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 during the offseason. Some may be found on the waiver wire; others might already reside on a roster waiting to be acquired at a relatively low cost via trade.
1. Tom Brady, Patriots
If the Brady owner in your league is in playoff contention, consider offering him/her a player that will help in the quest for a 2008 championship. You could land the top QB in 2009 and lay the foundation for a championship of your own.
2. Derek Anderson, Browns
Anderson lost his starting job to Brady Quinn and will likely be the subject of trade talks following the season. If he ends up in the right location, he could re-emerge as a top 15 fantasy QB. Anderson struggles this season can be attributed in part to a brutal schedule combined with dropped passes.
3. Carson Palmer, Bengals
Not long ago he was being mentioned in the same breath as Brady and Peyton Manning. If he gets healthy and the Bengals change their personnel and leadership, Palmer could re-emerge as a top QB.
4. Sage Rosenfels, Texans
Rosenfels clearly has what it takes to be a starting QB in the NFL. The Texans fielded offers for Rosenfels from teams last season and will likely do so again. He could be a top 10 fantasy QB if he lands in the right NFL city.
5. Joe Flacco, Ravens
Baltimore has averaged 33.5 points per game over their last four outings. The Ravens offense has been so bad for so long, it’s become a habit to ignore the team’s QB for fantasy purposes. However, rookie Joe Flacco looks like the real deal. If the team surrounds him with some more talent in 2009, he could develop into a viable starting fantasy QB.
6. Matt Leinart, Cardinals
Kurt Warner is playing at an MVP level so the Cardinals may be inclined to deal backup Matt Leinart during the offseason. The reviews on Leinart have been mixed but he’s still young and could flourish if he ends up in a favorable situation.
7. Michael Vick, Falcons
The starting QB for the Raiders in 2009?
1. Derrick Ward, Giants
The Giants failed to come to terms on a new contract with Jacobs during the summer. He’ll be a free agent following the 2008 season. The team has the best RB depth in the NFL so they may be compelled to let Jacobs walk. If they do, Derrick Ward’s value will skyrocket.
2. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Ditto for Bradshaw.
3. Larry Johnson, Chiefs
Johnson’s value has plummeted after a series of off-the-field issues and a suspension. The team may shop him during the offseason or, if they can’t find any takers, cut him outright. He’s still relatively young and could experience a revival if he lands on a team like the Patriots or Seahawks.
4. Darren Sproles, Chargers
Sproles is slated to become a restricted free agent following the season. The explosive RB could command a lot of attention on the open market. Even if the Chargers opt to bring him back, Sproles could become a major fantasy factor as LaDainian Tomlinson will be another year older and perhaps another step slower.
4. Felix Jones, Cowboys
Many members of media are quick to attribute the collapse of the Cowboys this season to the loss of QB Tony Romo. The loss of Felix Jones may not have had quite the impact, but it removed a dimension of explosiveness. Jones had long TD runs in three of the first five games. He has a bright future in Dallas and is a worth target for all owners who play in keeper/dynasty leagues.
5. Laurence Maroney, Patriots
It seems unlikely that New England will bring Maroney back in 2009. The team just has never seemed to show much faith in him. He’ll get a chance with another team and could be productive in the right situation.
6. Michael Bush, Raiders
In the hours leading up to the trade deadline this October, the Raiders apparently had a deal to send Bush to the Chargers. They backed out; however, their willingness to deal Bush is clear. With Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas in the fold, Bush is expendable. He could compete for a starting job with many NFL teams.
7. Edgerrin James, Cardinals
There’s a good possibility James won’t be with the Cardinals in 2009. He’s butted heads with the coaching staff and the team will likely move ahead with rookie Tim Hightower. James has often hinted at retirement. He may go in that direction or he may try to find a team that will let him compete for a starting job. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went back to the Colts. He left the team on good terms and Joseph Addai hasn’t shown enough.
8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots
By the time the season wraps up, Green-Ellis may have proven himself enough for New England to give him a shot at the starting gig in 2009. With Tom Brady back in the fold, that would be a significant development indeed.
9. Ryan Torain, Broncos
The most hyped player of the 2008 season didn’t quite live up to expectations. Torain blew out his knee in his first career start. Be careful not to write him off though. Lots of players have come back from reconstructive knee surgeries and gone on to have very productive careers. Besides, Mike Shanahan believes in competition during the preseason. No doubt Torain will get a chance to be the most hyped player of 2009.
1. Steve Breaston, Cardinals
Anquan Boldin had a well-publicized contact dispute during the offseason. He ended up walking away from the table and continues to hold a grudge against the team. Although he has three years remaining on his contract, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team deal him to another team following the 2008 season. Second-year WR Steve Breaston looks like a capable starter. If the team can’t convince Boldin to come back to the bargaining table, they may decide to move forward without him.
2. Dominik Hixon, Giants
Plaxico Burress continues to cause headaches for his team off the field. Burress seems to be one of those guys who will wear out his welcome with a new team every few years. Don’t be shocked if the Giants cut ties with him next season. Dominik Hixon is the heir apparent and has flashed potential when given the opportunity.
3. Anthony Gonzalez, Colts
Gonzalez hasn’t had the season many envisioned during the preseason. He’s struggled along with most of the Colts offense. As a result, you can probably acquire him via trade at a relatively inexpensive price. That investment could pay huge dividends if the Colts let Marvin Harrison go during the offseason.
4. Sidney Rice, Vikings
The Vikings have to address their QB issues during the offseason. When (not if) they do, Rice will become a more valuable fantasy commodity. He will be a third-year player in 2009 and is an excellent candidate to have a breakout season.
5. Torry Holt, Rams
Look for the Rams to make some tough decisions during the offseason. They released WR Isaac Bruce last offseason. They may part ways with Torry Holt in 2009. Holt has been vocal about his diminished role in the offense. If he continues to press the issue, the team may opt to let him go rather than force him to suffer through a rebuilding period.
6. Josh Morgan, 49ers
A staph infection, poor play at the QB position and a coaching change have combined to limit Morgan’s effectiveness during his rookie season. If the team can get some stability and leadership at the QB position next season, Morgan could be a top 25 WR for years to come.
7. Steve Smith, Giants
Veteran Amani Toomer is in the final year of his contract. With Steve Smith developing nicely, the Giants might be willing to part ways with Toomer. If that happens, Smith could be a top 15 wideout in PPR leagues next season.
8. Lance Moore, Saints
Marques Colston’s hand injury opened up a six-week window of opportunity for Moore. He capitalized and has been the Saints best wide receiver this season. Moore is scheduled to become a restricted free agent in 2009. Look for him to get some attention from other NFL teams. If he lands in the right situation, he could continue to mature and develop into an even bigger fantasy factor.
9. Nate Washington, Steelers
Perhaps more so than any other NFL team, the Steelers make a point to keep their roster free of malcontents and miscreants. Earlier this season, the team had to suspend WR Santonio Holmes, who by the way is having a disappointing season. If they choose to part ways with Holmes, there’s little doubt Nate Washington has the talent and experience to step into the starting role.
10. Mike Walker, Jaguars
Walker is a second-year wideout for Jacksonville. He had a breakout game earlier this season against the Steelers. Unfortunately he sprained his knee in the same game. The coaches are encouraged with what they’ve seen from Walker. He could prove to be the team’s best wideout since Jimmy Smith.
11. Devin Thomas, Redskins
You have to like the way Washington’s offense is developing under head coach Jim Zorn. WR Santana Moss is one of the top five fantasy receivers this season. But the thing about Moss is he’s injury prone and he’s not getting any younger. Rookie Devin Thomas has an excellent chance to emerge as the team’s top WR in 2009.
12. Chris Henry, Bengals
There’s a good possibility Cincinnati will make some major personnel changes following the season. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is scheduled to become a free agent. Chad Johnson is under contract through 2010 but will probably begin his annual campaign to be traded minutes after the 2008 season wraps. If #3 WR Chris Henry can keep his nose clean, there’s a fair chance he’ll be starting for the Bengals in 2009.
1. John Carlson, Seahawks
Amazingly, Carlson has had a decent rookie campaign despite poor play at the QB position. A healthy Matt Hasselbeck could propel Carlson to become an elite TE in 2009.
2. Jeremy Shockey, Saints
Shockey has had a pretty miserable debut season in New Orleans. If he can get himself healthy in 2009, he may re-emerge as a fantasy factor.
3. Dustin Keller, Jets
Keller hasn’t gotten on the same page with QB Brett Favre as quickly as many fantasy owners would’ve hoped. However, he’s shown flashes of game-breaking talent. Look for him to make a surge next season and become a top 10-15 TE.