Players to Sell-High in the 2019 Offseason
Previously, I wrote about some buy-low candidates for rebuilding teams. Much like rebuilding, knowing when to sell a player is a bit of an art. The best possible outcome is that you are able to benefit from a players peak years, or even a series of games, and sell at the last possible moment before they drop off. Of course, this is sometimes, or most often, difficult to predict. Much like the stock market, sometimes you sell too soon. Sometimes too late. This is the way of fantasy football.
This article aims to help you find players that have hit their peak and will only decline in value. Without further ado, here are some players you should consider selling in the 2019 offseason.
Sell-High Candidates in Dynasty
Riley Bymaster (@DTC_RileyB) had a “profound” thought that a player’s dynasty value is much more fluid than it seems. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen might be the best example of this.
Don't ever tell me dynasty is not a "daily stock watch." Yes, it's dynasty and all about the big picture, but one bad game will seemingly tank a player's value and open huge buy low windows. It's more daily than it seems
— Riley Bymaster (@DTC_RileyB) December 17, 2018
Thielen started the 2018 season with eight straight games of over 100-yards receiving. This prompted many to declare Thielen a top-five, and even the top, dynasty wide receiver. This includes FFStatistics’ founder Addison Hayes (@amazehayes_). You can listen to that episode of the podcast here.
Is Adam Thielen a top-5 dynasty WR?
— FFStatistics (@FFStatistics_) October 10, 2018
The second half of Thielen’s 2018 season, however, took a turn for the worse. In his last eight games, Thielen only eclipsed the 100-yard mark once. Thielen finished as a top-12 wide receiver eight times in 2018, only one of which occurred in the final eight games.
Thielen’s fall-off can be explained by a combination of two phenomena. First, the return of a healthy running back Dalvin Cook. Cook missed four games through the first eight weeks of the season and was hampered in others. From week 11 on, Cook finished with all three of his top-12 weekly finishes and five of his seven top-24 finishes. In each of the Vikings last six games, Cook finished with double-digit fantasy points.
The second phenomenon was quarterback Kirk Cousins’ struggles. Cousins’ weekly fantasy output dipped below 20 only twice in the Vikings first eight games, his lowest point total was 19. In the second half of the season, however, Cousins produced less than 20 fantasy points five times and less than 15 four times. Again, this could have to do with the emergence of Cook and the Vikings philosophy on winning. Obviously, a quarterback will have a significant effect on a wide receiver’s production.
Regardless, Thielen had the best season of his career. And that is actually concerning. It would be one thing if Thielen were 25 years old. However, Thielen will be 29 before the 2019 season starts. Thielen’s z-score trajectory has continued to climb each of the last four seasons. Simply, z-score measures how much a player deviates from the average production. In 2018, Thielen ranks in the 97th percentile of wide receiver z-scores at his age. This generally means he cannot do much better. The other side of this is the age cliff for wide receivers. Both the z-score trend below as well this article show that wide receiver production starts to decline around 28 years old. So, while Thielen had his best season as a pro, it is unlikely that he can repeat that production.
Adam Thielen’s Value
Now that you know why you should be trying to sell Thielen, what can you get for him? I recently conducted a poll on Twitter (I know, not the most credible of sources) asking what Thielen’s value is going into the 2019 offseason.
Final poll: Adam Thielen's value entering 2019 offseason?
— Sam Lane (@FFStompy) January 2, 2019
Over 1,700 (!) people voted and the answers were all over. 53% believe that Thielen is worth at least one 2019 early first round rookie pick. There is likely a little bias here as most people are voting what they would give for Thielen. Michael Zingone (@FFzinger) of FFStatistics has developed a proprietary trade calculator that says Thielen is worth the first overall 2019 rookie pick and the sixth overall rookie pick. What this equates to is a young wide receiver, i.e. Kenny Golladay, and another piece.
Thielen is coming off the best season of his career. At the ripe age of 29, he likely will not reproduce his numbers from 2018 going forward. The Vikings have also shown the propensity to want to run the ball and win with their defense, especially with a young, talented running back in Cook. This caps Thielen’s ceiling.
Currently, Thielen’s value is high and likely will not get any higher. If you can sell him to get younger at wide receiver and add more pieces to your dynasty roster, you should. Even if you lose out on a great year from Thielen in 2019, his value will decline sooner rather than later. You should be selling him before it is too late.
This might be extremely controversial. After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver just finished his sixth straight season finishing in the top-five fantasy wide receivers. Brown finished as the WR5 on the season, which is down from the WR2 in 2017, which is down from the WR1 in 2016. While this trend is not overly concerning, it is a downward trend.
2018 also proved to be one of Brown’s least efficient seasons in the last five. In fact, Brown’s points per opportunity (PPO) have been on a general downward trend since 2014. Though the figures below do not show 2018, Brown produced a 1.91 PPO, continuing the general downward trend.
Several other things are working against Brown’s continued elite production as well. First is the emergence of his young teammate, JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster was targeted only three times fewer than Brown in 2018, outproducing him in regards to receptions yards by 129 yards. Smith-Schuster finished as the WR8 on the season, just behind Brown at WR5.
Second is Brown’s age. Like Thielen, Brown has passed the age where wide receivers begin their decline in production. Brown turns 31 before the 2019 season. While Brown has maintained elite production into his 30s and has been atop the z-scores for his age over the past six seasons, he is primed for a decline in production over the next few seasons, as the z-score trends show.
Finally, there has been some drama coming out of the Steelers’ locker room. First, news came out that Brown was benched in week 17 for refusing to practice after a dispute with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Brown then requested a trade. While it will be hard to trade Brown due to his contract. Brown’s dead cap hit on the Steelers if he were to be traded or cut is $21.2M in 2019. If a team trades for Brown, they would owe him over $15M next season. It’s not all as simple as that as there are other things like deadlines involved, but you get a general idea. This is a lot of money to eat for an aging wide receiver.
The other aspect of Brown wanting a trade is his production without Roethlisberger. Using FFStatistic’s weekly splits tool under the ‘Weekly Data’ tab, we can see Brown’s production with and without Roethlisberger over his career. In the 14 games without Roethlisberger, Brown scores over five PPR fantasy points fewer than with Roethlisberger. In fact, all of Brown’s numbers are down when he does not have Roethlisberger throwing him the ball. This is likely due to having to play with a far-less talented backup, but the question remains whether Brown can still be as productive with a different starting quarterback throwing him the ball.
Antonio Brown’s Value
I also conducted a poll on Twitter to gauge how the fantasy community values Brown after the trade news came out.
What is Antonio Brown's value post drama?
— Sam Lane (@FFStompy) January 2, 2019
Most people that voted believe that Brown is worth two early first-round rookie picks. Again, this is likely what people are willing to pay for him. Comparing to Michael Zingone’s proprietary trade calculator again, he gets a value equal to the first and third overall rookie picks. So it seems that the community and the trade calculator agree on Brown’s value. Much like Thielen, you likely can get younger at wide receiver and add another piece while not sacrificing much in terms of production. You may be able to get a wide receiver like Mike Evans, who is coming off of a quiet 1,524 yard, eight touchdown season, and a rookie pick for Brown.
Brown has been the cream of the crop in terms of fantasy wide receivers over the past six seasons. However, Brown has seen a drop in his fantasy finishes at his position over the last couple of seasons. He has also seen a general downward trend in his efficiency over the last several seasons. Brown’s age may also be catching up to him sooner rather than later. With the emergence of Smith-Schuster as well as drama in the Steelers’ locker room, Brown may not be with the Steelers much longer. Questions exist on whether Brown can produce elite numbers without Roethlisberger.
While Brown’s value may not be nearly as high as it was a couple of seasons ago, or even to start the season, he is still an extremely valuable asset. General consensus says that Brown is worth in the area of two early first-round rookie picks. With this value, you can likely trade him for a younger, productive wide receiver and more. With questions surrounding Brown’s future, I recommend selling as soon as possible.
The Atlanta Falcons running back is an unrestricted free agent when the NFL calendar flips to the 2019 season in March. In anticipation of his free agency, Coleman’s value climbed in the 2018 offseason. According to average draft position (ADP) from mock drafts run by DLF, Coleman’s ADP has continuously climbed since July of 2018 through November of 2018. A Twitter poll conducted in June 2018 valued Coleman at a late first-round rookie pick. A significant percentage valued as at least a middle first-round pick.
@F3Pod @DynastyOuthouse @spoony____ @DynastyTradesHQ @dynasty_beast @DynastyHHPod @DoOrDynasty @amazehayes_ @RekedFantasy @IDPGuys @Dynasty_ER @DFF_Dynasty @FFTraderJoe
Doing some research. Tevin Coleman rookie pick value in ppr?
— Sam Lane (@FFStompy) June 17, 2018
The anticipation was warranted at the time. Despite limited touches in 2016 and 2017, Coleman finished as an RB2 in both seasons. Coleman was actually more efficient with his touches than his teammate, starting running back Devonta Freeman.
Part of the anticipation is trying to predict where he will land next season. The Falcons likely will not bring Coleman back as they owe Freeman $6.75M next season and cannot afford to pay another running back a large sum of money like Coleman will likely demand. The Falcons, also in anticipation of Coleman’s free agency, drafted former Southern Mississippi running back Ito Smith in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft.
There are a few enticing landing spots for Coleman next season that would likely give Coleman an uptick in touches. For instance, the Houston Texan may be in the market for a running back next season with Lamar Miller hitting free agency and questions around D’Onta Foreman. The Raiders may also give Coleman a look with Marshawn Lynch likely done for his career and Doug Martin older and relatively ineffective. If Coleman signs somewhere that he could see more touches, his value should jump.
However, more touches may not be in the best interests of Coleman, In 2018, Coleman had the best fantasy season of his career. Coleman was given more opportunity due to multiple injuries suffered by Freeman, ultimately landing him on the IR. While Coleman did ultimately produce the highest fantasy point total in his career, thanks to playing in a full season for the first time ever, he was not overly efficient with his touches. Coleman’s efficiency has actually gone down with an increased number of touches over the last two seasons.
Tevin Coleman’s Value
This is a difficult question to answer. Coleman’s value has been all over the place over the last season. The poll before the season said he is worth a late first-round pick. A poll conducted more recently says he is worth a second-round pick or less.
What is Tevin Coleman's PPR value entering the 2019 offseason?
— Sam Lane (@FFStompy) January 2, 2019
Michael Zingone’s trade calculator disagrees with this latest value. The calculator gives Coleman a value of a middle first-round pick. The reason it is so difficult to gauge Coleman’s value is that it can change in an instant. It seems that his value was hurt by his inefficiency this season given his increase in opportunity. However, if Coleman signs somewhere that he can see an uptick in opportunity, that value will jump.
I personally would do one of two things. If you can get a first-round pick value for Coleman now, I would be selling. If not, I would wait until he signs somewhere with the hope that you see a value spike. Sell if his value spikes into the first round. Coleman has shown that he can be a valuable player in fantasy. He has produced RB2 seasons in each of the last three seasons. That is worth more than a second-round value, but how much more is up for debate.
Coleman has been a productive running back in each of the last three seasons. While he has never been a top-tier talent, Coleman has been a capable RB2. He has shown, however, that he is not much more than that. With an increase in touches, Coleman’s efficiency has dropped.
Despite this, Coleman’s value seems to be relatively high in anticipation of his free agency in 2019. If Coleman signs with a team that he could foreseeably be given more touches, his value could climb even higher. If you can get a first-round rookie pick value from him, I would sell. Coleman has proven has demonstrated that he is not much more than a complimentary running back and would be better served in a shared backfield. Take advantage of his anticipated workload next season and sell high.