Every now and then, there comes a time we need to push our chips into the middle and go for it. One of the biggest mistakes I see when people play in dynasty leagues is they’re in this constant state of preparing for the next year or building for a couple of years out. But when we’re playing fantasy football, I don’t care if it’s re-draft or dynasty; we’re playing to win. And hopefully, you’re starting this new fantasy football season with a championship contender. 

Sometimes even those teams need a little boost, however. No matter how well you plan for the future, it’s hard to build a line-up with no holes from top-to-bottom. And just like in the pros, we need to fill those holes with reliable veterans. Who are some of those veterans we should be looking to add this year to push our dynasty football team over the edge and achieve glory?

The trick here is we’re not looking for pricy studs. If we’re a championship contender, we already have those. We’re looking to patch up some weak spots in our lineup. Or to add more depth. In either case, we’re not looking to pay a premium for these guys. 

There’s always this fine line to walk between playing for the championship and not mortgaging your future. So while none of these players are good enough to truly change the fortune of your dynasty team, if they’re being acquired as role players to some already established studs, they should be able to get the job done.

So you’re in a Super-Flex League, and you’re looking for a QB2…

 

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Matthew Stafford is a perfect QB2 in any super-flex dynasty league. With him being 34 years old, the price tag shouldn’t be very high either. Over the past five years, Stafford has two QB7 finishes, and in 2019 he was QB4 on a PPG basis when he missed eight games because of a nagging back injury. The other two seasons he was QB15 (2020) and QB20. His five-year PPG average is 16.77, which is mid-range QB2. But he was a Detroit Lion during those five years.

He’s a little bit older now, but this is the best environment Stafford has been in his entire career. He’s on a legit Super Bowl contender, and I expect his play to live up to those expectations. It’s been a long time since he’s played for a  winning franchise, and I think we’re going to see a resurgent Matthew Stafford under center.

Stafford has always been a gamer. This dude has willed the Lions to wins they had no business being victorious in. Last year when he finished as QB15, Kenny Golladay missed practically the whole season. And in 2018, when he finished QB20, Golden Tate only played in four games, and Marvin Jones only played in nine. He’s always made due with less. Now, in Los Angeles, he’s going to have a plethora of weapons. Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tyler Higbee, and Cam Akers. Not to mention Sean McVay, the best coach he’ll have ever had. 

I’m not going to be surprised if Matthew Stafford puts up back-end QB1 numbers, but at the very least, I think we should feel comfortable with him being a stable QB2. If you’ve got a win-now team and need a second quarterback to stabilize your lineup, I believe Stafford can be that guy. I’d be looking to trade a  first-round pick in 2022 for Stafford, and I think that’s a fair price. If I need to throw in an additional piece, I’m more than fine adding a player like Denzel Mims, Kenneth Gainwell, or Mecole Hardman to complete the transaction.

 

So you’re looking for a solid RB2…

 

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

Chris Carson is perennially underrated. He gets knocked for not being an early-round draft pick. He gets knocked because the Seattle Seahawks made the mistake of selecting Rashad Penny. Then there’s the fumbling issue of 2019, and we can’t forget about the injury concerns. But how many of these things are actually legit? How many should we actually be caring about?

In 2018, Chris Carson played in 14 games and averaged 14.4 PPG. He was RB16 in terms of per-game averages. In 2019, he played in 15 games and averaged 15.5 PPG finishing RB12. Last year, he missed four games but finished as RB12 in terms of PPG and still RB19 in overall points scored. Over three years, he’s averaged RB1 numbers in two of them and never finished lower than RB19 in any season. All this guy does is produce. There are very few running backs in the league with that kind of track record of success.

The injury concerns are oversold. Carson has missed just seven games in three seasons. It’s not ideal, but that seems like a pretty low baseline to be knocking a guy for. Dalvin Cook has missed nine, CMC is at 13, Barkley 17, Aaron Jones is at six,  Melvin Gordon is at nine, Austin Ekeler and Mixon are both at 12. Then we have Alvin Kamara and Nick Chubb right behind with four. As you can, seven games over the past three years isn’t some big number you should be scared of. Cognizant of? Absolutely. Enough to shy away from? If that were the case, we’d be shying away from every running back in the top-10.

As far as the fumbling issues, here’s what I say about them, who cares. Honestly, who cares? If Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seahawks, doesn’t care, why should you? Pete Carroll is as committed to Chris Carson as Jack Dawson was to Rose on the Titanic. I mean, this is the ship he’s going down on. He’s made that abundantly clear over the last three years. And Carson has rewarded him with stellar play.

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We can’t talk about Chris Carson without talking about the offensive philosophy in Seattle. Pete Carroll wants to run the football. He wants to run the football so bad Russell Wilson hasn’t finished higher than seventh in pass attempts the past three seasons. In fact, in 2018, he was 20th. The man is committed to running the football. How committed? So committed he doesn’t care if he’s taking the ball out of one of the best quarterbacks in the league. 

The depth chart behind Carson is as bare as the wide receiver depth chart in Detroit. We’ve heard about Rashad Penny long enough, but the fact of the matter is Chris Carson is and has always been better than him. That’s certainly true as it relates to how Pete Carroll sees things and there’s no reason to expect that to change this season.

If I need a solid RB2 to complete my championship contending roster, I’m fine with giving up a first round draft pick. Chris Carson signed a two year deal in Seattle, so you can expect to get a usable player this year and next year. He’s underrated and under-valued so I’d start low and work my way up if I need to.

 

So you’re looking for a solid WR2…

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones is ridiculously good at football. I know he’s older and coming off an injury-riddled season and the trade rumors in Atlanta are less than ideal, but all of that is only going to lower the price. Everybody is talking about Julio falling off a cliff, but where is that coming from? There’s no statistic that shows that. None. Unless you’re going to use the seven games he missed last season to imply injuries are eminent. But if that’s going to be our sole measuring parameter then we need to acknowledge Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs are also falling off a cliff. Since 2014, Julio Jones has missed 11 games. That’s it. Davante Adams has missed 13 games since 2014, his rookie season. Stefon Diggs has missed 10 since 2015, his rookie season. Julio Jones has played more 16-game seasons than Davante Adams since 2014.

Even last year when Julio only played nine games, he still managed to rack up 51 catches, 771 yards and three touchdowns. Over 16 games that comes out to 90 catches, 1,370 yards and five touchdowns. In the six years prior, Julio Jones has averaged 103 catches, 1,564 yards, and six touchdowns. That’s his average! Over six years.

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Yards per route run is widely regarded as one of the best advanced statistics for measuring the effectiveness of wide receivers. According to PFF Julio Jones has ranked 4th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 5th and 4th in that category since 2014.

Sometimes we can begin to see a player age right before our eyes. Look at Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. They’re not as old as Julio Jones, but we can see it in the way they play. There is absolutely nothing in Julio’s game that says this guy doesn’t still have it.

If I feel like I need to add another quality wide receiver to complete my championship team, I’m eyeing up Julio Jones first and foremost. I’d be looking to offer a receiver like Will Fuller and second or third rounder to get the deal done.

 

So you’re looking for a flex play…

Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

I know I’m getting a little crazy with this one, but stay with me here. The Houston Texans are going to be atrocious in 2021. It’s going to be like one of those god-awful movies that is almost so bad it’s good. You just can’t stop watching it. I’m thinking like Anchorman 2. I mean, the first one was great, one of the best comedies of the last ten years. The second one though, I questioned what I was watching.  It was so bad I found myself laughing at just how bad it was. Well, that’s the 2021 Houston Texans.

I’m not counting on DeShaun Watson suiting up for the Texans and as fantasy owners, we really can’t be. The situation is way too messy. But whether or not Watson is under center, Brandin Cooks is a great buy-low candidate. For starters, he is really good. He’s gone over 1,075 yards and scored at least five touchdowns in five out of the last six seasons. And he’s done that despite being on four different teams. The one season he failed to reach those marks, he suffered multiple concussions and missed multiple games. Those other five seasons though, he averaged 77 catches, 1,149 yards, and seven touchdowns.

If you’re worried about the general state of the Texans’ offense, that’s a legit concern. But on the plus side, they’re going to be losing a lot of football games. This is going to increase their passing volume substantially. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans are top-5 in pass attempts in 2021. There really isn’t any competition in Houston for targets either. Brandin Cooks certainly appears to be the alpha and should command a very nice target share.

It’s not always going to be pretty for Cooks by virtue of how bad the Texans will be, but if you’re in need of a flex play or a quality bench player, Brandin Cooks can be that. He’ll be a volume-driven play each and every week, but with the state of the Texans’ defense and the utter lack of offensive weapons, Cooks will be the No. 1 option on a team constantly in catch-up mode.

The price tag on Brandin Cooks should be very low. He’s on an awful team, he’s not exactly young anymore and there’s a history of concussions. This is what makes him such a great buy. He’s incredibly cheap and should see 130+ targets. I’d be trying to offer up a third rounder and a young running back or wide receiver that hasn’t made a big impact as of yet. Such receivers might include Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards or Parris Campbell. As for the running backs, I’d be looking to trade guys like Devin Singletary or Tarik Cohen.

 

If you feel like you’re on the cusp of competing for a championship, don’t be afraid to be bold. Don’t be afraid to make moves and  go for it. This is after all, just a game, but like any game we’re always trying to win. If you’re on the verge of being in that contender field or hoping to make yourself the odds-on favorite, these are some veterans that will be able to help you do that.