News & Analysis

Week 3 fantasy trade targets and ideas

By Dan Schneier
Sep 20, 2017

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BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Wide receiver Rashard Higgins #81 of the Cleveland Browns gets a drink following the Browns loss to the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The fantasy football trade market is all about capitalizing on overactive managers. That’s why we always suggest to sell high and buy low, understand the impact of a player’s schedule, and know which players other managers are targeting for the wrong reasons.

Every week we’ll take a look at the top players to buy or sell in fantasy football. An elite fantasy owner is active in the trade market and always looking for value (plus ways to take advantage of his competition). We want you to become that elite manager and our goal is to provide you with the players who you should be looking to trade for or away each week.

Buy

Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns

Johnson’s usage is way up in 2017. After debuting as a slot receiver only in Week 1, Johnson also worked his way into the mix at running back in Week 2. To date, Johnson has racked up the 10th-most snaps of all RB-eligible players in fantasy and five more snaps than Isaiah Crowell. Johnson also has seven more total targets (10) than Crowell. Speaking of Crowell, he doesn’t look the same so far in 2017 and currently owns just the 35th-best elusive rating after posting the 19th-best in 2016. Even more snaps could be coming Johnson’s way and most fantasy owners still probably view him as a trade throw-in or flex at best.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

Beckham played just 34 snaps in his debut, but that was by design. Giants head coach Ben McAdoo talked about not rushing him back after he missed a month of football. Beckham looked like his normal explosive self and managed to garner five targets despite his limited role. Eli Manning has shown a lack of rapport with Brandon Marshall, but when this offense gets rolling (even if that comes in garbage time), Beckham will once again dominate the passing work. Through his first three NFL seasons, Beckham has scored the most receiving touchdowns on a per-game basis in NFL history, he was the fastest receiver to 4,000 yards, and racked up the most receptions (tied with Jarvis Landry) of any player in his first three years. Now is the only time to trade for one of fantasy’s handful of game changers at a discounted price.

Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns

Don’t buy the hype that Ricardo Louis is starting over Higgins. Regardless of who plays the first snaps, Higgins’ rapport with quarterback DeShone Kizer was obvious in Week 2 once Corey Coleman left via injury. Higgins is a post-hype super-sleeper who was a PFF Draft favorite in the 2016 draft class. Higgins currently has the 13th-most yards per route run (2.20) in the NFL.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers

Benjamin stands to benefit the most from the Greg Olsen (broken foot, IR) injury. Benjamin has 13 targets already this season and the next-most-targeted Panthers receiver (Devin Funchess) has just eight. Benjamin currently owns the 14th-most yards per route run (2.22) and has been inches away from a few more big plays in each of the first two weeks. Buy in before the schedule weakens and the volume turns him into a locked-in WR1.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are about to hit a soft spot of the schedule that includes the Saints, Lions, Eagles, and Bears in four of their next five. The Panthers are equipped to deal with the Saints and Eagles’ pass-rushes and both teams still have question marks in the secondary. Newton is off to a slow start as he recovers from shoulder surgery and has changed his throwing motion. This stretch of games on the schedule will get him back into the QB1 mix and this is the cheapest you’ll be able to buy him for.

Matt Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

The Lions attempted just four passes in the second half of their Week 2 win against the Giants because that’s all they needed. The Lions simply let the Giants’ lack of offensive creativity and Ezekiel Ansah do the rest for them. Stafford’s deflated passing yards total over the first two weeks is due to gamescript, but he looks more locked in than ever with five touchdown passes. Stafford has four “plus” passing-game weapons (with Eric Ebron and Kenny Golladay in the mix) for the first time in his Lions career. He is PFF’s fifth-highest-graded quarterback through two weeks despite playing two excellent defenses in the Cardinals and Giants.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell owners are already panicking as if they didn’t factor in a potential slow start for their running back after he skipped the entire offseason. Bell has not been himself and the Steelers offensive line has graded out worse in 2017, but the volume is still there for him. Bell has racked up the fourth-most snaps through two weeks, the third-most rushing attempts, and the 11th-most targets among all running backs. Buy low here.

Martellus Bennett, TE, Green Bay Packers

Despite a slow start on the stat sheet, Bennett has been peppered with targets through his first two games with the Packers. Only two players have seen more than the 15 targets Bennett has received so far. He has also logged the second-most snaps among all tight ends. Unlike in 2016, there is no timeshare at tight end for the Packers. Bennett is their guy, and with this kind of volume, he is going to make fantasy owners happy very soon.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey hasn’t looked like “what Reggie Bush was supposed to be” — as some pumped him up to be — so far, but the volume is better than anyone could have hoped for. McCaffrey has seen the ninth-most snaps (91) in the NFL — just two and four behind Melvin Gordon and LeSean McCoy, respectively. He has also seen the seventh-most targets (11). McCaffrey will benefit from Olsen’s absence in the passing game and the Panthers’ softer schedule overall.

J.J. Nelson, WR, Arizona Cardinals

With David Johnson out of the mix and John Brown dealing with a multi-week injury, it’s time to take Nelson seriously. The speedster is the Cardinals’ only big-play threat on the roster right now with Larry Fitzgerald drawing extra attention. Nelson has the 25th-most targets (13) despite only playing the 69th-most snaps (80) with Brown and Johnson healthy in Week 1. Nelson currently owns the sixth-best yards per route run (2.91) in the NFL.

Sell

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

Last week, we talked about moving on from Adrian Peterson, and we hope you found a trade partner. Now, it’s time to move on from Ingram. The Saints offensive line looks noticeably worse without left tackle Terron Armstead, but more troubling is Ingram’s usage. The hope was that he would take over full passing-down work and mix in at times when the Saints got into the red zone. So far Ingram has just the 26th-most snaps, and Alvin Kamara has taken over the primary passing-down role with just 14 fewer snaps in total on the season. With the Saints destined to play behind in almost every game, this spells bad news for Ingram.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Bryant claimed to finally be 100 percent healthy for the first time in two offseasons this summer. Despite the player speak, and despite receiving a ton of volume in the first two weeks, Bryant has been terribly inefficient outside of his one touchdown grab. Bryant has received the second-most targets (23), but he has only turned them into nine receptions for 102 yards. He currently owns the 64th-best yards per route run and his schedule still features top cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, Josh Norman twice, Marcus Peters, and another game against Janoris Jenkins.

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

Powell grabbed a lot of offseason hype for how he finished the 2016 season (as an RB1 over the final stretch), but his 2017 season is off to a horrible start. He has been outsnapped by Matt Forte 62-to-48 and his elusive rating is among the worst in the NFL with just two forced missed tackles on 18 total touches. On a terrible offense and on the short side of a timeshare, Powell is more name than game.

Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins

Crowder has not yet emerged as the go-to guy for Cousins and the Redskins have not yet emerged as a high-volume and efficient passing game after losing offensive coordinator Sean McVay this offseason. Crowder has played just the 59th-most snaps among all wide receivers and has just the 40th-most targets so far. Making matters worse, he has just the 68th-most yards per route run (1.00).

DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans

Murray is already banged up with a hamstring injury and the 29-year-old back has a history of soft tissue injuries despite the fact that they didn’t creep up in 2016. In his absence, Derrick Henry reminded us why some fantasy owners were willing to drop a sixth-round pick on him this offseason. It’s difficult to imagine the Titans turning back to a full workload like Murray saw in 2016 even once he returns from this injury. Henry was arguably their most explosive playmaker in Week 2.

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