Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Top 5 players to buy in dynasty fantasy football leagues

After putting the final touches on my 2021 dynasty fantasy football rankings, I have to admit that the research gave me the itch to send out a few trade offers. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or new to dynasty, the trading aspect of the format has to be one of its most appealing qualities.

That being said, with NFL free agency still weeks away, now is the perfect time to start speculating on other people's rosters. I’ve already identified a few “buy” candidates in my potential fantasy football winners from free agency articles at running back, wide receiver and tight end, so be sure to check those out for more suggestions as the offseason trudges on. 

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The following list features my top five players to buy in dynasty fantasy football leagues — the goal is to acquire linchpin pieces to build a championship-winning roster while also accruing player value. Remember that we aren’t trying to fill out our starting lineup during the offseason. We want to collect a diverse portfolio of players whose stock is set to rise in 2021 and beyond. 

That way we'll have the assets necessary to address holes in starting lineups closer to the 2021 NFL season. For now, here are five players worth targeting in trades sooner than later. 

DAK PRESCOTT, DALLAS COWBOYS

It’s hard to get too excited about making trades at the quarterback position when they can be so easily replaced, especially in one-QB leagues. If you’re feeling frisky or play in a 2QB league, then going after Dak Prescott makes sense to me because I believe he is the easiest to attain among the top-tier quarterbacks. 

According to Dynasty League Football’s Ryan McDowell, Prescott is the seventh quarterback off the board in Superflex ADP that makes him a target, as he is my fifth-ranked quarterback. 

Two ranking spots may not seem like much of a difference, but when we're talking about the top players at a certain position it makes sense to target the cheapest in the tier hoping you can receive additional compensation. I bet managers could move Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert or Josh Allen and get Prescott back in a trade with additional assets in the deal.

Why not go after a quarterback like Prescott who has been nothing but a fantasy star since entering the NFL? From 2016-2019, Dak is the only quarterback to finish inside the top 10 every season.

Dak Prescott Fantasy Finishes 2016-2019
2016 QB6
2017 QB9
2018 QB10
2019 QB2

The Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback was well on his way to another elite finish in 2020 before he went down with a gruesome injury in Week 5. Through five weeks, he ranked fifth in fantasy points per game (25.9), fourth in expected fantasy points per game (22.3) and first in passing yards (371 yards per game). 

Coming off his injury, Prescott might be more attainable than ever before, which is why he’s my favorite quarterback to aggressively target besides Jalen Hurts, of course  in dynasty formats.

Even as a prized free agent in 2021, I fully expect Prescott to play at least one more season with the Cowboys. With weapons like Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup — not to mention one of the league’s worst defenses Prescott will be one of the few difference-makers at the quarterback position. 

COURTLAND SUTTON, DENVER BRONCOS

I was extremely high on Courtland Sutton entering last season, and it was absolutely devastating to see him go down against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. 

Sutton only saw six targets in that contest, but he flashed his vertical speed, running right by Steelers’ No.1 cornerback Joe Haden for a massive 45-yard gain. 

Sutton’s 2020 season doesn’t offer much else in terms of projection because of how little he played, but we can leverage how his backup Tim Patrick performed in his place.

Patrick led the Broncos in receiving touchdowns (six), yards per route run (1.71) and was heavily featured downfield (13.1 aDOT). In the games he played with Jerry Jeudy, Patrick averaged more fantasy points per game (10.7) than the rookie.

Patrick’s total yardage output (742) just trailed Jeudy (783) in those games despite the former seeing 26 fewer targets. But Patrick had more receptions (51 vs. 48). 

Jeudy’s inability to assert himself as the clear No. 1 guy in Denver suggests that Sutton is still the alpha and will reclaim his status in 2021. The splash play upside he delivers as a deep-ball receiver offers exactly what we want for fantasy football. 

Currently, DLF ADP has Jeudy (WR22) being drafted just ahead of Sutton (WR26). I’m taking Sutton all day in that situation. 

D.J. MOORE, CAROLINA PANTHERS

A consensus top-10 wide receiver in dynasty a season ago, D.J. Moore has fallen to WR13 in DLF startup ADP. I don’t think has as much to do with Moore's performance as other players simply jumping him. 

The Carolina Panthers were a tough team to project every week because Moore, Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel were all vying for targets. But Moore made the most of fewer targets and embraced his role as the team’s primary vertical threat.

He finished fourth in the NFL in yards per reception (18.1) and fifth in deep yards. The third-year receiver also finished with career-highs in receiving yards (1,193, ninth), aDOT (13.8, 17th) and yards per route run (2.23, 11th). 

Moore was one of only five players to eclipse 90 receiving yards in eight games. 

Ultimately, Moore's lack of touchdowns hurt him in fantasy he scored only four TDs, which marks the third season in a row he scored four or fewer. This appears to be an aberration, as his expected scores based on usage is closer to 15 as opposed to the 10 currently on his resume.

Touchdowns are volatile by nature, so fade the idea that he can't score and buy Moore before the touchdown variance falls in his favor. Once that happens, he will only become more difficult to acquire. Not to mention, we might see Carolina upgrade at quarterback this offseason, which could send Moore’s dynasty value to the moon. 

JOE MIXON, CINCINNATI BENGALS

The hate is too real for Joe Mixon. He was injured last season but never hit IR. That was extremely frustrating for fantasy managers who had to continue rostering a player who didn't play a down after Week 6. 

But Mixon was a usage monster through the first six weeks of the season. He ranked second in the league in carries (20 per game), ninth in routes run (21 per game) and 15th in targets (four per game). His overall touches per game (23.3) during the regular season ranked fourth-highest among all running backs. 

Player Touches per game
Dalvin Cook 25.4
Christian McCaffrey 25.3
Derrick Henry 24.8
Joe Mixon 23.3
James Robinson 20.6
Josh Jacobs 20.4
David Montgomery 20.1
Ezekiel Elliott 19.7
Myles Gaskin 18.3
Alvin Kamara 18.0
Jonathan Taylor 17.9
Aaron Jones 17.7

His heavy workload helped him finish 11th in fantasy points per game (16.9) and fifth in expected fantasy points per game (18.1). 

Mixon’s poor yards per carry (3.6) figure and lack of explosive runs — only three runs of 15-plus yards — blemished his efficiency metrics in 2020, but Mixon is far from washed up at 25 years old. Breakaway run rate is extremely volatile, and there’s no doubt that Mixon would have broken off more big runs if he suited up for more games. 

In 2018 and 2019, Mixon ranked second and fourth, respectively, in rushes of 15-plus yards. 

Fantasy managers have definitely soured on Mixon after his lackluster 2020 campaign — his ADP in startup dynasty drafts has dropped from RB7 to RB19 in the past calendar year.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ running back has bounce-back written all over him for 2021 in an offense led by rising second-year quarterback Joe Burrow. Cincinnati also looks primed to make more upgrades across the offensive line in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft and could potentially cut ties with veteran Giovani Bernard, which would save $4 million of salary cap space.

Aside from psychologically abusing fantasy managers last season, there’s nothing about Mixon’s profile that warrants his current market price. 

IRV SMITH JR., MINNESOTA VIKINGS

We all know that the tight end position is an absolute crapshoot past the top-tier players like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews.

If you don’t have one of those tight ends, the best approach is to collect several tight ends who offer upside and hope that one pans out. I’ve already written about Dallas Goedert as a screaming buy in several pieces, so there’s no need to wax poetic anymore on my No. 5-ranked tight end in dynasty

The tight end I want to highlight here is Minnesota VikingsIrv Smith Jr. 

Kyle Rudolph has voiced his displeasure with his role on the offense, and it would make all the sense in the world for Minnesota to move on from the established veteran. The team ranks in the bottom-10 in available salary-cap space heading into the 2021 offseason.

The Vikings need to shift their focus onto fixing their atrocious defense, and they already have the heir apparent to Rudolph with ISJ. Smith took massive leaps in his second season, finishing 12th in PFF receiving grade (75.4) and seventh in yards per reception (12.2).

In the four-game stretch he played with Rudolph out due to injury, Smith ranked ninth in expected fantasy points per game (11.9) and eighth in actual fantasy points per game (12.8).

Smith ran 118 routes over this stretch (29.5 per game, eighth-most), which was drastically higher than his routes run per game (18) in his first nine games.

ISJ’s dynasty startup ADP barely moved from his rookie season (TE15), so there’s definitely a buying opportunity until Minnesota officially moves on from Rudolph. Once that happens, his stock will certainly rise. 

As an honorable mention at tight end, I’ll also throw out Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Blake Jarwin. He was hurt last year after generating some buzz and seems all but forgotten. 

Recall that Dallas heavily invested him financially before the start of last season with a hefty contract extension. If he inherits the tight end role that Dalton Schultz occupied in 2020, Jarwin will be fantasy-relevant in 2021.

Schultz ran the third-most routes at the tight end position (553) in 2020. Jarwin is probably on the waiver wire in most dynasty leagues. 

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