Dynasty Buy/Sell/Hold: NFC West

Eric Hardter

We are nearing the crescendo of the NFL off-season. As such, the window for making final roster adjustments is drawing to a close.

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 in 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 conclude with the NFC West! Players will be profiled individually, with a tabulated summary of all 12 provided at the article’s conclusion.

Arizona Cardinals

Buy: Michael Wilson, WR (ADP = 162.8, Rank = 220.6)

In a draft class full of Lilliputian receivers, Wilson stands as one of the few oversized, athletic pass catchers with day two (or better) draft capital.

As shown by his spider chart, Wilson displayed above-average measurables in height, weight, and explosion and burst metrics, while also showing elite strength. His 40-yard dash is nothing to write home about, but coupled with his stature ultimately yields an above-average speed score.

With the somewhat surprising release of DeAndre Hopkins, Wilson offers something different than mighty mites Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore. Unfortunately, what he lacks is their respective collegiate pedigrees – after a solid freshman season that saw him establish a breakout age of 19.5, Wilson only competed in 14 contests over the next three years. Drafting him requires a sizeable leap of faith, as an older prospect with severe gaps in his CV.

Still, I tend to gravitate to players whose real-life draft capital outweighs their perceived dynasty value. By ADP Wilson is going as the WR70, and in rookie drafts he’s going in the early fourth round despite his stature as a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. As a likely starter, albeit on a bad passing offense, these present as reasons to buy.

Sell: Rondale Moore, WR (ADP = 127.5, Rank = 124.5)

It’s not all bad for Moore, who improved upon his per-game averages from a forgettable rookie season. Unfortunately, the former Purdue Boilermaker could only manage eight 2022 contests, suffering hamstring, groin and hand injuries.

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Interestingly, between Moore’s and Brown’s injuries and Hopkins’ suspension, the trio didn’t share the field for a single contest. This was par for the course for the Cardinals, who also saw injuries befall Zach Ertz and James Conner for seven and four games, respectively. The point is, there was enough of a target vacuum that Greg Dortch wound up as the team’s third-leading receiver.

To me, the operative point is that while Moore’s numbers were fine, he didn’t capitalize in a manner that could have been expected. More importantly, his aDOT remained tragically low at 5.5 yards, though noting it improved upon his eye-popping rookie aDOT of 1.4 yards. His YAC, while still strong at 6.9 yards per reception, was down from his rookie year. In short, he wasn’t getting money touches with only a single score, and wasn’t doing enough to create on his own.

The book is out on Wilson, but Brown and Ertz will return healthy, and Trey McBride should continue coming into his own. A new coaching staff should help, but it’s worrisome Moore has shown significantly less dynamic than in his early college years. Still carrying WR5 capital, I’d be happy to cash out on what I perceive as a low-upside player.

Hold: James Conner, RB (ADP = 93.8, Rank = 104.0)

2022’s PPR RB9 on a per-game basis (RB19 overall), Conner continued a solid streak of production whenever he was healthy enough to take the field. To that point, since 2018 Conner has averaged a robust 16.4 PPR PPG, but unfortunately during that time he’s also missed a total of 18 games, not completing a single healthy season.

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As the RB31 by ADP, this downside (along with Conner’s 28 years of age) is already baked into his price. But given a barren depth chart featuring only Keaontay Ingram (literally), Conner and his dual-threat ways should have a monopoly at the position. Continuing, a woeful situation under center with Murray slated to be out most of the year should see the Cardinals lean on Conner both in the run game and as a dump-off option out of the backfield. As always, the best candidates for “hold” players are those who still provide useful fantasy value, but whose dynasty cost is unlikely to appreciate – like many before him in this series, Conner fits the mold.

Los Angeles Rams

Buy: Tyler Higbee, TE (ADP = 167.7, Rank = 210.0)

Are the Rams good? It’s a fair question after they missed the playoffs in 2022 following a Super Bowl win the prior year. In doing so they fell to the sixth-worst passing offense in the league, as well as the sixth-lowest scoring offense. So why does this matter?

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Though it’s not a seismic difference, over the past two years (broken out in this manner due to the trade for with Matthew Stafford) Higbee averaged 1.6 additional PPR points per game in wins. This adds up to 27.2 points per year, which in 2022 would’ve been the difference between the TE2 and TE4. Interestingly he actually saw less work, though he was clearly more efficient with his targets.

Does this mean the Rams will be good? Great question, and likely one that will come down to the trenches, as well as to the health of Stafford, Cooper Kupp and key defensive players. Stafford should return healthy for the 2023 season, and by all accounts is looking like his normal self. If they indeed return to their 2021 form, Higbee could be a beneficiary in a largely barren fantasy position, all for the price as the TE20 by ADP.

Sell: Cooper Kupp, WR (ADP = 16.7, Rank = 24.5)

Lol, don’t actually sell Kupp. However, he’s the only Rams player being selected within the first 70 picks in startup drafts, and I have no inherent disagreement with Cam Akers’ value as the RB23. So this is where we’ve landed!

If you’re not contending, you should absolutely be offloading the once and perhaps future PPR WR1, and you may not even want to wait around for in-season play – Kupp has already hurt himself during training camp, and while he’s not really injury-prone, he is 30 years old. For a player at that age, missed time is value lost.

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As shown by Kupp’s weekly finishes over the past two years, contenders should still be willing to pay a small fortune. He finished as a top-five player in nearly half of his contests, and a WR1 over three quarters of the time. These are the selling points non-contenders should be using in offloading a valuable, but older and potentially volatile asset.

Hold: Van Jefferson, WR (ADP = 177.2, Rank = 177.3)

Jefferson’s 2022 season started inauspiciously, as he missed the first seven weeks of the year due to off-season knee surgery. He didn’t play much as he eased back in, but following Kupp’s injury he became very nearly an every-down player.

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Though Kupp will be returning, fellow receiver Allen Robinson was shipped out of town to the Pittsburgh Steelers. As such the depth chart is limited behind Kupp and Jefferson, including 2021 seventh-round pick Ben Skowronek and 2023 fifth-round pick Puka Nacua. The salient point, of course, is that Jefferson appears likely to continue monopolizing snaps much as he did at the tail end of the 2022 season. Still in his prime at 27 years of age, and a former second-round pick, Jefferson seems likely to outpace his value as the WR75 by ADP, especially if Stafford functions as the rising tide to lift all boats.

San Francisco 49ers

Buy: Elijah Mitchell, RB (ADP = 159.7, Rank = 131.9)

Depending on how you view Mitchell’s role, he may just be the most important handcuff/RB1b in fantasy football (though Tyler Allgeier would probably like to have a word). Even regardless of that, he offers some standalone value as well.

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Though it is an admittedly small sample size, in their three regular season contests where both Mitchell and Christian McCaffrey were active, they split the rushing load fairly evenly. This continued in the playoffs as both players averaged double-digit carries, with the nominal starter sequestering a mere 1.8 additional weekly totes. It’s true that McCaffrey receives the more valuable aerial targets, but the point is Mitchell isn’t your traditional backup.

Averaging a robust 4.9 YPC for his career and functioning ably in the passing game when called upon, albeit rarely (22 receptions on 24 career targets), there’s some Gus Edwards to Mitchell’s game. Though he’s slightly older for a third-year player at 25 years of age, it’s likely that Mitchell will achieve a second NFL contract regardless of what happens during the rest of his 49ers tenure. Valued as a high-end RB5 by ADP, he’s a solid add for teams looking to add upside to the back ends of their rosters.

Sell: George Kittle, TE (ADP = 70.5, Rank = 70.4)

Listen, I’m a big fan of Kittle, and roster him in a majority of my dynasty leagues. But the fact is that he has begun to miss more time, while also becoming less consistent.

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As seen in his 2022 game log, there was a significant “feast or famine” paradigm in play. On the positive side of the ledger, Kittle functioned as a top-five tight end six times, including five top-3 efforts and two weekly #1 finishes. Unfortunately his other weekly TE1 finishes were unimpressive with an average of 11.6 points for an average weekly finish as the TE10 – I note this because it speaks more to the volatility of the position than to how well Kittle actually performed. With two more TE2 finishes and an almost unacceptable four TE3 finishes, Kittle was either winning you weeks (22.8 PPR PPG as a top-5 weekly TE) or possibly losing them for you (7.3 PPG in all other contests).

Part of the problem is that when all of McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk were healthy, there were simply too many mouths to feed. With San Francisco cruising through the end of the year, the passing game also went largely unneeded in the team’s wins. Now nearly 30 years old and still being valued as the TE6 by ADP, there’s an argument that Kittle’s downside isn’t effectively baked into his cost. Though he’s not an auto-sell by any stretch, divesting to a more youthful option like Pat Freiermuth, while gaining a sweetener on top, isn’t the worst play.

Hold: Brandon Aiyuk, WR (ADP = 48.8, Rank = 50.4)

Though he maintains solid value as the WR23 by ADP, falling just outside of the fourth round of startup drafts on average, there still appears to be meat on the bone for Aiyuk. As can be discerned from his dynasty valuation over the past three years, it’s been something of a rudderless voyage at times. To wit:

  • Following a solid rookie showing (60-748-5) he climbed to an ADP of 46.5 in January 2021.
  • Following a reasonable sophomore year where he at worst treaded water (56-826-5), he lost value to the tune of an ADP of 53.0 in January 2022 (after rising to a high of 37.7 in September 2021).
  • After improving across the board and cracking the 1,000-yard mark in year three (78-1,015-8), he only rose seven spots in a calendar year, back to an ADP of 46.0. Since then he’s actually dropped 2.8 more ADP spots.

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So what gives? We have a former first-round pick who’s just 25 years old and is coming off the best season of his young career where he led his team in most receiving categories. Should he really be going nearly 2.5 rounds after a guy like Tee Higgins, who (admittedly while fighting injury) put up a nearly identical 73-1,022-7 line last season? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we’re obviously playing a game based largely upon subjectivity, but to me Aiyuk’s journey renders him as a strong hold and one of the best dynasty arbitrage plays at the receiver position.

Seattle Seahawks

Buy: Geno Smith, QB (ADP = 140.2, Rank = 164.9)

Now if you want to talk about strange dynasty journeys, boy have I got a story for you! Incredibly, though perhaps not shockingly given his lackluster early years in the league, Smith went from November 2015 all the way until September 2022 without being selected in a single mock draft comprising DLF’s dynasty ADP. That’s nearly seven full years of functioning as an afterthought in the minds of dynasty owners, only for the former second-round pick to ultimately make good on his prior draft status by checking in at his highest ADP ever in August 2023.

While the bulk of the credit must go to Smith for making the plays, some additional kudos go to head coach Pete Carroll, who hoodwinked us all in his 2022 approach.

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Typically seen as a guy with a ground-and-pound mentality (both on the gridiron and with his chewing gum) and a seeming inability to “let Russ cook,” Carroll surprisingly established the pass to the tune of the third-highest aerial percentage in his 13 years in the league. The results were a 9-8 record and a spot in the playoffs, where they lost to the division-rival 49ers in a game that remained within one score up until the fourth quarter.

Is this for sure a harbinger of things to come? Obviously we can’t say anything with certainty, but the team extended Smith and neglected to make a single meaningful move at the position in the off-season. Still crazily only 32 years old, if Geno can continue on his current trajectory, he’ll easily eclipse his current status as the QB17 by ADP.

Sell: Kenneth Walker, RB (ADP = 35.8, Rank = 27.4)

As Seattle’s 2022 second-round pick in the NFL Draft, Walker’s rookie season should be largely regarded as a success. All told he cracked 1,000 rushing yards, and finished as a PPR RB2 despite missing two contests. However, this was largely attained by his work on the ground, as his receiving numbers only accounted for a paltry 21.4% of his PPR points. This wasn’t an aberrant result, given his aggregate receiving line of 19-136-1 over 33 collegiate contests.

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Perhaps with the intent of rectifying this deficiency, the Seahawks went back to the well and selected positional cohort Zach Charbonnet in the second round of this year’s draft. A more well-rounded ball carrier than Walker, the former UCLA Bruin not only managed two seasons of 1,100+ yards and double-digit rushing scores, but also compiled a fine 75 receptions across four seasons, including a senior year line of 37-321-0 through the air.

Notably, Walker’s ADP has fallen over twofold from an April 2023 value of 16.7 to his current status as the dynasty RB10 with an ADP of 35.8. It’s certainly not unreasonable given his solid, if unspectacular rookie season – but we know Carroll is willing to go with his gut over any sort of predisposition towards his players. I don’t know how it will shake out, but I firmly believe Charbonnet was selected for a reason, and I just don’t see any way he doesn’t palpably eat into Walker’s load. This makes selling the rising sophomore a reasonable hedge for skittish owners.

Hold: Tyler Lockett, WR (ADP = 94.5, Rank = 103.5)

Despite effectively functioning as a dynasty metronome over the past four seasons (he’s been between 102 – 132 targets, 979 – 1,077 yards and 6 – 10 scores each season, while always playing at least 15 games), Lockett remains a bit undervalued by the masses. To be clear, he’s best served on a team with a win-now mindset, given that he’ll turn 31 years old during the season. But even given this, he finds himself going 20 slots after fellow elder Keenan Allen, and 11 slots after DeAndre Hopkins.

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To that point, DLF’s Dynasty Trade Analyzer calculates Lockett to be worth only about 70% of Allen’s value, with some potentially useful (and youthful) pieces and/or picks to be added onto the Seahawk’s side. Perhaps this is because dynasty owners are nervous due to Seattle’s first-round selection of fellow receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but it’s prudent to remember Geno Smith threw for nearly 4,300 yards with 30 scores, all while lobbing 177 targets in the directions of underwhelming receiving options Noah Fant, Marquise Goodwin, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. Much as was the case with Charbonnet, it is assumed Smith-Njigba was selected for a reason, and it could very well be to correct this deficiency in the receiving hierarchy.

So let’s circle back one final time to the most prevalent rationale for holding players in dynasty. Short of going off in a Kupp-ian manner, given his age Lockett’s status as a low-end dynasty WR4 isn’t going to change no matter what he does. His fantasy value will continue to eclipse his dynasty value, which last year resulted in a finish as the PPR WR13. He makes your weekly lineup better, even if he’s not the sexiest name on your roster. For these reasons, and please feel free to mouth the words along with me…he makes for a sensible dynasty hold.

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
NFC West Arizona Cardinals Michael Wilson 162.8 220.6 Rondale Moore 127.5 124.5 James Conner 93.8 104
Los Angeles Rams Tyler Higbee 167.7 210 Cooper Kupp 16.7 24.5 Van Jefferson 177.2 177.3
San Francisco 49ers Elijah Mitchell 159.7 131.9 George Kittle 70.5 70.4 Brandon Aiyuk 48.8 50.4
Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith 140.2 164.9 Kenneth Walker 35.8 27.4 Tyler Lockett 94.5 103.5

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.

eric hardter
Dynasty Buy/Sell/Hold: NFC West