Dynasty League Football


Dynasty Buy/Sell/Hold: AFC North

We dive into the AFC North to determine some dynasty buys, sells and holds.

Joe Mixon

After debuting this miniseries last year, I’m excited to have the opportunity to author the 2023 iteration!

With the NFL Draft now months behind us 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 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 most current ADP (pending the lead time necessary for authorship), and the DLF top 250 rankings;
  • The 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 do not represent all of DLF; 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 begin with the AFC North! Players will be profiled individually, with a tabulated summary of all 12 provided at the article’s conclusion.

Baltimore Ravens

Buy: Gus Edwards, RB (ADP = 234.8, Rank = 213.1)

2022 wasn’t a good year for Baltimore’s running backs, which shouldn’t have been terribly surprising given the rash of ACL injuries the year prior. Nominal starter JK Dobbins was only able to play in eight contests, though he managed a strong 5.7 YPC average across his 92 totes. Just behind him was Edwards, who managed one additional game and five fewer carries than his backfield compatriot. In those games, Edwards did what he always does – averaged 5.0 YPC and provided absolutely nothing in the passing game.

I understand why Edwards is well behind Dobbins (ADP = 52.7, RB16) given that he’s older and more reliant on scoring the ball. But it’s prudent to remember that when healthy, he has always functioned as the 1b in the backfield, with the potential to provide standalone value on an average of 10 weekly opportunities. It’s true that quarterback Lamar Jackson is going to get his production on the ground, and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken may bring a different philosophy. However, at the price of the RB81 by ADP, and with trade comparables of Josh Palmer, a fourth-round pick, and Isaiah Hodgins as one-for-one trade examples from the DLF Trade Finder, I’m buying the upside.

Sell: Mark Andrews, TE (ADP = 26.7, Rank = 34.1)

To be clear, I’m not saying you should sell Andrews, but rather this may be the right time to capitalize on his current value as an early third-round pick and the first tight end off the board by ADP. His status is decidedly warranted, as he represents the best combination of age and production at the position. But it is at least notable that he will turn 28 when the season begins, and has arguably the most target competition of his career with receivers Rashod Bateman, rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers and free agent signee Odell Beckham Jr in the fold, and ancillary pieces like Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay and Isaiah Likely.

If the ADP is an accurate barometer of trade value, a one-for-one deal could net players like Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf, Drake London and Travis Etienne. Alternatively, tight ends like TJ Hockenson, George Kittle and Pat Freiermuth (more on him later) are going several rounds later, and per the DLF Trade Analyzer could result in the receipt of additional pieces like Rachaad White, Dalvin Cook, Amari Cooper or George Pickens in a two-for-one deal. Tight end is an absolute wasteland and the truth is owners probably should hang onto Andrews and ride out the production. But these types of trade considerations at least warrant a nice long think, and perhaps a conversation.

Hold: Rashod Bateman, WR (ADP = 76.8, Rank = 77.0)

Readers may recall that Bateman occupied this exact space just one year ago, and the fact is the young receiver has since lost value. Such is life when a player succumbs to injury and only plays in seven contests. Nevertheless, reasons for optimism persist.

Bateman is still only 23 years old, and maintains his status as a former first-round pick with upside. And though he was only able to accomplish precious little in what turned out to be a moribund passing offense, it’s notable he averaged 19.0 YPR and over 10.0 yards per target. This output ultimately equated to a stellar 1.98 PPR points per target (PPT) on an offense that otherwise produced 1.48 PPT. It’s decidedly a small sample size, but the simple point is Bateman made the passing offense significantly better. He’s now going after Flowers as the WR39 by ADP – in my opinion, this makes him a remarkable hold and a player likely to outproduce this status if he can just stay healthy.

Cincinnati Bengals

Buy: Irv Smith Jr, TE (ADP = 184.0, Rank = 213.5)

The Bengals offense is a fairly simple calculus. When all parties are healthy, it will be quarterback Joe Burrow slinging the rock to stud receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. In 2022 the duo combined for 243 targets despite a combined six missed games, and multiple others where Higgins barely saw the field. The next player in the pecking order was Tyler Boyd, who compiled 82 targets of his own. Running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine combined for yet another 126 targets.

I note this because I believe Burrow had to rely upon these ancillary characters because of the lack of a true third threat. Boyd has seen his receptions and yards decline for four straight seasons, and Mixon hasn’t been a plus pass catcher since his rookie season. Given this, why not go for one of the cheapest options on the team for a potential breakout?

Smith seeks to inherit Hayden Hurst’s 68 targets in 13 games, which he was only able to turn into a meager 414 yards (8.0 YPR). Smith wasn’t any more compelling in 2022 at 7.3 YPR, but had appeared as though he was turning the corner as a third-year player prior to a torn meniscus wiping out his 2021 season. Now one year further removed from injury, and still only 24 years old (25 in August), the former second-round pick is a sensible arbitrage play.

Sell: Joe Burrow, QB (ADP = 44.8, Rank = 39.8)

To be clear, I think Burrow is a fantastic quarterback who will likely have a Hall of Fame career. But I’m not spending fourth-round draft capital for a player who averages just a hair over 12 rushing yards per game unless he’s peak Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Burrow needs to take the next step and compile 5,000+ yard seasons and likely a few more aerial scores, as I don’t believe he’ll replicate his five rushing touchdowns in 2022. I’d rather drop another round and bet on bounce-back seasons from Lamar Jackson or Justin Herbert, or several rounds for players like Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott or Kyler Murray. Burrow’s going in the range of players like Christian Watson, Chris Godwin, DJ Moore, Treylon Burks and Terry McLaurin, all of whom I’d prefer in a 1QB setting.

Hold: Joe Mixon, RB (ADP = 65.2, Rank = 60.6)

Mixon might be the most boring PPR RB1 in fantasy football, finishing as the RB11 in 2022, RB4 in 2021, RB13 in 2019 and RB10 in 2018 (he only played in six games in 2020). While not the bastion of efficiency, he’s managed 4.1 YPC and 7.6 YPR over his career, which are steady numbers given the volume he receives. He’s also scored 50 touchdowns in 80 regular season games.

As a 26-year-old in one of the league’s best offenses, my guess is dynasty owners are hedging on him being cut for not renegotiating his deal, and/or potential disciplinary action for the off-season reports of him potentially getting into legal trouble. As the RB20 in the sixth round, I’ll happily buy the dip. Perine is now out of town and Mixon’s backups are a couple of late-round picks in Trayveon Williams and Chase Brown. The potential benefit outweighs the risk.

Cleveland Browns

Buy: Elijah Moore, WR (ADP = 93.8, Rank = 92.1)

Betting on Browns pass catchers is essentially betting that quarterback Deshaun Watson is going to revert to his previous form after only playing six games in two years dating back to the 2021 season. If this happens, and if the passing offense becomes a greater focus, Moore could very well be a principal beneficiary. In trading their second-round pick for Moore and the Jets’ third-round pick, the Browns are clearly banking on this likelihood.

Donovan Peoples-Jones has ascended each year in the league and put up a solid 61-839-3 line in 2022, but isn’t much of a touchdown scorer and has left meat on the bone by only corralling 62.6% of his career targets. Meanwhile, Moore was the talk of Browns minicamp, and was reportedly being used in a variety of roles. Still only 23, I’m banking on Moore outplaying his current status as the WR44 by ADP.

Sell: David Njoku, TE (ADP = 121.7, Rank = 104.0)

Following a surprising contract extension prior to last season, Njoku put forward a solid if unspectacular line of 58-628-4, finishing as the PPR TE10 (while missing three contests). This went down as his best season to date, and one of only two campaigns where he eclipsed 600 receiving yards. Not much of a touchdown maker, Njoku has a mere 19 scores over six seasons (79 games).

Njoku’s main hurdle is the arrival of Moore, adding one more obstacle to a depth chart that didn’t lose any talent from last season. As such the wager likely becomes that a Watson course correction functions as the rising tide that lifts all boats. For his price as the TE14, I’m out on that cost, and would trade him for in a 1:1 deal for nearly all of the next 20 players behind him in the ADP. His numbers are easily replacement level, which isn’t unique at the position, but means I’m likelier to punt at that cost.

Hold: Amari Cooper, WR (ADP = 67.8, Rank = 65.9)

Last season Cooper finished as the PPR WR10, putting up the second-most yards and highest touchdown total of his career. This continued what has been an above-average career for Cooper, though perhaps one that has to date been devoid of the ceiling anticipated for the fourth pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. However, what this means is that Cooper has gone from a bit overrated by the dynasty masses to a player whose production now eclipses his value, likely due to the fact he just turned 29 years old. While I’m not a betting man, if I was I’d put a large wager that Cooper’s 2023 fantasy finish easily outpaces his current ADP as the WR35. He won’t win you accolades for having a sexy roster, but should produce value where it counts.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Buy: Diontae Johnson, WR (ADP = 62.5, Rank = 67.5)

Johnson’s 2022 season will assuredly go down as one of the weirdest in recent memory. Despite securing a whopping 147 targets (tied for sixth amongst all receivers, and 49 more than the next best on the Steelers), Johnson mystifyingly just couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone! This led to a microscopic 1.19 PPT, which was well off the already low 1.40 PPT offered up by the team’s aggregate signal callers. Even sans touchdowns, Johnson wasn’t very efficient, with a miniscule 6.0 YPT.

Still, Johnson has now secured at least 144 targets in three straight seasons across multiple quarterbacks. Targets are earned, not simply given, and Johnson has been able to accrue his in a commanding fashion. I’ll happily bank on a reversion to his previous seven touchdowns per season, and if Kenny Pickett even marginally improves in his second year, expect Johnson to easily eclipse his ADP as the WR32. After giving him a two-year, $36 million contract ($27 million guaranteed), the Steelers clearly agree.

Sell: Najee Harris, RB (ADP = 35.7, Rank = 42.3)

Given my defense of Mixon despite his middling efficiency, you might expect a more full-throated justification supporting his younger divisional compatriot in Harris. Sorry to disappoint! While on the surface I understand the enthusiasm of the dynasty masses, I believe we just haven’t yet seen the potential upside through two years to consider Harris as a dynasty RB1.

Given that he’s now a 25-year-old third-year running back, this is problematic. It’s my opinion that my fellow dynasty aficionados are looking for function over flash, and wagering that Harris will continue to see the combined 21.4 opportunities (carries plus targets) he’s secured in his first two NFL seasons. Unfortunately, the drumbeat for backfield colleague Jaylen Warren has continued this off-season, with beat writers speculating the coaching staff simply isn’t going to be able to keep him off the field. At 4.9 YPC and 7.6 YPR, Warren’s efficiency bested Harris’ in 2022, indeed making the argument for a larger slice of the pie. For a contending team, I’d happily pivot to aging talents such as Derrick Henry (RB17), Aaron Jones (RB24), or Dalvin Cook (RB26) in the hopes of a better 2023 with a sweetener thrown on top of a potential trade.

Hold: Pat Freiermuth, WR (ADP = 92.5, Rank = 102.0)

In a follow-up to his solid rookie season, Freiermuth compiled the second-most targets on the team, chipping in a fine 63-732-2 line. I won’t hold his touchdowns against him, as no Steelers pass catcher had more than four, given the team only managed an anemic 12 aerial scores. Despite scoring five fewer times as compared to his rookie year, Freiermuth increased to an average of 11.6 YPR en route to finishing as the 2022 PPR TE7.

So why on earth is a 24-year-old former second-round pick who finished as a PPR TE1 on arguably the worst passing offense in the league going in the late eighth round of dynasty startup drafts?

In my eyes, Freiermuth may even be the 1b “buy” to Johnson’s 1a, but minimally he’s an outstanding hold. He improved from year one to year two, and has become a solid fantasy starter despite to date having yet to actually play for a functional passing offense (the 2021 through 2022 Steelers averaged a combined 6.2 YPA with only 35 total scores). Barring injury, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the former Penn Stater going off the board as a top-five tight end following the 2023 season.

The tabulated list of the players discussed here is shown below.

Conference Team Buy Sell Hold
Name ADP Rank Name ADP Rank Name ADP Rank
AFC North Baltimore Ravens Gus Edwards 234.8 213.1 Mark Andrews 26.7 34.1 Rashod Bateman 76.8 77
Cincinnati Bengals Irv Smith Jr. 184 213.5 Joe Burrow 44.8 39.8 Joe Mixon 65.2 60.6
Cleveland Browns Elijah Moore 93.8 92.1 David Njoku 121.7 104 Amari Cooper 67.8 65.9
Pittsburgh Steelers Diontae Johnson 62.5 67.5 Najee Harris 35.7 42.3 Pat Freiermuth 92.5 102

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.

Dynasty Buy/Sell/Hold: AFC North
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Robert Whorton
2 months ago

Good recommendation for Andrews, but no one in my leagues is biting when it comes to Metcalf and London.

Robert Whorton
Reply to  Eric Hardter
2 months ago

They might change their tune later. I’ve pulled Andrews from the market for now barring a better offer. As always, it’s dependent on the value you can get back as you’re obviously implying.

Robert Whorton
2 months ago

Harris will surprise with a revitalized offensive line. Le’Veon Bell was notching 3.5 YPC until Mike Munchak straightened out his blockers and the Steelers have made a point to prioritize the o-line this off-season. Holding.

Robert Whorton
Reply to  Eric Hardter
2 months ago

We agree on that. I moved on from some older receivers like Mike Evans to pick up Najee last year, so perhaps I’m biased, but I follow the Steelers closer than any other team. Some progression from Pickett would also help. They’d both benefit from a stronger line, ultimately.

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