It doesn’t matter how stacked your roster might be. If you’re not working on constantly improving your depth or upgrading your starters, you’re missing out on opportunities. The offseason often presents the best opportunities for buying players who fell short of expectations, as fantasy owners likely have that disappointment fresh on their minds.
I like the current price of Allen Robinson, who may be available at a slight discount in many leagues due to missing most of the season with a torn ACL. I also considered extolling the virtues of Tyreek Hill. Despite his phenomenal year, I think his best season is yet to come. I even considered Dez Bryant…just kidding. I’m staying far away from Bryant in dynasty.
While Robinson and Hill are good targets to consider, the ultimate buy-low WR is Jordy Nelson. Yes, the same Nelson who posted his lowest yardage and touchdown totals since 2011 and will be 33 years old next season.
It’s easy to understand why Nelson’s price is in the gutter right now. He looked like he lost a lot of his breakaway speed in 2017, had trouble separating from defenders, and lost the WR1 role in Green Bay to Davante Adams. I believe that all three of those statements are accurate, and yet I’m all-in on buying Nelson wherever possible. How does that make sense, you ask?
To start with, whereas most of the passes directed toward Nelson in 2017 were from Brett Hundley, Aaron Rodgers will be throwing him the ball in 2018. Now if you’re worried about Rodgers’ health, he’s only missed 18 games in the last ten seasons, mostly due to two broken collarbones–one in 2013 and one this past year.
Surprisingly enough, Nelson’s target share didn’t dip with Hundley. In the five games Nelson played where Rodgers was the QB for the majority of the game, he saw 18.5% of the targets. In the nine games Nelson played where Hundley was the QB for the majority of the game, he saw 18.6% of the targets.
However, not all targets are created equally. Despite receiving a similar target share from both QBs, Nelson averaged 11.7 yards per catch with Rodgers versus 7.2 with Hundley. Perhaps more importantly, Nelson scored 1.2 touchdowns per game with Rodgers and failed to score a single touchdown in his nine games with Hundley.
Rodgers and Nelson have built chemistry over the span of their careers together in Green Bay, with Nelson understanding where he needs to be on option routes or when a play breaks down. That kind of connection, particularly in the red zone and near the goal line, is what makes Nelson irreplaceable to the offense. While he may have lost some speed, Nelson is still a top red-zone target at 6’3 and 220 lbs.
Nelson’s current contract only runs through 2018, and his cap number is high at around $12.5 million with only $2.3 million in dead money. But I would be shocked if the Packers cut him. He is one of the faces of the franchise, and I would imagine that they realize his value to Rodgers as his most trusted target. And while his salary is expensive, Nelson has already expressed willingness to restructure his contract to be more team-friendly or even potentially accept a pay cut to stay in Green Bay.
Even if he doesn’t rework his deal, the Packers have the cap space to retain both Nelson and fellow underperforming wide receiver Randall Cobb. The possibility also remains that the Packers choose to cut Cobb instead, who is also in the final year of his contract and is due an expensive $12.7 million in 2018 with just $3.25 million in dead money.
Regardless of whether Green Bay retains Cobb, Nelson will be the second target behind Adams. But if they do part ways with Cobb, this raises Nelson’s potential even more. Not only would his target share almost certainly go up, but the Packers could choose to move him to the slot on a more permanent basis.
Nelson has already played quite a few snaps from the slot position in recent years and found success, but as his speed and agility decline with age, he would benefit from facing off-coverage against often less-physical slot CBs while Adams draws more scrutiny on the outside. Getting Nelson in space using pick plays or short crossing routes would allow him the potential to gain more yards after the catch, and we’ve already seen success in moving talented WRs to the slot as they age (see Larry Fitzgerald).
While Nelson may no longer have the potential to be a top-5 fantasy WR, his connection with Rodgers and utilization in the red zone give him a very good chance at remaining a solid fantasy WR2 for next season and potentially beyond should Green Bay choose to extend him with a cheap one or two-year contract.
I’ve seen many trades proposed across various dynasty leagues and on Twitter selling Nelson for anywhere between an early and late 2nd round rookie pick. If this is indeed the case, I would be looking to buy Nelson wherever possible, assuming of course that your roster is built to contend in 2018 or the near future. And even if you’re rebuilding, you may consider buying low on Nelson and selling him at a profit next year in-season.
As always though, his price tag is different in every league, and you know the owners in your respective leagues best. Even if he had failed to catch a single pass in 2017, owners like my friend Kim, a die-hard Packers fan, still wouldn’t sell him for the 1.01. Regardless, I would highly advocate acquiring shares of Nelson this offseason if the price is right.