By Steven Van Tassell (@SteveVT33)
If you’re joining a “regular” dynasty league and want to take your franchise QB in the first round, then the choice is easy. You draft Patrick Mahomes. If you feel like you need a top RB with that first round selection, there are plenty of them to choose from. Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook all fit the profile of a RB1 who you can plug in your lineup every week for the next few years. Or maybe you want to go against the grain and take a WR first, then follow up with a RB or QB in the second round. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill or Stefon Diggs would slot in your WR1 spot on a weekly basis nicely. Finally, how about taking the #1 player at the TE position for the past several seasons? If that’s what you’re thinking, then Travis Kelce is your man. All great options and depending on your draft position, you could choose anyone of them, however…
Question: Besides being great, what else do all of them have in common?
Answer: They all make at least $12.5 million per year
In a “regular” dynasty league, that doesn’t matter. You draft the best player available from your draft board and move on. However, in Dynasty Owner, you’ll need to account for player salaries when thinking about who you want to draft with your first pick (and every other pick as well).
Salaries matter a lot because there’s a salary cap (projected at $123.2 million for the 2021 season) and you can’t go over it. Taking the top scoring player during the fantasy regular season in Patrick Mahomes might seem like the correct choice, but are you willing to spend $45 million of your salary cap on him? Or do you wait and draft someone who might be slightly less productive, but who has a much lower salary? That way, you’ll be able to save some salary cap room for other quality players later on in the draft. Adding in salaries makes a tough decision even tougher and is what makes Dynasty Owner different than almost every other type of fantasy football league.
Which affordable players should you be thinking about for your first round pick in 2021? That depends on your draft slot, but here are some ideas about players who are likely to be 2021 Dynasty Owner first round selections.
All stats are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth 1 point for every 40 yards.
Standard Dynasty Owner scoring for kickers gives you 1 point for every extra point, while a missed extra point will cost you 1 point. It’s 2 points for a field goal of between 0 and 39 yards, 4 points for a field goal between 40 and 49 yards and 5 points for a field goal of 50 yards or longer. A missed field goal of between 0 and 39 yards will cost you 3 points, while a miss of 40 yards or more is a loss of 2 points.
For the purposes of this article, all statistics cited are from the full 2020 NFL regular season. The Dynasty Owner regular season stats cited at times are based on Weeks 1 – 13 of the NFL regular season. The Dynasty Owner playoff statistics cited are based on Weeks 14 – 16 of the NFL regular season.
2020 Top 25 Draft Picks
To give new Dynasty Owners a peek at how Dynasty Owner drafts are different than regular dynasty league or redraft league drafts (and as a reminder for current Dynasty Owners), here are the Top 25 draft picks across all 2020 Dynasty Owner leagues. Sure, we saw some strange picks, such as Daniel Jones being selected at #5 overall, but in general, these were the players off the draft boards the earliest in 2020.
|ADP||Position||Player, Team||2020 Salary|
|2||QB||Lamar Jackson, BAL||$2,367,912|
|3.1||RB||Christian McCaffrey, CAR||$4,310,326|
|3.5||RB||Saquon Barkley, NYG||$7,798,688|
|3.5||QB||Patrick Mahomes, KC||$4,106,447|
|6.1||QB||Kyler Murray, ARI||$8,789,661|
|7.7||RB||Alvin Kamara, NO||$964,443|
|9.4||RB||Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC||$2,705,393|
|9.7||RB||Ezekiel Elliott, DAL||$15,000,000|
|9.8||QB||Deshaun Watson, HOU||$3,463,570|
|11.8||RB||Nick Chubb, CLE||$1,845,774|
|12.5||RB||Josh Jacobs, LV||$2,983,350|
|12.5||RB||Dalvin Cook, MIN||$1,588,334|
|13.9||RB||Miles Sanders, PHI||$1,337,544|
|14.2||WR||Michael Thomas, NO||$19,250,000|
|15.6||RB||Joe Mixon, CIN||$1,362,544|
|16.1||RB||Jonathan Taylor, IND||$1,957,287|
|20.6||RB||Aaron Jones, GB||$650,484|
|21.6||WR||Chris Godwin, TB||$821,041|
|22.1||RB||Austin Ekeler, LAC||$6,125,000|
|23.8||RB||Derrick Henry, TEN||$10,278,000|
|24.7||QB||Josh Allen, BUF||$5,295,760|
|24.9||WR||DeAndre Hopkins, ARI||$16,200,000|
|26.1||QB||Joe Burrow, CIN||$9,047,534|
|26.8||WR||D.J. Moore, CAR||$2,792,829|
|27.1||RB||J.K. Dobbins, BAL||$1,432,359|
As you can see, the Dynasty Owner Top 25 is heavily weighted towards players who cost their Dynasty Owners less than $10 million in salary in 2020. A total of 21 out of the Top 25 earned less than $10 million, while 16 made less than $5 million. Just over half (13) had salaries of less than $3 million and 9 out of the Top 25 had salaries of less than $2 million in 2020.
Just looking at the Top 12, aka the first round, we see that only one player (Ezekiel Elliott) had a salary of over $10 million, while three players (Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook) made less than $2 million. While all three of those RBs are great players, it appears that many Dynasty Owners in 2020 were looking not only for the “best” players in the first round, but a player who would perform well and not cost them too much in salary.
Let’s take a look at some of the affordable players who you might draft with your first selection. None of these players are projected to cost you over $10 million against the 2021 Dynasty Owner salary cap right now and not all of them will be first round selections. Someone is bound to want Patrick Mahomes and not care about his salary as some owners did with Elliott last year. Others might draft one of the rookies being highlighted by Nate Christian (@NateNFL) in his Prospect Preview articles, just as Clyde Edwards-Helaire was drafted in the first round in many Dynasty Owner drafts last year.
The QB Locks
“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”Benjamin Franklin
I’ll add a third certainty to that list. The following three players will be drafted in the first round of your 2021 Dynasty Owner draft – Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray.
The certainty comes from the fact that they are the only three players who were drafted in the Top 25 last season, finished in the Top 25 in Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2020 and are scheduled to have the same salary in 2021 as they did in 2020.
Josh Allen (QB – BUF) – Allen was the second highest scoring player in Dynasty Owner in 2020 with 516.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (Aaron Rodgers was first with 517.7 points). Allen was a bargain for the Dynasty Owners who took him, on average, at the end of the second round or early in the third round (ADP 24.7) of their 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts. His $5.3 million contract has another year remaining and unless the Bills sign him to a new one before March 18th, that’s what you’ll be paying him for the 2021 Dynasty Owner season. If he doesn’t sign a new deal by then, you’ll definitely need an early first round pick to secure his services for 2021.
Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL) – Jackson was the consensus top pick in 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts (ADP 2.0) because he finished 2019 as the top scorer with 515.7 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (34.4 points per game) for a salary of just under $2.37 million. He didn’t perform as well in 2020 but still scored 399.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points (26.7 points per game) and finished as the #11 scorer in Dynasty Owner. He also turned it on in the 2020 Dynasty Owner playoffs with 104.2 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in three games (34.7 points per game). His relatively slow start to the regular season probably led to drafter’s remorse for those Dynasty Owners who drafted him #1 overall, but he was still the second best value QB of 2020 at $5,921 cost per point (Gardner Minshew with his rock-bottom salary of $677,721 had the lowest QB cost per point of $3,260 in 2020). Lamar likely won’t be the #1 overall pick in your 2021 Dynasty Owner draft, but he’s still seems certain to be a first round pick, unless he gets a contract extension during the off-season.
Kyler Murray (QB – ARI) – The 2019 #1 draft pick was generally an early to mid-first round pick in 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts (ADP 6.1) after scoring 353.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in his rookie season and finishing as the #12 overall scorer. He was better in 2020, finishing as the #6 overall player with 461.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. Not only that, but he has played in all 16 games in both of his NFL seasons and has two full years remaining at his $8.79 million salary. Kyler is sure to be an early first round draft pick in 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up drafts.
In addition to those three, there is a fourth QB who wasn’t drafted in the Top 25 in 2020, but finished as a Top 10 Dynasty Owner player in 2020 and is good and affordable enough to be a first round lock.
Justin Herbert (QB – LAC) – Even though he started the year on the Chargers’ bench, Justin Herbert was a Top 10 player by the end of the season. Overall, he had 431.7 Dynasty Owner fantasy points to finish as the #9 player for the entire 2020 season. He had 309.3 Dynasty Owner fantasy points during the Dynasty Owner regular season to rank #9 overall. His 28.1 points per game average also ranked #9 during the regular season. He didn’t cool down much in the Dynasty Owner playoffs as he finished as the #13 overall player with 79.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. At $6.645 million in salary, Herbert will cost you more than Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, but not quite as much as Kyler Murray. Just like the three of them, he should be off 2021 Dynasty Owner draft boards in the first round.
Premium and Affordable Running Backs Returning in 2021
As a reminder, in 2020, eight RBs on rookie contracts with salaries of $2 million or less were chosen in the Top 25 players in Dynasty Owner drafts. That’s nearly one-third of the Top 25. Three of those players (Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook) were chosen in the first round, on average. Both Kamara and Cook have gotten re-signed to contracts that will pay them over $10 million more in 2021 than they made last year, so neither one is affordable any longer. However, we have Chubb plus two other RBs who were drafted highly in 2020 and are still on their rookie salary deals who should be first round selections this upcoming season.
Nick Chubb (QB – CLE) – In the eight regular season Dynasty Owner games that Chubb played in 2020, he averaged 17.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points and ranked as the #7 RB. The top four on that list (Christian McCaffrey at 30.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game, Dalvin Cook at 26.1 points per game, Alvin Kamara at 23.4 points per game and Derrick Henry at 20.8 points per game) will all have salaries of at least $12.5 million in 2021, while Chubb is scheduled to earn just under $1.85 million. Dynasty Owners can use that $10 million savings in a lot of ways, which is why Chubb will definitely be chosen highly again in 2021.
Jonathan Taylor (QB – IND) – Taylor finished his rookie season strong and ended the 2020 Dynasty Owner season as the overall #6 RB with 261.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points. That’s an average of just under 17.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game, which increases to 23.8 points per game in the Dynasty Owner playoffs. He continued his late season surge by scoring a whopping 44.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in Week 17. He was the 11th RB taken in 2020 Dynasty Owner drafts (ADP 16.1), but definitely don’t expect him and his $1.96 million salary to last that long in 2021.
J.K. Dobbins (QB – BAL) – Another rookie RB, another late season surge. Dobbins finished behind Taylor with 170.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points for the entire 2020 season for a 11.4 points per game average. Just like Taylor though, that increased in the Dynasty Owner playoffs to 13.4 points per game. Dobbins finished with a 30.0 point effort in Week 17. He wasn’t drafted as highly as Taylor (ADP 16.1 for Taylor vs. ADP 27.1 for Dobbins), but his salary is only $1.43 million, which is half a million less than Taylor. He also won’t be competing for touches with Mark Ingram anymore, so Dobbins should easily be drafted in the Top 25 by Dynasty Owners again in 2021 and could be a late first round selection.
There are two additional 2020 rookie RBs who are likely 2021 Dynasty Owner first round draft picks. One has a salary of under $1 million while the other one is just over $1 million, but well under $2 million in salary for 2021.
James Robinson (QB – JAX) – Your 2020 Dynasty Owner Value Player of the Year (https://dynastyowner.com/2021/01/more-2020-dynasty-owner-regular-season-awards/) wasn’t on many Dynasty Owners’ minds in 2020 when drafting, but will be in 2021. He might not average 19.4 Dynasty Owner fantasy points per regular season game in 2021, which is a cost per point of only $3,279, but he’ll still be a great value at his $763,333 salary for 2021.
Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS) – Here’s a fun fact about the 2020 Dynasty Owner regular season: Antonio Gibson scored more Dynasty Owner fantasy points than Ezekiel Elliott (185.2 for Gibson vs. 178.8 for Elliott). Gibson finished as the #6 RB in the Dynasty Owner regular season, while Elliott was #7. Gibson sat out Weeks 14 and 15 due to a toe injury which enabled Elliott to score more points for the entire 2020 season. Gibson has a salary of only $1.226 million for the next couple of seasons and the lead RB role in Washington for the foreseeable future. That should be enough for him to be selected in the late first round of most 2021 Dynasty Owner drafts.
A Changing of the Guard at WR
In 2020, no WR was chosen in the first round on average, with Michael Thomas being the WR with the best ADP (14.2). However, at $19.25 million, Thomas was definitely not affordable. Chris Godwin had an ADP of 21.6 because of his $821,041 salary for 2020, but won’t be affordable in 2021 since he’s going to be a free agent. Instead, it looks like the most affordable WRs will be a trio of players taken just outside of the Top 25 in 2020.
D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA) – The highest scoring of the trio is Metcalf who had 231.9 Dynasty Owner fantasy points during the regular season, trailing only Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams in regular season points. At $1.15 million in salary, Metcalf had the lowest cost per point of any WR during the 2020 regular season at $4,944. He could duplicate that in 2021 and should be in consideration as a late first round 2021 Dynasty Owner draft pick.
A.J. Brown (WR – TEN) – Brown will cost a little bit more than Metcalf at $1.41 million, but he did average 17.0 Dynasty Owner points per game during the regular season. The expected departure of fellow WR Corey Davis as well as TE Jonnu Smith could mean more targets for Brown in 2021. That gives him a good chance to increase his points per game average and be a late first round 2021 Dynasty Owner draft pick.
Calvin Ridley (WR – ATL) – Ridley had the third best average Dynasty Owner fantasy points per game among all WRs with 19.5 points per game. He only trailed Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams in points per game, but his $2.725 million salary for 2021 means that he’ll cost over $15 million less than Hill and over $11.5 million less than Adams. After last season, Ridley should be the clear #1 WR in Atlanta and a potential late first round pick in 2021 Dynasty Owner drafts.
Is someone missing? Are you asking yourself why isn’t Tua Tagovailoa on the list? Do you think some other RBs such as Cam Akers, David Montgomery or D’Andre Swift are going to be selected in the first round? Do you think it’s crazy that neither Diontae Johnson nor Chase Claypool made the list? Is your name Tim and you can’t believe D.J. Moore isn’t listed? Send me a tweet (@SteveVT33) or post in the comments section for the video on YouTube and tell everyone who’s missing from this list.
My articles and videos on getting you ready for your 2021 Dynasty Owner start-up league team will be out on Fridays throughout the off-season. Keep an eye out for new articles and videos from the rest of our team of Dynasty Owners writers as well. On Mondays, Nate Christian (@NateNFL) will break down rookies in his Prospect Preview. Matt Morrison – The Jerk (@Dynastyjerk) is back for another year and will do a deep dive into contracts on Wednesdays. Jay Pounds (@jaypoundsnfl) has his articles and videos on how to rebuild your Dynasty Owner roster on Thursdays. Read all of their articles, watch and like all of their videos on YouTube (and all of the other available formats, such as Spotify) and follow the four of us plus Dynasty Owner (@Dynasty_Owner) on Twitter.
Thanks for reading! It’s time to start thinking about who’s going to be your first round 2021 Dynasty Owner draft pick.
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