Dynasty Strategy: Eight Players to Target or Trade

Dynasty Strategy: Eight Players to Target or Trade

This article is part of our Dynasty Strategy series.

This article will look at eight players who present buying or selling opportunities in dynasty formats. Whether a person should look to buy or sell any of these players depends on specifics of your team and league situation, especially the question of how much the players will actually cost to acquire or how much you can get for selling, but these players generally carry market assumptions that could change quickly in the upcoming season or even training camp.

BUY

Kyler Murray, QB, ARI

It's been a bit of a struggle for Murray in his NFL career, mixing tantalizing big-play ability and memorable high points with a frustrating assortment of setbacks. Those setbacks were primarily related to Kliff Kingsbury and the ACL tear Murray suffered in 2022, neither of which presently apply to his 2024 projection.

Indeed, all signs say the 2024 season will be the first one in Murray's NFL career where the surrounding context was in his favor, giving him support instead of expecting him to carry a deficient unit on his own. Some quarterbacks can carry an offense themselves, but if you don't have a Patrick Mahomes then realistically you'll need to get your quarterback a robust support system for them to produce at a playoff-caliber level.

Whereas Kingsbury and Steve Keim left all the weight to fall on Murray previously, Murray will now have what is easily the best collection of blockers and route runners he's had in his NFL career. Marvin Harrison should be a

This article will look at eight players who present buying or selling opportunities in dynasty formats. Whether a person should look to buy or sell any of these players depends on specifics of your team and league situation, especially the question of how much the players will actually cost to acquire or how much you can get for selling, but these players generally carry market assumptions that could change quickly in the upcoming season or even training camp.

BUY

Kyler Murray, QB, ARI

It's been a bit of a struggle for Murray in his NFL career, mixing tantalizing big-play ability and memorable high points with a frustrating assortment of setbacks. Those setbacks were primarily related to Kliff Kingsbury and the ACL tear Murray suffered in 2022, neither of which presently apply to his 2024 projection.

Indeed, all signs say the 2024 season will be the first one in Murray's NFL career where the surrounding context was in his favor, giving him support instead of expecting him to carry a deficient unit on his own. Some quarterbacks can carry an offense themselves, but if you don't have a Patrick Mahomes then realistically you'll need to get your quarterback a robust support system for them to produce at a playoff-caliber level.

Whereas Kingsbury and Steve Keim left all the weight to fall on Murray previously, Murray will now have what is easily the best collection of blockers and route runners he's had in his NFL career. Marvin Harrison should be a game changer at receiver, especially after the emergence of Trey McBride in 2023. Even 2023 third-round pick Michael Wilson looks like a player who can build in upcoming years. Throw in a strong running game with James Conner and Trey Benson and it's all of a sudden perfectly clear: this Murray offense will score more than any of the other ones. A top-five fantasy season at quarterback should be in play for Murray for at least the next two years, and it seems that he's more so regarded as a low-end QB1 type at the moment. If you can trade someone like Jayden Daniels for Murray it's a highway robbery.


 


 

George Pickens, WR, PIT

Pickens obviously isn't sneaking up on anyone, and he'll likely cost a substantial amount to acquire by trade. With that said, Pickens is the kind of long-term high-floor, high-ceiling asset where you'll get what you pay for. Moreover, there exists a lingering skepticism against Pickens in some of the fantasy community due to his modest target rate, especially following a 2023 season where Pickens' YAC per catch was clearly fluky and unsustainable (6.5 yards).

That skepticism presents a buying opportunity against Pickens shareholders who might harbor those same doubts. Granted, if the person with Pickens in your league is a Pickens Superfan then there might not be an angle here.

Good for them, if so – they're digging into the substantive details rather than the surface-level ones that might mislead a person to doubting Pickens. The case against Pickens, again, is solely about target rate: 106 targets on 889 snaps is not very much, and at the very least it's extremely dependent on big plays and touchdown production to offset the lagging usage volume. In this era of PPR scoring, target rates like Pickens' from 2022 and 2023 don't normally pay off any higher than maybe WR3 distinction in fantasy.

The context in which those Pickens targets occurred give us reason to project an increase in target rate going forward, however, just as there was reason to project an increase in target rate from Pickens' 2022 rookie season, when he had only 84 targets on 839 snaps. In the case of 2022 to 2023 what changed was Pickens' own improvement – it's predictable that an underclassman prospect with elite age-adjusted collegiate production like Pickens' would improve yearly until reaching a peak around his prime age.

If Pickens' target rate improved from 2022 to 2023 just because Pickens was 21 the first year and 22 the next, then in his age-23 season there would have been reason to project an increased target rate for Pickens regardless of what happened otherwise in the Pittsburgh offense. As it turns out, though, the other events in the Pittsburgh offense add further reason to expect an increased target rate for Pickens in 2024.

The first positive change is the departure of Diontae Johnson, who was the primary explanation for Pickens' lagging target rate in the first place. Not only did Johnson necessarily hog targets underneath if only out of his inability to threaten downfield, but Johnson's specializing underneath meant Pickens was never eligible for those underneath targets – the easiest types of targets to draw and pad one's catch count with. Pickens was banned from that part of the field and forced to win almost strictly by high-difficulty targets downfield. Very few receivers will draw targets rapidly at an ADOT around 14.0 yards, and none of them had to split targets with Johnson. Johnson's departure means Pickens' target rate will escalate both because of Johnson's high target rate getting vacated and also because Pickens will just now start getting easy, lower-ADOT targets sent his way in addition to the deep targets he drew in 2022 and 2023.

The second positive change is the switch from Kenny Pickett et al to Russell Wilson. Wilson obviously isn't exciting and is a below average starting quarterback himself, but Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky were so bad. Going from Pickett to Wilson is a game changer, insane as that might sound. Even if Wilson is only something like the QB25 league-wide, that's a major improvement over the QB75 or whatever Pickett is. Not only is Wilson just generally much better as a passer than Pickett, Wilson is specifically dependent on a sideline catch-radius target a la Courtland Sutton in 2023, and Pickens is beyond any doubt the only Steelers route runner who can serve this function. Wilson is a corner-shot specialist, eschewing the middle of the field and intermediate in a way that makes Pickens his first and second read on the boundary. Jerry Jeudy is likely a better receiver than Sutton, but with Wilson the opposite was true. And in Pittsburgh there isn't even a Jeudy analogy to contend with.


 


 

Isiah Pacheco, RB, KC

Like Murray and Pickens, Pacheco is of course a well-established dynasty asset and one who won't be available for cheap, but he might be available for cheaper than he should be. There's an evergreen drive in the dynasty community to find ways to doubt veteran running backs, especially if there's a slew of new draft picks at the position league-wide. There's a type of dynasty football investor who looks to move a player like Pacheco and instead target something like Jonathon Brooks, Trey Benson or maybe even a MarShawn Lloyd type. This type of dynasty football player believes both that running backs are all ultimately the same ("don't matter") and also that running backs are always on the verge of imminent physical expiration. Such a person would likely consider it Selling High to move Pacheco for a rookie or second-year running back with Round 4 or better draft capital.

Pacheco admittedly won't have a long competitive window, especially with how recklessly he runs, but in the meantime he's a three-down player in the NFL's most feared offense. Normally a three-down running back in the NFL's best offense would be coveted by default, but there's a sort of indifference toward Pacheco, as if many or most have the unshakable suspicion that Pacheco has merely gotten by on luck that's due to run out any day. That would be an incorrect assumption, and if it permeates the market at all then Pacheco should be an affordable reinforcement piece for a competing team to add, especially before he has a career year in 2024.


 


 

Gabe Davis, WR, JAC

Davis doesn't have the talent and certainly not the market share of someone like Pickens, but Davis is probably underrated at this point after Buffalo misused him the last four years, and Trevor Lawrence remains one of the league's most talented passers in spite of Press Taylor's kindergarten-caliber offensive scheme.

Davis' infrequent and unpredictable target rates in Buffalo were almost exclusively the result of his high ADOT, which the Bills deliberately featured into the offense in order to clear out space for Stefon Diggs and even the tight ends. Davis' 4.54-second 40 isn't sufficient speed to run at such depths, so it's predictable that he'd go long stretches without targets. Davis' speed is more appropriate for the intermediate, which he'll run more often in Jacksonville than he did in Buffalo. The intermediate is more so where Davis was used at UCF, where he thrived as a WR1.

By going from Buffalo to Jacksonville the ADOT will probably drop from around 15 yards down to something more like 10 yards, and with that the per-snap target rate will likely rise significantly. It's also unlikely that Davis sees much defensive attention with the defense likely paying more focus to Christian Kirk and Evan Engram. That, and first-round rookie pick Brian Thomas will be the first decoy Davis has ever benefited from in the NFL. Most think Davis is some throwaway piece at this point and that just isn't true. He should be a good Glue Guy on a competitive dynasty squad this year and next.


 


 

Michael Wilson, WR, ARI

Wilson is somewhat tied to the logic of including Murray earlier. If Murray is about to embark on a career year and Wilson is a three-down player in that offense, then Wilson almost certainly must be in for improved numbers himself. In addition to the perhaps suddenly favorable playing circumstances, there's otherwise reason to think Wilson is simply a good player, and one who could start at an average or better level for a number of years ahead. Wilson might be the uncommon affordable trade target with both immediate and long-term utility.

What would keep Wilson's price tag affordable is the presence of target hogs Marvin Harrison and Trey McBride. No doubt, Wilson won't be taking targets away from those two. But Wilson likely will establish himself as the clear third pass catcher, and if Murray's production is high enough then that opportunity level should be sufficient for Wilson to make a positive fantasy impact. That's in part because Wilson projects for high efficiency per target, which eases the sting from the fact that his target count will trail those of Harrison and McBride.

Wilson's rookie-year target rate was admittedly low (58 on 675 snaps), but this was in the context of McBride and Brown hogging easy routes while Wilson (13.7 ADOT) largely had to clear space on the boundary. There were also three games where Wilson was likely limited by a neck injury that he suffered in Week 8, which is enough to significantly spike the sample given that Wilson only played 13 games. For a glimpse of what Wilson might look like in the future, focus on his best games from 2023. Wilson had seven catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns on seven targets against San Francisco in Week 4, and that was with Josh Dobbs at quarterback. With Kyler Murray at quarterback in the last two weeks Wilson produced 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets against Philadelphia and Seattle.


 


 

Dalton Schultz, TE, HOU

It pains me to admit this as something of a Schultz hater – I'm just not convinced he should be a starter – but he might be a good pickup in some dynasty formats as a somewhat under the radar three-down player in one of the league's most productive passing games. The Texans are paying Schultz about $12 million per year for at least the next two seasons, and that's a sum that likely dictates 40-plus snaps most weeks. Even though I think Brevin Jordan and Cade Stover are both better receivers than Schultz, the Texans can't afford to believe such things at this point. The presence of Jordan and Stover might raise some understandable alarm around Schultz's future projections, but it's more likely that they'll play in blowouts or when Schultz is injured.

Crucially, the fact that C.J. Stroud projects among the league leaders in future touchdown passes means Schultz can come through for his fantasy investors even if his target count is somewhat modest in an offense that already features Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Schultz won't steal targets from those three, but he might poach touchdowns given how much time the Texans figure to spend in scoring range.

Granted, after the next two years Schultz will probably be phased out from Houston and he'll be no guarantee to catch on anywhere else at that point, so as a trade target he'd be best understood as a Win Now move, though hopefully an affordable one.

SELL

Rico Dowdle, RB, DAL

A lot of mainstream running back analysis is frankly not very good, so among the public there's often a failure to distinguish a backup running back capable of starting if given the opportunity versus a backup running back who couldn't. Dowdle is the latter category. There's a widespread assumption that any running back can plug into any workload and sort of just passively absorb whatever predestined numbers might occur – an unfortunate but predictable byproduct of Running Backs Don't Matter discourse. Those rotten fruits aside, the low-brow anti-RB literature of today creates competitive edges for those who do the basic homework necessary to spot a false asset like Dowdle.

Dowdle has some amount of ability with the football, both in terms of running ability and in terms of athleticism, but neither is anywhere near the standards required of a starting running back. He couldn't even hold on to a starting role at South Carolina, falling in and out of rotation while names like Tavien Feaster, Ty'Son Williams, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner would steal playing time if not outproduce Dowdle entirely. This is bad enough even before you factor in Dowdle's fumbling and injury troubles in college.

Dowdle's fumbling and durability troubles haven't popped up yet at the NFL level, but that's precisely because he hasn't been pushed into a starting role. If you subject a limited player like Dowdle to indefinite exposure then their flaws will start to come out, even if they didn't appear previously. This is why it requires a certain level of talent for a workload to scale up – Dowdle can give you 20 productive snaps in a game perhaps, but if you start making him play 45 snaps instead his head will start spinning and you'll eventually need to scale back his playing time after a series of complications occur.

In other words, even if starter Ezekiel Elliott were to miss time, any experiment with Dowdle as a starter will be brief and regrettable. More likely is that Dowdle's snap count wouldn't increase much or at all while his workload stays the same and a committee is otherwise formed to replace Elliott's prior usage.

Hating Elliott has been fashionable in fantasy football media for years, but the desperation to see something in Dowdle took on new energy recently when coach Mike McCarthy declared that Dallas would deploy a committee at running back, with the (incorrect) takeaway being that Dowdle is equal to Elliott and can only gain from here. No. Dowdle can only lose from here, and he very well might. Even a player like Royce Freeman very obviously has more ability from scrimmage than Dowdle, including on passing downs. Dowdle sticks on the roster because he can play special teams and backup running back in a given game, but any opportunity for increased playing time at running back is as likely to be claimed by the field as Dowdle.

There is a significant number of dynasty football players who believe that Dowdle might lead the Dallas backfield in 2024. The time to sell is now, before they come to their senses and realize they've been sold snakeoil.


 


 

Kyren Williams, RB, LAR (Ideally after September)

Williams should be useful in fantasy in the upcoming years and should start the 2024 season in particular at a high level, but in my opinion the emergence of third-round pick Blake Corum is an issue of when rather than if. The 'when' probably won't be immediately, though, at least not if Williams is producing like he did in 2023. I'm skeptical that Williams will do as much, but he already did it once and he's clearly a great fit for how the Rams run their offense, notably behind a strong and improving offensive line.

The problem for Williams isn't just that the Rams spent a third-round pick on Corum, or even that Corum is largely the same player as Williams except for being bigger and much faster than Williams. Although, those certainly could be problems. The third issue exists regardless of what Corum might be: Williams likely cannot hold up physically to the workload he endured in 2023. At 5-foot-9, 194 pounds Williams ran a 40-yard dash that barely cleared the 4.7-second mark. A player that small and slow is frankly an easy target, and expecting them to hold up for 60 snaps per game isn't physically realistic. Williams has logged 263 carries and 60 targets at the NFL level, and he's already suffered a broken foot and two high-ankle sprains. Corum might be small himself at 205 pounds and his 4.53-second 40 isn't impressive, but both variables are significantly better than in Williams' case. Corum can take more hits, and he can probably avoid more, too.

As long as Williams remains productive from scrimmage then his worst-case outcome should still only be one where he splits snaps with Corum. Bigger and faster as Corum might be, he too is a small running back who could probably be kept a bit more spry and healthy by rotating each game.

Still, Williams' current market reception generally assumes he'll take more than an even split. Given that the first month of the year is likely to be Corum's slowest, this general market assumption will be reinforced and even livened by the first few weeks of the year, which are likely to be Williams' most productive of the season. Some might even declare Corum a bust or some such thing by then. Corum will be no such thing, but selling Williams at that particular point might be the move, because it'll give him a chance to reestablish himself as a first-round fantasy value before Corum inevitably gets his foot in the door.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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