Entering year four, we typically have a good sense of just who precisely a player is; however that does not mean there are not opportunities to buy these veterans at a discount. Typically, these discounts come in the form of an injury-riddled year three or a plateau from year two to year three. You also need to note that players who have yet to flash at this point aren’t likely to magically breakout and aren’t worth acquiring, even at a discount (looking right at you, Dante Pettis, and James Washington).
The reasons for a discount or drop in start-up ADP are unique to each player. We cannot predict injuries, but the dynasty community treats injuries as if a player may never be healthy again. These players are often heading into their age 25/26 season and are plenty young enough to bounce back, which is why I buy the dip. If a player plateaus from year two to year three, you need to analyze why. Was it an overall down year from the team, or did the team spend high draft capital on a player at the same position that diminished their opportunity? If it’s the former, that’s an indicator to buy, but if it’s the latter, alarms are starting to go off.
Now you understand my process, let’s dive into the three year-four players I am targeting.
Mark Andrews, TE BAL
We all know how barren the tight end landscape is, and we also know that Andrews is one of the few bright spots at the position. After being drafted as a top-tier option coming into the 2020 season, it’s apparent that he didn’t live up to the hype. Andrews played 14 games and finished as the TE6 in PPR leagues, which came as a massive disappointment after being the TE3 in both redraft and dynasty start-ups last off-season.
He failed to stay on pace to beat his 2019 breakout season in every major category. His 16-game pace for 2020 was only a total of 194.4 points, compared to 221.1 (16-game pace) in 2019. It’s tough to spin this as positive, but Andrews was affected by a significantly less effective Ravens offense this season. The Ravens’ attack averaged roughly 60 fewer yards per game this season and roughly four fewer points per game relative to 2019. So, there are very valid reasons for the dip in ADP we have seen over the last year.
Andrews’ ADP had been steadily rising until December when it “plummeted” 32 spots down from its peak of 36th in September down to 68th in December. We all play fantasy football, and we all know how reactive we are, especially right after the season ends, so we know a dip of that magnitude for a 25-year-old tight end didn’t make sense. The market corrected itself in January; however, he is still nowhere near his previous peak, and therefore, this is where the value lies.
While Andrews was volatile this season, we saw a significantly more consistent player after the team’s bye week. He eclipsed double digits 66% of the time, compared to 50% before the week seven bye. If the second-half trend continues, Andrews should see his value rise by the end of 2021 and should be a firm buy candidate for any non-Travis Kelce/George Kittle/Darren Waller owner.
Christian Kirk, WR ARI
It’s only a matter of time until Larry Fitzgerald retires, and Kirk rises to the very deserved role as the Cardinals WR2. I am making an effort to acquire Kirk in several leagues as he has continued to flash potential for three years now but has not yet broken into that next tier of wide receiver. If Fitz finally retires, 2021 could be the year we see him finish as a top-24 wide receiver.
The departure of Larry Legend would vacate over 75 targets in the offense. While Kirk will obviously not absorb all of those, he likely sees a modest uptick and eclipses 100 targets next season, which he managed to do in 2019 in only 13 games. While 100 targets from Kyler Murray don’t scream top-tier wide receiver, the quarterback has shown improvement and could easily support a second fantasy-relevant option if the wide receiver core thinned out.
Throughout the season, Kirk showed that he is a very capable wideout; it’s just a matter of getting the looks he deserves. In the four games in which he saw 7+ targets, Kirk managed an astounding 17.85 points per game. In the other ten games in which he saw less than seven targets, he averaged a putrid 7.5 points per game. It’s not a matter of talent with Kirk; it’s a matter of opportunity.
When we pivot to his value in dynasty leagues, it has obviously fallen over the last 12 months. The reason is two-fold, for starters, the Cardinals traded for DeAndre Hopkins (most lopsided trade in recent memory), and then he failed to meet expectations this season.
Over the last year, his startup ADP has dipped from 47th overall down to 90th this January, and that may not even be the low point over the next few months. This is an opportunity to buy extremely low on a player who has flashed for multiple seasons and may potentially be landing on a new team come 2022. If he performs well in 2021, there is a chance he leaves via free agency to assume a pseudo-alpha role that many expected him to fill before the Hopkins trade.
Courtland Sutton, WR DEN
Coming off a lost season, Sutton’s value has tanked across the dynasty community. Couple his ACL injury with the addition of Jerry Jeudy and the poor play of Drew Lock, and it’s easy to see why Sutton is being selected later and later in start-ups. But as any good dynasty player knows, when a talented player falls as far as Sutton has, due to injury rather than performance, you buy the dip.
Sutton has gone from being drafted as a high-end WR2 to being drafted as a WR3 this January. I already touched on the reasons why, but I think they may be over-blown. A player’s situation is ever-changing, and there isn’t a guarantee that Lock is even the starter in 2021, and Jeudy did not meet the expectations that came with his lofty draft capital.
Before tearing his ACL, Sutton seemed to be a star on the rise after finishing as the WR19 in 2019. He had topped double digits in 11 of 16 games and put up his first 1,100-plus-yard season. What makes that even more impressive is he managed to do it with Joe Flacco as his starting quarterback for 75% of the season.
Anyone who can produce consistent WR2 numbers with Flacco is a certified stud in my eyes. We did not get to see Sutton improve on his 2019 numbers, but that may be a blessing in disguise for those looking to acquire him. Given the timing of his injury, you could be buying into a WR2 for 2021 and beyond at WR3 prices.