Wk 10 Report: Title Contenders

Last week, we wrote about what Dynasty Owners could do if their season was already a lost cause in a post about punting the season and stockpiling assets to compete for next season.

This weeks write up will focus on those teams in win-now mode, and look at some players who you'll probably be able to acquire for next-to-nothing as they aren't exactly cornerstones for the future but are producing at a high level this year and could be integral for a championship run.  Remember, in the traditional head-to-head playoff weeks depth is absolutely crucial as elite players are often rested or limited heading into the actual NFL playoffs.  Savvy owners usually act now when they have options on the table versus waiting until weeks 12 and 13 when everyone is picking guys off the wire.  

So here are some things that you should be doing right now to prepare for a champ-ship run if you are in contention.

Acquire the Fill-In Stars

The first order of business is to start enquiring with any of the bottom-feeder teams who happen to have one of the fill-in stars on their roster and start making offers that include picks next year.

The two most glaring examples from this year's group include Golden Tate (WR - Lions) and Mohamed Sanu (WR - Bengals). Both serve as quality number 2 backups to the games best wideouts in Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, but injury has forced them into being the clearcut number 1 WRs for their respective offenses and they have produced like elite players. Calvin and A.J. have both seen their seasons derailed by injury, and while both are expected to return again in the coming weeks, you'd have to imagine they will be candidates to shut down or get games off in the fantasy playoff weeks as both teams are in playoff contention themselves.

Owners looking to next year should be looking at selling high on these role players turned studs, understanding that next year these guys will regress back to their number 2 status in the offense. Hopefully they will be reasonable in their demands and a win can be had for both trading parties.

As an added bonus, most of the guys on this list aren't carrying huge contracts as this is the first year of their breakout so these guys are not only producing well beyond their current contract value, they shouldn't bust your salary cap either.

Here are the top fill-in studs that owners in contention should be making inquires about.

1).  Golden Tate (WR - Detroit Lions):  21 ppg | $6.2MM / year

Golden Tate is no Calvin Johnson, but he's putting up numbers comparable to the top 3 wideoout

Tate is the priciest fill-in on this list but also the most effective, and stands the best chance of maintaining value for years to come even when Calvin Returns. The Lions have long sought a suitable number 2 in that offense and Tate has emerged as that. He should be able to have Randall Cobb like production whenever Calvin is on the field.

2). Mohamed Sanu (WR - Cincinatti Bengals): 18 ppg | $670k / year

Sanu is the unquestioned number 1 WR in the Bengals offense this year

What a steal Sanu is this year, at a measly $670k / year he is producing what A.J. Green owners had to pay $5MM a year for. Sanu has been particularly fortunate as it isn't just Green who has been hurt, but Marvin Jones and emerging TE Tyler Eifert have all sustained serious injuries this season so his production is a little fluky and won't be duplicated. But for this year, he would be a great option to have come playoff time, especially since the Bengals are in a dogfight in a division where all 4 teams have winning records so they likely won't be in a position to rest anyone in the fantasy playoff weeks.

3). Brandon LaFell (WR - New England Patriots): 15 ppg | $3MM / year

LaFell has earned the trust of Brady and Belichick - something WRs struggle to do historically.

Unlike the first 2 WRs on the list, LaFell isn't getting extra attention due to injury, but rather due to his emergence as the number 1 outside WR threat with consistent play and earning the trust of Brady & Belichick.  However, anyone who has played fantasy football for the last decade knows that unless you are Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, you will never hold the trust of Belichick for long, so chances are owners of LaFell know that this season can be a 1-year mirage like big seasons of so many Patriots of years past.  If you are competing this year, take advantage and make a low-ball offer.  LaFell should be good for 80 yards and a TD every other game for the rest of the year.

Miller has shined in the number 1 RB role this year

4). Lamar Miller (RB - Miami Dolphins): 15 ppg | $640k / year

Miller has been a really nice surprise as a lead RB for the Dolphins this year, especially to Dynasty Owners as he carries a meager $640k / year average salary.  They paid a boat load to Knowshon Moreno in the offseason and no doubt had visions of him becoming the primary back in MIA, but Moreno showed up in camp out of shape and as that usually does, led to him getting hurt early in the season.  And Miller has taken advantage, performing at a top 15 RB level.  Owners of Miller, even those out of contention, might be keen to hang onto Miller to see what happens next year but they might be convinced to part with him seeing as the Dolphins will want to give Moreno a shot to prove the offseason signing wasn't a complete waste of money.  

5).  Mark Sanchez (QB - Philadelphia Eagles):  $2.25MM / year

We can't believe he's on this list either and he's still a bit of a gamble without any starts under his belt but one thing is for certain - he has looked brilliant in Chip Kelley's offense that appears to be tailor-made for his QB style.  Foles is likely done for the season with injury and done in Philly as a starter if reports are true that the front office was beginning to sour on him even before he went down with a broken collar bone.  And now Sanchez, who's still only 27 years old, has the chance to run a high-octane offense and will have the rest of the season to prove he's the guy.  That usually leads to big statistical outputs as long as the player is competent so if he's still floating out on the wire, now is the time to take a chance.  

Here is a list of the rest of the guys who are likely playing at their ceiling this year and could be possible targets for contenders looking to make the most of this season.  

  • Brian Hoyer, QB Browns:  Unless Hoyer keeps winning ugly in Cleveland and leads them to the playoffs, Johnny Football will be the signal caller for the Browns next year.
  • Reggie Wayne, WR Colts: When Wayne got hurt the Colts finally got a chance to see young stud Donte Moncrief in action and they loved what they saw.  This is probably the last year Wayne is on the fantasy radar in that offense as TY Hilton has already emerged as the number 1 option and Moncrief is knocking on the door.
  • Antonio Gates, TE Chargers: We have to admit we thought he was already finished but he's been a top 10 TE this year so be careful here.  However, the telltale signs are there as Gates has alternated huge games with non-factor showings and the week to week consistency is the first thing to go.  Plus LaDarius Green is too good of a prospect to keep on the sidelines for long.  
  • Justin Forsett, RB Ravens: Forsett has been extremely productive virtually every week despite a very crowded backfield rotation.  We don't see Ray Rice ever being back with the Ravens but their hesitation to make Forsett the lead back when he's clearly the most effective runner leads experts to believe that the Ravens will almost certainly use a high draft pick on a RB in next year's draft.  But until that happens, Forsett is easily a top 15 RB this year and makes a great flex play for contending teams during the playoffs with very friendly match-ups in the playoffs including tilts against the Texans and the Jaguars who have both struggled mightily to stop the run this year.