The thing about writing a fantasy football column this time of year is that your audience is fragmented. If owners are in the playoffs, they still might be reading. If their team was eliminated, they might not be. And considering eliminated teams outnumber playoff teams, you’re speaking to a room that’s more than half empty.
But regardless of your circumstances, there always is information to be gleaned. So to benefit the majority while also informing the minority, let’s look ahead to next season.
These players have had their value capped, but they could see a significant increase before draft day next year. Keep an eye on their situations this offseason.
WR Davante Adams, Packers: Jordy Nelson is locked up with a five-year, $43 million contract, but Randall Cobb is set to become a free agent. If the Packers fail to re-sign Cobb, Adams figures to become the team’s No. 2 receiver. He shined two weeks ago against the Patriots, catching six passes for 121 yards. Adams has great hands and is adept at winning jump balls. Having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback is quite a boon, too.
RB Carlos Hyde, 49ers: Frank Gore will be a free agent after the season, and Hyde figures to become the lead back. He has size and strength, and he showed at Ohio State that he can carry the load. The Niners have the 10th-most rushes this season, and with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, they should continue to lean on the run. Though Hyde’s numbers aren’t impressive (77 carries, 278 yards, 3.6 average, long of 15), regular work should help.
WR Donte Moncrief, Colts: He was in this space last week for his potential the rest of this season, but his prospects are even better next season. Reggie Wayne is in the last year of his contract, and you have to wonder how much the 36-year-old has left. Moncrief is big and strong and can go deep. He’s averaging 15.7 yards on only 27 receptions. With Andrew Luck throwing to him, his ceiling would be high for a No. 2 receiver.
Seahawks running backs: Marshawn Lynch isn’t scheduled to become a free agent until after next season, but he might be shown the door a year early. He’ll count $8.5 million against the salary cap in 2015, and quarterback Russell Wilson is due an enormous raise from his rookie contract. Christine Michael and Robert Turbin have been jockeying for position behind Lynch. Either would have value in an offense that ranks second in rushing attempts.
WR Charles Johnson, Vikings: Meet the team’s latest top fantasy receiver. He has double-digit points in two of the last three games.
WR Marquess Wilson, Bears: With Brandon Marshall out of the picture, he becomes the No. 2 receiver on a team that throws a lot.
WR Mohamed Sanu, Bengals: He has more than two — TWO — points in one of his last five games. A.J. Green has stolen the show.
WR Torrey Smith, Ravens: A knee injury limited him to 15 snaps Sunday, and he might not be at full strength the rest of the way.
WEEK 15 OUTLOOK
QB Matthew Stafford, Lions: He has his third home game in a row, and he totaled 45 points in the first two, most of them via a red-hot Calvin Johnson.
RB Latavius Murray, Raiders: The Chiefs have allowed a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive games, including Murray in Week 12.
WR Kelvin Benjamin: He did just fine with backup QB Derek Anderson in Week 1, and the Buccaneers have allowed the sixth-most points to wideouts.
QB Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins: He was unable to exploit favorable matchups the last two weeks, and the rushing yards have disappeared.
Bengals running backs: Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are practically in a 50-50 split, and the Browns have allowed more than 12 points to running backs twice since Week 8.
WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers: A struggling offense doesn’t figure to get better against the Seahawks, who have allowed the fewest points to wide receivers.
WEEK 14 PICKS
QB Tony Romo: 205 passing, 3 TDs
RB Justin Forsett: 13-71 rushing, TD
WR Doug Baldwin: 5-97 receiving, TD
QB Ben Roethlisberger: 350 passing, 3 TDs
RB Lamar Miller: 12-53 rushing, 5-36 receiving
WR Keenan Allen: 2-3 receiving