If late-90s Canadian alt-rockers Barenaked Ladies taught us anything, it’s that we should all remember it’s been one week.
The fantasy football season is just one measly game into the schedule.
Not everything from Week 1 will be important by next Tuesday or even one month from now.
But that won’t stop us from diving into the weeds in the inaugural edition of the Dynasty Player Spotlight series.
Each week, we’ll take a look at some key takeaways from NFL action and deliver actionable analysis that dynasty managers should use to their advantage. The fluidity of a player’s dynasty value and executing decisions in buy/sell situations is a cornerstone of success in the format.
Stay sharp, and get those mental gears turning!
Let’s discuss one of the buzziest situations from Week 1: the Atlanta Falcons.
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Lions HC Dan Campbell is a reasonably straight shooter when speaking with the media. It’s not hard to trust the words he tosses out into the universe.
On Friday, he shared with the world that rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs will ramp up his involvement as the year unfolds.
Per team beat reporter Jeremy Reisman, Gibbs’ limited usage was part of a plan because the coaching staff “really didn’t want to overload any of those guys. I think it’s important you go in and let them get a feel of what it’s going to be like.”
You’ve got to respect an honest response from an NFL HC.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith is a similarly straightforward and free speaker regarding his thoughts. Unfortunately, his words won’t make you feel better about what we saw from the Falcons’ offense in Week 1’s 24-10 victory over the Panthers.
Per Greg Auman of Fox Sports, Smith shared that he’ll “let the fantasy guys worry about” the fact that WR Drake London had fewer catches on Sunday than QB Desmond Ridder (yes, you read that right).
Not exactly a thinly-veiled message there.
The Falcons threw the ball 18 times in Week 1.
London saw a single target (5.5% share) and recorded zero catches. TE Kyle Pitts received a decent amount of work (6 targets, 16.6% share) in the victory, though his totals amounted to a mere 2 catches for 44 yards in the contest.
Sure, it’s just one game, though… right?
Now consider that RBs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier combined for 50% of the team targets on top of the 25 total carries they saw on the ground.
On Sunday, 177 of the Falcons’ 245 total offensive yards (72.2%) and 34 of 44 touch opportunities (77.3%) were funneled through the RBs.
We must emphasize that Smith doesn’t have to do anything differently with this offense if he doesn’t want to. He’s the Falcons HC, and it’s his prerogative to do what he sees fit with the game plan.
Remember: the Falcons won this game 24-10.
However, all of this begs the question, why would the Falcons’ front office even spend two top-10 NFL draft picks on London and Pitts if the coach they've chosen to employ isn’t keen on utilizing those players?
Perhaps the most irritating part of this situation is that The Athletic’s Josh Kendall told us something like this was on the horizon.
Kendall wrote on September 4 that he didn’t “see Pitts being any higher than fourth on this team in targets,” later clarifying on Twitter that his “projections were for targets plus carries” in his analysis.
The term he was looking for was touch opportunities (targets plus carries).
Who were the three names Kendall mentioned as players likeliest to see greater touch volume than Pitts? Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Drake London, in that order.
We know from Smith’s tenure as the Titans OC from 2019-20 that he prefers to lean on his RBs. Across those two seasons, Derrick Henry recorded a gaudy 736 touch opportunities and the team ranked no higher than 29th in pass rate in that span.
This again brings us to the looming question of why draft London and Pitts to begin with?
The Falcons’ defense is still undergoing a facelift, too. Those picks could’ve quickly gone toward fixing that problem, right? Try not to think about this for too long. It's not worth it to fold your brain into a pretzel.
The through line to dynasty leagues is about as clear as Smith’s disdain for the game we play.
Why bother holding out hope for London and Pitts in your leagues if their coach doesn’t want to involve them in the game plan?
Well, it’s important to remember that London averaged 9.0 targets, 6.3 receptions, and 83.3 yards per game and ranked 20th among WRs in PPR points per game over the final four weeks of 2022 with Ridder under center. He’s got a good rapport with the guy throwing him the ball.
London also played 90% of the team’s snaps in Week 1 and led the team in routes (20). There’s clear intent on the part of Atlanta to have their second-year wideout on the field.
Week 1 was also the first regular season game we’ve seen Pitts and Ridder play together.
The talented pass-catcher sustained an MCL tear in Week 11 of last season, an entire month before Ridder replaced Marcus Mariota as the team’s starter. Pitts also set the NFL record in 2021 for rookie TE receiving yards (1,026) in the Super Bowl era and turns just 23 in October.
That’s not exactly a minor footnote.
Finding reasons to be excited about the long-term prospects for London and Pitts isn’t tricky.
But the situation in Atlanta stands at odds with our core values at Draft Sharks for how managers should approach dynasty strategy.
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On one hand, you never want to overrate the current situation.
Arthur Smith is now 15-20 (.429 winning percentage) entering his third season as an NFL HC. Unlike his father, former FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith, he hasn’t managed to deliver much.
It’s entirely conceivable that the Falcons have imploded and a different coach is in charge by 2024.
On the other hand, managers shouldn’t be afraid to sell a player a year early.
Finishing with a 7-10 record in consecutive seasons amid a rebuild isn’t all that awful. For Smith to get the boot, the Falcons must be irredeemably terrible this year.
The current state of the NFC South, with all four teams rebuilding, means patience will be the name of the game for each franchise. Smith's job security is a lot safer than managers would like it to be as long as enough Ws continue to appear in the box scores and Falcons' management is happy with the progress they see.
So, what do dynasty managers do?
The Falcons will continue being patient, and Smith has already told you that he doesn’t care about your fantasy teams.
Pitts is the TE1 in our dynasty PPR rankings, and London is our WR11. Kick the tires and see what you can get in return for these players on the trade market.
Never make a deal without consulting our dynasty trade value charts.
Keep going if you’re a stacked contender with Pitts and London on your bench. You don’t have to deal these guys away,
Even somewhat middling managers should continue to hold these assets on their teams for the time being.
The time to walk away may not be this week, next month, or even January 2024.
But if you’re not the juggernaut in your league, you have to consider the fact that these players can easily turn into rookie pick capital or more productive veteran players.
Don’t force yourself into a sixth-place finish in your league by holding on if you don’t have to. Being realistic with where your team ranks in your league is a dynasty manager's most essential skill to win.
Our challenge to you this week is not to make a blockbuster move and give up London or Pitts. There's plenty of reason to hold these players as we discussed before.
But rather, sit down and take a deep, honest look at your teams and take stock of your chances to win the title. The answer to whether you should buy, sell, or hold these Falcons is in there.