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Dynasty

2021 Dynasty MVPs

We pick out two rookies with tremendous dynasty upside. Should you make your move now before it’s too late?

Najee Harris

In dynasty leagues, the best players to acquire are the ones who return the most value at their ADP. Of course, older players tend to have lower dynasty values and often finish higher than their dynasty ADP. That’s not what we’re looking to identify here. In this piece, the players I discuss will provide both dynasty and fantasy value at their price, enough so to be called “league-winners.”

Najee Harris, RB PIT

Although Harris is already 23 years old, he comes with an enormous upside at his current dynasty ADP. Right now, he’s the RB13 and 21st overall player in June’s 1QB DLF ADP data. In contrast, I rank him at RB7 and 12th overall in my personal dynasty rankings.

Even in redraft leagues, expect Harris to outperform his RB13 price easily. He faces little to no competition in the Steelers’ backfield, with Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell, and Kalen Ballage as his teammates. All of those players have a track record of failure in the NFL, and I think they will see little to no carries.

Snell is a boring plodder.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

As you can see, he regressed in his second season, averaging a pitiful 3.3 yards per carry. He also contributes nothing in the passing game. I’ve seen nothing from Snell to say that he’s more than a pure backup at the NFL level.

In contrast, McFarland barely even saw the field as a rookie, and he was a healthy scratch for the Steelers’ lone playoff game. Keep in mind what that means. The Steelers instead activated failure Jaylen Samuels with their season on the line rather than McFarland. That means McFarland is a bust.

As for Ballage, he washed out of Miami and then found some playing time on the Chargers in 2020. However, he didn’t show anything impressive in his playing time, and his only accomplishment was beating out other busts in Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley. Like Snell, Ballage is just an NFL backup.

The Steelers clearly felt they needed a workhorse back, like head coach Mike Tomlin typically deploys. In the past, he used Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, DeAngelo Williams, Rashard Mendenhall, and numerous others as workhorses, even when they didn’t have first-round capital as Harris does. As the Steelers have continuity with Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback for 14 years, I feel comfortable using Tomlin’s coaching trends as a predictor.

Chart courtesy of DLF Coaching History App.

As you can see, the Steelers’ best finish for their RB2 was in 2008, where Mewelde Moore outperformed touch leader Willie Parker. Even so, Moore only finished as the RB28. The Steelers’ fantasy RB2 has never even finished in RB3 territory, with Najeh Davenport’s RB38 performance in 2007 serving as the top result.

After 2008, the Steelers’ RB2 finished at RB43 at best, giving us a 12-year track record of workhorse backfields. Outside of one outlier year in 2012, there’s a massive gap between the Steelers’ RB1 and RB2 every other year. Harris is far more talented than Snell, McFarland, or Ballage, so I expect 2021 to follow the same pattern.

Therefore, I have zero doubt that Harris will command that workhorse role from day one, and he could easily be in line for 300 carries this year. In redraft leagues, I rank Harris as my RB10, behind Cam Akers and ahead of Austin Ekeler, Antonio Gibson, Joe Mixon, and Aaron Jones. Outside of Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, and a healthy Saquon Barkley, nobody has more of a guaranteed workload than Harris.

If Harris comes out with an RB1 season as a rookie, he will easily be a consensus first-round startup pick next off-season. I’d buy in now because he’ll never be available in the late second-round again.

Justin Fields, QB CHI

I love Harris for 2021, but he’s already going pretty high in startup drafts. On the other hand, Fields has so much room to grow as an asset, both in superflex and 1QB formats. Right now, he is the QB13 in 1QB startup ADP and the 118th overall player. He’s a full round behind Trey Lance and 32 picks behind Russell Wilson, which seems like a massive value.

In superflex ADP, Fields is the 25th player off the board as the QB10. Even at that price, I still think he represents a massive value, as he possesses top-five upside at quarterback. Quarterbacks are the top-five picks in superflex ADP, and there are nine quarterbacks in the top 13 picks. If Fields demonstrates his upside from college, he will almost certainly be a first-round startup pick next off-season.

In May, I suggested that Fields would push incumbent starter Andy Dalton to the side almost immediately. I have not changed that projection since that article, and I believe that Dalton will start one or two games at most. Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have their jobs on the line, so I expect them to start Fields over Dalton. Even now, Fields gives the Bears a better chance to win than Dalton.

Once Fields steps onto the field as the starter, his value will rise to around where I have him at 16th overall in superflex leagues. In 1QB leagues, he will blow right past Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Jalen Hurts, landing in the top 100 assets where he belongs. As soon as Fields plays, he has a chance to be a weekly fantasy QB1, given his collegiate rushing production.

Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

Fields isn’t quite Lance as a rusher, but I love his 19 college rushing touchdowns. Also, remember that in college football, statistics deduct sack yardage from a quarterback’s rushing yardage total. In his college career, Fields took 56 sacks for -363 yards. Without those attempts that would not count in the NFL, his total rushing line would be 204 attempts for 1,496 yards, which suddenly looks far more appealing. He averaged 7.33 YPC on his actual rushing attempts, comparable to Lamar Jackson’s 7.5 YPC in his Ravens career.

Now, I’m not saying that Fields will be Jackson, Lance, or even Kyler Murray as a rusher. But let’s remember that Hurts was a QB1 down the stretch of the 2020 season based on his rushing upside, despite completing a miserable 52% of his passes. I believe that Fields can offer everything Hurts did and more, with better receiving weapons like Allen Robinson. Therefore, if Fields becomes the Bears’ starter early in the season, he could provide a nitro boost as a new QB1 in 1QB leagues or a surprise QB1 from the QB2 or QB3 spot on superflex rosters.

I also believe in building superflex dynasty teams around stud quarterbacks. I would love to have two stud quarterbacks in a startup draft to open my roster, but that’s almost impossible to achieve without sacrificing later picks or future draft capital. However, dynasty managers can currently draft Fields in the third round before he gains that high-end value. Therefore, he’s both a potential MVP on the field and for dynasty value.

2021 Dynasty MVPs
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Paul Rodig
1 year ago

I think Najee is being ranked too high. He’ll retain his value into next year without a doubt. While I won’t own any shares of him, I have serious concerns about Pitt’s o-line. The line managed to lose players and it doesn’t look like they will improve this year. Najee is better than Conner, don’t get me wrong, but he only managed 700 rushing yards.

Reply to  Paul Rodig
1 year ago

Paul, you are looking at this the wrong way. I am a Steelers fan and have not missed a game since 1984. It pains me to say this but the O-line from last year was really bad because the “pro bowl” players (Pouncey and DeCastro) were shells of their former selves.
The new guys are the unknown and they may be bad at first but they cannot be worse than the group last year. The rookie guard from last year Kevin Dotson is really good. Friermuth in the second round was a solid pick to sure up the running game as the current TE Ebron cannot (or will not) run block.  
I agree that Harris is an upgrade but Conner is a good RB. Last year there were no holes and the o-line was getting blown back on a regular basis. This also translated into the offense going to a short passing game and not doing much deep passing because the o-line could not hold up. It did take teams a while to figure out the Steelers were one dimensional but when they did, the offense could not do much. 
Having said all of that, Harris has short term value as a Tomiln workhorse back and long-term value as a special type RB that will have to carry the team in the near future. When Ben retires the offense will most likely be more run heavy and Harris will be a top 10 fantasy RB for the next 5-7 years.

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