Between the Combine, free agency, and the NFL Draft, there’s a lot going on in the NFL over the next couple of months. We do our best to not only assess current player value but to predict how it may change in the future. Let’s take a look at some players that had strong 2021 rookie seasons and are top dynasty fantasy football trade targets.
2021 Rookie dynasty trade targets
The 2021 rookie class is one of the best of all time. There were a ton of talented players that were incredibly productive both in real life and fantasy football.
Several 2021 rookies will be popular trade targets in dynasty leagues entering their sophomore seasons. How should dynasty managers handle trade talks involving some of these players?
Javonte Williams, Denver Broncos
The Broncos traded up to draft Javonte Williams in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Williams was clearly their running back of the future. However, Melvin Gordon remained in town and wasn’t going to just go away.
Williams wound up with a 50% snap share. He was slightly behind Gordon’s 52%, and that included Gordon missing a game. The volume was frustrating for managers who needed more from the rookie.
Entering 2022, Williams is going to be the lead back — of this, I am certain. With that said, Gordon’s status still looms. He’s an unrestricted free agent, but both the player and team have expressed interest in a reunion. Gordon wants a primary role, though. Hopefully, that compels him to sign elsewhere, freeing up Williams to really break out. Even if Gordon returns to Denver, he will be the 1B in this timeshare.
We saw a glimpse of what Williams might look like as a feature back in Week 13 last season against the Chiefs. In that game, Williams totaled 178 yards and scored 29.8 PPR fantasy points. He was the overall RB1 on the week.
Dynasty managers should be aggressively targeting Williams in trades. Even if he has to deal with another year of Gordon, Williams is just 22 years old. It’s only a matter of time before he’s a weekly fantasy RB1.
The bigger concern for Williams was his ceiling on a bad offense. With Russell Wilson in town, that assuages those concerns. The Broncos should be a top-10 offense and score at least 10 more touchdowns than they did last season. Williams is on the short list of running backs with overall RB1 upside. He is easily worth multiple dynasty rookie picks in the first two rounds plus players. Go get him.
Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
I know what you’re thinking. Who exactly is trading Ja’Marr Chase? It’s a fair question. As we know, everyone has a price. Chase’s is quite high, but fantasy managers should never turn away from a potential trade without at least hearing the other manager out. You never know how you might be able to improve your team.
Chase caught 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie. He displayed an overall WR1 ceiling, as evidenced by his two 200-yard games. Chase’s 11.4 yards per target was good for third-most in the NFL. He’s the total package receiver that can win underneath and downfield. Chase can rack up receptions and hit the splash play.
At 22 years old, Chase is poised to dominate for the next decade. The 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year is one of the most valuable assets in all of dynasty. If you have Chase on your roster, you should only trade him away if you are clearly being overpaid. And I mean massively. There should be little doubt you “won” the deal. I’m talking multiple first-round rookie picks and multiple useful players.
If you’re trying to get Chase via trade, don’t be afraid to overpay. Even if you need to sell 3-4 useful assets (picks + players) for the upcoming season, you will have Chase for the next decade. Trades for Chase will be few and far between given his status as the overall dynasty WR1 or WR2, but he is as good as advertised. If you find a Chase manager willing to talk, see if you can pry Chase and lock up an elite WR1 for the next 10 years.
Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
Jaylen Waddle opened his rookie season as a starter, but he didn’t really become the Dolphins’ WR1 until closer to midseason. It’s what makes his WR13 finish all the more impressive. Waddle averaged 15.5 PPR fantasy points per game for the season after averaging just 10.9 ppg over the first five weeks. He averaged 17.4 ppg from Week 6 on.
Entering his second season, Waddle is now the clear WR1. With seven double-digit target games, Waddle is a proven target hog. He had a near 25% target share as a rookie. I expect that percentage to increase in his second season.
With all that said, it’s possible dynasty managers are overvaluing the talented 2021 rookie receiver. Waddle’s aDOT (average depth of target) was a paltry 6.3 yards. By way of comparison, Waddle caught 23 more passes than Chase but had 440 fewer yards. Especially in half or non-PPR leagues, Waddle may be a bit overvalued.
Dynasty managers certainly shouldn’t be looking to jettison a 23-year-old talented receiver. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t at least explore the idea. See if someone else is willing to overpay.
Waddle certainly has WR1 upside. After all, he almost finished as a WR1 as a rookie. While not every player can have elite upside, if you can trade Waddle for someone who views him as a potential top-five player, it may not be the worst idea.
I would value Waddle as a guy who projects to be a mid-to-high WR2 for the better part of the next decade with a handful of spike seasons that see him finish as a low WR1. That is still incredibly valuable in dynasty leagues. Waddle is definitely not someone to avoid trading for, but there may be more value in trading him away ahead of the 2022 season.