Welcome to fantasy football championship week. For those of us lucky enough to be playing for the title it’s one of the most stressful, anxious, and exhilarating weeks of the year. For those of us that have been eliminated, it’s a week full of depression and emptiness. You should take your due time to mourn the season lost, but at some point sooner than later you need to start looking to the future.
If you play in a keeper league, you can use this week to get a huge leg up on the competition for next season. Your league waiver wire is likely riddled with players that could be top fantasy options eight short months from now. I’ve played in some keeper leagues for several consecutive years (some folks just aren’t ready to dive into dynasty) and any year that I’m eliminated from prize contention, I use week 16 to set my eyes on the future.
Rules dictating how many keepers you’re allowed and what you have to sacrifice to keep them can vary wildly from league to league, so keep that in mind when considering the players I’m about to mention. It’s also vital that you don’t compromise your league’s championship in the process.
For instance, don’t drop a perfectly startable running back, Jamaal Williams this week for example, to get one of these players if an owner in your league’s championship is in desperate need of a running back fill-in. Keeping all of this in mind, here are some players you might want to grab and stash for next year.
Le’Veon Bell: This is probably the most obvious option. Once Bell decided he wasn’t going to show up this year the owner in your league probably cut him, and with good reason. Bell will be the biggest free agent to move this offseason, and whoever pays for him is going to feature him in their offense. He’s shown in the past that he has the potential to be the top scoring fantasy player for a season, and now he’s coming off of a full year of rest. There’s a good chance you can scoop him up and lock him in right now as a keeper for next season.
Jerick McKinnon: McKinnon was the hot free agent running back signing of 2018, and everything was looking good for his first year in San Francisco before tearing his ACL just before the season started. The good news about the injury, if that’s possible, is that it happened early enough in the season that he should be ready to go for the beginning of 2019.
He’s an elite athlete that should be able to recover favorably from the injury. As we’ve seen with Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson Jr., running backs are set up to succeed in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. McKinnon could return as an RB1 in 2019.
D’Onta Foreman: It feels so long ago when Foreman was so explosively making a name for himself in the Texans backfield, it can be easy to forget about him. He suffered a torn Achilles in week 10 of the 2017 season on a 34-yard touchdown run. Lamar Miller has had a solid season in 2018, but nobody would be shocked if the Texans chose to move on next season. Foreman may be active for the last two weeks of the regular season, so you may get a preview of him in the Texans offense to end the season.
Derrius Guice: Guice is the biggest risk on this list, but could also prove to be the biggest reward. It was recently revealed that after the surgery to repair his torn ACL, he suffered infections and had to undergo three additional procedures to clean it up. The Redskins can’t be expected to resign and rely on a 34-year old Adrian Peterson next season, so the highly touted Guice could be set up for a heavy workload if healthy.
Cooper Kupp: It can be easy to forget that Kupp scored six touchdowns in the seven games he played before tearing his ACL in the eighth. With the timing of the injury there’s no guarantee that he’s ready to go in week one, but if you’re in a PPR league and know that there won’t be many options at receiver in next year’s draft he may be worth the risk if you can lock him up now for next season.
A.J. Green: This might be a long shot since most A.J. Green owners probably understood the value of keeping him for next season, but it’s worth taking a look. There’s a chance the Green owner had to dump him for the final playoff push. Green still has some tread on the tires, and the Bengals offense should be better next season with a healthy Andy Dalton back to throw him the ball.
Christian Kirk: It’s been a rough year for the offense in Arizona, but Kirk has been one of the few bright spots. Kirk broke his foot in week 13 but should be ready for the beginning of 2019. Josh Rosen should improve in his sophomore season and Larry Fitzgerald, if he returns, will be another year older, opening the door for a breakout season by Kirk.
Hunter Henry: If the 2018 season has taught us anything, it’s that reliable fantasy tight ends are becoming a rare commodity in the NFL. Getting one locked up for next season can give you a huge advantage, and Henry has the potential to be one. The Chargers tight end is another player that you might get a sneak peek of, as he’s now eligible to return from injured reserve after tearing his ACL early in the offseason. Henry could be the biggest fantasy game-changer on this list.
Mike Gesicki: Gesicki is no sure thing, but given the state of tight ends, he might be worth the chance. He was a disappointment this season after dominating the pre-draft combine and being drafted by Miami in the second round. Tight ends historically tend to struggle early in their careers, so it wouldn’t be shocking for him to have a breakout season in 2019.
Joe Flacco: You probably don’t need to consider Flacco unless your keeper league is a deep superflex or two-quarterback league. With Baltimore moving on to their first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson, Flacco will likely be joining a new team next year. He is still talented enough to start in the NFL and should get that chance again next season. If quarterback depth is hard to come by in your league, he’s worth the add.
Teddy Bridgewater: Again, we’re talking about deep leagues here where quarterbacks are at a premium. Bridgewater could be the Cinderella story of 2019. After battling back from his gruesome knee injury in 2016, Bridgewater has looked great during the preseason with the Jets and his small sample size backing up Drew Brees. He’ll be a free-agent in 2019 and will get the chance to compete for a starting job, so he’s worth taking a shot with if you know you’ll be needing quarterback help.
I hope this helps rejuvenate those of you in keeper leagues that don’t have anything to play for this week. Adding some of these players now gives you something to keep an eye on once the fantasy season is officially over and should give you hope for next year. Let me know on Twitter @aalarson if you’re able to add any of these players in the last week of the fantasy season, or if you think there are any glaring omissions from my list.