Congratulations to all of you who are in the fantasy playoffs! And, on the flip side, my condolences to anyone whose fantasy season has been cruelly terminated. I’m certain that had mostly to do with rotten luck, and I sure hope it had nothing to do with any advice I may have dispensed over the past 13 weeks.
The pain of having your season end abruptly does serve as a pretty good advertisement for the virtues of keeper or dynasty leagues. If you’re in a league with some form of multi-year player retention, then even if this season has been a disaster, there’s still some reason to stay interested in your team.
Previous installments of this column have pointed out players worth trying to acquire for their potential contributions this season. With most leagues’ trade deadlines having passed, and many teams eliminated from the playoffs, I will instead highlight players worth acquiring — or trading away — with an eye toward next year. All owners in keeper/dynasty leagues should, of course, spend some time thinking about future roster composition, but in general, teams that are not in title contention this season should really be thinking about trading away currently impactful players for high-upside prospects.
Players to trade for
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
I know. Every year, we write Frank Gore’s fantasy obituary, and every year it turns out that we were gravely misinformed. But it seems likely that Gore won’t even be back with the 49ers next season, let alone the team’s lead back. He’ll be 32 at that point, as well as an unrestricted free agent this spring, and the Niners could well have an entirely new coaching staff.
For his part, Hyde hasn’t exactly exploded onto the scene, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, but he was facing a rookie’s learning curve and did looked the part of a workhorse back, with good size and power. With Gore still hanging around and adding some uncertainty to San Fran’s RB situation, now is the time to make a play for Hyde, who could be a volume-heavy, low-end RB1 in 2015.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Patriots
Very much a speculative play, but New England coaches are said to still harbor high hopes for the oft-injured player, who’s in just his second year. Brandon LaFell has had a nice season, but he doesn’t appear to be a long-term piece, and in any case, Dobson projects as a better bet to take the top off a defense, which even the mighty Pats offense could sorely use. What’s attractive about Dobson right now is that he should be very cheap to acquire.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
He’ll turn 35 later this month and faces a long rehab from a major injury — what’s not to like? Okay, so this move isn’t for everybody. But if you’d like to get your hands on a QB who’s a good bet for good numbers over the next couple of years, Palmer could likely be had for a bargain price.
He underwent extensive knee surgery, but is expected back in time for training camp, and the sizable contract extension he received seemingly minutes before getting hurt, plus Drew Stanton’s unimpressive play in relief, add up to a starting job that should be waiting for him. Having terrific young talent around in Andre Ellington, Michael Floyd and John Brown doesn’t hurt, either.
Players to trade away
Drew Brees, QB, Saints
A nice game Sunday at Pittsburgh, plus an enticing slate over the next few weeks, should mean that Brees owners can extract a top price from teams looking to load up for a championship run. Then, of course, there’s the top-notch brand name, as the QB has been a fantasy mainstay for years.
But that’s part of the issue: Brees will turn 36 in January, and his relatively small stature (6-0, 209) means that his performance might slip sooner than what we’ve seen from the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In fact, there were whispers this season that Brees might already be on the downslope, but he’s played well enough not to have set off any major alarms.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
This is all about getting out while the getting’s good. Charles is still getting it done, but he’s also getting old, in running back terms. The Kansas City star turns 28 later this month, an age at which top RBs tend to enter an irrevocable decline. Charles was given a fairly light workload in his early seasons, but he’s now up to 16th among active players in career touches, and even a slight decrease in speed could be a big problem for a player who relies on elusiveness (as well as remarkable vision and anticipation).
C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
He seems to have cemented himself as the top dog in an elite offense, which means he should be a hot property. But Anderson’s long-range forecast is murky; Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, who both have better pedigrees, will likely still be on Denver’s roster next year. Even if Anderson fends them off, there are the usual RB injury concerns, plus age and injury concerns surrounding Manning, who makes the whole “elite” thing happen. If you were lucky enough to add Anderson to your roster when he could be had for pennies, you may want to sell him for much more, rather than continuing to press said luck.