By Ryan Bickerstaff
Gambling is fun. Is that not part of why we love fantasy football?
We get a dopamine hit when one of our guys scores a touchdown or makes a big play. We get an even bigger hit of dopamine when we win a matchup and the ultimate hit in the form of cold, hard cash, and bragging rights for a year if we win it all.
It’s also a rush to stumble upon a high-upside sleeper no one is paying attention to or a player who has been written off and pans out to become a valuable dynasty asset.
Seven is a lucky number, so for this exercise, I’m bringing you 7 targets for either trades or startups whose odds of appreciating in value are going, let’s say…underappreciated. These are players whose current ADP is the 9th round or later in dynasty startups. Whether you draft or trade for these guys, once the dust from the 2021 NFL season settles, the value you’ll be able to receive for them will be much greater than what you paid to acquire them.
Note that I am using Sleeper’s 2QB ADP data to best mirror superflex formats. As always, I frame everything in the context of a 12-team, PPR dynasty league. This data is current as of May 25, 2021.
Let’s get it.
In order of current ADP:
1 – Sam Darnold, QB, Carolina Panthers (QB26, #100 overall)
Darnold will still only be 24 when this season kicks off. He was traded to Carolina this offseason, where he is now playing for his career. Still, He will be aided in this endeavor by the best group of receiving threats he has ever seen and the offensive coordinator who unlocked Joe Burrow in his historic Heisman-winning 2019 season, which culminated in Burrow picked with the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. With an ADP in the 9th round, Darnold is a prime #3 QB option in superflex leagues. I don’t hate his prospects as a solid #2 QB option in this format with this supporting cast. If you’re looking to acquire Darnold via trade, why not float an offer of an early-2nd round rookie pick and see where that takes you?
2 – Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints (QB29, #138 overall)
Let’s not forget that Winston is only a season removed from a top-three fantasy finish at his position and that he is only 27-years-old. As talented a passer as the young gunslinger is, his decision-making needed a ton of work, as he threw 30 picks in 2019, leading him to lose his job as a starter in this league. However, Winston made the smart career decision to take less money and sit for a year to study under Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans. Now in a position to become the starter for what is perennially one of the best offenses in the game, Winston will finally get to put everything he learned on display. Winston has the upside to appreciate the most in value of all the players on this list, and the investment upfront is practically nothing, with an ADP in the middle of the 12th round. In terms of trade value, I would start negotiations with a late 2nd-round rookie pick or a similarly-valued player.
3 – Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears (WR59, #148 overall)
Going in the 13th round is Mooney, the speedy #2 WR for Chicago, who quietly had a 61-reception, 631-yard rookie season in 2020. The dude just stayed open on vertical routes, and those numbers would have been significantly higher if he only had a QB who could hit him deep with any level of consistency. That all changes now that Justin Fields is in town. The talented rookie passer is known for his nice, catchable, accurate deep ball, which will put more of those moonshots to Mooney on the money, which will lead to more receptions, far more yards, and more touchdowns. Start with an offer of a late-2nd rookie pick, consider throwing in an expendable player on your roster to sweeten the deal.
4 – Cole Kmet, TE, Chicago Bears (TE16, #149 overall)
Similar to Mooney, Kmet, the 22-year-old, 2nd-round draft selection out of Notre Dame, is in line for a sizable spike in production with his rookie season and the poor QB play that came with it behind him. While the numbers were not flashy, Kmet started 9 games for the Bears, including 5 of the final 6 games of the season. It is all uphill from here, as the athletic, 6’6”, 262-pound target will open the year as the starter and should serve as a capable safety valve for a developing QB. Kmet’s upside is as a weekly fantasy starter, and his ADP is in the 13th round of startups, just one pick after his running mate above. Float an offer of a mid-3rd-rounder and see what happens, bolster the offer with an expendable piece, like a lesser TE, if necessary.
5 – Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens (RB47, #156 overall)
While Edwards is effectively the RB3 in Baltimore, the team loves him, as evidenced by his 2nd-round tender this offseason; he’s not going anywhere, from the team or the game plan. Edwards has gone over 700 yards rushing in each of his three pro seasons, averaging 138 carries and running at a clip of 5.0 YPC or better each year. He finished as a borderline RB3 (#37 in PPR) last year and is an underrated flex play in deeper leagues each week as a player who will get around 10 touches per game. He’s also a valuable handcuff. Should JK Dobbins ever get injured, Edwards elevates from flex status to immediate RB2. With an ADP at the very end of the 13th round, the up-front investment is negligible for the floor he provides. In terms of trade value, a 3rd-round rookie pick should get it done.
6 – Gabriel Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills (WR65, #169 overall)
Kicking off Round 15 in startups is the up-and-coming #2 receiving target in Buffalo. Davis showed some real chemistry with quarterback Josh Allen as a rookie in 2020, and the passer liked targeting him deep. The team’s previous primary deep threat, John Brown, is no longer with the team, vacating 52 targets. If Davis, as the new primary deep threat, only sees 38 of those, he’s in line for 100 targets. If he maintains the same catch percentage, yards-per-catch, and touchdown rate figures, that will put him close to 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns, and, based on the lack of Davis hype I’m seeing, it seems like no one is paying attention. I’m more than happy opening negotiations at a late-2nd-round pick and settling for a mid-2nd rounder or a similarly-valued player to get it done.
7 – Gerald Everett, TE, Seattle Seahawks (TE29, #223 overall)
Tucked away deep in the “f*ck it” rounds of startups waits a hidden gem. Everett has been a disappointment since being selected in the 2nd round in 2017. Now, finally free of the mediocrity that is Jared Goff, he has found greener pastures in the Emerald City with Russell Wilson. The future Hall of Fame passer historically likes his tight ends. Since Jimmy Graham left after the 2017 season, Seattle TEs, despite being JAGs at best, have seen an average of 94 targets per season. The competition for first-team snaps at the position is not exactly stiff, and Everett is in position to become the full-time starter he could not become in Los Angeles. If he’s not already available on waivers in established leagues, why not toss a late-3rd or early-4th (or a similarly-valued player) and see if you can pry him away for cheap?
That’s all for now, but you can expect some more devy and dynasty content this summer. Thanks for reading!
Ryan Bickerstaff – @thedevydirtbag
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