In dynasty, your core of players is very important and rightfully so. Your team is likely going to start out being anchored in your startup draft by your first through fourth round players and your season will go as they go. Outside of those players, you’ll likely build with high upside players or consistent veterans. High-upside players include young unproven who have either been injured and unable to get on the field, stuck behind an established veteran with limited opportunity, in a running back by committee, or in development based on a lack of playbook knowledge coming out of college. Consistent veterans are the guys who aren’t likely to win your week for you but they pose less risk than volatile players on a weekly basis.
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Quarterbacks are difficult to deem as undervalued because there really is a limited amount of value separating most quarterbacks from each other. At first glance, there are a few guys who would provide value when engaging in a startup draft.
Derek Carr may be the highest upside value play at 24 years old, about to be 25, with a solid two seasons under his belt. He improved in completion percentage year over year from 58.10% to 61.10%, and an improved TD/INT ratio of 1.75 to 2.46 which is a major improvement. His supporting cast is high caliber with Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Latavius Murray, and Clive Walford as offensive weapons. Right now Carr is being drafted as the 10th QB off the board and the 123rd player overall. For perspective, Tom Brady is being drafted as the 8th overall QB and almost two rounds earlier. Tom Brady is 38 years old and while he could produce at a high level for longer the older he gets the higher the likelihood he falls off at some point.
Matt Ryan has garnered a bad reputation after the past year; he’s not any good at football and he’s a terrible fantasy asset. The problem with that stigma is that any player can become a value if their price falls enough and that’s exactly what has happened with Ryan. In my most recent dynasty draft, he fell to the 16th round at 16.12 where I just knew the value was too good to leave him be. He is currently going as the 16th QB off the board by ADP and ~178th overall which puts him at 16.11 so I even got a value against his average but that’s not my point. My point with Ryan is that he’s been a perennial above average performer and this year’s only outlier was his TD total. Over the past five years he’s had yardage totals of 4,591 (’15), 4,694 (’14), 4,515 (’13), 4,719 (’12), 4,177 (’11) for a 5 year average of 4,539 yards. He’s had TDs of 21 (’15), 28 (’14), 26 (’13), 32 (’12), and 29 (’11) for a five-year average of 27 TDs per year. It’s reasonable to project that Ryan’s production improves from his 2015 season considering his completion percentage essentially remained unchanged at 66.3% as well as his yards per completion 11.3 and yards per attempt 7.5. Lastly, Ryan is only 30 years old which gives him another 5 years of playing time if you consider him in the same light as players like Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick who are all in this age range and still playing. For ADP comparison, Ryan is going right after 36-year-old Carson Palmer and 34-year-old Phillip Rivers.
A late round QB you should target is the 33-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick. His ADP is falling as the 26th quarterback off the board and ~228th overall. This puts him in draft consideration with players such as Vance McDonald, Eddie Royal, Antonio Andrews, and Brian Hartline. There’s not a good reason you can’t wait on QB and take more promising running backs and wide receivers earlier in the draft. Fitzpatrick put up 381 fantasy points last season which was good for 13 fantasy points less than no other than Drew Brees, the 37-year-old going as the 11th overall QB.
Running back is possibly the most difficult position to peg down in dynasty. It’s constantly moving due to backfield changes, age, injuries, and the natural decline that most running backs face as they are run into the ground.
Matt Jones looks to take over a backfield that has produced well in the past but has been mired in a three-way committee over the past year. The expected departure of Alfred Morris should open the door for Matt Jones to take at least a 2 down back role to himself. Chris Thompson is nearly a pure pass catching back and has established himself in that role. Jones is currently going as the 27th RB overall and the ~90th player overall. He’s a great back to grab if you stuck to a zeroRB strategy over the course of the first 7 rounds. If you reached for running back earlier there are still solid wide receivers in this range, so keep that in mind for however you decide to approach your draft.
Danny Woodhead finished last season as the number 3 PPR running back behind only Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson! He wasn’t too shabby without those receptions either garnering the tenth spot in standard leagues. Woodhead may be 31 years old but he still runs well and with elusiveness. He’s not someone you want to build your team around, but the production is undeniable. Even if Melvin Gordon finds his groove behind what we can only expect will be an improved offensive line, Woodhead holds steady value as a 3rd down specialist. He’s going as the 44th running back off the board and the 145th player off the board.
Lance Dunbar was on a furious pace in the few games he played in 2015. Over a small sample size he had a 91.3% catch rate and a receiving yards per game of 53.8 on 5.3 receptions per game. It’s safe to say he’s a passing specialist, but his role wasn’t limited to 3rd downs last season. He was brought in several times with another running back in the backfield to simply get the ball in his hands. After his injury it’s likely he’s been forgotten as he’s going 62nd out of running backs and 198th overall. Dunbar is going around players like Brian Quick, Shane Vereen, and Eli Manning so you’re not going to be passing up core players to grab him.
Wide Receiver is typically regarded as the most important asset to a dynasty roster with their long shelf life and considerable point ceiling. Most leagues have more starting receiver positions or, at least, allow for multiple flex options which makes having a bevy of dependable wide receivers important.
Kendall Wright can be a great asset in a PPR league if he’s healthy but we’ve yet to get to see that with the new regime in Tennessee. Now that the lackluster experiment with Ken Wisenhunt is over we’ll get to see how the new lackluster experiment with Mike Mularkey goes. The positives here are that Marcus Mariota looks like the real deal and Wright is still only 26 years old. His contract situation is advantageous as well with his 2016 salary of $7,320,000 becoming guaranteed on March 9th of this year and he’ll enter 2017 as an unrestricted free agent. We’ve seen the talent in his 94 reception 1,079-yard season with a paltry 2 touchdowns which make his 108 overall ADP a relative bargain considering his upside. Players going in this region include teammate Delanie Walker (31), Tom Brady (38), and the recently exposed Davante Adams.
DeSean Jackson is what I’d consider a moderate risk, high reward investment. He’s recently 29 years old and after returning from an odd injury this season he showed he still has plenty of juice left in his legs. Jackson is currently going ~104th overall or the 57th WR off the board. His company includes unproven sophomore Jaelen Strong, 32-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, and the aforementioned Wright. In my recent draft he fell to the late 10th round at 10.12 where he’s almost certainly going to outproduce his draft position.
The 2015 fourth round pick Justin Hardy had a difficult time getting targets in the Atlanta offense last season. With Julio Jones, Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson, running back Devonta Freeman, and Jacob Tamme all getting targets ahead of him we didn’t get a very good picture of what Hardy has to offer. With Hankerson out the door and White all but retired there’s a good chance Hardy carves out a meaningful role with the Falcons in 2016. With an ADP of ~175 as the 82nd WR off the board there is plenty of room for value with the sophomore receiver. His ADP company includes player with considerable obstructions to playing time like JJ Nelson, Devin Smith, and Seth Roberts.
Tight ends are a position that, like quarterbacks, can be pushed off until much later in a draft and you can just stream the position. Outside of Gronk, there are only a few second tier TEs and then there is a traffic jam of middling TEs that give occasional top ten performances but aren’t as dependable. Because of the lack of highly productive tight ends, when a tight end jumps a tier in production the value can be relatively higher due to the scarcity of the position. For example, if you were to have acquired Gary Barnidge through waivers or a very late draft position then you would have recognized an extreme jump in value this past year. Barnidge finished as the TE4 and he was virtually free! This illustrates the value that can be found in dart throw tight ends within your draft.
Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates are free agents this year and the Chargers are in an interesting position considering Gates is a career Charger who they’d likely want to sign again and have him retire there. Green had a unique opportunity the first four games of 2015 to play without Gates on the field due to a suspension. Green was able to show that his athletic ability and potential to fill Gates shoes isn’t just a myth but a potential reality. Depending on when your startup draft takes place this issue may already be resolved; currently there’s value in both of these players with Green going ~137th overall and Gates going ~213th overall. Gates is simply a rental vet who you’d expect to retire within the next couple of years with his recent injury trouble despite being very productive when healthy. Green is going in an area of the draft where running back value is spotty but available and wide receivers are more dart throws than sure bets.
Will Tye came on strong at the end of last season and showed he has athletic ability to spare. Considering Larry Donnell has brick hands and, unfortunately, an injury that may keep him out of football going forward, Tye has a considerable opportunity lying ahead of him. From week 10 to 17 Tye had an average of 4.57 receptions a game, 52.57 yards a game, and .43 TDs a game. Projected out over 17 games that comes out to 841 yards, 73 receptions, and 7 TDs. This would put him squarely in the production of Travis Kelce and Ben Watson in 2015. Tye’s ADP leaves room for improvement at age 24 with an overall ADP of 194 as the 20th TE taken. Being taken this late in a draft leaves ample room for improvement and forgiveness if he flames out.
Jace Amaro is one of those flier picks that has his youth and draft capital going for him but is relatively unproven. Injuries and target competition in New York have kept Amaro from showing his true potential and this may lead to a value pick if he falls to you at his ADP of ~195. He’s still only 23 years old and will cost you considerably less than his draft counterparts Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Eric Ebron.