By Michael James
As fantasy football has grown in popularity, players are now more committed than ever. Keeper and dynasty leagues are gaining popularity as players are becoming more and more committed to leagues beyond just one season.
For those who are new to the Keeper or Dynasty format, there are many variations, but the concept is the same. You aren’t just playing for 2017, you now must turn an eye toward the 2018 season and beyond. Teams are now allowed to keep players for multiple seasons, much like how real sports franchises work. This means you cannot exclusively think about just one week, or just one season. The investments you make now can and will pay off when draft season rolls around in 2018.
While most leagues do not have to declare keepers until August or September, you need to factor in that there might be a shark in your league looking to pick up a player you drop with the aim of rostering them for the long term.
[sc name=”Google Inline Ad”]
A great example of this would be Colts RB Marlon Mack. Mack is owned in a decent number of leagues (over 36% in the ESPN leagues currently) but is a good example of a player that could be poised for a breakout in 2018. With the Colts most likely giving up on this season with star QB Andrew luck on IR, they are more than happy to trot out veteran RB Frank Gore for the remainder of the lost season. That might not be the case next year however. The Colts have some offensive line issues to address in the offseason, and if they do, Mack could be ready to break out in 2018 if given a shot at a starting role. He currently serves as a change of pace and passing down back, but has the talent to be a start on a potentially high-powered Colts offense in the 2018 season.
There is a great deal of speculation when trying to add players for a following year, and several variables that can shift in an instant, but that is how these types of leagues are won, by taking calculated risks for a long-term play. Some are talented players waiting for an opportunity, and some were injured prior to the season and have become an afterthought.
Now there are two ways to go about this. You can wait until your season is over (Barring a championship run) and look to see if some of these players are available. I would recommend this strategy to teams that will most likely make the playoffs, as you do not have to sacrifice valuable depth players to do so.
But if your record stands at 0-9, 1-8, 2-7 or 3-6 currently, you may want to start adding players that could break out later this season or be snapped up by other savvy owners in the interim. Here are some of those players to target:
Dede Westbrook (JAX) — The extremely talented rookie receiver was the best in all of college football last year and showed flashes of brilliance in the preseason but has sat out the first 9 games of this season recovering from a surgery on a core muscle. At only 5-foot – Westbrook has elite speed, elusiveness, and terrific hands and is not afraid to work in the middle of the field. He reminds me a lot of Tyreek Hill, a player that can score anytime the ball is thrown his way. Watch for a breakout at some point down the stretch as the Jacksonville offense has been looking for a playmaker in the receiving game all season long. (Side note: I am not worried about an Allen Robinson return next year as Robinson and Westbrook have different skill sets.)
Kenneth Dixon (BAL) — There is a big opportunity for Kenneth Dixon in Baltimore if he can get completely healthy this offseason after the sophomore was placed on IR after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Meniscus. When given the opportunity in his rookie season, Dixon was able to average 4.3 YPC on 88 carries, adding two scores as a rookie. He also can catch the ball out of the backfield and was a frequent target of “king of the check down”, Joe Flacco. This team has been searching for an answer at the running back position since the departure of Ray Rice and have not been inundated with great options. Buck Allen, Alex Collins, Terrance West and Danny Woodhead have all seen reps for the Ravens this year, but all are nothing more than middling talent. A healthy Dixon should have a great opportunity next year to take over as an all-purpose back that the Ravens have been craving for years.
Tyler Eifert (CIN) — The often-inured tight end has once again been placed on IR but the talent and role in that offense are undeniable. The Bengals desperately need a second receiving option behind A.J. Green, and especially in the red-zone. We have seen rookie Tyler Kroft have some success this season, but he is nowhere near the athlete Eifert is. He is risky addition, but could pay dividends if healthy heading into the 2018 season.
Julian Edelman (NE) — As with Kenneth Dixon, Edelman was lost before he had the chance to be drafted in most leagues, and is just sitting out on the waiver wire in a vast majority of leagues. This is more of an addition for a keeper league as he would only cost a late round pick to keep for a player that will have a much higher ADP if he is completely healthy heading into next season. With over a year to recover from an ACL tear, Edelman should be a high draft pick in PPR formats for the 2018 season. He has been someone I am targeting and stashing in IR slots across PPR leagues.
George Kittle (SF) — A talented rookie TE has had to deal with a revolving door of QBs this season including Brian Hoyer, C.J. Bethard and more than likely, Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite inconsistent QB play, Kittle has flashed good athleticism and speed in his rookie campaign. There are plenty of talented rookie tight ends out there but not with the opportunity that Kittle will have playing in a (hopefully) much improved offense next season. Working in a Kyle Shannahan offense that is lacking in pass catchers, Kittle could be the Gronk to Jimmy Garrapolo’s Tom Brady in the 2018 season.
Chris Godwin (TB) — The rookie out of Penn State hasn’t seen much of the field this season behind Mike Evans and Desean Jackson, but has the potential going forward to be an exciting NFL receiver. Jameis Winston has struggled with shoulder injuries and poor offensive line play so far this season and it does not look to be getting any better. Godwin may not have much of a role this season but is simply a much better player than current slot receiver Adam Humphries. With only an aging and often banged up Desean Jackson and Humphries ahead of him in the pecking order, Godwin could end up carving out a No. 2 receiving role sooner rather than later in Tampa.
Adam Shaheen (CHI) — Shaheen has yet to see much playing time in Chicago, but is likely going to be involved as Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago offense find their identity moving forward. Serving as primarily a No. 3 blocking tight end, Shaheen will see some more looks as a pass-catcher down the stretch after Zach Miller suffered a gruesome and potentially career-ending injury against the Saints in Week 8. Dion Sims has committed a slew of bad drops this season and more than likely will take a backseat to the rookie at some point. Shaheen Stands at 6-foot-6 and was a former basketball player like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas. With the Bears lacking pass catching talent, I believe the athletic tight end will eventually develop into Mitch Trubisky’s safety valve and be a valuable fantasy asset in 2018.
It is important to note that different league formats are going to change players value pending on how many players a team can retain.