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Top 5 players to sell in fantasy football dynasty leagues

Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) runs for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With NFL free agency quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to start scoping out dynasty rosters for ways to improve. I’ve already identified a few “buy/sell” candidates in my free agency articles on running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, and my full 2021 dynasty rankings can be found here

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Of course, adding players via trade is only half the offseason equation. We also have to identify players to sell high.

The following list features my top five players to sell in dynasty fantasy football leagues. The goal is to sell off depreciating assets to acquire the pieces we need to build a championship-winning roster. 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 rid our rosters of players whose stock is on a downward slope.

That way we'll have the assets necessary to address holes in starting lineups closer to the 2021 NFL season. So let's start with the following five players worth moving in trades sooner than later.

RB JAMES ROBINSON, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Nobody can argue with how special James Robinson’s season was in 2021 — he set a record for most scrimmage yards (1,414) by an undrafted player in his first season. And he missed two games while playing for a team that finished with a 1-15 record. 

Robinson ranked 17th in PFF rushing grade (78.5), 13th in yards after contact per attempt (3.2) and ninth in receptions (49). 

But the real driver behind Robinson’s fantasy success — like most running backs — was sheer volume. His 96% of team RB carries in the 14 games he played was by far the most in the league in 2020. Christian McCaffrey’s mark was 93% in his historic 2019 season.

Robinson’s final team running back opportunity share — combining RB carries and targets — was 73%, which ranked second behind only Derrick Henry

RB Opportunity Share | 2020
Player Opportunity Share
Derrick Henry 77%
James Robinson 73%
Dalvin Cook 69%
David Montgomery 69%
Ezekiel Elliott 66%
Josh Jacobs 64%

When you remove the two games Robinson missed, his opportunity share increases to 84%.

Needless to say, the 2020 Jacksonville Jaguars were feeding Robinson more than any other running back in the NFL. And it’s hard to blame them based on Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson, Dare Ogunbowale and Devine Ozigbo rounding out the team’s depth chart.

Robinson had zero competition for the starting role after the team released Leonard Fournette. Armstead is a former fifth-round pick from 2019 and would have had the best chance of carving out a role in the offense, but he missed the entire season due to COVID-19. 

The Jaguars are armed with the most salary cap space of any NFL team entering free agency and have 11 draft picks, with seven in the first four rounds. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Jacksonville will add another running back of consequence at some point during this offseason.

More competition will almost certainly reduce the carries and opportunities for Robinson in 2021 — at this point his workload can only decrease. And it’s important to note that his workload last year may have been more circumstantial than the team truly viewing Robinson as a focal point.

When Robinson missed the last two weeks of the season, Ogunbowale immediately stepped in and handled a 90% opportunity share. 

With new coaches Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell calling the offense in 2021, there’s no guarantee this high-end role even exists anymore. They have zero allegiance to Robinson or any other running back.

Remember that Bevell was the play-caller for the Detriot Lions last season — the same offense that operated a committee involving Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson and D’Andre Swift despite the rookie clearly outplaying the others. 

Meyer’s overall influence on the offense could also pose problems for Robinson. We’ve seen him feature RB/WR hybrids like Curtis Samuel at the collegiate level, and the Jaguars already have a player who fits that archetype in second-year wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.

Shenault finished third among WRs in rushing attempts (18) behind Samuel (41) and Robert Woods (24) in 2020. 

And although it seems outlandish, we can’t rule out a reunion between Samuel and Meyer in Jacksonville. Samuel is a free agent, and reports from Jacksonville have suggested that the team is actively shopping for a wide receiver. 

From a systematic standpoint, I’d also expect Robinson’s role in the passing game to decrease. Meyer has a history of utilizing his quarterbacks in the rushing game. And when mobile quarterbacks are under center, running backs see fewer opportunities in the passing game.

I understand the main argument in favor of Robinson: The offense will be better as a whole with Trevor Lawrence under center. But Robinson’s 10 touchdowns are hardly impressive considering his usage, so it's still a leap to project an increase in touchdowns even in a better offense. 

The time is now to sell high on Robinson.

WR D.J. CHARK JR., JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

D.J. Chark Jr. is the second Jags player I'd be selling off in dynasty leagues. I think his value has artificially inflated due to the quarterback change on the horizon in Jacksonville.

With Trevor Lawrence set to take over, there's a belief that the incoming rookie’s deep-ball is unparalleled. Everybody thinks he’s the perfect quarterback to pair with Chark, who operates as the team’s primary deep threat.

But a closer look reveals that Lawrence actually has a tendency to air mail deep passes and isn’t the most accurate deep-ball passer in this class. 

That’s not to say Lawrence can’t deliver the ball deep at all. He finished as PFF’s fifth-highest-graded deep-ball passer (97.7) in 2020. But remember that Joe Burrow‘s deep-ball prowess did not immediately translate to the NFL.

Burrow was PFF’s highest-graded deep-ball passer in 2019 (99.3). In his first NFL season, he finished with the second-worst on-target rate on 20-plus yard throws (21%).

That’s not to say Burrow won't be able to throw downfield in the NFL; just that fantasy gamers should expect some growing pains for Lawrence as a downfield thrower in his first season. After all, Lawrence finished his final college season 12th in deep-ball yards but first in screen yards. 

These types of numbers make me want to fade a more expensive and higher aDOT player like Chark in favor of his teammate, Laviska Shenault Jr., who finished with the league’s fourth-lowest aDOT (6.7) in 2020. Shenault is built much more like Amari Rodgers, who was Lawrence’s favorite target out of the slot and near the line of scrimmage at Clemson. 

I’ve also alluded to the Jags being a prime candidate to retool and add another receiver through free agency or the NFL Draft. More competition beyond the emerging Shenault could make it more difficult for Chark to command a high target share in the offense.

We often see field-stretchers get phased out of offenses when there are other serviceable receivers who move freely around the formation. I wrote about this scenario in my hits and misses from the 2020 season regarding Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup

Chark doesn’t offer anything as a slot receiver, which could cause him to slip in the target pecking order. That seems warranted considering Chark been more good than great since breaking out in 2019.

Last season was a tough year, so I'm not blaming all of Chark's poor PFF receiving grade (71.2) and yards per route run (1.48) on him. But these numbers aren't all that much better than his “great” 2019 season when he finished 22nd in PFF receiving grade (75.8) and 25th in yards per route run (1.69).

And let’s not forget that Chark is a free agent in 2022, so there's no guarantee that he’s going to be attached to Lawrence throughout his NFL career. 

I’d highly recommend trying to trade Chark straight up for someone like Courtland Sutton

WR MARQUISE BROWN, BALTIMORE RAVENS

Marquise Brown finished 2020 as the WR41 in expected fantasy points per game (11.9) and 47th in fantasy points per game (11.4). 

I understand that Brown consistently posted WR2 numbers after Week 11, but it came with a 32% target share. That’s going to be tough to repeat with the Baltimore Ravens almost certainly adding another pass-catcher either through the draft or free agency.

Brown still has plenty of value because of his first-round draft capital and a strong finish to the season, but his true long-term upside is going to be capped in a run-first offense.  

Through two seasons, he has barely cracked the top 50 in terms of fantasy points per game at the wide receiver position.  

TE LOGAN THOMAS, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Everything about Logan Thomas’ breakout season last year screams sell. His fantasy production was solely tied to the insane amount of volume/usage he saw in the WFT offense.

Thomas finished the season first in routes run (610) and third in targets (105), which helped vault him to a TE4 finish. 

The team is almost certainly going to add another receiver either through the NFL Draft or free agency. Last year, the Football Team had zero established pass-catchers outside of Terry McLaurin.

More competition is going to make it difficult for Thomas to maintain his current dynasty value because his efficiency in 2021 is unlikely to make up for the loss of opportunities. 

He finished 28th in PFF receiving grade (64.3), 27th in yards after the catch per reception (4.1) and 38th in yards per route run (1.10) at the tight end position.

Thomas was likely added of the waiver wire in dynasty leagues last season, so it’s best to cash out now before his trade value plummets. 

WR HENRY RUGGS III, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Derek Carr finished the season with a top-five on-target rate on throws 20-plus yards downfield (53%) and was fourth in deep ball yards and third in adjusted completion percentage (53.3%) on deep pass attempts. So how did Henry Ruggs III not have a monster rookie season?

The Raiders’ offense just didn’t seem to know what to do with its speedy young receiver. Ruggs finished the season as PFF’s 98th-graded wide receiver (54.0), and unfortunately this is extremely telling for his projected outlook.

The following table shows the lowest-graded first-round rookie wide receivers since 2014. It is not encouraging for those hoping Ruggs can turn things around in Year 2.

Lowest-graded first-round WRs since 2014
Player Rookie PFF Grade
John Ross 38.1
Nelson Agholor 48.7
Mike Williams 52.6
Henry Ruggs III 54.0
Laquon Treadwell 56.4
Josh Doctson 57.7
Phillip Dorsett 60.5
Will Fuller V 61.6
Corey Coleman 61.7
Corey Davis 63.1
Jalen Reagor 64.0
N'Keal Harry 65.1
Jerry Jeudy 65.2

Ruggs had a competent quarterback who thrived as a downfield passer and every opportunity to start in a wide open depth chart. Yet he was out-produced by Nelson Agholor, who ironically also graded out as one of the worst first-rounders during his rookie season.

Ruggs’ biggest knock coming out of college was his lack of production and breakout age. And after another lackluster season, it appears we will have to wait longer for either of those to transpire. 

As a Ruggs owner in a dynasty league myself, I can honestly say I’ve struggled when it comes to pulling the trigger on moving him. I never want to sell “low” per say, but there’s a difference between that and going down with the ship due to pure stubbornness.

With first-round draft capital still attached to his name, there's likely at least some trade value still here. I’d take the other Raiders' second-year receiver, Bryan Edwards, and a 2021 rookie draft pick for Ruggs right now. 

Edwards was statistically better across the board as a rookie and has an impressive college production profile/breakout age.

Let my mistake be a lesson to all: Draft capital for rookie wide receivers is much less important than at the running back position, so don't chase receivers just because they were first-rounders. That’s a bad process. 

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