Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: How Much Is Too Much?

Shane Manila

Welcome back to the DLF Mailbag, the preeminent mailbag in all the dynasty fantasy football land. This year I’ll be answering questions from you via Twitter, Discord (if you haven’t joined our Discord, now is a great time to do so), or the old-fashioned way (via email). Free agency is now far behind us. The 2023 NFL Draft has now come and gone. It’s the quiet season until training camps open, but that doesn’t mean the questions ever stop. With most of us with at least several rookie drafts under our collective belts, our rosters are starting to come into focus for 2023, but there’s no time to rest.

Is Ridley the one?

When determining what a player is bound to do in the upcoming season, I tend to lean heavily on what they’ve done in the past. Calvin Ridley turned himself into a target hog before stepping away from football in 2021, then being suspended later in 2021 and for the entirety of the 2022 season. Ridley hit a 15.2% target share as a rookie despite sharing the field with Julio Jones and an underappreciated Monahmed Sanu (four straight seasons of 81 or more targets beginning in 2016). In his last full season played (2020), Ridley commanded a 25.8% share, and in five games in 2021, that share was up to 27.4%.

Now that I’ve given you the goods, I do need to temper expectations with the bad. Though Ridley’s target shares may look impressive when paired with a legit WR1 in Jones, his career target share of 17.4% is well under the threshold we want in our WR1.

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While Ridley won’t be playing with Julio Jones any longer, it’s not as if Christian Kirk has been a slouch commanding targets. Kirk has garnered at least a 20% target share in four of his five seasons, including a healthy 23.2% share last season. So while Kirk has not commanded targets at the level of Jones, he’s certainly kept pace with Ridley. And don’t forget about Zay Jones. Jones finished just behind Kirk with a 22% target share last year.

Will Ridley be the Ridley of 2021 who played five games without Jones and reached a 27.4% target share, or is he more likely to regress to something like the 2019 season (Jone’s last healthy season in Atlanta), when he only hit a 17.9% share? He’s probably more likely to end up in the 22% – 25% range which is good but not elite. The data suggests that Kirk and Ridley are fairly even target-getters, and we might be looking at a WR1a/WR1b situation in Jacksonville next year.

Any hope for a rookie flop?

The above question perfectly encapsulates one of our favorite past times in dynasty fantasy football, finding why a rookie flop will turn it around in their second year. Tyquan Thornton had an abysmal rookie season after the New England Patriots shocked the greater Maine area by drafting Thornton in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Thornton could only garner 45 targets in 13 games and averaged just 5.1 fantasy points per game as a rookie. In the past 20 seasons, there have been 25 players who were targeted at least 45 times in their rookie season while averaging 5.5 fantasy points or less (I rounded up to 5.5 to make the list more exciting).

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Reggie Wayne and Jordy Nelson both had excellent NFL and fantasy careers. Zay Jones has produced two seasons with at least 10.3 PPG, and Nate Burleson provided six seasons of 10 PPG or better, so I’ll count them both as hits for the purposes of this question. Even with counting Jones and Burleson’s meh production, that still gives you a hit rate of 16%, or better stated, when a receiver produces as poorly as Thornton did in his rookie season 84% of the time, they end up being of no fantasy use.

Even understanding that the Patriots’ offense was at a significant disadvantage with Matt Patricia as the offensive coordinator, it’s hard to see the addition of Bill O’Brien as the panacea to what ails Thornton. You could go through the list of the above players and find what would have been considered legitimate reasons for their rookie struggles and a narrative as to why things would improve in year two. You would have been wrong 84% of the time. Rookie wide receivers that flop largely and overwhelmingly end up as fantasy nothings.

How much is too much?

The chance for trading for a player of Justin Jefferson’s caliber in dynasty leagues doesn’t come around often. In superflex leagues, the Dynasty Trade Finder only found 21 MFL trades involving Jefferson in the entire month of May. Considering that May has so many rookie drafts going, and trades are fast and furious, that total is especially low. When you have the chance to get a player of Jefferson’s ilk, I almost always lean toward making the deal. But is giving up the WR4 (Ceedee Lamb) and the WR7 (Garrett Wilson) too much for Jefferson and Tony Pollard? Turning to the DLF Trade Analyzer for guidance shows this deal is heavily on the Lamb and Wilson side.

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To even this deal up, the analyzer suggests adding some significant fantasy assets to the JJ side.

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While there’s absolutely not a galaxy in the multiverse that I would add to the Jefferson side of this deal, overall, I will agree with the assessment. I would prefer Lamb and Wilson to Jefferson and Pollard.

MisterMayhem_86 was kind enough to share his starting roster, and it’s a very, very good roster.

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Adding Jefferson to this team would give him the WR1 and WR2 in dynasty, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. I also usually lean on the side of consolidating assets and gaining one stronger asset, but not in this case. When consolidating assets, I suggest taking a mid-tier asset like Jerry Jeudy and adding it to a higher-end asset like Jaylen Waddle to see if I can then move into a higher range than Waddle. I don’t want to burn two assets that are slightly below the Jefferson tier to acquire Jefferson.

I am somewhat higher on Wilson than the DLF rankers; I have him ranked as my WR5 in Dynasty and discussed why last week. But I do want to be clear, I don’t think this a smash accept on either side of the deal, and if someone wanted to argue why trading this package for Jefferson and Wilson is a good deal, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight. Much of my dynasty theory is built on acquiring hammers and players who are difference-makers, and there aren’t many players who impact the game (outside of quarterback in superflex) like Jefferson.

shane manila
Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: How Much Is Too Much?