Written by David Rosenthal
Back in my own personal dark ages, when I was just playing in re-draft fantasy football leagues, the start of the NFL playoffs was always a tough time. On one hand, the excitement of the games being played on the field was hard to beat. Yet, it didn’t quite feel the same without the personal investment I had with my own team still playing. However, once I wised up and moved into dynasty leagues, this is one of my favorite times of year. Personally, I find the NFL post-season and the first month after the season ends to be the best time to make my trade offers. The other owners in my leagues are still thinking about last year’s performances and a forward-thinking player like myself can take advantage. Here are players that I will be looking to buy and sell this offseason. (Note: all scoring references below assume a PPR league).
Justin Blackmon – Blackmon had an incredible 4-game run this season (28, 33, 12 and 7 points), but it were those pesky other 13 games that were the real problem. Everyone who owns any stake in Blackmon this year was burned and many will be looking for a safer option moving forward. Blackmon is a risk, that is obvious, but he has clear WR1 talent that can be had at a good price right now. Look to buy before Jacksonville makes a move to improve their QB situation. Blackmon might be the biggest true “boom or bust” player we have seen in fantasy football in a long time, but I would rather have his upside than a back end RB2 or flex option player.
Demaryius Thomas – DT has had a great season. Through week 17 he only has one single digit output and hit 30 points three separate times. He also showed us, back early in his career, that he can put up strong points without an elite quarterback. Still, his production will take a hit once Manning retires. DT will continue to be productive for years to come, but will he continue to be as productive without Manning checking into those bubble screens that just carve apart defenses? Thomas’s drop in production may not be enormous, but it may be enough to find value. Would I trade Thomas straight-up for Blackmon? No. But Blackmon and a high-upside RB (Zac Stacy, perhaps)? Absolutely.
Alfred Morris – ALF was commonly going in the early-to-mid 2nd round of start-up drafts before the 2013 season. I fully expect that to drop by at least a full round now, perhaps more. Morris did not have any great performances this year (as of week 17, his best output for the season was 18 points in week 9) and had some downright dreadful outputs (3 points in week 14 and 5 week 12 jump out on the stat sheet). The real question every Morris owner and prospective buyer has to ask is, how much of his performance this year is a result of the overall turmoil that has been going on in the nation’s capital? Morris is a powerful runner and hits the line well. I believe that he benefited greatly in 2012 from the respect that defenses had to show RG3 and will reap that benefit again in 2014 and beyond. There is going to be a lot of uncertainty around all of the Washington players until a new coach is hired. Take advantage of that uncertainty.
Shane Vereen – I started this article by saying that I find this time of year to be great for trading, but there are always exceptions to ever rule. The off-season usually has one or two players who’s hype just gets out of control (see Wilson, David in 2013). A good fantasy football player recognizes hype from reality and capitalizes on it. Vereen started with a bang in 2013, 22 points week one, and then missed the next 9 weeks with injury. Oddly, this just seemed to help his perceived value, as the fantasy football world spent all that time talking about how great he would be doing if not for his injury. He came back strong as well, peaking with a 34-point performance in week 14. However, part of this success is due to Steven Ridley’s faults more than anything else. The New England Patriots do not have a history of producing long-lived RB1’s and I don’t see any reason for that to change moving forward. As the off-season progresses, I expect Vereen’s hype to grow. Let it. Vereen is a great RB2, but someone in your league will see him as a true top-end RB.
Ladarius Green – This isn’t exactly a unique opinion, but Green’s size and talent is hard to avoid. He fits the mold of a Gronkoswki and Julius Thomas and the only thing that is standing between him and a potential break-out season is the aging Antonio Gates. Green was on many pre-season breakout lists for 2013 and it just didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean the logic wasn’t sound. Yet, many Fantasy Football owners aren’t the most patient people in the world. Many bought into Green last off-season, just to watch a series of 0’s, 2’s and 3’s come across the stat line. Yes, he did have three straight double-digit games in weeks 11 through 13, but they were quickly followed up with a back-to-back weeks of no points at all. Some will see this as proof that the hype was unjustified. I see it as just evidence that it was a year too early.
Jordan Cameron – Speaking of tight ends who were hyped coming into 2013, Cameron actually lived up to his. At least, he did to start the season. Cameron started the year with games of 26, 15, 30 and 25. But, then he would only top that 14-point game once over the next 8 weeks. It doesn’t take a lot of time pouring over game film to see what changed after week 4, as Josh Gordon’s return and performance this year has been one of the biggest stories of the Fantasy Football season. Gordon’s gain came with an obvious cost to Cameron. I certainly expect Cameron’s supporters to point to the revolving door at QB for the Browns, but the offense overall has been surprising consistent despite the changes. Cameron has not been. The best thing a Cameron owner can hope for is another slip-up by Gordon and a full year suspension. Not exactly what I want to be hoping for, as a fantasy football player.
Ben Roethlisberger – The Steelers had a disappointing year (despite being one missed call in San Diego away from making the playoffs). There are a lot of young, high-profile guys that people want as their starting quarterbacks. I understand the infatuation with young talent and high upside. Yet, Big Ben finished this season as QB8. I know in a couple of my leagues I saw him sitting on the bench as players started Russell Wilson (QB9) and Brady (QB12). Fantasy football is about finding value, regardless of how sexy the name. Big Ben had a great season and I don’t doubt that he has a few more seasons in him.
Andrew Luck – Luck was one of a number of impressive rookie signal-callers in 2012. Entering 2013 I had high hopes for him, but he looked like basically the same quarterback to me. It certainly could have been worse (RG3, as an obvious example), but I expect to see some significant growth from year one to year two in a quarterback. Luck is on pace to finish the year as the 10th most productive QB (he was 9th overall in 2012), yet will almost certainly be one of the first 5 QBs taken in upcoming start-up drafts. Clearly, he is being valued based more on his youth and upside than his performance on the field. While he may live up to that value someday, he just isn’t worth the QB1 price tag he is wearing these days.
One of the challenges that many new dynasty fantasy football players face is separating relative value from absolute value. The fact that I am buying Morris and selling Vereen doesn’t mean that I think that Morris is the better running back. It just means that I believe I can get more production from him than his current price would suggest and, in turn, I can get more production back for Vereen than I would see him produce for my team. There are a lot of fantasy football players who don’t understand this. Find these guys in your league and take advantage!
The end of every fantasy football season is always bittersweet. Every year has its ups and downs, excitements and frustrations. But , don’t morn the end of your 2013. Relish the start of your 2014 season!