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Buy-Low Players: Rebuilding in Dynasty

We all want to believe that our dynasty teams can compete every season. Unfortunately, that is almost never the case unless you are forward-thinking and continuously make moves to better your team. It takes objectivity to understand when you need to rebuild your dynasty roster. The ability to recognize the need to rebuild, however, will allow you to minimize the time you wallow in mediocrity or rebuild your team.

Rebuilding a dynasty roster is almost like an art form. Many dynasty owners will aim for rookie draft picks when they are trying to rebuild. But the real art is finding players to buy-low that can increase in value and/or be productive in the next few years. With that in mind, the following are three players to target for rebuilds that you can “buy-low” and potentially reap the rewards as soon as next season.

Buy-Low Candidates in Dynasty

Tyrell Williams

The last two seasons, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams has played second-fiddle to star wide receiver, Keenan Allen. This has kept him under the radar. Despite his lack of “eye-popping” stats, Williams has been a very good receiver in the first few seasons of his career. More to the point, he has been an extremely efficient receiver.

According to FFstatistics’ opportunity versus fantasy production, located under season data, Williams has outproduced his opportunity in every season he has been in the league. What this tells us is that Williams has been consistently efficient with his opportunities. Ironically, the season that Williams had his 

Another metric that demonstrates Williams’ efficiency is his opportunity ratio. FFstatistics’ opportunity ratio is the fantasy points produced per opportunity (PPO), again defined as targets + carries. FFstatistics allows you to compare the opportunity ratio of three different players at a time. Comparing Williams’ opportunity ratio to Antonio Brown’s and DeAndre Hopkins’, two of the top receivers in the league, we see that Williams has been as or more efficient than both. You can compare Williams to just about any wide receiver with any significant opportunity share and you will see the same thing.

Williams becomes an unrestricted free agent this coming season. With the fellow wide receiver Mike Williams proving that he is healthy, Tyrell Williams will likely move on. Williams demonstrated that he can handle a WR1 workload in the 2016 season. A team may view Williams as a WR1 and sign him as such. Even if he signs with a team as a WR2, Williams has shown that he is efficient with his touches. The points being, Williams could jump in value in the 2019 offseason. I call this the “Jerick McKinnon Effect.” In the 2018 offseason, former Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon signed with the San Francisco 49ers and saw an immediate jump in value due to his perceived opportunity.

Finally, Williams current value is low. A Twitter poll conducted at the end of the 2018 offseason valued Williams as a mid to late second round rookie pick.

Even if Williams value has somehow increased to an early second round rookie pick, it is still good value. Williams has already produced top-24 fantasy production in his second season in the league. He has already surpassed what most rookie picks have not been able to do. Jacob Rickrode (@ClutchFantasy) wrote on the hit rate of rookie picks from 2010-2016 for Rotoworld. A “hit” is defined as top-24 for running backs and wide receivers, top-12 for quarterbacks and tight ends. Out of the 504 picks samples, only 91 hit in at least one season. Only 30 hit in their rookie season. Not including rookies drafted in 2016, only 44 of 432 had two or more hit seasons.

So what does this all mean? Tyrell Williams may never finish as a top-24 wide receiver again. However, he has a better chance than the rookie you would draft with the second round pick you would be giving up for him. He also will likely be given a chance with another team given that he has already shown what he is capable of. Williams is worth risking a second-round value.

Devonta Freeman

Due to fighting multiple injuries in 2018, one of which landed him on the IR, Atlanta Falcons star running back Devonta Freeman has become a forgotten man. 2018 has been a lost season for Freeman, having only played in two games in which he carried the ball 14 total times. However, it would be a mistake to fade Freeman going into the 2019 season.

Named the starting running back in 2015 after starting his career backing up Steven Jackson in 2014, Freeman had three extremely productive seasons from 2015-2017. In terms of fantasy production, Freeman finished as the RB1, RB6, and RB13 in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. He did not achieve these finishes based on volume alone. In each of those seasons, Freeman’s fantasy finishes were better than his actual opportunity.

This was due to his efficiency. Like Williams, Freeman showed a better PPO than many other superstar running backs, i.e. Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliot.

Freeman’s ability to gain extra yards helps buoy his PPO. While Freeman has a higher percentage of one-yard carries than average in his career as a starter, he also has a higher percentage of carries of eight yards or more.

Freeman is a buy because of the Atlanta Falcons current running back situation. The Falcons signed Freeman to a five-year, $41.3M dollar extension in 2017. While there is a potential buy-out after 2019, Freeman still has at least one more season with the Falcons with a $9M dead cap hit if they cut him.

Current backup running back Tevin Coleman is an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season. The Falcons are expected to let him walk as they probably cannot afford what his market will demand. This is further emphasized by the Falcons drafting running back Ito Smith in the 2018 draft. Ito Smith will take over Coleman’s role with Freeman returning as the lead back in 2019.

One more thing to add, when Freeman is healthy as the lead back, he has been very productive. From 2015-2017, Freeman finished as a top-24 back 71% of the team. He finished as a top-12 49% of the time and top-five 29% of the time.

Freeman’s current dynasty value is depressed. After being drafted as the fifth running back in dynasty drafts in 2016 and 2017, his positional ADP dropped to 13th this past offseason. This could have to do with Freeman’s concussion history and the fear that he could potentially suffer another and miss significant time or retire altogether.

The latest data from DLF’s November mock drafts shows Freeman’s positional ADP has dropped to 24. Without posting a poll, my best guess is that Freeman can be acquired for a mid-2019 first round rookie pick. This is extremely good value for a potential RB1 over the next 2-3 years.

Yes, Freeman potentially has two or more seasons left in him if he stays healthy. It is well known that running backs have among the shortest careers in the NFL. Generally, a running back’s’ production starts to drop off after the 1,800 carry mark. For most lead backs, that occurs around their sixth or seventh season.

Freeman will enter his sixth season in 2019 season. However, Freeman only has 766 carries in his career. While unfortunate, Freeman’s 2018 injuries and subsequent IR placement may have been a blessing in disguise. The time off will allow Freeman to rest his legs and help extend his career.

Freeman will likely return as the Falcon’s lead back in 2019. In his three healthy seasons as a starting running back, Freeman over 230 touches in each. With a mid-2019 first-round value, Freeman is a steal with his potential to produce RB1 numbers over the next couple of years.

Albert Wilson

Many of you are probably wondering “why would I want Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson in dynasty? He has not done anything in his career.” Well, I will tell you. Wilson has been one of the most efficient wide receivers in the NFL dating back to his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. His efficiency has been on a general upward trend since he started his career in 2014. Over the past two seasons and in three of the past four seasons, Wilson has outproduced his opportunities. In his career, Wilson has matched and even exceeded several big-name wide receivers in PPO.

Before being put on IR due to a hip injury, Wilson was on pace for his best season ever in 2018. Wilson was on pace for 59 receptions on 80 targets for 894 yards and nine touchdowns, all career highs.

Wilson’s situation is looking up over the next couple of seasons. The Dolphins signed Wilson to a three-year, $24M contract in the 2018 offseason. While there is a potential out after the 2019 season, if Wilson proves valuable, the Dolphins may pick up the third year or another team will sign him.

Two other Dolphins wide receivers may not be with the team next season, either. Danny Amendola was signed to a two-year, $12M contract in the 2018 offseason as well. However, Amendola has no guaranteed money after the 2018 season, so the Dolphins may decide to cut him to save cap space. Amendola is also 33, so his productive years may be over, especially having dealt with injuries his entire career.

DeVante Parker’s rookie contract is up after the 2018 season. He will unlikely be re-signed for two reasons. First, Parker has been a disappointment after being taken in the first round in 2015, never playing in a full season and never finishing higher than WR50 in fantasy football. Parker has also clashed with Dolphins head coach Adam Gase.

Because Wilson has not been overly productive in his career in terms of traditional stats, he is often overlooked. Again, without putting an actual poll out, Wilson is worth at most a third-round rookie pick. I will refer you to the rookie pick link above for the success rates of third-round and later picks. A third-round pick is more than worth the potential significant uptick in targets coming for Wilson next season.

Honorable Mention: Cooper Kupp

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has begun his career with a bang. As a rookie, Kupp finished as the WR25. Unfortunately, Kupp missed time with an MCL injury and was placed on the IR later for an ACL tear in 2018. However, Kupp was the WR15 in points per game on the season before going down. 

Kupp will rank significantly higher in terms of his fantasy finish versus his opportunity rank in his first two. He also will have matched or exceeded most of the wide receivers in the NFL in PPO. His 2018 PPO is 2.41! Finally, despite entering the NFL at the “advanced” age of 24, Kupp has still finished with a better z-score, located under the season data on FFStatistics, than the average top-12 wide receiver at his age in his rookie season. Had he not gone down with an injury, Kupp’s 2018 season would have been the same.

Kupp is an honorable mention because he is still relatively expensive. However, a poll conducted on Twitter after Kupp’s ACL tear seems to indicate that his value has dropped. Before the ACL injury, Kupp was likely worth at least an early 2019 first-round pick if not multiple first-round picks. The poll shows that many think he is worth a mid to late 2019 first round pick. If that is the case, it is more than worth it as Kupp has demonstrated that he can be an elite fantasy producer early in his career.

Summary

An important part of building a competitive team in dynasty leagues is recognizing buy-low opportunities and taking risks. Buy-low opportunities have been presented for the above players. They have a chance to see a bump in value and opportunity share next season. Take advantage of this information and try to acquire them before the 2019 season.

Thank you for reading. You can read some of my other work and thoughts on Twitter @FFStompy. Follow FFStatistics on Twitter @FFStatistics_. Please check out everything that FFStatistics has to offer. New statistics and data are being added constantly. Read more articles from the FFStatistics writing staff here. Listen to the FFStatistics family of podcasts here

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