The dynasty trade deadline begins in some leagues as early as Week 12 kickoff, about a week away. The key window is upon dynasty teams to explore team direction-specific trades whether in or out on the 2021 season. Reference New Reality 170, which breaks down how to assess your team strength beyond a win-low record. Also, hedge on the side of contending. With four weeks to go in the regular season for most dynasty leagues, even being out of the sixth spot (typical playoff cut-off) by two games offers a legitimate chance to make a run. Be realistic, but optimistic.
Also, something Jordan McNamara and I have discussed frequently on the Footballguys Dynasty Show is the big difference between not contending this season but still maintaining a focus on contending the following season. Making a trade tilted for the future beyond the current season is different than gutting a team and creating a steeper uphill climb to compete the following year.
Here are suggested target players, at each position, by team direction with their likely cost:
The biggest pieces of advice for contending team trades are:
Make a dynasty trade. Carefully select player profiles that are durable beyond 2021, ideally aiding your title journey for multiple seasons. Generally, older productive players are the ideal subset as their price is a fraction of their younger peers who are similarly productive due to age erosion in the trade market.
Older running backs are typically some of the more treacherous acquisitions if paying a premium, which is why the suggested roster-building methodology includes strongly using the waiver wire, plus drafting them in rookie drafts, preventing the need to trade for the position.
If trading away a future pick (as a contender), include 2022 picks instead of 2023. The phrase which applies here is 'control the controllables'. The known is you are a contending this year - the biggest factor to where those 2022 picks reside within the round. 2023 picks are an unknown, especially relative to the data points known for 2022 picks. Being 10 weeks into this season is a significant advantage to projecting pick ranges compared to a null set of data yet known from the 2022 season.
- Tom Brady: Round 1 pick in Superflex/2QB, Round 2/3 pick in 1QB formats. Rewriting the age erosion playbook. Every season Brady plays is printing money considering his cost due to age.
- Ezekiel Elliott: 1st+ on the high end, but could only require a 1st alone in a best-case scenario. 26 years old, but a historic production profile, lead back for one of the best offenses in the NFL, locked in for 2022 as well.
- Mike Evans or Keenan Allen: 1st+ on the high end, but 1st alone should be initial offer. Clear alpha profiles, old but not ancient, and attached to strong quarterbacks. They are not year-to-year propositions yet.
- Brandin Cooks: 2nd round price point. Might be the best pure bang-for-the-buck on this list. Has five top-24 seasons under his belt and is on pace for another in 2021 despite a number of different offenses in his career. The Rodney Dangerfield (gets no respect) of the wide receiver position.
- Travis Kelce: 1st+, if requiring multiple 1sts, explore Darren Waller for a 1st alone. Attached to Patrick Mahomes II, on a historic career arc in his early-30s, three straight TE1 overall finishes (and probably a fourth coming in 2021). Only Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates are similar in career arc dating back to the 1990s.
Injured players, 2022 free agents, and quality profiles in a current production slump are common profiles to target once falling out of the 2021 playoff race. The goal is to contend in 2022 by resculpting a dynasty roster, not stripping a team from projected 2022 production as well.
It can be easy to focus solely on future rookie picks, especially Round 1 selections, as a non-contending team in the dynasty trade market. However, there can be significant variance from league to league on the accessibility of these selections. Know and explore your specific league market. In some, Round 1 picks are held with a vice grip and rarely traded for anything but a gold standard premium. Those same leagues might freely give up 2nds and beyond. If focusing the building your roster of assets through the best values, be open to picks, but also player profiles if picks are held tightly.
Matt Ryan: Profile buying opportunity, in the midst of a ho-hum season with minimal surrounding weapons. Superflex price point in the 2nd or 2nd+ zone. Production dips happen for essentially all proven veterans, Ryan is in one of those dips, but eight top-12 seasons to his profile and no Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley (essentially) this season and leaning on a rookie (Kyle Pitts) and career nomad and now hybrid player Cordarrelle Patterson. Ryan's situation is likely to improve in 2022.
Javonte Williams: 1st+ equivalent, shifting an older veteran (or two) producer to Williams has a value boon potential when/if Williams is the Denver lead back (2022 at the latest is the feel with Melvin Gordon III a free agent in the offseason).
Michael Thomas: 1st to 2nd+ price point, one of the true alpha profiles available for a reasonable price for non-contenders as he is 'out of sight, out of mind' this season, largely the second straight year. Thomas is higher variance considering essentially two lost years. There is poised to be parallels to Odell Beckham Jr and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the offseason with Thomas considering the time elapsed since his last strong production string.
Evan Engram: Historic career start on an aPPG basis with TE4, TE7, and TE7 finishes in his first three seasons. However, TE16 in 2020 and now a ho-hum-looking TE2-level year in the works in 2021 have Engram dipping in appeal. Engram is a 2022 free agent and has impact athleticism (check out his downfield touchdown in Week 9 as one example) if optimized as a receiver. Likely in the 2nd range of cost in TE-premium scoring, 3rd in stock formats, and closer to a 1st in 2TE leagues. Age 25-30 is typically the peak window of production for tight ends, a zone in which Engram firmly resides, and a team change would do a world of good in the offseason.