There is value to be had from these buys/sells.
By Calvin K (Twitter: @Calvin_SGF)
The running back position is always a tough one to evaluate in dynasty. Aging RBs tend to fall off really fast, but it’s easy for fantasy managers to want to hold on too long given their past production. However, most dynasty managers by now seem to be all in on the “youth movement,” and those older RBs can sometimes be overlooked as a result.
For the most part, though, elite running backs will command immense trade value regardless of their age, and the potential regret of bailing out on one a season too early overshadows the flip side of that in most managers’ minds. Fantasy managers also tend to overreact to situation changes in an RB room, when in reality, a talented RB will usually find a way to produce regardless of situation (see: 2020 rookie class). There are many other factors to consider when analyzing dynasty RB trade value, but these two will be the ones I’ll focus the most on in this article. Below are three RBs that I’d buy and three that I’d sell this offseason.
1: Antonio Gibson (Washington Football Team)
Gibson is one of many breakout stars from the 2020 RB class, and his price tag in dynasty is extremely reasonable given his potential. Gibson is currently the RB14 in FantasyPros’ dynasty consensus (PPR) rankings, and he is the #26 player ranked overall, a spot that could end up making rankers look foolish. Gibson’s production last year wasn’t great, but as Washington head coach Ron Rivera began to gain trust in him, his touch count increased. The highlight of Gibson’s season was an electric Thanksgiving Day performance against the rival Dallas Cowboys, but unfortunately, we didn’t see much from Gibson after that as he battled a turf toe injury.
Gibson missed two games with the injury in 2020, but even when he was back, he was not the same player. His usual burst wasn’t there, and he wasn’t getting to the line of scrimmage quickly enough, resulting in many minimal gains that he wouldn’t have otherwise had. However, it was clear by that point that Gibson had earned the coaching staff’s trust, and next year, he’s set up to be a workhorse.
The main concern about Gibson coming into the draft was that he only had 33 carries in 2019 at Memphis, and while his dual-threat ability as both an RB and a WR wasn’t questioned, discussions arose about whether he was capable of being a true NFL RB. He put those to rest in 2020, and in 2021, he will undoubtedly be ready to make a huge difference for his team. Now, the lack of workload in college is assumed to be a benefit to his value, as he assuredly has less mileage on his legs than most RBs his age, which could allow him to have a longer career.
Gibson’s target share last year (as well as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2020 lack of RB targets) is another concern that is discussed, but those shouldn’t be too worrisome given that he was a rookie and that his general workload increased throughout the year. Fitzpatrick also didn’t play with an RB like Gibson last year (Myles Gaskin, while good, can’t touch Gibson’s receiving ability), so the 38-year-old is likely to be prone to treating Gibson more like a WR in terms of targets. Overall, there aren’t many concerns to be had with Gibson’s fantasy value, and if he can continue to be a workhorse back, he will pay big dividends to his fantasy managers.
2: D’Andre Swift (Detroit Lions)
Yes, Swift does already have a hefty price tag (RB9 on FantasyPros), but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to make a move. The worries over backup Jamaal Williams’ potential role in the offense are at an all-time-high, as Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn had high praise for the newly signed Williams. However, the worries about Swift’s role decreasing are overreactions, and Swift’s talent should thrust him into a workhorse role almost immediately in Year 2.
The quote from Lynn does admittedly look a little worrisome, but keep in mind that he had extremely similiar praise for Swift earlier in the offseason. Jamaal Williams is a decent player, but there’s a reason that he’s been a career backup, and if Lynn decides not to put Swift in a workhorse role come Week 1, I’d expect him to earn it pretty quickly. Swift is an excellent pass catcher as well, and his ability to line up in the slot makes him able to be a three-down guy. Swift’s ability between the tackles also dwarfs that of Williams, as Williams just doesn’t have the same burst and explosiveness of the 22-year-old.
When you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why the Lions added a guy like Williams. The departure of Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson left a void at backup RB, a void big enough to where the Lions would’ve been crazy not to add another guy. The addition of Williams hardly means that Swift’s workhorse role is going away, it just exemplifies that the Lions lacked depth at the RB position. The other factor to consider is that Williams and Swift are both similar backs. It would’ve been one thing for the Lions to add someone such as a goal-line specialist who’d be more efficient than Swift inside the five-yard line. However, there’s really nothing that Williams does better than Swift, which should minimize concerns about a potential workload shift.
3: Javonte Williams (Denver Broncos)
It often can be difficult to buy rookies at a fair cost in the offseason given that their managers just drafted them in a rookie draft. However, as rookie fever subsides during the season, it could be possible to get Williams at a cheap price. The reward for a Williams trade would likely be tremendous, as the only other threat to his workload (Melvin Gordon) has his contract end at the end of the year. The Broncos traded up into the high second round to select Williams, showing that they believe in his talent, so even if he doesn’t produce great numbers right away, a jump can be expected near the end of the season or after Gordon leaves.
Williams is an excellent inside running back, and he was probably better than any 2020 college RB in terms of breaking tackles. He’s also a good pass catcher, which, as we know, can help him provide great value in PPR (point per reception) leagues. Williams’ lateral speed is a bit of a question mark, but his ability to drag out extra yards between the tackles is elite, so there’s not much reason to be concerned about his talent.
Denver’s offensive line is questionable, but they are solid at tackle, which will be helpful for Williams. Garett Bolles had a breakout season last year, and he was rewarded with a four-year contract to be the team’s left tackle of the future. Right tackle was definitely a weakness for the Broncos last year, but they should be helped by the presumed return of Ja’Wuan James, who missed most of the last two seasons due to injury.
Denver’s tackles will need to focus on keeping defensive ends inside the box – leaving space for Williams to run laterally – in order to maximize the potential of the running game. Either way though, the future looks bright for Williams, as it’s clear he’s a very talented player. Williams’ current RB22 ranking on FantasyPros probably won’t accurately represent his current trade cost (due to the usual rookie fever), but as the season gets underway, trying to buy him at that price should be a good investment.
1: Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)
Admittedly, it may be a little hard to sell Henry for what you would ideally want want, given that most fantasy managers are now hearing cries of “sell” for the second straight offseason. However, there are definitely still managers that remain Henry truthers, and they will stand by him given last year’s elite production. I’m a Henry fan myself, but the sad truth is that now is the smart time to sell based on running back history in general.
Henry is 27 years old, which is exactly the age where star running backs tend to hit a wall. He also has had two straight seasons with an extremely heavy workload, following up a 321 touch season with 397 the year following. People in favor of Henry will say that he’s an outlier, and while that is true in terms of athletic ability, it doesn’t mean we can just forget about the extremely heavy workload he’s received.
Even if Henry has one more amazing year, it’s still worth it to sell him now. RB drop-offs tend to be quick and abrupt (see: Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson), and because of this, it’s better to sell early than late. Right now, the three guys I mentioned carry very little value in dynasty, so the risk of holding onto Henry for too long is the chance of getting virtually no value out of him in a later trade. Trading him now can garner several rookie picks/role players that can sustain a team for the longer term, and the best strategy is to look for a win-now team to trade with. That manager will likely put more of a premium on Henry’s short-term success, but while he certainly could be great in 2021, Henry is not a good bet for sustaining long-term value at this point.
2: Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys)
Elliott is another player who could be a hard sell in trade negotiations, but there are still managers out there who will value him close to his value from last offseason. Elliott had a down year for fantasy in 2020, but that can mostly be chalked up to the injury of star QB Dak Prescott, as well as a barrage of injuries sustained by the offensive line.
Surprisingly, Zeke will only be 26 years old entering this season, however, his heavy workload throughout his first five seasons still makes him a guy you should look to trade away. Elliott has shouldered at least 268 touches in each of his five seasons, he amassed well over 300 touches in three of those while piling up 296 in the other year. Like Henry, Elliott also has a good chance to have success next year, but even if he does, selling him now for a high price is worth it.
2020 put a damper on Elliott’s trade value, but he still is ranked as the RB12 on FantasyPros, and there are many managers who would assuredly value him much higher. Elliott has lots of name and production recognition, which helps boost his stock in the eyes of fantasy players. However, he is near that metaphorical wall, so selling him is the smart move. Managers wishing to sell could potentially get a package in return that includes a young RB, such as Antonio Gibson, along with draft picks/role players in addition. Not every fantasy player will be willing to make a trade like this, but because of his past production, there are people who are still very high on Elliott, so current Elliott owners should look to capitalize on a declining asset while they still can.
3: Chase Edmonds (Arizona Cardinals)
I mentioned earlier in this article that I would use two main factors to determine running back buys and sells. For the buys, I like to insist on getting talented guys currently in questionable situations, and as for sells, I (like many others) tend to emphasize elite, but aging RBs. Edmonds, however, is a different case than all of the others in my eyes, simply because I do not believe he has the ability to be a first and second down back in the NFL.
I have said throughout the offseason that I’m out on Chase Edmonds, and the best time to sell Edmonds would’ve been before the signing of James Conner to Arizona. However, he still commands enough trade value in dynasty to where he’s definitely worth sending away. Edmonds is currently FantasyPros’ RB28, near players such as Ronald Jones, James Robinson, and Myles Gaskin, who are all clearly superior in my eyes. All four of these players may struggle to put up numbers due to tough backfield situations, but the main thing that puts Edmonds so clearly below is simple: talent.
To be clear, Edmonds is great at what he does, and his talent for catching passes and being a third-down back is excellent for a running back. However, Edmonds simply isn’t built for a role between the tackles, which is why I expect James Conner to get the clear majority of the carries next year. Edmonds can still put up some numbers as a pass-catcher, but those weren’t consistent enough last year to make him a startable guy in fantasy. Many Edmonds truthers tend to act like he is good between the tackles, but the fact remains that when he’s had to step into the starting role, he’s been extremely inefficient.
In the two 2020 games where he got double-digit carries, Edmonds did not play particularly well. The first example of this was a disastrous 25 carry, 70 yard performance against a below-average Buffalo rushing defense where he just couldn’t get going. The second game had a better stat line (11 carries for 47 yards), but it was also against an Eagles defense that allowed the 11th most rushing yards per game in 2020, and 11 carries is hardly the amount given to a workhorse.
This is obviously a small sample size to work with, but in part, that proves the point I’m trying to make. Edmonds is not experienced in a between-the-tackles role, and the fact that he doesn’t have many games with high amounts of carries show that his coaches are aware of that. To reiterate, Edmonds is a very good backup RB, one who is excellent as a third-down back. However, it’s unrealistic to expect him to transition well to this completely new role. There’s a reason that Edmonds has been a backup for his whole career so far, and it’s not because he isn’t good at his role, it’s because he’s not the type of running back who’s meant to be on the field on all three downs.
This article should be helpful for anyone looking to make dynasty trades, however, it is meant to be a guideline, not something to be rigorously and exactly adhered to. There will be some managers with the same thought process as you regarding these players, making them difficult to obtain/sell. My advice when dealing with one of those managers is: don’t force it. Just because a player is recommended as a buy/sell doesn’t mean you should overpay/get a bad return just to get rid of them. If one manager isn’t interested in trading for/trading away a guy, you can always trade with another person instead (if you’re looking to sell), and if no one will pay/ask for a fair price, don’t be afraid to walk away from a potential deal entirely in order to avoid a scam.