5 Dynasty Keepers to Keep In Mind for Next Season
In the blink of an eye, the 2016 Fantasy season has come and gone. It seems like only yesterday, I was spending an 85-degree August day sitting on the beach putting together my big board and deciding whether to go running back or wide receiver with my first pick.
Now four months later, there’s snow on the ground and the NFL playoffs are upon us. But before we abandon our season-long rosters, it’s time to take a look at players that should take a giant leap forward in 2017. Players like Matt Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, and Jay Ajayi — draft afterthoughts finishing in the Top 5 or 10 at their position — that helped owners, like myself, attain Fantasy glory this year. These would-be dynasty keepers all have the potential to put up huge numbers and I’m willing to make a futures bet on them now.
Winston = Winning Next Year
Jameis Winston finished out the 2016 season as a Top 20 quarterback, a step back from his Top 15 performance in 2015. While he went through a slight sophomore slump, finishing second in the league in interceptions with 18, his other important stats — yards and passing touchdowns — went in the right direction. Winston threw for more than 4,000 yards and upped his passing touchdown total from 22 to 28. The real difference in his point totals from 2015 to 2016 was simply five rushing touchdowns, with only one this season.
Looking at a snapshot of the Florida State product’s first two seasons, they look nearly identical, but the upside is apparent. Winston threw for two or more touchdowns nine times, finishing with the seventh-most passing TDs on the Fantasy season. He also attempted 30 or more passes in all but two games this year.
Those positives, plus a more stable and less injured receiving corps led by Mike Evans, should swing Winston’s arrow back north in 2017. The former No. 1 pick simply needs to cut down on the turnovers (18 interceptions and six fumbles) and he’ll be a QB1 week in and week out next season. Think Cam Newton lite and keep the Tampa Bay quarterback in dynasty leagues.
Buy In on Bortles
Blake Bortles seemingly had a really bad year as the quarterback leading a completely dysfunctional Jaguars organization offense. But in Fantasy terms, he finished as a Top 10 quarterback. I’m not sure how, but he finished ahead of players like Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer to name a few.
Bortles was on the upswing in 2015 and finished as a Top 5 QB with more than 4,400 yards and 35 passing TDs. Everything went wrong this year, yet the third-year QB still accounted for 26 touchdowns — 23 passing, three rushing — and his interception total went down.
While Bortles regressed this season, he threw for 300 yards five times and accounted for two-plus touchdowns eight times. With a new regime backing him and strong performances over the last quarter of the season, Bortles should end up back in the Top 5, making him a sleeper as a keeper for next year.
Dixon Makes for Dynasty Play
Kenneth Dixon’s role in the Ravens’ offense trended upward all season. After opening the year with an MCL injury, Baltimore eased the fourth-round pick back into the lineup. He split the carries with starter Terrence West from Thanksgiving on. By season’s end, West led the team with 774 rushing yards on 193 attempts, while Dixon had 382 on just 88 touches in his rookie campaign.
Coach John Harbaugh said he expects both to be back next season, but their roles could potentially be swapped once Dixon has a healthy training camp. The coach also said he plans to lean on the running game more in 2017. This is all good news for Dixon, who reminds me a lot of Ray Rice, a back that racked up more 1,000 rush yards and at least five touchdowns in four consecutive seasons for the Ravens from 2009-2012.
Dixon was better in real life than in Fantasy this season, and he is clearly the most talented running back in the Baltimore backfield. Rather than splitting carries, he should be the Ravens’ lead back next season, making him worthy of an early-round pick and a keeper in dynasty leagues.
Ware Will Be the RB1
Spencer Ware was nothing more than a Jamaal Charles handcuff entering the 2016 season. But it’s where you end, not where you start. And Ware ended the year with nearly 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards, finishing just outside the Top 15 running backs.
His role as the Chiefs’ lead back is essentially set in stone. His main competition, backup Charcandrick West, averaged a yard less per carry this year and Charles is coming off another two knee surgeries on top of the torn ACL that caused him to miss most of last season.
Ware also has big time upside, which he’s proven with four games of 18 or more Fantasy points this year. While he had more than 200 carries and 30 catches, the LSU product only tallied five total touchdowns. The season prior, he had six rushing TDs in just 72 carries. Expect Ware to be the clear No. 1 running back in KC next season and for his touchdown numbers spike a bit, making him a solid keeper for next year.
Nelson the New No. 1 in Arizona?
Since I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t include a wide receiver, J.J. Nelson makes the list. Even before the Larry Fitzgerald retirement speculation began, I was high on Nelson. He helped lead two of my teams to Fantasy titles, racking up big point totals over the last quarter of the season, and he should continue to produce at that clip in 2017.
Even with limited touches, Nelson’s big play ability makes him an enticing option, as he continues to move up the Cardinals’ depth chart. Averaging more than 20 yards per catch over the past two seasons, along with six receiving TDs this year, Nelson’s arrow is pointing way up.
The explosive wideout should get more targets and touches next season, and the way it’s going I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up his first career 1,000-yard season. As Nelson continues to move up in the Cardinals’ pecking order, he’ll also ascend up the ranking sheets, making him a keeper option in deeper leagues.
While it’s not yet time to make your dynasty decisions, be sure to bookmark this article so you can check back in during Training Camp in eight short months.