Telling players on your dynasty fantasy football rosters that it’s time to pack their bags and say hello to their new teammates can be difficult but is necessary to sustain competitive squads. Knowing when to push the accept button on a dynasty deal is equally challenging. Sometimes this requires saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to players at their peak, which can be profitable or punishing.
Let’s roll the trade dice and discuss my top three dynasty fantasy football sells before the 2021 season.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
(Superflex ADP: RB11, 35.2 overall)
Austin Ekeler is primed for a magical season in Los Angeles this season. His inclusion on this list speaks to my approach to various situations in dynasty football. I’d rather be a year early than be left holding the bag.
Dealing with injuries last year, Ekeler’s elusive dipped ranking 41st in yards created per touch. This could be chalked up to an isolated sample but finished 52nd in the same metric in 2019. His pass game role will help with any early-down efficiency we see wane as his career progresses.
Ekeler will be 27 entering the 2022 season, which is worrisome by itself, but this is also the first year the Chargers can cut him and save money against the cap. If Los Angeles were to move on from him, they would save $3.5 million. Unless you're primed to contend for a dynasty title this year, you should consider moving Ekeler.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
(Superflex ADP: RB13, 36.7 overall)
Right now, I can feel the eyerolls at seeing Joe Mixon’s name here. Hold on. Hear me out. Yes, Giovani Bernard is gone, but Mixon isn’t the straw that stirs the drink here. Joe Burrow and this passing attack is the main squeeze here. The Bengals led the NFL in neutral-script passing rate with Burrow under center last year. That’s returning with Cincinnati selecting Ja'Marr Chase over Penei Sewell.
While discussing the offensive line, the Bengals signed Riley Reiff and drafted Jackson Carman in the second round, but this line is still problematic for Mixon. Last year the Bengals ranked 31st in adjusted line yards, 22nd in second-level yards, and 25th in open field yards. Carman could help the run game, but Reiff was brought in to help Burrow, not Mixon. Reiff has declined as a run blocker in each of the last three seasons, with his strength residing in pass protection. In 2020 among 54 offensive tackles with 250 or more run-blocking snaps, Reiff held the No. 40 PFF run-blocking grade.
The Bengals can move on from Mixon as soon as next season, saving $3.2 million against the cap. That number climbs to 7.3 million in 2023. His ADP has increased from RB19 (55.2 overall) to RB13 (36.7 overall) over the last month. I think now is the time to think about shipping Mixon off.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
(Superflex ADP: WR22, 75.2 overall)
Brandon Aiyuk enjoyed a bonkers stretch last year for the 49ers. In Weeks 7-15 (six games played), he saw a 30% target share with 39% of the team’s air yards. During this stretch, he was the WR3 (20.8, PPR) in fantasy points per game. This type of production is glorious, but we also need context to the perfect storm Aiyuk found himself in. During that span, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel were each active only twice. All three were on the field in one of those six games. Aiyuk was the last man left standing and benefited as a target vacuum. Zooming out even further, all three played in only three games all season last year in which each was seeing 62% or higher snap counts. Weeks 5-7 Kittle proved he was still the top option in the passing game with a 27% target share (Samuel 20%, Aiyuk 18%).
Aiyuk will be fighting with Deebo Samuel for the secondary role in what projects to be a low-volume passing offense. Kyle Shanahan has overseen offenses ranked 16th or lower in passing attempts in five of his last seven years as an offensive coordinator or head coach. Unless you’re projecting another injury tsunami to hit the 49ers’ depth chart, it’s time to wave bye-bye to Aiyuk in dynasty.