From time to time we ask our writers for a quick take on a subject of the editor's choice. This week's question:
Which situation (player or team) will you be watching Week 1 because you see an immediate change in dynasty value coming out of it, no matter how they perform?
Derek Carr (and the Raiders offense) - Jacob Henry (@JacobHenryFF)
While Jon Gruden as a player evaluator seems patently incapable of running an NFL franchise after the 2018 offseason, offensive guru Gruden remains a question mark. With the departure of Khalil Mack from a defense which already ranked 29th in defensive DVOA in 2017, Oakland’s offense with Derek Carr at quarterback will have plenty of opportunities to answer whether Gruden’s genius has fossilized during his decade in the broadcast booth. Reports throughout the summer from inside and outside the organization have indicated Carr has already mastered Gruden’s dense playbook, while 2017’s disaster season has been blamed on inefficient playcalling from departed offensive coordinator Todd Downing and a back injury Carr sustained in Week 4. A strong game from Carr in Week 1 against a talented Rams defense - one in which he looks in command of the offense, even if he doesn’t produce incredible numbers - will present an immediate buy notice for dynasty owners of Oakland fantasy assets. Gruden has produced high-value seasons in the past for both running backs and premier wide receivers, while Carr is easily the best quarterback Gruden has worked with since Rich Gannon. If Carr looks lost and the offense stagnant, it will be time to sell Carr, Cooper, Lynch, and Nelson. Gruden has not earned the trust of the NFL or fantasy community with his out of touch personnel decisions this offseason, and his ten-year contract in Oakland would place these players in a fantasy wasteland for some time. If Gruden’s time away from the NFL has not prepared him for this challenge, it seems unlikely his team will dramatically improve moving forward.
Kyle Rudolph - Andrew Harbaugh (@DHH_Mandrew)
Rudolph, much like his team, has been on the brink of stardom for some time now. After being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2011, his success has gone unnoticed by many. This year, however, someone new has arrived in the land of 10,000 lakes: Kirk Cousins. The knock on Cousins is he has never produced a number one fantasy wide receiver, but the argument is never said about his tight ends. When he was in Washington, he had the human tissue paper Jordan Reed and an aging Vernon Davis as his tight ends. Reed was never was able to put together a 16 game season for Cousins, but in 2011 Reed peaked with Cousins and finished as the TE2 on the year. Rudolph has the added benefit of both being healthier (he hasn’t missed a game in three years) and is a more well rounded tight end. While Rudolph has the opportunity, Cousins has the best surrounding receiving talent of his career in Diggs, Thielen, Cook, and Treadwell. We'll quickly know if Cousins continues his tradition of heavy tight end targets as he did with Reed and Davis, or if Rudolph is just one of many mouths to feed in Minnesota.
Tampa Bay Running Backs - Jesse Patterson (@df_patterson)
Has anyone’s fantasy stock seen such a drastic preseason change as the Tampa Bay backfield? Much hyped rookie Ronald Jones II was supposed to easily slide in and claim the lead back role in Dirk Koetter’s offense. Instead, the 38th overall selection in this past year’s draft managed to turn 24 rushing attempts into a meager 28 yards and a single touchdown over the course of the preseason. Returning veteran Peyton Barber meanwhile took his 28 rushing attempts and turned them into 92 yards over the same four game trial. Barber entered camp as an afterthought in the dynasty community, being taken as the 174th overall pick according to DLF’s August ADP data, but is now expected to be the lead back in the Buccaneers’ Week 1 clash with the division rival Saints. If Jones is unable to get any traction in the matchup with New Orleans and continues his poor showing, he could very quickly find himself struggling to earn a prominent rookie season role, which will be upsetting to dynasty owners who selected him with a top 6 rookie draft pick. If Barber continues to impress and finds success in Week 1, he will earn himself the majority of the touches and become a viable weekly fantasy play - an incredible bargain at his current ADP. For Jones to salvage any semblance of value, he will need to show well in his first regular season game action to give some sort of hope to frustrated and confused fantasy managers.
Emmanuel Sanders - Cody Kutzer (@CKutzer)
Going into the 2018 season, the Denver Broncos quarterback situation resembles the 2016 Houston Texans: it can’t possibly be worse than the year before. Ironically, both involved Brock Osweiler. The good news is that it’s reasonable to give the edge to Case Keenum over Osweiler. With this comes renewed hope for the Broncos’ receiving group. The name I’m paying attention to for Week 1 is Emmanuel Sanders. Training camp reports and limited preseason information puts Sanders as Keenum’s go-to guy. The most important thing to come out of these early reports, however, is Sanders is fully healthy. If Keenum is able to come out Week 1 and look like the Vikings version from last year, I’ll be looking to trade for Sanders for any contending team. If you own Sanders on a non-contender and he puts up a big Week 1 performance, you’ve just gained equity. Keenum could also come out and look like 2012-2016 Keenum as well. The entire offense will take a hit if that’s the case, and Sanders’ value will undoubtedly drop. At that point, proceed with caution.
Josh Doctson - Josh Padgett (@jpadgett94)
Doctson, once a first round wideout with an exciting ceiling, is now just a guy with one last shot. He has been lucky enough to find an offense that needs to continue to rely on him to step up, though he hasn’t fulfilled that need yet. A lack of other receiving talent has left the door ajar. Week 1 will be the first live tryout for Doctson with new quarterback Alex Smith, though Smith isn’t known to utilize the skill set of a receiver like Doctson. He prefers to dink and dunk his way down the field and create high percentage looks for his team, especially across the middle of the field as opposed to looking towards the boundary and deeper down the field. Week 1 against a maligned Arizona Cardinals defense gives Doctson a chance to create a role or prove he has already done so in training camp thus far. Despite this only being the start of his second full year, his low catch percentage (career 44%), limited route tree, and low target separation (1.1 yards per Player Profiler) have made him unusable so far, especially in PPR formats. Should he fail to show chemistry with Smith, fail to create separation to force Smith to look his way, and fail to find to the end zone, it will be the beginning of the end for Doctson at the very least in Washington and the end of what was once set to be a wonderful beginning on your fantasy team. Targets from Smith - despite his apparent poor fit with the quarterback - could signal hope for those still holding on.
Chris Hogan - Phillip Murray (@PhilipRMurray)
As the clock approaches 5PM on Sunday, fantasy players should have an idea if New England Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan is the number one wide receiver the fantasy industry expects him to be. Even since Brandin Cooks was traded to the Rams in April and Julian Edelman was suspended for four games in June, fantasy Twitter has declared it “#HoganSZN.” The game script on Sunday should provide ample opportunity for Hogan, as the Houston Texans have a solid defensive front which should push the Patriots into a pass-heavy offense, especially for quick slant/option routes. Sunday will be different for Hogan because he will be the top dog in the wide receiver corps. There won’t be Cooks or Edelman on the line of scrimmage taking on Houston’s top cornerback, which means the focus will be on Hogan. Which Hogan will show up, the one who averaged over 12 points a game in limited action last year opposite Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski, or will we get the Chris Hogan who only put up 8.7 points opposite Edelman and half a season of Gronkowski in 2016? This preseason, Hogan did not receive many targets and had a couple of troubling drops. If Hogan is to reach that coveted wide receiver one status, he needs to be close to ten targets per game and catch more than half of those targets. If Hogan has ten targets, six catches, and 90 yards Sunday evening, the only thing keeping him from being a top twelve wide receiver for the entire season will be Julian Edelman returning to form in Week 5. If the evening comes to an end and Hogan has less than five targets, it likely means Hogan’s true outcome is as a top 30 wide receiver at best. If the worst happens, you should quickly move Hogan before his trade value drops and his trade window closes.