Five Players Who Have Increased Their Fantasy Stock Before Week 1
Draft season is almost finished but this is just the beginning of the work you will have to put in to get yourself a #FootClanTitle. Last weekend ignited a whole new debate about some of the solidified mid-round players when Andrew Luck shocked the world with his retirement. The lesson you should take from that fiasco is that anything can happen at any time, so don’t ever bank on a player to be exactly what you hope they will be. It’s important to keep an eye on how players are trending for your final drafts this weekend, but it’s also crucial if you’re in a league that trades actively.
A fantasy championship is a season-long battle where you try to get high upside guys on your roster just before they breakout. This type of strategy doesn’t start after Week 1; it starts right after the draft. Doing the small things to gain an advantage on your league-mates is how you take a good draft and mold it into a great team. A few of my personal favorite tactics that are overlooked in most leagues:
- Trade right away. There’s no reason to “wait and see” in fantasy if you’re confident in your knowledge. Every team leaves a draft with weakness, there’s no way around that. If you are thin at running back but loaded at receiver, consider seeking out an owner that has a dynamite running back group but lacks a great pass catcher. A single-player swap between the two of you makes both of your teams better immediately. Don’t hesitate to trade, and don’t listen to people who tell you “the season hasn’t started yet”. The season started the second your draft room opened. Let those people fight for third place, while the savvy owners start the climb to the top.
- Don’t carry a defense or kicker (if you still use them for some reason) until absolutely necessary. It’s been well documented that kickers are replaceable on a weekly basis, and so are team defenses. If you can keep someone like Darwin Thompson, Tony Pollard, or even Dare Ogunbowale on your team through roster cuts, there’s a good chance you will have rostered someone who has their value spike drastically before kickoff. The more lottery tickets you have, the higher the chance of one of them hitting. Leave those two spots open until the very last minute, when you can make your roster decisions with all the possible information available.
Since these two strategies are based on players trending up and down as the season moves along, it’s a good time to dive into a few of those players now. I tried to keep a narrow focus on guys that will be true impact players as opposed to high upside lottery tickets because these are the guys that will be the core of your team from the get-go.
There were some major shakeups on the trade market this offseason but few had a bigger impact on the top of the fantasy draft boards like the one in Cleveland. Duke Johnson was traded to the Houston Texans, which means the only roadblock in the way of Nick Chubb’s early-season ceiling was off the roster. Duke is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league which means the decision to trade him indicates the Browns have a solidified plan for third-down work. Chubb has been a solid pass catcher his whole career and Duke’s departure opens the door for him to be a bona fide workhorse until Kareem Hunt returns from suspension. His ADP has climbed a bit, but there’s no reason to be wary of him with your first pick. Chubb is being drafted right where he should be. Too many people make the mistake of worrying about the fantasy playoffs before they even get there. Don’t make this mistake with Chubb. Kareem Hunt is a talented player but he hasn’t seen game action in a long time and can’t even suit up until Week 10. Chubb’s weekly ceiling should only take a tiny hit and he should remain a rock-solid RB1 all of 2019.
The hype train is once again moving full steam ahead on a Seahawks running back, but this year it’s the right guy. Rashaad Penny is a name that hasn’t gone away since he was drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, but Chris Carson is the back to own. Carson averaged over 4.6 YPC in his first two seasons in the NFL and his fantasy performances last year were impressive. He finished as the RB15 for the year, but over the course of the last six weeks, he was the RB11 and won a lot of people leagues in Weeks 12-16 where he was the RB5. Even though Rashaad Penny will remain involved, it’s clear the Seahawks have their heart set on Carson. Mike Davis was shipped off to Chicago, which means that even if Penny’s workload increases there’s plenty of carries to go around. Carson is being drafted as the RB10, but that’s likely his floor if he stays on the field.
This isn’t a surprise, but it’s frustrating for the self-proclaimed leader of the Curtis Samuel fan club since I have to draft him almost two rounds earlier these days. Samuel was my pick for our annual staff #MyGuys article, and I’ve been beating the drum for him for almost four months. The gap between Samuel and D.J Moore is way too big, but it’s finally closed to a reasonable distance for draft week. Samuel was pacing alongside Moore in nearly every statistical category that mattered last year and the buzz around camp is that they’ve both taken a leap forward. This may be the most explosive receiving corps that Cam Newton has had in his career, and Samuel should be a force to be reckoned with. Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception gave us a window into just how impressive his on-field play was in 2018. He lit up the charts in every category and Matt himself has raved about just how good Samuel is at getting separation while running any kind of route. His draft price is still too low, don’t hesitate to draft him at his ADP.
Also known as David “Mopportunity” thanks to Jason Moore, this guy who has shot up the charts faster than anyone. Montgomery was a popular sleeper pick this summer, but his play in the preseason raised the eyebrows of even the most casual fantasy owner. Montgomery’s college statistics were phenomenal, but his combine metrics were just barely above average which caused a lot of people to climb off the bandwagon. All of that changed in preseason week one when Montgomery flashed on our screens, and the reports out of Bears camp in the weeks that followed drove his price up even higher. Montgomery has gone as early as the third round in recent NFFC drafts and he’s ascending in home leagues as well. Matt Nagy has discussed the possibility of limiting Tarik Cohen’s touches in the upcoming season, which would be great news for Montgomery. His ADP is starting to flirt with “yikes” territory, but his price is still reasonable. I wouldn’t have any issue trusting Montgomery as a rock-solid RB2 with an easy path to RB1 numbers if he performs well.
The reason for Duke’s ascension is pretty obvious, but just how high he should be drafted is a much more clouded situation. After he was traded to the Texans it was clear he’d be involved as a pass-catcher, but the recent injury to Lamar Miller leaped Duke into the starting running back discussion. A lot of people are speculating that the Texans will sign a back to replace Miller, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss him as a lead back. Duke’s pass-catching chops are well documented, but his lack of volume isn’t because he can’t handle it. The Browns used Duke in a satellite role during his time there but it doesn’t mean he can’t see a bigger workload. In his senior season at Miami, Johnson averaged over 18 carries per game and notched over a 6.5 YPC which is no joke. Johnson is only 5’9”, but he has a BMI higher than Lamar Miller despite being a couple of inches shorter. It’s possible that The Grand Duke of Houston simply never had the chance to be the guy we say he can’t be. We need to treat him like the lead back in a powerful offense until the Texans tell us not to.