Dynasty Rankings – Getting prepared and initial thoughts
Akin to the current trend of leagues adopting “PPR” as the preferred format for Fantasy Football, leagues are also trending towards adopting the dynasty/keeper aspect more frequently as well. The appeal (after all), is obvious – it rewards owners for selecting players during their draft who outperform their expected value. Participants who go the extra mile to create their own rankings and select sleepers who come through reap the benefits of not only the player’s breakout season, but those afterwards as well.
When discussing dynasty leagues and player rankings, it is important to not lose sight of the present though. Sure, drafting a team entirely compromised of rookie players and sleeper picks may generate a lot of draft room discussion, but don’t lose the mentality of “winning now”. A common misconception that I see in this sort of format is owners punting a season since they don’t feel that they can contend, given their current roster construction. Ideally a team in a dynasty setting will have a healthy mix of rookies and veteran talent, so that way the owner is prepared for both short and long-term success. Drafting an unsexy name like Eric Decker or Larry Fitzgerald may not generate a lot of compliments initially, but I’ll take a well-balanced roster which puts up consistent points over a “boom or bust” one any day of the week.
Recently I compiled my dynasty rankings for Football Diehards, which our subscribers can find on the site. My rankings were based on a number of variables, such as:
1. Inherent talent of the player
2. Supporting cast on the player’s team
4. Current health and injury history
5. Expected role on the depth chart
6. Offensive philosophy of the coach
While those six factors may not seem like much to consider, taking them all into consideration for a large player pool is a challenging endeavor. As an example, when considering which quarterback should be ranked fourth or fifth between Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger, I needed to think about the health of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and the fact that Roethlisberger is seven years older. Yet despite those negative factors, Roethlisberger has demonstrated proven consistency when healthy, and has a much better surrounding lineup.
Below are several players which I wanted to discuss who are impacted either positively or negatively by the dynasty format.
Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars) – Entering the 2015 season, owners heard nothing but glowing reports coming out of Jaguars camp, stating that Bortles had taken several major steps forward in his development. The progress translated directly to the playing field for the highly-touted prospect out of UCF, as Bortles threw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns – a tremendous leap forward from his rookie numbers (2,908 and 11). While his completion percentage is still short of 60 percent and he did have too many turnovers (18 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles), there is tremendous upside to be found here. Bortles is just 24 years old, and has one of the best wideouts in the league in Allen Robinson. Julius Thomas will enter 2016 finally healthy, providing him with another elite red zone weapon, and Allen Hurns has fully recovered from offseason sports hernia surgery. The future is incredibly bright for Bortles, and I have him ranked eighth overall at the position. I’m buying in.
Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) – Some will look at my placement of Romo at the 16th spot and think it is too low, but consider the following factors. He is now 36 years old, and hasn’t played in all 16 games during a season since 2012. His passing yards (and yards per game) have declined steadily since 2012, and he is coming off of multiple surgeries to correct his weak collarbone. Romo recently told the media that he could possibly play for another five years, but the only way I see that happening is if he remains in bubble wrap. With Cowboys brass publically stating that they wished to trade up in the draft to acquire Paxton Lynch before settling with Dak Prescott, the writing is officially on the wall for Romo. This season is his last as a Fantasy-relevant option.
Jamaal Charles (Kansas City Chiefs) – Similar to Romo listed above, Charles has missed time in each f the past three seasons, including the majority of 2015. Yet his health wasn’t the reason for his ranking of ninth best amongst running backs on my list. Rather, it is the talent which accompanies him at the position that made him fall. In the offseason the Chiefs made a commitment to signing both Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware to multiple-year extensions, and both will eat into Charles’ total carries in 2016. West is expected to be the change-of-pace back, spelling Charles on drives and plays as needed, and should be considered the handcuff to own. While there hasn’t been an official report stating that the Chiefs will limit Charles’ touches this season, I would be shocked if he broke the 200 carry mark. His production is still elite, but I can’t rely on him to be my primary back.
Carlos Hyde (San Francisco 49ers) – The obvious topic of discussion in dynasty formats would be Ezekiel Elliott, but I wanted to review Hyde instead for multiple reasons, especially given the parallels between the two players. First and foremost, Hyde and Elliott were both projected as the top of their class entering the draft, and both went to teams that (at the time) had elite offensive lines. Both came from Ohio State, a program which is known for producing elite talent at the position, and entered the NFL from a pro-style offense. Hyde has been lost in the shuffle largely in part to his injury in 2015, but don’t be surprised to see him finish within the top six or seven at the position. New HC Chip Kelly has already remarked that he sees Hyde as a “complete three-down back”, and there is little surrounding talent on this team. Even if his YPC doesn’t eclipse 4.1 like last season, Hyde will be fed the ball a ton in this offense. Expect to see him start producing, and I’m a fan, given his current ADP.
Before I begin, I did want to quickly interject about my view of the tiers at the position. As a whole, the wide receiver pool of talent remains incredibly deep in 2016, led by four outstanding (and even better yet for dynasty leagues, young) receivers in Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins. The back end of the first ten players, although older, is still exceptional. Truth be told there isn’t a wide receiver who is older than age 30 on my rankings until we get to…
Brandon Marshall (New York Jets) – Although Marshall enters 2016 at 32 years old and has a ton of mileage on his body, don’t be so quick to assume that his decline is imminent. Remember how earlier I mentioned that in dynasty formats owners are quick to overlook older players? Case in point. Marshall finished 2015 with 109 receptions for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns – numbers which rank among the best of his illustrious career. The biggest question mark currently for Marshall isn’t his age, but rather who will man the quarterback helm for the Jets this year. Currently Geno Smith and Bryce Petty enter the season first and second on the depth chart, but it has been widely assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick will resign with the team shortly. If that is the case, Marshall would move up a few slots immediately in my rankings. He may not have the preseason buzz of Amari Cooper or Sammy Watkins, but don’t be surprised if he outproduces both, handily.
Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers) – I was listening to Sirius XM this morning, and there was a discussion going on as to which wide receiver had the ability to finish inside the top 10 at the position, despite being drafted outside the top 20. Benjamin would be my selection there. A focal part of the insane 2014 receiver draft class, owners may have forgotten just how good Benjamin was in his rookie season. Entering the year with question marks about his ability to learn the playbook and drops, Benjamin finished with 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. His widely publicized ACL tear last preseason cost him the entire year, but he is now back on track to be completely healthy for training camp, and immediately takes over the WR1 spot in Carolina. A 6’5 245 lb. monster, Benjamin has the ability to dominate smaller cornerbacks and be a massive threat in the red zone. I’m a huge believer in his talent, and think he will surprise many owners in 2016.
Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers) – Anyone want to take a guess the last time that Gates had more than 1,000 yards in a season? Try 2009. Yeesh. The writing is on the wall for 2016 to be one of the last of Gates Hall of Fame career for a number of reasons. First, he’s 35 years old, and suffers through each season with a host of lower body injuries in his feet, hips and knees. Second, the Chargers opted to draft Hunter Henry with the No. 35 overall pick of this year’s draft, by far and away the earliest at the position. While Gates will still dominate red-zone targets and playing time, don’t be surprised to see a transition between the two players, especially if the team isn’t contending. Gates barely makes it within my top 15 at the position.
Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles) - The Eagles offense made plenty of headlines in the offseason, between trading up for the No. 2 overall pick and selecting Carson Wentz, to Sam Bradford’s public hissy fit. Sure, other owners are going to demote Ertz based upon question marks at the quarterback position, but don’t be so fast to write him off. Bradford expects to be the opening day starter, and it was obvious to anyone that Ertz was his favorite target down the stretch in 2015 – he caught 35 passes for 450 yards in the final four games of the season. Even if Bradford is replaced by Wentz, tight ends are typically considered a rookie quarterback’s best friend, providing a safety net down the field for them to work with. Ertz is an elite talent, and is still just 25 years old. I have him ranked 5th at the position.