Four weeks into the NFL season and we’re starting to get a feel for the makeup of dynasty teams and the players that construct them. Listed below, are some players whose early season performance and perception make them good targets to go after in dynasty leagues. While this list isn’t necessarily geared toward rebuilding or contending, it does contain names of players who could return a positive return on investment sooner than later:
Carson Wentz burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2016, taking advantage of a weak opening schedule by compiling 769 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions over his first three games. The remainder of the 2016 season, though, showcased him falling back to earth, and he finished with an 11:14 touchdown-to-interception ratio after often appearing lost with his limited supporting cast. This offseason, the Eagles brought in playmakers to the wideout corps in Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, as well as a bruising force in the running game with LeGarrette Blount. The results for Wentz thus far have been up and down from play to play and game to game, but the fantasy outputs are starting to look like that of a player ready to establish himself in the QB1 tier. The passing volume remains, despite offseason coachspeak suggesting otherwise, as Wentz has thrown the ball 39, 46, 31, and 31 times through the first four weeks. Additionally, his yards per attempt is above 7.0 this year, after hovering around 6.0 in 2016. Perhaps most encouragingly, the sophomore QB is averaging five rushes per game and has nearly 100 yards on the ground, boosting his weekly scoring floor. In a game that may start becoming bereft of bonafide fantasy studs at the quarterback position over the next few years, Wentz appears to be one of the next to take up the mantle and makes for a nice post-hype acquisition candidate to poach from an owner who may not be taking notice. A player like Matthew Stafford is a nice name to throw out towards a contender who might be looking for an immediate upgrade. Lastly, offering splashy yet inconsistent upside players like Tyler Lockett, Marlon Mack, or JuJu Smith-Schuster (who all have ADPs around or above Wentz) would be considered a smart play in pursuit of Wentz.
After every week where Joe Mixon fails to keep up with the other running backs from this year’s class on the stat sheet, savvy owners should be licking their chops and getting ready to pounce. The Bengals rookie running back has only rushed for 136 yards on 52 carries this year (2.6 ypc), but don’t let those stats alone fool you. Mixon has flashed his patience, agility, and speed on a few nice runs in the early going. Perhaps more importantly, the Bengals new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, has already begun phasing Jeremy Hill and, to a lesser extent, Giovani Bernard out–a trend that should continue as their season slips further away. The Bengals rushing game may not ever take off this season with the state of their offensive line, but don’t hesitate to buy Mixon before he produces more plays for the highlight reel. Early in the season is a nice time to take advantage of impatient owners who might be thinking they’re one contributor away from being a legitimate contender. Use their impatience to your advantage and pick up a 21-year-old future feature back who has the talent to be a RB1 in the near future. Try packaging a late-round rookie pick with a player like Carlos Hyde, who has started hot before but has a consistent injury history, or LeSean McCoy, whose slow start might convince contending owners they are buying low.
After a semi-breakout 2015 season, Donte Moncrief’s 2016 was held together amid injuries and ineffectiveness by accumulating seven touchdowns on only 30 receptions. A clear sell-high option after his value crept within the top 25 overall players in 2016, Moncrief’s value has taken a sharp turn south since. His 2017 start is nothing to write home about, with just eight catches for 142 yards over four games, which undoubtedly has owners ready to throw in the towel. It should still be noted though, that Moncrief is a wide receiver who is not only tied to (eventually) one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Andrew Luck, but has also shown a consistent knack for scoring touchdowns. If Luck sees the field anytime soon, taking a shot on a 24-year-old who is the only receiver on his team with size, and playing for a new contract, to return to his previous value is a smart decision. Depending on the owner, offering someone like Ameer Abdullah or fresh-off-suspension Willie Snead could be enough to get the job done.
Hunter Henry’s value skyrocketed into the TE1 tier last year after registering an absurd 22% touchdown rate while splitting time with the ageless Antonio Gates. After four games in 2017, Henry has been consistently inconsistent, with a pair of goose eggs to go with a 2-16 game and a respectable 7-80 line, for a grand total of 1 touchdown. To start, his offseason hype and value was obviously too high, but with two target-less weeks already in the books, it’s unlikely that his owners are still valuing him at his offseason price. With an influx of new talent from this rookie class, Henry’s star has considerably faded since one year ago. With all arrows trending down, you have a chance to acquire the Chargers tight end heir for a minimal cost; one more in-line with his true value. Despite growing evidence to the contrary, Gates has to slow down at some point and Henry has shown at various points throughout his career an ability to not only dominate in the red zone but to have fantasy value when held out of the end zone as well. An owner looking for more consistent production might be willing to part ways for an older TE like Kyle Rudolph and a complimentary piece.
The Bonus Deep Buy
This is a bit of a shot in the dark but it’s a low-cost acquisition that could pay off well if you can stash Broncos injured tight end Jake Butt. Butt entered last season at Michigan as one of the most highly touted tight end prospects in the country. Last offseason, it wasn’t OJ Howard, Evan Engram, or David Njoku on the All-America list, it was Jake Butt. Despite not being able to work out at all prior to the NFL Draft due to tearing his ACL in the Orange Bowl, the Broncos saw enough in Butt’s game to take him with the 145th pick and stash him on the PUP list to start the season. Nearing a return in the coming weeks, Butt looks set to join an offense that has caught a few by surprise with Mike McCoy at the helm. Trevor Siemian, who currently sits as the fantasy QB15, looks like he’s starting to take a step forward as a leader and as a player. While the wide receiver spots are relatively set in stone, none of the current tight ends have taken command of the position, leaving the door open for Butt to earn some reps early. Currently, the 3 Broncos tight ends have combined for an 18% target share, so there is some opportunity for the taking both now and in the future. Now is the time to shoot Butt owners a 3rd or 4th round rookie pick, or a lower upside player who isn’t on IR, to attempt to poach a future difference maker.