By: Dave Browne
Last week, we discussed three potential running backs to ‘buy’ in dynasty league formats. This week we’re going to venture into some running backs in which dynasty players should be looking to ‘sell.’ In life, we have a tendency to hold onto things for way too long. Stocks, relationships, grudges, and the list goes on. Dynasty is no different. As players, we have to know when to ‘sell’ our stock in what we perceive as assets at their highest peak before they implode or lose all of their value. Letting go may not always be easy, but it’s the right call. Here are three players we should be looking to ‘sell’ high on.
Derrick Henry- Derrick Henry is an absolute beast. Not too often do you see a running back put up monster fantasy points without adding a whole lot of value as a receiver out of the backfield. To put it into context, only 30.4 of his 333.1 fantasy points came through the air.
This is because the 2020 AP Offensive Player of the Year became just the eighth running back in NFL history to run for over 2,000 yards. 2,027 to be exact. Henry also hit paydirt 17 times. Henry ranked third in total running back points and in average points per game. He became the NFL’s first back-to-back leading rusher since LaDanian Tomlinson accomplished the feat in 2006.
Henry has been deemed the nickname ‘King’ for a reason. No one will doubt what he has accomplished throughout his career. However, rushing for over 2,000 yards holds credence and his value will never be ANY higher. Here are a few reasons to consider trading Henry.
- History is not on Henry’s side to repeat such a dominant performance.
- Of the seven running backs who have rushed for 2,000 yards, no running back eclipsed 1,500 yards the following season.
- Only O.J. Simpson and Eric Dickerson eclipsed 1,500 yards in any season following a 2,000-yard season.
- Only Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson have had multiple seasons of double-digit touchdowns following their 2,000-yard seasons.
- Henry is by no means old, but he will be 27 1/2 years of age by the time the 2021 season starts. He has two more seasons before he hits the dreaded age 30 season.
- Henry has carried the ball 681 times over the course of the last two seasons 896 over the last three. Henry plays a physical brand of football, and one has to wonder when the miles will catch up to him.
- If Henry loses some leverage as a runner, he will not make up for production in the passing game.
- Henry had his two best seasons under offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who is now the Atlanta Falcons head coach.
I wouldn’t bet against Henry being productive at football for the next two, three seasons. BUT do not count on him sustaining his 312.8 points per season that he’s averaged the last two seasons. We have to expect some regression, possibly as soon as next season. Sell high on Henry and expect a nice return.
Ezekiel Elliott- Ezekiel Elliott supporters must be salivating over Dak Prescott’s new four-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys. A presumably healthy Prescott means fantasy gold for ‘Zeke,’ right? That appears to be the case, as Elliott has finished as a top-five running back in three of his four full seasons with Prescott running the offense. Prior to Prescott sustaining an injury in Week 5 against the Giants, Elliott was the fourth-highest producing running back on a per-game basis averaging 22.3 points per game.
All of that is appealing in a fantasy sense. Dallas’s offense screams sex appeal in 2021. Even more so with the likelihood of a bad defense resulting in more shootouts. So why should we be looking to deal Elliott again? Here are a few reasons why we should be looking to trade Elliott sooner rather than later.
- The offensive line- Elliott has had the luxury of running behind one of the best offensive lines in football since entering the league in 2016. What was once a strength of the Cowboys is becoming a glaring weakness. Center Travis Frederick retired prior to the 2019 season, Right Tackle La’el Collins is coming off hip surgery, left tackle Tyron Smith missed 14 games due to a neck injury, and guard Zack Martin missed six games with a calf injury. Age and injury concerns are starting to mount for the Cowboys’ offensive line. Their health is worth monitoring, as Zeke’s success largely depends on it.
- Prescott’s health- Elliott’s success is largely contingent upon a healthy Dak Prescott. The Dallas offense was putrid when Prescott missed 11 games from his ankle injury. Coming off major ankle surgery with a shaky offensive line, things become murky for Elliott if Prescott were to miss any time.
- Production- First and foremost, fantasy points are fantasy points. No one really complains about how their favorite players get points. But should we start worrying about Elliott? Let’s take a deeper dive into some of Elliott’s stats.
- Since his rookie season, his rushing yards per game have dipped EVERY single season. He began his career by rushing for 108.7 yards per game. By 2019, his last full season with Prescott, he ran for just 84.8 yards per game. It’s not for lack of opportunity as he has had 300 plus carries in three of his first four campaigns as a professional.
- More troubling are his advanced stats. Per SIS Data, in 2019 Elliott merely averaged 2.6 yards after contact (20th best in the NFL) and a broken tackle percentage of 14.6 which ranked outside of the top 20 amongst running backs with at least 75 carries. Elliott ranked 10th or worst in metric categories like true yards per carry, yards per touch, yards created per touch, breakaway runs, evaded tackles, and juke rate according to Player Profiler. Those numbers were with Prescott. 2020 was drastically worse without him.
- Workload- Volume is king in fantasy football. We want running backs who are going to provide us a guaranteed touch ceiling. Elliott has averaged 330.8 touchers per year. However, this is a lot of mileage on a running back who hasn’t even reached his 26th birthday yet. Already missing eight games in his career, one has to wonder if his body will be able to sustain that type of workload in the long run.
Elliott may very well leave off where he left off prior to Prescott getting injured. He may provide tremendous value to dynasty players for the 2021 season. However, trading Elliott could land a healthy coup in a trade for a forward thinking manager.
Josh Jacobs- The Los Vegas Raiders’ signing of running back Kenyon Drake completely came out of left field. No matter how curious of a signing it was, this no doubt hurts the value of Josh Jacobs. You don’t give Drake a two-year contract worth 14.2 million dollars to ride the pine. However, the stars were aligning for a Jacobs ‘sell’ even before the Drake signing. The results for Jacobs have been a mixed bag through his first two seasons in the league.
- Three-down running backs are harder to come by in today’s NFL. It is no fault of Jacobs’ own that Head Coach Jon Gruden has yet to fully unleash Jacobs thus far in his career. In 28 career games, Jacobs has 72 targets and 53 receptions. The Raiders have a propensity to play in shootouts. Per Player Profiler, Jacobs and the Raiders received a -2.71 game script score. This metric measures the average point differential at any point in any game during the season. Their inability to play effective defense often leads to point chasing as Player Profiler illustrates. Point chasing means we get to see less and less of Jacobs on the field with the lack of usage in the passing game. The defense does not fair to be much better in 2021.
- Offensive line- The Raiders offensive line, once considered a strength now faces some questions heading into the 2021 season. In a surprising move, the Raiders released three-time Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson. The Raiders also shipped out right tackle Trent Brown and guard Gabe Jackson. Besides Kolton Miller and 38-year old Richie Incognito, the Raiders have little continuity on their offensive line.
- Jacobs went from averaging 88.5 yards on the ground per game as a rookie to just 71 yards per game in his sophomore campaign.
- Jacobs underlying metrics- Per Player Profiler Jacobs’ True Yards Per Carry (3.8, NFL rank 56), Yards Per Touch (4.3, NFL rank 53), and Breakaway Run Rate which measures the percentage of carries of 15 plus yards (3.3%, NFL rank 43) are way, way below average.
- Jacobs’ 12 rushing touchdowns accounted for 31.1% of his 231.3 fantasy points. Touchdowns are a volatile stat that can’t be predicted from year to year. Banking on double-digit touchdowns is a dicey proposition.
Josh Jacobs is a household name who has yet to really ‘break through’ in the fantasy community. There is no denying the talent Jacobs possesses. However, there just seems to be too many question marks to bank on any sort of consistency week in and out. Look to deal him to another dynasty owner who is counting on a third-year breakout from the Alabama running back.
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