News & Analysis

Dynasty Stock Watch: Veterans worthy of consideration

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 24: Wide receiver Rishard Matthews #18 of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball during a NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

Time is running out to make your move in dynasty leagues. You’re either a contender looking for that one last piece to win you a championship or you’re looking ahead at 2018 and acquiring as many young assets or picks you can get.

In the last edition of the Dynasty Stock Watch, the NFL’s trade deadline had come and gone. Not much has shifted when it comes to our recommendations from Week 9. Jimmy Garoppolo is still a buy for me as he has yet to take a snap for San Francisco. Jay Ajayi had a nice debut with Philadelphia with 77 yards on just eight carries and a touchdown, which just makes him an even better sell candidate. Kenyan Drake has put together two nice games since Ajayi was shipped out of Miami with 16 carries for 151 yards rushing while adding eight catches for 45 yards. Kelvin Benjamin continued to be Kelvin Benjamin with just three catches, his fifth such game this season with three or fewer — he’s still a sell candidate. And finally, the trade talk didn’t seem to affect Jarvis Landry, as he’s had a touchdown in each game since the deadline along with 11 catches for 74 yards for a very Landry-like 6.7 yards-per-reception. The touchdowns may have boosted his value a bit which means it’s an even better time to sell.

So, without further ado, let's see which players should be on the move before your league deadline hits. This month’s dynasty ADP courtesy of Dynasty League Football.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

(Current dynasty positional ADP: 14)

How Ryan is still valued this low baffles me. Since 2010 the Falcons quarterback has been a fantasy QB1 in six of seven seasons. In that same span he’s averaged 4,478 passing yards and 29 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. And to top it all off, he’s finished no lower than 11th in PFF’s grading among quarterbacks. All while playing under two different head coaches and four different offensive coordinators. In short, Ryan is really good and has been for a while and is, seemingly, coach-proof.

Now, there may be some disappointment this season, as Ryan has just two games with over 300 yards passing and none with more than two passing touchdowns. This while trying to follow up an MVP season with career-highs in yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38). But I would argue that this season is just a return to Earth and actually right in line with what Matt Ryan is. He’s averaging the same yards per game this year as he has over his career (263-265) and his touchdown rate is also nearly identical (4.3 percent this year, 4.7 for his career). He’s averaged a ninth-place finish among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring and currently sits at 14th but has thrown multiple touchdowns in his last three games and should improve upon that.

Verdict: Buy. If I’m a contender and don’t want to pay a premium for an Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees to make your playoff run, Ryan is a fine choice. He’s only 32 and still has Julio Jones for the foreseeable future.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

(ADP: 5)

Ever since entering the NFL in 2015, Gordon has had extremely high expectations. From being drafted in the first round of 2015 to entering an ideal situation for a running back with the Chargers, Gordon’s been projected as a top-10 dynasty running back his whole career. His rookie got off to a rocky start totaling just 833 total yards and no touchdowns. He was a great buy-low candidate as he roared back with nearly 1,000 rushing yards, 400 more through the air and a dozen scores. Luckily, his 2017 appears to be a continuation of his 2016 as he’s rushed for 553 yards, caught 250 more and scored eight times. So where do we go from here?

If you look at the team around Gordon, his numbers are actually more impressive. Despite his offensive lines ranking 28th and 27th in run blocking over 2016-2017, according to PFF, Gordon finished as fantasy’s eighth-ranked running back last year and is currently fifth this season. The Chargers also only ranked 22nd in rush attempts last year and rank 27th this year. Two reasons for Gordon’s success:

  • His bell-cow status up to this point. Gordon has 254 carries last year while the next closest Charger, Kenneth Farrow, had just 60. The same goes for this year as Gordon has 154 carries through nine games compared to the next highest total of 25 by Austin Ekeler.
  • He manages to force missed tackles more than most, ranking 11th this year among running backs after finishing 12th last year.

Verdict: Hold. Gordon’s been playing well despite having very little support from his offensive line, still managing to be a top-10 fantasy back. If the Chargers can improve just a little there, Gordon could justify his ADP and then some.

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

(ADP: 35)

Heading into the 2017 season, Powell was a popular name in dynasty leagues. He was coming off his first 1,000-total-yard season, a career-high 5.5 yards per carry on 131 rushes and, seemingly, had a clear cut path to significant carries. Surely, 32-year-old Matt Forte and his 3.7 yards per carry weren’t going to get in the way of Powell’s touches. But that’s exactly what’s happened as Powell, who is leading the team in carries at 93 rushes through nine games, but is closely followed by rookie Elijah McGuire with 69 and Forte with 57. Forte would have even more if not for missing two games to injury. It’s unfortunate too because Powell was having another productive season, rushing for 420 yards on 93 carries so far, good for 4.5 yards-per-carry. His fantasy point per snap of 0.33 is the same as other productive running backs like Le’Veon Bell, Carlos Hyde, and Christian McCaffrey.

Verdict: Sell. Powell currently ranks as fantasy’s 28th-highest-scoring running back, which is in line with his current dynasty ADP. That may be his ceiling in New York as they continue to deploy multiple running backs. Powell will also be 30 years old next season and in the last year of his contract. Not many 30-year-old running backs are successful in the NFL or fantasy with the possible exception of Powell’s current teammate, Forte. There’s just too many things to not like.

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

(ADP: 26)

After four seasons in Seattle, in which he increased his receiving yards every single year, Tate really broke out with Detroit in 2014, catching nearly 100 passes for over 1,300 yards. Since then, he’s in the top 10 in targets, receptions, and yards among all receivers and has been Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s top target since the sudden retirement of receiver Calvin Johnson. He also doesn’t show any signs of slowing down as Tate is again in the top 10 this season in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. So how long will the good times roll for Tate?

First, it helps that he has a coaching staff committed to the pass and a quarterback in Stafford that can pass it, finishing in the top-10 in pass attempts of each year Jim Caldwell’s been the Lions head coach, including this year. But volume is precisely what makes Tate so valuable in fantasy. For example, he ranks 112th out of 116th in aDOT this season, which means Stafford is not targeting him downfield, and he ranks just 75th out of the same 116 receivers in yards-per-reception. Short-pass work is a signature of Tate who finishing 110th out of 130 receivers in aDOT last year too.

Verdict: Sell. There’s a plethora of reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that Tate will be 30 next year and in the last year of his deal with the Lions. So whether he rides out the contract year or is cut to save $7 million for the Lions, Tate’s days in Detroit are numbered. There’s also the emergence of younger, cheaper receivers like Kenny Golladay and the fact that Tate just doesn’t go downfield. And God forbid the Lions make a coaching change while Tate is still there. The current game plan and the manufacturing of targets for Tate is the only reason he remains fantasy relevant.

Rishard Matthews, WR, Tennessee Titans

(ADP: 65)

Expectations were low for Matthews after he left Miami to sign with the Titans before last season. After all, he never managed more than 700 yards in a season over his four-year career to that point. But Matthews ended up securing the title of WR1 in Tennessee and performed as such, leading the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. His total of 945 yards and nine touchdowns was good enough for a 14th-place fantasy finish last season.

But Matthews got company this past April as the Titans used the fifth overall pick to draft an heir apparent, Corey Davis. The pick hasn’t made much noise because Davis has only appeared in three games this season due to injury. But, if it's anything like their last game this weekend, Matthews will be moving down the totem pole when it comes to priority in the Titans offense behind Davis and tight end Delanie Walker, both of whom finished ahead of Matthews in targets this week. So can Matthews’ stay relevant on your dynasty team?

Verdict: Sell. Using 2016 as a model when looking at how productive Titans players are in fantasy leagues, it doesn’t look good for Matthews. If we assume Davis takes over the top receiver mantle in Tennessee and Matthews slides to the WR2 role, that role doesn’t have a lot of fantasy value. Rookie Tajae Sharpe filled that role last year, totaling 41 catches for 522 yards and an 80th-place finish among receivers in fantasy scoring.

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