Fantasy football is a fickle beast. The sports world consistently operates from a “what have you done for me lately” point of view, and the fantasy landscape is no exception. Fantasy football managers are more plugged into sports news than ever before, and the vast majority of fantasy managers have become more educated as a result. However, the positives of information being more accessible than ever before do not come without pitfalls. We often preach patience when playing dynasty, but time and time again, we see fantasy managers overreact to a recent set of circumstances rather than looking at the entire picture. Generally speaking, taking a step back and analyzing a player’s current situation while looking at what happened in the past and is reasonable to expect to happen in the future can prove beneficial for your short and long-term success.
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Case One: Deebo Samuel Pre-2021 vs. Post-2021
Deebo Samuel (WR – SF) is widely considered a top ten dynasty wide receiver following his stellar 2021 season that saw him post career highs in nearly every statistical category thanks to usage that featured him as a true dual-threat in both the rushing and receiving game. He is the very definition of an electric playmaker who only recently turned 26-years-old and should be in the thick of his prime playing years.
So why was he such an afterthought in dynasty startups heading into the 2021 season?
Last season, some of the wide receivers drafted before Samuel in startup drafts in PPR formats included Tyler Boyd, Adam Thielen, Chase Claypool, and Kenny Golladay. It’s commonplace to see rookies and younger players like Claypool vaulting up draft boards as the season approaches, but it’s typically over players with a considerable deal of uncertainty surrounding him.
Samuel had already posted a rookie season in 2019 that saw him rack up over 800 receiving yards and over 150 rushing yards at this point in his career. What followed afterward is what saw his value sink to an unfathomable number. His 2020 season saw him struggle with injuries as he only appeared in seven games. He was consistently labeled injury-prone following that offseason. As a result, his average draft position plummeted to the point where he was coming off the board as the 36th wide receiver selected, all while fellow 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk was coming off the board as a top-24 option at wide receiver with regularity.
The wild swings in value are exactly what a savvy fantasy manager wants to exploit. Samuel had no business being selected that late in startup drafts after already showing immense promise in his young career. If you saw Samuel’s promise in his career and bought the worthwhile injury dip following one season that saw him battle injuries, you’re certainly happy with the current result.
Case Two: The Curious Case of JuJu Smith-Schuster
In 2017 JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR – KC) burst onto the scene as a hotshot rookie from the University of Southern California for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing across from Antonio Brown afforded him the luxury of not having to face off against the opposition’s premier cornerback option weekly, and it led to him nearly eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards his rookie season on just 79 targets.
In 2018 he seemingly cemented himself as one of the top pass catchers for fantasy football after racking up over 100 receptions, over 1,400 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns for the second consecutive season. His dynasty value skyrocketed. If you wanted to acquire Smith-Schuster the following offseason in startup drafts, you likely would have had to spend a late first-round selection to do so.
Everything that followed would be viewed as a disappointment to those who invested in him. Since that point, he has not topped 850 receiving yards. The prevailing consensus has been that he is not a true number one option for a team’s receiving group.
While that may be true, the swings in his value have been extreme. Will he ever be the player who produced like a surefire stud back in 2018? In all likelihood, no, but if you’ve acquired him in trades or startup drafts over the past few seasons, you did not invest nearly as highly as managers who did following 2018. Context is vital in all aspects of fantasy football, and the quarterback play for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past few seasons can certainly be part of the puzzle as to why Smith-Schuster has underperformed.
After signing with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, Smith-Schuster has a real shot to shoot down the recent narrative they he cannot be a highly productive receiver. Following the trade of Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins, Smith-Schuster looks set to be the leader on the roster for targets at the wide receiver position. The main difference for him this time compared to when he was in Pittsburgh is that the Chiefs still feature another premier pass-catching weapon in Travis Kelce.
Investigate Excessive Swings in Value
Any transactions made in dynasty leagues inherently possess risk; that’s simply the nature of the game we play. Still, an excellent place to extract top-tier value is on players where you see the value swing wildly throughout an offseason or two. Unfortunately, oftentimes too many managers are too quick to move off of a player who has demonstrated flashes of brilliance when in reality, there are circumstances surrounding them that also need to be considered. Of course, not every move you attempt to make like this will work, but it can help keep you out in front of the rest of your league if you can manage to secure players below market value thanks to the current manager who rosters them buying too much into the most recent sample size.
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