The holidays have been a nice break from working the waiver wire, negotiating trades, and setting lineups now that the 2019 fantasy season has ended. But with the NFL playoffs about to begin, now is the perfect time to start looking forward to the 2020 season and beyond. While most fantasy players don’t have the time or energy to watch all 16 games each week during the regular season, many can and will watch every playoff game when there are only four or fewer each weekend. That means that any big performance can drastically raise a player’s dynasty value due to the national audience, and vice versa, a poor performance could significantly lower a player’s dynasty value. Recent examples include Martavis Bryant‘s incredible acrobatic flip catch in the end zone in 2016 and Sony Michel‘s dominant performance during the Patriots’ 2018 postseason run with six rushing touchdowns in three games. Here are a few players to monitor and potentially trade for or trade away during the NFL playoffs.
Until the Chiefs added LeSean McCoy in late August following his release from Buffalo, Darwin Thompson was a preseason sleeper candidate. A patient and elusive runner who measures very well as a SPARQ athlete, Thompson has accurately compared himself to Jerick McKinnon in the past. While Thompson lacks elite speed, he’s an above average athlete who could become Kansas City’s best short-yardage back. Four months after the Chiefs signed McCoy, we’ve come full circle on Thompson, as he has seemingly overtaken McCoy on the depth chart beginning in Week 15. Against the Broncos in that game, Thompson out-touched McCoy with eight carries for 38 yards and a reception compared to just 16 yards on six carries for McCoy. Since then, Thompson has received nine carries in total in Weeks 16 and 17 working in behind Damien Williams whereas McCoy hasn’t touched the ball once over the last two games.
Though both Damien and Darrel Williams have received more work over the sixth-round rookie when healthy, both Williams-es have also missed time with various injuries. The efficiency of the Chiefs’ offense driven by Patrick Mahomes offers any running back enormous potential for fantasy production, as we have seen from Damien Williams’s fantasy explosions late last season and late this season. If the Chiefs don’t add any running backs early in the 2020 NFL Draft, Thompson has a chance to play a significant role in Kansas City’s backfield next year with McCoy likely gone. And though Damien Williams would likely be the incumbent starter if healthy next preseason, Thompson is potentially an injury or two away from leading Kansas City’s backfield in 2020. Thompson’s upside makes him well-worth acquiring for a late second-round rookie pick or less.
But while Thompson is an intriguing prospect with RB1 potential in fantasy if he were to assume the lead role in Kansas City’s backfield, there’s also risk of a free agent signing this offseason or a rookie addition to the backfield in an excellent 2020 class. Andy Reid’s move toward a committee backfield this season could also limit Thompson’s upside even if he were to become the starting running back. If any potential suitors think that Thompson will be a surefire dynasty asset and starter in Kansas City next year, he could be a good sell-high candidate for a mid second-round pick or better given the caliber of talent available in this 2020 rookie class.
Not every fast 5’6, 200 lb running back is “the next Darren Sproles“, but Sproles might just be a somewhat apt comparison for Boston Scott. Beyond the physical likenesses, Scott is an agile runner who can make defenders miss and an excellent receiver out of the backfield. The two running backs share similar strengths, which is likely why the Saints and now Eagles have taken a chance on Scott, as both teams have also had Sproles on their rosters at one point or another. Philadelphia will need to rely on Scott as a prominent piece on their offense this postseason against Seattle and beyond if they advance.
Jordan Howard has missed six games with a shoulder stinger injury, and despite being active against the Giants in Week 17, Howard played just one snap on offense even after Miles Sanders left the game with an ankle injury. Sanders is questionable to play against the Seahawks, and even if active, he may not be 100 percent healthy. As for Howard, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much the Eagles will utilize him depending on his health as well as that of Sanders. But in the event that Sanders and Howard are both heavily involved on Sunday, Scott may become an afterthought for both Eagles fans as well as dynasty owners, presenting a buy-low opportunity in dynasty trades. Sproles has already announced his retirement following this season, and Howard will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Scott could assume the 1B role behind Sanders in this Philadelphia backfield going into the 2020 season. He has the potential to be a flex play or more in fantasy, making the second-year running back worth taking a chance on at the price of an early third-round rookie pick or less.
Of course, there’s another scenario in which Scott will have ample opportunity to shine on the national stage against Seattle, who has fielded the seventh-worst defense in terms of rushing DVOA this season per Football Outsiders. The Seahawks will also be without starting linebacker Mychal Kendricks after he suffered an ACL tear during the game against San Francisco last week. If Sanders and Howard are both limited, Scott could get the bulk of the work on Sunday and excel against an already-weak Seattle run defense missing a key run-stopper. Though Scott has flashed, he has limited opportunity with Sanders in front of him on the depth chart. He also struggles with cramp-fasciculation syndrome, a rare condition that causes muscle cramping and twitching. Though Scott has managed the syndrome with anxiety medication, his precarious medical condition and the presence of Sanders makes him a prime sell-high candidate. If he were to have a big game against Seattle this coming weekend, savvy dynasty owners should explore selling Scott for any second-round rookie pick.
On the flip side of the Seattle vs. Philadelphia matchup is another intriguing sixth-round running back, Travis Homer. Like Scott, Homer has taken advantage of his late-season opportunity with injuries to the running backs in front of him on Seattle’s depth chart. Chris Carson is done for the season with a hip injury, and while it won’t require surgery, Carson’s earliest expected return would be during training camp next year. As for Rashaad Penny, Pete Carroll stated that Penny suffered “more than ‘just’ a normal ACL” tear, which could complicate his recovery. Penny still has a chance to return prior to the 2020 season, but there’s also a possibility that Penny won’t be ready until much later.
Though the big story in Seattle following the injuries to Carson and Penny was Marshawn Lynch‘s triumphant return, Homer could be the ascending dynasty asset to key in on this postseason. While not a large back, Homer is a strong runner and solid at pass protection. In his first career start last week against the 49ers, Homer averaged an impressive 6.2 yards per carry on 10 attempts and added five catches for 30 yards as a receiver. Facing a fourth-ranked Philadelphia run defense per rushing DVOA and splitting touches with Lynch this week, Homer may not impress on the box score. However, he has a prime opportunity next year on a run-heavy Seattle offense, especially if one or both of Carson and Penny aren’t ready at the start of the season. And much like Scott on the Eagles, even in a committee, Homer could add fantasy value in PPR formats as a dynamic receiver in space and is worth acquiring for a mid third-round rookie pick or less.
Then again, if Homer happens to break a couple of big plays against the Eagles’ poor secondary as a receiver on Sunday, he’d be an excellent sell-high candidate if league mates are willing to offer any second-round rookie pick for him, or maybe even an early third-round rookie pick. Though talented, Homer is an inconsistent runner and has struggled with fumbling issues since college, having fumbled the ball once every 62 touches during his career. He may be best suited for a receiving specialist role akin to that of Duke Johnson or Chris Thompson. And while the health of Carson and Penny are in question heading into the 2020 season, their eventual return would likely relegate Homer back to third on the depth chart in Seattle. Dynasty owners might be wise in selling him during the NFL playoffs in the coming weeks if Homer flashes against an Eagles team that barely limped into the playoffs.
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