One of the most critical aspects of a successful dynasty roster is acquiring your anchor players. These players typically consist of WR1, WR2, RB1, or RB2s. Sometimes this refers to who you believe that will soon ascend to those levels. Other times you have the sneaky performers, players who lack the name cache of other players but still produce at well above average level week in and week out.
Once you identify these anchor players on your roster your next step is to do nothing. That’s right. I’m advocating you do nothing at all, as in do not trade away these players. These types of players are all on my “Do Not Trade” list.
Robert Woods (WR – LAR)
If you ask most dynasty players their top 25 wide receivers, there’s a solid chance that Woods would check towards the end of most lists. This has more to do with Woods lack of production in Buffalo than it does his last two seasons.
After a fitful start to his career, Woods joined the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent before the 2017 season. Woods had a modest breakout in 2017 with 781 yards and five touchdowns on 56 receptions in 12 games, finishing as the WR16 in fantasy points scored per game. Woods could still be had for a late first round 2018 rookie draft pick or even early second round picks last offseason. That is unlikely to be the case this offseason. If you can buy him for anything approaching those prices I suggest you do so.
Woods has finished as a high-end WR2 the last two seasons, WR16 in 2017 and (through 16 weeks) WR14 in 2018. Consistency has been key for Woods, and he’s finished as a WR3 or better in 22 of 27 weeks over the last two seasons, including six WR1 weeks during that stretch.
The 2018 season has seen Woods further cement himself as a valuable asset to dynasty rosters. Woods has produced four WR1 weeks and six WR2 weeks. He’s scored less than double-digit fantasy points just once this season (through Week 16), while setting career highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. With or without Jared Goff’s perceived go-to receiver Cooper Kupp in the lineup, Woods produced in 2018. Without Kupp, Woods averaged 17.03 fantasy points, 5.57 receptions on nine targets for 73 yards and 0.43 touchdowns per game. When Kupp played, those averages were 17.74 fantasy points, 5.63 receptions on 8.3 targets for 85.5 yards per game and 0.38 touchdowns in eight games.
Woods will play the 2019 season at age 27 and should have at least another four seasons of viable fantasy production in him. Woods isn’t a flashy player and will rarely be seen on anyone’s “must own” lists, but he’s a consistent performer that can help you make the playoffs year after year.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – PIT)
Ranked as the #6 ranked wide receiver on FantasyPros, Smith-Schuster is the definition of a phenom. Considering his age-adjusted production, I argue that might be too low. I prefer Smith-Schuster to Michael Thomas (second) and Tyreek Hill (fifth) and could easily talk myself into him being the WR1 in dynasty formats. Smith-Schuster is the best of both worlds in dynasty formats. He’s incredibly young and incredibly productive.
Smith-Schuster’s rookie season was an unmitigated success, but some dynasty players convinced themselves that his 2017 stats were inflated by the two games he played without Antonio Brown to end the season. While true that Smith-Schuster’s 24.4 (PPR) average scoring during those contests was bolstered due to the increased targets and receptions absent Brown it ignores how good he was during the rest of the season. Removing those two games, Smith-Schuster’s 12.99 fantasy points per game would have been good enough to finish as the WR23 in 2017 (per FFToday). Smith-Schuster produced at WR2 levels during his 20-year-old rookie season. What those two games also displayed is that Smith-Schuster wasn’t just a Robin to Antonio Brown’s Batman. In his one AB-less game in 2018, Smith-Schuster struggled to a 5/37 line on 10 targets but did score a touchdown. But he’s displayed WR1 upside without the benefit of having the coverage being keyed in on Brown.
In standard scoring, Smith-Schuster finished as the WR25 overall in 2017 in standard scoring and the WR30 in PPR leagues. In 2018, Smith-Schuster moved into the elite tier of wide receivers finishing as the WR9 in standard scoring and WR8 in PPR leagues. He exceeded 60 yards receiving in eleven games, including eight 100+ yard receiving games showing a consistent floor and the high ceiling needed from your anchor players.
For the 2018 season, Smith-Schuster hauled in 106 passes on 156 targets for 1,389 yards and six touchdowns. Smith-Schuster also saw a massive jump from 4.14 targets per game in his first season to 9.75 per game in year two. With an unprecedented track record of success in the NFL at the age of 22, no trade offer could get Smith-Schuster from my dynasty rosters.
George Kittle (TE – SF)
If you have played fantasy football for any length of time you might think that tight end position is in a perpetually bad state. You would be justified feeling this way.
In 2018 just three tight ends averaged double-digit scoring for the season in standard formats, while six did so in full PPR scoring. For comparison 21 wide receivers reached 10 points or more in standard scoring and 48 did so in PPR. 2017 was not much better as only two tight ends scored double-digits in standard and nine did so in PPR (eight, if you exclude Jordan Reed who played in only six games), while seven wide receivers did so in standard and 44 in PPR. In 2016 no tight end was able to average more than the 9.0 fantasy points Rob Gronkowski averaged in standard scoring, though 17 did score 10 or more fantasy points in PPR leagues. 52 wide receivers averaged more than 10 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues, and 13 did so in standard scoring in 2016.
To call the 6’4″ Kittle an athletic freak would be an understatement. Kittle not only tested off the charts at the 2017 NFL Combine, but he put up numbers to rival the most athletic tight ends to ever be invited to the combine. Watching Kittle play you realize that he is not a player that just shines in his underwear at the combine. Kittle is a threat to take every reception to the end zone due to his speed and agility. Kittle averaged an absurd for a tight end 15.6 yards per reception in 2018, 13th-highest overall.
While his YPR was “only” third best at the tight end position, Kittle produced his YPR on a significantly larger sample size than that the two tight ends who bested him, O.J. Howard and Mark Andrews. Howard and Andrews both finished the season with 34 receptions while Kittle finished with 88. The larger the sample size, the more normalized and reliable the results become.
In his second season, Kittle was the TE2 in average points per game and overall scoring for tight ends in standard scoring this past season, while finishing third in both categories in PPR scoring. He broke the single-season yardage record (set earlier in the day by Travis Kelce) with 1,336 receiving yards.
We can’t ignore the fact that the San Francisco wide receivers were terrible most of the season except for Dante Pettis. Assuming the 49ers add a significant wide receiver to their roster don’t let that concern. Outside of the 136 targets, Kittle saw in 2018 there were an additional 378 targets spread out amongst Kendrick Bourne, Pierre Garcon, Kyle Juszczyk, and the like. In 11 seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan-led offenses have been top nine in pass attempts for seven of those seasons. The 49ers will throw a lot in 2019 and beyond and still have the available target share to feed Kittle. Tied to a head coach who loves to pass, being just 25 years old, and also being an athletic freak who has already shown top-three scoring ability, I would have to be knocked off my feet with a trade offer to give up Kittle in a trade.