With the NFL Draft now months behind us, team minicamps ongoing, and training camp/preseason just around the corner, we are nearing the crescendo of the NFL off-season. As such, the window for making final roster adjustments is drawing to a close, with the obtainment of actionable game information just over the horizon in September. Put another way, it would not be unreasonable to assert player values are less likely to fluctuate over the next couple of months (pending injuries) as compared to September when the regular season is in full force.
In that spirit, I’ve selected players to buy, sell and hold for all 32 NFL teams. This miniseries will be broken down by division, with 12 players highlighted per article and 96 overall. In a 12-team league with 20 roster spots (similar to the DLF ADP), that accounts for 40% of the players!
Before we dive in, a few notes and disclaimers:
- Player values were obtained from the combination of the June ADP, and the DLF Top-250 rankings;
- League paradigm is assumed to be PPR and 1QB (players superflex and/or 2QB leagues would likely have some divergence from those I’ve selected);
- Opinions on players are my own; and finally,
- Exact player values are always going to be dependent on individual leagues and owners, and may not be consistent with the assertions provided herein.
With that said, let’s continue with the AFC South! Players will be profiled individually, with a tabulated summary of all 12 provided at the article’s conclusion.
Buy: Brandin Cooks, WR (ADP = 69.0, Rank = 90.4)
In providing this rationale, I’m reminded of the following exchange in the movie Remember the Titans:
Coach Bill Yoast: “You’ve been to four or five programs the past 10 years?”
Coach Herman Boone: “Won four or five championships.”
Is Cooks well-traveled? Absolutely. But he’s also a producer, including accruing 1,000-yard seasons with each of the four teams he’s played for, and in all but two of his eight years in this league. And while his reception and touchdown totals aren’t elite, they’ve been enough to see him finish as a the PPR WR20 or better six times, with one finish as a top-12 seasonal play. League-winning upside likely isn’t there – he’ll be 29 in September, and he has a history of concussions – but this is why you’re getting him as the WR35 per the most recent ADP. He’s essentially a discount Mike Evans at a discount Mike Evans price.
Sell: Dameon Pierce, RB (ADP = 114.3, Rank = 126.4)
I don’t have anything inherently against Pierce. I also don’t have anything inherently for him, either, which is perhaps the issue. He combines a middling athletic profile with middling NFL Draft capital, never really broke out in college (apart from scoring the ball at an unsustainably high rate in the 2021 season) and didn’t have a particularly sterling collegiate YPC or target share. However, nature abhors a vacuum, as do apparently dynasty football owners, which is the only real rationale I can find for why Pierce is valued as a dynasty RB3 per the current ADP.
Maybe he’ll beat out Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead, but given the low investment by the Texans, he’ll likely need to go above and beyond such that he doesn’t find himself supplanted come the 2023 NFL Draft. While acknowledging the early fourth round is much more significant than a UDFA, he reminds me a lot of the Commanders’ Jaret Patterson, as a player who got some rookie year hype but didn’t capitalize, and was summarily replaced the following season. No two players are exactly the same, but I won’t be surprised if Pierce follows a similar path.
Hold: Nico Collins, WR (ADP = 185.3, Rank = 152.1)
As a rookie Collins wasn’t terribly efficient (55% catch rate) and barely sniffed the end zone (just one score), but otherwise put together a respectable 33 receptions for 446 yards in 14 games. On a Texans team lacking a true aerial attack (just 3,630 passing yards on the season), both Collins’ targets, receptions and yardage were good enough for second best on the team.
These are numbers that can be built upon, but Collins is still only being picked as the WR83 per the ADP. I suspect this is largely due to the second-round selection of John Metchie, but the fact remains that the team simply needed talent at the position, as a second line behind Cooks, Collins and Metchie still consists of Chris Conley, Chris Moore and Phillip Dorsett. Continuing, Metchie is only just over six months removed from an ACL tear last December, and may not be 100% early in the season, giving Collins time to continue his rise. With this, he makes for a sensible hold as a player who could see a rise in value.
Buy: Alec Pierce, WR (ADP = 118.5, Rank = 125.6)
By all accounts, the off-season signing of quarterback Matt Ryan has been a breath of fresh air. While somewhat long in tooth at 37 years of age, Ryan has brought a dedication and sense of professionalism that was apparently lacking under Carson Wentz in 2021. Ryan has also previously shown an ability to support multiple fantasy assets in the passing game, and while Michael Pittman appears locked in as the number one target, there’s a massive void of proven talent behind him. Though Pierce is a rookie, he brings with him second-round draft capital and elite size, speed and burst, along with an 82nd percentile breakout age. This is almost the counter-argument for the other Pierce above – the opportunity is there, but the cost as a mid-range WR5 isn’t.
Sell: Parris Campbell, WR (ADP = 188.0, Rank = 243.7)
Death, taxes and off-season Campbell hype. I’m not going to wax poetic about the injury proneness of players as I’m not a clinician, but the fact is through three seasons he’s only played in 15 games. In these 15 games, which is very nearly the equivalent of a full season, he’s only compiled a line of 34-360-2. So if the afore-referenced Campbell hype (“he’s being featured extensively,” and “caught 8 of 24 Matt Ryan passes” per NBC SportsEdge) is enough to raise his value to the point where he could be a throw-in to a trade, or yield a later round draft pick, it could be a reasonable move.
Hold: Michael Pittman, WR (ADP = 32.7, Rank = 51.6)
As a sophomore in the 2021 season, Pittman climbed to a finish as the PPR WR18, functioning as the Colts’ top target by a country mile. To that point, Pittman accrued a 24.7% target share with 27.2% of the team’s receptions, 30.2% of the receiving yards and 22.2% of receiving scores. To put it into perspective, he had nearly 700 more yards than the team’s #2 pass catcher, and 2x more receptions. As a 24-year-old who has already broken out and has no proven target competition, it would not be unreasonable to assert he should be considered in the dynasty WR1 tier. And while he’s not far off, he’s only the WR16 and a third-round startup pick, intimating there’s still room to climb.
Buy: Christian Kirk, WR (ADP = 91.3, Rank = 91.0)
Though to date he’s peaked as more of a very good but not great receiver, Kirk has gotten demonstrably better during his four years in the league, with 2021 concluding with a fine 77-982-5 line. He managed to perform this feat despite a crowded depth chart featuring DeAndre Hopkins (for 10 games), Zach Ertz (for 11 games), AJ Green and rookie Rondale Moore, along with a pair of running backs in James Conner and Chase Edmonds who accrued a combined 80 targets.
The pecking order in Jacksonville should be significantly better established, with Marvin Jones and Zay Jones rounding out the first string. Kirk was also the prized free agency addition and recipient of a four-year, $84 million contract. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was bad as a rookie (more on that below), but even the top target on a bad team can compile numbers. I believe Kirk will outproduce his current low-end WR4 status by ADP, and is still young enough at 25 to have a chance at another contract past this one.
Sell: Trevor Lawrence, QB (ADP = 124.2, Rank = 84.7)
Billed as having one of the best and safest prospect profiles in several years, Lawrence bombed in spectacular fashion as a rookie. And while head coach Urban Meyer turned out to be one of the most laughable hires in recent memory, not even lasting the year, Lawrence was still the one on the field making (or not making) the plays. To that point, Lawrence completed under 60% of his passes despite averaging a mere 6.0 YPA. He also only managed to compile a meager 12 passing scores on over 600 attempts, compared to 17 interceptions. He added some juice with his legs, but not enough to salvage an extraordinarily disappointing season.
Despite this, Lawrence is the first QB2 off that board at QB13 by ADP, which represents a downturn over time but still significant value. Maybe he will turn it around, but (and I’m recognizing I’m beating a dead horse here) he had the worst metrics out of every quarterback in his draft class. While early, it might be worth avoiding the sunk cost fallacy and cashing out at a loss.
Hold: James Robinson, RB (ADP = 127.5, Rank = 131.7)
Prior to his torn Achilles, Robinson was actually having a slightly more efficient season than his out-of-nowhere rookie campaign, with averages of 4.7 YPC and 7.2 YPR (compared to 4.5 and 7.0, respectively). While qualitative analysis means precious little in football, he was quite arguably the only bright spot on the Jacksonville offense. In a world where both he and Travis Etienne are fully healthy, I believe both would see some run in something of the old Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram paradigm, with Robinson as the thunder to Etienne’s lightning. Robinson still needs to prove his health coming back from one of football’s most brutal injuries, but at RB4 prices I’d be willing to find out.
Buy: Austin Hooper, TE (ADP = 230.7, Rank = 222.1)
Has Hooper been good the past couple of years? Absolutely not. But the 2021 version of Cleveland featured a leading receiver with under 600 yards, with 2020 yielding only one receiver over 600 yards (Jarvis Landry had 840 yards). In short, there was no rising tide, and boats were not lifted. In the two years prior with Atlanta, Hooper compiled a fine aggregate line of 146-1,447-10, showing TE1 upside along the way. Much as was the case with Odell Beckham, I’m not going to hold Hooper’s Cleveland tenure against him. Still only 27, and now quite possibly the #2 target on the Titans, Hooper has upside as the TE33 by ADP.
Sell: Ryan Tannehill, WR (ADP = 203.8, Rank = 165.0)
Similar to the Steelers in the AFC North rendition of this article, the Titans represent another team with no obvious “sell” candidates. I selected Tannehill because even though he’s only rated as the QB24 by ADP, the fact is he’s a soon-to-be 34-year-old signal-caller who in 2019 and 2020 relied upon unsustainable efficiency to function as a high-end fantasy asset. That efficiency cratered in 2021, with interceptions doubling and touchdowns decreasing by one-third, and YPA dropping off to 7.0. With top weapon AJ Brown now an Eagle, Tannehill’s potential upside is even further sapped, rendering him as something of a roster clogger at this point. Given this, I’d rather roster a younger player with upside (even if not a starter), even if it were to weaken me for the one bye week a year.
Hold: Derrick Henry, RB (ADP = 33.3, Rank = 24.6)
It’s true, Henry finally succumbed to injury in 2021, missing the bulk of the season with a Jones fracture. With that said, it was his first major injury since 2013 when he fractured his fibula ahead of his freshman season with Alabama, and by all accounts he’s now fully healthy. Prior to this injury Henry was showing the same fire he had in previous seasons, with 1,091 total yards and ten touchdowns in just eight games.
To put that in perspective, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor lapped the field with 32 more PPR points than the overall RB2. In his eight games, Henry actually averaged 1.2 PPR PPG more than Taylor, and still crazily finished the year as the PPR RB23. Truly wild stuff. Given that, and given Henry is one of the small handful of players who has legitimate upside to finish as the overall PPR RB1, his status as the RB15 by ADP makes him a strong hold for owners. At 28 years of age his dynasty value is likely to never again match his fantasy value, but he can still help you win your league.
The tabulated list of the players discussed here is shown below.
|AFC South||Houston Texans||Brandin Cooks||69.0||90.4||Dameon Pierce||114.3||126.4||Nico Collins||185.3||152.1|
|Indianapolis Colts||Alec Pierce||118.5||125.6||Parris Campbell||188.0||243.7||Michael Pittman||32.7||51.6|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Christian Kirk||91.3||91.0||Trevor Lawrence||124.2||84.7||James Robinson||127.5||131.7|
|Tennessee Titans||Austin Hooper||230.7||222.1||Ryan Tannehill||203.8||165.0||Derrick Henry||33.3||24.6|
Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.
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