Top 5 Fantasy Values in Need of a New Home
A few weeks ago, your illustrious Commish made the end-all, be-all trade of GMRRFFA history, swapping Julio Jones and Todd Gurley for the white whale of fantasy football, Saquon Barkley, landing the best running back in fantasy football from FIL.
First, we need some context: GMRRFFA allows three keepers max, and the Commish is pairing Barkley with DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas for a total of $234 in draft dollars, leaving him with just $130 to round out his squad on draft night. Meanwhile, FIL’s spending $214 on keeper cost for Jones and Gurley out of his $264 draft dollars. It’s a wild trade, all but cementing both as contenders in 2019 regardless of the remainder of rosters.
That said, the response was initially dramatic, to say the least - some direct quotes from GMRRFFA Boy Chat:
"This is effing bogus." - Fredo Maisel
"Shady." - Smeet
"Makese and I are of a mind to veto." - Toby Kobach
Eventually, following a spat of public apologies and acknowledgement from more skilled owners who sensibly applauded the deal, cooler heads prevailed. It also led to an unsurprising overreaction trade by Smeet, who quickly spent big to get Odell Beckham Jr. from Mark Hutchinson, but, to my surprise, that was pretty much it for the spat.
In GMRRFFA, trades are the lifeblood of the league, but given a three-keeper cap, the inaugural off-season trade window witnessed its own ebbs and flows, and we are currently in another dead period (unless you think Chris Carson for FAAB is high stakes!). The reality though is most owners’ keepers are set – the Commish (Nuk, Thomas, Barkley); Hutchinson (Kamara, Kittle, Mixon); the Unicorn (Baker, Amari, Zeke); the Sausage King (Conner, CMC, Kelce); Smeet (Marlon Mack, OBJ, Keenan Allen); FIL (Julio, Gurley, and maybe Matt Ryan); Stabs (Mahomes, Chubb and maybe Tarik Cohen)… In any case, you get it.
With a total of 42 potential keepers among the 14 teams, the Commish is confident 31 keeper slots are set in stone with an additional 11 spots remaining flexible by owners for the right offer. I know some owners believe they’re set, whether due to overpaying for players in off-season trades or through a commitment to players from last season, but, if there’s a better player out there, I don’t know how someone keeps Derrick Henry, Cortland Sutton, Calvin Ridley, Chris Godwin, or Derrius Guice, just to name a few (I'm looking at you Fredo!).
Your Commish spent more time memorizing GMRRFFA rosters than anyone, and candidly wishes he had room to make more moves ahead of August 12th (the GMRRFFA Keeper Deadline), but alas, I don't have that luxury. Instead, let’s spend some time looking at the best players available in GMRRFFA to find the right home. I’m factoring in draft capital available for teams and I’ll compare these guys on their hypothetical new team to players those owners are currently planning on keeping… this is essentially a cheat code for trades that should happen in the next four weeks, and the owners who reap benefits from this should at least publicly thank their devoted Commish.
Keeper Cost: $142
Current Owner: Tito Galen
First things first, there is exactly ONE top-10 projected running back who will definitely be available in the draft in August (Melvin Gordon) and, if the league is fortunate, Johnson will join him. This off-season, its been a seller’s market for top running backs (Barkely, Gurley, Elliot, and Mixon have all been traded for hefty price tags), meaning there simply aren’t a lot of options out there.
I get the concern surrounding Johnson, who had a tough season in 2018 following an injury-plagued 2017. Let’s scrap the ’17 season, and first spend a few moments reviewing Johnson’s remarkable 2016 season and last season:
2016: 1,239 Rushing yards on 293 attempts (4.2 YPA), 16 touchdowns; 80 receptions (on 120 targets) for 879 yards (11 YPC), 4 touchdowns… GMRRFFA Fantasy Points: 25.7 points per game
2018: 940 Rushing yards on 258 attempts (3.6 YPA), 7 touchdowns; 50 receptions (on 76 targets) for 446 yards (8.9 YPC), 3 touchdowns… GMRRFFA Fantasy Points: 15.5 points per game
First, the good news: His less-than-stellar 2018 season most likely wasn’t due to lingering injuries, but in total, he averaged two fewer carries per game last season than 2016. More concerning, the Cardinals were dead last in offense in 2018 across the board with Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen at the helm en route to a three-win season. By comparison, the 2016 team finished with seven wins with Carson Palmer running the sixth-best offense in the league.
But look closer as you’ll see the 2016 offense ran a whopping 11 plays more per game than last season’s Cardinals squad, including 40 more rushing attempts and an astounding 100 more passing plays. Ultimately, Johnson touched the ball five fewer times in ’18 vs. ’16, a season in which Pro Football Focus ranked the Arizona offensive line dead last. Johnson specifically saw 44 fewer targets receiving, or 2.75 fewer per game, but the anemic offense obviously contributed to fewer touches. More positive, his receiving percentage is near identical between the two seasons, hovering around 65%.
What does Johnson’s 2019 hold? That’s probably still unclear, but his numbers remained somewhat consistent in 2016 versus 2018 (yes, the yards per rushing attempt dipped, BUT the Cardinals’ total points differential was +3.5 points per game in 2016 compared to a dismal -12.5 in 2018. That’s the long way of saying they trailed A LOT and you don’t rush when you’re losing… I should be a coach).
In any case, could it have been much worse for Johnson than 2018? Yes, he’ll have a rookie quarterback again this year, but new coach Kliff Kingsbury likes offense. Its impossible to translate college tactics to the pros, but this dude has never run a college offense that finished outside the top 20 since 2011. That’s got to be promising, right?
Best Landing Spot: With all due respect to Derrick Henry and Mike Williams, Fredo Maisel has $498 draft dollars (minus the Le’Veon Bell $102 keeper cost, its actually $396) and not a lot of top-tiered options to spend on. Fifteen of the top 20 projected running backs are spoken for as keepers (including eight of the top ten), including Fredo's own Henry. If David Johnson finds a new home by the keeper deadline, the only top 20 running backs available on draft night include: Gordon, Johnson, Leonard Fournette and Devonta Freeman (presuming Fredo keeps Henry). If Fredo balks and says he’ll save his cash for wide receivers, well, only TWO top-10 receiver will be available in the draft and one has David Derek Carr as his quarterback.
I’m all about being frugal with draft dollars, but this is getting ridiculous, right? Ultimately, David Johnson is going to go for around $140 (or more), so why not jump on the chance to get him today and avert the late-August anxiety? Even if/when Fredo keeps Johnson, he would still have more draft dollars than any other owners would. David Johnson and Fredo Maisel are literally made for each other this year.
Keeper Cost: $44
Current Owner: Mark Hutchinson
Given that Cleveland is Super Bowl bound and everyone points out that Baker Mayfield is the best quarterback since Patrick Mahomes, why are people sleeping on Landry? Oh yes, OBJ is in the Vegas of the Midwest; I get it that Beckham is a transformative talent, but I remain perplexed about how undervalued Landry is, especially in a PPR league (FYI, for some GMRRFFA owners, PPR stands for "points per reception"). This is by no means suggesting OBJ isn’t a top five or six guy, but be mindful he’s missed 27% of games in his five-year career.
Beyond whether OBJ has an injury history, Landry is actually really good, averaging six catches and 62 yards per game. He’s been consistently knocked for lacking big-play capabilities but he actually led the league in receptions in 2017 and currently has more career receptions than Keenan Allen, Mike Evans and… wait for it… OBJ. He’s not leading the league in yard per reception, but he’s a prominent WR in catches and yards that consistently finished in the top 20 over the last four seasons and now finds himself in what is expected to be a prolific Browns offense this year.
Best Landing Spot: When I figured out who should be set at keepers among owners above, I literally struggled to identify a high-end keeper for Makese aside from Sony Michel. He’s cash-strapped ahead of the draft, and spent a ton of FAAB on trades for Cortland Sutton and Lamar Jackson, but his team needs consistent scoring week over week – he has Michel, Sutton, Jordan Howard, Desean Jackson and the rest of the Eagles roster, but none of these guys are consistently outperforming Landry’s stats.
For example, I know Makese loves Jackson back in Philly, but Jackson eclipsed 100… TARGETS once since 2013, let alone receptions. Rolling the dice on an $11 keeper seems fine, but when there’s a quality player available, maybe he should reach out.
Keeper Cost: $22
Current Owner: FIL
Let’s get Los Angeles' crowded WR core issue out of the way first. Yes, the Rams have an overabundance of talented top-20 WRs, especially with my man Cooper Kupp returning this year. Having said that, the deep WR core hasn’t really impacted any one WR, especially Woods. Did you know Woods outpaced fellow Ram WR Brandin Cooks by six catches, 13 targets, and 15 yards last season?
Again, any difference between these guys and Kupp is negligible, except keeper cost, where Woods costs just $22 compared to Cooks’ $54 keeper cost.
The math is actually pretty simple, even for FIL who has just $264 draft budget with Julio Jones ($136) and Todd Gurley ($78) on the books plus an affinity for the $10 Matt Ryan. Setting aside the Julio/Gurley keeper costs, FIL literally has $50 for the draft… keeping Woods would be a sound personnel decision but FIL probably doesn’t have the financial flexibility to make it work in the current budget situation.
Best Landing Spot: Speaking of financial restraints, wouldn’t Woods on Coop’s roster make sense? He’s definitely keeping Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs, and by all indications he’ll hold on to $14 Calvin Ridley. The second-year stud had an outstanding early half of 2018, including a Week Three 7/146/3 touchdown game for 42.5 points. Through the first eight games last year, Ridley only had 42 targets (45% of his season total) but swiped 33 receptions (51% of his season total) and 463 yards (56% of his season total), but his fantasy value was mostly attributable to seven of his ten touchdowns coming in the first eight games, before Atlanta’s actual #1 WR Julio Jones took over. Let’s compare Ridley and Woods during the second half of the season:
Ridley: 31 Receptions (50 targets), 358 yards, 3 touchdowns… 84.8 fantasy points
Woods: 40 Receptions (65 targets), 547 yards, 3 touchdowns… 112.7 fantasy points
Ok, maybe Woods netting an extra 3.5 points per week doesn’t push Coop to make the deal but if a consistent top 20 wide receiver for cheap is available, it's Woods. He could be a valuable addition to many GMRRFFA rosters. I’ll leave it at this: in 28 games with the Rams, Woods averages five catches/7.5 targets/71 yards per game. Someone should call FIL, or email him, or text, or fax, or write a letter. Whatever it is.
Keeper Cost: $107
Current Owner: Mark Hutchinson
I’m not sure there is a more underrated fantasy player than AJ Green, who over the last eight seasons, averaged out to be a top 15 wide receiver year-over-year. Put aside injury-shortened seasons in 2016 and 2018, and Green is a consistent top-10 performer. Over his career, AJG averages 5.5 catches on nine targets for 80 yards and .5 touchdowns per game. That’s 16.5 points per game, even though Andy Dalton throws him the ball! Its clear he is an absolute baller – when healthy.
Yes, that $107 keeper cost should be concerning, BUT let us be mindful of the following:
Eight projected top-10 wide receivers will be kept in 2019 among GMRRFFA owners – the only exceptions are Antonio Brown and Mike Evans.
At least FIVE GMRRFFA owners lack a clear-cut #1 WR on their squad, ultimately meaning there is going to be a ton of competition for Brown and Evans, the only clear number one WRs aside from Green that will be available in the August draft.
Meanwhile, AJG is projected to be yet again a top-15 wide receiver for just north of $100.
Recognizing what the market will be for Brown, Evans and any other credible receiver, there is little doubt keeping AJG will be a discounted price.
In an open auction draft with limited WR options, top-15 players aren’t going to be discounted, and that especially includes AJG, so nabbing him before the deadline makes a ton of sense.
Best Landing Spot: Among the teams where keeper decisions are likely still unsettled, only three have more than $300 for the draft - money bags Maisel, Stabs, and Toby Kobach, who quietly has two solid keepers in Juju and Phillip Lindsey for a combined $30. While Fredo should be spending on the running backs, Toby is in an ideal financial situation, and the risk of acquiring AJG is somewhat mitigated considering his other keepers. Even with Green as a keeper, Toby would have more than $190 draft dollars come August. By comparison, post-keeper projections, Toby would still be in better position than all but three owners (Fredo, Smeet and Tito Galen) ahead of the GMRRFFA draft.
Keeper Cost: $15
Current Owner: Toby Kobach
In two seasons, the Packers’ running back averaged 5.5 yards per carry, which would be the highest in 2018 and second-highest in 2017. By comparison, his Green Bay colleague Jamaal Williams averaged just 3.8 yards per attempt. The problem for Jones is unfortunately two-fold: First, he only averaged 13 touches per game last season compared to Williams’ nine per game. In a furious effort to collect unemployment early, Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy stubbornly kept Jones off the field to almost a criminal extent. I’d love to suggest Jones saw an uptick In touches after McCarthy left, but that leads to his next issue, injuries.
He suffered a season-ending knee injury in McCarthy’s final game, one year after spraining his MCL and missing four games in 2017. All signs suggest Jones is healthy in 2019, but how he’s utilized will be an important key for his fantasy value. If he continues to split time with Williams and rookie Dexter Williams, it's obvious Jones’ fantasy value suffers.
Best Landing Spot:
For Toby Kobach, its probably not worth the risk of keeping Jones. Along with Juju and Lindsey, he also has remarkably cheap and potentially over-hyped Tampa WR Chris Godwin ($12), though AJG would be a perfect fit, so saying goodbye to Jones is a pretty reasonable expectation
Fortunately, a suitable buyer exists in the Purveyor of Death, Garcia, who is quasi-rebuilding/quasi-reloading this year. Garcia already has Kenny Golloday and DJ Moore for relatively cheap, plus the once-again injured Derrius Guice for $13. Is Jones a game-changer? Possibly, but there’s a ton of uncertainty in Garcia’s roster regardless, and taking a flyer may be worthwhile.
Let’s be clear: I’m 100% certain most of these moves will be scoffed at, but they make sense to me, given the trajectory of GMRRFFA and the current rosters… Remember, the reigning GMRRFFA champ once said this:
"The Commish has put on a master class of high stakes fantasy transactions to make him the definitive team to beat... [the Commish] has been putting on a clinic with his off-season moves." - The Sausage King
Maybe I deserve a little credibility on these suggestions?