My fantasy football season, at least in my longest-standing dynasty league, is over.
Despite a worthy, 174.7-point effort -- by the way, teams in this league typically average 145 points per playoff matchup, and this was by far the highest-scoring week by all four teams combined in our league's history -- my squad came up short. All three other teams went off for more than 184 points apiece. Ultimately, it was far from a failure of a season, as this team fought back late to qualify as a No. 6 seed, but the odds of a championship weren't great, with a few powerhouses also qualifying.
But you didn't come here to read my team's sob story.
I shared it in order to make a key parallel: This particular team had to burn some future resources in order to make a push for a 2019 title, which should always be your primary angle while you're still realistically a contender. That means that, beginning today, I'm shedding some of the rental pieces I added while searching for keeper-candidate replacements, but it's not exactly the easiest time to do it, since other noncontenders got to many of the free-agent list first.
If you're also in that boat -- or even if you're a long-since-eliminated team simply looking to refresh the last spot on your roster, as you should never let any roster spot get stale -- here are five players you should add in your keeper league right now.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints: Some might have tired of waiting for him to emerge again as an NFL starter, having made only six fill-in starts in the three years, three months and nine days that have passed since his knee reconstruction, but Bridgewater's performance while stepping in for Drew Brees earlier this year warrants mention. Bridgewater averaged 16.7 fantasy points while facing a slightly above-average schedule, but much more importantly for his future prospects, he won all five starts to help the Saints take command in the NFC South. It reaffirmed his status as the most attractive start-worthy current backup in the league, which could lead to trade inquiries in the offseason that might land him in a situation attractive enough to make him a top-15 fantasy quarterback entering 2020. Or perhaps Drew Brees, who turns 41 in January, might decide to hang up his cleats. Or maybe we'll be singing that familiar tune by the Kinks again at this time next year.
N'Keal Harry, WR, New England Patriots: An ankle injury cost him the season's first 10 weeks, but Harry has begun to carve out a role in the Patriots' offense the past five weeks, including converting 2 of 4 red zone targets for touchdowns. A first-round pick, he's a big target who should be able to win individual matchups as he matures, the kind of player who might be a perfect option for Tom Brady (or his eventual successor) in the red zone. Harry's stock has presumably suffered this year due to his missed time, 42% offensive snaps played rate and modest target share (7.4%) as more of a depth option behind usual starters Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu Sr., but that merely makes this the perfect time to strike. Harry is an integral part of this team's future and could be primed for a large step forward in 2020.
Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens: He might seem to lack the size of a workhorse NFL running back, at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, but it's not like players of this size can't succeed at this level -- see Austin Ekeler, who checks in with the same measurements and has a third-best-among-running-backs 279.2 PPR fantasy points this season. Hill was supposed to take on more of a change-of-pace role behind Mark Ingram II this season, but Ingram's early success rendered it unnecessary, presumably causing many to forget Hill's presence entirely. I'm not so sure that can repeat in 2020, being that Ingram will be 30 years old and teams will surely spend the offseason trying to find ways to prevent Lamar Jackson from beating them with his legs. Hill's speed might help vary the offense, and he's one of the few backups out there who shouldn't be left on free agency into the offseason.
Andy Isabella, WR, Arizona Cardinals: While his role has been limited during his rookie season, he has had his highlight reel moments, such as his 88-yard touchdown catch against the 49ers' defense in Week 9, and his 55-yard catch-and-run the following week. It's not that Isabella hasn't performed; it's that the Cardinals haven't leaned on him heavily as he adapts to the NFL game, preferring to turn to players like Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper instead. In Year 2, Isabella might see a substantially increased role, thanks to his versatility -- he'd be a fine slot or perimeter receiver -- and blazing speed. That would be a good thing in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. After all, the Cardinals have thrown the ball more than 60% of the time this season, and they might be even more apt to do so as Kyler Murray matures.
Ian Thomas, TE, Carolina Panthers: Injuries have cost Greg Olsen the past two weeks, and the retirement question is a fair one surrounding the veteran, especially in light of his broadcasting appearance during the Panthers' bye week that might have previewed his post-football career. Thomas is a more than adequate successor, and most importantly for us in fantasy, he's an experienced tight end already, a 2018 fourth-rounder who has logged plenty of time as an Olsen fill-in. In the Panthers' past six regular-season games that Olsen has missed, Thomas has averaged 12.2 PPR fantasy points with a 17.3% target share. This is a position where dart-throw keeper candidates are a smart thing -- see Mark Andrews at this time a year ago -- and Thomas is one of the better ones still widely available.