afc west 450x253 OFF SEASON MAGIC

By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )

Well here we are….the dynasty “off season” for fantasy football…the Christmas after Christmas, so to speak, only without all the wrapping paper.  The dynasty off-season is honestly my favorite time of year when it comes to fantasy football, a time for strategy, creating a roster blue print, increasing depth and trading for value.  With dynasty fantasy football, championships are often won with hard work during the off season and that’s what separates this wonderful FF animal from the typical redraft league.  Of course you folks probably already know that and that’s why you’re here so early in the off-season, reading dynasty articles and gathering additional view points to help improve your squads.  That being said, my goal over the next few Mondays is to dissect each NFL team, going through the league division by division, and offering up some thoughts on players who represent value and also on some “diamonds in the rough” that could put you ahead of the FF curve in 2013.  I’d also like to say that DFW’s senior writer Jeff Melbostad did an outstanding job covering “buy & sell” targets during the season and I would encourage anyone reading my articles to visit the DFW archives and take a look at Jeff’s work if you haven’t already done so.

Ok…let’s get started with the main course, the AFC West……

Denver Broncos
The Guy to Sell

Knowshon Moreno, RB  -  When Willis McGahee went down with a knee injury on week 11, Knowshon stepped in and flashed the skills and upside that made him a 1st round pick by the Broncos back in 2009.  Throughout his short up and down career, Moreno has demonstrated some deceptive power, good vision and an inherent ability to read rushing lanes and angles.  Those skills – and a new found sense of maturity/patience – have helped Knowshon perform very nicely over the final 6 weeks of the regular season.  Of course it’s that very production over the past month that has created a false spike in fantasy football value for Mr. Moreno.  The bottom line here is that Moreno doesn’t have the speed, agility, or consistency to be an elite RB that can anchor an NFL team or your dynasty squad for any length of time.  The folks here at DFW have been posting that very sentiment for weeks, advising any and all Moreno owners to sell high during this perfect storm.  If you haven’t done so already, make selling Moreno a priority while he is still healthy enough to hold some trade value.

The Guy To Buy

Ronnie Hillman, RB  -  Yes there is a decent amount of disappointment surrounding Ronnie Hillman since he didn’t step up as the main guy when Willis McGahee went down with his knee injury.  But let’s not forget we are talking about a rookie with some ball security issues, a HC who favors veterans, a QB who will not tolerate mental mistakes and an offensive system that requires RBs to be more than simply adequate in pass protection.  Ok, so after all that why do I like Hillman as a “buy” this off season?  Let’s take a look at what skills Hillman does bring to the table – he possesses a great initial burst, good vision, is electric in open space, can catch the ball out of the backfield and he has a high end gear that makes him a threat to break a long run each time he touches the ball.  Hillman also understands how to use a cutback lane to his advantage and he keeps his pad level low which helps offset the fact that he won’t run over many defenders.  In my opinion, Hillman is easily the most talented RB on the Broncos’ roster and with another off season of OTA’s, he has the chance to improve his pass blocking skills, his ball security issues and add some more muscle to his frame.  Most importantly, Hillman will have a chance to earn Peyton’s trust and that alone could turn Hillman into a huge fantasy football asset in 2013.  The worst case scenario is that Hillman has to spend 2013 in a committee situation proving he has what it takes to be an every down RB.  Even if that happens, I think Hillman will prove his worth as an every down RB by the 2014 season and reward the FF owners that made him a target this off season.

The Veteran to Consider Buying

Peyton Manning, QB  –  Yes, I said Peyton Manning is a dynasty buy this off season, but that doesn’t mean he should be a target for every single owner out there.  If your current roster is ready to make a title run in 2013, then Manning could be the perfect QB addition to provide some solid QB depth to your squad on the road to your next championship.  So many times as dynasty owners we focus primarily on youth and upside (and rightly so) but we often overlook the older established veterans that can provide the necessary depth to win a title.  Peyton finished the season in strong fashion throwing for 643 yards, 6 TDs, 1 int. in his last two regular season games and he is a QB that could provide elite stats for your team in 2013.  He’ll also be 37 next season so those elite QB stats could come at a very affordable price this off season. Consider Peyton the perfect disposable QB with a maximum shelf life of two years – as long as you can get him for a “disposable” price.

San Diego Chargers

The Guy to Sell

Danario Alexander, WR  -  This one is tough for me because I really like the skill set and freakish athletic ability Danario brings to the field WHEN he’s healthy.  He has good size, explosive leaping ability and a knack for snatching the ball in crowded situations.  He’s also had more major reconstruction done to his knees than Joan Rivers’ face – and that’s something I never thought any player could achieve.  All in all, Alexander has had 5 surgeries on his left knee dating back to his sophomore year at Missouri.  So while the upside and production have been evident in San Diego this season, Danario is playing on a left knee that seems more likely to vaporize into thin air than withstand the rigors of another NFL season.  If you haven’t already cashed in on the value of a healthy Danario Alexander then the time is now to move him during this dynasty off season.  Honestly, his value can’t get any higher and you won’t have a chance to move him if he gets hurt during OTA’s this spring.

The Guy to Buy
Vincent Brown, WR,  -  Brown is the forgotten San Diego WR in some fantasy circles due to a broken ankle suffered in the preseason, but he was on track to be a big part of the Chargers passing attack before he suffered the injury. Vincent Brown has shown he can handle jams at the line of scrimmage and create separation at the NFL level.  He’s also demonstrated a physical presence much larger than his 5’11 200 lb. frame would suggest and while he may lack elite speed, he has a quick burst that can be devastating off the line and in and out of breaks/cuts.  It will be very interesting to see who the Chargers bring in to replace Norv Turner, but I expect the offense philosophy to change from Norv’s fascination with the vertical passing game to a balanced attack featuring more intermediate routes.  Vincent Brown will be a huge part of that new San Diego offense and the time to buy him is now, while his value is still fairly low and he’s off the radar for some dynasty owners who still run their teams with an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

The Veteran to Consider Buying

Ryan Mathews, RB, -  I know, you folks must think I’m absolutely crazy for listing Ryan Mathews as a “buy” candidate.  After all, we are talking about a RB who most fantasy football experts are labeling as a top 3 “bust of 2012′ candidate, a RB made out of fractured glass, a RB who simultaneously underachieves and gets injured just by getting out of bed in the morning.  But the answer my fine fantasy football fanatics is “yes”…..Ryan Mathews is a dynasty football “buy” this off season.  For me it comes down to one huge factor – potential upside versus potential cost and right now Mathews’ value couldn’t be any lower for the multitude of disgusted owners left scattered across the dynasty landscape.  Look, Ryan Mathews finished 2011 averaging almost 5 yards a carry on 222 attempts and he also hauled in 50 receptions to go along with those rushing stats.  Those numbers certainly regressed in 2012, but that had as much to do with Norv Turner and the Chargers’ weak offensive line play as it did with Mathews’ injury issues.  The fact that Mathews came off the field on almost every 3rd down giving way to a slow, 60 year old Ronnie Brown is a clear indication that the Chargers completely mismanaged the offense in 2012.  I seriously doubt any new coaching regime will repeat the same mistakes again.  Bottom line for me – Ryan Mathews has the skills to be a top FF producer on a weekly basis and while there are questions about his health and concerns about his ball security, his price has dropped so low due to 2012 disappointments that he has become a 2013 value for me and a target I will pursue this off season.

The Guy to Stash on Your Roster

Ladarius Green, TE  –  Antonio Gates’ prolific career is coming to end and Green will be the first in line to replace Gates.  While he doesn’t have Gates’ athletic ability, Green does have good size (6’6″ 240 lbs) and decent hands.  Just based on the potential opportunity, Green is somebody who should be on your dynasty TE radar.
Kansas City Chiefs

The Guy to Sell

None of the current KC players really hold any value except for Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles and I wouldn’t recommend selling either at this point in time.  Charles could flourish with new HC Andy Reid heading to Kansas City and Bowe played 2012 under the franchise tag and will most likely end up playing in a much better situation in 2013.

The Guy to Buy
Jon Baldwin, WR – We had a discussion a few weeks ago on the message boards here at DFW concerning Baldwin’s future value and I wrote the following:

“There was one play back in week 3 that pretty much sums up Baldwin for me.  It was on the road, against the Saints and the Chiefs had the ball around the Saints’ 20 yard line.  On a 3rd down play, Cassel took a shot at the end zone and threw the ball high to the back of the end zone….and I mean “HIGH”.  Baldwin sky’d for that ball, stretching back one handed and almost pulled it in for a TD.  Now, there are only 3…maybe 4…WRs in the NFL who I think could have climbed the ladder and even gotten a hand on that pass – Calvin, Julio, AJG and maybe Dez.  I know Baldwin didn’t actually make the catch, but that play is a microcosm of his career to date for me…amazing athletic ability with jaw dropping “hops”, but unpolished, raw and poor technique especially against press coverage.  Dynasty football is all about targeting that next guy before he actually becomes the “next guy”…and Baldwin has shown enough upside for me just in the disappointments that I’m still buying and stashing.”

Yes, I was hoping for more production from Baldwin this year, especially after so many positive reports surfaced this past spring from Chiefs’ OTA’s about his new found maturity on and off the field.  Obviously, based on those reports, Baldwin was trending in the right direction last off season and 2013 will be the “all important” 3rd year for this young WR.  A new QB and an offensive minded HC like Andy Reid will only help Baldwin reach the next level and he should have that opportunity with Dwayne Bowe most likely moving on to a new team in 2013.  My eyes tell me this guy simply has too much athletic ability and potential upside for me to ignore and his price should still be very affordable.  I would rather be wrong about Baldwin and have to drop him from my roster then be right about him and watch some other owner reap the benefits and production simply because I didn’t pursue Baldwin.

The Guy to Stash on Your Roster

Dexter McCluster, WR - I can just see Dexter McCluster going up to Andy Reid and in his best Val Kilmer/Doc Holliday imitation saying, “I’m your huckleberry”.  McCluster is just the type of quick, versatile, “jack of all trades” player that Andy Reid loves to utilize all over the field.  In fact, reports have surfaced that Reid and the Eagles were very interested in McCluster during the 2010 draft.  Dexter McCluster is the perfect type of player to target as a “throw in” on a trade or try to acquire on the cheap from an owner who might not see any upside on the horizon in KC.

Oakland Raiders

The Guy to Sell

Darren McFadden, RB – I know earlier in this article I talked about targeting Ryan Mathews as a potential player to add to your dynasty rosters.  Now I’m discussing Darren McFadden as a potential “sell” and yet many owners consider both players to be cut from a very similar cloth when it comes to durability concerns and an inability to stay healthy.  The difference for me is perceived value.  The mere mention of Darren McFadden’s name can still inspire many FF owners to picture a 75 yard TD run showcasing freakish break way speed.  The mention of Ryan Mathews’ name, on the other hand, can cause even the most hardened FF owner to curl up in the fetal position sobbing uncontrollably. McFadden, for all his disappointments, still carries a decent amount of perceived value in many FF circles and if you happen to own him and play in a league with one of these owners….then take this opportunity to sell him.  If you are in a league made up of shrewd fantasy football “sharks” then obviously you won’t have the chance to move Darren McFadden for any type of real value.

The Guy to Buy

Denarius Moore, WR  –  Although he missed week 1, Moore started off the season on a positive note averaging 72 YPG in weeks 2 through 10.  He also scored 5 touchdowns during that 8 game stretch.  That solid FF production didn’t last, however, and Moore finished the season on a downward spiral averaging a meager 27 yards per contest through his final 6 games.  What happened?  The whole Oakland offense seemed to lose focus and direction over the final half of the season and Denarius was caught up right in the middle of the silver and black meltdown.  That being said, Moore is a WR with game changing vertical speed and an ability to adjust to the ball in traffic.  He is also very adept at catching the ball with his hands (not using his body), something his teammate Darrius Heyward-Bey still struggles with regularly.  Moore’s shortcomings aren’t athletic; they have much more to do with the mental aspects of the game – his lack of concentration, losing focus mid game, running incorrect or poor routes.  I believe the mental lapses with Moore can be fixed and his physical attributes will outweigh any future lapses in concentration. The Raiders will still be playing plenty of games from behind in 2013 and Moore could be a big recipient of playing “catch up” style football once again up in 2013.

The Guys to Stash on Your Roster

Rod Streater, WR – Streater is the “anti Denarius Moore”.  He isn’t exceptionally fast and he doesn’t scare opposing defensive backs with his athletic ability, but he does have a level of consistency that has been very encouraging.  Streater will be 25 years old heading into 2013, which is a little older than most 2nd year players, but if Moore and DHB continue to struggle with certain aspects of their games, Streater may be the WR to step up and cash in on the opportunity.

David Ausberry, TE  –  Ok, I admit it….I’m a sucker when it comes to big, athletic TE’s and fantasy football. Every off season I litter my dynasty rosters with TE’s like Taylor Thompson, Adrien Robinson and Julius Thomas hoping to uncover the next Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham before my fellow league mates. Well, add David Ausberry – a former WR at USC – to that list. When Ausberry has been targeted this year, he has shown some freakish athletic ability and he is almost impossible for a defensive back to tackle single-handedly.   TE Brandon Myers may test the free agent market this off season and that could open the door for Ausberry to bring a playmaking aspect to the TE position that the Raiders lacked with Myers.

Well, that’ll do it for the AFC West breakdown. You may or may not agree with my analysis on the players mentioned above, but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed the article.  I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level.