Trav's Dynasty Startup Targets
For us degenerates, Startup Season is in full swing. Rosters are forming, draft picks are changing hands and championship foundations are being built. I’ve participated in 9 startups of all formats and sizes this offseason and in this piece, I'll illustrate some players I’ve found myself targeting. These aren’t necessarily players who are being drafted at a major value, but rather players I’ve been confidently drafting at cost, whom I think can be building blocks on the road to fantasy glory.
In Dak’s fourth season, he experienced a marriage of factors which propelled him to new heights in the fantasy football atmosphere. Former teammate Kellen Moore was at the offense’s helm, Amari Cooper had his first offseason with the team to further acclimate, and Michael Gallup was preparing for his second-year breakout. It also doesn’t hurt to have Zeke Elliott and a run-game that surely demands some defensive attention.
The result of these factors coming together was like Chicken Soup for the fantasy soul. Finishing as the QB2, Prescott was top 10 in most Quarterback categories including: Passing Yards (2nd - 4901), Passing TDs (4th - 30), Points per game (3rd - 24.4 ppg), and Completed Air Yards (2nd – 2952). In 2019 Dak had 20 or more points in 12 of his 16 games (75%). In his previous 3 seasons only 25 of his 48 games resulted in 20+ fantasy points. The Cowboys’ offense had transformed under new tutelage and a Quarterback with more freedom who was ready to take command as the huddle’s conductor.
Looking ahead to 2020, with Mike McCarthy retaining Kellen Moore as OC, Dak Prescott is inserted into a very similar situation. The only difference at this point is a foundation that’s been formed but has yet to be poured. Sure, his lack of a long-term contract brings concerns, but we have to believe the Cowboys are not going to fumble their way into Quarterback purgatory. Dak will be 27 years old when the season starts, entering his prime attached to an elite offense having never finished worse than 11th at his position. With an ADP in the early 7th round in FFPC Dynasty startups, Dak is a great choice to stay within the second tier of Quarterbacks while maintaining the ability to build a strong core of skill position players.
Those who know me may call this a homer pick. I’m not about to dispute that, I’m only here to justify it. Fandom aside, the Eagles’ second year running back is setup to soar. A slow start had his detractors taking victory laps on the backs of Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery. A strong finish though, saw him rank 15th at the Running Back position after showing traits we covet in a multi-faceted RB1.
In the first 9 games of the season, while Jordan Howard was healthy, Sanders averaged 11.1 PPR points per game, eclipsing 15 points only twice as the RB26 in that time frame. While only RB 26, with Howard in the fold, Sanders only averaged 8 rushing attempts per game and averaged 38% of the team’s snaps. Sanders looked to be reliant on his work in the receiving game. 58.4% of his fantasy points came as a receiver and while he only averaged 3 targets per game in the first 9 weeks, Sanders lead all Running Backs with 11.3 Yards per target. His 305 yards ranked 7th at the position and he was the only RB in the top 10 in yardage with less than 30 targets and a less than 10% target share. All of this demonstrates that through the first 9 weeks, Miles Sanders had emphatically checked the pass catching box.
After the week 10 bye, Sanders was unleashed as a workhorse back and only then did the seeds of fantasy success begin to sprout. From week 11 on, his points per game spiked by almost 7 PPR points per game as he scooped up 6 more rushing attempts and 2 more targets on a per game basis. With Howard on the shelf, Sanders’ snap share jumped to more than 70% per game. With the ability to build a rhythm in the run game, Miles Sanders was seeing holes and hitting them. His confidence was apparent, as he produced as the RB12 over his final 8 games.
Sanders’ ADP is currently 13th overall in FFPC Dynasty startups, directly in-line with my Dynasty Rankings as the RB9. When looking for my team’s RB1 I’m looking for a solid rushing floor in concert with clear pass catching opportunity and ability. We’ve seen both already in Sanders’ short career and since the Eagles have yet to add a running back of significance, this is looking like the standout sophomore’s backfield. Fly Eagles Fly.
I’ll admit, since his arrival in Chicago, Allen Robinson is a player who I’ve been hesitant to put my faith in. The optics of an inefficient offense lead by Mitch Trubisky were too glaring to allow me to press the “draft” button. A WR40 PPR finish in 2018 seemed to validate those sentiments and justify fading him at his 5th round draft price.
A-Rob came out in 2019 and proved that my hesitance was short sighted. Talent and opportunity won out over the peripherals of his situation and he bounced back to finish as the WR8 in PPR. His strong season was buoyed by an increase of almost 60 targets from 94 to 153, which was the fourth most in the league. A-Rob was one of only 6 players league-wide to clear 150 targets. Elite volume also saw Robinson finish top 10 in team target share, deep targets, receptions, air yards, Redzone targets, and receptions inside the 20. This season, I won’t be making the same mistake I did last year!
Now, we know that Robinson’s game is predicated on downfield targets. Along with having the 6th most Air Yards, he also had the 5th highest contested catch rate at 58.3%. Now, he wont create much on his own as he ranked outside the top 75 in target separation at 1.22 yards, as well as Yards after the Catch per Reception with only 3 YAC/R. This shows me that he’ll need to maintain elite volume to allow for elite production. The question is … will the volume remain?
We’ve seen A-Rob produce with Mitch Trubisky at the helm (heck, even Blake Bortles). Trubisky had no choice but to feed Robinson in 2019 with the lack of emergence from any of the Bears’ ancillary pass catchers. This year, the Bears added Nick Foles, affectionately referred to as BDN (Big Dick Nick). We want to know whether BDN can keep Robinson’s numbers up. Looking to Foles’ past work with receivers of a similar profile, I dug up some numbers for Alshon Jeffrey, who is notorious as a catch-and-fall-down receiver. I also unearthed a smaller sample of data for DJ Chark from Foles’ short stint in Jacksonville. With Foles, Jeffrey averaged almost 2 PPR points more per game than with Carson Wentz, while Chark’s per game total increased by almost 4 PPR points vs. his work with Gardner Minshew. In both samples, the per game volume was fairly similar, which indicates that the quality of targets may have been better from Foles, which is why Chicago brought him in.
At this point in the offseason, the only target competition the Bears have added has been Jimmy Graham, who is not known to be a volume magnet. It’s looking more and more as though Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen will be the secondary targets and that bodes well for Allen Robinson. Whether catching passes from BDN or Millimeter Mitch, the expected volume has me in full buy mode on Robinson’s late 4th, early 5th round draft price. Couple that with the fact that he’s a sneaky young 26, A-Rob is really getting my draft blood pumping.
There’s been a stark difference in the tone surrounding the Rams’ offense this offseason compared to 2019. Last year, Sean McVay’s offense was an elite offense to target, flush with valuable options and cemented as a “cream of the crop” operation for fantasy football. Now, amidst significant roster turnover, they’ve been treated like a team yet to blossom as opposed to a budding rose bush.The reason for this shift is a story for another day, but this new sentiment has allowed for great value when it comes to the Rams fantasy pieces on offense.
The best value, in my opinion, lies in Tyler Higbee. Higbee’s ADP had crept up into the early 8th round and I’m still happy to reap the value. I think Higbee has the potential to pay that off going as the TE9 and having already shown us that he can produce at a top 5 level.
Higbee’s breakout started in week 13. His 7 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown was the first game of what would be a 4 game streak surpassing 100 yards. In doing so, Higbee became only the 4th TE since the 1970 merger to accomplish that feat. From weeks 12 through 16 the Western Kentucky alum was the TE2. He ranked first in targets and yards at the position, while only scoring 1 touchdown in that 5 week span. Overall, Higbee finished as PPR’s TE9. An impressive feat, when you consider he only scored 3 touchdowns on the season, and before his week 13 blowup he was the TE23, scoring only about 7 PPR points per game.
Looking ahead to 2020, Higbee looks to remain a stalwart in the Redzone. 2019 saw him finish top 10 in targets both inside the 10 and 20 yard line. Along with a full season as part of McVay's gameplan on a high powered offense who projects to use 2 Tight End sets at a higher clip, Higbee is an easy target for teams waiting on Tight End in drafts and should produce mid-range TE1 numbers on a weekly basis.
Editor: Joe Simonetti (@JoeSimonetti77)