Dynasty Veterans to Sell (2021 Fantasy Football)
There’s often an overreaction in dynasty leagues to a player getting up there in age, allowing contenders to swoop in for a chance to buy low, therefore allowing them to contend for another championship. There are, however, times where you should sell before the player’s stock completely tumbles.
I’m not going to be talking about players like Larry Fitzgerald or Tom Brady in this article. Those are players who are too obvious and rarely have any value left. Today, I’ll be talking about players who can still net a decent return in a trade despite the fact that they may be getting up there in age.
Aaron Rodgers (GB)
Look, you won’t find a bigger Rodgers fan than me, but he had everything go for him in 2020. It seemed every time the Packers got down on the goal line, he was throwing a touchdown rather than them running it in. He threw 48 touchdowns while the running backs totaled just 13 rushing scores. The previous year, in the same offense, he threw for 26 of them while the running backs combined for 17 rushing scores. If we were to dial back his 9.1 percent touchdown-rate in 2020 to his career rate of 6.3 percent (one of the best ever), he would’ve finished with 33 passing touchdowns, and would’ve been the No. 10 fantasy quarterback rather than the No. 2 quarterback. He rushed for three touchdowns but just 149 yards. Rodgers had rushed for 578 yards over the previous three years but had just three rushing touchdowns in those seasons combined. Losing his mobility, coming off a career-year in touchdown percentage, and now 37 years old, it’s time to unload Rodgers in dynasty leagues.
Matt Ryan (ATL)
There have been rumblings about the Falcons letting go of Ryan in the near future, and that will be all but sealed if they draft a quarterback at No. 4 overall, which seems likely. There’s also been talk about the Falcons trading Julio Jones, needing to create cap space to rebuild the roster. Ryan doesn’t know what life without Jones is like. Well, he kind of does. He played seven games without him in 2020 and averaged 6.57 yards per attempt, which pales in comparison to the 7.92 yards per attempt he averaged with him. He’s going to be 36 years old in May, so his window is starting to shrink, and it’s unlikely he comes close to the volume and talent he’s had in Atlanta when he goes elsewhere.
James Conner (PIT)
There are plenty of dynasty managers waiting to see where Conner lands. Some are optimistic about him finding a workhorse gig on another team at just 25 years old, while others are a bit more skeptical. You should be more than skeptical. In fact, you should be getting him off your roster as fast as possible. The Steelers offensive line wasn’t what you’d describe as great last year, particularly their run blocking, but the secret is out on Conner that he simply can’t stay on the field. Your best attribute as a running back is availability, and there are too many other talented free agents on the open market for Conner to find a workhorse gig. He’s either going to take a backup role or be in a messy timeshare where he won’t be the primary pass-catcher. While I typically think dynasty owners overvalue rookie picks, I’d take a second rounder for Conner right now.
Josh Jacobs (LV)
I’ve been waiting for the Raiders to move on from Greg Olson as the offensive coordinator, but it hasn’t happened. With him and Jon Gruden still at the helm, Jacobs is going to have issues living up to his expectations. “But Mike, he finished as the RB8 last year.” If you had Jacobs on your roster, you know that he wasn’t an RB1. There were 6-of-15 games where he failed to score more than 8.9 half-PPR points, which is something true RB1s don’t do. He rushed for 100 yards twice. Remember when the Raiders drafted Lynn Bowden? How about when they signed Devontae Booker? Or re-signed Jalen Richard? It all suggests they don’t want Jacobs getting the work you think he should in the passing game, and what they say ultimately matters more. I love Jacobs as an RB2 in dynasty because he does have the talent to possess RB1 numbers (on a consistent basis) but until there’s a shakeup on the coaching staff, he’s not likely to reach it. You can get a ton in return when trading away the talented young running back.
Leonard Fournette (TB)
Prior to Fournette’s late-season heroics in the playoffs, he was left for dead in dynasty formats. He had an expiring contract and was likely looking at a one- or two-year deal in a timeshare as a best-case scenario. Somehow, faith has been restored, as many believe he’ll land a fantasy-relevant job somewhere. I’m not so sure about that, as there are more talented running backs on the open market (Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, Kenyan Drake) and in the NFL Draft (Najee Harris, Travis Etienne). The only teams who have clear openings in their backfield for fantasy impact are the Jets, Falcons, and Steelers. There are others like the Bills, Dolphins, Seahawks, and Cardinals who “might” have value, but again, there are plenty of running backs available. When people see a player performing on primetime television like Fournette did, they believe it. We call that “primetime bias confirmation,” and you should be using it to get the most for Fournette. According to dynastyleaguefootball.com, his average draft position has risen over 17 spots since December.
Melvin Gordon (DEN)
Not many casual dynasty players pay too much attention to contracts until the player’s contract is about to be up, which is why we’ve seen Aaron Jones‘ value drop so much this offseason with the uncertainty of where he’ll land. If you want to find a potential sell, you need to look forward. Not only is Gordon facing what appears to be a three-game suspension for a DUI he had last year, but he’s also slated to be a free agent after the 2021 season. So, in reality, you’re looking at what might be 12 fantasy games left in his career (Week 17 doesn’t count plus his three-game suspension). When he does become a free agent, he’ll be 29 years old, which is not an age we see many running backs get contracts, and if they do, it’s typically as part of a timeshare. This is going to be the last time you’re able to sell Gordon as a starting running back.
Robby Anderson (CAR)
When the 2020 season started, Anderson looked like the steal of the off-season, as he racked up 59 targets, 46 receptions, 640 yards, and one touchdown through seven games, good enough to be the No. 9 wide receiver in fantasy. His 640 yards ranked second behind only DeAndre Hopkins. Why was that? Well, he had familiarity with Matt Rhule as they used to be at Temple together, hence the reason he was signed to a two-year contract prior to the season. While it took some time for D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel to be caught up, Anderson didn’t. However, once they did catch up, Anderson did a nosedive in fantasy, finishing with 49 receptions for 456 yards and two touchdowns over the final nine games, which amounted to the No. 42 wide receiver over that time. Anderson is a solid No. 2 option in an offense, but he’s already witnessed his peak in fantasy, and will be going to the open market after the 2021 season. If you find someone who believes he’ll be a top-30 wide receiver moving forward, they’re your trade partner.
Allen Robinson (CHI)
We’ve continually talked about the fact that Robinson has never played with an above-average quarterback, yet he’s continually produced borderline WR1/2-type numbers. We don’t know if that will change in 2021, as he’s slated to be a free agent, but the Bears are reportedly contemplating the franchise tag. If Robinson does leave the Bears, it might not be the best thing for his fantasy projection. He’s continually talking about wanting to play for a Super Bowl ring, which means he’s not going to simply follow the money, but rather look for a team that’s a contender. The No. 1 team that comes to mind that needs a wide receiver is the Ravens, and while Lamar Jackson is above average, I promise you Robinson’s stock would take a major hit, as there simply aren’t enough targets to go around in a run-first offense. When you look at contenders in general, most have competent wide receivers, so it’s unlikely Robinson walks in and sees 150-plus targets like he has with the Bears and Jaguars. Robinson has only averaged more than 8.3 yards per target once in his career, so those targets are valuable. If you can get WR1-type value for Robinson right now, I’d jump on that.
Chris Godwin (TB)
When I started writing this article, I didn’t think I’d have Godwin in the “sell” column, but here we are. While I believe he’s a solid WR2 on a dynasty squad, I looked at his average draft position and saw he’s being selected as a low-end WR1 in startups ahead of guys like Tee Higgins and Terry McLaurin, who are the clear go-to options in their offenses. As long as Godwin stays in Tampa Bay (what’s expected), he has to compete with Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Tyler Johnson, and potentially Antonio Brown/Rob Gronkowski for targets. “But Mike, didn’t Godwin crush in 2019 when he was healthy while Evans was on the field?” Yeah, but that was with Jameis Winston throwing the ball 629 times for 5,109 yards. While Tom Brady played extremely well in 2020, he threw for 4,633 yards, and we can’t pretend he’s going to ascend to new heights at 44 years old next year. Brady is going to play until he can’t anymore and I don’t blame him for that, but with all the weapons he wants (they’re likely to add a pass-catching running back), the ball will be spread around the offense. Again, Godwin has the talent and is a fine wide receiver to have on your roster, but given the perception of his worth right now, you might want to cash in.
Kenny Golladay (DET)
The rumors coming out about the Lions potentially franchise tagging Golladay are bad for his dynasty value. Going from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff ruins the downfield prowess that Golladay had, as he’s averaged 16.8 yards per reception throughout his four years in the league, which is among the highest in football. Meanwhile, Goff has struggled to throw the deep ball, completing just 13-of-43 passes that traveled over 20 yards in 2020. Goff also threw the ball deep just 7.8 percent of the time in 2020 and 8.9 percent of the time in 2019, while Stafford’s mark was over 15 percent the last two years. While offensive scheme can certainly change a quarterback’s approach, Goff lacks precision on the deep ball, which is why Sean McVay continually toned it down. It’s also why receivers like Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods excelled with him. If Golladay doesn’t get tagged, his value can remain stagnant or go down, depending on quarterback talent and targets available with his new team. By trading him now, you’re removing a lot of risk from your roster. It’s also crazy to think he’s already 27 years old and will turn 28 during the 2021 season.
If someone is willing to pay for late-season heroics, take advantage: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Evan Engram (NYG)
When looking for a tight end to sell high, you have to find someone who’s getting tons of targets, and not necessarily because he’s uber-talented. You also have to find someone who people believe is a top-tier tight end, because otherwise, they’ll low-ball you in trades. Engram fits the bill of a tight end to sell perfectly. He’s now finished with less than 7.0 yards per target in three of four seasons, and he’s failed to score more than three touchdowns in each of the last three seasons, yet he’s continually drafted as a top-eight tight end. Some likely forgot, but the Giants were reportedly looking to trade him prior to last year’s draft but had no takers. Knowing the Giants now have the 11th pick in the draft, it’s possible that Kyle Pitts falls to them, and if that happens, Engram is going to tumble down dynasty rankings. If he’s not traded away from the Giants at that point, some will drop him. He’s young, but he’s also never likely to get the volume he has ever again.