Dynasty Detective Dashboard – Series Intro & NFC North



Any good detective not only has to work hard, but he has to work smart.  The rubber doesn’t always meet the road at the scene of a crime while taking photos of the body and the surrounding fixed point measurements.  Some of the most critical work is done behind the scenes.  The arduous night is accompanied by cheap cigar ashes overflowing onto the solid oak desktop threatening to create its own travesty, and there’s a visually defeated desk drawer due to the repetitious opening and closing in order to sneak a pull of Pappy Van Winkle. the only investigative certainty triggering any case resolution is simple – evidence.

Any good detective knows that hard evidence is difficult to come by. Often times the deciding factors that lead to a case being solved are anything but certain, yet, there is enough forensic and circumstantial evidence apparent to win over a jury.  Fantasy football owners often times find themselves lighting that cigar and getting down to brass tacks performing their own investigative duties in order to assess the best long-term player value for their teams.  Real-life detectives know that some cases can be solved with enough forensics to seal the deal and others can be closed when enough circumstantial evidence connects all the dots.  This is where a detective earns his living, and this is how fantasy owners win leagues for years to come.  The off season is a critical time for dynasty owners to turn the pages between each team in the NFL.  This is my first installment in a dynasty detective mini-series broken out by divisions in the NFL.  Below is a key to keep in mind as you follow-along and find the missing pieces for your dynasty teams:


Hard Evidence

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These are players that have already been filed away within the solved cases cabinet. You don’t need to be reminded how good these assets are for your teams, but I’d like to take the opportunity to address the jury with some players that potentially warrant a different value assessment than which your league mates are making. After all, the savvy officer is not going to catch the criminal by outrunning him. The savvy fantasy owner needs to strategically position himself where he anticipates his league mates to be.


Forensic Evidence

Q-Tips, blood samples, and hair strands are often times the most impactful tools to take the littlest clues and turn them into the biggest difference makers in the most high-profile cases.  This attention to detail is pertinent to the fantasy owner looking to gain an edge.  Sometimes one has to roll-up his sleeves and delve into the physicality of the game and make sound judgments about a player’s level of talent.  The most skilled player in the NFL isn’t always starting, and there are some seriously gifted players that still need to refine their game from different aspects that can catapult their game to the next level.


Circumstantial Evidence

From fingerprint factoids and witness testimony to paper-trails of collected details, a gumshoe can create a trier of supporting incidents to create a certain level of inference. This inference is the absolute greatest component of the best dynasty owner and is the difference between good and great. With a combination of risk-taking, patience, and a dash of gut the savvy owner can identify the situations that could provide an avenue for success to players that can suddenly find themselves as contributors for their respective teams.  These are long-shots to say the least, but the long-shots can change your destiny.


NFC North


Hard Evidence

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I’m going to jump right into the gun-fight Tommy-gun blazing and call out the obvious – Calvin Johnson.  Megatron is arguably the most valuable player in dynasty leagues right now and rightfully so.  It all depends on the landscape of your league and more importantly your team, but Calvin is the type of player that I personally put on the trade block to field offers.  I’m not at all concerned about his recent off season minor knee surgery, but his name value alone pulls in a monster package. If I can pull in a top 10 dynasty wide receiver like Alshon Jeffery (https://fantasygumshoe.com/category/player-investigation/)Josh Gordon, or Julio Jones along with another asset to go along with one of the above – I do it.  I’m also going to shop Brandon Marshall to see what kind of deal I can swing.  It’s no secret that Marshall is the favorite target of Jay Cutler, and that can be used to drive up Marshall’s value before he turns 30 in a couple months.  His performance shouldn’t take a hit over the next couple years.  At a minimum he will perform better than 2013 solely by adding another handful of games with Cutler under the helm vs. Josh McCown that favored one Alshon Jeffery.  While this supporting evidence might tell most people to ride Marshall into the sunset, it’s a leverage in this case that helps mitigate depreciating value simply by turning the big 3-0. This is a magic number for wide receivers in dynasty, and his trade value will decrease regardless of performance every year from here on out.  The optimal trade window for Marshall is this off-season.  If not traded, however, he’s a receiver I’m more than comfortable having retire on my fantasy team.  The next name I’m nominating in the Hard Evidence folder is Eddie Lacy.  One could arguably say he belongs in the next section for Forensic Evidence given his short stint thus far in the league, however, he has shown me more than enough to label a clear-cut top 5 dynasty running back.  I’ll admit I had much reservation  with Lacy coming into the league and getting drafting to the pass happy Green Bay Packers.  I didn’t trust his long term dynasty value given his violent and bruising run style.  Johnathan Franklin also being selected by the Pack in the 4th round gave me cause for concern.  I was following the wrong trail of clues – I was wrong.  Lacy does beat the crap out of defenders and never avoids contact, so I suppose this can create some repetitive short-term type injuries, but I’m not going to let that get in the way of where he should be valued going forward.  Aaron Rodgers’ presence alone will help ensure Lacy rarely sees 8 man boxes, and that passing attack will also help to keep tread off the tires.  He performed admirably even without Rodgers for majority of the year in addition to getting spelled by James Starks. Hopefully you already own him, because if you don’t you’d have to give up a top tier wide receiver to acquire him.  Frankly, with the evolution of the wide receiver in both the NFL and fantasy, I won’t make these types of deals going forward unless I’m stacked at the WR position and can afford to part with such a commodity.



Forensic Evidence


Sometimes the best criminal is able to hide his clues where you never even think to look – in plain sight.  Joique Bell is a guy that I’m targeting this off season as the notion around the fantasy world is that he’s a great back to have – if you’re a Reggie Bush owner.  Reggie Bush is a hell of a talent, and he’s even more dangerous as a talent when he’s able to <share> the workload with another tailback in order to stay healthy.  The Detroit Lions were a better team with a balanced attack, and their run game was more effective when both backs were healthy and shared the load.  At 5’11” 220 lbs, Bell is an all-purpose back that is seasoned in every aspect of his game; he can read and pick up the blitzes, he can find the right holes between the tackles, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.  Bell is so much more than a hand-cuff to another player.  He’s a restricted free agent this year, so it would be unlikely that Bell finds himself in another uniform.  If he does, that team would have to pay a lot to get him, so he would join another team in a time-share at minimum.  If Bell stays (highly likely) he has a role already carved out as a high end flex with RB2 upside every week.  Jim Caldwell is getting a lot of bad press, but I truly feel he will be able to work with Stafford to iron out his game.  Caldwell is going to ensure that proper emphasis is put on the run game to keep that offense clicking on all cylinders. It’s easy to acquire talented players like Bell for cheap by selling him as a “back-up.” While you’re trying to acquire Bell, you should also look to acquire Cordarrelle Patterson if you weren’t lucky enough or in the right place to draft him. It’s going to be very difficult to acquire him, as his owner is probably viewing him as a top 10 dynasty wide receiver.  While Patterson is going to come with a lofty price-tag, he’s only going to get more expensive as he carves out a larger role going forward.  He worked his way into more snaps toward the end of the season and became a human highlight reel with his screens-gone-touchdown and his open field/ after-the-catch run style.  He’s a natural runner that is still learning how to play the wide receiver position.  When he figures out half of a route tree, it’s going to be unfair for any team trying to game-plan against him.  Part of the reason Patterson didn’t see the field (in addition to his development opportunity) was Jerome Simpson.  Simpson made acquaintances with an orange jumpsuit recently after getting arrested for a DUI.  That’s not exactly where you want to be as a free agent.  Alshon Jeffery was a 2nd year wide-out breakout — meet Cordarrelle PattersonBrandon Pettigrew is an unrestricted free agent in 2014, and he may not find himself in a Lions uniform again given his year-over-year lack-luster performance.  (On a side note, I can see him end up playing for a team like the Giants next year and may surprisingly retain some short-term value.)  This almost certain departure of the overgrown pass-dropper is going to pave the way for another big-bodied red zone target – Joseph Fauria At a towering 6’7”, 255 lbs, Fauria wasn’t drafted until the, oh wait, he wasn’t drafted at all!  He can most likely turn into a great NFL story as 32 teams didn’t take a chance on him in the draft. You may have seen his 3 catch, 3 TD performance against the Browns week 6.  I realize this type of performance isn’t much to hang your hat on as he wasn’t used in this roles again to that capacity, but with Pettigrew out of the picture Fauria can take this opportunity to the next level if he can learn to play between the 20’s.  Tight ends tend to take a few years in the NFL, and an upcoming rookie draft may be a prime opportunity to bring this tight end home while his owner is salivating over those rookie picks.



Circumstantial Evidence



You would not have been able to watch much Chicago Bears football this year to catch a glimmer of the potential of one Marquess Wilson with the exception of a few plays.  This is where the best detective earns his stripes – data mining into the late hours of the night hunched over a desk with his energy level starting to flicker like a metronome in synch with his flickering desk lamp light.  Wilson can be found deep on the Bears depth chart being drafting in the last round of the draft.  At 6’3”, he still has opportunity to build some mass as he is just under 200 lbs.  He’s the type of receiver, though, that isn’t going to technician his way into the lime-light.  He has some down field speed that rivals that of Alshon Jeffery, which is going to be hard for many to believe.  Wilson is the type of talent that doesn’t usually fall past the 3rd round of the NFL draft, but his character concerns made most teams play it safe and avoid him due to him leaving his team in college.  I won’t get into specifics as its all hearsay, but one thing’s for certain – he’s still a kid.  Playing it safe would have been taking him in the 4th round after you’ve already assessed his value on the field and known he could have been had at a bargain.  The Bears drafted an absolute steal, and they now have the depth at wide receiver Lovie Smith only dreamed about for years.  Earl Bennett has been a nice role player for the team but does nothing great.  He’s still signed through 2015 and his performance escalators kick in this year, but he’s not expensive enough for me to think he’ll become a cap casualty.  Nevertheless, the Bears are already raving about Wilson and his down-field prowess and he’s going to demand more play-time next year.  He would become the 4th target for Jay Cutler at least 6’3” or taller, and that’s simply not fair to opposing corners and safeties in today’s NFL. While I’m stashing Wilson, I’m also keeping tabs on Michael Ford.  After signing Cutler to a large and lucrative deal, the Bears are going to have to find some cap space, and Michael Bush seems to be the unlucky candidate to be let go as he’s going on 30 years old and hasn’t had any opportunity to add enough value for the team.  He’s a volume early-down runner that doesn’t fit into the mad scientist’s game-plan.  I’m not at all expecting big things from Ford, but if given the opportunity to increase his workload as a change of pace runner or in the event of a Matt Forte injury, Ford would be the next bet.  Having said this, I do think it’s a smart play for the Bears to draft a guy in the 4th round or so to add depth as Forte isn’t getting any younger, and his usage has been off the charts (Forte could have easily been included in the Hard Evidence section as a player to throw on the trade block and see what offers come back.) While Ford isn’t as big as Forte, he actually has a lot of bulk on his smaller frame and has plenty of speed.  Stylistically, he’s actually pretty similar to Forte and can fit right into the system.  He’s also had the entire year to sit back and watch Forte do it.  I’m not saying Ford is going to come out and light it up, but this section is all about finding that diamond in the rough, and this LSU-based undrafted free agent fits the bill. To end this circumstantial evidence section and to cap off the NFC North, I’m going on an absolute faith and hope leap in order to call your attention back to Greg Childs. I drafted Childs in every start-up and rookie draft I was a part of  – every.single.league. Childs was going to be the next extra elite level wide receiver talent, and while the injury history was already a concern, it was the uber talent that made the risk all worth it.  I literally had tears start to form in my eyes as I watched in awe as he came down with the ball in acrobatic fashion in the end zone. The tears of joy quickly turned to tears of fear as he didn’t get up and ended up tearing up his other knee – not one but two torn patellar tendons. I can’t imagine his odds are anything else but extremely low to return to the level he was once at, but I’m holding out hope.  To put it in perspective, I drafted Child where I had a choice between him and Josh Gordon in a league.  Of course I’m filled with remorse now, but I simply want to paint a picture about how talented Childs is as not only an athlete, but an outside presence that came into the league already being a skilled technician as well.  If you’re in a deep dynasty, clear a what-the-hell spot for him and hope you hear some offseason buzz.  Could you imagine Patterson and Childs outside with Jennings taking on slot work?  Sigh.

Thanks for reading, and please engage in any and all discussion! Be sure to look for my next installment in the “Dynasty Detective Dashboard” Series.


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