Fantasy Football: Best win-now value trade targets in dynasty leagues

2X7WNHH Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Justin Fields (2) and Russell Wilson (3) participate in the team's NFL OTA's football practice in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

James Conner is coming off a career season as one of the league’s most efficient and productive running backs: Despite drafting Trey Benson in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft, Conner still projects as the Arizona Cardinals’ RB1 in the final year of his contract.

Mike Evans might be heading into his age-31 season, but he’s still producing like a WR1: Fantasy managers in contention can likely count on another season of high-end production despite his age.

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Dynasty fantasy football managers often find themselves enamored with the youth movement. They are willing to trade away proven assets in order to “get younger.” It makes sense because dynasty fantasy football is a long game. Since rosters don’t reset each season, as they do in redraft, fantasy football managers need to consider factors like age and career touch totals, among other things, when evaluating a player’s long-term value.

There does eventually come a point, however, where a player loses perceived long-term value due to age or high touch volume even though they’re still immensely productive. Here are five players that fantasy managers should consider as potential value for a win-now roster who should provide value well beyond their acquisition cost over the next one or two seasons.

Expert consensus dynasty rankings come courtesy of FantasyPros.

QB Russell Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers

Consensus ranking: QB33

After a disastrous two-year tenure with the Denver Broncos, veteran QB Russell Wilson has moved on to what he hopes to be greener pastures. Though Sean Payton and company were highly motivated to move on from Wilson in the aftermath, taking on a whopping $85 million dead cap hit over the next two seasons. Now, Wilson’s playing on a one-year deal with the Steelers, and the future of his career is very much in question – which could be just the ticket for fantasy football managers seeking a bargain value at quarterback.

Wilson’s value in dynasty fantasy football leagues has crumbled thanks to the perception that he is “washed,” but it does seem like those in superflex or two-quarterback leagues should give him a good, long look as a potential value. Despite many ups and downs through his 2023 season, Wilson averaged 17.13 fantasy points per game – good for QB15 on the year, ahead of Jared Goff, Trevor Lawrence, Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield. He ranked top-10 in the league with a 6.0% big-time throw rate, a 98.0 passer rating and 0.51 fantasy points scored per dropback – tied for the ninth-most among quarterbacks along with total studs Joe Flacco and C.J. Stroud

Wilson now enters a Steelers offense with a stud receiver in George Pickens, a very capable receiving tight end in Pat Freiermuth, a new offensive play-caller that revitalized the career of a once-washed Ryan Tannehill and a proficient run game to put it all into motion. Though OC Arthur Smith didn’t pan out as a head coach, Wilson should benefit tremendously from the team’s heavy use of play action, a concept utilized on 182 dropbacks in the 2023 regular season – the fifth most in the league. 

RB James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

Consensus ranking: RB34

It’s not often that we see a running back find his stride at 28 years old, but in 2023, James Conner broke the mold. In 2023, Conner earned an 89.8 rushing grade with 1,042 rushing yards, a 4.9 yards per carry average, 29% missed forced tackle rate and 3.9 yards after contact per attempt – all career highs. That earned him a whopping 14.46 fantasy points per game (half-PPR), good enough for RB10 on the season on a points-per-game basis.

This offseason, the Cardinals drafted Trey Benson with the 66th overall pick in the third round of the 2024 NFL Draft. His emergence in the offense, paired with Conner’s age and another year accumulating touches, has put him in the back of fantasy managers’ minds. However, with a RB34 consensus value, projecting him as the lead back in what should be a much-improved offense from the 2023 to 2024 seasons should have fantasy managers considering acquiring him as a one-year flex play with upside. 

Conner finished all but two of his games last season as a top-36 running back, including four top-five finishes at the position in eight games played with QB Kyler Murray last season.

WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Consensus ranking: WR35

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got QB Baker Mayfield and WR Mike Evans back in the mix with new contracts this offseason – something fantasy football managers should be celebrating in full force. The two were a force to be reckoned with in their first season as a QB-WR duo, as Evans managed his 10th consecutive season with 1,000 or more receiving yards and his third season of 13 or more receiving touchdowns in the past four years. 

Evans’ game has undeniably aged well, as he's never necessarily been a guy who won with elite top-end speed or athleticism but rather with his size, play strength and ability to box out defenders on a dime. Still, dynasty managers have cooled on him to the point of ranking him as the consensus WR35 despite finishing as the overall WR7 one year prior. Evans averaged 3.58 fantasy points per touch – a mark that led all receivers with 30-plus targets – while ranking top-six in both red zone and end zone targets. Evans should continue his reign as the WR1 in Tampa Bay, soaking up enough high-value opportunities to the point where he should continue to outplay his perceived value by mile, as long as he stays healthy.

WR Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

Consensus ranking: WR38

There are plenty of question marks regarding the projection of the Cleveland Browns offense, particularly at quarterback. However, none of those question marks are regarding their WR1, Amari Cooper, whose 2023 performance was arguably the best of his career to date. 

Though TE David Njoku remains in the mind of fantasy managers thanks to his league-winning performance with Joe Flacco under center, Cooper was the focal point of the offense while Watson was healthy. 

In the five games that Watson started and finished (Weeks 1-3, 9-10), Amari Cooper was the overall WR8 in fantasy football. The two connected on 28 of 35 targets over five games for 480 receiving yards and two touchdowns for an average of 17.14 yards per reception. That amounted to an 84.4 receiving grade and an average of 3.14 fantasy points per touch (which would have ranked 12th among WRs on the year). Though Cooper just turned 30 years old, he showed in 2023 that he’s got more than enough left in the tank to be a value at his current consensus ranking of WR38.

TE Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars

Consensus ranking: TE11

There might not be a more puzzling mismatch in perceived value versus production than that of Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Evan Engram. Fresh off a season where he finished as the overall TE2 in scoring, managing a career-high 963 receiving yards as the only tight end in the league with more than 125 regular season targets on the year. 

The Jaguars have added several players into the mix this year, including rookie WR Brian Thomas Jr. as well as free agent addition Gabe Davis. However, fans shouldn’t expect their arrivals to impact Engram quite as much given his 13.8% slot target rate that ranked second among all tight ends. His biggest concern might be competition for targets with a fully healthy Christian Kirk back in the mix, but there’s no doubt that Engram’s upside as a potential top-five option in 2024 given his projected volume makes him a huge value at TE11, even heading into his age-29 season.

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