Dynasty Buy-Sell-Hold Report #1
We’re well into 2023, and it’s officially dynasty season. It’s easy to get distracted by the incoming rookie class, but don’t forget to think about the players who are already in the NFL.
If you’re looking to improve your team, blow up your squad, or stand pat for the time being, start with the vets. We’ve got you covered with a list of players we think fantasy managers ought to consider acquiring, moving on from, or just holding.
BUY Deshaun Watson, QB, Browns
It’s fair to say Watson was a disaster in 2022. The former Pro Bowler returned from suspension in Week 13 and started 6 games for the Browns, ranking 35th in Pro Football Focus QB grading among qualified players. That placed Watson behind the likes of Davis Mills, Cooper Rush, and Sam Darnold.
He also didn’t clear 300 passing yards in a game. Watson had 10 such games in 2020 with the Texans. He averaged a meager 14.3 fantasy points per game, ranking 25th among QBs. Outside of one decent outing vs. the Commanders in Week 17, he looked nothing like the Konami code player from his days in Houston.
Watson came off the board as the QB3 in superflex dynasty startups just 2 years ago fresh off a season in which he averaged 23.1 points per game and finished as PFF’s 3rd-highest graded QB. Moreover, Watson ranked as the QB2 in fantasy points and 4th in total rushing yards (1,677) at the position from 2017 to 2020, according to Stathead. We’re talking about a bona fide fantasy superstar once upon a time.
Now that Watson has returned to NFL action after nearly 2 years and shaken off the rust, it’s hard to imagine he could be so much worse entering his age-28 season. This isn’t about telling anyone how to feel about Watson from a moral perspective. He’s a quality buy candidate even if we only get 80% of the old Watson given where his current superflex startup value is (QB12 in DLF’s January superflex ADP).
Even if you want no part of Watson, you can still buy into his potential rebound with a guy included later in this article -- as well as a pass-catcher we discussed on a recent dynasty fantasy football podcast.
BUY J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
Dobbins has missed a considerable amount of time in his young career after suffering a left ACL tear in 2021, and then adding a cleanup procedure on the knee in 2022. We only have a small regular-season sample size of him at near-full health to date in his career, but he’s been good when given the chance.
As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins ranked as PFF’s 11th-highest graded RB (min. 50 carries) and finished as the RB12 in PPR points per game (16.3) among qualified players from Week 11 to Week 17. That production is even more impressive when considering Dobbins handled only 37.5% of the Ravens’ total carries and received only 4 targets as a receiver in that span.
Dobbins ended 2022 on a strong note as well. Between Week 14 and Week 18, he finished as the RB22 in PPR points per game (11.8) among qualified players with the 4th-most rushing yards per game (99.2) in that span.
We know Dobbins is a strong runner. It’s a bummer that he’s only received 32 targets in his career, but with OC Greg Roman no longer part of the Ravens’ coaching staff, that could change.
We noted in Dobbins’ pre-draft profile that he carries a decent amount of upside as a receiver. Currently priced as the RB18 in DLF’s January superflex ADP, we feel the 24-year-old is a good bet as a buy candidate entering 2023.
BUY Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos
Kudos if you kept the faith in Jeudy. The former 1st-round pick hadn’t averaged double-digit PPR points per game over the first 2 years of his career and missed a decent chunk of 2021 with a high ankle sprain. We liked him a ton coming out of college, too.
The 2022 season was the big payoff. Jeudy set career highs in target share (20.5%), receptions (67) and TDs (6) en route to finishing as the WR21 in PPR points per game (13.6). This level of success is even more impressive when considering this QB Russell Wilson-led Broncos’ aerial attack ranks as 24th in PFF’s passing offense grading in 2022.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. The Broncos still have plenty to figure out after firing one-and-done HC Nathaniel Hackett. The recent hiring of Sean Payton might help, but there’s no telling as of now. Additionally, the aforementioned Wilson finished as PFF’s 29th-graded QB in 2022.
That said, there’s very little room for that offense to be much worse. It’s also rather curious that Jeudy is 2 spots lower in DLF superflex ADP now (WR30) than he was at this time last year (WR28) after proving he can ball out.
Even if things stay rough in Denver, Jeudy will be set to hit the free-agent market as a 25- or 26-year-old, depending on whether the Broncos pick up his 5th-year option. He’s worthy of trying to poach in your leagues. Send out an offer ASAP.
BUY David Njoku, TE, Browns
Let’s keep with the theme of patience. TEs commonly take some time to develop in the NFL. Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick, is no different. He entered 2022 with just 2 career top-25 fantasy seasons. Njoku’s TE9 PPR finish in 2018 is the only one to speak of meaningfully.
It took a while, but after the Browns cut TE Austin Hooper in the offseason, Njoku received a massive 4-year, $56.75 million extension. Njoku then finished 2022 12th among TEs in target share (18.2%), 13th in air-yards share (15.2%), and 8th in PPR points per game (10.1).
Njoku was even stronger in the portion of the season without QB Deshaun Watson. We talked about how poorly Watson played earlier, and his presence certainly played a role in bringing the Njoku breakout year down.
In 9 games without Watson – from Week 1 to Week 12 – Njoku was the TE8 in PPR. From Week 13 on, Njoku fell to TE17 overall.
The reason we mention all of that is this: If you believe in Watson (the player), it stands to reason you should believe in Njoku. There’s plenty of overlap in the argument in favor of the 2 players. The Browns are financially committed to both for some time.
BUY Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Titans
If Njoku isn’t your style, might we interest you in an even younger, talented TE? The former Maryland product slid into the 4th round of the 2022 NFL Draft and saw a great deal of opportunity down the stretch of this past regular season.
From Week 13 through the end of the season, Okonkwo ranked 16th among TEs in target share (15.5) and 13th in PPR points per game (9.7). It’s a small sample to draw from, but consider this: 31 rookie TEs have registered 40+ targets over the last 10 seasons. Among that group, Okonkwo ranks 3rd in PFF receiving grade (84.6) and 1st in yards per route run (2.61).
It’s also worth mentioning that the rookie’s 6-game breakout came on the heels of only being on the field for 45.5% of the Titans’ offensive snaps with a 40.7% route-participation rate.
Simply put, this kid knows how to ball out. Okonkwo is the TE20 in DLF January superflex ADP. Imagine how much better he could be for your fantasy lineup with even greater opportunity.
Once we get past the top 6 or 7 in dynasty TE rankings, it’s more or less a dart throw with young players. We’ve seen Okonkwo thrive in a small window with minimal opportunity. Take the stab now.
SELL Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
Mixon and the Bengals offense entered 2022 with renewed hope after retooling their offensive line. Unfortunately, the investment didn’t pay many dividends. The O-line dropped from 17th in PFF run-blocking grade (68.4) in 2021 to 23rd this season (55.6).
The veteran’s statistical output suffered as a result. Mixon’s 58.1 rushing yards per game in 2022 rank as the 2nd-lowest average of his career (44.7 as a 2017 rookie). Some of that was balanced out by a career-high 65 receptions (on a career-high 75 targets), but his touches per game fell from 20.9 to 19.3.
Mixon will still be just 27 when the 2023 season starts, with 2 years left on his contract. And he did finish 2022 ranked 6th among RBs in PPR points per game (17.1, only a slight dip from 18.0 in 2021).
Mixon is a fine buy for contending managers looking to add a piece to make a title push, and that’s about it. If you’re not immediately up for a championship in 2023, it would be wise to move off Mixon now.
SELL Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
After a rocky start to his career, Cook emerged as one of the NFL’s premier RBs over the last few years. Across 2019-20, the former 2nd-round pick ranked 2nd in rushing yards (2,692) and rushing TDs (29) and 8th in receptions (97) among RBs. Unfortunately, we know the shelf life for RBs isn’t particularly long.
Cook dipped to 14 PPR points per game in 2022 and averaged his fewest rushing yards per game (69.0) since 2017. He also experienced a steep fall-off after the Vikings acquired TE T.J. Hockenson ahead of the trade deadline. From Week 10 through the end of the season, Cook ranked RB30 in PPR points per game (11.4) with just a 7.5% target share.
Cook also has a lengthy injury history. This past year marked his 1st time missing fewer than 2 games. He now heads into his age-28 season.
It’s important to point out that Cook carries a $6.2 million dead cap hit if the Vikings choose to cut him this offseason. It’d be a tough pill to swallow, but the franchise has to make tough financial decisions soon if they want to keep their win-now window cracked open.
According to Over The Cap, the Vikings have -$25.9 million in effective cap space entering 2023. Yes, that means a huge negative amount of money. That said, there’s an out in WR Adam Thielen’s contract that would save the franchise a ton of money, too. The Vikings would be able to free up a lot of cash between letting go of the 33-year-old Theilen and Cook. WR Justin Jefferson is nearing the end of his rookie deal and will need to be paid in the extremely near future.
SELL Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans
Newly hired HC DeMeco Ryans will have his hands full trying to get this team back on course. The Texans’ offense ranked 32nd in PFF’s overall offensive grade, 29th in passing offense, and 31st in rushing offense in 2022. That’s how bad they were despite the best efforts of Pierce.
Through Week 10, the rookie ranked 3rd in the NFL in carries (164), 6th in rushing yards per game (85.7), and 1st in broken tackles (21). After that point, his season took a steep decline, and he missed the final 4 games with a high-ankle sprain.
As good as he was, Pierce’s 4th-round draft capital doesn’t guarantee he’ll still be the starter by the time the Texans are any good again. They’ll likely take a QB early in the upcoming NFL Draft, but even then that’s probably not going to fix the offense overnight.
Pierce certainly isn’t a “must” sell, but the discrepancy between his value in KeepTradeCut’s dynasty rankings (RB16) and DLF’s superflex startup ADP (RB23) is noteworthy. According to KTC, you could theoretically swap Pierce for J.K. Dobbins, which our updated dynasty RB rankings would agree with.
It’s worth exploring a trade at minimum.
SELL Evan Engram, TE, Jaguars
We talked plenty about Engram in our 2023 Free Agency Preview. After years of underwhelming performance, the former 1st-round pick recorded a career-high 74.5% catch rate on 98 targets. His career revival with the Jaguars came at an opportune time for him to rebuild his market value.
The issue with him is merely that 2022 is the only extremely strong season we’ve seen Engram have since his rookie year in 2017. He turns 29 in September. It stands to reason that he’d benefit from staying with the Jaguars and attaching himself to a Trevor Lawrence-led offense.
Even if he does, though, let’s not forget that the Jaguars acquired suspended WR Calvin Ridley from the Falcons at the trade deadline last year. That guarantees an increase in target competition. It’s even tougher to gauge his future value if Engram leaves in free agency.
If there’s a manager in your league that’s particularly keen on Engram, see what you can get for him. Engram is currently valued as KTC’s TE10. That’s not terribly different from our current TE13 half-PPR ranking, but it does put Engram ahead of Browns TE David Njoku and Broncos TE Greg Dulcich – each of whom we rank higher.
You might even be able to move Engram for Chig Okonkwo (see above) plus another attractive piece.
HOLD Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
The 2021 rookie has only seen the field for 18 games to date due to injury. Still, there’s a lot going for Bateman. He’s only 23, carries 1st-round NFL Draft capital, and recent reporting indicates that the Ravens are planning to secure QB Lamar Jackson on a long-term deal.
Bateman’s combination of pedigree, youth, and stability at QB helps his case for dynasty purposes, but his value is merely hypothetical at this point.
In 5 healthy games this season, Bateman averaged just 5.3 targets and an alarmingly low 68.6% route participation rate. And that came without WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown on the roster. It’s fair to say we just haven’t seen it yet from Bateman.
He might never break out and become a star. But Bateman does still possess all the traits (and situation) that excited us about him heading into 2022.
We’ll see how much the offense changes under a new OC, after run-favoring Greg Roman left this offseason. But that’s just another unknown at play for Bateman. No need to rush to do anything with Bateman if he’s on your dynasty rosters.
HOLD Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
There’s a lot to unpack with Moore.
From Week 7 through Week 13 of 2021, then-rookie Moore was the WR3 overall in PPR. He even ended up leading the Jets in target share (16.8%) and air-yards share (28.9%) for his inaugural season. The former Ole Miss product ultimately ended up as WR18 in DLF’s superflex startup ADP at this time last January on the strength of this debut.
Fast forward to now, and Moore enters 2023 as the WR48 in DLF ADP on the heels of a season in which he only managed a 12.5% target share and 2 games with double-digit PPR points. Still, we’re not ready to totally give up on him, especially at depressed value.
The presence of teammate WR Garrett Wilson will likely limit Moore’s ceiling vs. what most envisioned previously. Moore’s not heading for “alpha” status here.
Even so, it’s looking more likely that the Jets will move on from QB Zach Wilson sooner rather than later.
Rumors of QB Aaron Rodgers being a good fit haven’t stopped since the team hired former Packers OC Nathanial Hackett to replace OC Mike LaFleur. It’s worth waiting to see what happens at QB before making any final decisions on Moore.
If the Jets manage to pull off a big upgrade, revisit your feelings on him then.
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