Fantasy Football: Buy, Sell, & Holds in Dynasty

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Fantasy football is market economics in practice. Like most markets that involve humans, the fantasy football market is full of inefficiencies created by small sample sizes, overreactions to news/reports, overreactions to stats/metrics, etc. Even if we had the best possible information from the best possible experts, stuff happens. Consensus expert rankings from Fantasypros are a handy tool where we can take advantage of the “wisdom of crowds” without the bias inherent in ADPs at this time of the year.*

I took a look at redraft and dynasty rankings to find those spots where there is a divergence in the rankings. Where dynasty ranks are higher than redraft, the experts are predicting a breakout, a return to form, or something to positively impact a player’s long-term value, which makes the player a ‘Buy’ candidate. Where redraft ranks are higher than dynasty, the experts are pointing to regression or a ‘Sell.’ Let’s take a look at some buy, sell, and hold targets.

Buy

Allen Robinson

Redraft Ranking 42, Dynasty 23, The Footballers Redraft 39

Allen Robinson has been everything to fantasy footballers over the past few years. He was a sleeper turned stud in 2015 after posting an 80/1,400/14 line, held a first-round ADP in 2016, busted with a 73/883/6 line in 2016, and then suffered an early exit to the 2017 season with an ACL tear. He became one of the biggest stars on the free agency market despite coming off of injury and landed in Chicago. The pieces are there in Chicago with a new coaching staff, a promising QB in Mitchell Trubisky, and solid offensive weapons all around.

Robinson’s bounce back is far from guaranteed, which is why he’s a buy-low candidate. The ACL appears to be a non-issue at this point, but Chicago is now flush with pass catchers including Trey Burton who was picked up in free agency and rookie Anthony Miller. Can Robinson command a 20-25% target share? No one knows where he’s going to end up in the pecking order.

I’m willing to take the risk and go after him. Trubisky is a pretty big unknown at this point, but I highly doubt he’s worse than Blake Bortles. Robinson is only 24 years old, which gives him and Trubisky a long window to develop together. As it is, fellow writer Matt Okada gave him a 33% chance to finish as a WR1 this year. Get him cheap now, because you’re going to be paying out the nose even if Robinson only matches those 2016 numbers.

Tevin Coleman

Redraft Ranking 72, Dynasty 67, The Footballers Redraft 60

I like to see where redraft and dynasty rankings diverge to find values or sell opportunities, but these rankings are all pretty similar for Coleman. He’s shown the ability to be a three-down back during Devonta Freeman‘s absences and has already managed 900+ yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years, which is probably why his redraft and dynasty rankings are similar. The reason Tevin Coleman is a buy candidate is what I will call the ‘McKinnon Effect.’ Le’Veon Bell looks destined to be the biggest name on the free agency market next year, but Tevin Coleman could easily be the next biggest free agent RB.  Compare Coleman’s stats to McKinnon’s over the past couple of years:

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Name Tevin Coleman Jerick McKinnon
Year 2016 2017 2016 2017
Rush 118 156 159 150
Yards 520 628 539 570
Y/Rush 4.4 4.0 3.4 3.8
TDs 8 5 2 3
Receptions 31 27 43 51
Yards 421 299 255 421
Y/Rec 13.6 11.1 5.9 8.3
TDs 3 3 2 2

Granted McKinnon landed in a pretty choice spot with an up-and-coming San Francisco team that appears ready to challenge for the NFC West, but there is a slew of teams that could be looking for a back like Coleman next year including Buffalo, Miami, the New York Jets, Houston, and…Pittsburgh. Can you imagine Coleman filling that Le’Veon Bell role?! I can and it’s exciting enough to get him now and hold him for the year. You might even get a nice bonus if Freeman misses time again this year. Ohh by the way, Coleman is a year younger than McKinnon.

Sell

Tom Brady

Redraft Ranking 54, Dynasty 116, The Footballers Redraft 86

Yes, we’re talking about future first-ballot Hall of Fame Tom Brady-one of the most if, not the most decorated QB of all-time. 2017 was actually one of Brady’s best statistical seasons with his 5th-most passing yards and 4th-best yards/attempt. Despite finishing as one of the top fantasy QBs yet again in 2017, let’s look at a couple factors that may sign the end is drawing near.

Getty Images Sport / Adam Glanzman

Brady was on pace for over 5,000 yards passing through the first half of the season. He was still crushing it through Week 11 and then something happened. Despite two one-score games including a loss to MIA, Brady threw just 6 TDs to finish out the last five games of the regular season. He also threw 6 INTs creating one of the worst 5-game stretches of his career. Keep in mind, he was able to bounce back for the playoffs, but even then his completion percentage never topped the 70% mark that he was able to achieve in four consecutive games from Weeks 2-5. What happened?

It’s tough to pinpoint what happened. It could have been a number of things including injuries to Gronk and Chris Hogan. It could have easily been the emergence of Dion Lewis. One thing that stands out is how deep pass TDs and INTs flip-flopped. Where Brady had thrown deep balls that resulted in 6 TDs to 2 INTs in Weeks 1-11, he threw 1 TD to 4 INTs in the last 5 games. If we’re suspect about Brady’s deep ball, the loss of Brandin Cooks is really concerning. According to sharpfootballstats.com, Brady completed 28 passes of 21 or more yards (before yards after catch) in 2017. Of those 28 completed passes, Cooks accounted for 16 of them or 57%. Gronk was next with just 4 completions. Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Philip Dorsett combined for 4 receptions in that range. Reception Perception wasn’t particularly glowing for Cooks, but his loss will impact Brady even if(when) Hogan picks up some of the deep-ball slack.

Is this a death knell for Brady in 2018? Absolutely not. I still think he will be solid with 4,000 yards and 30 TDs well within reach. If his arm is weakening, I couldn’t see it watching him play. The reason he is a sell now is that the chinks in his armor will start to appear more and more frequently and we saw how fast the decline set in with Peyton Manning. The fact is, he will be 41 heading into this season and the offense looks designed to pick defenses apart within 15 yards of the line-of-scrimmage. Brady still has the arm to move the offense, but without someone capable of taking the lid off, it’s going to be tough for Brady separate himself from replacement level QBs enough to make him elite(in fantasy) this year much less the next few years.

Brady averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game in one of his better statistical seasons, but 12 QBs averaged 16.5 or more. You can find a QB capable of similar production, but the Brady name still carries a lot of weight. Long is the list of analysts that have been looking for his decline over the past few seasons, but father time is undefeated. Get the value now!

Dion Lewis

Redraft Ranking 64, Dynasty 101, The Footballers Redraft 42

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I struggled with this one. I went from building a case for selling Jarvis Landry, Jimmy Graham, Alex Collins, and Michael Crabtree to wanting to target them, but I dug into Dion Lewis to see what sort of impact he may have in Tennessee and came away concerned. Lewis is a solid addition to the Tennessee backfield especially considering how thin the backfield is, but I rarely hear the knocks on Lewis. One of the biggest mistakes fantasy players make is falling prey to recency bias where we value a player based on relatively small, but recent results.

Let’s take a look at Lewis’ last eight regular-season games against his career stats:

Career Last 8 Games % of Career
Games 54 8 14.8%
Rush 329 122 37.1%
Yards 1,584 625 39.5%
TDs 10 4 40%
Receptions 88 22 25%
Yards 717 156 21.8%
TDs 5 3 60%

Lewis isn’t bad, but we’re giving him a lot of credit for someone who did little through his first 5.5 injury riddled years. Tennessee obviously needed to do something to add to that backfield, but Lewis may not be the threat we think he is. The perception of his production going forward is largely tied to the explosion he produced through the second half of last season, but was he that good or was it the offense?

Lewis performed really well when on the field for New England, in fact, he was one of the most efficient RBs in the entire league last year. According to sharpfootballstats.com, Lewis’ ranked 8th last year with a 53% situational success rate among RBs with 25 or more attempts. The problem is 8th was still ranked behind James White, Rex Burkhead, and Mike Gillislee. They say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. We can easily say something similar about expecting similar results for an RB in a completely new environment.  If Lewis isn’t going to produce as much as most of the fantasy community is expecting, then he is a sell right now before another injury or reduced efficiency kill his trade value.

Hold

Derrick Henry

Redraft Ranking 35, Dynasty 55, The Footballers Redraft 53

Derrick Henry was an exciting prospect coming out of college with combine measurables that were nearly identical to Von Miller. Despite being a second round pick, he spent his rookie season playing second fiddle behind Demarco Murray, but we knew he was the heir-apparent so we were patient. Henry finally passed Murray last year and looked impressive in spurts so his perceived value shot up until Tennessee went out and picked up the aforementioned Dion Lewis. So if Lewis may not be the guy most are expecting then why is Henry a Hold and not a Buy?

Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images Sport

It’s not the presence of Lewis that makes him tough to buy although Lewis definitely cuts into his value in PPR leagues. It’s the fact that he’s been all but excluded as an option in the passing game. He totaled 11 receptions that yielded 136 yards last year. Of those 136 yards, 66 came on one play. Until he starts consistently getting 3-4 targets per a game, his value isn’t high enough to offer a leaguemate whatever they may want for a former first-round rookie pick. On the other hand, you don’t want to sell someone with this much potential. If Tennessee can figure out a way to give Henry even Jordan Howard-like targets, Henry will be a top-12 back especially with his scoring potential on an offense that may bounce back this year. Hold ’em if you got ’em.

DeVante Parker

Redraft Ranking 92, Dynasty 67, The Footballers Redraft 81

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When you see rankings all over the place like this, you know something’s up. Parker has single-handedly made us skeptical of everything Miami coaches and beat reporters say between the months of May and August. Every offseason with Parker, there’s promise and hope followed by injuries and disappointment during the season. Through three seasons, Parker has failed to eclipse 60 receptions and hasn’t even sniffed 1,000 yards. This is why we don’t want to buy. As much as we don’t want to buy, we also don’t want to sell at his current value.

Once again the coaches are talking up Parker but that’s like death and taxes at this point. The thing that makes him a hold starting his fourth season is the open competition for the targets vacated by Landry on a team with a poor defense and a backfield that can’t be relied on to win games. Jarvis Landry averaged over 140 targets in each of his first four seasons before moving over to Cleveland. Parker’s main competition is Kenny Stills and whoever emerges between newcomers Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. Not for nothing, but Parker’s targets have gone up each of the past three years and there’s no reason to expect that trend stops anytime soon.

You may as well ride it out at this point if he’s on your team. “Now or never Parker, now or never!”

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