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As an owner in a dynasty fantasy football league, one of the most difficult things to gauge is a player’s status with their team. In dynasty leagues, you are investing in a player long term without any say in where they may be playing during that time. Especially with how injuries continue to become a factor more and more every year. When players are hurt, teams are willing to move on quickly without a second thought. Even a potential hall of fame player is not immune from this treatment.

We saw it during the past off-season with Adrian Peterson. No matter how you feel about Peterson as a person, he was a heck of a football player. We even saw flashes of that greatness at times this season after he was traded to Arizona. For owners who had Peterson on their teams though, his release from the Vikings was probably problematic. Even worse than being cut though, was where he ended up after. This is what a dynasty owner has to deal with. Investing in a player long term only to be faced with a less than appealing situation later. You can’t control it and it can make planning from year to year difficult not knowing if you can count on a player the next season.

We are focusing on just one position for a second straight week in #TrendingNow. This time though, we are looking at running backs who could be impacted by free agency or cuts, both negatively and positively. I am always weary of adding players to my team that could be facing an unpredictable off-season. It makes planning difficult on my part and could potentially stick me with a player that has very little value. These four could be in for an off-season like that.

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#TrendingUp

Rod Smith (RB, DAL)

The Ezekiel Elliot suspension was a huge blow to the Cowboys but a huge boost to the value of Rod Smith. Even though Alfred Morris has been the lead back since Elliot started his suspension, Smith has established himself as a big part to the backfield. The good news is that Morris could be leaving Dallas this offseason as an unrestricted free agent. If he does, this leaves Smith as the backup to Elliot, which can still hold value in dynasty leagues.

Smith has been sporadic with his production, but the whole Cowboys offense has been sporadic since the suspension. He has two games where he has under 3.0 yards per carry and three games with over 4.50 yards per the carry. I’m obviously not banking on Smith to be the lead back in Dallas next year, but I do see him as the backup to Zeke and carving out a roll in the passing game. Since Week 10, Smith has averaged 5.85 yards per touch and four touchdowns in the last three weeks.

The Cowboys will attempt to be smarter with Elliot’s workload moving forward. They saw this year what can happen when they don’t have him available. If they lose him for an extended period, whether it be injury or other reasons, then it’s another season of underachieving. In dynasty leagues, especially ones with big rosters, you want to handcuff your players. Smith could end up evolving into a role that offers some PPR flex upside if the Cowboys control Elliot’s touches moving forward, especially in the passing game.

 

Devontae Booker (RB, DEN)

While Smith will look to establish himself as a backup next year, Booker is looking towards a starting job in 2018. This one is more hypothetical, but not out of the realm of possibility. Besides, what’s more fun in fantasy football then talking about the what ifs? CJ Anderson has two years and $9 million left on his current deal. The Broncos could move on from Anderson this offseason by cutting him. They would be facing no money in dead cap and Anderson hasn’t done anything recently to justify them sticking with this current deal.

Anderson only has eclipsed the 100-yard mark once this season, all the way back in Week 2. He also only has three total touchdowns as well. The season got off to a fantastic start for Anderson who had 330 rushing yards on 73 attempts in the first for weeks of the season, good for 4.4 yards per carry. The Broncos went into the bye week and Anderson must have forgotten the rest of the season was left. In the nine weeks since then Anderson only has 108 carries for 370 yards, good for 3.4 yards per carry. Anderson has only gained 40 more yards in five more weeks. Booker has been seriously cutting into Andersons snaps as well, being on the field for 157 snaps the last six weeks compared to Andersons 176.

I don’t foresee Booker becoming a RB1 before next season, but if the Broncos do decide to cut Anderson, Booker wouldn’t have much competition in training camp. Besides Anderson leaving town, Jamaal Charles would also be on the way out as well. You have to move early in situations like this. I bet owns of Jay Ajayi didn’t think they would have needed to own Kenyan Drake either. But here we are entering Week 15 and Drake appears set to be one of the hottest names this offseason.

 

#TrendingDown

Carlos Hyde (RB, SF)

While I wrote about Joe Williams in my piece “Don’t You Forget About Me”, it was more about Williams value heading up. It’s the opposite of Carlos Hyde though whose value is heading down for me. The chatter of cutting Hyde was happening even before the season, but I cannot foresee the 49ers paying him to stick around any longer. The regime in San Francisco did not draft Hyde and Kyle Shanahan likes his running backs with a particular skill set.

Hyde is going to ask for top running back money even though he hasn’t deserved it. He rushed for 988 yards and six touchdowns last season and he’s only on pace for 948 yards this year. The 49ers have holes to fill in their roster with young running backs already in the organization. They will let Hyde walk and spend less money on a veteran back to come in and push the young kids (Alfred Morris reunion?)

A couple weeks ago, GM John Lynch offered his take on Hyde. "He has answered some questions, but questions that we just had as a new regime coming in," Lynch said. "Not so much that we didn’t like what he [brought].” I’m not 100% sold on the 49ers offering their support of Hyde outside of wanting him to perform as best as possible this year. This has nothing to do with Hyde not performing well enough for San Francisco to want him, just Hyde not performing well enough for the money he will want. A couple years ago we saw Demarco Murray skip out on a contract extension with the Cowboys, moved on to Philadelphia and have a miserable year. Lynch does not want the mistake of offering up huge money to Hyde, have the contract be a failure and have to deal with it moving forward. I expect a very conservative approach from Lynch. Don’t buy into Hyde unless you know he’s headed to a good situation.

 

Lamar Miller (RB, HOU)

If you frequent my articles, you will recognize Lamar Miller as a repeat name but on a different side this time. In my Week 10 edition of #TrendingNow I listed Miller as #TrendingUp. Deshaun Watson had just gone down with an injury and it appeared the Texans would be relying on the run game to carry the team. Since Week 10 however, Miller has been nothing short of mediocre.

In Week 10, Miller had 60 yards on 11 carries but his overall work this season isn’t anything to write home about. Even when the Texans didn’t have their starting QB, Miller didn’t step up. Since Week 10, Miller is only averaging 3.11 yards per carry. Miller currently sits at RB11 for the season in PPR formats, but comes without any 100 yard performances and three rushing touchdowns.

The real reason miller now lands on this side of the article, is right back to the theme. The Texans could move on this offseason and cut Miller, only needing to deal with $2 million in dead cap. If the Texans decide to keep Miller, they would owe him $10 million over the next two years. Look at it in this light, the Texans cut Miller saving $12 million and hand the keys over to D’Onta Foreman. They can then pay less money to bring in a veteran back like LeGarrette Blount who’s only making $900 thousand this year. Is a running back averaging 3.6 yards per carry this year worth that kind of money the next two years?

You could make the case that having a healthy Watson back will help open lanes for Miller, but even during the seven weeks Watson was under center, Miller only averaged 3.53 yards per carry. Anyway you spin it, Miller just hasn’t offered the same numbers as last year. This entire article circles around one concept though, this is going to be an unpredictable offseason for running backs. If your name isn’t Le’Veon Bell, there is no telling what could happen and where you could end up. Adrian Peterson couldn’t even find a starting job this year. What will happen with a flooded market?

 

More 2017 Dynasty League Strategy