Written by: Alexander Amir
Dynasty fantasy leagues introduce a whole new layer of intrigue to the game, as once a player is on your team, you have the opportunity to keep him for as many future seasons as you want. This makes young players like Ezekiel Elliott or Alvin Kamara supremely valuable, because they will likely play at this superstar level for years to come.
Unfortunately, not everyone can have a Zeke or Alvin on their team. Dynasty leagues are won by searching for the lower regarded players and snatching them up before they make an impact. Sometimes you have to look a year or two into the future, but if you play your cards right, you could end up with a young, all-star team for years to come. This article will look at some of these lower tier players, specifically ones that are under 25 years old, and have an average draft position (ADP) of round 9 or later in 10-team PPR leagues.
QB: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota is not only one of my premiere dynasty targets, but also one of my top fantasy sleeper QBs overall. Currently being drafted as the QB18, Mariota is being significantly undervalued due to his failure to live up to his hype of being the #2 overall pick in 2015. However, the Titans underwent numerous changes this offseason. The offense that Mariota has been stuck in thus far was slow, cumbersome, and reliant on “smash-mouth” running backs, severely limiting Mariota’s impact on the game. The Titans rarely ran 3 receiver sets compared to the rest of the league, and they were in the bottom 4 of number of plays ran all season.
This offseason, the Titans hired LA Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who was the engineer behind 2017’s top ranked offense. He ran 3-receiver sets more than any other team and the team was ranked 4th in the league in red zone targets. To sweeten the deal, Mariota will also see receivers Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe return from injury. Still just 24 years old, Mariota has the potential to be a fantasy star in a new offensive scheme for years to come.
RB: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
I wrote extensively about Chicago’s running back situation here, but the bottom line is I think Cohen takes over as the top back sooner rather than later. I found a telling stat about Cohen’s usage, as “Cohen took about 36% of snaps for the Bears in 2017, but was actually tied for 10th in the league for most targets amongst running backs despite a significantly lower snap share than the guys above him.” This clearly indicates high usage when Cohen is on the field. Chicago’s new head coach, Matt Nagy, is known to prefer small, quick, pass-catching backs, and there were even trade rumors surrounding fellow running back Jordan Howard this offseason. Finally, the Bears will undoubtedly move more to a pass-heavy attack with young, strong-armed QB Mitch Trubisky now leading the team. Cohen is 23 years old, and is clearly the future of the Chicago backfield. Get him now while he’s cheap.
RB: Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
Chubb was a college football star, leaving the University of Georgia with the 2nd most rushing yards in SEC history. Despite splitting time with Sony Michel, Chubb was still able to amass 1,345 yards and 15 touchdowns in his final year in college. He was drafted by a Browns team that has a crowded backfield with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. My colleague Jake Leicht broke down the Cleveland backfield here, and concluded that while Chubb won’t be too valuable if Hyde is healthy, Chubb has by far the highest ceiling and could be a late round steal if Hyde were to get hurt. Given his injury history, that’s not too far out of the question. In terms of dynasty leagues, however, Chubb is a quality target. Cleveland can opt-out of Hyde’s contract after this season, and will likely do so if Chubb shows promise. If your team is strong enough that you can plan for upcoming seasons, Chubb is the perfect option.
WR: Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals
This year’s rookie wide receiver class was quite interesting, as nobody really knew in what order these players would be selected. Calvin Ridley was considered the best receiver by most, but he was selected after D.J. Moore, while others thought Courtland Sutton or Christian Kirk would go off the board in the 1st round as well. Amongst all these rookie receivers, however, I think Kirk has a chance to be the most productive one. He was drafted by an Arizona Cardinals team that also selected their QB of the future, Josh Rosen. He has the opportunity to learn behind Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best to ever play the game. His team has a star running back in David Johnson to help keep the offense two-dimensional. And most importantly, he has very little competition at his position. Kirk has the chance to make an immediate impact in the passing game, and with Fitz likely close to retiring, Kirk will become the #1 receiver for the foreseeable future. He has the perfect blend of short and long term potential.
WR: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
Sutton is another rookie receiver that many thought would be selected in the 1st round but dropped to the 2nd. Sutton is built like a prototypical outside receiver at 6'3" and 218 lbs with big hands, and ran a 4.54 40-yard dash. The Broncos seem to have had Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as their starting receivers for ages, but the Broncos have the option to move on from both of them this season by opting out of their contracts. While they likely won’t release both, they undoubtedly will drop one of them likely Sanders, to make room for Sutton. In three healthy seasons from 2014–2016, Sanders had over 1,000 yards and totaled 20 touchdowns. There’s plenty of offense to be had given the team’s lack of tight end and Demaryius Thomas being the only competition at receiver. While Sutton may not see too much time this season with Sanders still on the roster, stash him on your roster for next year.