The Steelers WR's and dynasty

If you have Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool, read this:

Johnson turns 26 today (happy birthday!) and Claypool will be 24 in 2 days. Both are still young and in their prime. But when free agency hits both of them, and the Steelers don’t seem inclined to re-sign WR’s at market value, both of them will likely bolt.

Do you hold or trade them?

Consider what happened to JuJu Smith-Schuster. He left to sign with the Chiefs. Instant upgrade. But Juju is the upside of changing teams. He possibly could have signed with another team for more money, but less upside.

Consider Nelson Agholar last year. He left the Raiders and signed with the Patriots. With the Raiders, Agholar was 48-896-8. With the Patriots, he was 37-473-3. Bad move.

Back to the original question: Do you hold or trade them? There is no right or wrong answer now. But if you are going to trade them, now is the time to do it. By the time they go into free agency and get signed elsewhere, it will be too late to get what they are worth now., assuming they become worth less. Then again, they could end up on a good passing team, and worth a heckuva lot more. Proceed with caution.

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I started to actively look for trade partners for Diontae last weekend. Not in panic mode, but I’d prefer to not have him on my roster once the season kicks off.

Diontae’s WR#8 season last year was built on one main pillar: volume.

The 2021 Steelers had the 4th most passing attempts in the league (664), only 11 attempts behind the Chiefs and the Chargers. Their passing game was inefficient (22nd in terms of completion rate and dead last in terms of yards per completion).

But the volume alone was enough to push Diontae into the top 10. Only Cooper Kupp saw more targets, Diontae tied 2nd place with Davante Adams in that category.

Is this going to repeat in 2022? I have my doubts. The Steelers will try to push the ball further downfield. That will lead to less passing attempts, a lower completion ratio, but more passing yards.

In other words: less passes, more yards. And I’m not sure if Diontae will benefit from that approach.

I don’t see him fading, still have him as WR#12 in my rankings. The positive aspect for him is that there is not a lot of competition for targets. Pickens and Austin were obviously drafted with 2023 in mind and won’t claim a huge volume this year. That leaves only 4 relevant pass catchers: Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Chase Claypool and Diontae.

A high-volume offense with few pass catchers is exactly what we are looking for in fantasy. But that’s also my best argument for a high asking-price for Diontae.

If the main beneficiary of the Steelers’ new passing game is indeed Chase Claypool (rumor has it there are people out there betting on that :wink: ), then Diontae’s value will plummet.

I don’t see a scenario in which Diontae’s value will be higher in 12 months than it is right now. The best-case scenario is that he will retain his value. So I can as well sell him now, if another owner is willing to pay an adequate price.

Right now, I’m trying to turn him into Michael Pittman or Jaylen Waddle. Both owners aren’t thrilled, but at least we are talking. Good thing is, both teams are RB-needy, both don’t have an early 2022 pick, and I am in a position where I can afford to give up an RB2 because I happen to have the 1.01.

The trade talks are: I give up Diontae, Damien Harris (plus Rhamondre as handcuff) and maybe a mid/late 2022 pick in exchange for Pittman or Waddle and a 2023 1st (both in the 1.05-1.09 range).

If one of the owner bites, Diontae is a goner. If not, I’ll not lose any sleep holding on to him.

TL;DR: Diontae is not a panic sell candidate by any means. But it’s not the worst time to trade him away.

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Trading Rhamondre? You realize that if Harris gets hurt, Rhamondre will enter into the conversation for RB1? He has all the talent to do it.

If Harris gets hurt in a car accident that also involves James White, J.J. Taylor, Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris, then yeah, maybe. But what are the odds?

The game plan in New England is not to deploy a lead back in a workhorse role. They are building an RBBC that will be pretty toxic for fantasy purposes. If they planned to deploy Rhamondre as a workhorse once Harris is gone (and he will be latest next year, even without an injury), then why did they spend 2 of their first 7 picks on RBs, while still having Taylor and White on their roster?

If I can turn the duo Harris+Rhamondre into a 2023 1st, then I’ll definitely consider it.

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White is purely a 3rd down back. So the question is who runs the first two downs? Now, it’s Harris and Rhamondre. Aside from White, the other three guys will either be depth, taxi squad, or released. If Rhamondre gets the lead in the RBBC, watch out!

Rhamondre’s true value may come after he finishes his rookie contract. I don’t see the Pats franchising him, and somebody will come along and give him financial security for life. Not to mention the RBBC will leave him fresh when he eventually does change teams. Think of Rhamondre as a 2025 first round pick, which is what he’ll be worth as a UFA.

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They invested exactly the same draft capital into Pierre Strong as in Rhamondre. I don’t get it either, but that’s what they did.

And I doubt that a then 26 year old former 4th round pick who hasn’t seen a ton of usage during the 4 years of his rookie contract will be in high demand from teams that are desparately looking for a new lead back.

He may be a bridge RB for a team and could have some value in that role. But ageing RBs rarely produce Cinderella stories in the NFL. I’ll be happy to pass on the opportunity if I can turn him into immediate production value now.

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But I KNOW what Rhamondre is. I have no clue what Strong is, other than his college eval. I’ve seen Rhamondre on the pro level, and he has “it”. He can be an RB1. At best, Strong may be as good as Rhamondre, but that’s a high bar.

Cordarelle Patterson. 'Nuff said.

I’ll sit on that investment. If Harris gets hurt, it’s raining immediate production! If he doesn’t, then Rhamondre can still deliver eventually, or even serve as a flex back.

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That’s why I said ‘rarely’. But nobody in their right mind would have stashed Patterson in 2017, hoping for a completely random breakout in 2021. Miracles do happen in the NFL, but usually not where you’d expect them.

Looking at the top 20 RBs of 2021, there are only 2 players that were not picked in the first 3 rounds: Austin Ekeler (UDFA) and Aaron Jones (5th round pick). And both were with their first NFL team.

Even Patterson was a 1st round pick back in his day, btw.

If Damien Harris was a clear lead back, and we’d just have to wait for the Pats to release him into free agency after the season for Rhamondre to inherit that volume, I’d hold on to Rhamondre at any rate.

But the Pats are going RBBC with an added pass catching specialist. That’s not the environment that produces RB1s.

Good as Rhamondre may be, he spent half of his rookie season in Belichick’s dog house. And while Belichick even let his dog handle the 2020 draft, I’d still not take it as a clear sign for the Patriots seeing ‘it’ in Rhamondre.

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I don’t care if the Pats see “it”. I see “it”. Rhamondre is the real deal. If Belichick refuses to use his best RB, that best RB will go somewhere else when his contract ends. Another coach will see the talent.

By the way, Rhamondre is MUCH better than Patterson. Just to be clear.

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Rhamondre is good, I won’t argue that. But as a matter of fact, NFL managers tend to avoid 26 year old backs with 4th round draft capital when looking for a new lead back. It’s usually cheaper to spend a 3rd round pick on a rookie.

Damien Harris is good, too. And he even has 3rd round draft capital to his name. That may not sound like a big difference, but browsing through recent RB history, it obviously is to NFL decision makers.

There is a good case to be made for Harris to find a good spot in 2023. Yet still, I’ll be happy to sell him now if the price is right.

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I don’t blame you for selling Harris. His upside is limited with the Patriots.

He finished 2021 as RB#12. I don’t expect him to repeat his 15 TD performance, but he won’t disappear, either. The Patriots will send him off into free agency after the season, so there is no reason for them to not utilize him heavily this year. I have him as RB#23, based on a near-even split with Rhamondre (RB#27). If Harris gets the bulk of the red zone carries again, he can easily finish the season a few spots higher.

My biggest concern is that the Pats will randomly switch between both RBs. That could make it difficult to start either of them with confidence. Both of them could be good one week, only to disappear in the next.

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