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Preseason Crazed Overreactions: Tajae Sharpe Edition

Over the weekend I traded a 2017 first round pick in the Rotoworld Dynasty league in order to get back Tajae Sharpe from Ryan Forbes. Forbes won the league last year with a team that lost both Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin so there’s probably a good argument to be careful any time you’re trading with an owner who has built a team capable of performing such a feat. There’s also probably a good argument to simply underrate all of the news that we hear in the off-season and preseason – like training camp buzz – and instead pay more attention to broader trends like draft capital.

Let’s take a brief look at Sharpe on some broad prospect measures like draft slot, Freak Score, Career Market Share of Yards, and final season Market

There are some interesting names on this list of comparables but there are a lot more names of guys who didn’t do much as pros. Sharpe’s numbers on the market share measures are outstanding, while he probably has below average athleticism for a WR, and also generally a poor draft position. But the interesting thing is that I would bet that the poor athletic measures probably made their way into his draft position. So if you’re describing him maybe you would say “good college production, bad draft spot” and you would avoid adding poor athleticism to that description because it might just multiply one of the other things you’re already saying.

It certainly seems like based on that list it would be an overpay to give a first round pick and get Sharpe back. But there’s another way to look at this problem and that is by considering the situation Sharpe is in. If in May you had told me that Sharpe would be a Week 1 starter for his team, and on the way to becoming a starter he would vanquish a player who was going as high as 50th overall in dynasty startups in April (Dorial Green-Beckham), my thoughts on where he should go in rookie drafts would be completely different. So now instead of a player going into a crowded receiving situation, and where the team used a late pick to acquire him, we can describe him in different terms. Now he’s a player who was a market share stud in college and won a depth chart competition against some highly drafted receivers like Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter.

When you add in the fact that Sharpe also probably has some of the most questionable receiving competition in the league, he starts to look more like a high leverage/high volatility play than a boring end of draft flier. Kendall Wright’s production has fallen for two straight years and he’s going to be a free agent after the season. Rishard Matthews is going to be a 27 year old receiver, who has never caught 700 yards in a season and who didn’t even get Mohamed Sanu money this off-season. Delanie Walker is going to be 32 and while his 2015 season was great, he only has two years of startable TE production in his 10 years in the NFL. My point is not to argue that these players are bad, maybe they’re good. But when the most formidable target competition on the team is a TE who had his first 1,000 yard season last year and is going to be 32 this year, that has to be a bottom five unit in terms of depth chart competition.

Maybe Sharpe will disappear into irrelevance as fast as he rose up the depth chart, and that will make me the loser of this trade. But that sort of thing also happens on a pretty regular basis when you make a first round pick in a dynasty league. First round picks are the best place to get difference making talent – like Amari Cooper for instance – but they’re also the source of all manner of disappointments. If I just compare Sharpe to the rookie first round picks from 2016 I would probably slot him in the middle of the round at this point (I took a stab at re-ordering the first round from 2016 below – you’ll note that there are 15 names as I added Sharpe’s name to a 14 team league first round draft). I traded a 2017 first round pick, which is probably from a better draft class, but is also nine months away. Having Sharpe on my team for this season is worth something. Maybe he produces enough to be available for my lineup, or maybe I just get to take advantage of volatility associated with owning him. The volatility in this case is probably worth less because my perception is that lots of people will regard this as an overpay. So first Sharpe’s value has to catch up with what I paid for him, then it has to surpass that value in order for me to sell him for more than I paid. It’s really unlikely that hype is going to help his value any more and at this point I need actual production.

I’m generally a conservative person and am more likely to make backward facing value moves, like “this player just finished as WR6 and now you can get him at WR15” but my thinking in making this move was also somewhat influenced by something I heard a venture capital investor say, which is that they looked at their portfolio and their best investments were the ones where they were investing at a very high markup compared to the company’s most recent round. So for example, companies that took an investment at a $20 million valuation, and then a few months later were soliciting another round at a $50 million valuation. In some ways the analogies to dynasty valuations won’t hold up, but that idea still caused me to look at Sharpe and value him only based on what I know today, forgetting that he was recently a lot cheaper. Hopefully this trade works out for me as well as owning Sharpe worked out for Ryan Forbes, who was able to get a first round pick for a player that he drafted immediately after Moritz Boehringer was chosen in our rookie draft.

1 Elliott, Ezekiel DAL
2 Coleman, Corey CLE
3 Doctson, Josh WAS
4 Henry, Derrick TEN
5 Shepard, Sterling NYG
6 Fuller, Will HOU
7 Thomas, Michael NOS
8 Tajae Sharpe
9 Treadwell, Laquon MIN
10 Boyd, Tyler CIN
11 Booker, Devontae DEN
12 Carroo, Leonte MIA
13 Prosise, C.J. SEA
14 Perkins, Paul NYG
15 Dixon, Kenneth BAL

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