With the fantasy season over, now is the time of NFL draft research and dynasty trades. After looking back at 2018 and putting in research on the numbers, I came up with a list of players I recommend exploring selling this off season.
I am focusing on impactful fantasy players who I believe are at a high point in value after the 2018 season. This includes some big fantasy names, and I am not saying they will be bad next season- but I believe the potential return is worth exploring.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
Mahomes is coming off an amazing season and it is hard to imagine his value ever being higher in dynasty than it is right now. People are probably hesitant to trade him, but I would at least see what offers I could get, especially in superflex leagues where he will demand a huge haul.
History tells us the numbers for Mahomes will come down after this season; in fact it is possible that this past season was his best ever. He threw for 50 TDs putting him in a tie with Tom Brady for the 2nd most ever in a season. Mahomes had a TD rate of 8.6% this year, in the season where Manning threw for 55 TDs he had a TD rate of 8.3%, the following season he dropped to 6.5%. Manning’s career TD rate is 5.7%.
Last year Deshaun Watson had a TD rate of 9.3% in 7 games, this year it dropped to 5.1%. Going back ever further Dan Marino threw for 48 TDs in 1984 with a TD rate of 8.5%, in 1986 he dropped to 30 TDs with a TD rate of 5.3%.
It is very possible Mahomes finishes as the QB1 again next year, but no player has repeated as the top QB since Dante Culpepper in 2004. Even if he manages to break that trend-his TD rate is unsustainable, which means even if he does it again the gap between Mahomes and the rest of the top fantasy QBs will not be nearly as large.
Aaron Rodgers has the highest career TD rate of anyone who has played after 1975 and that is 6.2%. Mahomes had 580 pass attempts this season, if his TD rate drops to 6.2% he would have thrown for 36 TDs, which is 56 less fantasy points for him on the year. If he drops to 5.5% his TD total would be 32, a difference of 72 points on the season. If you are going to move Mahomes this offseason is the time.
Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
This one hurts a little bit since I am such a big Thielen fan, but the way he was used over the 2nd half of the season is concerning. The Vikings and Mike Zimmer seem to want to run the ball and play defense more, which makes me worried that 2nd half usage will continue. He will still be a valuable player for fantasy, but once people have some distance from the season a lot of people will only look at his full season numbers and it is possible you can get someone to overpay for Thielen.
When breaking the season into 2 halves Thielen looks like a completely different player. Over the 1st 8 games he was over 100 yards every game, he caught 6 TDs and was far and away the WR1 in PPR with 202 points. Over the next 8 games he had 105.3 PPR points and was the WR25. He had fewer points per game than Zay Jones, Robbie Anderson and Robert Foster. Not exactly fantasy stars.
Some of the difference could be attributed to regression, his 1st half numbers put him on pace for one of the best seasons in NFL history. However a lot of the decline in production was usage related. Over the 1st half of the season he averaged 12 targets per game, over the 2nd half of the season he averaged just over 7 targets per game. The shift in volume is scary to see for a WR who derives a lot of his value from volume in PPR. The truth is as a player he is most likely somewhere between the 2 extremes of last season, but if he can be sold as a top end WR this off season it would be hard to resist.
Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
Ebron is coming of a career season in pretty much every way. He reached career highs in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns. His touchdown numbers are what stand out the most; he caught 13 in 2018 in 16 games. Over the rest of his career he had 11 in in 37 games. Moving to Andrew Luck was an upgrade at QB, but expecting him to continue his pace from 2018 is unrealistic. The tight end position is one of the weakest in fantasy, which means someone is likely to over pay for what they see as a top 5 tight end.
The other thing that concerns me is a healthy Jack Doyle. Doyle was not healthy most of 2018, but 5 of the 6 games Doyle was on the field his snap count percentage never dropped below 73%, with 2 games over 90%. In those 5 games Ebron’s highest snap count was 45.1% and 2 games were below 30%. The Colts still like Jack Doyle and if he is healthy they will use him. He is a more reliable option in the passing game, his lowest career catch rate is 71.4% in his rookie year, Ebron’s career best season was 71.8%. Ebron has also had issues in the past with drops. The combination of touchdown regression and less time on the field with a healthy Doyle means Ebron’s fantasy numbers will come back to earth.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos
Lindsay was one of the biggest surprises of the fantasy season. Some early dynasty rankings I have looked at show Lindsay as a top 12 RB. This is higher than I value him, which means I expect to be able to trade him for a solid return. The first issue is the situation in Denver is not ideal, Case Keenum is temporary and the team will likely continue to search for their QB of the future. That uncertainty is not ideal for a long term asset.
Another big factor is Royce Freeman. Coming into the season he was the more hyped player after being drafted in the 3rd round. Both backs were used in the offense and it would be a surprise to see the Broncos give up on a talented player like Freeman already. The size of the two players is also a concern; Freeman is 4 inches taller and almost 40 lbs heavier. He is much better suited to get goal line work, which means more chances to get into the end zone.
Lindsay’s out of nowhere performance is also tough to view as reliable. I would be slightly wary of him being a 1 year success story. In this case I prefer to make a move while his value his high to mitigate the potential risk of a downturn in production. Considering Lindsay was likely a waiver wire add, turning him into something of value in a trade is a big win.