Dynasty Values: Safe vs Risky
Many say that fantasy football is a game of luck. I say that fantasy football is a game of probability. It is ultimately all about maximizing your chance at success while minimizing risk. In redraft leagues it pays off to focus on maximizing your chance at success, throwing caution to the wind in regards to risk. Your choices have no impact the following season. You do not care about what a team or player does in the offseason. In dynasty fantasy football, this completely changes. Everything you do has to focus one step, two steps, or even three steps ahead. Sure, if you are in a big time “win now” window, you may not care about the “next step”. The reality is that only one team wins each year. That “next step” is what maximizes your probability of success in the future. Is that “next step” you take a risky one that could pay off? The real question is not about how much it pays off, but whether or not the reward is worth the risk.
When we look at NFL players, particularly ones drafted early in the draft, expectations are rather high. We all see flashy names, incredible athletes, college stars, players we want to succeed in the NFL. The reality is that not all players are created for optimal, long standing fantasy success. Players can be invaluable real life players with high draft capital and big contracts, but not have the volume to create fantasy super stardom. Contrarily, there are traits that are seen in a negative or replaceable light for real owners, but create high floors in fantasy. When managing a dynasty team it is not about finding the next great asset that nobody else knows about. In fact, fantasy players are becoming wiser than ever as we all have access to all the information we could possibly want, right in our fingertips. Everyone is keying in on the same players, whether it be because of buzz, athletic profile, or situation. The real value exists in knowing how the buzz, athletic profile, or situation stands long term and deciphering the risk/reward of the realistic outcomes. What is most likely to be a factor within the next 12 months and is it more probable that the player's value increases or decreases over that span? Do they have insulation in their value? Are you minimizing the luck of any situation and setting yourself up for success in the future?
The following is a list of two players for each position that either carry more situational risk (could plummet with a rough season or change with the team) or insulated value (likely maintain their current value, regardless of how 2023 shakes out). These players will not be rookies that are expected to gain value by 2024 or old veterans that could fall off the age cliff at any time. These are players that the public perceives in typically polarizing views.
1.) Risky Value - Kenny Pickett (QB22, Overall 167)
With the full understanding that QB22 for a second year, first round player is “low”, this is shooting above reasonable expectations and if this season goes bad he may be out of a job in 2024.
In 2022, he posted an abysmal 12.2 PPG as a QB. This was just ahead of Zach Wilson (11.7), Trubisky (11.3), and Mayfield (10.8). Considering in Superflex the goal is to start 2QBs to maximize your point advantage, it would be a shame to realize 32 WRs scored more than 12.2
PPR PPG last year. If you had a heavy WR room, it is plausible Pickett would have been better on your bench.
In 2023, he should make some improvements to his game, but the real risk lies in what his division brings to the table. The Bengals are annual SB contenders with Burrow, the Ravens are finally healthy and loaded, the Browns might actually take a step forward to contend with Watson. This leaves Pickett as the 4th best QB and team in the division, with ownership and fans that are used to winning, with a draft pick likely good enough to get an elite QB prospect in 2024, and sitting at 26 years old. His future leaves a lot to question unless he can take major strides and surpass his tough situation. Even if he does stick around into future seasons, is he producing enough to make him desirable in a trade? Right now he is valued at a 2025 first round pick, and I can guarantee that pick will only increase in value over the next 12-24 months.
Start Up Alternative: C.J. Stroud is currently QB23. At four years younger, better draft capital, and guaranteed job security, this is the easiest swap that could be made.
2.) Insulated Value - Derek Carr (QB28, Overall 207)
In his entire career, Derek Carr has never finished below QB20. He is ranked at QB28 currently. At only age 32 and locked into his contract through 2024 (next season is a $35M cap hit vs a $52M cap penalty if they were to move on), he will surely give you a return on a QB28 investment for 2+ seasons. This is the same system that just saw Jameis Winston average 0.2 less PPG than Tom Brady despite not having Michael Thomas.
With a solid supporting cast and rather weak division, Carr likely returns solid QB2 numbers despite a mid QB3 price tag. Right now he is valued at a second round pick, and worst case a year from now that value should fully remain intact given he is a guaranteed 2024 starter.
Start Up Suggestion: He is currently going after guys like Will Levis and Hendon Hooker who may not start for the foreseeable future (or ever). Bump him up to QB20-24 on your board and lock in multi-years of production with value that will not decrease in the next 12 months.
3.) Risky Value - Dameon Pierce (RB22, Overall 66)
This is less an indictment on the player as it is his fantasy outlook. In 2022 he was RB20 in PPR PPG despite getting the full Houston workload. In four college seasons, his maximum amount of touches in a season was 123. Last season he had 250. As the season went on he lost efficiency and missed games. In Weeks 11-14 he had 55 carries for 167 yards (3.03 YPC). He then
missed Weeks 15-18 with injury. The jury is out on whether his body is even capable of holding up and producing at a RB22 level over the course of a season, let alone other factors.
One of these other factors is workload competition. The team has already brought in Devin Singletary who specializes in the pass game (50+ targets in each of the last three seasons) and also produced as much yardage as Dameon Pierce in 2022 despite 35 less touches. One of the shocking parts of Pierce’s 2022 was his production in the pass game (30 receptions), but bringing in Singletary will surely eat into that at least a little bit. As mentioned, Pierce averaged RB20 in PPG, but if Singletary takes away even 25-35% of the touches, this could severely hurt Pierce’s weekly output to the point of where his relevance depends on touchdowns.
Other factors include the fact the team brought in a new coach that did not choose Pierce. He DID choose Singletary. Because the 2022 regime leaned on Pierce is entirely insignificant to what the 2023 staff will do. Beyond that, even if Pierce beats these obstacles and produces at or above his 2022 output, there is uncertainty heading into the offseason. The team will have nearly $90M in cap space, with possibilities of Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard being free agents. Let alone another deep rookie pool featuring TreVeyon Henderson, Raheim Sanders, Blake Corum, and Braelon Allen (amongst others). It seems unlikely that Pierce will maintain enough of the valuable touches in the backfield to justify top 20 RB status for long. Right now he is valued at a future mid 1st level. Unless he is the make or break asset for this season, mitigating the potential downfalls early is a much safer outcome.
Start Up Alternative: As 66th player overall, this is a prime upside WR area. Treylon Burks (65), George Pickens (68), Jameson Williams (69). All of these guys have much more room to gain value and are very unlikely to drop much this season due to their age and draft capital.
4.) Insulated Value - Antonio Gibson (RB38, Overall 118)
I will keep this one short and sweet. Antonio Gibson is a 25 year old pass catching RB that provides a high floor and has finished as RB13, RB12, RB27 in PPR PPG averaging 42 receptions per season. As shown, he is priced at RB38. He is easily the most explosive back on the Washington Commanders, in a contract year, with an offensive coordinator that just revived Jerick McKinnon via the pass game at age 30, and the Commanders will likely be losing a bunch of games which tends to lean into the pass game (meaning more volume to check down to Gibson).
Even if the worst case happens and the team fully leans into Brian Robinson, Gibson is a free agent next offseason. He is too explosive, too young, and too valuable of a skillset to not be signed by someone that intends to utilize him. He likely surpasses RB38 value this year, next offseason, and could even see a massive spike if he lands in a desirable situation. Currently costing about a second round pick, this is an easy buy that is a safe bet to return that value (or more) in 2024.
Start Up Suggestion: At 118 he is currently well after other RBs that either do not offer similar upside, are unproven, are in worse situations, or older. AJ Dillon (93), Brian Robinson (94), James Conner (100), Tyjae Spears (106), and Roschon Johnson (111) are all above him. I am
likely letting a bunch of other backs fall off the board and swooping him at a pretty severe discount.
5.) Risky Value - Deebo Samuel (WR18, Overall 36)
With a third round startup price tag, this might be one of the easiest to see the inherent risk attached to the player. He only has one finish in his career in the top 32 WRs. Yes, that one season was superb and he finished as the WR3 in PPR, but outside of that season he has been average to bad. Between Aiyuk averaging more points (13.4 PPR PPG) than Deebo (13 PPR PPG) in 2022, having a superior RAS (8.46 compared to 7.92), and grading out better in production (78.7 PFF compared to 74.1 PFF), and at an ascending age it is pretty shocking that Aiyuk is WR28, Overall 62. That’s more than a full two round difference between players on the same team, when at worst they are as good for fantasy as each other.
Deebo Samuel’s versatility is certainly an asset that the Niners value. Pairing him with Christian McCaffrey creates matchup nightmares that defenses will struggle to account for. The issue is that these mismatches will not guarantee fantasy volume, and because of that there is more inherent risk. Could Deebo return to elite status and put up 2,000 yards? Absolutely. Considering he has only had one successful fantasy season in four years, has ample target competition, and you could STILL get a first round pick for him right now, I will lock in a much safer value as of today.
Start Up Alternative: Take London (34), Pitts (37), Addison (45), or Johnston (46) and lock in a premium, youthful pass catcher that will not lose value over the next 12 months. Then easily take Aiyuk two rounds later if you would still like a piece of the Niners offense.
6.) Insulated Value - Chris Godwin (WR22, Overall 48)
I know it feels like Chris Godwin has been dominant forever, but rest assured he is still only 27 and his playstyle/build promotes longevity similar to someone like Keenan Allen.
Last year was technically a “down” season for him as he was returning from a torn ACL, yet still surpassed 100 receptions and averaged WR16 PPR PPG for the season. In 2021 he was WR7 in PPR PPG, 2020 he was WR15 in PPR PPG, and 2019 he was WR2 in PPR PPG. This is a four year sample size where he averages WR10 PPG. WR10 is currently a round 2 startup pick, yet he is going Round 4 or 5. The discount is entirely attributed to having an unknown QB this season, but there are other variables to consider. Firstly, the Bucs are likely to be losing which adds to the passing game scripts. Secondly, the team likely gets an improvement at QB for Godwin’s age 28 season. For a current cost of a future late first rounder, this is reliable production that will open up a window to help win for the foreseeable future. If it does not work this season, someone will give the value right back when he gets a shiny new QB.
Start Up Suggestion: Godwin is currently being drafted after players with question marks like Derrick Henry (38), Javonte Williams (40), D’Andre Swift (41), or even Michael Pittman (44). Once the young/elite players are gone, Godwin is atop the priority list. His value is one of the safest to fully sustain (or improve) over the course of the next 12 months as his downside in 2023 is fully baked in.
7.) Risky Value - Pat Freiermuth (TE8, Overall 88)
Freiermuth may have finished as TE7 overall on the year, but it was an ugly year for tight ends. He was TE9 on PPR PPG at 9.9. Closely behind were Tyler Higbee (9.5, gets healthy Stafford back), Dalton Schultz (9.5, lacks serious target competition), Darren Waller (9.4, new situation
that should get plenty of opportunities). Moral of the story is that he was fine but also did not do much. Between all the other average tight ends, the influx of Kincaid/LaPorta/Mayer/Musgrave, Brock Bowers on the horizon, and his own team adding athletic freak Darnell Washington, Freiermuth is likely priced near his annual ceiling.
As mentioned before, this is not necessarily a knock at the talent as Freiermuth has been and will likely continue to be a good NFL tight end. He has even produced back to back 60 catch seasons. Unfortunately, he now has quite a bit of target competition (increasing Pickens role, Allen Robinson brought in, Najee Harris healthy, and previously mentioned Darnell Washington brought in to timeshare). He likely has a whole career as a low end TE1/high end TE2, the issue being that the production is entirely replaceable. Getting a TE with better target opportunity or athletic upside is important, and the longer one holds onto Freiermuth the more limited the return will be. Currently he is valued at a late first and if some sucker is willing to pay that for 9.9 PPR PPG, I would cash that in sooner than later (especially if it is a 2024 pick).
Start Up Alternative: Pick 88 is still incredibly high. There is youthful upside out there that not only offers more weekly points (most likely), but guaranteed higher value longer. I would be targeting Jahan Dotson (86) or Rashod Bateman (96), and then looking looking at double dipping on higher upside tight ends later on like Michael Mayer (98), Sam LaPorta (117), Evan Engram (116), or David Njoku (115) just to name a few.
8.) Insulated Value - Trey McBride (TE20, Overall 159)
Historically tight ends take an extended period of time to find success in the NFL. For some reason, after one season where McBride goes from #1 rookie TE to 3rd or 4th in his own class and can be drafted for relatively cheap.
From Weeks 14-18 he was the TE11, and his situation looks quite similar as we head into 2023. Kyler is hurt, Ertz may not be ready for Week 1, the team will have a bunch of losing game scripts. He is an exceptional athlete that posted more than 1100 yards his final year in school. There is a reason he was the #1 TE taken in the 2022 draft and for the current price tag of a late
future second, this is a minimal investment that could be looking at a prime Ertz type production if all the cards fall the correct way over the next few years.
Start Up Suggestion: I am looking at taking McBride right in the tier with Mayer/LaPorta. Being only 23 and only low upside and/or disappointing tight ends below him, he will not really fall anywhere come 2024, but could be MUCH higher. If he does not work out by 2023, there should be no issue finding someone that fully believes in him enough for a TE20 price tag.
- Cory Copeland
All positional ranks and PPG data are from FantasyPros.com.