News & Analysis

Roster cloggers: Dynasty options who are just taking up space

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Ameer Abdullah #21 of the Detroit Lions runs past a blocker during the second quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The great part about playing in dynasty leagues with deep rosters is the ability to stash your bench with your favorite players. Some of these late stashes are players that you have an inkling are destined to succeed in the league but may need some time to acclimate to the level of NFL play. These late stashes can also be combine “workout warriors,” advanced metric studs, or even handcuffs for your current starters if you’re so inclined.

However, through our eagerness to see the upside in these players, we can sometimes overlook what these players truly are — roster cloggers. How long can you wait for a speed freak like Keith Marshall to get an opportunity before he’s just burning a hole on your roster’s bench? Just how long are we mesmerized by Justin Hunter’s athleticism before you let him go? I’d rather be a bit early on selling a player rather than trying to make a move after their value has plummeted.

Here are five “roster cloggers” I believe would make sense to get rid of and try to trade away prior to this year’s draft. Not only will removing these players from your roster clear valuable bench space for incoming rookies, but you may be able to find some owners that still believe in a player’s talent and you can offload for a surprising haul.

Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Coming off the heels of a breakout year down the stretch in 2017, Cole will have a tough time replicating last year’s success. He’s on a run-first team and buried on the depth chart as the WR4. Last year’s success was largely due to injuries (Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee) thrusting him into a starting role. Lee was retained on a four-year, $34 million contract and the team acquired Donte Moncrief on a one-year deal. Cole isn’t leap-frogging to the top of this depth chart without any type of significant injury. He therefore likely won’t be seeing nearly as many targets as the 83 he saw in 2017. Playing on a run-first team (Jacksonville led the league in run-play percentage) backed by one of the league’s premiere defenses, should limit shootout potential and the need for Jacksonville to deploy many four-wide sets.

Suggested move: Cole was a fantastic midseason pickup last year, but I’d be looking to sell while the iron is still hot. Perhaps you can leverage Allen Hurns’ release into making this an ideal buy-now time for Cole for a late 2018 second/early 2018 third.

Jeremy Hill, RB, New England Patriots

This is probably a more ambitious move considering his new landing spot in New England, but it didn’t take long for Belichick to make last year’s bruiser pickup, Mike Gillislee, inactive for much of the year. It’s been a long time since Hill’s 2014 fantasy breakout (RB11) when he had the world enamored with his potential. Since then, he’s finished as the RB20, RB22, and RB102 (seven games played) while averaging 3.6 yards per carry during that three-year span. For a bigger back (233 pounds), Hill isn’t particularly nuanced at picking up short yardage on critical downs. Over the past three seasons combined, Hill has converted just 63.3 percent of his attempts on third and fourth downs when there are two yards or less to pick up. That rate is 40th-best out of the 65 running backs to have had at least 10 opportunities to convert such downs.

Suggested move: I’d be looking to use this move as a way to get Hill off any and all of my rosters. Hill offers a near-zero in the receiving game and it wouldn’t shock me to see him replicate Gillislee’s failure in Foxboro.

AJ McCarron, QB, Buffalo Bills

McCarron’s lack of interest drawn in free agency should be all you need to see that he isn’t valued quite as high as Hue Jackson thinks he’s worth. After sitting behind Andy Dalton for four years, McCarron was offered a two-year, $10 million deal by the Buffalo Bills. The length and the amount should tell you all you need to know that this is a short-term signing for the Bills. The Bills recently traded left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals in a move that jumped them up to the No.12 spot in this year’s draft. They have plenty of draft picks to package in a deal if they can find a willing partner with either the Giants (No. 2 pick) or Browns (No. 4). Best-case scenario for McCarron is that he’s able to fend off an early draft pick at quarterback and get a few starts in 2018 a la Mike Glennon prior to the rookie taking over.

Suggested move: The quarterback race at the top is heating up as the draft draws near, so I’d look to make a move quickly with selling McCarron. He likely only holds minimal value in Superflex/2QB leagues. Try packaging him with a late third-round pick to move up into the beginning of the third.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions

Unfortunately for Abdullah, the hype never followed his amazing rookie preseason. Abdullah was a workout warrior at the 2015 combine where he posted a 97th-percentile SPARQ score as one of the most athletic backs in a talented class. Between Injuries and splitting snaps in a shared backfield, Abdullah was never able to garner a workhorse role in Detroit. He posted a career-high in fantasy points last season, but that only netted him an RB40 finish. Abdullah is entering the final year of his rookie contract, but touches should be even more at a premium in 2018. Detroit signed LeGarrette Blount this offseason and re-signed Zach Zenner. Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, and Tion Green are also leftovers that saw playing time last year and could vie for looks. A new change of scenery in 2019 may be best for Abdullah, but the coaching staff’s insistence on limiting his snaps (reminiscent of an arbitrage Lamar Miller) suggests he’s probably best served in a committee.

Suggested move: Abdullah is still young and has enough draft pedigree where you can net a decent return. I’d try to package him with a high WR2/RB2 and move up a tier into low-end WR1/RB1 territory.

Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Last year, 65 tight ends had at least 100 snaps on passing downs where they ran a route. Hooper ranked 15th in this category, running 391 routes. Unfortunately for Hooper, he was targeted on only 15.9 percent of his routes run, ranking 36th among this subset of tight ends. Averaging just a tick over four targets per game, Hooper just wasn’t seeing enough volume to warrant starting him on your fantasy squads. His lack of scoring opportunities was particularly worrisome. He ranked 25th among all tight ends in red-zone target share with just 13.3 percent. Considering Atlanta finished top-five in red-zone trips per game (3.4), Hooper just may not be a red-zone mismatch like many of his peers. With the Falcons moving on from Taylor Gabriel, the Falcons could conceivably draft an outside receiver early in this year’s draft. If that were the case, we could see Hooper fall even further down the target totem pole.

Suggested move: While Hooper may be an effective chain mover, he isn’t a fantasy weapon I want to build my roster around. I’d be looking to package with a late 2018 third to move up in the draft for an early 2018 second.

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