We’re almost to the time of year that many dynasty owners find the most engaging-- the rookie draft season! It’s the time of year during which free agents land on new teams, we evaluate the incoming rookie class, the NFL teams pick those rookies, and then we select them in fantasy drafts.
However, right before that point there is a time of which every dynasty owner worth their salt should be aware -- what I like to call the Dynasty Doldrums. It’s the time in February after the Super Bowl when owners tend to tune out, when players don’t log into their leagues for weeks on end, and the NFL news cycle slows to a trickle.
It doesn’t have to be that way. For those savvy dynasty owners, this period of inactivity can become a time in which we honestly evaluate every player on our roster and their chances of gaining or losing value in the coming days. Then we begin to aggressively shop those players who are likely to lose value, while making offers for the players we’ve identified as worth acquisition. The purpose of today’s article will be to identify players who are worth selling because their stock is likely to continue going down or their stock is at a high point and we want out while they are at peak value.
Deshaun Watson, HOU- I don’t question if Watson is the real deal or not-- he is. However, it’s a fair question to ask if he will fall back to earth a bit in year two now that NFL teams have been able to study his tape, know what he’s capable of, and will defend it accordingly. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to sustain the high touchdown rate (2.7 touchdowns per game) he established in his rookie year.
Action Plan: In single QB leagues, I’m moving Watson for any middle first-round pick or I’m trying to package him in a deal to get a top tier wide receiver or running back. In superflex formats, I would love to trade Watson for a perceived downgrade that has a chance to be just as good, plus a player or pick (Marcus Mariota + David Njoku, Mitchell Trubisky + 1.09, etc.).
Andrew Luck, IND- Surprisingly, Andrew Luck is maintaining top five quarterback status in most startup drafts, despite missing 2017 and large portions of 2016 with a shoulder injury. As of this writing, he has yet to resume throwing. While it’s possible that he ends up being fine for 2018 and Frank Reich is able to construct a potent offense that resurrects his value, I want to move on, because if he’s not OK, his value will go down drastically. Also, I doubt the offensive line is going to improve quickly enough to protect him as it should, which could put him right back in the same injured state and tank his value.
Action Plan: If I can deal Luck for a mid-first-round pick in single quarterback leagues, I’m a happy camper. In superflex formats, I am perfectly OK with getting a shot at one of the top guys this year and a little extra juice on the side (1.03+2.01, 1.02+Adam Shaheen, etc.).
Kenyan Drake, MIA- While Drake established himself as the primary guy in Miami after Jay Ajayi was traded away, I’m not so sure Miami won’t add some competition for Drake in free agency or the draft. C.J. Anderson is likely to be released by the Broncos and would make a lot of sense for the team that tried to acquire him a couple of years ago. It’s one thing to emerge as the unquestioned starter in season when the person ahead of you on the depth chart is no longer there and there are fewer trade or free agent options that can integrate into your offense to help you in time. It’s another when a team has all offseason to make arrangements. Drake’s toolbox is improved over what it was in college, but not complete enough to be given a featured role.
Action Plan: Drake can be traded for a mid-to-late first-round rookie pick in most leagues, and I like the runners in that range of the rookie class better than I like him. I also don’t mind flipping him for guys like Carlos Hyde or Isaiah Crowell, who may not have their next landing spot decided, but who have proven skill sets to excel when they get there.
Marlon Mack, IND- Mack was a draft darling for many owners last year after the Colts took him in the fourth round. Some predict he will take over for Frank Gore at some point in 2018. Yet there is big risk in making that assumption. Owners need to realize that a fourth-round pick is a tepid commitment at best from a team. While Mack had some flashes last year, I think he demonstrated that he’s got work to do in the areas of blocking and showing that he can carry the load as an interior runner. The Colts own premium first and second-round picks, which they could easily spend on a running back like Saquon Barkley or Nick Chubb to be the successor to Gore. If that were to happen, Mack’s value would nosedive the way Tre Mason’s did when Todd Gurley was drafted.
Action Plan: If I can’t get a pick that equates to a late first or an early second, I’m looking to make a “lateral move” into players like Chris Godwin or Dede Westbrook - players who have similar value to Mack right now, but have a greater chance of actually building value going forward.
James Conner, PIT- Conner is not a special talent, but he is a competent runner that the Steelers took higher than expected in the third round of last year’s draft. I took him in a couple of spots last year with the thought that his value would greatly increase if a LeVeon Bell injury occured or if Bell did not return to the Steelers this offseason. Unfortunately for me, Bell stayed healthy and though it’s not a certainty yet, the tea leaves are reading as if the Steelers will clear enough cap space to sign Bell to the mega deal for which he’s been asking. That said, this is probably your last chance to get out of Conner at or just below what you paid to acquire him.
Action Plan: In most leagues, I was able to acquire Conner for a late second or early third, and that’s what I’m hoping to get back out of him. Shop him to the owners in your league and see if you can get a second for him. The Bell owner may have particular interest in getting Conner on his roster given it hedges his bet on Bell.
Sammy Watkins, LAR- Do you believe Watkins to be an overrated talent, a guy who just didn’t get fully integrated into the offense in his first year with the team, or that he’s destined to be an ancillary piece in an offense that runs through Todd Gurley and spreads the ball around? These will be critical questions to ask yourself as you ponder whether or not to acquire him or sell him. As for me, I have concluded that as long as Gurley is the engine of this offense, Watkins is unlikely to meet the lofty expectations we had for him years ago when Buffalo traded up to pick him. Whether or not I keep him on my squads is going to depend on what I can get for him from my trade partner. Watkins is a free agent, but the team is likely to use the franchise tag on him, per reports.
Action Plan: His dynasty value is at an all-time low and he is dipping into the back half of the second round in startup drafts. Normally, I’m not one to bail when a player is at a low point in their value, but I fear Watkins’ value will get far worse if he puts up another subpar statistical year.
Jordy Nelson, GB- I’m surprised to see Nelson still ranked by most among the top thirty wide receivers in dynasty formats given his age (32) and his injury problems over the last few years. Yes, I know there’s probably a little more left in the tank, but there’s really nowhere for his value to head from here but down. Savvy dynasty owners are always looking to reset the clock on their aged veterans, especially on non-contending teams. Making moves to offload aging talent on the way out for young talent on the way in is what keeps dynasty teams contending perennially.
Action Plan: Players like Mike Williams, Devante Parker, and Will Fuller are in the same range as Nelson on the trade market and I have more faith in each of them to maintain or increase in value going forward. If rookie picks are your target, shooting for a mid-to-late first would be my play, even if you have to package something of minimal value (a third-round pick, an ancillary player, etc.) to get there.
Josh Gordon, CLE- If you were to plot Josh Gordon’s dynasty value each month he’s been in the league until now, it would look like the scariest roller coaster you’ve ever ridden. While Gordon possesses immense talent, he’s struggled with off field problems. He has also suffered from being on a team that can’t maximize his fantasy value because the offense is stuck in neutral. Former General Manager Sashi Brown did a good job of getting talent on the roster before he was fired, but Hue Jackson hasn’t been able to tap into the massive amount of potential. I don’t see the Browns getting better and with the risk that Gordon’s off-field problems crop back up, I believe this to be one of the best sell high moments for him that you will see.
Action Plan: Owners of Gordon might be able to squeeze a mid-to-early first out of him, which is an astounding thing to say given that his value was at its lowest point as late as July of last year. I am also more than fine moving him for a lower valued player like Golden Tate, plus a late first or early second.
Jordan Reed, WAS- Have we as a dynasty community still not learned our lesson with Reed? There are few tight ends as talented when healthy, but the times that Reed has been healthy in his pro career have been few and far between. The good thing for his owners is that fantasy viable tight ends are hard to come by, so he has retained a lot of his value to this point, in spite of the injuries. That being said, I believe it’s time to move Reed, because another injury-riddled year is likely to run his value down.
Action Plan: In single tight end formats, Reed might still net you a late first or an early second, which is perfect, because that will be the likely range that you can take a Mark Andrews or a Dallas Goedert in your draft. In tight end premium formats, Reed commands at least a mid-first round pick. You can also try to work a trade for an upcoming option like George Kittle or Adam Shaheen and get a pick on top of it.
Tyler Eifert, CIN- Much the same as Reed, Eifert is dynamic when he’s healthy, but the struggle to stay healthy has been all too real. He’ll hit the free agent market, which could be both good or bad for his value. Eifert is still being valued as a fringe tight end one and he is going in dynasty startups at the end of the 12th round. Just for a point of reference, the top rookies or equivalent rookie picks in a given year start coming off the board in the 8th round.
Action Plan: In single tight-end formats, I would hope to squeeze an early second-round pick out of Eifert or package up Eifert with a second to get into the first round. In tight end premium leagues, I’m absolutely fine with dealing Eifert for any first.
Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI: For someone whom I believe to be overvalued, I’m impressed that his dynasty value has creeped so high. Seals-Jones is young (22) and athletic - things that, in addition to a couple of strong touchdown scoring games last year, have dynasty owners drooling. However, there is a lot of nuance required to be a successful tight end in the league and to sustain that success over time. Seals-Jones is a wide receiver convert, and I don’t quite see those traits in him. Can he develop with time? Sure, but I think his value will dip significantly at points while you are waiting. Also, there are a lot of these super athletic guys that flash, but ultimately fail to make the position switch. (Taylor Thompson is a great example.) If you own Seals-Jones, the time to sell is while his value is cresting and before the draft, free agency, or failure to translate bring the prospective value crashing down.
Action Plan: In single tight end formats, I’m fine with taking an early-to-mid second round pick for Seals-Jones. There are plenty of other skill position guys that will be in that draft range with whom I would rather swing for the fences. In tight end premium, an early second round pick or better seems like a fair deal.