With many dynasty league trade deadlines up this week, it’s a good time look ahead to 2019 and players who could be greeted with more opportunity. While I hate having a team that isn’t contending, I enjoy optimizing my roster for future upside. This week I’ll run down some of the players who could gain value in the offseason.
Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, WR, KC - We should already have this duo on our watchlists because of the offense they play in right now and the high overall athletic ability ceilings they present. They become even more intriguing when you consider that Conley is going to be a free agent next year and could be coveted in a thin wide receiver free agent market, which will likely in turn promote Robinson on the depth chart with Sammy Watkins and his not-so-durable body ahead of him.
Rod Smith, RB, DAL - Smith is good enough that the Cowboys have him as the sole backup to Ezekiel Elliott on the roster. He’s a true three-down back with good size, speed, hands, and a physical edge to his game that had some see him as a possible fullback. The running back position is overstocked with viable options and Smith might only get a similar role elsewhere, but he has very little mileage on him and it’s possible that he is tabbed for a larger role on his next team.
Chris Moore, WR, BAL - Moore has generally flashed in limited opportunities, but the Ravens brought in three veteran free agents at wide receiver instead of giving him more snaps this year. He still displays speed and superior ball skills when he does get a chance and he has enough to speed to be a deep threat. Moore should be in line for a bigger role with the Ravens next if they don’t break the bank for John Brown or feel that Michael Crabtree isn’t worth his salary.
Jason Croom, TE, BUF - Croom is a converted wide receiver who appears to be on his way to bigger things as a pro tight end. He is just scratching the surface of his abilities and the Bills receiving weapon cupboard is not very full. Charles Clay might be about to break down just as Croom is ready to assume a larger role.
Spencer Ware, RB, KC - Ware still looks like a starting quality NFL running back when he gets a chance to touch the ball and he’s going to be a 27-year-old free agent next spring. Someone is going to sign him to play a larger role than he did for the Chiefs this year.
Tyrell Williams, WR, LAC - Even though Williams target share hasn’t been increasing this year, his big play conversion rate is, and his game is more well-rounded than it was in his breakout year of 2016. He will be one of the biggest prizes at wide receiver in free agency next year, although there is always volatility when changing quarterbacks and offenses.
DeVante Parker, WR, MIA - Rational personnel management would dictate that the Dolphins release Parker before paying up on his fifth year option, but nothing about how they’ve handled him this year makes sense. He still looks like a very dangerous size/speed/ball skills threat and someone who could make a much bigger splash on a second team with a fresh start and new head coach that actually seems to want to use him.
TJ Yeldon, RB, JAX - Yeldon might seem like a miss as a second-round pick, but he has actually been as successful as Leonard Fournette as a runner over the last two years, and he has made huge leaps as a receiver. He could conceivably be seen as a three-down back with a lot of tread left on the tires as a 25-year-old entering free agency.
Chris Warren, RB, OAK - This one fits more in the upcoming Snorkel/Scuba/Submarine series, but don’t sleep on Warren. He was a one man gang in the preseason and the Raiders have a likely vacancy at running back next year. He can be stashed in an IR spot right now and should get a chance to endear himself to Jon Gruden next year.
Ito Smith, RB, ATL - Tevin Coleman is entering free agency, and someone could break the bank for him to play a larger role than he has for the Falcons, but Devonta Freeman’s contract doesn’t look so attractive with his injury woes in mind and the Falcons could opt to keep Coleman instead of Freeman. Either way, Smith is the option that is early in his rookie contract and set to grow. If Coleman does leave, Smith could be the starter as soon as 2020.
Ian Thomas, TE, CAR - Like Smith, Thomas has appeared in this column already this year for a lot of the reasons about to be stated. He flashed in the preseason and won over the team immediately - enough to make him the backup entering the season. Greg Olsen is back and playing well right now but will need another foot surgery this offseason. The Panthers offense is taking off under Norv Turner’s guidance and Thomas could add to the matchup problems they present. He is due to arrive in fantasy in the next year or two.
Malcolm Brown, RB, LAR - Brown had a touchdown reception earlier this year that highlighted very impressive body control for a running back known as a bruiser coming out of Texas. He has improved as a receiver and appears to be ready to do a lot more than the Rams ask of because they have someone named Todd Gurley at running back. Brown is only a restricted free agent next year, but with John Kelly waiting the wings, the Rams may not commit a lot of money to him via their tender and leave him exposed to a running back hungry team.
Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI - Goedert has had a few false breakout weeks this year, but it’s obvious that he has the goods as a receiving tight end to make a big splash in fantasy leagues eventually, and he’s in a good organization and offense to maximize his talents. He will play more like a big slot receiver with some potential as a vertical target and with the low bar for fantasy relevance at tight end, he’ll arrive sooner or later.
Keke Coutee, WR, HOU - The Texans love Coutee and made him a key tactical element as soon as he could get on the field even though that took a while because of a preseason hamstring injury. He has shown us great ball skills and ability to get open in the short zone, but it’s clear that his hamstring has kept him from tapping into the lethal speed he used to get behind defenses with regularity at Texas Tech. He’s still just scratching the surface of his potential.
Richie James, WR, SF - James defied the odds by making the team at a crowded position as a seventh-round pick, and now he’s getting playing time over more established players at the beginning of the season. Dante Pettis isn’t making the most of his opportunity and with Pierre Garcon possibly on the way out this offseason, there will be snaps and targets available in an offense that should be a candidate to get a lot more explosive and efficient next year.