I have trouble letting go of big names on my dynasty roster.

If those players are Leo DiCaprio, I’m Kate Winslet; chilling out on the raft, promising to never let go (no, this isn’t a proposed sequel to Titanic, although I’d LOVE to see conceptually where they’d go with that).

Just as we know how that movie ends, it’s no different from how the story ends with these players in fantasy football. Your dynasty team is a life raft, after all. You can’t afford to be pulled down by the weight of big-name players who are anything-but-big when it comes to fantasy production. They are holding your team back from fantasy glory. Sure, they still hold promise, but they’re now more valuable in name than lifetime fantasy football value. And, as we reach the in-season trade deadline for many leagues, it may be time to let go of a few of these fantasy stalwarts before it’s too late to get value in return.

No, I’m not talking about fantasy football veterans like Drew Brees, David Johnson, James Connor, Larry Fitzgerald and others that we cut bait on a long-time ago (or should have). I’m talking about the middle men; players that Goldilocks might’ve had on her team if she played fantasy football. Those not quite on the brink of retirement, but not considered sleepers at this stage in their careers. These are players that owners continue to start with confidence, when healthy, week in and week out. Their projections catapult projected team scores each week (and let’s face it, we love a good predictive match-up score), yet when the final score comes around it’s sort of like the How It Started/How It’s Going meme, but worse.

But it’s true: It’s hard to say goodbye to players who’ve been long-time proven performers, still have high-scoring weeks when they’re healthy, and/or were acquired at a high price or with high draft capital. And in fantasy football, owners also want their rosters to have a certain cachet to go along with the wins; the fantasy football equivalent of “style points.” Building a team around these types of players has and will continue to be a recipe for fantasy success. However, something is off with the recipe for a few big name players lately — perhaps lacking some spiciness or salt.

We all likely have these types of “middle men” players on our roster. And these players are still enticing to other owners, so what you’re able to get for them in return now at this stage may ultimately outweigh the lifetime value that they can bring to your team. So, let’s meet 6 players who qualify for “middle men” status:

QB – Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Quarterback production has gotten incredibly deep in fantasy football; we play in a fantasy football world where Nick Mullens has two top-20 finishes in 5 games this season (according to PlayerProfiler). And we’re not too far removed from Goff’s stellar 2018 season where the allure of Sean McVay on fantasy owners reared its magical head. We bought in on the Rams offense with Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and, of course, Goff.

Yet, since Week 1 of 2019 (24 games), Goff has only two games where he passed for three or more touchdowns, and only nine games over 300 yards passing. Per PlayerProfiler, in 2020, Goff ranks 21st in fantasy points per game, lower than Carson Wentz (17th), a Michael Thomas-less Drew Brees (13th) and Teddy Bridgewater (16th). And he’s 17th in passing touchdowns and 21st in air yards. Yet, the McVay offense has somehow maintained Goff’s value (FFPC ADP is more than 50 spots higher than Bridgewater). Goff continues to produce, especially for those in Superflex leagues. Go get his production from a less expensive player.

RB – Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

I may not make friends with THE BREAKOUT FINDER fam with this pick (sorry, Ryan). If it helps, I’m wearing a BREAKOUT FINDER t-shirt as I write this. But Jacobs’ FFPC ADP (12.75) is on the fringe of the 1st round, ahead of fellow 2019 rookie Miles Sanders (18.25), Nick Chubb (20.75) and D’Andre Swift (59). That means that owners are drafting him as their RB1, and in many cases, their first player off the board in drafts.

For that draft capital, monster production is needed. The signs have been there for Jacobs to have this monster production too. Compared to his 2019 rookie season, PlayerProfiler has him averaging more fantasy points per game (15.5 vs. 14.7) and increased his opportunity share (64.6% vs. 69.3%) and target share (7.1% to 10.5%). On the surface, it’s a fantasy match made in heaven. Yet, he ranks outside the RB1 position on the year (average finish is RB19), and he’s only been over 100 total yards in 3 games.

If you were a Jacobs owner and wanted to hold, I would not have any issue with that. He’s very valuable right now despite his production. But the Raiders aren’t getting Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, so any hope of a QB other than Derek Carr saving Jacobs is a long-shot for now. Why not cash out?

RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

We had our doubts about Elliott even before Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury. Elliott, like Jacobs, is still valued highly amongst fantasy football owners. FFPC ADP is currently 3.5, ahead of basically everyone (we know who the top-2 are).

Elliott ranks 1st in snap share, 4th in carries and 6th in opportunity share. Prescott, assuming he has a successful rehab, will be back in 2021 too. But, Elliott ranks only 9th in fantasy points per game and is 44th in yards per touch. Oh, and there’s a player that dynasty owners are continuing to get more familiar with – Tony Pollard.

I’m not saying that Elliott’s best fantasy days are behind him, but we may never see the peak again. And when his value is still peak-Elliott, it all goes back to the recipe for fantasy success; a key ingredient is striking when the iron is hot. You may not get someone to bite this season with Prescott out, but as soon as the 2021 trade window opens, it couldn’t hurt to dangle Elliott out there to see if there’s an overzealous owner ready to give up valuable assets for a once invaluable player.

WR – D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers

This one hurts.

Moore took the sophomore leap in 2019 with 135 targets, 87 receptions and 1,175 yards. And that was with Kyle Allen as the quarterback for most of the season. When the Carolina Panthers upgraded to Teddy Bridgewater and brought in new Head Coach Matt Rhule and Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, the stars were aligned for Moore to move into the upper-echelon of wide receivers in 2020.

The stars were aligned.

Then the clouds came in, and despite an arguably better quarterback at the helm in 2020 in Bridgewater, Moore is having a fantasy season to forget. He ranks 14th in snap share, 17th in targets, 29th in target share, 25th in receptions, 12th in receiving yards and 28th in fantasy points per game, being outscored by teammates Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson on the season. And this is without Christian McCaffrey for most of the season, who will miss his 7th game of the season on Sunday. I’m not out on Moore as an NFL star, but with an ADP of 33.25, I’m out as a fantasy football owner.

WR – Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

Let’s be clear – you’re throwing this year out the window when it comes to your valuation of Thomas. So many things have not gone in his favor throughout the course of the season; from team melodrama, to calling out his quarterback in the offseason, to lingering injuries.

Look a bit deeper, however, and you’ll see that Thomas will be 28 when the season is over. Reaching that age apex. And coming off his record-breaking 2019 season, which launched Thomas into a top-10 ADP (6.5), he was in many leagues the first wide receiver off the board. Months later, there are arguably other wide receivers you’d take over Thomas (D.K. Metcalf and CeeDee Lamb, anyone?), and the fact that Thomas’ future QB is even in question demands attention. This may very well be Brees’ last season, in which case, the 2021 season includes a new quarterback for Thomas. And we just got done talking about how a new quarterback worked out for Moore in Carolina. Thomas is still a top-5 dynasty wide receiver, but how long is that going to last?

TE – Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

The narrative in Philly is that he’s gone after this season. He’s 30-years old. The Eagles drafted Dallas Goedert, and the Eagles reportedly tried to trade Ertz before the trade deadline. Fantasy football owners should look to do the same at an ADP of 26.25.

With Ertz still out at least a couple more weeks due to an ankle injury, he’ll return to an Eagles offense that will have a healthy Miles Sanders, Jalen Reagor, Alshon Jeffrey and the aforementioned Goedert. The team is getting healthier, and Ertz’s early season numbers (2nd in snap share, 8th in targets) may not be attainable when he returns.

The tight end pool is so volatile week-to-week and Ertz still holds tremendous value given the lack of depth at the position, especially in 2TE leagues, yet chances are increasing that he’ll be playing for another team in 2021. It’s anyone’s guess as to which team that will be. And worse – what if he’s still with the Eagles and competing with Goedert for targets? Trading Ertz is one of the biggest slam dunks in fantasy right now. Savvy owners may balk at his cost, but they know his production will pay off.

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