The Dynasty Price is Right

One of my favorite aspects of dynasty is the ever-changing landscape surrounding player values.  Values are constantly rising and falling and these ebbs and flows open doors to opportunities to capture potential values….or choosing incorrectly can lead to pitfalls. While it’s fairly easy to figure out where current values lie, the tricky part is projecting out what values will look like in the future. While tricky, the best dynasty players are very successful in this venture – this is how the savvy stay one step ahead of the competition while continuously increasing one’s roster value. Let’s not mistake successfulness for perfection, however. No dynasty owner is ever perfect when it comes to correctly projecting a player’s future value. You will invest in the wrong player from time-to-time or fail to maximize value in certain spots. This is one of the most difficult aspects in dynasty; yet it is also one of the most fun and satisfying parts when that player you buy low ends up being worth double what you paid for him down the road. While perfection is impossible, always striving to get better in this area should be on the docket for all dynasty owners.

I am excited to be back in the saddle and writing this series again. But, rather than see this as just a continuation of the series, I prefer viewing this as a brand new start to the Dynasty Price is Right. I have decided to once again tweak the format; this time I am not only going to identify a player I believe to be a ‘buy,’ but also identify a ’sell’ and a ‘hold’ as well in each article. After all, the entire concept of The Dynasty Price is Right doesn’t solely apply to good buys. The price can be right to sell a certain player as well, or to hold on to a player if the price isn’t particularly up to snuff at the present time. Any specific trades I mention below are either trades I have witnessed in my own leagues, or trades listed via Twitter.

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SELL — Rob Gronkowski, TE NE

Before I get into my reasonings as to why I would consider shopping Gronk, let’s make it clear that I am not here disputing that he is the clear TE1 or that he doesn’t belong in a tier of his own when it comes to the tight end position. The incredible #87 may very well go down as the greatest tight end of all time by the time his career is over.  However, the value gap between him and the rest of the tight ends is larger than the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration; but nonetheless, his value is far greater than any of his positional counterparts. This difference in value is the driving force behind why I would at least field offers for him and shop around to see what he could net me in a deal.

Before delving into the trade aspect, let’s take a look at a few stats.  Being that Gronkowski is valued so much higher than any other tight end, you’d expect that to translate into on-field dominance in terms of fantasy points, right? Well if you go back and look at statistics, Jordan Reed was actually better than Gronk in 2015. Reed averaged 18.43 points per game last season, while Gronk averaged 17.98 points per game. Obviously, less than a full point per game difference is very insignificant. When looking at weekly finishes last season, Reed was the overall #1 scoring tight end in four weeks (or 25% of the fantasy season) compared to only one week for the Patriots tight end. Further, looking at top six tight end weekly finishes, both Reed and Gronkowski had eight apiece. So while it was obviously very close between the two, Gronk indeed was bested by the Redskins tight end, albeit by a small margin. If you take into consideration the price differential between the two, this small margin drastically increases since Jordan Reed was vastly cheaper than Rob Gronkowski. If you date back to 2014, Gronkowski had two overall #1 weekly finishes. So, in two seasons, Gronk has had three weeks where he was the highest scoring tight end; Jordan Reed had four just in 2015 alone.

To give a comparison to another fellow tight end, let’s look at Greg Olsen.  Olsen has had the same number (three) of overall tight end #1 scoring weeks in the past two seasons as Gronkowski. When looking at top six weekly finishes, Olsen had six in 2015; and eight in 2014 which is the same number as Gronk had. The reason I chose to look at top six weekly finishes along is because that should give a decent gauge as to how often you are likely getting mid-to-high TE1 fantasy outputs, which in turn is likely giving you a scoring edge at the position against your opponent with lower ranked starting tight ends.  This is important because one of the most common arguments for Gronk is the positional advantage he gives you, which I will discuss in a little more detail later.  Right now, I want to quickly summarize what these stats all mean. First, I think it paints a positive light of Gronk being a stalwart in consistency, a major reason why he sits atop the tight end rankings unanimously. It also, in my opinion, shows the gap between the party boat king and all the other tight ends isn’t equivalent to the large value supremacy he holds.

Now let’s take a look at a few trades to give a scope on trade value, the differences in value between Gronk and a couple other tight ends, as well as some ideas of what you may be able to receive in return for the Patriots great.

Trade 1 – Rob Gronkowski for Antonio Gates, Maxx Williams, 1.11, and two 2017 first round picks

Trade 2 – Rob Gronkowski and Michael Floyd for Amari Cooper and Tyler Eifert

Trade 3 – Rob Gronkowski and a 2017 second round pick for DeVante Parker, Travis Kelce, and a 2017 first round pick

Trade 4 – Greg Olsen for Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Travis Benjamin

Trade 5 – Greg Olsen for DeAndre Smelter and two mid-to-late 2017 second round picks

Trade 6 – Jordan Reed for 1.10 rookie pick 

Trade 7 – Jordan Reed for Zach Ertz and 2017 3rd round pick

Trade 8 – Jordan Reed and 1.08 for Josh Gordon and Matt Forte

As you can see by the trades above, there is a vast difference in trade value between Gronk and his fellow peers at the position. Let me be clear by saying this is not me suggesting you need to go out and trade Rob Gronkowski. I have a few leagues in which I have him rostered myself. Mainly, this is due to having a stacked roster in those leagues and wouldn’t consider dealing Gronk unless it’s the perfect offer. All I am suggesting is that it would be in your best interest to at least consider dealing the man who will be donning the Madden 2017 cover. Personally, my favorite type of deal for him would be similar to trade #2 listed above. I would target an owner of Reed, Eifert, Kelce or Olsen and see if I can make a two for two swap and in turn receive a top wide receiver upgrade. If I am a rebuilding team and have Gronkowski, I would probably look to acquire as many first round picks and/or high end prospects as I can for him.

To touch on the positional advantage argument I mentioned earlier, one of the facets of that argument is Gronk reigns supreme amongst tight ends and the rest of the position is a wasteland in terms reliability and consistency. This, in turn, gives you a weekly advantage when having Gronk in your starting lineup against the rest of your leaguemates. While I won’t argue with the fact that owning Gronkowski gives you comfortability and stability at the position, I do think the statistics I laid out above show the weekly positional advantage is a bit exaggerated. However, for argument’s sake, let’s assume for a minute that having Gronk in your lineup does give you a weekly advantage against the rest. Well, there is only one Rob Gronkowski; meaning if you don’t own him, only one out of eleven other owners have an advantage over you at tight end and every other owner is in the same position as you – that allows you to go much cheaper at the position and still be just fine against the rest of your league, for you will only be playing against Gronk once or twice a year. On top of that, as we can see by the fact Gronk has only been the overall TE1 in scoring three weeks in the last two seasons, even at a ‘disadvantage’ when playing against them it’s not a guarantee he outscores you at tight end that given week. So, in my opinion, the whole positional advantage argument, along with the argument the position as a whole is a wasteland beyond #87, can be looked at from a second point of view in which most people don’t consider.

You may be asking, “if not Gronk, then who?”  Speaking solely on production, Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen are my top two choices in who I believe are the safest bets to give you top 3-5 production at the tight end position (hence why I used them as the comparisons in the above paragraphs). Travis Kelce and Tyler Eifert would be my next choices, as they will also likely retain their value long-term. There are other intriguing options as well. I think Coby Fleener went to the best landing spot possible for him and as long as Drew Brees is playing at a high level, I think Fleener is a logical choice for production. In a similar instance as Fleener, Ladarius Green going to the Steelers should be a fine landing spot. Plus, with Martavis Bryant suspended for the season, that should open up targets to funnel to Green instead. Eric Ebron is someone to keep an eye on as the combination of this being his third season coupled with Calvin Johnson’s retirement could lead to a big step forward this upcoming year.  Then there are dirt cheap, pure stopgap options in Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. I haven’t even mentioned players like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Zach Ertz, Julius Thomas, or Dwayne Allen; nor did I mention two older tight ends who had great 2015 campaigns in Gary Barnidge or Delanie Walker.  As you can see, there are definitely options available. Pairing a high upside tight end with a safer, producing tight end is a fairly solid route to take. If you want to increase your chances because you don’t feel comfortable not owning one of the top tight end choices, don’t be afraid to even roster three tight ends. No matter your preference, you don’t need to have Rob Gronkowski on your team in order to be sufficient at the position. Remember, ten other owners will be without Gronk as well.

Speaking of Reed, I don’t want to go too in depth on him since this section is supposed to be a feature on Gronk; but, I have been noticing many fellow dynasty writers and people on Twitter continuously advocating selling Reed. I disagree with this notion for a couple reasons.

First off, I understand he had a career year in 2015 and therefore it’s easy to understand the belief that his fantasy output will regress. However, it isn’t as if this great season came completely out of left field. Reed has shown his ability and production each time he was healthy and on the field prior to the 2015 season. There have always been signs of having very good talent and I don’t think 2015 was any sort of fluke. I think Reed is a very good player, and while expecting him to duplicate his incredible season may be a bit unrealistic, I see no reasons barring injury that he can’t be a perennial top 3-5 tight end for several years to come.

The injury/concussion concern people have regarding Jordan Reed influences some to want to sell as well. I am not going to try to claim there isn’t any concern there, but in my opinion, the value he brings to your roster and lineup when he is healthy greatly outweighs the value you will gain in exchange for trading him. If he was closer to Gronk in price, I would certainly agree with the injury concerns and consider cashing out. This isn’t the case though, and because he is so much cheaper, the value you get from a healthy Reed compared to the current going rate in trades far exceeds any risk.

To support my point, I just witnessed in one of my leagues while in the process of finishing this article, Reed get traded for Maxx Williams and the 2.03 rookie pick. This is absolute larceny and while this certainly shouldn’t be expected as the norm in terms of his trade value, I have seen him on several occasions get swapped for a low first round pick (1.07-1.10 to be specific). Think of it this way: is there much difference between Reed’s injury risk and the risk of whomever that rookie will be panning out? Jordan Reed could suffer another serious concussion in the next game he plays, three years from now, or never suffer that career ending concussion people are worried about him having. It’s something that simply can’t be predicted or known for sure. However, that rookie being taken with the low first round pick has about an equal chance of never panning out as he does becoming a significant fantasy player. To me, I’d much rather have the player who has proven his value at the NFL level and shown that when healthy is a top option at his position. This is why I am not on board with the popular notion of selling Jordan Reed. From what I have personally seen him being sold for more often than not, I don’t feel he brings enough value in return to trade him compared to the value he brings to a roster. This is why, in my opinion, Jordan Reed is a hold; and possibly even a buy.

HOLD — Demaryius Thomas, WR DEN

Technically, I could have skipped including a ‘hold’ choice since I basically laid out in the above section reasonings I believe make Jordan Reed a hold. Therefore, I am not going to delve deeply into Demaryius Thomas analysis. Plus, I have learned he is a player in which no matter how many logical reasonings you lay out there for DT, the haters will remain dead-set against him. So rather than fight a losing battle, I am simply going to give the basics into why I believe Thomas is the prototypical ‘hold’ player in dynasty.

One thing I have found through my experience in dynasty is when owners become convinced they need to sell a certain player, patience often takes a back seat and results in a desperation sell. The respective owner becomes so hellbent in selling this particular player that they actively do all they can to deal him as quickly as possible.  Most of the times this practice results in settling for a lower value than they should. Demaryius Thomas is one of the biggest proponents of such actions this offseason. DT has become nothing short of a disease in which his owners seem determined to rid of as quickly as possible. Let me tell you why you likely are making a mistake if you are one of these owners.

The biggest reason fueling the ‘sell DT’ movement seems to be based on expected poor quarterback play/situation.  However, these same rumblings were present this past season, when many people were poking fun at how bad the quarterback play was in Denver.  On top of it, many have clear recollection of the few games in which, admittedly, Thomas did not play well in. Even with ‘bad’ quarterback play in 2015 and bad games by Demaryius himself, he still managed a season that made him the WR11 in fantasy scoring. It’s quite an achievement to achieve WR1 fantasy production in what people view as your worst season. In fact, if you take his season lows the past four seasons, his statline would be 92 receptions, 1,304 yards, and six touchdowns. People want to argue he isn’t an elite wide receiver. While that is a debate in its own right, the fact remains that his production the past four seasons have been remarkable; and that is a statement that is not debatable. Whether he is an ‘elite’ NFL wide receiver or not, production is ultimately what matters in both seasonal fantasy and dynasty; something Demaryius Thomas has in spades.

With that being said, how much worse can one expect Denver’s quarterback play to be this upcoming season to justify DT being viewed so lowly? Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will still dominate the targets in the Denver offense, as the options beyond them are largely unproven/unknown players. One may argue the Broncos will likely lean on the running game more due to the inexperience at the quarterback position.  If we can formulate such a conclusion as dynasty players, don’t you think head Coaches and Defensive Coordinators in the NFL can figure that out as well? It’s a good possibility that opposing teams will at least start out by stacking the box against the run to force the Broncos’ signal caller to beat them through the air. All in all, I simply can not come up with a logical reason why DT can’t achieve another highly productive season. Is it conceivable his numbers could dip a little? Of course it is. However, many dynasty owners are acting as if the sky is falling on him and that it’s impossible for him to have another highly productive season.

If you are adamant in wanting to sell Thomas, my advice to you would be to hold onto him and wait until mid-season to do so. Once the season starts, many owners’ focus translates directly to fantasy production. Being that there is a good chance Demaryius Thomas doesn’t fall off the face of the earth, you’ll likely find it much easier to find a buyer who wants him, which in turn will net you more value coming back your way in a trade. Don’t look at the ADP information and assume this is a good indicator for possible trade value for Thomas, either. You will quickly learn DT is a perfect example of the flaws in correlating ADP to trade values. In all the trades I have seen involving Demaryius, most of them were the equivalent of a first round pick in value (and I am not referring to the 1.0,2 either). As I said before, there are always exceptions and if you can get a good return for the Broncos’ wide receiver, then disregard my ‘hold’ label and sell him. Based on what I have seen, I think you’ll be hard pressed to do so, and I personally would not consider dealing him for the price I just mentioned. In my opinion, the better option is clearly to hold onto him and exercise a little patience. Your roster value could benefit in doing so.

BUY — Golden Tate, WR DET

I’ll admit, I never expected Golden Tate to land on my ‘buy’ list this off-season, but nonetheless here he is. Earlier this off-season when Calvin Johnson retired, my initial thought was his departure would surely boost Tate’s value significantly (and also boost the value of Tate’s teammates). To my surprise, this hasn’t been the case, and have come to find Golden Tate comes with a very reasonable price tag. I have not witnessed many trades involving Golden Tate in my own leagues, so I ventured onto Twitter to try and get an idea of where he may be valued at. Upon doing a little digging, I found three separate polls ran by different people all asking the same question. The final results for all three polls essentially gave the same answer – the equivalent to rookie pick 1.08 or lower would land Tate. When I saw these results, my first instinct was to test this. I found a league of mine in which I owned the 1.08, am built for contention and could use some wide receiver depth. I proceeded to find the owner of Tate and went forward to sending out the offer of my 1.08 for the Detroit wide receiver – the other owner accepted. Being that the results of these polls seemingly has merit, I will go ahead and try to convince you why this is a very reasonable price to pay for Golden Tate’s services.

Let me start by giving you some statistics. If you haven’t noticed by now, I often like to use stats as one point of basis in my arguments. There are several different ways in which people choose to evaluate players. For me personally, I love statistics because they are a quantifiable source of evidence. Stat-based analysis is only one way in which I break down a player or situation, but to me it is an important one.  Stats can help identify track records, tendencies and also help with future projections and probabilities.  In the 2015 season, Golden Tate ended as the WR21 in fantasy points. I am sure this number isn’t one that got you too excited, huh? How about if I help you recall Tate’s 2014 season when he was the WR12 (I am sure you probably forgot about that fantasy output)? So in the past two seasons, he produced no worse than the equivalent of a WR2. Still not moving the needle much for you? What if I told you he performed like a low end WR1 in 2015 as well? When I looked into Golden Tate’s performance this past season a little closer, I noticed his season was basically a tale of two halves. The first half of the season Tate was quite up and down, having some very good fantasy weeks along with a few duds. Then the Lions bye week came along and everything changed for Tate thereafter. From week 10 to week 16 (after Detroit’s bye week), Golden Tate was actually the WR11 in scoring. During this second half stretch, he averaged 16.98 points per game and also only had one single digit fantasy week (which happened to be 9.90 fantasy points).

Now that I have given you some statistics regarding Golden Tate’s past two seasons, allow me to give you another one that should help convey my logic behind buying him. This past season, Matthew Stafford had 592 passing attempts. If he didn’t finish eight attempts short, it would’ve made five straight seasons of over 600 pass attempts for Lions quarterback. In one of those seasons he even had over 700 pass attempts. With Megatron no longer in the picture, you in essence subtract the yearly target leader out of a pass happy offense. All of the sudden, you have a wide open offense with a ton of targets to account for. Golden Tate has proven production and we’ve also been able to see stretches in the past two seasons of Tate performing well with Megatron absent from the offense when he was banged up and hurt. The Lions did not draft any highly regarded rookie wide receiver this off-season, which can be seen as a sign of confidence that they are comfortable going into the season with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones as their top two pass catchers.

With all the evidence we have at our disposal, it is quite reasonable to conclude the former Seahawks receiver will see a lot of targets this year.  The Lions don’t have any proven elite running backs to warrant any thought that their pass attempts will drastically drop, either. In my opinion, Golden Tate possesses a high floor, as it’s tough to envision him being anything worse than a solid WR3 this upcoming season. He also brings a descent ceiling too, in that it wouldn’t shock me if by the end of the 2016 season Tate finds himself finishing in the overall WR11-15 range – this isn’t unreasonable for him to obtain considering he has already done it before in the Motor City. For the price he costs to acquire, that seems like great value to me. You’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper wide receiver option who has a very realistic chance of being top 20 at his position. I also believe as a whole, the Lions’ offense is a sneaky one to buy shares of. I think Eric Ebron and Ameer Abdullah are reasonably priced buys in their own right and while he may not be an upside buy, Theo Riddick could be added to that list as well.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it, as well as the new format of the series. Look for the next article of the series within the next month!


andrew lightner
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