In my previous article, Dynasty Method: Win Now Trade Targets, I discussed targets that could primarily help a team that needed production this season. In this article, we are going to discuss the opposite; moves an owner in a rebuild should consider in order to build a contending team in the future.
Generally, a rebuilding team is going to want to sell players that may only have a year or two of tread left on their tires while acquiring younger players (preferably at a discount) or additional rookie draft capital. This premise should be common sense. However, it takes some soul searching to come to terms with the fact that you may need to blow up your team and start over. Owners hold on to players for far too long because of name recognition and/or their past success with said player(s). This article attempts to help you identify some of those players you need to cut the cord on while also trying to acquire pieces to establish future dominance.
As was the case in my last article, assume stats rely on a PPR league with standard scoring, except for the QB section; assume for QBs that it’s a Superflex league. For all other leagues, i.e. TE premium, you’ll have to adjust the advice accordingly.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Sell
This one should be obvious, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The good news? He is going to Bruce Arians’ offense that resurrected Carson Palmer’s career and he’s walking into arguably the best WR corps that he’s ever had (plus he just got Gronk back). The bad news? He’s 42! I don’t need to argue his stats or his very suspect O-Line in Tampa; his age is all you need.
The likelihood that Brady plays more than 2 more years is slim. He could play lights out this year, but how exactly does that help a team who doesn’t have a chance to win the ‘ship? There’s a legit argument to be made that it actually hurts your rebuild, if Brady wins you some weeks. The point is, Brady is not long for the NFL and his value won’t be any higher than it is right now. Unload him while you still can.
Note: The offensive line is less suspect with the drafting of Tristan Wirfs at #14. That being said, the age argument still controls here.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns | Buy
Obviously, Baker regressed in 2019 from 2018 and absolutely crashed and burned based on his ADP. However, I’m still crazy high on him. I am a believer, and Baker will probably agree with me, that 2019 wasn’t his fault. The Browns’ O-Line was terrible last year and he had a HC that had no idea what he was doing. The Browns were aggressive in remedying both of 2019’s problems by first, firing Kitchens and second, signing Jack Conklin in free agency (and should further address the line in the NFL Draft). Couple that with the fact that he has arguably the best overall set of offensive skill position players (Landry, Beckham, Chubb, Hunt and Hooper) at his disposal, and you have a recipe for a bounce back and possibly a breakout season. Baker owners may still have a bad taste in their mouths from 2019, try to take advantage of that.
Note: The Browns had a really good draft. They had arguably the best offensive lineman in this class fall to them at #10, among other great picks.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans | Buy
Watson is still going to cost quite a bit to acquire in Superflex leagues. However, the general feeling I get is that people are down on him because the loss of Hopkins. It’s a fair argument however, I’m of the opinion that this may actually increase his value as it will probably force him to run more which equals fantasy gold for QBs. Like I said, he won’t be cheap, but the Watson owner in your league may be down on him and willing to sell him a discount. If you have a high first round pick in your rookie draft, I’d offer it up and see what happens. Personally, I’d offer the 1.01 and another veteran player in order to get him.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars | Sell
Fournette may have helped you to a fantasy title 2019. But the writing is on the wall in Jacksonville. They’ve pulled his guaranteed money, albeit last year, and now there are rumors of a possible trade. If they can’t trade him, who’s to say they don’t cut him before the season. Even if they don’t trade or cut him, you still have an injury prone RB (yes I know he played all last year, but that was his first and he had issues throughout college) that is heading into the last year of his rookie contract with a team that seems to have no interest in resigning him.
The analysis is kind of the same as Brady, he could be a top 10 back for the Jags again in 2020, but I’d bet money he’s in a worse position in 2021 and beyond. Try to sell high before he breaks . . . again.
David Johnson, Houston Texans | Sell
See Tom Brady’s analysis and just swap out the proper nouns. He’s old, he may have a good year this year, value will not be higher than right now. Enough said.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers | Sell
It’s nothing against Aaron Jones, I’ve just never been sold on the running back. His stat line of 1,500+ total yards, 50 catches and 19 total touchdowns propelled him to an RB2 overall finish in 2019; he’s also only 25. Based on these facts, you’re all probably thinking I’m a complete idiot for selling him but, hear me out.
First, his season numbers are deceiving. The totals are very impressive however, look at his per game stats; there were 5 of 16 games he put up less than 10 PPR points and 9 of 16 he put up less than 20. In the other 5 games he was an absolute monster, never scoring under 25 PPR points and eclipsing 40 points twice. In those weeks, he likely won you your league however, he probably lost you some weeks with those stinkers he put up.
Second, do you know how an RB gets those monster weeks? They score lots of touchdowns. Jones had 19 to be exact, 19! Touchdowns are impossible to predict and it’s highly unlikely for a running back to repeat a monster touchdown performance in consecutive years (yes, I know about Gurley). Touchdown regression is almost certain to occur.
Third, his overall availability and usage. Jamaal Williams is still a thing (I have no idea why) plus there are rumblings that they will add another back to the mix for 2020. If that back is taken in the first three rounds of the draft, that could be a precursor to a full-blown committee. In addition to this, 2019 was the first time Jones had played a full season since he entered the league; only playing in 12 games each of the previous 2 seasons.
Note: The Packers did draft a RB in the top 3 rounds, taking A.J. Dillon in the 2nd. I personally believe this destroys Jones’ value moving forward. Dillon is basically Derrick Henry incarnate; LaFleur coached Henry in Tennessee… See where I’m going with this?
Finally, Aaron Jones is entering the final year of his rookie contract. It’s becoming more of a trend to run young RBs into the ground on their rookie deal and then let them walk in free agency. This poses a problem for 2 reasons: 1) the uncertainty of where he will play next year and 2) players are becoming more and more aware of this and are holding out for new contracts because of it. While there have been no rumors of a hold out on his part, there’s always the chance.
As with other players on this list, Jones probably will not have higher trade value than he currently does. The difference is, he’s still young and other owners probably aren’t looking at his PPG average or his contract situation. Meaning, you should be able to get a good return for Jones. If I had Jones, I’d see if you can’t work out a deal that nets you multiple draft picks or maybe a draft pick and the next guy on this list .
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders | Buy
I’m pretty sure I’m higher on Jacobs than most. Jacobs’ 2019 numbers weren’t eye-popping: 1300 total yards, 7 touchdowns and 20 receptions. But, he accomplished that in only 13 games and should only improve on his rookie season.
The biggest knock on Jacobs was his lack of involvement in the passing game. Being that the Raiders resigned Jalen Richard to a 2 year deal, it’s fair to assume that Richard is still going to be heavily involved on passing situations. However, that may not be the case. There were reports that the Raiders wanted to bring Jacobs along slowly on passing downs to give him a chance to become a better blocker. If that’s true, Jacobs could be in line for a true workhorse role with Richard on hand only to spell him. To me, that’s top 5 overall upside.
Even if Richard maintains his usage from last year, DeAndre Washington left behind 36 receptions on 41 targets when he signed with KC in free agency. If Jacobs just picks up the lion share of those targets, you’re looking at Aaron Jones numbers from a guy with 4 years left on his rookie deal, is 3 years younger and has way less competition for touches.
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns | Buy
Personal opinion of Hunt aside, I’d try to acquire him. He only has one year left in Cleveland. He’s still young and he’s proven that he’s a pretty good back. My guess is that he will more than likely get a deal next year to be the lead back for a team (with many morality clauses, I’m sure). He probably wouldn’t be too expensive to get, and I’d probably overpay for him a bit (actually, I have) just to have him on my roster. For this year, you have a potential lottery ticket if Chubb goes down and given the right circumstances after 2020, and you may have an RB1 or 2 to build your team around for the next 3-5 years.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons | Sell
I’m not going to say too much about Julio here as I did so in my previous article. He should be great for one more year, maybe two. However, if you are at least a year or more away from contending, you can still get great value for him. With a 2020 rookie class that is historically deep at WR, trading Julio for a late 1st rounder+ could give you his replacement and then some.
Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons | Buy
For the same reason I’m selling Julio, I’m buying Ridley. Ridley has proven he can produce with Julio on the field, averaging 60+ receptions, 800+ yards and 9 touchdowns since he entered the league. If that’s his floor, just imagine what he can do when Julio finally falls off and is no longer commanding 160+ targets per year anymore. Not only is Ridley a potential top 5 receiver in a couple of years, he could also pay immediate dividends since Hooper and his 88 targets left via free agency.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals | Hold
At this point, I would just hold Green. I feel like your potential return is nowhere near his actual value. I’m of the opinion that Green will play this year for the Bengals and play well. That’s why I’d hold onto him with the hope that he tears it up in the first few weeks of the season, then try to trade him for max value. There’s always the risk that he’s a shell of his former self or he gets re-injured however, I’m willing to take that risk since I don’t believe you’d be getting much for him right now.
Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons | Buy
See what I just wrote about Calvin Ridley and Hooper’s 88 targets? This applies to Hayden Hurst. Most people forget that Hurst was the first TE taken in 2018 not only by the Ravens but in the entire draft (#23 overall). It’s just dumb luck that the 2nd tight end taken by Baltimore turned out to be Mark Andrews.
Hurst is going to a good offense with basically no competition at the tight end for targets. Factor in the fact that the Falcons gave up significant draft capital to acquire him (2nd round pick) and he should have every opportunity to contribute on offense. I still think you can get Hurst relatively cheap before the preseason hype picks up. I’d probably even slightly overpay for him with the mindset that I’m potentially getting a top 10 tight end for the next couple years in return.
The bulk of this article was written before the 2020 NFL Draft. I am kind of kicking myself that I didn’t get it out prior, as some of my takes on players were only reinforced by teams’ draft choices. None of my opinions have changed as a result of the draft, they were only further validated. You will notice, where I thought the draft had a significant impact on a player, I added a “Writer’s Note” to further justify my point of view. I also didn’t add any players to this list as a result of the draft (i.e. Damien Williams, Marlon Mack etc.), because I feel they will be sufficiently addressed in subsequent “Draft Winners / Losers” articles.