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Revisiting the 2020 Rookie Class for Dynasty Value (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
May 17, 2021

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is someone worth acquiring in a trade right now

While there’ve been quite a few rookies who’ve made strong impacts in fantasy each of the last two years, many have lost sight of what the norm actually is. It takes time for most players to acclimate to the league.

Have you ever heard of the phrase third-year breakout? It’s because that’s how long it typically took for a wide receiver to break into the NFL. Believe it or not, there are plenty of wide receivers who don’t record 1,000-yard seasons in their rookie year who go on to be wildly successful.

Did you know DeAndre Hopkins finished with just 802 yards and two touchdowns his rookie season? Or how about Tyreek Hill finishing with 593 yards and six touchdowns? Stefon Diggs 720 yards and four touchdowns? And even better, Davante Adams finishing with 446 yards and three touchdowns while playing all 16 games?

There have been some 2020 rookies left for dead due to underperforming expectations their rookie season. Ok, maybe that was harsh. But they’ve lost tons of value because they weren’t Justin Jefferson or CeeDee Lamb their rookie year. There are others who’ve watched their value go through the roof. Should one year dictate how we feel about these players? Let’s revisit the 2020 rookie class to discuss who might be a value right now.

1.01 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC) Current Value in Startups: RB14
Many considered his rookie year a bust, though he did average 4.44 yards per carry and was the RB11 through six weeks despite scoring just one touchdown during that time. If he’d scored just one more touchdown, he would’ve been the RB6 during that time, which was before Le’Veon Bell arrived. Tied to one of the best offenses in the league and being a true three-down back with first-round equity, I’m buying at his RB14 cost in the third round.

1.02 Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND) Current Value in Startups: RB2
Now this I don’t understand. Over the first 10 weeks of the season, Taylor was the RB19 and David Montgomery was the RB20. Taylor finished the year as the RB6 while Montgomery was the RB4. Many will talk about Montgomery’s schedule as the reason for his production, hence why he’s ranked at RB20 in ECR right now, but are they ignoring Taylor’s schedule? He played against the Texans TWICE, Packers, Raiders, Jaguars, and the Steelers (who were decimated by injuries for that game). That’s a large reason for his jump in production. The Colts re-signed Marlon Mack and have shown their commitment to a timeshare, yet Taylor is supposed to be the second-most valuable player in dynasty? I believe he’s overvalued right now.

1.03 D’Andre Swift (RB – DET) Current Value in Startups: RB10
His value right now surprises me, as the Lions are widely accepted as a team that’ll be the worst in their division and will struggle to put points on the board, yet Swift is valued as a top-10 running back in dynasty? It’s extremely tough to be a top-tier back on a low-scoring offense (research is here), and on top of that, the team signed Jamaal Williams to a two-year, $6 million contract this offseason. Despite being talented, Swift might be a tad overvalued in dynasty right now due to his team situation.

1.04 J.K. Dobbins (RB – BAL) Current Value in Startups: RB9
I get the allure with Dobbins – I really do. You’re paying a premium (RB9) to see if he hits that ceiling, though. The Ravens have run a timeshare with Lamar Jackson under center, but will Dobbins’ talent force them to tilt it more his way in 2021? He’s going to lose some production to Jackson and Gus Edwards, but fortunately, this offense puts plenty of points up on the board. His cost is a risk/reward thing, though a bit on the pricey side.

1.05 Cam Akers (RB – LAR) Current Value in Startups: RB6
Prior to starting this article, I had my thoughts on which players would be values, and Akers was one of them. That was until I saw his current draft position. After watching Sean McVay continually hand him the ball 86 times over the final four games of the regular season, it was clear he wants Akers to be “the guy”, though Darrel Henderson was a bit more efficient with his touches in 2020. Akers should be considered an RB1 in dynasty, but he might be topped out at his ceiling as the No. 7 overall player in startups right now.

1.06 CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL) Current Value in Startups: WR6
The rise of Lamb in dynasty has been quick, as he was being drafted as the WR15 this time last year, which was ambitious. After finishing as the No. 24 wide receiver his rookie season, his value went all the way up to WR6? There’s no value to be had in trading for him right now.

1.07 Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN) Current Value in Startups: WR25
This time last year, Jeudy was being drafted as the WR21 in startups, so his value didn’t drop as far as I thought it would, but he’s still coming at a discount after an inefficient rookie season. He got more targets than most realize (113), but struggled to connect with Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, and Brett Rypien. We do know that Teddy Bridgewater has been able to support consistent fantasy options, but it seems likely that Jeudy will have a new quarterback throwing to him in the near future unless Bridgewater or Lock steps up and plays consistently (which would boost Jeudy’s value). He’s someone I’m actively targeting in trades.

1.08 Jalen Reagor (WR – PHI) Current Value in Startups: WR45
Did Reagor’s value take a hit when the team drafted DeVonta Smith at No. 10 overall? Nope. Reagor was always meant to be the complementary option in a passing attack, and he’ll be just that alongside Smith. If Jalen Hurts doesn’t pan out, the Eagles won’t be shy about drafting a quarterback in 2022. But if he does pan out, Reagor will look like a value as the 45th wide receiver off the board. You don’t need to be ultra-aggressive, but if you’re able to get him at a discount, I like it.

1.09 Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN) Current Value in Startups: WR1
I had to do a double-take when I saw Jefferson’s No. 1 wide receiver cost in startup drafts. Look, I was high on Jefferson coming out of college, and watching him dominate his rookie year only made me love him more, but the WR1 after one season? As much as it pains me to say, he might be a sell right now to capitalize on his inflated price.

1.10 Ke’Shawn Vaughn (RB – TB) Current Value in Startups: RB62
Some might see this massive discount as a buying opportunity, but the Bucs told us everything we needed to know about Vaughn when they re-signed Leonard Fournette, then acquired Giovani Bernard this offseason. That means Vaughn falls to fourth on the depth chart during the most important time of his career. He’s hardly rosterable at this point.

1.11 Henry Ruggs (WR – LVR) Current Value in Startups: WR57
Here’s the player with one of the biggest discount from last year’s prices, as Ruggs was going as the WR32 in startups this time last year. Am I going to aggressively attack him in trades? Nah, I just don’t believe in the coaching staff enough to do that, as they’ve shown the inability to recognize how Ruggs should be utilized. I do think he should be a value, so I’m not opposed to acquiring him, but don’t overpay.

1.12 Joe Burrow (QB – CIN) Current Value in Startups: QB10
The ACL injury actually lowered his dynasty value, as he was being taken as the QB7 this time last year. This is something to take advantage of, especially when the Bengals drafted his former No. 1 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the first round to give him another go-to target along with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. ACL injuries are not something you should be too worried about, as modern medicine allows them to return to pre-ACL performance levels. I’m buying Burrow as a value.

If you’d like to know how I value all players in dynasty, click here for the May version of the Dynasty Trade Value Chart >>>

1.13 Tee Higgins (WR – CIN) Current Value in Startups: WR13
Prior to the Bengals drafting Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5 overall, I would’ve felt like Higgins was slightly undervalued. But now that Chase is there to cap his target ceiling, Higgins is overvalued. It might take some time for ADP to catch up, but it should settle around the WR15-WR18 range.

1.14 Denzel Mims (WR – NYJ) Current Value in Startups: WR53
Prior to this offseason, Mims appeared to be the Jets No. 1 wide receiver. After an offseason full of offensive moves, Mims might be fourth in line for targets. He’s clearly behind Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, who the team made a priority to snag. We also have a rookie quarterback under center, which could go one of two ways. Based on his current cost, Mims is someone to sell.

1.15 Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF) Current Value in Startups: WR17
There was a point in the 2020 season where Aiyuk rattled off 73-plus yards in six straight games, and even better, they came with three different quarterbacks. Doing that in your rookie season is mighty impressive. We can’t forget George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were out for much of that time, so targets may not be as easy to come by moving forward. Still, Aiyuk is probably valued correctly as a WR2, even if I’d say to dial back expectations a bit.

1.16 Michael Pittman (WR – IND) Current Value in Startups: WR42
He’s someone I expected to be valued a lot lower than he currently is. As the 42nd wide receiver off the board, that’s teetering on WR3 value, something we didn’t see in 2020. It’s not to say he can’t get there, but going back to Carson Wentz‘s days with Frank Reich, he loved targeting slot receivers and tight ends, so maybe it’s Parris Campbell (WR68) we should be targeting instead. Pittman has a ceiling that’s higher than WR42, but that doesn’t mean you should pay for it after a mediocre rookie season.

1.17 Bryan Edwards (WR – LVR) Current Value in Startups: WR66
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m shocked to see Edwards’ value still up at WR66 after a non-existent rookie season. It’s the same quarterback, same offensive play-caller, and same head coach. The difference is that John Brown replaced Nelson Agholor. I am a fan of buying Edwards on the cheap as a stash, but WR66 isn’t cheap.

1.18 Zack Moss (RB – BUF) Current Value in Startups: RB42
Based on the price of the other running backs from this class, I was expecting to see Moss somewhere in the RB32 range, so I was pleasantly surprised to see him at RB42, as it presents some value. The Bills have continually shown they don’t trust Devin Singletary as anything more than a timeshare back averaging 10.96 carries per game over his two years, while Moss is more of that early-down back who should receive the majority of goal-line carries. Sure, Josh Allen is going to cap his touchdown upside, but the Bills will run the ball much more in 2021 than they did in 2020. Moss is a decent value to acquire in dynasty right now.

1.19 Laviska Shenault (WR – JAX) Current Value in Startups: WR37
Another player I was hoping would slide into the value category… another player who dynasty managers are aggressively paying for. Shenault flashed some big-play upside last year, but inconsistent quarterback play combined with injuries held him back. The addition of Trevor Lawrence is surely going to make the offense more productive, but will he surpass D.J. Chark (WR32) to be the top option on the team? Their current costs don’t factor in that Chark has already shown WR1 upside in the NFL. Still, if Lawrence is who everyone expects him to be, both receivers might be top-30 options. Shenault might be a little aggressively priced, but I get it.

1.20 Tua Tagovailoa (QB – MIA) Current Value in Startups: QB15
His price has come down quite a bit since this time last year when he was being drafted as the QB11 in startups. Knowing the Dolphins had plenty of draft capital in this, one of the best quarterback classes in recent memory, and chose to trade back tells you everything you need to know. They believe Tagovailoa can be that quarterback. They also surrounded him with weapons, adding Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle this offseason. Tagovailoa’s QB15 price tag might be a bit too much based on what we’ve seen, but if you believe in his talent, he might be properly priced.

1.21 Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS) Current Value in Startups: RB11
It’s kind of crazy the running backs in this class make up six of the top 14 running backs being drafted in startups right now, but that’s where we’re at. Running backs have peak value immediately upon entering the league, though we may not have seen Gibson’s ceiling yet. He was being eased in by the coaching staff based on his lack of usage in college, so we could see him finish higher in the rankings this year, but that’s already built into his price. He’s not coming as a value after 2020.

1.22 A.J. Dillon (RB – GB) Current Value in Startups: RB30
Just like every other Packers skill-position player, his value is directly tied to Aaron Rodgers being the quarterback. Once Aaron Jones signed his new four-year deal, it cemented Dillon as the lesser part of a 60/40 timeshare. With Rodgers under center, there’s enough value for him to remain in the top-30 conversation, as there are plenty of scoring opportunities. But with the concern about Rodgers not returning, Dillon’s price is too hefty.

1.23 Darrynton Evans (RB – TEN) Current Value in Startups: RB70
We haven’t seen Derrick Henry miss significant time during his NFL career, which has made his backup seem irrelevant, though that shouldn’t be the case, especially knowing Henry is coming off a 378-carry season. Evans is someone that’s a great throw-in to trades right now, as he can be stashed on your bench as Henry’s primary handcuff. Who knows? With Arthur Smith out of town, we could see him more involved on a weekly basis. Don’t forget he was a third-round pick just one year ago.

1.24 Chase Claypool (WR – PIT) Current Value in Startups: WR22
We saw an explosion out of Claypool in Week 5 last year where he totaled 116 yards and four touchdowns. He was a starter from that point forward but failed to top 59 yards in nine of his last 11 games. It’s a crowded group of pass-catchers in Pittsburgh, so to see Claypool’s WR22 cost in startups seems a bit much, especially when we consider his impact falling off a bit once team’s knew they had to account for him. We know there’s a massive ceiling for a player with his size/speed, but his cost doesn’t factor in the other end of his projection.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.