For fantasy enthusiasts who participate in keeper or dynasty leagues, the season is never over. Even if your team has fallen out of playoff contention, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year. As you shift your focus to the future, here are some players to target that could help rebuild your franchise. While many will already reside on rosters, particularly in dynasty leagues, you may be able to acquire a future star via trade with a team that’s still in the playoff mix.
1. Matt Schaub, Falcons
Schaub will become an unrestricted free agent next year. Michael Vick’s impressive season could make the Falcons more willing to let Schaub walk. He’s better than 20% of the starters out there right now. Don’t be surprised to see him in a Lions or Ravens uniform in 2007.
2. Jay Cutler, Broncos
Cutler will be the starter in Denver next season if not sooner. The Javon Walker – Jay Culter combination could become one of the league’s most feared hookups if Culter is as good as the scouts say.
3. Daunte Culpepper, Dolphins
No player has fallen from grace farther and faster than Culpepper. He should return to the starting lineup next year healthier and looking to prove the naysayers wrong.
4. Damon Huard, Chiefs
Based on his play this year, Huard has likely earned himself a chance to compete for a starting job. Whether or not it happens in KC or elsewhere remains to be seen.
5. David Gararrd, Jaguars
Garrard is a winner. This much is known. Time will tell if he can become a legitimate fantasy QB. His ability to run the football will help.
6. Jason Campbell, Redskins
Head coach Joe Gibbs is loyal to Mark Brunell, but there’s no guarantee Gibbs will be around next season. Campbell will most definitely get his shot if there’s a regime change.
7. Charlie Batch, Steelers
Batch has looked nothing short of spectacular when he’s been called upon this season in relief of Ben Roethlisberger. He could ask to be released or traded during the offseason to give it another go as a starter. Batch might look good in a Bills or Raiders uniform.
8. Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings
The Minnesota rookie looked spectacular this preseason. With Brad Johnson set to receive social security in a year or two, the job could be Jackson’s before you know it.
9. Aaron Rogers, Packers
Brett Favre doesn’t look like he’s going to be hanging up the cleats anytime soon, but if he does, Rogers is waiting in the wings to inherit a good young offense.
10. Kellen Clemens, Jets
Clemens was a second-round pick this year. He will likely compete with Chad Pennington in 2007 for the starting job.
1. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
With Tiki Barber set to retire, Jacobs will inherit the starting spot. Most fantasy enthusiasts know he’s a brute around the goal-line, but he’s been impressive in the open field, as well.
2. Michael Turner, Chargers
Turner “the Burner” is a restricted free agent next year, which means the Chargers would have to match all offers he receives in order to retain him. That’s not likely to happen considering the money they have locked up in LaDainian Tomlinson’s contract. Logical landing spots include Oakland, New York (Jets), and Cleveland.
3. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
Nick Saban has been outspoken about how much the team misses Williams. He’ll have a roster spot next year alongside Ronnie Brown.
4. Cedric Benson, Bears
Benson’s day will come. Maybe even before the season is out. With Thomas Jones pushing 30, Benson might be the favorite to become the starter in 2007 . . . if he keeps his head straight.
5. Domanick Davis, Texans
Davis has a knee injury that could realistically end his career. However, he’s worth a gamble if your team is out of playoff contention in a keeper league. The Houston offense will continue to improve, so if he returns healthy, Davis could be huge.
6. Chris Brown, Titans
LenDale White is the RB of the future in Tennessee. Chris Brown hasn’t been shy about letting people know that he wants out. He should get his wish in 2007 and has the talent to compete for a starting gig.
7. Musa Smith, Ravens
Jamal Lewis clearly isn’t the same back who rushed for 2,000 yards a few seasons ago. He looks sluggish and doesn’t punish defenders like he used to. Don’t be surprised to see Smith, who looked phenomenal this preseason, to take over next year.
8. Travis Henry, Titans
See #6 above. Henry has looked spry at certain times this season. Another team could give him a look in 2007.
9. Priest Holmes, Chiefs
Holmes says the word “retirement” isn’t in his vocabulary. His neurosurgeon could provide him with the definition before long. However, if he gets clearance to play, Holmes may once again become a fantasy factor. It may not be in KC though.
8. Ladell Betts, Redskins
Betts will become an unrestricted free agent following this season. He has a good combination of speed and power. Grab Betts now. With a 4.1 career ypc average, he’s a sneaky, dark-horse candidate to become a starter somewhere else.
9. Adrian Peterson, Bears
With Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson ahead of him on the depth chart, there hasn’t been much opportunity for Peterson to see playing time. But the five-year veteran boasts a career 4.7 ypc average that should open some eyes. If Jones is handed his walking papers, and Benson is Peterson’s only competition, things could get interesting.
10. T.J. Duckett, Redskins
Duckett never got a shot in Washington, but that doesn’t mean his career is over. I always thought he’d look good in a Steelers uniform. The next Jerome Bettis?
1. Mark Clayton, Ravens
Clayton could be the next in a long line of WRs who exploded in their third year. He has big-time playmaking ability and the untapped potential to become the next Steve Smith.
2. Vincent Jackson, Chargers
The Chargers are close to making a Super Bowl run, but a key area of weakness is at the WR position. Don’t be surprised if they let Keenan McCardell go next season and insert the promising young Vincent Jackson into the starting lineup.
3. Chad Jackson, Patriots
The Patriots need someone to fill the shoes of Deion Branch and become a playmaker. They are enamored with Jackson’s talent. With a year under his belt, he’ll be a force in 2007.
4. Jerry Porter, Raiders
It’s hard to imagine that Porter will be wearing silver and black next year. If given the opportunity to start anew in another city, he could finally reach his potential. Possible destinations include New England, Tennessee, and Jacksonville.
5. Kevin Curtis, Rams
Curtis becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2007. Regardless of whether he re-signs with the Rams or goes elsewhere, he’ll have an excellent opportunity to make a positive fantasy impact for your dynasty team.
6. Derrick Hagan, Dolphins
I expect the Dolphins to shake things up this offseason. Don’t be surprised to see Hagan take over the starting spot from Marty Booker. Hagan has looked impressive in limited action, though he needs to improve his hands.
7. Charles Rogers, FA
Don’t forget about Rogers. He’ll be in someone’s training camp next season trying to work his way back into the NFL.
8. Roddy White, Falcons
White is another WR who will enter his third year in 2007. The emergence as Michael Vick as a passer makes White a decent prospect.
9. Brian Gilmore, 49ers
The coaching staff calls Gilmore their “secret weapon”. He may be declassified next year. If given the opportunity to start, he could become the next great 49ers wideout.
10. Sinorice Moss, Giants
Santana’s younger brother was plagued by injures in his rookie season, but could take over for the aging Amani Toomer if he comes back healthy.
1. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Lewis was nicked up during the preaseason and the time he missed set him back. Look for him to become the undisputed starter in 2007, where he should make an impact.
2. Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks
Stevens will become an unrestricted free agent next year. The Seahawks have a lot of money tied up in their receivers and may chose to let their former first-round draft pick walk.
3. Eric Johnson, 49ers
Like Stevens, Johnson will become an UR free agent in 2007. With Vernon Davis in the fold, San Francisco has little use for Johnson. He has the talent to start elsewhere.
4. Tony Scheffler, Broncos
Scheffler has been a disappointment in his rookie year, but a lot of the blame falls on QB Jake Plummer who has been ineffective. A QB change could boost the value of Scheffler in 2007.
5. Joe Klopfenstein, Rams
Head coach Scott Linehan loves to use his TEs as pass catchers. Given a year to mature, Joe Klopfenstein could become something special in St. Louis.