Just like that, another great NFL season has come to an end. With that being said, I know we all want something fantasy related to pay attention to this offseason, so here’s a list of some players you should keep an eye on if you play in a keeper league.
I’m assuming that all of the names on this list were either late round picks or waiver pickups in your league, so keeping them around will, of course, come at a very low cost.
Jimmy Garoppolo- QB, 49ers
I know this is the obvious one but it just needs to be said. If you picked up Garoppolo on waivers, keep him. If he’s still available in your league, GO GET HIM NOW.
He threw for 1,542 yards in his five starts, which is an NFL record. That’s also with just a few weeks of prep time.
Give this guy a full offseason to work with Kyle Shanahan, and you’re looking at a top 10 fantasy quarterback next year for the price of a last round pick.
Matt Breida- RB, 49ers
After the 49ers beat the Jaguars in week 16, Carlos Hyde said that they’d be in the Super Bowl next year. With how good Garoppolo has looked, Hyde may not be that crazy. What’s funny though is that he may not be in San Fran to enjoy that run.
Hyde, who will be 28 next year, is in the final year of his contract and will be coming off of a year in which he saw his yards per carry average drop from 4.6 to 3.9, and his yardage total drop from 988 yards in 13 games to 940 in 16.
Behind Hyde is Breida, who is just 22 years old, half the price, and coming off of a solid rookie year in which he averaged 4.4 yards per carry.
The 49ers offense will certainly be one of the league’s best next year, so their feature back will be one you want to own. If the 49ers do let Hyde go, Breida could see solid RB2 production next year.
Marlon Mack- RB, Colts
Mack’s totals wont blow you away this year, but not because he isn’t talented. It’s mostly because it seemed as if Chuck Pagano had some personal vendetta against him, insisting on giving the bulk of the team’s carries to 34 year old Frank Gore. With Pagano now gone, Mack’s usage should see a significant increase in year two.
This was also the final year of Gore’s contract. With his age and price, it’s highly unlikely Gore will be back in Indy next year.
With Pagano and Gore gone, and Andrew Luck (hopefully) back at full strength, this offense will certainly improve. While they still do have their offensive line issues, Mack is worth holding onto for next year, especially in PPR leagues seeing as he averaged 10.7 yards per catch this year.
Duke Johnson Jr.- RB, Browns
I know I know, trusting a Cleveland Brown is always a risky call but hear me out.
Despite the Browns’ 0-16 record and 24th ranked offense, Duke Johnson was still RB 12 in PPR scoring this year. The third year back had 11 games of at least four catches, and had multiple catches in all 16. Despite primarily being a pass catcher, Johnson also averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry.
Johnson’s backfield mate, Isaiah Crowell, will be a free agent this offseason and he didn’t do much to convince Cleveland that he’s a must keep. With or without Crowell there next year, Johnson is absolutely worth keeping in any PPR format.
Like I said, I know it’s hard to trust a guy on the Browns, but if Johnson was RB 12 on THIS team, anything is possible (KG voice).
Marquise Goodwin- WR, 49ers
In the five games he played with Jimmy Garropolo under center, Goodwin caught 29 passes and was targeted 43 times. That catch total tops his total from the previous 11 games combined. He averaged 15.1 PPR points in those five games.
With Garropolo at quarterback, Goodwin proved that he’s more than just a deep threat. It didn’t take long for the duo to develop a nice chemistry with one another, and as I said before this offense will be one of the league’s best next year.
Give Goodwin and Garropolo an entire offseason to develop their chemistry even more, and you have a receiver who could be putting up high-end WR2, even WR1 type numbers, and it’ll only cost you a late round pick.
Will Fuller V- WR, Texans
Due to injuries to both himself as well as rookie stud Deshaun Watson, it wasn’t a great year for Fuller in terms of totals, but think about this: in the four games Fuller played with Watson at quarterback, he averaged a whopping 20.95 PPR points per game.
Those numbers were without question helped by the fact that Fuller caught an absurd seven touchdowns on just 13 total receptions, but that’s what he is. He’s a big play threat who can get behind any defense and burn them for a big score. Watson’s a guy with a cannon of an arm who isn’t afraid to use it, so expect to see Fuller used a lot more in 2018.
Do I expect every other catch from Fuller to be a touchdown next year? Certainly not. But with Watson throwing him the ball, the upside is there.
Oh, and it also helps that every defense he plays will have to worry about that guy DeAndre Hopkins on the other side of the field. With constant double teams and attention being thrown Hopkins’ way, Fuller will see a lot of one-on-one coverage. Something he can easily beat.
Dede Westbrook/Keelan Cole- WR, Jaguars
There’s a lot of reasons to like these two rookie receivers.
First of all, they’re both very talented.
After missing the first nine games of the year, Westbrook came back strong posting 27 catches for 339 yards in his first seven career games. He averaged 9.5 PPR points in those games.
Meanwhile, Cole has shown to be more of the big play threat. His 11 catches of 20+ yards led the team, and his 17.8 yards per catch ranked second in the NFL.
In addition to the talent of these two, there’s the newfound talent of Blake Bortles who finished 11th in the NFL in passing and has proven to be an actual trustworthy NFL quarterback.
Not only is the talent there, but the in-house competition may not be.
Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson will both be free agents this offseason. Robinson is coming off a year in which he caught one pass before suffering a season ending ACL injury. Jacksonville may not be interested in the risk.
Lee had a good year, but with Cole locked up for the next two seasons, and Westbrook the next three, and both of them being significantly cheaper, Jacksonville may let Lee sign elsewhere.
It’s a perfect storm for the two young wideouts, and the fact that Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston all ranked in the bottom nine in terms of pass defense this year just makes their 2018 outlook even better.
Eric Ebron- Lions TE
This is a bit of a reach, but here’s why Ebron’s a guy you should keep.
Over the final eight games of the season, Ebron showed the most consistency he’s shown in his entire career posting at least four catches or a touchdown in all but one of them. He averaged 11.1 PPR points in those games, and it looks as if him and Matthew Stafford are finally clicking week in and week out.
Like I said, its a reach. But it’s hard to find consistent fantasy production at tight end. Given where he was drafted (in the actual draft), Ebron clearly has the raw traits needed to be a good NFL tight end. With him and Stafford now on the same page, Ebron could be a solid guy to keep around, and for a low price.
Only one team’s defense deserves keeper consideration, and its Jacksonville.
Here’s a statistic: this year the Jags D/ST scored a total of 208 fantasy points. That’s more than all but 12 running backs and 20 wide receivers…and that’s with PPR scoring.
With Jacksonville you get a defense you can confidently play week in and week out, so you won’t have to worry about scrambling to find a new defense to stream.
This year they averaged 13 fantasy points each week. That’s a solid number for most flex players, let alone a defense.
A confident weekly start and double digit points per week? Yeah, I’ll give up a late rounder for that.