Week 7 fantasy trade targets and ideas: Who to deal, who to deal for
As always in these trade idea pieces, we’ll kick things off by looking back at last week’s advice. After a few straight weeks that included some immediate payoffs, Week 6 wasn’t as strong. Allen Robinson didn’t have the breakout we expected against a burnable Bears secondary, but I stand by my call — now is an even better time to buy low on him with an easy stretch on the schedule coming up. Jamaal Charles is not 100 percent — he didn’t look it and the Chiefs didn’t play him like he was. I am no longer advising to buy low there because something seems off about the situation and his usage. John Brown had a solid week, but more is in store. I am still advising to buy low here.
We did much better with our sell section. Amari Cooper continues to look like he has emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 option, so selling Michael Crabtree is a move you should continue to pursue before it’s too late. The clock is ticking on C.J. Anderson’s role as a true featured back. Hopefully you sold last week before Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak came out and said they want to get Devontae Booker more involved. Matt Jones had a strong week and his advanced metrics are starting look more respectable — I’m rethinking that one.
After fielding a lot of questions on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL about trades ideas and proposals, I’ve decided to throw in this reminder that you can follow me and tweet me any questions you have about trades. Let’s jump right into this week’s slate of players.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
For those who listen to the PFF Fantasy Radio weekly preview podcast, it should come as no surprise that Ajayi tops my list. I was beating the drum hard for Ajayi when Arian Foster first went down. It’s nice to see Dolphins head coach Adam Gase finally understand what he’s got in Ajayi. It’s even better to see Gase realize the benefits of leaning on just one back.
Ajayi had 204 yards rushing in Week 6 on 25 carries and this brings his yards per carry average up to 5.7. He has also been exceptional in the red zone, with four touchdowns in his past four games.
If it weren’t for long-term injury concerns, Ajayi would’ve been an early NFL draft pick. I know a few major websites have written him off, but the reason I was so bullish on him back when Arian Foster first went down has everything to do with his talent. Only four running backs have a better PFF run grade overall than Ajayi this season.
Where Ajayi really stands out is in his ability to create yards independent of his blocking. Ajayi has the fourth-best elusive rating among 41 RBs who have seen 25 percent of their team’s rushing attempts. He has forced 10 missed tackles on just 56 carries and owns the second-most yards after contact per attempt (3.95) average. Only Le’Veon Bell has racked up more yards after contact per attempt. Only Bell, David Johnson and Eddie Lacy have a better elusive rating.
Ajayi’s elite ability to create yardage on a per-touch basis is nothing new. In 2015, he forced 14 missed tackles on just 56 total touches in 2015 and racked up a 3.35 yards after contact per attempt — only Dion Lewis better him on the missed-tackle rate and only Le’Veon Bell on average yards after contact.
Ajayi has the talent to run away with this job. Am I worried about the Dolphins’ offensive line still? Sure I am. But Ajayi has shown he can overcome that. We’re so quick to write off prospects in fantasy football — this was the case with Devonta Freeman in 2015. Don’t let Ajayi become this year’s Freeman on another fantasy owner’s roster.
(I should note that fellow PFF Fantasy writer Mike Tagliere named Ajayi one of his players to sell in his stock market piece Tuesday. Mike makes fine arguments as well. I just don’t agree.)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Manning was written off for the 212th time in his career entering Week 6. He responded by throwing for 403 passing yards with three touchdowns against a Ravens pass defense that allowed just 207.2 passing yards per game prior to their matchup against the Giants.
The touchdowns haven’t been there yet, but Manning has consistently moved the ball through the air with the exception of two games (Vikings, Packers). He currently has the second-most passing yards in the NFL.
The common trend during the two games Manning struggled was the pass rush. The Vikings and Packers consistently moved Manning off of his spot and forced him to throw from awkward angles. With Terrell Suggs playing through an injury and Elvis Dumervil out, the Ravens were unable to do that.
Manning’s upcoming stretch includes a beat-up Rams pass defense, the Eagles, Bears, Browns, Lions, Cowboys, Bengals and Steelers. Outside of the Steelers and Eagles, do you see any pass defenses that can consistently generate enough pressure while holding up on the back end to slow down Manning with Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup? Buy now.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
The Matt Forte storyline was fun while it lasted, but the narrative is over. Forte is no longer a workhorse. Our concerns with Forte’s declining advanced metrics over the past several seasons in both the elusive rating and breakaway percentage stats have not gone away — they’ve only intensified. Forte is creating very little on his own.
Forte has forced just eight missed tackles on 102 carries — he’s the other end of the spectrum from Ajayi, who has forced 10 on 56 carries. Forte owns the 36th-”best” elusive rating of 41 RBs who have seen at least 25 percent of their team’s carries. His breakaway percentage is just as poor. He has just two runs of 15-plus yards and ranks 35th-”best” in breakaway percentage. He’s nearing the Matt Asiata range when it comes to creating on his own.
We just studied two paragraphs of Forte’s stats to show you why the Jets have finally made the decision to lean on Powell and why it will stick. Powell saw 72 percent of the Jets’ RB snaps in Week 6 — his highest percentage of the season.
The Jets are a bad football team — one of the worst in the NFL. Bad football teams tend to lean on their preferred passing-down back. Powell is the guy. Don’t be surprised if you can get him dirt-cheap in a trade. That’s a move I would be making right away before the new workload becomes widespread and obvious.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
I went to bat for Howard in this column a few weeks ago and on the podcast, but he simply hasn’t been as productive as I expected. At Indiana in 2015, he was one of the best running backs in the nation at creating yards after contact. There are 13 RBs with a higher yards after contact per attempt average. No. 14 on that list isn’t bad, but it’s not enough to keep Bears head coach John Fox away.
Fox wants to role with more of a committee — a hot-hand approach as he likes to call it. He let us know the hard way in Week 6, completely out of the blue. Howard missed just nine of a combined 135 snaps in Weeks 4 and 5. In Week 6, he played just 55 of the 80 snaps. He ran for less yardage than No. 2 RB Ka’Deem Carey despite the fact that Carey was still not fully healthy.
With Carey on the rise and getting healthier, plus the looming return of Jeremy Langford at some point down the line, Howard’s role could take a turn for the worse. A wise man would look to trade him now before it’s too late — similar to when we advised to deal Ryan Mathews after a few TD-fueled performances. Howard has matchups with the Packers’, Vikings’ and Giants’ run defenses in three of his next four games. Those are three of the most stout run defenses in the NFL this season. Make sure you sell high before his stock takes a major dip.
DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
Why do people continue to push the narrative that Thomas is the No. 1 wide receiver in Denver? On a similar overall snap count, Emmanuel Sanders has 14 more targets in just six games. There are 21 wide receivers with more targets than Thomas this season. But volume isn’t the only issue with Thomas — it’s not even the main issue. The same problems that plagued Thomas in 2015 are back in 2016.
After dealing with dropped passes throughout 2015, when he finished with the third-most drops in the NFL (12), he has already racked up the sixth-most (4) in 2016. Thomas was just our 38th-best WR in PFF’s receiving grade in 2015, but things have only gotten worse for him. He is currently our 92nd-”best” of 109 receivers who have seen at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps in PFF’s receiving grade. For reference, Sanders is the 22nd-best in that metric.
It’s time to stop treating Thomas like a WR1. He carries brand-name value and his stats haven’t been awful outside of a Week 6 performance that you can chalk up to a fluke when pushing Thomas on your other league owners. Get cracking here. Find the owner in your league who still sees him as the Demaryius Thomas of old.
Kenny Britt, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Britt has been more of a fantasy threat than anyone expected in 2016. In half-point PPR leagues, Britt has the 16th-most fantasy points at the WR position this season. Remember that stat — it will come in handy later when you’re pawning him off on an unsuspecting owner in your league.
Although the raw numbers have been there — thanks to inflation from a matchup against the Lions’ secondary — the volume has not been. Britt has just the 29th-most targets of all receivers this season. Teammate Tavon Austin is ahead of him with the 15th-most targets. Britt is on pace for more than 1,300 yards this season, but he has never topped 800 in his career.
The regression police should be out in full force on this one. Britt’s stock has one way to go from here. If you can package him and play him off as a WR2, you will find a potential upgrade at another position. Use him however you can in trade talks, but just make sure you move on him fast. The height of Britt’s stock isn’t lasting too much longer.