The beer is gone, the food is getting cold, and the Green Bay Packers have once again hoisted the Lombardi trophy. Now you can sit back, relax, and pray that the Millionaires and the Billionaires can work out their issues so that the rest of us can enjoy football again in August. Right?
Wong answer, buster.
If you're in a dynasty league, you've got some work to do.
Now is the time you need to take a peak at your roster and figure out where you can strengthen your starting lineup or increase your depth. While half of your league is still fighting off their Super Bowl hangover, you're out scouring the internet for nuggets of information to get an edge.
Here are some players you should consider acquiring during this non-playing season for less than market value, but who should see an increase in production going forward.
These are not in order of acquisition priority, simply numbered and grouped by position.
1. Tim Tebow, QB Denver Broncos
There seems to be little doubt that Tebow is the future in Denver. It is, however, unclear exactly how bright that future will be.
Of course, there is that little issue of QB Kyle Orton earning $7.4M in 2011, plus a $1.5M roster bonus. Having nearly $9M tied up in your starting-caliber backup quarterback doesn't make much sense either.
For now, we'll operate under the assumption that Tebow is the starter. To finish off 2010, Tebow threw for 651 yards and three touchdowns, racking up 84 fantasy points in the process.
Hey, wait a minute. That Tebow guy was supposed to be a bad quarterback because his mechanics were all wrong, and spent less than a minute under center in college.
Fear not, Tebow haters. He's still not a good quarterback.
And there's a very good possibility that he'll never be a very good quarterback. But in fantasy football, we deal in production. Tebow could throw underhanded footballs all day long, but as long as he's producing, he's someone that you need to target.
If you need a backup quarterback to solidify the position on your team, take a shot at getting Tebow. Just don't think about selling the farm for three promising games.
2. Mark Bulger, QB Free Agent
Bulger is a 34 year old backup quarterback that spent the 2010 season teaching Ravens QB JoeFlacco how to play the position. There has been plenty of speculation, primarily by Arizona Cardinals beat writers, that Bulger may be signed by the team to fill the role of starting quarterback for 2011.
In all likelihood, Bulger is probably sitting your dynasty league's free agent pool, and all you'll need to do is submit a claim to grab him. It won't cost you anything, and you may just end up with a decent backup quarterback for your squad in 2011.
3. Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers
Grant got a flat tire in Week 1 and didn't tote the rock the rest of the season. He is owed a $1.75M roster bonus, and while there was concern that the Packers would rather cut Grant than pay him, it seems now that Grant will be retained and paid the bonus.
Entering the 2011 season, Grant will be 28 years old. Yes, he's "up there" in terms of running back years. However, Grant has only played three full seasons of NFL football so the wear and tear normally associated with a 28 year old running back simply isn't there.
With the love fest surrounding the other Packer running back James Starks, you might be able to swoop in and strike a deal for Grant below market value.
Grant is not a player you want to build around, but if you need a stop-gap filler that you know is going to carry the ball for a high-powered offense, Grant might just be your guy.
4. Donald Brown, RB Indianapolis Colts
When you think of players that might fall in to a great situation, Brown has to be at the top of that list. Of course, that depends on two factors: 1) will the Colts resign RB Joseph Addai, a free agent in 2011, and; 2) can Brown improve his pass blocking skills enough to keep QB Peyton Manning upright?
Either way, Brown will be the starter eventually. Addai will be 28 when the season starts in 2011, and his production has steadily declined due to both injury and a fading skill set.
If the Colts feel that Brown has improved his pass protection enough, they may let Addai walk and just hand Brown the job outright. If not, you may have to wait another season or two to see Brown as the full-time starter.
Brown is one of those players you take a gamble on. If buy now, you'll get him cheaper than if you wait to see if Addai is resigned. If you wait, you'll have a better grasp of Brown's future role, but you may end up paying a premium.
5. Jahvid Best, RB Detroit Lions
After scoring 35% of his total fantasy points for all of 2010 in his first two career games, Best's production declined quickly due in large part to a turf toe injury that limited his production from Week 3 onward.
If you missed out on Best in your dynasty league's 2010 rookie draft, now is the time to try and get him again. While most owners won't be eager to throw him out with the bathwater (unlike, say, Ryan Mathews), you may just find you're dealing with a frustrated owner. Take advantage of that.
Best has the skills to pay the bills. Had his injury issues during the season been concussion-related, you would need to tread lightly acquiring Best. However, foot injuries heal with time and are not worth much concern.
You may still have to pony up a real offer to the Best owner in your league, considering that he likely spent a Top 4 rookie pick on him in 2010, and would like to see some return on that investment. If that's the case, then you'll need to pay to play.
With the exception of Alabama's Mark Ingram and Illinois' Mikel Leshoure, the rookie running back pool for 2011 is shallow. If you miss out on the top four selections in your rookie draft, you're going to be staring at a whole bunch of guys that look pretty much the same.
You might as well ship that rookie pick (along with some additional compensation) to the Best owner and know that you're getting a very solid running back that is going to produce for years to come.
6. Mario Manningham, WR New York Giants
Manningham isn't one of those sexy names that dynasty owners drool over. Which, of course, is a benefit when you're looking to snag a player.
However, Manningham is a player that has gotten better every single year. He has increased his receptions, yards, and touchdowns each consecutive season. Granted, his 2010 stats were helped by the season-ending injury to WR Steve Smith. But Manningham stepped in and played the part well.
The 2011 season brings a bit of mystery for the Giants receiving corps. Smith suffered a devastating knee injury requiring microfracture surgery in December, and the initial time frame for Smith to get back on the field was nine months, some time in September. Add to that the fact that Smith is also a free agent in 2011, and the Giants receiving corps could look much different this coming season.
The 2011 season is also a contract year for Manningham, which means we should see the best he has to offer since he's playing for his payday.
While some NFL analysts have favorably compared Manningham's skill set to that of Packer's WR Greg Jennings, it's certainly not a lock that Manningham will perform at that level. Depending how things shake out this off season, Manningham certainly has the potential to be a WR2 for your squad, or at worst a WR3.
Don't go out of your way to over-pay for his skill set, but if you can snag him away from an unsuspecting owner, he's worth a shot.
7. Arrelious Benn, WR Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At times last season, Benn seemed to be progressing extremely slowly when compared to rookie teammate WR Mike Williams. And if asked, the casual fan may believe that it was Williams who was drafted two full rounds ahead of Benn, and not vice-a-versa.
After finally stringing together some solid performances in the second half of the season, Benn blew out his knee in Week 16 and likely won't participate in football activities until the Buccaneers 2011 training camp.
While the injury is a concern, it may open the door for you to acquire Benn for less than he is truly worth. After a year of lacking performance and a knee injury, Benn's current owner may not be all that interested in retaining him for subsequent seasons.
Nothing that made Benn an early 2nd round selection has been changed by the injury. So enter trade negotiations confidently and pluck Benn for a future title run.
8. Larry Fitzgerald, WR Arizona Cardinals
If 2010 was the floor for Fitzgerald's production, and you have to think it was, then let me get in on some of that.
Statistically, the 2010 season was one the worst seasons Fitzgerald has had since his rookie year accumulating only 90 receptions, 1137 yards, and six touchdowns. Thankfully, Fitzgerald had little to do with those numbers, while QBs Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton had everything to do with them completing just 50% of their combined passes all season.
After one of the his worst seasons, Fitzgerald still finished as the 13th best wide receiver in points per reception leagues. Of course, not exactly what you were hoping for if you drafted him or acquired him via trade. But think of last season as the worst of the worst, and realize that it can only get better.
I can guarantee that acquiring Fitzgerald this off season, or any off season, is not going to be a cheap transaction. But he should be slightly cheaper than previous years, so if Fitzgerald is someone you covet, now is the time to go shopping and see what falls in your basket.
9. Danario Alexander, WR St. Louis Rams
Had Alexander not suffered a knee injury which required surgery knocking him out of the 2010 NFL Combine and his Pro Day, Alexander likely would have been an early mid-round selection during the draft.
Physically, Alexander is a prototypical wide receiver (6'4", 215 lbs.) and has solid body control and soft hands. He must improve his route running, and will have plenty of opportunities to do so this off season with the Rams after spending all of last off season without a club.
The primary concern surrounding Alexander is the condition of knees, each of which has undergone multiple operations to repair damage. Should the knees hold up, Alexander has a great opportunity to have a standout career in the NFL.
Alexander is the type of player that might just be laying around your free agent pool, and if not, should be able to be acquired on the cheap from his current owner.
Investing in a player like Alexander with a history of injury issues is a play to win move, but with plenty of downside should his career be cut short.
10. Jared Cook, TE Tennessee Titans
Talk about a late bloomer. Cook was one of the most highly-touted tight ends of the 2009 rookie class, and spent the majority of his rookie year parked on the pine. Through his first 23 games, Cook caught 12 balls. Tough to have a guy like that clogging up a valuable bench spot on your squad.
But in Week 11 something clicked, and Cook went on to catch 26 passes over his final seven games, including one touchdown.
So why would an owner that has held on to Cook this long be willing to sell him? Who knows, he might not. But if you're looking at doing a bigger deal and can add Cook as a "throw in" player, give it a shot. The kid has the skills, size and speed to be a consistent top 10 fantasy tight end.
You can follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanWaddell
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