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. Each player has a chance to see his value rise over the second half of the season and during the off-season. 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. Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, Browns
Anderson has been the biggest surprise of the 2007 fantasy season. But with Brady Quinn waiting in the wings, Cleveland has a decision to make. Will they follow the model of the Chargers and Bengals? Both franchises traded a top-performing veteran (Brees and Kitna) for unproven youngsters whom they spent first-round picks on (Rivers and Palmer). Regardless of whether it’s Anderson or Quinn who gets dealt, they both might be starting somewhere in 2008.
2. Marc Bulger, Rams
Bulger can likely be acquired in a trade relatively cheaply right now. He’s put together a couple nice games in a row, but will go down as one of the bigger busts in 2007. If the Rams get some help on the offensive line next year, he should bounce back to top 10 status in 2008.
3. Vince Young, Texans
The combination of the Madden curse and the sophomore slump hit Young hard, but don’t completely write him off as an NFL bust. If the Titans put together a good draft and land some promising free agents, Young could once again be on the upswing.
4. Kellen Clemens, Jets
With the Chad Pennington era most likely over in New York, Kellen Clemens now holds the keys to an offense that has some pretty decent weapons. Acquire him now and see what kind of player he is during the remainder of the season.
5. Kevin Kolb, Eagles
Right now I’d say the chances of Donovan McNabb returning as the starting QB of the Eagles are about 50/50. If he’s traded, Kevin Kolb would become the starter for a team that has historically been a fantasy juggernaut.
6. JaMarcus Russell, Raiders
Russell is raw and unproven, but he has all the tools to become a fantasy factor the minute he takes the field. With an incredible arm and outstanding mobility, Russell will score fantasy points one way or another.
7. Rex Grossman, Bears
Grossman will become a free agent after the season wraps up. Something tells me he won’t be back in Chicago next year. Look for him to get a starting shot with another team in 2008.
8. Matt Leinart, Cardinals
Leinart took a step back in 2007. Even before he got injured, the former Heisman Trophy winner looked skittish in the pocket. Still, he has the skills and surrounding talent to become a top 15 fantasy QB. Stash him on your roster if you have room.
9. Kyle Boller, Ravens
Boller will get another chance to start for the Ravens before the season is over. He’s looked good in limited action. If he continues to show progress, he may enter the 2008 season as the starter.
10. John Beck, Dolphins
Beck will get a chance to start in 2007. Who knows? After all the QBs Miami has been through, maybe he’ll be the next Marino. Look for Beck to be the starter at the beginning of the 2008 season.
1. Michael Turner, Chargers
Turner will be the highest-profile free agent at the end of the season and will most certainly be a starter for another team in 2008. If he lands in a good situation, like Green Bay or Denver, look for him to be ranked among the top 10-15 fantasy RBs at the beginning of next season.
2. Julius Jones, Cowboys
Jones doesn’t get much respect in fantasy circles because he takes carries from Marion Barber, who many consider to be the better RB. However, Jones is still better than at least a third of all the starters in the NFL. His contract is up after this year and will likely secure a starting spot with another team in 2008.
3. LaMont Jordan, Raiders
ESPN analyst John Clayton has speculated that LaMont Jordan might be traded this offseason. Based on his early season production, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get another crack at starting in a different NFL city. You should be able to get him dirt cheap right now with a trade.
4. Sammy Morris, Patriots
Most people view Laurence Maroney as New England’s franchise RB. Were those people watching the first half of the season carefully? Morris looked like he belongs in the starting lineup. If he recovers from his chest injury, he may find himself there in 2008.
5. Michael Bush, Raiders
The rookie started the year on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. However, he could be activated this week. With LaMont Jordan unlikely to return to Oakland next year, Bush may compete for the starting job in 2008. The team also has a decision to make with Justin Fargas, who will be a free agent.
6. Jerious Norwood, Falcons
I’m not confident that Norwood will get a chance to be the starter in Atlanta with Bobby Petrino calling the shots. However, Warrick Dunn’s career is winding down, so there is at least a glimmer of hope.
7. Ladell Betts, Redskins
I still haven’t forgotten about Betts’ huge second half performance last season. I’m sure there are plenty of NFL GMs who haven’t either. Don’t be surprised if a team attempts to trade for Betts next spring or summer. Even if he isn’t dealt, starter Clinton Portis is always a preseason injury risk.
8. Kenny Watson and Kenny Irons, Bengals
I get the feeling that Rudi Johnson’s tenure as the Bengals starting RB may be coming to an abrupt close. Johnson looks spent. The Cincy brass will likely address the backfield during the 2008 draft but may give Kenny Watson and Kenny Irons a chance to compete for playing time. Watson has looked outstanding in the games he’s played this year. Irons, a rookie out of Auburn, went on the IR during the preseason and will have plenty of time to recover from a torn ACL.
9. Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison, Browns
The Browns inked Jamal Lewis to a one-year contract this offseason. That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the former 2,000-yard rusher. While Lewis hasn’t completely flopped, there’s a fair chance the Browns go in a different direction in 2008. Look for incumbents Jason Wright and Jerrome Harrison to compete with a veteran free agent or a rookie for carries.
10. Musa Smith, Ravens
Smith is a free agent after the 2008 season. In what will be a weak free agent crop for RBs, Smith will likely test the market and may compete for playing time in another city.
11. Andre Hall, Broncos
Travis Henry’s status in the NFL is tenuous at best. He’s doing his best to avoid a suspension, but even if he dodges that bullet, he might not be back in Denver next year. Selvin Young would be the favorite to start for Mike Shanahan in 2008. However, Andre Hall is a darkhorse. Based on previous preseasons in Denver, darkhorses have an outstanding track record.
1. Chris Henry, Bengals
If the Bengals don’t make the playoffs this year, look for the team to shakeup the roster. The first move they make could be jettisoning brash wideout Chad Johnson. Rumors swirled earlier this year that the team would consider moving him. That’d open the door for Chris Henry, who would likely become a top 15 WRs if he’s the starter opposite T.J. Housmandzadeh.
2. Bernard Berrian, Bears
Berrian becomes a free agent in 2008. The Bears could use the franchise tag on him but there’s a chance he could end up on a new team. See what the Berrian owner is asking for him. His value would skyrocket if he landed on a team like Philadelphia.
3. Donte Stallworth, Patriots
It surprisingly hasn’t drawn much attention, but Randy Moss will be a free agent following this year. He will obviously command a huge contract. Based on past contract negotiations, the Patriots brass might balk at signing him to a big deal. If Moss walks, Stallworth might become a legit top 15 WR.
4. Javon Walker, Broncos
You can probably get Walker relatively cheap if the team that owns him is in the thick of the playoff hunt. He should return to top-20 form next year when he’s fully recovered from a knee injury.
5. James Jones, Packers
Jones drew rave reviews during the preseason and has had some decent regular season games, as well. Two fumbles in the Bears games have caused his value to dip a bit, but he should be a regular fantasy starter next year with a full season under his belt.
6. Sydney Rice, Vikings
If you haven’t actually watched a Minnesota Vikings game, you might think the team’s offense is a quagmire outside of Adrian Peterson. The truth of the matter is they may have a future star in rookie Sydney Rice. If they can get a QB next year, Rice might become a household name.
7. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
Is Marvin Harrison’s knee injury the beginning of the end? Probably not. However, the team has been secretive about the extent of the damage. Harrison will return in 2008 but he might not be the same guy. Look for Gonzalez to be a bigger part of the offense.
8. Bryant Johnson, Cardinals
Johnson, a former first round draft pick, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He never really got a shot in Arizona playing behind Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Another team may make him a starter in 2008.
9. Rashied Davis, Bears
If Berrian isn’t re-signed, the Bears would have a cavernous hole in their passing attack. Davis might be the guy who fills it.
10. Lance Moore, Saints
Devery Henderson is a free agent after this season. Based on his “dropsies”, he may not be re-signed. Lance Moore will be in his third season next year and could be the favorite to win the starting job opposite Marques Colston in 2008 if Henderson is out of the picture.
1. Greg Olsen, Bears
Olsen looks like the real deal in Chicago. If he Bears land a decent QB like Donovan McNabb during to offseason, Olsen could quickly become a top fantasy TE.
2. Ben Watson, Patriots
Watson isn’t quite a top 10 TE this season. He’s battled injuries and New England’s wideouts have just been too good. If Randy Moss leaves during the offseason, that will all change. Watson is a smart acquisition in dynasty leagues right now.
3. Vernon Davis, 49ers
When he came into the league, Davis was one of the most hyped TEs in the history of the NFL. Due to poor QB play and a lengthy history of injuries, he’s failed to live up to expectations. A QB change in the offseason would make his value considerably higher.