discount as possible.
Some risks are worth taking.