Throughout my 8 or 9 years of playing fantasy football I have always been the most invested manager in all my season-long fantasy leagues. My level of interest and obsession often far surpasses my buddies and league-mates. I have been looking for ways to improve my fantasy football experience; I have dabbled in high-stake buy-in leagues but that didn’t change much, just people were less willing to trade.
I knew their had to be something more, a way to play fantasy football that was more dynamic and invested and could satisfy my need for a more realistic fantasy football environment…
I have found dynasty fantasy football!
Over past two weeks I have participated in three seperate Dynasty Fantasy Football Startup Drafts on Sleeper, including one for the OwnersBox Fantasy Sports office, one I joined off r/FindaLeague, and one I started as a commissioner that includes recruits from the r/DynastyFF subReddit community.
Through these three drafts I have noticed some trends in drafting patterns and the valuations on players that are interesting. Although I am new to dynasty, due to being an avid season-long player, I believe I have a well-rounded understanding of each player and their talent and situations. I am going to provide some analysis here of running backs I think you should fade and players I think you should target in dynasty. Fades are players to avoid at their current ADP in startups and are players to consider trading away at their current perceived value in established dynasty leagues.Targets are players you should draft in startups at their ADP and are also players to consider trading for in established leagues.
All analysis is based on Full PPR Superflex (2QB) 12 team dynasty leagues, and I will include each player’s draft position (from highest to lowest) in all three startup drafts.
Running Back Fades
The depth at RB is much less than at WR, so the general consensus on drafting strategy is take running backs in the early rounds. While I agree with the logic of this strategy, for dynasty, things are a bit different. Elite wide receivers hold their value over time, ex. Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams; but with running backs, there is heavy turnover and an elite running back tends to not hold value long beyond the age of 28 or 29. Age is huge factor with running backs in dynasty.
Additionally, Running back careers are more often cut short by injury than wide receivers, look at Todd Gurley. Two years ago he was likely a 1st round pick in dynasty startups; now he is a NFL free agent and is going undrafted in 25 round dynasty startups… at age 26. David Johnson went from valued as the top RB heading into 2017 to nearly irrelevant in a few years.
As an example, to the left are the FantasyPros consensus dynasty rankings heading into the 2017 season (the age is updated to 2021, and the teams the player is on in 2021 are listed beside the player’s name).
As you can see, the RBs listed in the top 20 assets are David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman. Four years later, Elliot is the only one of these running backs still holding top 50 asset value, whereas most of the wide receivers listed are still holding elite value. In dynasty startups you need to buy future value and future stats not passed stats, you do not get any credit for those.
That being said, again running back is a thin position for fantasy and to compete you need two of the top 20 RBs in the current year. If you want to go for a championship in the first year, then for sure, take running backs early; if you want to build for long term success in a superflex dynasty, my opinion would be to start your draft with a top QB and a elite WR; and if you are taking a RB, take one of the sophomores. Lets get into the running back fades:
FADE: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (Startup Draft Position: 1.10, 1.10, 2.03)
Okay remember: this is fade at the valuation, and I am surely fading Alvin Kamara at a 1st round value in Superflex dynasty startups. This take has nothing to do with the talent, Kamara is an uber-talented running back, but rather his value as a long-term dynasty asset and the new changes to the Saints offensive personal.
Long-Term Dynasty Asset? Kamara has four full seasons under his belt and he has been remarkably consistent, around 175 carries, between 80–85 catches and about 1600 total yards and among the league leaders in touchdowns. Kamara is the perfect example of paying for past statistics in dynasty when all that matters is the potential for immediate and future statistics. Alvin will be 26 when the season starts this year, which is on the older side for running backs in dynasty. The running backs considered to be in the same tier (Round 1, early Round 2) as Kamara are Barkley (age 24), McCaffrey (24), J. Taylor (22), Cook (25), Akers (21), Swift (22). Besides Dalvin Cook, everyone else is under 25. If you really want to take a running back in the first round, take one thats 24 years old or younger for the long-term asset value.
Changes to the Offense? Drew Brees has retired from the NFL. The Saints have a competition for the starting quarterback position between Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. Kamara has plyed 9 games without Drew Brees at quarterback in his career and look at the splits.
With Drew Brees at QB, Kamara has averaged 22.66 PPR fantasy points per game. In the 9 games in his career without Drew Brees at QB, Kamara’s PPR average drops to 15.87 PPR points per game. These 9 games are with Teddy Bridgewater and the aforementioned Taysom Hill at QB. Per Pro Football Focus, in 2018 Drew Brees was the leader in percentage of targets allocated to running backs at 27%, aiding Kamara’s value. In that same 2018 season, Winston was in the bottom third of the league in targeting running backs at 16%. We have not yet seen Winston start at QB in the Saints offensive system, but we do know that Winston never supported at top 25 fantasy running back while in Tampa Bay. While Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones are not the talent that Kamara is, it is concerning that Winston tends not to target passes towards his running backs.
Taking Kamara in the 1st round of startups will be a pick you will almost certainly regret when hes 28 in two years, and may even be a pick you regret as soon as this year if the change at QB leads to a drop in the efficiency of the Saints’ offense and if the new quarterback, whoever it is, doesn’t throw the ball Kamara’s way.
FADE: Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (2.09, 2.10, 3.06)
I am out on Najee Harris at this RB1 valuation in startups. I know its already somewhat of a tired take, but Harris is already over 23 years old as a rookie. The Steelers offensive line is among the worst in the league, and additonally the offense is one of the most pass heavy in the league. Plus, the Steelers’ offensive future is very uncertain with Big Ben likely retiring at the end of this season.
I am fading Harris as a late 2nd round pick in startup drafts, I would much rather have any of the sophomore backs: Swift, Akers, Taylor, Dobbins, Gibson- even CEH. They are younger, in better situations, and are arguably more talented- plus we’ve seen a full year of what they can do. Don’t let the rookie fever fool you here; while Harris might be workhorse, he’s not a workhorse in an awesome situation, and he does not have the pure talent of a player like Etienne to succeed regardless of situation.
FADE: Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (2.11, 2.12, 3.10)
Aaron Jones is being drafted in the late second round in startups and there are a number of factor contributing to my fading of Aaron Jones as a top-24 dynasty asset. Aaron Jones is turning 27 this year. Aaron Rodgers might be leaving the Packers, which would crush the scoring potential of the offense. And AJ Dillion was solid as a rookie when given a chance and his role is likely to expand.
With running backs this high in a startup draft, I wanted talented sophomores that are 22 years old and have 5–6 more years of fantasy relevance ahead of them. I would rather have any of the sophomore running backs over Aaron Jones, including Gibson and CEH. As a dynasty asset, this is almost certainty the highest value Jones will ever be again; I would recommend avoiding drafting Aaron Jones in the first three rounds of a superflex startup, choose a sophomore running back, or a young receiver like Jefferson/Lamb/Chase or even a rookie QB like Lawrence or Lance instead; these are assets that will provide for your fantasy team for years to come. In established leagues, unless I am a top contender, I would be looking to trade Aaron Jones away before the 2021 season starts for a younger option in a more certain situation.
FADE: David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (5.05, 5.08, 6.04)
My take with David Montgomery is that he is being valued as the last player in the sure-thing RB tier and he is just simply not in that tier. The RBs drafted/valued around him are Javonte Williams and Austin Ekeler. David Montgomery is not in this tier. I know he ended last year on a heater to finish as the RB4, but the situation is changing going into 2021 with the addition of Justin Fields; Fields’ rushing ability will likely steal carries and touchdowns from Montgomery. Also, Tarik Cohen is back from injury and on a reasonably large contract for the next 3 years; the Bears are paying Cohen to catch passes out of the backfield, which limits Montgomery’s PPR upside.
There is also the factor of Montgomery’s talent; he’s not a special talent. Montgomery is the 66th ranked RB in fantasy points per opportunity (catch or carry) with 0.83. For comparison, Ekeler is 13th with 1.29. Montgomery needs the heavy volume and usage to produce, and that might just not exist in this new offense, especially with Tarik Cohen back from injury. You can see if you watch Bears games that Montgomery just fails the eye test; he can’t make defenders miss in space.
I am fading David Montgomery as a RB2 in dynasty, and I would rather spend my 5th round draft position on a superflex quarterback, a tight end, or one of the many elite wide receivers still on the board in this range.
FADE: Michael Carter, New York Jets (8.01, 9.04, 11.04)
I really do not understand this valuation. 8th or 9th round?? The fantasy equation is opportunity (x) talent, and for rookies in dynasty maybe it is opportunity (x) talent (x) draft capital, and Michael Carter does not really have much of any of the three factors:
1. Opportunity: Crowded backfield with Ty Johnson, La’Michael Perine, Tevin Coleman, Josh Adams; not great talents, but still a lot of competition for touches. And they’re not high scoring touches, its still the Jets offense.
2. Talent: Carter has 98th percentile agility, but besides that he has below average speed and strength; he is a change of pace back. In college he was a change of pace back behind Javonte Williams at UNC. Futhermore on the talent, I am really not convinced Carter is a better talent than Ty Johnson and I am not convinced that there is any possibility Carter grabs a full 3-down workload.
3. Draft Capital: Michael Carter was a 4th round pick. Every NFL team passed on him multiple times before the Jets selected him. Past data shows that the odds are stacked against prospects taken on Day 3 of the NFL Draft (Rounds 4-7) having any fantasy success, especially in their first two seasons.
I am fading the heck out of Michael Carter in rookie drafts and startups at this 8th or 9th value. Running backs valued near him in startups are Trey Sermon, Mike Davis, James Robinson and AJ Dillon, hammer all those guys ahead of Michael Carter.
Running Back Targets
TARGET: Antonio Gibson, Washington (Startup Draft Position: 3.01, 3.08, 4.06)
The 3rd and 4th round is the running back sweet spot in dynasty startups right now; and Antonio Gibson is among my favourite values in this range.
- Gibson is entering his sophomore season as the lead back in the Washington offense.
- Gibson was impressive and effective in his rookie season, totalling 1045 yards on 206 combined touches and 11 total touchdowns, good enough for RB13 in PPR scoring.This is all with JD McKissic taking 85 carries and 80 catches and with Gibson adjusting to switching positions from WR to RB before the season began.
- Gibson should be given more of McKissic’s touches now that Gibson has full season at the running back position under his belt.
- The Washington offense continues to improve: Ryan Fitzpatrick should be an upgrade on Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen.
- Gibson is only 22 and has very light tread on his tires as he only had 77 total touches in college before making the jump to the NFL. Compare that to Jonathan Taylor’s 968 college touches.
A high-end RB2 seems like the floor for Gibson moving forward; even with a player like McKissic taking 80 catches and 160 total touches. I love all the sophomore running backs heading into this year and Gibson is the least expensive in terms of draft position. Draft Gibson with confidence in the third round of your dynasty startups!
TARGET: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (3.02, 4.01, 4.06)
Joe Mixon can’t catch a break in fantasy. Whether its injury woes, offensive line shortcomings, game scripting, the Bengals offense overall. Joe Mixon’s potential to breakout never coming true is a running joke at this point.
I know, I know, I know!! But at a 4th round value in dynasty, hammer that draft button on Joe Mixon.
Joe Mixon will be a bellcow in the Bengals offense this year. And this not your Dad’s Bengals; the Bengals have Joe Burrow back to health at quarterback, rookie Ja’Marr Chase, sophomore stud Tee Higgins, and established slot force Tyler Boyd at wide receiver. This offense will score points and Mixon will be at the center of it all.
In terms of asset value long term, Mixon is still only 24, while that’s not super young for a running back, you are only paying 4th round startup capital to secure Mixon.While everyone is fading Mixon, you can grab a sneaky low end dynasty RB1 at a RB2 value! If you are a contender in established dynasty leagues I would be looking to trade for Mixon. Maybe look to trade a running back like Kamara for Mixon and a solid second piece in a 1–2 trade.
TARGET: Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars (3.02, 3.09, 4.10)
Welcome to the NFL, Travis Etienne! The Jaguars surprised the NFL by taking Etienne in the 1st round after James Robinson’s breakout rookie campaign. While Robinson will likely still have a role, the draft capital spent on Etienne means that the Jags will give Etienne every chance to succeed.
Etienne is an electric dual-threat player in the mold of Alvin Kamara. Etienne will be catching passes from familiar QB in Trevor Lawrence, his college quarterback. The 1st round draft capital is huge as we can see that new Jags coach Urban Meyer is invested in Etienne as the running back that best fits his style of offensive and game plan moving forward.
Overall Etienne is a supremely talented running back, with 1st round draft capital, and in a great position to succeed. In the late 3rd round/early 4th round Etienne is a fantastic target to anchor your dynasty roster at the running back position.
TARGET: Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10.08, 11.11, 12.11)
Playoff Lenny! I might some flack for listing Fournette as a target, but let me explain:
- You are only paying about an 11th round pick for Fournette in dynasty startups.
- Everyone sees Fournette as washed up since he was cut by the Jags last summer, but he quietly had a decent season last year in Tampa Bay competing with Ronald Jones for backfield touches.
- The real key here is opportunity and the nuances of the Bucs’ offense. Tom Brady is the real decision maker for the Bucs offense, and Fournette seems to be to Tom Brady’s favourite, and if Brady wants him in the backfield, Fournette will be in the backfield.
- Look at how things unfolded in the Bucs’ backfield during the team’s playoff run to the Super Bowl:
– Fournette: 64 carries, 300 rush yards; 18 catches, 148 rec. yards
– R. Jones: 35 carries, 139 rush yards; 0 catches, 0 rec. yards.
- Fournette is the lead back and also the 3rd-down back which is important for PPR scoring.
In the 11th round for running backs you are looking at veterans, high-upside handcuffs, and running back in crowded committees. While Fournette is already 26, he can be servicable RB3 with high upside for the next few seasons for your dynasty squad. Also Ronald Jones, is
going two rounds ahead of Fournette, likely because of RoJo only being 23. Draft Fournette with confidence as he is the lead back in the running back committee in one of the best offenses in the NFL.
TARGET: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears (14.08, 15.02, 17.07)
I took Tarik Cohen in all three drafts, so the draft position is all my opinion. At this point in the startup drafts, you are deciding between low ceiling backups/handcuffs like Devin Singletary or Jamaal Williams, or pass catching specialists like Tarik Cohen. I’ll take Cohen here all day. He’s had over 95 targets in each of his last two healthy seasons. Also, Cohen is entering the first year of a 3-year guaranteed contract extension with the Bears. See if you can pry Tarik Cohen away from a manager in your league for a 2022 3rd Round Rookie Pick, and if you can, make that trade!