5 players to sell now in your dynasty leagues
You won’t find a more volatile time to trade in dynasty leagues than just before the NFL draft gets underway. A player’s value could come down to a general manager deciding that best player available is the best route for his franchise to go in.
Just because this time is volatile doesn’t mean it can’t also be fruitful for those owners willing to take on some risk. I’m not one to read too much into pre-draft buzz, but there are other factors in play that make draft predictions less of a crap shoot. Has team X sent a general manager, a head coach or both to meet a prospect before the draft? Have said general manager’s past drafts followed a pattern?
These are just a couple of the questions that fantasy owners can look into before the draft to help them get a feel for how safe any team’s currently projected skill position starter really is.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at five players who are likely to lose the most value in dynasty leagues after this weekend’s draft. Hopefully you take the advice more seriously than I am taking the anonymous reports that concerns with Myles Jack’s knee will actually drop him out of the top 10.
1. Matt Jones
There are Matt Jones truthers out there, and this offseason has only fueled their fire. The Redskins opted to let Alfred Morris walk in free agency and more recently, head coach Jay Gruden talked extensively about why he believes Jones can be the lead back. Once again, we’ll skip over the coach-speak and take a look at how Jones performed in his rookie season.
Jones finished with just a 3.4 yards per carry average and when you dig a little deeper, it’s easy to see where the blame lies. Jones finished 29th out of 52 qualifying running backs is elusive rating*, and that was the best he did in any advanced metric.
On all others, he finished at the bottom of the pack. Jones had just three runs of 15-plus yards despite carrying the ball 144 times. He finished with a respectable yards per route run line, but if you take out the one 78-yard screen from Week 10, he finishes at the bottom of the pack. Most notably, Jones struggled with drops (three drops on 22 catchable targets) and in pass protection where he allowed eight pressures on jus 45 snaps as a pass blocker.
Jones has the size and flashes the power and elusiveness of a true featured back, but he lacks breakaway speed in the run game, has issues with drops and would be one of the worst pass-blocking featured backs in the league. There’s a reason the Redskins used Chris Thompson on third downs last season. There are several running back prospects on day two or three of the draft who would challenge Jones right away.
2. Jeremy Langford
Believers champion the praise Langford received earlier this offseason from Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox. This sect is also affected by recency bias. What’s there not to love a waiver wire add who put up RB1 numbers when given the opportunity in his rookie season?
I would argue that there’s a lot to dislike here. At PFF, we like to skip over things like coach-speak and past performance in favor of the raw numbers on a per snap basis. A couple of months ago, Mike Clay created an in-depth breakdown on why you should avoid Langford, but I’ll drop in some of the highlights here. Langford was one of the least elusive backs in the NFL, his impact in the passing game was overstated and his fantasy numbers were very touchdown-dependent, among many other negatives outlined in Clay’s analysis.
Fox and Pace want to build a run-first team, and the upcoming draft provides them with several prospects who fit their vision. There has been dot connecting in the media with the Bears and top running back prospect Ezekiel Elliott throughout the process, and Elliott recently admitted that the Bears are “in love” with him. This one doesn’t feel like a smokescreen.
Even if the Bears pass on or don’t get a chance to draft Elliott, they could be targeting a foundation back on day two. Their prior actions speak louder than their words, and their interest in restricted free agent C.J. Anderson speaks volumes about their true feelings on Langford. I know Langford was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, but his fantasy relevance is likely to take a big hit after this weekend.
3. Demaryius Thomas
Thomas is not on this list for his uncertain situation, but for his declining play. No matter how the Broncos’ quarterback situation plays out, it’s hard to view Thomas as anything but a declining asset. Somehow he is still going off the board at an average startup dynasty ADP of No. 14 overall, per RotoViz.
Thomas once ran a 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at 238 pounds, but he certainly didn’t look like a player capable of repeating that feat in 2015. Thomas struggled to separate from coverage, grading out 38th in receiving among wide receivers after finishing No. 5 and No. 12, respectively, in 2014 and 2013.* Thomas also saw a sharp decline in his ability to win deep. He finished with just five receptions for 176 yards and zero touchdowns.
Some of Thomas’ decline can be blamed on poor quarterback play, but that excuse doesn’t explain the drop off in his receiving grade overall. The shift from Adam Gase’s scheme — where the Broncos racked up 94 passing touchdowns in two seasons — to Gary Kubiak’s scheme reset the bar for Thomas’ fantasy outlook. Not only did he move to a slower paced scheme, but he also moved to a scheme that uses him less frequently on the routes he made his money on.
What we’re left with is a 28-year old former WR1, in a poor scheme, with a questionable quarterback situation and a history of lower body injuries.
4. Eddie Lacy
Now that everyone is hopping back on the Lacy bandwagon following his run in with the P90X guy, you can take advantage of trading a player with a career season high of just 1,178 rushing yards and a career 4.3 yards per carry average.
Lacy’s status as a former RB1 was heavily inflated by his 24 total touchdowns in 2013 and 2014 on one of the NFL’s fastest paced and highest scoring offenses. If he becomes an RB1 again in 2016, it will have a lot more to do with Jordy Nelson’s return to action than the weight he drops (and hopefully keeps off) from now until the end of the season.
Lacy is an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and it probably means something when the Packers’ internal reporter hints that the team may move on from him. It’s not like everyone expected the Packers to use a second round asset on Lacy when it happened, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go running back early again. Keep in mind, they invested in Jonathan Franklin two rounds after Lacy in the same draft.
If the Packers make the move on a prospect with the skill set to evolve into a featured back on day one or two, it may be too late to deal Lacy to some of the more savvy owners in your dynasty league. If the Packers allow lacy to walk in free agency, it is almost impossible that he lands in a better spot for his fantasy outlook.
5. Markus Wheaton
Unlike the others who made the list, Wheaton is not a potential top of the draft board pick, but he is starting to catch some buzz for the way he finished the 2015 season and his potential role in the Steelers’ high-powered passing game. Although Wheaton put career highs in yards (749) and touchdowns (5) as part of a torrid final stretch, he graded out in the middle of the pack as a receiver for a second straight season.
Wheaton doesn’t particularly excel at anything. He is not a burner, he doesn’t win often in contested catch situations, and his career grade as a receiver proves that he is only average at creating separation. Even after Martavis Bryant’s suspension, the Steelers have a more talented receiver on the roster in Sammie Coates. The former Auburn Tiger was raw entering the NFL, but he surprised many when he played nearly 33 percent of the snaps in the Steelers’ Divisional Playoffs loss and finished with two receptions for 61 yards on three targets. Also, take it for what it’s worth, but Coates has received a lot of buzz and positive coach-speak this offseason, and the Steelers have an excellent track record with receivers they draft.
Even if Coates’ transition does take another season, Wheaton’s value will take a major hit if the Steelers draft a receiver. Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Bryant were drafted in the sixth, third and fourth rounds, respectively. If the Steelers’ receiver target is a guy they grab at the top of day three, I still wouldn’t feel safe counting on Wheaton to finish high on the target totem pole. Other skill position players like Le’Veon Bell and Ladarius Green will take over their fair share of targets as well. Sell Wheaton now before he becomes a complete afterthought on dynasty rosters.
*Qualifying running backs played a minimum of 25 percent of their team’s snaps
*Qualifying wide receivers played a minimum of 25 percent of their team’s snaps
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy. You can find him and continue the conversation on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL.