Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season is finally upon us, but if you play in dynasty leagues like I do, you’ve been living and breathing fantasy football for weeks…err, months. Maybe even years.
The key to success in dynasty leagues is exploiting and maximizing value. Think of your dynasty roster as your stock portfolio. Of course, you want to see short-term success, but it’s really all about the long-term domination.
This year, I’ll be bringing you a weekly column focused on player value in dynasty leagues, including players I will be looking to buy or sell each week, along with a few waiver-wire targets. Before that begins, however, let’s begin with a few players I project to gain or lose dynasty value during the 2018 season.
Note: All dynasty average draft position (ADP) data discussed here comes from Safe Leagues, including more than 40 actual dynasty startup drafts from throughout the offseason.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears (ADP 29)
After a huge sophomore season in 2015, Robinson reached the first round of the majority of dynasty startup drafts, only to lose value after a slightly disappointing 2016 and last year’s season-ending injury.
Now, Robinson is healthy and a key part of what is expected to be a much better offense than he ever played in as part of the Jaguars. Chicago head coach Matt Nagy brings an offensive philosophy that led to a huge season for the Chiefs in 2017, and many expect the Bears to be this year’s version of the Rams a year ago — the league’s top scoring team thanks in large part to a coaching change.
Robinson is already being viewed as a top dynasty asset, coming off the board in the third round, but with multiple star receivers currently being drafted ahead of ARob and most of those approaching 30 years old, there will be an opportunity for Robinson to jump up the board by next offseason.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos (ADP 87.6)
Rookies are almost always a good bet to grow their dynasty value in the first 18 months of their NFL career. A study I conducted a couple of years ago showed that the majority of players drafted in the first three rounds increased their dynasty value by the end of their rookie season, regardless of their Year 1 production.
We know Sutton is expected to be the third option in the Denver offense behind veterans Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but we also know the team has almost no other option in the receiving game outside of this trio of wideouts. Sutton has already impressed during camp and pre-season action, and what was expected to be a “redshirt” season for the former SMU star might be fast-tracked.
Sutton has been an easy pick in the eighth-round range, and that ADP should climb by next offseason, perhaps as high as the third round if Sutton earns a larger role than we expect or there is an unfortunate injury.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (ADP 171)
Again, if you’re looking for assets that are likely to ascend in value, rookies are always a safe bet.
Twenty-two-year-old wide receivers are a safe bet. Drew Brees pass-catchers are a great bet. Put all of those together and you have Smith, the Saints’ third-rounder in this year’s NFL draft.
Michael Thomas is firmly entrenched as Brees’ top option, but Smith could certainly eclipse Ted Ginn and Cameron Meredith on the pass-catcher depth chart. If Smith does overcome the odds and become New Orleans’ WR2, he could be in store for a 100-plus spot jump in dynasty APD, where he currently sits at 171 overall.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP 5.8)
In some ways, it is a surprise Bell has remained inside the first round of dynasty startup drafts. Not only is he in the first round, but rather safely so, sporting a 5.8 ADP.
We essentially know this will be Bell’s final season with the Steelers, and, as of this writing, Bell has yet to report to the team. That’s enough to worry some dynasty owners that Bell might be pushing the issue further than he has in past years.
Along with Bell’s likely departure, the other presumption is that the Steelers will run Bell into the ground, knowing he’ll be suiting up for another team in 2019. With his career touches mounting, plus the fact that he’ll likely be with a new team and offense, dynasty players will not be confident to spend a first-round pick on Bell next offseason.
Expect Bell to stick in the top-20 range, but he’s in for a fall.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 85.7)
When the Colts let veteran Frank Gore walk as a free agent and then didn’t spend an early draft pick or pursue a top free agent back, second-year back Marlon Mack saw his value skyrocket. He was the presumed starter, and it appeared as if he wouldn’t have much competition.
The Colts did use late-round picks on rookie backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, and each has shown flashes during training camp. The real equalizer was Mack’s hamstring injury, which cost him the majority of preseason and now has him in danger of missing Week 1.
Wilkins is the favorite to take over the starting role if Mack can’t go, and there’s an easy path for him to retain that role. Mack simply doesn’t belong inside the top 100 and won’t be there much longer.
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Devontae Booker, RB, Denver Broncos (ADP 148.9)
Mack’s experience and value adjustment this offseason mirrors that of Booker, who was viewed as a contender to earn the starting job following the release of veteran C.J. Anderson.
Even after the Broncos drafted Royce Freeman, who sports massive college production, Booker fans held strong. Once camp began, Booker reminded fans, fantasy players and, most importantly, the Denver coaching staff, that he simply wasn’t good enough to be a lead back.
With Week 1 upon us, Freeman has been named the starter for Denver’s opening matchup against the Seahawks. While Booker’s ADP of 148.9 does not represent a major investment, I still expect his value to continue to tumble as Freeman dominates the backfield touches.