Dynasty Dumpster Dive: High-Potential Prospects That Won’t Break the Bank (Part 1: RBs)

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy
Like any good manager, you’re always looking to make moves that will improve your dynasty team. However, for various reasons you may not have a lot of capital to work with- maybe you inherited an orphan team largely devoid of value, or maybe you have the majority of your fantasy wealth tied up in assets you consider untouchable. Either way, you’re looking to acquire players who won’t cost a premium but still have a reasonable-to-good chance of becoming more impactful fantasy contributors in 2018 (or earlier in some cases).

Well fear not- as always, I’ve done the work for you. I’ve identified high-potential wide receivers and running backs who can be had for less than a first round pick in most leagues and broken down exactly why I think they have the potential to see a substantial increase in value. Without further ado, I’ll start with the running backs.

Austin Ekeler:

My fondness for the rookie UDFA Ekeler is due in equal parts to his emerging talent and to the fact that Melvin Gordon (the man currently ahead of him on the depth chart) is the most overrated player in football. After averaging less than three touches through the first six games of the season, Ekeler has since seen an increasing role in the offense and has averaged nine touches over the past five games- most notably a banner day against a top-notch Jacksonville defense in which he turned ten rushes and five catches into 119 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. His yards-per-carry on the season sits at a respectable 4.8 while that of his counterpart Gordon is over a full yard shy at 3.7. It is also worth noting that Gordon has yet to record a YPC over 4.0 in any of his seasons as a Charger and has thrived in fantasy due to heavy usage and opportunistic two-yard touchdowns rather than talent. However, over the past five games Ekeler has actually scored twice as many TDs as Gordon (four to Gordon’s two). The Chargers clearly feel that Ekeler’s talent demands touches, and the more opportunity he is given the more I suspect he will demand. I see him becoming the 1B to Gordon’s 1A if the Chargers brass is foolishly sensitive about protecting their draft investment, but it’s also extremely possible that he could take over the job altogether. Buy now before that happens.

Jerick McKinnon:

Rendered an afterthought when the Vikings signed Latavius Murray and drafted Dalvin Cook, McKinnon was given an opportunity to step up and show his stuff when Cook’s promising rookie season came to an abrupt end. An absolute athletic freak (his SPARQ score is one of the highest ever recorded), he recorded 99+ yards from scrimmage in three of his first four games as the Vikings starter and demonstrated that he has the ability to succeed in the NFL given adequate blocking. In the past few games he has come back to Earth due to giving up some touches to Murray, but that could actually work in the favor of those looking to buy low. The real reason McKinnon is an interesting prospect is because he is an unrestricted free agent after this year, and he could very feasibly end up competing for the starting job in a new city. Starting RBs are inherently valuable and a few lacklustre recent weeks mean McKinnon’s value has likely dipped, so buy now.

Jeremy Hill:

Two things make Hill a good candidate for a post-hype breakout season next year- a proven ability to thrive as a fantasy RB in the right situation (see his 2014 campaign) and the fact that he will be an unrestricted free agent next season, which creates the possibility of such a situation again falling into his lap. He has been trending in the wrong direction since his fantastic rookie year, but will likely leave Cincinnati for pastures that (given the current state of the Bengals offense) are guaranteed to be greener by default. If he happens to fall into a situation similar to that which made his rookie campaign so successful, he could be a league-winner for those that buy low now.

Elijah McGuire:

The young Jets RB hasn’t looked particularly impressive lately, which is part of why I think he can be had for so cheap relative to his potential value. McGuire is currently third on the Jets depth chart, but the two RBs ahead of him are Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. Forte’s best years are long behind him and he could retire at any time, and the Jets seem pathologically unwilling to give Powell a real shot as their workhorse (plus he is no spring chicken himself and will turn thirty next season). The Jets also have significant needs almost everywhere and so seem unlikely to spend high picks on RBs in the draft. A savvy move could be to get McGuire for cheap now and then draft any Jets rookie RB in the 3rd or 4th round of your rookie draft, making it highly likely that you end up with the successor to Forte/Powell at a cost of next to nothing.

Chris Carson:

The Seattle backfield has been a triage center for quite a while now, and that has people shy on any RB in a Seahawks jersey. While I would say this is wise when it comes to CJ Prosise (who has proven beyond much doubt that he is made of glass), I believe that Chris Carson will return from his injury with a vengeance and be a part of a potent Seattle rushing attack next year. The Seahawks have been hamstrung by offensive line problems for too long for those issues to go unaddressed in the offseason, so I foresee a revamped Seattle line in 2018 and a healthy Carson racking up yards behind them. As an unpedigreed rookie with only four games under his belt before going on IR, Carson should be cheaper than almost any other prospect with his level of potential opportunity next year. Get him while you still can.

Alex Collins:

One of the more unlikely breakout candidates you’ll find (even among this group of underdogs), Collins has overcome early fumbling issues to become the unquestioned starter in Baltimore. His YPC on the year is an impressive 5.0 and he has the vision to spot gaps in the defense that only exist for a fraction of a second. Savvy owners looking to buy might point to his low YPC the past few weeks, but heavy volume (averaging 19.3 touches-per-game over that period) could have his owners less willing to sell him than some of the other targets on this list. Still, Collins is undoubtedly trending up and looks like the Ravens RB of the future, so put some feelers out and see if his owner in your league is a believer. If they aren’t (or if they simply don’t pay enough attention to be aware of Collins’ rise to prominence), take advantage.

Kenneth Dixon:

If it seems strange to list Dixon immediately after his presumed 2018 competition in Collins, it is because I believe there are only two possible outcomes for Dixon: either he looks so indisputably good in the offseason that he takes his job back (unlikely but not impossible), or he goes elsewhere and competes for a starting job (which he could very feasibly attain; when he has been on the field he has looked extremely solid). His injuries and off-the-field issues mean he would not command much in the way of salary and that almost anyone could afford him, which means a multitude of possibilities- some of which could be very favorable from a fantasy perspective. If you buy Dixon you do so knowing that he could quickly become worthless, but since his current price is roughly nothing he is a solid lottery ticket for any manager with a roster spot to spare.

Corey Clement:

The Eagles offense is a juggernaut on the rise. Although Jay Ajayi seems to have control of the lead job in Philly and Blount will steal some goal-line touches for now, the latter is getting up there in years and the former has recurring knee issues. Neither is particularly adept at catching passes, either, and Clement could potentially take over that role. In the absence of Darren Sproles, he has some utility as a flex right now and has the potential to be a huge beneficiary of circumstance in the next few years. Blount will depart or retire eventually and Ajayi has the looming knee, so it is not unlikely that Clement could find himself at the top of the Eagles depth chart at some point. He has shown flashes of talent that lead me to believe he would thrive in that role, and at his current price he is more than worth the investment.

Matt Breida:

The (sizable) contingent of fantasy owners who don’t trust the health of Carlos Hyde have been ringing the bell for Breida since the start of the season, but thus far he has yet to see enough of the field to make an impact. All the better for those of us who are buying. It is likely that Hyde will depart in free agency next year, giving Breida a far more open shot at the starting job. Even if Hyde stays, history tells us it’s unlikely he makes it through another stretch this long without health issues that would also open the door for Breida. With a 4.2 YPC despite playing for an anemic offense, Breida has the talent necessary to take advantage of opportunity if it is given, and the odds of that happening next season seem friendly to me. Buy now while he is still a nobody.

Marlon Mack:

Held back by the presence of the ageless Frank Gore as well as an abysmal offense in general, Mack has been prevented from breaking out and taking over the Colts backfield so far this year. However, even Gore has to slow down eventually and Mack has already shown flashes that indicate he has the skill to succeed in the NFL. It is also worth noting that his YPC of 3.7, while not impressive, is higher than the 3.5 of Gore (and is largely the product of godawful blocking from the joke that the Colts call an offensive line). The Colts have far too many needs to invest highly at RB in the draft, so look for Mack to be the primary beneficiary in terms of value when Gore retires. Buy before that happens and reap the profits.

And that’s it for the running backs! For part 2 and my favorite WR bargains, click here.