This time of year, we are keeping our ears to the grindstone listening for any last hints of what each team will look like on the field to begin the season. The preseason is over, the games are done and depth charts, share breakdowns, player usage, and general game plans are starting to take form. In some cases, this is your last chance to snag a player primed to breakout. In other cases, the clock is ticking on players prime to slump into oblivion. Below are two lists compiled to help you identify those guys and move on them now before your whole league catches up. Good luck and trade with confidence!
Dare Ogunbowale – RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On paper, there is nothing special about Dare. At best he’s in the middle of the pack in all of his measurables. And the undrafted second-year player out of Wisconsin has yet to clock more than a handful of mediocre kick returns. However, he is only one of three backs on the final roster in Tampa Bay along with Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones. Dare’s shown an ability to catch the ball coming out of the backfield and will likely get a chunk of the third-down work early in the season.
We waited all offseason for Bruce Arians to make a move to bolster his running back stable, but it seems they’ve found somebody in-house, and don’t be surprised if Dare gets a shot at more work as both Barber and Jones continue to produce middling results on the field. Stash this kid and watch him grind his way to success.
EXPECTED COST – Free
Albert Wilson – WR – Miami Dolphins
Last season, Wilson played in just over six full games before injuring his hip. In that time, he made his mark leading the team in targets, catches, receiving yards, and yards per reception. Wilson was dynamic and electric as Adam Gase found a multitude of ways to get the ball in his hands.
Flash forward and a few things have turned in Wilson’s favor. First – Gase is out and Brian Flores is in. With his hiring as the head coach came new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea. O’Shea previously served as the WR coach in New England for ten seasons. Under O’Shea’s tutelage, we saw quick and undersized slot receivers like Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and even Danny Amendola (when he wasn’t concussed) emerge as fantasy studs. Wilson is nearly identical to these slot successes in size, speed, and burst. If I’ve noticed, Chad O’Shea has, too. Second – With the trade of Kenny Stills and the departure of Danny Amendola earlier this offseason, Miami is now without their two target leaders from 2018, leaving a void ready to be filled. Third – Wilson has recovered from his injury. He played in the Dolphins’ third preseason game and the coaching staff is confident he’s 100% and ready for week one. This is a free receiver with the potential to score big.
EXPECTED COST – Free
Justice Hill – RB – Baltimore Ravens
Hill is fast. Whether he’s got some of the other tools to succeed at the position on a team that wants to run the ball so much more than you think they do is yet to be seen. But with Kenneth Dixon landing on the IR this offseason and Mark Ingram the only back left on the depth chart ahead of him, Hill will have the chance to show us.
Last season the Ravens ran the ball more than any other team in the league (yes, even the Seahawks). After winning their division and making a major QB change, the team brought on Greg Roman to run their offense. Greg Roman is known for one thing in the league and that is his rushing prowess. His teams have never finished outside the top nine in rushing attempts and never outside the top eight in rushing production. Add to that the weakness in Lamar Jackson’s game (namely, throwing the football) and there is no reason to believe this team doesn’t run the ball more this season than last. Ingram can’t carry that load alone. Not at 30 years old. Hill will play a complementary role early and often in this offense. And should anything happen to Ingram, you’ll want to be the one with Hill on your roster.
EXPECTED COST – Golden Tate, Jordan Reed, James Washington
Devin Singletary – RB – Buffalo Bills
The big news out of Buffalo this past weekend was the release of LeSean McCoy. Shady’s departure from town led most fantasy followers to one conclusion: that rookie Devin Singletary is ready for a feature role. For the truthers out there, it was validation and for those who hadn’t yet fallen for young Devin, it was an awakening. There are few players whose stock has risen higher or quicker over the last week, his ADP has risen one and a half rounds in just two days. Singletary’s perceived value is higher now than it has been or is likely to be all season. Strike while the iron is hot.
The reality is that the Bills are a bad team with a bad rushing offense outside their QB: Josh Allen. Bills backs combined for a 3.5 average yards per carry last year, low enough to be dead last in the league. While the offensive line has been retooled this season, the new talent isn’t renowned for being great at their jobs, either. It is yet to be seen whether they can gel and make room for whoever is toting the bulk of the carries, but even if it is Singletary (remember that Frank Gore and Chris Ivory have both succeeded as starting running backs in their NFL careers), it may be a while before the line gets the chemistry they need to make holes.
EXPECTED RETURN – Phillip Lindsay, DJ Moore, Allen Robinson
Will Fuller – WR – Houston Texans
Big news! Will Fuller is in full form and ready for week one. It’s time to start the clock until he gets hurt again. ACL tear, hamstring strain, knee strain, rib fracture, clavicle fracture, knee strain, hamstring pull, hamstring pull. There is a list of some of Fuller injuries in just the last few years. Fuller is an extraordinarily talented player on a great team with a quarterback in Deshaun Watson that has something of a connection with him and a coach that likes to call his number. All this tells us that while he’s on the field, he will thrive. It is your job as a fantasy owner to take full advantage of that and trade him before he is no longer on the field. Which will happen, don’t kid yourself.
Sports Injury Predictor lists him as a “high risk” for reinjury and I’d say that is putting it mildly. If you choose to wait a few weeks to cash in so that his on-field performance raises his stock, do so at your own risk. Each game with Fuller on the field is one closer to him getting hurt and you don’t want to be left holding nothing but an injured bench warmer on your roster when you could have cashed out for something more.
EXPECTED RETURN – Mike Williams, Tevin Coleman, Miles Sanders
Duke Johnson – RB – Houston Texans
In a short period of time, the Houston Texans cut their young talented RB (D’Onta Foreman), traded to acquire the disgruntled Cleveland third-down specialist, Duke Johnson, and lost their starting running back (Lamar Miller) to an ACL tear. This serious of fortunate events landed Duke Johnson in his first-ever role as a starting back in the NFL. His previous success as a pass-catcher in Cleveland has a lot of fantasy owners excited. If Devin Singletary’s ADP rise was surprising, Duke Johnson’s is downright insane. He soared from the 15th round to the fifth in less than a month’s time. I say it’s time to cash in on that value if you managed to land him somewhere along the line.
Duke has never carried the load for his team. He’s only carried the ball more than 100 times in one season (2015). In that season he carried a 3.6-yard average. It was the only season he fell below 4 yards in that category. Maybe he’s not built for the role. Unfortunately, the Texans aren’t built to carry a feature back, either. In all of Lamar Miller’s seasons with the team, he only cracked 1000 yards once and never with DeShaun Watson on the roster. Worse, in his three seasons as a starter, Miller has scored 12 rushing touchdowns, TOTAL. That is by design. Miller only had 13 carries inside the 10-yard line last season. That’s ranks 30th in the league. At the same time, Watson through the ball 42 times inside the 10. Sixth most in the league.
Even if Duke manages to carry the load for this team (remember they did acquire Carlos Hyde, as well), his efficiency and touchdown numbers will disappoint. Trade him now while the perceived value is high.
EXPECTED RETURN – Marlon Mack, Evan Engram, Tyler Boyd