Dynasty Fantasy Football Mailbag: Justin Jefferson Or A Bundle Of Draft Picks?

Eric Hardter

Welcome back to the DLF Mailbag, the preeminent mailbag in all the dynasty fantasy football land. As a reminder, there are multiple ways to pose your burning questions! I’ll be soliciting weekly feedback via X/Twitter (look for a new pinned tweet each Monday), and you can also reach out using our Discord channel, or the old-fashioned way (via our online webform).

In high school, the guy who did the sports section on the morning announcements would often pull video clips of the prior night’s games. Whenever he didn’t have time to do so, the quote would always be “No highlights today, just all <LAST NAME REDACTED>.” Given the dearth of activity over the past few weeks, that’s sort of how I’ve been feeling with the introductions to these articles. So with that in mind…

No highlights today, just all Hardter.

Let’s get to it!

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From Discord…


Which side do you prefer for a contending roster in a 12-team, half-PPR superflex league – pick 1.01, or pick 1.03 and Jonathan Taylor?

As I often do, let’s first see what DLF’s Trade Analyzer has to say.

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This is more or less about what I expected. In terms of the draft picks, it’s true that pick 1.01 (Caleb Williams in all likelihood) is in a tier of its own. But given the depth at quarterback in this year’s draft, along with the high-end talent at receiver, the drop-off to pick 1.03 isn’t immense. Given this, and noting that while I’m not sure if this is a trade that has been proposed or if it’s purely theoretical, I’m surprised that Jonathan Taylor is being treated as something of a throw-in.

Admittedly, 2024 was something of a lost season for the Colts running back. After missing the first four games in what essentially amounted to a contract dispute, Taylor finally got paid, but was subsequently eased back into action before getting hurt again. All told he only participated in 10 games on the year, finishing as the half-PPR RB33. However, on a per-game basis, he was still amongst the league leaders as the half-PPR RB6.

His advanced metrics also show a player who clearly isn’t on the decline.

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Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Most notably, Taylor had what was easily the worst yards before contact per attempt (YBC/Att) of his career. While some of the blame must go to the ball carrier, I view this as more of an indictment of the offensive line. That assertion is further bolstered by the ball carrier’s metrics for yards after contact per attempt (YAC/Att) and attempts per broken tackle (Att/Br), both of which were the second best of his career. While admittedly on a small sample size, he also had the most broken tackles per reception of his career.

Continuing, quarterback Anthony Richardson’s healthy return should help open up running lanes. While it’s fair to posit the big signal caller could also vulture goal line looks, the rookie took a beating in 2023, and it’s possible the coaches will want to protect him. Putting a bow on this, and noting that the NFL Draft could change this, the depth chart behind Taylor is barren following Zack Moss leaving town. Trey Sermon is currently the next man up, which is somewhat ironic as he’ll need to pray to see time over his veteran teammate.

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While Taylor has recouped some lost value over the past few months, he’s still down about 10 spots since his recent high in June of last year. It’s significant capital for sure, but perhaps still too low for a player who has overall RB1 potential in his range of outcomes for 2024. This is all to say that Taylor will not typically be a player to “bridge the gap” in a trade.

As to pick 1.03, it would be hard to go wrong no matter the selection. But a contending team should pay careful attention to where receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is selected, as he could be a viable starter in fantasy lineups from the jump. This would keep with the paradigm of immediately strengthening a contending squad – it’s not the sole reason I would select Harrison, as I rarely have expectations that rookies are going to help my lineup, but it should at least be part of the thought process.

Jefferson Starship

In a 12-team, half-PPR league which side do you prefer – Justin Jefferson, or picks 1.02, 1.08, and 2.06?

So as to utilize as much nuance as possible, I wanted to first check if the half-PPR scoring setting had any discernible impact on the Vikings’ standout receiver. And while Justin Jefferson indeed led the league in receptions last season, he also led the league in yards while scoring eight touchdowns. All told the yards and scores accounted for 78.8% of his points in a half-PPR setting, versus 65.0% in a full PPR setting. He also still led the league in half-PPR points per game by nearly a full point.

This is all to say Jefferson is still the clear dynasty WR1 in such a setting, and he will still be treated as a top asset even with the superflex format. Given this, the returns must be worthwhile. Again leveraging DLF’s Trade Analyzer, this is indeed the case.

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In a vacuum, the larger magnitude of dynasty value sits with the picks. But it’s imperative to remember that while said draft picks maintain value insulation as undefined quantities, the other side of the coin is that draft picks don’t score fantasy points. At some point, the picks will turn into players, and the onus is on said players to have fantasy value in addition to dynasty value.

As a young star, Jefferson is the best of both worlds – he’s arguably the best in the league at his position, and as such is similarly adored by the dynasty masses. The hope is that the picks proposed will turn into players who can claim the same. This is critical as even in a superflex setting Jefferson is still a mid-first-round pick per the ADP, and is the first non-quarterback off the board.

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As such, the exercise for the owner receiving the picks becomes somewhat mathematical. Put another way, what odds would said owner put on the players he or she selects at these picks panning out? What is the likelihood they could match or even eclipse Jefferson’s points, and/or his dynasty value?

Per our current superflex rookie rankings, these are the top 18 players (i.e., through pick 2.06).

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Injecting my thoughts into this, I’ll remove pick 2.06 from the equation right off the bat. Though it comprises just under 10% of the trade value, I harbor no illusions that I’m going to receive returns from downstream selections. I would view it more as a bonus than anything.

Given this, the discussion centers around the two first round picks. Here again, these are my own thoughts, but for the trade to be considered a success as is (i.e., picks are not traded again to a third party) I would need one of the following outcomes:

  • One player turns into a top-five fantasy quarterback or an overall non-quarterback positional leader (WR1, RB1 or TE1), and the other player does not pan out.
  • One player turns into a top-12 fantasy quarterback, and the other player is a solid starter (e.g., a WR2 level).

You’ll note my thoughts are very quarterback-centric, which should come as no surprise given their heightened importance in the superflex format. Further, I need to account for the possibility that I select the incorrect player(s). We’ve seen high draft picks, both in real life and fantasy football, flame out – while the odds are increased that first round picks will work out relative to those selected in later round, taking a conservative tact is a good way of de-risking your strategy.

If one of those players fails, the other needs to be elite (bullet one). This would essentially turn into a wash in fantasy value, while also giving me a few extra years of youth. Value would not have been maximized, but it wouldn’t be a loss.

If neither becomes elite, but must become high-end starters. Receiving yearly QB12 value plus a high-end WR2 will probably match Jefferson’s standalone value, and also makes for a deeper bench and provides additional trade fodder. Once again I would also receive the benefit of added youth.

Using the second scenario as the likelier of the two, an approach would be either Harrison and JJ McCarthy, or one of Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels and Brock Bowers if he falls, but more likely a receiver such as Brian Thomas. Or if the Jefferson owner is already deep at signal caller, a Harrison/Bowers or Harrison/Thomas approach could best replicate the Viking’s points. Both look fine on paper, but of course, that’s not where the game is played – given this I’d be equally as happy with the bird in hand. Despite the large difference in value, all the risk is on the side of the picks. If the wrong moves are made subsequent to the trade, the receiving owner will have lost another year of time in addition to Jefferson.

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.

eric hardter