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Winter Is Coming: The Free Agency Dynasty Value Spike (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jeff Bell | @4WhomJBellTolls | Featured Writer
Dec 3, 2021
Javonte Williams

Dynasty players are hopeful Javonte Williams steps into a bellcow role

Winter is coming.  A famous marketing catchphrase from the HBO hit series Game of Thrones.  But for dynasty fantasy football managers, as the air turns crisp, plans for future contention take focus.  Dynasty values are fluid, fluctuating on free agency and draft moves and solely on rumors for much of January and February.  An enterprising manager can get ahead, setting themselves up to capitalize on value shifts. However, is there value sitting on the waiver wire of deep leagues?

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Team Construction – General Principles

The chart below shows the top 40 running backs and wide receivers to switch teams over the past three seasons.  (Note: The definition of “top” is very liberal, but this data paints a clear picture)

When a team loses an impact player, they aggressively react with draft capital or free agency dollars to replace lost production.  It makes sense.  Performance earns interest and, ultimately, financial commitment.  But performance is also a key component in the previous team’s success.  When a significant contributor departs, front offices can see the impact and are more willing to commit resources.  Nearly half of the data set saw their production attempt to be replaced by picks within the first two days of the draft, and notably absent are players like Kyle Pitts (TE – ATL) and Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN). They are direct replacements for the departed Julio Jones (WR – TEN) and Stefon Diggs (WR – BUF).  Trades are more challenging to predict than using a resource like Spotrac to view impending free agents.

This data set spells terrible news for later drafted players who may typically land as dynasty stash candidates.  This opportunity is the area for enterprising players to attack.  The most successful players view the dynasty as a stock market, moving value at perceived peak and buying low into situations.  Much like the stock market, player values are based more on the perception of situations than reality.  A player who exemplifies this is Quintez Cephus (WR – DET), a popular 2021 offseason dynasty stash candidate.  

Cephus was a 5th round pick in the 2020 draft, and the narrative was easy to craft; the Lions would be losing Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG) and Marvin Jones Jr (WR – JAX). in free agency.  Cephus flashed in small sample sizes in 2020 with a 20-349-2 line and forced his way onto dynasty radars. As the only player under contract for the Lions in January and February, the spotlight for dynasty players hunting value was easy to shine.  Once free agency opened, the Lions attacked aggressively, targeting Tyrell Williams (WR – FA) and Breshad Perriman (WR – TB).  They continued to add through the offseason with Kalif Raymond (WR – DET) and in the draft, with 4th round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET).  Once camp opened, Cephus was not the only WR, and the Lions created a jumbled mess that ultimately led to minimal value returns.

Cephus had a clear value window and presented an opportunity for players to move him into a more liquid asset like a rookie draft pick.  Everyone playing dynasty is trying to accomplish essentially the same end goal, build a valuable portfolio, and win leagues. How do you function in a marketplace with shared objectives? Identifying weaknesses and as a player base, the allure of youth is always irresistible.  What players stand to see a value increase due to 2022’s free agency window?

The 2022 Free Agents – And Their Trailing Stashes

Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)

Time to address prominent players first.  Williams stands to see his value grow as much as any player in dynasty football based on the assumption that Melvin Gordon (RB – DEN) will leave Denver.  But much like Cephus, 2021 can provide a cautionary tale in the form of AJ Dillon (RB – GBP).  The early presumption was both Aaron Jones (RB – GBP) and Jamaal Williams (RB – DET) would leave the Packers, allowing Dillon to ascend to the top of the depth chart.  It very much could happen for Williams, but if a league mate will value him as if the move has happened, it presents an opportunity to eliminate the risk he could find himself repeating a year in a timeshare.  Williams currently sits in a dead heat with Dillon at 10.7 ppr ppg, on the bubble for RB3 territory and a far cry off his redraft ADP of 60 overall.

The Stash Backs: Eno Benjamin (RB – ARI) & JJ Taylor (RB – NE)

First, in Arizona, Benjamin does look to have a Cephus situation. James Conner (RB – ARI) and Chase Edmonds (RB – ARI) stand to hit free agency.  Edmonds injury and Benjamin’s subsequent usage has indeed forced him onto dynasty rosters, but at an inefficient 3.6 ypc and his late capital, nothing screams the future.  Still, the window could open, allowing players to flip Benjamin for a draft asset.

Taylor, on the other hand, is potentially available in your league.  The injury to James White (RB – NE) spiked excitement about his potential early in the season, but he has seen Brandon Bolden (RB – NE) step into the receiving back ahead of him. Bolden and James White will be into their 30s, and both are impending free agents.  Taylor could find himself in a position to return very late future rookie pick value for a free pickup, though your league-mates have likely given up on this hit.

The Premier WRs: Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI) & Rondale Moore (WR – ARI)

Mooney started slow, averaging under eight ppr ppg through the first three games, but he has emerged as the Bears’ primary threat since week four.  He sits at WR20 on a per-game basis from week four through twelve, a feat given the Bears’ overall offensive struggles. He is working towards stardom, and Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)‘s impending departure will open the general public’s eyes.

Rondale Moore is yet to hit the highest many hope though he has flashed in moments.  The physical talent is apparent, but growth must occur.  The Cardinals need to get comfortable using him vertically, and ideally, the team will fall into the trend of dual backfield utilization.

The True Stash Pool

These are the guys who are likely available as stash candidates: Dazz Newsome (WR – CHI), Tyler Johnson (WR – TB), Jaelon Darden (WR – TB), Gabriel Davis (WR – BUF), Josh Palmer (WR – LAC), Mike Strachan (WR – IND), Dezmon Patmon (WR – IND), Braxton Berrios (WR – NYJ)

This group is the wildcards.  A couple (Davis, Johnson) have seen actual usage within their offense but sit in stacked WR rooms.  Others are rookies who have struggled to make a consistent impact.  Rebuilding rosters or players with retiring players on their rosters would be wise to grab players out of this group.  These players could allow flexibility in accruing rookie picks for future years or to help bolster trade value in packages.  Just recognize that these players’ value windows could open and close quickly.

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Jeff Bell is a featured writer at FantasyPros. To read more from Jeff, check out his archive and follow him @4WhomJBellTolls.

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