Finding value in dynasty leagues is difficult since the caliber of dynasty owner skews higher. Beneficial depth chart situations are often recognizable to everyone. If you do your homework (and since you are here, you obviously do), you will be more aware of less clear paths to playing time
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vaughn is being underrated both as an immediate impact player and as a long-term option. Anyone who is overly concerned about Ronald Jones is kidding themselves as Bruce Arians didn’t want him on the field half the time last year when his only competition was a less than impressive Peyton Barber. The rookie is both better in pass protection and holds significantly more PPR value than Jones right off the bat based on his skillset.
As the more talented skilled back, there is a good chance he takes Jones's job this season and look at the offense around him. Tom Brady loves to dump the ball off, and that immediately boosts the running backs PPR value and his need to be on the field over Jones. Then you look at the weapons the defense has to focus on and the fact that the offensive line should be much improved from last season. With Brady at the helm throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Rob Gronkowski, it’s going to be tough to put much attention on the running back either as a ball carrier or pass catcher.
Brady being at the tail end of his career doesn’t hurt the long-term value of the offense in general either. He’s an all-time great, and still can be well above-average. With those receivers and in Arians's offense, the passing attack will draw attention away from a rushing attack. Just look at the monster numbers Jameis Winston put up last season and what Carson Palmer did in Arizona.
RB La'Mical Perine, New York Jets
This is more of a case of unforeseen opportunity rather than underrated talent. Perine is a guy who doesn’t pop on film, but he is a high-character young player. The Jets drafted him 120th overall, and he is expected to be a contributor. However, he may contribute more than many anticipate.
The other two backs on the team are Le’Veon Bell and Frank Gore. Bell is a superior talent. Nonetheless, it's been made clear that head coach Adam Gase doesn’t want him, doesn't want to pay him, and this fits his history of not being keen on certain players. Plus, most coaches seem to have "their guys," and Perine fits the mold. Gore is always reliable, but he’s days away from turning 37 years old.
There is a very real scenario where Bell doesn’t finish the season in New York, and it's even possible he doesn't start the season with his current team. Looking ahead, I can almost guarantee Bell will not be with the Jets in 2021. If Perine shows anything, there is an opportunity to seized here, and that should not be ignored. Far less touted prospects have taken advantage of lesser situations and gone on to do huge things at the next level.
RB Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals
The most obvious choice among the many fantasy veterans is Drake. Once he went to Arizona last season in Week 9 via trade from Miami, he was the fourth-best fantasy RB for the remainder of the season. He now has had time to learn the offense. David Johnson is gone, and the offense's supporting cast is improved. Kyler Murray was good last season but should be better. The offensive line looks improved, and of course, they added DeAndre Hopkins on the outside. This seems like a no-brainer. However, Drake is barely being drafted as a top 20 running back. He was scarcely used with the Dolphins driving his production down. Efficiency has never been an issue, and he should be much fresher than most 26-year-old backs looking at a significant workload in 2020.
Drake has legitimate RB1 potential this season and, with just over 450 career carries, could have a solid four or five years left in him. His usage was light during his college days at Alabama, so there is plenty of tread left on those wheels. You get value here in both PPR and standard leagues. We already knew he had PPR value coming from Miami. Still, he showed the ability to be a top ball-carrier and find the end zone in Arizona when finally given an opportunity last season.
WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
I’ve been pounding the table about Higgins all offseason ranking him as high as my WR3 in this draft class. He is AJ Green's replacement, and we have no reason to believe that he won’t need to be replaced at some point this season. While ultra-talented, Green can’t stay healthy anymore, and I don't see him bucking that trend based on the injuries he's compiled over the past few seasons. If or when Green is no longer on the field for the Bengals, whether it’s due to injury or free agency, Higgins will be the top guy. In most drafts, he would have a shot to be viewed as the No. 1 prospect.
I expect him to have an immediate impact this season and develop into a high-end WR2 with WR1 potential. His skillset makes him extremely dangerous in the red zone but also very capable of getting the ball downfield. If Joe Burrow even comes close to living up to his billing, this will be a prolific duo for the next decade.
WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
Cooks may have been a bit overvalued last season. Nevertheless, coming off a down year where he dealt with concussions and a disappointing offense, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. First off, he has been slapped with the injury-prone label after last season. That comes after four straight seasons where he started all 16 games. He hasn’t missed a game since his rookie year in 2014. The injury-prone argument doesn’t hold water. During those four years, he averaged over 1,200 yards and over seven touchdowns per season while having to play with three different teams in three completely different offenses. There is no reason to believe he can't adjust to a new team with a better quarterback.
Speaking of his new team, the situation is about as good as fantasy owners could hope. His quarterback goes from being the mediocre Jared Goff to Deshaun Watson, who may be one of the three best quarterbacks in the NFL. With DeAndre Hopkins gone, Cooks will slide in as his WR1. At just 26 years old and in a much better situation than he was in last year, I fully expect Cooks to have a bounce-back season. Hopefully, he can stick around Houston for a while and build something special with Deshaun Watson. This duo could become fantasy gold. Currently, 40 wide receivers are going off the board before him. Snatch him up in every draft you can.
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