Dynasty players often view the regular season as a time for their hard work in the offseason to finally pay off. The 16 weeks of meaningful football from September to December are simply the proving grounds for their trades of aging veterans, draft pick swaps and sneaky additions of training camp standouts. And there are still plenty of edges to exploit in the regular season.
Here are the biggest dynasty risers and fallers and whether you should buy or sell the changing values.
Riser: WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings drafted Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It was the same pick they acquired from the Bills in exchange for Stefon Diggs. This year, Jefferson’s ceiling has been parallel to someone like Diggs.
He has four games with 100 receiving yards through 10 contests. Only nine receivers in NFL history had five 100-yard games in their rookie seasons. And all nine would go on to post at least one WR1 season after their rookie campaign. If Jefferson stays hot to close out the year, he could push for Odell Beckham Jr.’s record of seven games over the century mark. Compared to other top-50 picks in the 2020 rookie class, Jefferson is simply the best receiver by a wide margin.
|Laviska Shenault Jr.||323||74.4||8.28|
|Michael Pittman Jr.||302||65||9.74|
|Henry Ruggs III||256||57.8||9.85|
He leads all rookies in receiving yards — and he isn’t getting there on volume alone, either. Jefferson’s 90.6 receiving grade and 14.37 yards per target are both first among all rookies, but beyond that, they are second and first in the NFL (min. 30 targets), respectively. He isn’t just performing well against the standards of a highly drafted rookie receiver. Jefferson is playing like one of the best receivers in the league.
He will turn 22 next summer while fellow rookie standouts Tee Higgins and CeeDee Lamb will be as old a few months before him. Both players entered the league with arguably better profiles than Jefferson out of LSU. Jefferson’s only season over 1,000 receiving yards came in a year that saw Joe Burrow set offensive records.
PFF had Lamb as a top-10 prospect and Higgins one spot higher in receiver rankings. It’s time to throw all of that out the window. Jefferson has established a baseline of fantasy production that is far greater than any other rookie wideout. His age and early-career production should have him in the same tier as Davante Adams and D.K. Metcalf.
Faller: WR Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders
Ruggs, as the first receiver off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft, has existed on the other end of the spectrum. His 57.8 receiving grade is dismal and he has no more than three receptions in a game. Ruggs dealt with knee and hamstring injuries to start the year but has still played in eight games. He ranks fifth on his team in targets, and head coach Jon Gruden has refused to give him an every-down role. In the games he has been healthy, Ruggs is running a route on just 74.4% of Derek Carr’s dropbacks. For reference, Jefferson and Jerry Jeudy are both over 80% — with Jefferson approaching 90%.
Unsurprisingly, Ruggs’ biggest issue is Carr’s playstyle. In college, Ruggs ran crossing routes most often, followed by go routes and then screens. His average depth of target was only 11.8 yards. A common refrain for dynasty players was that Ruggs wasn’t just a deep threat and that Carr’s propensity to take high-percentage, short-yardage throws could actually be a benefit to the rookie.
Jon Gruden must not have watched enough film on Ruggs because he is currently using him almost exclusively as a downfield burner. His most common routes are at the NFL level have been go and out routes, with corner and crossing routes tied for third. Two of his most commons routes attack the deepest part of the field, and his average depth of target is 18.7 yards as a result. Carr’s average depth of target, meanwhile, is 7.7 yards downfield.
The Raiders have simply misused Ruggs, and unless his role changes, he isn’t going to be a relevant fantasy option. The biggest difficulty for him will be that the Raiders’ approach is working for their overall success. Carr is currently a top-10 graded passer, and Las Vegas is sitting at 6-3. Ruggs’ value is dipping, and his usage indicates that it may not be worth the risk to try and catch the falling knife.
Riser: RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
Sanders left in Week 6 with a knee sprain and didn’t return until Week 10. In his two games since retaking the field, he is averaging 15.5 carries and five targets. He has seen 77.5% of the running back carries and 71.4% of the running back targets. And on the season, Sanders has a 14% target share. That mark is good for top-10 among running backs, as is his 2.2-yard average depth of target.
As far as running backs go, Sanders is one of the most used receivers in terms of targets and potential yards. He has only one top-10 fantasy week among running backs this year, but his volume is supreme when healthy. Sanders is only 23 years old and is already a three-down back. He remains a buy even as his perceived value climbs.
Faller: RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Kamara did not catch a pass for the first time in his career last week, and Taysom Hill coincidently drew his first career start at quarterback. Instead of checking down to Kamara, Hill chose to push the ball downfield slightly more often than Drew Brees. Hill has a deep pass attempt rate of 7.1% on the year compared to Brees' 4.4% rate. He is also more likely than Brees to convert pressured dropbacks into rush attempts.
All of this wouldn’t be so concerning if the Saints didn’t seem set on Hill as their quarterback of the future. They gave him an extension last year that will keep him in New Orleans through next year. He will cost the Saints $16 million next year, $11 million of which is guaranteed. They also chose to start him over Jameis Winston, who has over 2,500 more career pass attempts than Hill.
All signs point to the Saints making Hill their long-term answer to Brees’ impending retirement. One game is not enough to shake us off our priors on Kamara, but it is worth monitoring going forward.