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Three Running Backs to Trade Away in Dynasty Leagues

Christian McCaffrey

Every year we get enamored with particular running backs who we think will carry our team to the promised land, and every year we become disappointed with their production. What are the kinds of running backs to buy, hold, and sell? Who has great value this year that you should capitalize on now? This article will examine such players and show you what you can expect to receive in return for trading them away while the prices are still hot.

First off, we need to examine the kinds of running backs who retain their value year after year versus the ones who do not. Below is a collection of the top running backs from 2013 through 2021. I highlighted the players who I believe retained high value throughout the duration of their careers.

Before we continue, I need to acknowledge that I understand my opinion and your opinion may differ on specific players. This won’t be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m also willing to bet that most of my highlighted players would fall into your category of players who retain elite value, so we’re not too far off and therefore I consider this is a good place to start.

Next, we need to examine the characteristics of the highlighted players vs the non-highlighted ones, and one glaring thing jumps out to me when I do; The highlighted players have a role in the passing game. With the exception of Marshawn Lynch and Derrick Henry, every highlighted player on that list is known for catching out of the backfield. All non-highlighted players are mostly bruisers or one-cut runners.

The next thing I notice is that the elite players have a maximum of four or five years of elite value before a slight drop to the middle of the pack before they seem to drop off the face of the planet. Running back life expectancy is far shorter than all other positions, so it’s a great idea to get out before it’s too late, but while they still have at least one year left of elite value.

It’s not a perfect system, but the organization of these ADPs helps us see what types of players are valued the most over time. Now that we have a baseline to work with, let’s take a look at the early 2022 ADP data for running backs, from which I will select three players to choose to sell based upon the observations of the previous data:

Christian McCaffrey, RB CAR (ADP: 10.00)

Age: 25.8

When healthy, McCaffrey has dominated fantasy football and has dragged fantasy teams to the playoffs or even the championship. Few players in the history of fantasy football have been as dynamic as McCaffrey, and it’s arguable that he has been the single-best player in fantasy over a three-year stretch, combining for over 1,150 fantasy points in that span.

The downside is that McCaffrey has been injured over the past two seasons, playing a total of ten games, and accumulating a mere 180 points for fantasy teams. His career path also fits the mold of others mentioned above, starting his fourth straight appearance in the top five, making this year quite possibly the final year of his elite performance.

His value is so high right now that you can garner interest and trade for nearly any player in the league. This trade chart is a great first step in finding good value. Trading away a player of his caliber, I would want a dynamic player in return and a pick. I would go for JK Dobbins and a first-round pick if I needed RB help, or Jaylen Waddle or Elijah Moore and a first in PPR leagues.

Below are some deals made with McCaffrey where I would prefer the other side going forward. These deals were found using our Trade Finder tool. You may need to wait a few weeks or months for his injury history to become more of a distant memory in the minds of other fantasy owners before striking a deal.

Dalvin Cook, RB MIN (ADP: 14.83)

Age: 26.7

Cook falls into a similar mold as McCaffrey; he’s been valued as an elite player for four seasons going on five, he’s starting to fall just a couple spots in the rankings, and he’s getting up there in age. This is a prime example of when you should be trying to sell before it’s too late.

Interestingly, recent trades involving Cook have been more desirable than the ones involving McCaffrey, despite the higher ADP in startups. I can only assume recent injuries to McCaffrey are playing a role in this observation. I would take the other side of these trades below, all of which are fair value now but should heavily swing the other side by mid-season.

Cam Akers, RB LAR (ADP: 35.83)

Age: 22.8

Akers doesn’t fit the mold of the other two guys above, but is a player I think better fits the non-highlighted players than the highlighted ones. In 16 games with the Rams, he only has 14 receptions. He is also not a bruiser like Marshawn Lynch or Derrick Henry, so I am not confident he will retain elite status year after year.

Also of note is his return from a torn Achilles he suffered back in June, where he did not look like his old self. He carried the ball 72 times for 177 yards, barely under 2.5 yards per carry.

I understand it’s early in his recovery, but it’s not encouraging either. The history of players coming back from Achilles injuries – especially running backs – is not a good one. I’ve covered it in-depth in a previous article, and I am not optimistic for his future. If this small sample size is any indication, I would be worried if I was a fantasy owner going forward.

Lastly, his value since his return from injury has increased by 22 spots, giving him a crazy high ADP of 35. Now is the time to cash in, as I do not believe Akers will not be able to retain this value for the duration of his career given his prior usage and injury history.

Three Running Backs to Trade Away in Dynasty Leagues
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J M
4 months ago

Great article but I can’t get close to those returns for Cook in my league.

Gregory Massa
4 months ago

Im shocked that CMCs value is still that high. I traded him mid-way through the 2020 season when he was still hurt and got a 1st and JT. Never looked back.

timmymac75
4 months ago

Would you trade away Higgins for Ekeler? I have Adams, AJ Brown, Pittman, Gabriel Davis, Higgins as my WR PPR league. My RB are JK dobbins, Montgomery, Gus edwards, Javonte Williams

Zach Bates
4 months ago

Great article Mike, this was really fun to read. I appreciate the graph of the past RBs too. I started playing fantasy football around 5-6 years ago and looking back on some of my past teams/drafts, I definitely wish I knew this. This will be awesome going forward

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