Dynasty: Veteran Players to Trade Before Decline (Fantasy Football)

by Andrew Swanson | @FantasyProsAndy | Featured Writer
Feb 27, 2017

Should owners attempt to sell high on Antonio Brown?

Of all the reasons why dynasty league football is more challenging than redraft leagues, knowing when to cut bait and sell veteran players before their decline is one of the most difficult things to master. Just like in the stock market, you want to profit off of veteran players or blue-chip stocks as much as possible before selling at the peak value for a younger and underpriced player on the verge of breaking out. Selling a blue chip player just before a decline and converting that equity to one or two young players that you can own for years to come is a recipe for dynasty success.

But the pitfall of dealing away a player that continues to perform well past the trade can set back your team for multiple years, especially if the young players acquired in the transaction do not pan out as expected. This dilemma forces some owners to shy away from making trades in dynasty leagues, as the prospect of making a mistake in the trade market proves to be too much for the risk adverse.

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But for those willing to take the chance of improving their team for the long term, a savvy trade of a pre-decline veteran can pave the path to victory. The following are four players who have a possible decline in production based on their age and usage, or they have question marks surrounding their long-term value.

Antonio Brown (WR – PIT)
It may sound crazy to recommend trading a perennial top pick in redraft leagues and the third-ranked player on our dynasty player rankings, especially one as consistently productive as Antonio Brown. Brown posted four-straight pro bowl seasons where he averaged 1,574 yards and 10 touchdowns, highlighted by a ridiculous 1,834/10 season in 2015. With Ben Roethlisberger throwing him passes and continuity in his coaching staff, Brown has flourished into arguably the best overall wide receiver in the NFL.

But with Big Ben’s long term availability in question with the revelation this offseason that he has contemplated retirement, and Brown’s recent off-field shenanigans and behavior that raised questions about his long-term presence with the team, the usually consistent fantasy asset doesn’t present quite the same comfort level for owners. Brown is undoubtedly a top talent and still has top-five fantasy value, but his value is linked to his team and his quarterback – two things that are not certain for the long term.

Another thing to consider is Brown has been relatively injury free for the entirety of his career, with 8,377 yards of wear and tear on his body. Although predicting injuries is an exercise in futility and not something I recommend, it does beg the question when will Brown’s relatively small frame will break down from his heavy usage?

Trading Brown now at the height of his value for a pair of young players yet to reach their peak value like Amari Cooper and Devonta Freeman is a way to mitigate any uncertainty with Brown. Just be sure to get top tier value for Brown, as he is still a marquee player and will be among the best in the league in 2017.

DeMarco Murray (RB – TEN)
Murray resurrected his career in his first year as a Titan after a dreadful season with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. A downhill runner and above average pass catcher, Murray was able to showcase his skill set in both the running and passing game in Tennessee.

With 16 red zone targets out of the backfield, only Devonta Freeman had more as a running back in 2016. In fact, Murray had three more red zone targets than fantasy darling David Johnson.

Although Murray was a nice bounce-back candidate in 2016, there is no denying the fact that he is a 29-year-old running back with 1,688 touches and 8,414 yards on his legs. In addition to age and usage concerns, Murray had a sharp decline in work toward the end of the season as Derrick Henry became more of a focal point of the offense.

As a likely second round pick in redraft leagues, Murray will still have value in dynasty leagues for owners looking to make a run in 2017. But if you wait until after next season to move Murray, you will likely only receive 60 cents on the dollar.

Jordan Reed (TE – WAS)
When active, Jordan Reed has proven to be one of the most productive pass-catching tight ends in the league, as evident by his 87/952/11 performance in only 14 games in 2015. The problem is that Reed has yet to deliver a full 16-game season in his four-year NFL career, as head, leg and shoulder injuries have caused him to miss 20 games over that span. Leg and shoulder injuries aside, Reed’s seven documented concussions dating back to his 2011 season at the University of Florida make him a significant risk going forward.

Also, the uncertainty surrounding the contract status of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the turnover at the wide receiver position in Washington, and the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVie make Reed’s on-field outlook look murky as well. But as of now he still has name value, and a dynasty owner will likely be willing to give Reed owners significant value based on the top-three TE upside he possesses.

Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
What do Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Montana and Steve Young all have in common? Besides being Hall of Fame members or players destined for enshrinement in the coming years, all of these great quarterbacks suffered a significant drop off in touchdown passes in the season after setting career highs in TDs. Injuries and other variables played a role in many of these cases, so much so that I could write an entirely separate article breaking down each player.

Regardless of the reason, it is tough to repeat on a career-year, especially when you are coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl and your offensive coordinator leaves to take the head coach vacancy in San Francisco. Before 2016, Matt Ryan only had one season where he threw more than 30 touchdowns and one season with less than 11 interceptions. Ryan is a good quarterback who had an MVP season. But will he continue to be great with a new offensive coordinator and a possible Super Bowl hangover? I’m not so sure, and I would be willing to sell high on him to an owner that thinks Ryan can do even better in 2017.

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Andrew Swanson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive or follow him @andyswansonESPN.

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