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Thursday, 7 May 2015

Fantasy Football: Five Dynasty Players Currently Being Undervalued

Ryan Mathews, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, is a nice buy-low target in dynasty leaguesOne of the beautiful things about dynasty leagues is that there is never truly an offseason. The work is never-ending, with one season swiftly rolling into the next.

Regardless of how the 2014 season went, there is work to do. Are you rebuilding, stockpiling draft picks and young talent? Are you already a powerhouse, possibly looking to sell high on a player to replenish your depth? Or maybe you feel like you’re just a couple vital moves -- trading a draft pick or young player away for a win-now piece -- away from having a championship-caliber squad.

No matter where you are, in a dynasty league, there is no time to stand still.

In most leagues, trading is open for a majority of the year, including the spring and summer months, when a player's value can be volatile.

Mark Ingram, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Stewart, C.J. Anderson, Steve Smith, Golden Tate and Brandon LaFell all had productive -- if not outstanding -- seasons in 2014, and all of them could have been had for very little at this time a year ago.

Here are five guys who, for various reasons, are being undervalued in dynasty formats. Some of them are talented players in new locations. Others are established players who are performing a little better than what is being perceived. Either way, here are some players to consider pursuing as we start preparing for 2015.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

A year ago, Allen, 23, was a top-shelf dynasty commodity. A second-year receiver coming off a 1,046-yard, eight-touchdown rookie campaign was gold, going in the second or third round in dynasty startups.

Well, in terms of fantasy production, Allen took a step back in 2014. Before missing Week 16 with an injury, he was on pace for 88 grabs and 895 yards on 8.6 targets per game. Not bad for a second-year player, but not what owners were expecting.

As a second-year wideout, Allen was targeted 16 more times than he was as a rookie,and he actually caught six more balls in 2014. The volume and opportunity were still there.

What was the biggest difference in his two campaigns? Touchdowns and a lack of big plays.

His yards-per-catch numbers dropped from 14.7 to 10.2. That led his yards per game to dip from 69.7 to a lowly 55.9. After finding the end zone eight times as a rookie, he only scored four times a year ago.

Touchdowns can vary for even the best receivers and red-zone targets. Calvin Johnson, possibly a computer-created red-zone weapon, has touchdown totals of 16, five, 12 and eight over the past four seasons. The variance isn't due to injury, either, as Megatron only missed five games in that four-year stretch.

All in all, this is an opportunity to buy low on Allen, a young receiver who is getting targeted heavily in a solid offense. He's even more valuable in points per reception leagues. Plus, Antonio Gates has to slow down at some point (right?), so Allen will have a chance to become the top option for Philip Rivers.

C.J Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints

Spiller has a black eye in fantasy, having burned many owners over the years. When looking for an opportunity to buy low on talented players, that's the kind of guy that's worth gambling on.

He has two things working for him that should make him attractive: he's extremely talented and his value is pretty darn depleted.

The former Clemson Tiger has always had mouth-watering ability to make plays when put in space. With the Buffalo Bills, he didn't get many chances to do that. Now, after an offseason move to New Orleans, Spiller will team up with, for the first time in his career, a good quarterback and an offensive guru. Sean Payton is a master at taking advantage of his players' abilities, and Drew Brees is the genius pulling the strings.

It seems like a decade ago, but it was just 2012 when Spiller teased the fantasy world with a monster season. He totaled 1,703 total yards and eight scores, seemingly on his way to becoming a fantasy star with his electric open-field ability and dual-threat skills. He was still decent in 2013 (1,102 total yards) but only reached the end zone twice.

There's no sugarcoating it: last season was a nightmare for Spiller. He didn't put up numbers early on, and then a broken collarbone shelved him for two months, effectively ending his season.

New Orleans appears to be in the midst of a change in offensive philosophy. Tight end Jimmy Graham is gone, as is wideout Kenny Stills and pass-catching back Pierre Thomas. The Saints spent a first-round pick on tackle Andrus Peat, who is rated as a superb run blocker, brought in center Max Unger (in the Graham deal) and gave running back Mark Ingram a new four-year deal.

I'm not sure how Spiller fits in with what the Saints will be doing on offense in 2015, mostly because I don't know what the Saints will be doing on offense in 2015. Aside from Ingram, Spiller will be competing for touches with Khiry Robinson, but there are rumors swirling about a possible trade of Robinson to Dallas.

At the minimum, we know that Peyton likes Spiller, as evidenced by the fact they signed him in free agency, and Spiller has talent. I trust Peyton, one of the league's best offensive minds, to be able to do what the Buffalo coaches never did consistently: get Spiller the ball in space and unleash that talent.

Even if you don’t believe in Spiller at all, he could provide value as someone you flip as soon as he has a string of good showings.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s easy to become infatuated with youth in dynasty formats, but there’s certainly a place for productive veterans, even if their careers are winding down. Often times, players who fit that billing are some of the most undervalued assets in dynasty, with owners willing to ship out the old, boring player for a shiny new toy.

Jackson is no longer the guy you brag about owning, yet he still produced at a fairly high level a year ago. He racked up his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, even with the Buccaneers’ train-wreck quarterback. No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston will probably struggle early, like most rookie quarterback, but I don't think he'll be worse than Josh McCown or Mike Glennon.

Rookie Mike Evans stole a lot of the headlines in Tampa Bay, but Jackson was still a big part of the Bucs' offense. Jackson was targeted at least nine times in 10 of his 16 games. He actually had two more receptions (70) than did Evans (68) for just 49 fewer yards (1,002 to 1,051).

The only thing holding Jackson back is touchdowns, where Evans held a commanding 12-2 edge. Like I said earlier, touchdowns can be random and fickle. Jackson has been a solid red-zone target throughout his career, getting at least seven scores in each of the previous three years. Some of his two-touchdown season can be attributed to plain old bad luck.

Jackson, 32, finished 2014 as the 33rd-best receiver, a low-end WR3, in points per reception leagues. Again, nothing sexy but still productive. He can be counted on for much of the same this season. In dynasty, the asking price can't be much, and he can provide a nice return, especially if last year's touchdown luck evens out.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Much like Spiller, Mathews has been a perennial fantasy disappointment for most of his career, and as a result, his value is incredibly low for a 27-year-old running back who was a first-round pick in 2010.

Now in Philadelphia after leaving San Diego in free agency this offseason, Mathews -- owner of two 1,000-yard campaigns, most recently in 2013 -- is a backup to 2014 breakout stud DeMarco Murray.

There's no denying Murray's greatness last season, but he did carry the ball an astounding 392 times with 52 additional touches coming on receptions. Before last year, Murray was known as a fragile player, having never played a full 16-game season and missing 11 games over his first three years.

Mathews is a Murray injury away from being the lead dog in a run-heavy, high-scoring offense. Chip Kelly and the Eagles ranked third in points per game a year ago while totaling the seventh-most rushing attempts.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

The 2014 crop of rookie wide receivers was legendary. Landry was one of the most consistent producers of the group, and he's also one of the most underappreciated.

Landry, taken in the second round by the Dolphins, finished his rookie season at the No. 31 receiver in points per reception leagues. Working primarily out of the slot, he amassed 758 yards on a team-high 84 grabs, hauling in 75.7 percent of his targets and becoming a reliable intermediate target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.  

Miami parted with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, their two outside receivers from last season. Kenny Stills, Jordan Cameron and draftee DeVante Parker join the fold, but both will be first-year players in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's scheme. Landry and running back Lamar Miller are the only players on the roster who were targeted more than 37 times in a Miami uniform last year.

It's not a stretch to say that Landry is Tannehill's No. 1 option. Other than Allen, it'll probably cost more to get Landry than anyone else on this list, but he could be a reliable WR2 for the foreseeable future.


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