Dynasty Watch: Players Gaining Value this Winter

Dynasty Watch: Players Gaining Value this Winter

This article is part of our Dynasty Strategy series.

There's not a ton of concrete news happening at this point in the offseason, with much of the discussion instead centered around rumors about rookies, franchise-tag candidates and impending free agents. Coaching changes have generally been the most impactful developments since the end of the regular season, though we've also seen a few interesting decisions on contracts and re-signings.

Below I'll highlight some of the players whose value in dynasty leagues has risen/improved since the end of the 2023 regular season. Later this week I'll be back to look at the other end of the spectrum — players that have lost value over the past month or two.

Rising 📈

The Seahawks have all but committed to Smith as their starting QB for at least one more year, keeping him on the roster past Feb. 16 when his $12.7 million base salary became guaranteed. They then renegotiated his contract, turning a $9.6 million roster bonus due in March into a guaranteed signing bonus (which clears up $4.8 million in 2024 cap space while adding $4.8 million to the 2025 cap sheet). The Seahawks might still draft a QB on Day 1/2 in April, but they aren't going to sign another starting-caliber veteran and don't have a second-round pick this year. 

       

Lions OC Ben Johnson looked like a lock for a head coach job as recently as mid-January, but he ended up missing out on a few opportunities and

There's not a ton of concrete news happening at this point in the offseason, with much of the discussion instead centered around rumors about rookies, franchise-tag candidates and impending free agents. Coaching changes have generally been the most impactful developments since the end of the regular season, though we've also seen a few interesting decisions on contracts and re-signings.

Below I'll highlight some of the players whose value in dynasty leagues has risen/improved since the end of the 2023 regular season. Later this week I'll be back to look at the other end of the spectrum — players that have lost value over the past month or two.

Rising 📈

The Seahawks have all but committed to Smith as their starting QB for at least one more year, keeping him on the roster past Feb. 16 when his $12.7 million base salary became guaranteed. They then renegotiated his contract, turning a $9.6 million roster bonus due in March into a guaranteed signing bonus (which clears up $4.8 million in 2024 cap space while adding $4.8 million to the 2025 cap sheet). The Seahawks might still draft a QB on Day 1/2 in April, but they aren't going to sign another starting-caliber veteran and don't have a second-round pick this year. 

       

Lions OC Ben Johnson looked like a lock for a head coach job as recently as mid-January, but he ended up missing out on a few opportunities and then turning down the Commanders amidst a sea of rumors/leaks. While many will assume Johnson is a goner next offseason, this actually opens up the possibility of staying in Detroit for a few more years. 

Some rumors suggest his contract demands bothered NFL owners, with others suggesting he wanted to stay in Detroit because he has "unfinished business", i.e., because the Lions are more likely to win a Super Bowl than any of the teams he might have been joining. Whatever the case, it's possible all the same things remain true next offseason. I wouldn't necessarily bet on Johnson staying in Detroit beyond 2024, but there's at least some chance of it now. At worst, Goff gets one more season under Johnson, supported by an elite offensive line plus Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery and Jameson Williams. There's not a safer QB2 around for superflex/two-QB leagues.

     

I'm not sure if Levis is good or not, but the hiring of former Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as head coach suggests the Titans want to find out in 2024 rather than trying to hide their 2023 second-round pick behind a strong running game and defense (not that they don't also want those things). It's good news for Titans fans and dynasty managers alike, especially if the team puts enough talent around Levis to give him a fair shot at success. Callahan's hiring may also be favorable for other pieces of the Tennessee passing game — namely WRs Treylon Burks and DeAndre Hopkins and TE Chigoziem Okonkwo — and the intent to throw more often will become even more clear if RB Derrick Henry walks in free agency.

Hopkins recently shot down rumors about a trade/release, though he deleted his tweet not long after (which apparently is normal for him). He still has juice heading into his age-32 season, and moving into a new offensive scheme could revive him as a high-volume PPR stud after his 2023 usage took a drastic turn toward low-probability deep balls. With or without Hopkins, the Titans would be wise to find out exactly what they have in Levis, Burks and Okonkwo. I think they will, and that'll also allow dynasty managers to know what we have on our rosters. 

     

Godwin disappointed in 2023 even as teammates Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans and Rachaad White all outperformed pre-season expectations. The 28-year-old wideout (happy birthday, Chris) still managed to squeak over 1,000 yards behind a strong finish, and now he gets a new offensive coordinator (Liam Coen) who has already pledged to put Godwin in the slot more often*. I don't usually put too much stock in what coaches say, but this one was definitely interesting to hear...

*Godwin is on my recent list of potential offseason cap casualties due to his $20 million in non-guaranteed compensation and the Bucs' strong class of impending free agents, though he's one of the least likely on the list to actually be released.

         

Pitts is probably a disappointment relative to expectations from 2021-22 and yet still capable of doing much more than what we saw the past two seasons. The two keys to finding out just what he can do are escaping Arthur Smith and getting a new QB; the first having already happened, with the second seemingly right around the corner. There is some question about the quality of said QB, with Justin Fields or a rookie probably being less favorable than Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson or Baker Mayfield in terms of expected 2024 receiving production for Atlanta's pass catchers.

The new offensive coordinator at least seems promising from that standpoint, with Zach Robinson coming from a Rams offense that rarely took its best players off the field and regularly led the league in usage of 11 personnel. If nothing else, Pitts won't have to rehab from surgery this offseason and will definitely run more routes per game in 2024. (He also won't have as much intra-positional competition following the recent announcement of Jonnu Smith's release.)

       

Kelce had 355 receiving yards in four playoff games and gave no hint of wanting to retire after winning his third Super Bowl ring. His dad even said that both Travis and his brother Jason will play again in 2024, though other reports suggest the latter is at least thinking about a move to the broadcast booth. I think it's a toss-up between Kelce and Sam LaPorta as the overall TE1 for 2024 projections, even as early ADP results put Detroit's tight end about 15 picks ahead of Kansas City's.

        

Robinson re-signed with the Rams on Friday, reportedly getting a one-year, $5 million contract rather than testing free agency. From a fantasy standpoint, this is probably his best chance at relevance, playing in a WR-friendly Sean McVay offense that allowed Robinson to accumulate 34 targets, 319 yards and four TDs over a five-week stretch in December. He never did anything like that in his four seasons playing with Patrick Mahomes, so it's hard to think of any offseason outcome that could've been better than re-signing in Los Angeles. Continued fantasy relevance isn't likely, but it is at least possible.

     

Jennings is scheduled for restricted free agency, and the Niners might've been able to fend off interest with a low tender ($2.985 million) if not for his impressive showing in the Super Bowl. They might still go that route rather than paying him $6.822 million with a second-round tender, but now it means he'll likely get better offers and San Francisco will have to decide whether to match. An original-round tender for $3.12 million is the other option, but it won't do much to dissuade other teams given that Jennings was a seventh-round pick. 

From a dynasty standpoint, you're hoping Jennings either lands with a new team or the Niners trade Brandon Aiyuk. It doesn't normally make sense to trade a player of Aiyuk's quality during such an obvious win-now window, but he might be worth more to other teams than he is to the Niners, and they could then use the trade return to secure a cheaper/younger deep threat and fortify other parts of the roster. Aiyuk drew 114 and 105 targets the past two seasons but might see 140 passes or so if he were in a more pass-heavy offense and/or one that didn't also need to feed Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey.

            

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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