Did you draft Kareem Hunt? Melvin Gordon? Le’Veon Bell? If you did, there’s a good chance you are eliminated from your football league. It may not be time to pack it in for the year quite yet. Keeper and Dynasty leagues are becoming more popular and if you play in one, these are the weeks you can get a leg up on your competition by attacking the waiver wire....for next year!
Here are players who are flying under the radar but could pick up steam heading into next season for various reasons. Think of a player like Chris Godwin at the end of last year. He had a few good showings at the end of last season, but from March until August, he garnered significant attention and was a breakout candidate according to many experts. In hindsight, his 2018 season was lackluster, but the point is he still cost you on draft day when he may have been free at the end of the prior year. Another player that saw a huge increase in draft cost was Jerick McKinnon due to his landing spot in San Francisco. That did not turn out well either. However, focus on the process, not the result. The following is a countdown of the top 10 under the radar players (not currently injured) that could build up hype heading into next season (these are players for deeper dynasty leagues or keeper leagues in which you can keep for a 10th round pick or later, for $1-4, or if you can keep up to 8 or more players):
10. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oakland Raiders — With Amari Cooper gone, Jordy Nelson on his last legs, and Martavis Bryant injured and “other”, Ateman has a shot to be the most targeted receiver in Oakland next year. However, there is a risk of Oakland may a high draft pick on a receiver in 2019. Ateman was a 7th round draft pick but the 6’4” 220lb wideout was getting consideration as a 2nd round pick. He missed the 2016 season but scored 8 times on 1,156 yards in his final year at Oklahoma State.
9. Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — To be honest, he’s on this list because of the draft capital spent on him and lack of a true stud running back in Tampa Bay. He’s worth a shot if he’s essentially a free dart throw. He looked excellent on tape before the NFL.
USC RB Ronald Jones II shifts gears like a Miata & possesses surprising balance through contact. Tier 1 RB. pic.twitter.com/FI7GVAlfnb— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 10, 2018
8. Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals — is there a chance David Johnson and his large salary is traded by the rebuilding Cardinals? There is a sense of discontent on that team.
7. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Green Bay Packers — Randal Cobb is a free agent and, despite Marquez Valdez-Scantling getting the first crack at the job, St. Brown showed superior skills and eventually overtook MVS as the next man up. St. Brown has been hobbled a little by injury but has a legitimate shot to be Aaron Rodgers’ WR2 next season.
6. Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — Gio is a free agent after this season. He is very talented, but is unlikely to land a job as a 3-down back. There are situations in which he would be an enticing asset. What if he falls in Oakland? They should be trailing a lot and he could see a lot of touches that way.
5. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Houston Texans — The injury is scary and so is the delayed return, but Miller does not have the same upside as Foreman. If Foreman can return to form, he has a real chance of RB1 value in 2019 or 2020.
4. Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos — He is the favorite for the #1 wideout job next season. However, despite the draft capital the Broncos spent, he’s been outperformed lately by DaeSean Hamilton. He has huge potential and could have been dropped due to underperforming in this role so far.
3. DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Broncos — Case Keenum, if he is back as the starter in Denver, should continue to lean on his slot receiver. Hamilton is getting a huge chunk of targets and could build up some steam as the potential #1 fantasy option at receiver in Denver next season. He’s not #1 on this list because of Sutton’s talent.
2. Dan Arnold, TE, New Orleans Saints — He has looked like the best tight end in New Orleans. Drew Brees has shown that he can support a fantasy TE1 and so long as they do not bring in a top end tight end through trade or free agency, I see a path to Arnold becoming very relevant given his athleticism in that offense.
1. Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers — This is “my guy”. Pettis has been closing off the season as the lead receiver in San Francisco. It would be hard to believe that we can get excited about Goodwin or Garcon at this point. He has big play ability and has scored double figures in PPR scoring in all 4 weeks since his bye week. His QB is Nick Mullins at the moment. He’s scored in 3 of the 4 games and gone 5-5 with 83 yards in the other. He’s averaging 85 yards per game over that span and has big play ability. He is only 52% owned in Yahoo leagues and 37% owned in ESPN leagues before Week 16 waivers. The upside that Pettis has shown gives me reason to believe he’s next year’s Chris Godwin and more.
Don’t overlook players on IR
1. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals — If he was dropped, the only way he’s not worth picking up is if you need to spend a top 2 round pick on him or over $30.
2. Darrius Guice, RB, Washington — Guice is worth adding in most keeper formats because of his potential and age. He likely already rostered in most keeper leagues. The only scenarios which he holds little value are if he will cost you over $20 to keep in an auction, you must use a top 3 round pick to keep him, or your league only allows you to keep 3 players.
3. Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers — Much like Guice, the same logic holds true here. I give Guice the slight edge due to age and not having to contend with competition from Matt Breida.
4. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams — He and Woods could be 1A and 1B in one of the best offenses in football. Yes, it is crowded there but especially in a PPR league, I’d take a chance for up to $12 on him or a pick in round 5. You can decide later if it’s worth it. He’s under consideration if you are allowed to keep 4-5 players.
5. OJ Howard, TE, Buccaneers — His 16 game pace was 60 receptions on 84 targets, 9 TD, 1,004 yards, 214 PPR points and likely the 5th best tight end this year. Ebron is pacing to be the 4th tight end this season, however OJ Howard will make a push to be the 4th TE off the board next season after Kelce, Ertz and Kittle. I think you’ll see him and Gronk cost about the same amount. He’s worth a 6th round pick or about $10 next season. He’s a worthwhile stash as an option if your league allows you to keep 6 or more players, especially how thin the position is.
6. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Detroit Lions — With Golden Tate out of the way, the path is clear for…Kenny Golladay. However, Jones will be the number 2 option in Detroit next season and is worth a pick after rounds 7 or about $5.
7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos — This is a tough one. He’s likely done in Denver so his value is dependent on the landing spot. He’s on the wrong side of 30 but still looked fresh this year. However, coming off an injury and into an unknown situation, makes him a risk. $5 or a pick after round 7 sounds like a reasonable price. Otherwise, he’s under consideration if you are allowed 8 or more keepers.
8. Will Fuller, WR, Texans — Coming off an injury, there’s no assurance he’s ready for training camp or even the season. His upside is high with Watson as his QB. I value him higher in non-PPR leagues and is worth a $5 gamble or a pick in round 8.
9. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers — Technically, he’s on PUP-R, not IR. 579 yards and 4 TDs in 13 starts in 2017 with Gates on the team. Rivers loves to throw to his tight ends. Henry is worth about $4-5 and a round 8-10 pick next season.
10. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers — A huge value in a 2 QB league, but worth $1-2 or a post round 10 pick in a standard league.
11. Christian Kirk, WR, Cardinals — Larry Fitzgerald is never a lock to return and Kirk did flash at times. He’s worth a look for $1-4 or a post-round 10 pick. It depends on your other options, but he might be a worthwhile stash if you can keep a good portion of your players or you are in a rebuild
12. Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts — Another injured tight end. Worth a late round pick or a couple of dollars in a PPR league. Also valuable if there are no limit to the number of keepers.
13. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Lions — Worth $15-18 or a round 5 pick or later. He’s under consideration if you can keep up to 5 players.
Players on IR worth stashing in a deep dynasty league:
14. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
15. Cameron Meredith, WR, Saints
16. Deon Cain, WR, Colts
17. Martavis Bryant, WR, Raiders
Some players are not necessary on IR, but could have been dropped due to injury:
18. Rashad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Worth $10 or a round 7 pick. He’s under consideration if you can keep more than 5 players.
19. Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs — Worth $4 or a round 9 pick. He’s under consideration if you can keep more than 6 players.
20. Keke Coutee, WR, Texans — He’s worth $1-4 or a post round 10 pick, in a similar range to Kirk.