Trading Your Dynasty Rookie Draft Picks for the Sure Thing

The best strategy for achieving success in dynasty fantasy football varies depending on who you talk to. I personally believe you can find success several different ways when constructing, reshaping and maintaining your dynasty league roster, but this piece is for those who would prefer to trade their rookie draft picks for more proven players in an attempt to lessen the risk regarding the future of your squad.

For the purpose of this article I’ve grouped draft picks together in clusters of three, assuming the players that you’ll be able to target in that range of draft picks will be relatively the same. For example, while there’s definitely greater value in pick 1.01 compared to 1.03, you’re still likely looking at the same quality of player when gauging the trade value of a proven commodity that you’ll receive in return for these picks.

If this all makes sense so far, good, we’re on the same page. If the wording in that last paragraph has you scratching your head, no worries, just keep reading and it will all make sense soon.

One final thing before we get started. Everyone values players differently, especially in dynasty leagues where some teams are rebuilding while others are in win-now mode; so while these trades will make sense for some, they will not make sense for all. You’ll also be able to land higher-quality players by offering multiple draft picks, but in today’s article, the hypothetical trades are revolving around single draft picks.

Players to target if attempting to trade your pick between 1.01-1.03…

This range of picks is obviously going to return the biggest stud(s) when it comes to trading for proven players. While there’s risk associated with every rookie that enters the league, you’re definitely going to want to land a proven player that still has a decent amount of solid statistical years ahead of him because the potential that you’re giving up this high in the draft is pretty coveted.

Quarterbacks:

  • Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Look, you’re likely not getting Mahomes away from his current owner, but my personal belief is this is likely the starting point when it comes to trade negotiations that involve the Chiefs’ signal caller. Mahomes will be 26 years old when the 2021 season starts, so barring any significant injury, you can bank on him playing at an elite level for another 10 years. Parting ways with the 1.01 would likely be worth it if you could land Mahomes, but I think it would end up costing you a little more than just this top pick.

Running Backs:

  • Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
  • Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
  • Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

While it may be a challenge to pull Jacobs away from his current owner, if the Elliott and Mixon owners are looking to rebuild and you’re in win-now mode and have one of the draft’s top picks due to a previous trade that broke your way, it may be worth your while to explore a trade for one of these options. A rookie running back that you grab early in the draft may pan out already in year one, but your chances of capitalizing sooner rather than later greatly increase by possessing proven workhorses such as Elliott or Mixon. Despite it feeling like Elliott has been in the league for quite a long time, he’ll only be 26 years old when the 2021 season begins, whereas Mixon will be 25. Not only will these players help now but they also have 3-4 decent years left in the tank.

Wide Receivers:

  • Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
  • Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is a prime example of what I discussed briefly in the intro. There are numerous receivers that you could attempt to land in exchange for picks 1.01-1.03 plus an additional player and/or draft capital, but Cooper and Godwin are the two that I would target if you’re attempting to trade just the single draft pick. Both players are proven, both have numerous good years left (Cooper will be 27 this year while Godwin just turned 25), and both can be trusted as your squad’s WR1 (or a very high-end WR2 if you already have a stud WR) if you’re in a position to compete for a championship in 2021 or 2022. The only potential downside to trading for either of these players right now is the uncertainty as to whether or not they’ll be playing for their current teams much longer. However, both Cooper and Godwin have the required skillset that will allow them to produce at a high level nearly anywhere they land.

Players to target if attempting to trade your pick between 1.04-1.06…

The players you’re likely targeting in this range of picks may be a touch older, but would still fall into the “good to very good” tier in their positional rankings. Part of my strategy is to compare the player you’re trading for to the player you’d likely be selecting with that selection. While it’s not quite as cut and dried as this, since you have to factor in the veteran player’s age, the rookie’s potential, etc, it’s a good starting point when considering what you’ll be willing to give up to land a proven player.

Quarterbacks:

  • Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
  • Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Yes, these players have unresolved “issues” with their current teams, but Prescott and Wilson would still be considered great options to lead your fantasy team at the quarterback position; especially if you believe you’re just a top-tier quarterback away from competing for a championship. The fact that Prescott is coming back from a fairly serious injury, and Wilson appears to have differing opinions from others within the Seahawks’ organization, may actually help you if you’re attempting to trade for either of them this offseason. Prescott was averaging over 30 fantasy points per game last year before his Week 5 season-ending injury, and Wilson finished as QB6 despite not finishing the season nearly as well as he started it.

Running Backs:

  • David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
  • Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Montgomery is the player I’m most on the fence about in this entire article, but when you consider the fact that he finished as the RB4 in half PPR leagues, and was one of just eight running backs that eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in 2020 in an offense opposing defenses didn’t truly fear, I feel a bit better about potentially giving up this high of a draft pick to land him. Ekeler may be tough to acquire this offseason, especially in half and full PPR leagues, but if his current owner is looking to rebuild, this range of picks may be the sweet spot. He was a bit forgotten last season due to the number of weeks he missed via injury, but after returning to the team in Week 12, Ekeler proceeded to average 14 fantasy points per game over the remainder of the season. Montgomery will be 24 when the season starts while Ekeler will be 26, so you still have quality years ahead with both players.

Wide Receivers:

  • Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
  • Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
  • Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Unless the owner of these receivers is in rebuild mode it’s unlikely that they’ll be actively looking to shop these players this offseason, but offering a pick between 1.04-1.06 will absolutely make the current owner give the trade proposal some serious consideration. The current owner may end up wanting a little more by the time it’s all said and done, but this would be a good starting point. And honestly, if they don’t want to budge and you don’t want to add more to the proposal, I’d suggest holding out and see if your league mate eventually changes their tune, since as we inch closer to your rookie draft, that high of a pick is going to look more and more enticing. Golladay is the wild card of the bunch due to free agency and the fact that he’ll have a new quarterback in 2021 even if he stays in Detroit, but I personally believe he also carries the most upside of these three receivers. Kupp is a top candidate to have a nice bounce-back season in 2021 after falling to WR27 last year, due in large part to scoring just three touchdowns. I would expect Kupp and the Rams’ offense to show more consistency this upcoming season with Matthew Stafford now at quarterback. Allen is coming off a fantastic 2020 campaign in which he finished as the WR14 and will now be in year two with one of the most dynamic, strong-armed young quarterbacks in the league in Justin Herbert. The downside to all three of these players is their age. While the age of 28-29 (age range all three players will fall into at some point during the 2021 season) isn’t terribly old for a receiver, it does somewhat limit how truly valuable they are in dynasty leagues.

Tight Ends:

  • Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
  • George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

What you’re essentially looking at here, as a tight end-needy dynasty player that owns a pick between 1.04-1.06, is whether or not you want to hold the pick and take Kyle Pitts, or go for the more sure thing and try to land a player like Waller or Kittle. If the person in this hypothetical situation was me, it would be very hard to pass up the opportunity to select Pitts and (hopefully) be set at the position for the next 10+ years, but if I believe that an elite tight end who can give me a positional advantage on a weekly basis will put me over the top while Pitts is still acclimating to the NFL, then the trade makes more sense. It’s hard to part ways with a first-round pick for a tight end in non-premium TE scoring leagues, but these are the kind of players you make exceptions to the rule for. Also, there’s going to be a crowd that says Waller and Kittle belong in the 1.01-1.03 range, and while I understand the argument, I’m placing them in this range due to the fact that this is the top price that I’d personally be willing to pay.

Players to target if attempting to trade your pick between 1.07-1.09…

This is the point in the first round – in a typical year – where the players you’re selecting aren’t considered quite as much of a sure thing compared to the top five or six picks that are already off the board. Because of this, you’re likely targeting players that are either nearing the end of their career and can help push you to the top within the next year or two, or you’re taking a chance on a player that’s shown flashes over the course of the first few years of their career and you’re banking on a breakout coming soon. Obviously the player you’re targeting in a trade for one of these picks doesn’t necessarily have to fit one of those two descriptions, but due to the uncertainty surrounding the rookie that’ll be selected in this range, you’re not going to land a young stud that’ll be a centerpiece of your team for years to come.

Quarterbacks:

  • Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

A lot of people wrote off Rodgers as an elite fantasy quarterback prior to the 2020 season, but he proceeded to use the motivation of the Packers selecting Jordan Love in the first round to produce the second-best fantasy season for a QB last year. At 37 years old, the current owner may have similar feelings that the Packers’ front office had last year, so if attempting to acquire a player with a pick falling in the 1.07-1.09 range, Rodgers would be my preferred realistic target.

Running Backs:

  • Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns
  • Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

You don’t look at either of these names from a fantasy perspective and think “sexy”, but they do fall into the category of “consistent”, and more often than not in fantasy that’s what you need. Hunt’s ceiling is capped by being the 1B to Nick Chubb, and Carson’s future is a bit uncertain due to his impeding free agency, but both of these players should find themselves solidified in the RB2 conversation this upcoming fantasy season. Hunt finished 2020 as the RB10, but likely won’t be able to repeat that performance since Chubb missed a handful of games midway through the season. Carson ended up as the RB16 last season despite playing in just 12 games and seeing an overall reduced workload. Since both of these players will likely be in a platoon situation in 2021, the current owner may be willing to part ways with the likes of Hunt/Carson for a mid-to-late first rounder.

Wide Receivers:

  • Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
  • Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

This crop of receivers goes to show how much easier it is to find quality WR’s compared to RB’s in fantasy football. There are quite a few receivers that you could deal for when offering a draft pick in the 1.07-1.09 range, but these four make up my list of preferred options. Here’s a quick sales pitch as to why each of these players fall into this category. Jones finished outside of the top-10 receivers in fantasy for the first time since 2013 last year, but that was in large part due to only playing in nine games because of injury. When he did play he showed why he’s consistently a WR1, averaging over 13 fantasy points per game including three games with more than 17 points. Lockett turned into the clear WR2 to D.K. Metcalf in Seattle last year, but still finished as the WR11 in standard-scoring leagues and the WR8 in PPR leagues. Lockett will be 29 this season, but will remain a high-end WR2 for your fantasy squad for a few more years. Smith-Schuster is a bit more challenging to project since he’s scheduled to hit free agency this offseason. Regardless, I’m still buying into the potential Smith-Schuster showed as a big-play receiver in his first two NFL seasons, and despite being in the league for four years already, he’s still just 24 years old. Boyd is an intriguing player in this range since it appears he and Tee Higgins will be Joe Burrow’s primary options at receiver moving forward. Boyd’s potential is capped if the Bengals select a receiver at No. 5 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, but that’s a risk you’ll have to be willing to take if making your trade before April’s draft.

Tight Ends:

  • Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

I’m typically not a fan of targeting non-running backs of the Ravens in fantasy, but there’s no denying the success Andrews has had in Baltimore since entering the league in 2018 (TE2 in 2019 & TE4 in ’20). Despite Lamar Jackson being limited as a passer, he does have solid chemistry with Andrews and goes to him often as a security blanket; basically making him immune to Jackson’s lack of consistent production through the air. Andrews will be 26 year old this fantasy season, and while I’m not sure I’d want to part ways with anything better than 1.07, this range of a mid-to-late first rounder feels more than fair for Andrews.

Players to target if attempting to trade your pick between 1.10-1.12…

Drafting in this range of picks (likely) means you finished in the top three of your league last year, so there’s a good chance you’ll have a competitive squad once again in 2021. The players you would be trading for here are guys that can make an immediate impact as an RB2/WR3/Flex in your starting lineup on a weekly basis; rather than keeping your draft pick and selecting a player you may be able to use in the event of bye weeks or injury, but most likely won’t be a regular contributor until year two or three.

Quarterbacks:

  • Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Stafford has proven he can be fantasy relevant, finishing as a QB1 six times between 2011-2017, but has tapered off recently finishing outside the top 15 each of the last three seasons. However, a change in location could be exactly what Stafford needs, and parting ways with a late first-round rookie pick in exchange for a 33-year-old quarterback now playing with multiple playmakers and an innovative head coach probably isn’t a terrible investment.

Running Backs:

  • None

You won’t find many running backs worth trading for at this value, and that’s simply due to the fact that impact RB’s are hard to come by and will more often than not cost you more than a late first. There are currently no RB’s that you could realistically trade a late first-round pick for that are intriguing to me. I promise I’m not taking the easy way out, I’m just not super fond of the likes of James Conner and Kenyan Drake at this point in time (those where the players I considered nominating, but since I wouldn’t personally make this trade, I won’t tell you to do it either).

Wide Receivers:

  • Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
  • DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
  • Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

While I’m cool on the running backs you’re likely to be able to trade for in this range, I am intrigued by these three receivers. Let’s once again do the exercise of comparing these players to the receivers you’d likely be able to land if you keep your draft pick. There’s not a solid consensus in regards to the receivers in this year’s draft class, but it’s fairly safe to say you’ll be considering the likes of Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. While I’m fine with all of these guy’s long-term value, Gallup, Parker and Thielen are already what you hope your draft pick in this range is able to turn into. While Thielen is clearly the “win-now” player of these three, Gallup is one of my top buy lows at just 25 years old and Parker should see a statistical bump if he’s able to remain healthy in year two with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

If you have any questions regarding any of these hypothetical trades, or if you have a trade proposal you’d like my opinion on, feel free to reach out on Twitter or leave a message in the comments below.

In the event you prefer to hold onto your rookie draft picks, be sure to check out our dynasty league rookie rankings, which feature an overall big board as well as positional rankings.

Ben Morgan is a co-host and blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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