Welcome back to the Saturday Evening Post. Week 4 brought our first postponement due to COVID, showed how important doing the little things are (wear a mask, social distance), and heading into Week 5, we will have our first scheduled Tuesday night game.
This week I sat down with Dwain McFarland, an analyst for Pro Football Focus and Establish the Run. Dwain is the creator of the Utilization Report, co-host of the Fantasy Football Hustle, and 3-time top-five finisher in the FFPC. We chatted about how this crazy season is going, how NFL teams are having to manage rosters like fantasy managers.
Barry vs. Emmitt
Dennis Bennett: Thanks for joining me tonight.
Dwain McFarland: Thank you for asking. Is that a Barry Sanders jersey?
Dennis: Yes. I grew up a Lions fan and adopted the Browns when I moved to Ohio. So, I know losing.
Dwain: My brother and I used to play Madden 93 on Sega. We would always play Detroit vs. Dallas. Barry vs. Emmitt. We played no pass plays, and the score didn’t matter. Whoever had the most rushing yards was the winner.
Dennis: Who won Barry or Emmitt?
Dwain: Emmitt won more, I was the Cowboys. I think it was more about me being the older brother and just being better at the game.
Dennis: Great memories.
How is your season
Dennis: Let’s talk some fantasy football. We are four weeks into the season, how are your dynasty teams doing?
Dwain: It’s a mixed bag. One league is a start-up this year. In that particular one, I’m 4-0. It’s a devy league, and as long as I could still draft young impactful players, I continued to do so. Whereas a lot of people will jump straight into like the devy pool. Especially once you get past players that you think are going to be your starters.
I’ve been trying to make bets on young players that I think can pay off now or I feel have a clear path to pay off over the next four to five years. Guys like Juju Smith Schuster, Zeke Elliott, I wouldn’t say four to five years for Zeke, but three to four years. I got Dalvin Cook in that league, and things worked out really good because folks were thinking about the potential contract issue, not knowing if there be a whole Melvin Gordon situation, so I have a pretty good core of players in that one.
The other two leagues. One of them, I’m 3-1. These are those two are both IDP leagues as well. So, for the last three to four years, I’ve spent first-round picks on Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmonds, guys like that. So it’s a situation where the linebacker scores a ton of points, and that’s really what’s carried me, and it still is. I did just trade for Justin Jefferson in a deal that involved Roquan Smith. My receivers are terrible, and my linebackers are pretty good.
In my final dynasty league, I am 1-3, and my points are terrible. So I am doing the rebuild. I traded away as Ezekiel Elliot last week for two-ones. It’s also an IDP league, so I sent Shaq Thompson in that deal also. Right now, I’ve got a text from somebody wanting to work out a deal. I have Melvin Gordon, and I’m out of it. So I’m going to move him probably. I need a young quarterback, and he has Tua. So we’re trying to work on a deal there because his teams in contention, and he needs flex help. So like I said, it’s kind of a mixed bag.
Short term injury response
Dennis: We’re coming up on Week 5. We’ve had some injuries to some major players Barkley, Sutton, some short shorter-term injuries CMC, Michael Thomas, now Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb. So if you are rostering one of those players that will be out for a few weeks, at what point do you decide, I need to move this guy for somebody that helps me now because I feel like I’m still in it?
Dwain: It’s a different question in dynasty vs. redraft. I’m a much more patient in a dynasty. My reasoning really is that I don’t ever want to sell assets like that at their low. So if you’re dealing with Saquon Barkley or even CMC, less so with him, but especially if you’ve got a season-ending injury. It’s just the way that our minds work. People all of a sudden think they’re worth less.
This is still this early in the season. There’s a lot of teams still in it. You need to find someone that’s truly already out of it, that has some of these assets, and they truly see Barkley for what he’s worth. It comes down to finding the right trade partner. I don’t know about you, Dennis, but I’m always looking for who can I make a deal with that it’s going to really make sense for both of us. It’s going to make both of our teams better for what we want to do.
Like the Melvin Gordon deal I mentioned. When I’m dealing Melvin Gordon, it comes back to finding that right trade partner. A situation where they’re a piece or two away and they feel like they could compete; they’re typically looking up at one other team or two that is really good in the league. That usually creates a really good scenario for a trade, but sometimes you just can’t find the right partner. I don’t want to make a deal just to make it if that makes any sense.
Dennis: We follow so many people on Twitter in the industry, and I see some of these people just churning trade after trade. I’m like, man, how do you keep up with that. Holy cow. It’s like are you making your team better, or are you just trading because you want to trade. For me, I need to make my team better and hopefully help the other person. My struggle is being it like six, seven, or eight, thinking, I’m still in it. It always takes me like two years to start the rebuild because I’m delusional.
Dwain: We all go through those moments. The thing is, and you’ve played dynasty for a while, not all rebuilds are equal. It depends a lot on what the draft classes are that are coming up. It depends on which picks you are going to have. I’ve seen some teams tear down, and they’re still rebuilding three, four, or five years later. It’s like some NFL teams that just can’t get out of their own way, even though they get all these top picks over and over and over. They are stuck being a bottom team. The same thing can happen in fantasy.
Dennis: Who has been the biggest surprise in fantasy this year?
Dwain: I think Robby Anderson and James Robinson. Those two would be pretty good candidates. I’m sure there are some others that we’re not just thinking about. Robby Anderson is a guy that, in redraft, was going anywhere from round 14-15. In some deeper drafts, where there are really good fantasy players, you’re drafting against high to mid-stakes players, he was going around 14-15. What’s interesting with Robby Anderson is you could have gotten Anderson for pennies in dynasty. The return through 4 weeks, WR9 in ppr, has been nothing short of amazing.
James Robinson wasn’t even being drafted until about a week out from the season. He was at best a late-round rookie pick in dynasty, but mostly a free agent pick up. Those two guys, I would say, are the top ones. What’s interesting with Robby Anderson is you could have got Anderson for pennies.
Dennis: Outside of James Robinson, which rookie has surprised you the most?
Dwain: I think Justin Jefferson is the one. It wasn’t because of his talent. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. The word was he’s going to be the slot receiver. It sounded like he wouldn’t be on the field in two wide receiver sets. So my expectations for him, in dynasty, we’re still good. I didn’t expect him to break out so soon. In Week 1, he surpassed Olabisi Johnson in routes, and then in Week 2, he slid back a little bit. But the offense as a whole struggled. The Vikings had to get somebody else involved to spark the offense outside of Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook. It’s been, Justin Jefferson.
Running backs: Handcuffs and back ups, the more the merrier
Dennis: So with Christian McCaffrey out, Mike Davis has stepped up big. Davis is going to be a free agent after the season. Is he somebody you would start to target after McCaffrey comes back in hopes to stash until next season? Or does the unknown of where he might end up make Davis a pass?
Dwain: It just depends on the price. Most likely, whoever has him is just going to have that production in their head. That’s going to make the price tag probably too much for what I would want to give. With all the variables around Davis, if I could find the right price tag on him, I’d be willing to target him and see wait and see what could happen. I like to carry as many of those types of players as I can. Typically, it’s not a season-ending injury for the starter. It’s a three or four-week injury. Then you may get another two or three weeks out of another guy later. So I do value those kinds of players. I drafted Mike Davis in probably 30% of my redraft teams because he was kind of the one guy that was the clear handcuff, and he’s going way later than all the other very clear handcuffs like Mattison or Pollard.
Did ‘Rosen’d’ become a verb?
Dennis Bennett All right. One last question. Did Dwayne Haskins just get Rosen’d?
Dwain: Probably. You got a couple of things going on. There is a new coaching staff there. That staff is not going to see a reason to be loyal to Haskins. The best thing he can hope for is that Kyle Allen comes out and doesn’t do well. If Alex Smith gets on the field and for whatever reason struggles, maybe Haskins gets one more chance at the end of the season to show that he can still be the guy. Otherwise, I think they’re going to really be in a position to move on. Especially since Washington is going to end up with a really high pick, so they’re going to be staring at one of these top three quarterbacks, and I think it’s going to be tough for them to hold on. Unless the other two guys can’t cut it, and he can get back out there and give them one last look and just come through. He’s in a pretty tough spot, man.
Dennis Bennett I feel like there’s still hope for him and Josh Rosen both. So I guess we’ll see what happens to them. They may fade away. I appreciate your taking the time to speak with me today, Dwain.
What we learned
Thanks for reading. And thanks to Dwain for sharing his knowledge with us.
- Dwain schooled his brother on Madden 93 on Sega in the Barry Sanders/Emmitt Smith battle.
- In start-up devy leagues, you need to commit to NFL or college. Trying to swing back and forth will make you weak at both.
- The combination of won-loss record and points for is the key to the decision to go for win now or a rebuild as an injury response.
- Find the right trade partner. In dynasty both sides should be helped by a trade.
- Don’t trade just to trade. Be patient, find the right deal.
- Nobody saw Robby Anderson (WR9) or James Robinson (RB6) coming.
- Build your dynasty roster with lots of back up RBs for depth. They may not start many games, but after injuries hit, it is a lot easier to piece together a starting RB group.
- Dwayne Haskins got Rosen’d. Womp, womp.
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