2021 Veteran Win-Now Targets

Matisyahu said, “Youth is the engine of the world.”

That certainly applies in the dynasty fantasy football world as well, as managers — both newbs and veterans — have a tendency to favor youth when evaluating and acquiring assets for their teams. And for good reason too.

Younger players maintain value better, younger players are more likely to increase in value over time, and younger players are obviously more appealing to managers as they have visions of sustained, long term success in their dynasty leagues.

The savvy dynasty manager knows, however, that sometimes a little experience is necessary.

For those of us who fancy our squads as contenders for silverware at the end of the season, identifying these seasoned veterans as win-now targets who can help us win our leagues this year is key.

These players aren’t likely to be cornerstone assets for us for the next five seasons or anything, but most of these players can help in the short term, and because of their advanced age and dynasty managers’ propensity to favor the young bloods, these win-now targets can likely be obtained for very cheap on the trade market and are going to be available very late in your startup drafts.

If you have a team that is poised to win this season, do not waste your players’ primes! That future second or third round pick is much better served helping you win money this year rather than just a random dart throw in a future draft. We play this fake football game to win, and so my advice is that if your squad is talented enough to contend for the title, do everything you can to add pieces that can push you over the top.

Here are some aging players I think you can go out and acquire for very cheap who can potentially return starting caliber production as 2021 veteran “win-now” targets:

Quarterback

Ben Roethlisberger (39) – Pittsburgh Steelers
[QB40, #212 overall on keeptradecut.com’s Superflex rankings]

Everyone’s pear-shaped gunslinger is back for yet another season under center for the Black and Yellow. For all the talk about Ben’s demise, he still had over 600 attempts and 33 TDs on the season in 2020. Big Ben also had multiple TD passes in every game except for three last year. In 2021, everyone expects the arrival of Najee Harris to damage Ben’s fantasy prospects, but I believe a more balanced offense can only help the Steelers’ offense as a whole. Pittsburgh is built to throw, even with Harris now aboard, with their three-headed beast at WR. Roethlisberger’s age and a seemingly subpar 2020 has fueled the narrative that he’s washed up, and therefore his price is dirt cheap in dynasty. If you’re a contending team in a Superflex league that could use a second viable QB, I’d offer the Big Ben owner a 2022 third round pick to get it done.

Running Back

David Johnson (29) – Houston Texans
[RB51, #209]

Everyone hates the Texans offense heading into 2021, and rightfully so. Things look bleak in Houston this year with uncertainty at QB, a lame duck head coach and a general lack of talent up and down the roster. Add that to the fact that everyone hates 29-year-old RBs with high mileage, and Johnson doesn’t seem like a very attractive fantasy asset. But if you are all-in on 2021 and you need to find a cheap RB2 option late in your startup or in the trade market, I think DJ offers some sneaky short term upside. Johnson only played in 12 games in 2020, and he was still the RB19 in most leagues at right around 15 fantasy point per game, which is less than 2ppg off the Top 10 in the league. Houston will likely try to feature the run early in games as they try to keep things close, and once they fall behind, there will be plenty of dump-off opportunities against prevent defenses. I expect Johnson to beat out Ingram and Lindsey for that pass catching role at minimum.

Giovanni Bernard (29) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[RB79, #313]

Ever since Tampa went out and pursued Bernard this past offseason, he’s been one of my favorite veteran win-now targets. Is he going to carry the ball 200 times as the lead back? No. But I do think by mid-season, we see the dependable Bernard entrench himself firmly as that James White-like safety valve for Tom Brady and the passing game. Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette can duke it out for the “lead back” role, but my prediction is that Bernard is the first Bucs back in 2021 to cement his role in the offense, and that role could be very lucrative in PPR leagues. When healthy, Bernard is one of the better receiving backs in the league with five Top-30 RB seasons in his career. Plus he’s essentially free to acquire right now, which likely makes him the cheapest of our win-now targets.

Wide Receiver

Antonio Brown (33) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
[WR66, #168]

Once on pace to perhaps go down as one of the best wide receivers of the modern era, off-the-field tomfoolery derailed that trajectory over the past few years, but Brown is still a premium talent even at his advanced age. When Brown landed in Tampa Bay, many figured he would be an afterthought behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and while he was to extent, AB still had 45 catches in just eight games. This season, as Brown has seemingly cleaned up his act off the field so far, he has the benefit of a full preseason with the team. Brown also has the support and respect of Tom Brady and Bruce Arians, which is huge for his fantasy outlook in 2021 because a lesser player likely wouldn’t have received this many chances to succeed. I expect the Bucs to be pass happy enough to support three quality fantasy WRs.

John Brown (31) – Las Vegas Raiders
[WR90, #247]

With all eyes on youngsters Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, let us remember that this is a John Gruden-led offense. They have two exciting, freakishly athletic youngsters waiting in the wings, and so doesn’t it just make perfect Chucky sense for this receiving corps to be led by an unsexy but dependent veteran like John Brown? He will step into the Nelson Agholor role from 2020. Brown had an injury-riddled 2020, but was a 1,000-yard WR in 2019 with Buffalo. Even in limited action last season, he had at least 70 yards in five out of seven games. Right now, Brown is insanely cheap win-now target, but has a very real path to a starting role, and the talent to produce WR2-3 numbers if he secures that role.

Marvin Jones (31) – Jacksonville Jaguars
[WR75, #202]

Annually, Jones is one of the most unheralded fantasy WRs in the game. Take away his rookie season when he barely played and the 2014 season when he missed the entire year, Jones has averaged 110 targets per season for his career. He has scored at least nine touchdowns in a season four separate times in his eight years of play. The point is, Marvin Jones can play. D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault are the young duo that everyone focuses on, but Urban Meyer has already been critical of Chark, and the Jags were reportedly ready to select run-after-catch specialist Kadarius Toney in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Neither are glowing endorsements for the incumbent receivers in Jacksonville. Enter Jones, the only receiver of the three whom Meyer and the current regime in Jacksonville actually chose to acquire.

Tight End

Jared Cook (34) – Los Angeles Chargers
[TE38, #299]

Every time you hear a fantasy football expert say that young tight ends take a long time to develop, stop to appreciate that Jared Cook is exactly who they are talking about. After entering the league with the “athletic freak” label, Cook toiled in TE2 territory for years before finally cracking the Top 10 at the position in his tenth season in the league. After averaging just two touchdowns per season for his first nine seasons, Cook has averaged over seven scores per season over the past three. Now finding himself in Los Angeles with Justin Herbert, Cook is poised for another solid season as he makes the seventh of our win-now targets. Los Angeles should be a pass-heavy outfit with Herbert, Cook, Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, and an uninspiring group of RBs behind Ekeler. Hunter Henry (93 targets in 14 games in 2020) is gone to New England, and Cook should step in and take over where Henry left off. The 93 targets Henry received (again, in just 14 games) would have been the third most of Cook’s career.

Additional Information

What do you think of our selection of win-now targets? Do you have any others who you’d like to add to the list? Join the conversation! Drop a name or two in the comment box and let us know why you like them!

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