Dynasty leagues are won in December, but the foundation is built in January. The period immediately following the NFL regular season is my favorite time to buy players that I’m confident will either increase in value over the course of the off-season or rebound in performance the following season.
The best way to identify these players is to ask:
- Which players are free agents likely to find better opportunity elsewhere?
- Which players will benefit from a teammate’s departure in free agency?
- Which players are being valued below their positional finish?
- Which players are coming off of injury and going under the radar?
- Which players are coming off of poor seasons but have a history of elite production?
Identifying and buying these players now is the key to fantasy football glory 11 months from now.
David Johnson is perceived as one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2018. After being drafted in most redraft & best ball leagues as the RB3 and 1.03, he finished as the RB9. While he certainly didn’t kill your team, it was a far cry from his dominant 2016 season.
This poor season has dropped his DLF (dynasty league football) ADP (average draft position) from 1.03 overall and RB2 last September down to 2.05 and RB9 in January. If you’re a DJ owner in dynasty, there’s no reason to panic. If you don’t have DJ, trade for him immediately.
Johnson amassed 308 touches on the year, the 5th most behind Zeke, Barkley, McCaffrey, and Gurley. His share of team touches was dominant, accounting for 48.2% of the Cardinals touches, narrowly beating out Zeke’s 47.9% touch share and Barkley’s 47.8% touch share for the league lead. But while DJ’s volume was elite, he was mostly running into brick walls with an offensive line graded 32nd by Pro Football Focus:
(Next Gen Stats)
His receiving usage was similarly disgusting. With Mike McCoy as the offensive coordinator from weeks 1-7, the Cardinals opted to ignore Johnson in the passing game to the tune of 4.3 targets per game. With Byron Leftwich as the offensive coordinator, the Cardinals opted to utilize David Johnson like this:
(Next Gen Stats)
While that graphic may be slightly misleading (DJ had a handful of legit receiving games under Leftwich), the point remains the same. Offensive line play and poor coaching destroyed a supremely talented player’s fantasy potential following dominant seasons in the past. Sound familiar?
David Johnson 2018 = Todd Gurley 2016
YPC: 3.6 vs. 3.2
Carries: 241 vs. 278
Receptions: 47 vs. 43
Finish: RB9 vs. RB15
Situations can change very quickly. Coaching and O-line play killed them both.
When the volume and talent were there but the efficiency wasn’t: Time to buy
— Ryan (@DFF_RyanB) December 26, 2018
With a young offensive mastermind in Kliff Kingsbury at the helm, the Cardinals offense is only going up in 2019. Buy David Johnson before it is too late and watch him dominate the NFL next season.
Jalen Richard just had the quietest 68 catch season for a running back that I’ve ever seen. While he was barely used as a runner last year despite a career 5.26 yards per carry, Richard was heavily used a receiver. His 81 targets and 68 receptions were the 7th most among RBs, while his 607 receiving yards were the 6th most.
Jon Gruden has a demonstrated affinity for him, stating that he “might be the MVP of [the Raiders]” and “could run for 1,000 yards and catch for 1,000 yards someday. He is tough, hard to tackle. And he can line up in the slot or outside”. While Gruden might have just said those things because he likes hearing himself talk, it’s clear that Gruden values Richard and his receiving ability.
Richard is an unrestricted free agent this off-season, but I fully expect the Raiders to retain his services. As a team likely to be horrible once again, Richard should have plenty of opportunities to rack up receptions while the Raiders trail in games. With Doug Martin a free agent and Marshawn Lynch probably retiring, Richard likely garners more carries next season and might even find himself as the lead back of the Raiders in 2019.
With a January DLF ADP of 14.07 and RB58, he is my pick to exceed expectations the most among all RBs next season. Buy now and enjoy 70 receptions and RB2 production at an RB5 price.
If you’ve followed me on Twitter, you likely know my thoughts on the Damien Williams situation as I’ve tweeted about it constantly:
Damien Williams is a screaming buy to me the more I think about it.
1. Dual receiving/rushing ability
2. Absolutely smashed with opportunity
3. Rewarded with $8m contract
4. Chiefs have $42m in cap space with holes elsewhere. Only 9 draft picks.
Reid has found his answer at RB
— Ryan (@DFF_RyanB) January 1, 2019
The most likely scenario from the start was his value would shoot up following a big island game playoff performance, which is exactly what just happened. Unfortunately, that means he may not be as cheap as he was a week ago.
However, according to many on twitter, Andy Reid has watched Damien Williams dominate over the past 2 months, subsequently signed him to a 2-year $8m contract, and still wants to use an early round draft pick on a rookie RB in what is widely seen as a weak RB class. People are still doubting Williams and telling me he isn’t worth a 2019 2nd round rookie pick in dynasty, somehow.
At a January DLF ADP of RB30, there might not be an easier buy in dynasty right now. If Williams keeps the lead back job, he’s a top 8 RB in 2019 at least. The Chiefs lead RB each week combined for 318 points on the year, good for RB6 overall in 2018. Damien Williams himself has averaged 24.15 points in his 4-game run as the Chiefs lead back (week 15-divisional round), which would’ve placed him as the RB2 overall in points per game behind Todd Gurley this past season.
While the sample size of success for Williams is small, the sample size of success for Chiefs RBs isn’t. Every RB in that offense has produced, and Andy Reid has a fantastic track record of running back production:
Nobody around his price holds near the upside, and at an RB30 cost, he isn’t killing your team if he fades into nothingness. It is the perfect low risk, massive league-winning reward scenario. Buy Damien Williams now while there are still doubters and watch as his price continues to astronomically increase.
I don’t have much to say about Freeman that I haven’t said before. All of that is even more applicable now, so instead of giving you a brief paragraph on why he is a screaming buy, I encourage you to read that article I wrote about him from last off-season linked above.
Thanks for reading the second part of my January dynasty buy series. Be on the lookout for my articles on WRs and TE buys over the coming weeks, and be sure to follow me on twitter @DFF_RyanB