Drafting Ja’Marr Chase Could Ruin Your Dynasty Team (2021 Fantasy Football)
Dynasty managers always love the shiny new toys that enter the game each year. We all look forward to our rookie drafts and thoroughly enjoy the rookie pick trade talks, ongoing positional rankings debate, and even the eventual landing spot discussions after the NFL draft. But oftentimes, dynasty managers are blinded by this new shine and can miss the bigger picture. I think this is already happening with new Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase.
Chase’s dynasty startup 1QB ADP is 21st overall. He is going as the WR8 off the board ahead of guys like Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL), DeAndre Hopkins, (WR – ARI), and Michael Thomas (WR – NO), all of whom are perennial fantasy studs. In SuperFlex startups, he’s going a little later at pick 54 and as WR12, ahead of guys like Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS), Chris Godwin (WR – TB), and Allen Robinson (WR – CHI). In both cases, he’s being drafted as a WR1 in 12-team leagues. That’s way too early.
Chase’s Talent and Comparable Players
In terms of talent, Chase was the consensus WR1 in this draft class, both in terms of his future in the NFL and his predicted fantasy production. Some NFL experts and fantasy analysts saw some holes in his game and moved rookie DeVonta Smith (WR – PHI) ahead of him, but Smith has flaws of his own. To me, Chase is more of a complete package, both in size and raw talent, and should translate well to the X-receiver role for his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Everything is pointing up for the rookie phenom, but should he already be the WR1 for your dynasty team?
Looking back at the last five years, the rookie WR1 in fantasy hasn’t exactly been a slam dunk. Using actual MFL rookie drafts, here are the last five WR1s taken in rookie drafts. Also included are their rookie ADP values and where they finished at the WR position that season in PPR scoring.
MyFantasyLeague Rookie ADP
- 2021 – Ja’Marr Chase (4.36)
- 2020 – CeeDee Lamb (6.61) – Finished WR24
- 2019 – N’Keal Harry (2.95) – Finished WR123
- 2018 – DJ Moore (8.39) – Finished WR26
- 2017 – Corey Davis (2.15) – Finished WR86
Two names stand out as positives: DJ Moore (WR – CAR) and CeeDeeb Lamb (WR – DAL). Both entered the league as the consensus WR1, but if you look at the ADP value, they were generally taken in the middle of the first round of rookie drafts. This is largely due to the fact that they both came into the league with a lot of RB talent, which pushed their rookie ADP down a bit. This also possibly lowered their expectations slightly since they weren’t being drafted at the top.
The two obvious negatives are N’Keal Harry (WR – NE) and Corey Davis (WR – NYJ), who were considered busts as rookies and are still bench players in dynasty leagues today. Their ADP was higher than Chase’s currently is, going around pick 2 or 3 in rookie drafts. These higher expectations made their disastrous rookie finishes even harder to swallow for managers that selected them with those earlier picks. Ouch.
But wait, not only is Chase going as the WR1 in dynasty rookie drafts, but he was also the first WR taken in the NFL draft. For comparison, let’s see how Chase stacks up against those players as well:
NFL Draft Capital
- 2021 – Ja’Marr Chase (Cin, 5th)
- 2020 – Henry Ruggs III (LV, 12th) – Finished WR92
- 2019 – Marquise Brown (Bal, 25th) – Finished WR46
- 2018 – DJ Moore (Car, 24th) – Finished WR26
- 2017 – Corey Davis (Ten, 5th) – Finished WR86
The only two names that overlap in the last five years are Moore and Davis. The other two receivers, Henry Ruggs (WR – LV) and Marquise Brown (WR – BAL), both finished outside the top 36 WRs in fantasy as rookies. This doesn’t bode well for the prospect of Chase coming into the league and returning WR1 value immediately.
In terms of how their ADP changed after their rookie year, Davis, Ruggs, and Harry all saw their ADP drop after their bad rookie seasons. Brown, Moore, and Lamb saw theirs rise, and since Moore and Lamb were already going so early, there wasn’t really much room for them to go up. Moore and Brown have both seen their ADP come down slightly, but it’s still currently higher than when they were rookies. At the moment, Chase is going second out of these seven receivers in startup drafts, with only Lamb going earlier. I’d much rather take the sure thing in guys like Moore and his slightly lower ADP over the next potential bust in Chase, especially at that early stage of my startup draft.
The only receiver taken as high as Chase in both the NFL and dynasty rookie drafts was Davis, who was an unquestioned bust. That doesn’t mean I think Chase’s career turns out like Davis’, though. They are very different players who landed in very different places with very different opportunities to succeed. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at Chase’s opportunity this year as a new member of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Chase’s Opportunity and its Question Marks
Chase lands on a Bengals team in need of a dominant #1 wide receiver with the exit of veteran star AJ Green (WR – ARI). Green hasn’t exactly been a stud for fantasy over the last few years, but he was the top receiving option for the team up until the end, even if he didn’t produce like it. With his departure, Chase will likely step in right away and get the lion’s share of the targets as a rookie. This definitely helps his case, but he’s got some hurdles to overcome in my mind before he’s worth taking as your WR1 in dynasty startup drafts.
Everyone has already mentioned that Chase is reunited with his college QB in Joe Burrow (QB – CIN). This is a big win for both as they are likely familiar playing together, but don’t forget, Chase sat out all of 2020 due to the uncertainty of the season. On top of that, Chase’s past and current quarterback left last season with a major knee injury in Week 10, so he’ll be coming back rusty as well. It might take some time for these two to find the old chemistry in a new league with faster opponents. This could lead to some disappointed dynasty managers as they watch one of their top draft picks struggle to perform early and often.
If you zoom out, the picture gets even blurrier. The Bengals head coach is likely on the hot seat this season if things don’t go right for him. Zac Taylor is 6-25-1 through two full seasons with the team, which is not great. If the team struggles out of the gate, going something like 3-6 to start, the team could start looking for some answers during their Week 10 bye week. This would mean that Chase and the offense will have to adjust to a whole new regime if Taylor gets the ax, which can be very difficult for younger players to do after already adjusting to the NFL as a rookie.
All in all, the situation is very shaky in Cincinnati. If Burrow and Chase take a few weeks to reconnect and the team can’t stay competitive, the entire house of cards could come crumbling down. This is not something I want for my WR1 on my dynasty team to have to suffer through. Even if he’s drafted to be your second or third WR option, you better have a deeper bench of older players who can step up and fill the void, or your team could be like the Bengals and be in need of a full rebuild sooner rather than later.
Chase clearly has the talent and the immediate opportunity to be a star, but where he’s being drafted, people are banking on it as if it’s a sure thing. Going as WR8 in 1QB leagues is insane to me. That’s essentially his ceiling, leaving you little to no room for error, which we’ve already seen with recent WR1s in the NFL is very possible if not likely to occur. Drafting players that high, with little to no room to increase in value, is a surefire way to tank your dynasty team entirely.
To be clear, I’m not saying drafting Chase at WR1 in your rookie draft will ruin your team. He makes perfect sense where he’s going there. But if you “reach” for him in the second round of your dynasty startup, you might be unhappy with that choice down the road. I’d much rather give it a year and pay that high price next season than take all the risk in drafting him there now. Once he proves to me that he is worth a WR1 price, I’ll gladly pay up to get him. I’m not willing to take that kind of risk with that early of a pick, though.
I’m all for playing the long game in dynasty, but to me, your first few rounds of a startup should be the anchor of your team. The players you take there should have the least amount of variance. Taking big risks like drafting Chase in the second round of a startup draft could force you into an immediate rebuild if he doesn’t perform and make things much harder for you going forward. Do the right thing and play it safe early, then use those later picks to add risk where you can. That’s how championships are built.
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Let me know what you think about Ja’Marr Chase on Twitter, @AndrewHallFF, and stick with FantasyPros through the rest of the offseason leading up to Week 1. There is plenty of analysis, rankings, and ADP data to check out, and it’s always updated with the latest to help you win your title and dominate your own league!