Even though the Fantasy Football season is over, there is plenty to keep you busy. First and foremost, you should definitely join a Fantasy Playoff league or two. Second, you can play daily Fantasy contests. Third, and perhaps most importantly, you should be scouting for next season. Whether you play in a keeper/dynasty league (you should) or not, it is never too early to get a head start on 2016. This week we will take a look at rising and falling players from each of the first round playoff games. Welcome to The Playlist, Wildcard Round Edition.
Goodies by Ciara featuring Petey Pablo
Russell Wilson (QB, Seahawks) – “I bet you want the goodies. Bet you thought about it. Got you all hot and bothered.” Wilson was initially thought to be a better real life QB than Fantasy one, but that has changed over the past two seasons. Last year, he had a strong effort in the rushing department that buoyed a Top 5 finish. He followed that up by improving just about every passing metric this season, on his way to a 4,000 yard season and a career-high 34 TDs through the air. Wilson got better as the season went on and has the Seahawks offense on cruise control despite missing Jimmy Graham and Marshawn Lynch for a significant amount of time. Wilson is in a dead heat with Cam Newton and Andrew Luck for best young QB in the game and I think he is the safest one of them all. In long-term leagues, he is one of the most coveted players you could own.
All Mixed Up by 311
Andy Dalton (QB, Bengals) – “You’ve got to trust your instinct. And let go of regret. You’ve got to bet on yourself now star. ‘Cause that’s your best bet.” The Red Rifle’s reputation precedes him. Much like Tony Romo, Dalton cannot “win the big one” and comes up small in big games. Well, that may be true, but both of those QBs put up numbers during the Fantasy season. Unless you are a Cowboys or Bengals fan, that is all that really matters. This season, Dalton showed more consistency than ever and took better care of the football. Those have been two of the biggest complaints about him in the past. Before getting injured, he was heading towards a second 4,000 yard, 30 TD season. Dalton is not as talented as the numbers make him look, nor as bad as his detractors claim. That makes him a solid starting option in dynasty formats and a favorite of the seasonal “wait to draft a QB” crowd.
Heartless by Kanye West
Eddie Lacy (RB, Packers) – “Oh, how could you be so heartless? How could you be so, cold as the winter wind when it breeze, yo.” Lacy entered the year as one of the best all-around backs in football and an easy first round selection in seasonal and keeper formats. He was a battering ram in a high-powered Packers offense and Fantasy points were sure to keep raining down. Not so much in 2016. Lacy struggled mightily and may have never been fully healthy. He gave way to James Starks too often and looked like a shell of his former self when toting the rock. Can we expect a rebound for Lacy next year? It is absolutely possible for him to now be a value in your draft, but he is not without risk. In dynasty leagues, he has leaked so much value you might as well hold onto him for the time being. Maybe he can string together a couple of decent playoff games and offer some optimism for a bounce back. If not, you will just have to wait for the summer. I can already see the headlines about Lacy being rededicated and in the best shape of his career. Proceed with cautious optimism here.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
Adrian Peterson (RB, Vikings) – “Don’t worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble. But when you worry, you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy.” If you have owned Peterson in a dynasty format, he has given you elite play throughout his career with the exception of last season. All he did at age-30 was put up his third-highest rushing total and scored double-digit TDs for the eighth time in nine years. How much longer can he play at a high level with all the wear and tear on his body because of his running style? That is the big question owners are faced with in long-term leagues. He has shown no signs of slowing down, so it would seem foolish not to peg him for another couple of Top 10 finishes. He will once again be a first round selection in your yearly leagues this summer. With the running back landscape more fragmented than ever, Peterson still remains a force to be reckoned with.
Four Five Seconds by Rihanna featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney
Martavis Bryant (WR, Steelers) “Now I’m Four Five Seconds from wildin’.” Bryant has 14 TDs in just 21 career games as the explosive Robin to Antonio Brown’s Batman. He nearly doubled his reception total from his rookie season, making his Fantasy value less reliant on big plays. Playing in one of the best offenses in the game, Bryant’s upside is scary high. It would not be a surprise if he and Brown both put up Top 10 numbers next season. Despite questionable off the field decisions, he should be one of the most sought after breakout candidates in dynasty formats. This could be your last chance to get him at a reasonable price. In fact, if he steps up in the playoffs after being called out by his quarterback, you might already be out of time.
Big Dog Status by Scarface
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Texans) – “Being famous wasn’t nothing, I just liked my dough
I was living in the fast lane. Man for sho.” Hopkins flashed in his first two seasons with the Texans before exploding this year. After an impressive rookie performance for which he did not get nearly enough credit, Nuk pushed Andre Johnson aside as the Texans’ go-to receiver and had a 1,200 yard season. With Johnson out of town in 2015, Hopkins took his play to new heights, with 111 catches for over 1,500 yards and 11 TDs. He quickly established himself as one of the most dependable PPR options in DFS. While the Texans are not expected to make a deep run in the playoffs, Hopkins has the ability to give you huge numbers for a week or two. You could make a case for him as a Top 5 Dynasty asset. At just 24 years old heading into next season, it will be interesting to see if he can push his game even further.
Hurts So Good by John Mellencamp
Jordan Reed (TE, Redskins) – “Hurt so good. Come on baby make it hurt so good. Sometimes love don’t feel like it should. You make it, hurt so good.” If you could trust Reed to stay healthy, there is a case to be made that he is the second-most valuable tight end in Fantasy. In fact, you can make that case anyway. It is hard to look past the injury history here, but Reed is an exceptional pass catcher. After just three TDs in two years, it all came together for him in 2015. He was one of Fantasy’s true breakout performers, with 952 yards on 87 receptions, 11 of which went for scores. The tight end market is too volatile for you to trade away a game-breaker like Reed. If you own him in a long-term league, make sure you secure an adequate backup option. He is well worth the risk in all formats, despite what should be a significant rise in price.
Faith by George Michael
Travis Kelce (TE, Chiefs) – “I just got to wait. Because I got to have faith. I gotta have faith. I gotta, gotta, gotta have faith.” Kelce might be one of the most physically gifted tight ends in the game, but his Fantasy prowess has not quite caught up yet. That is not to say Kelce has been a disappointment. He is stuck in a low-volume passing attack with a quarterback that does not like to take many chances. Still, to have more than 1,700 yards and 10 TDs in your first two years is nothing to gloss over. In dynasty leagues, now is the time to buy. You may have to deal with another few seasons of Alex Smith, but the hope is that a new signal caller will be under center when Kelce enters his prime. In redraft, look at him as a TE1 once again, but a tier below elite options like Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen.