Before getting into the top players to trade for and away this week, let’s revisit last week’s candidates and review their performances.
I wrote last week that Austin Ekeler was a buy low. Justin Herbert’s injury notwithstanding, Ekeler had his worst—and most confusing—performance of the season. I still think he’s much better than he’s shown, but Ekeler still hasn’t scored or finished a game with better than 3.0 YPC. I hope you bit on CeeDee Lamb and Kyle Pitts, though, as they both had their best outings of the young season.
As for the sells, I might be wrong about James Robinson. He broke 20 points, 100 yards and ran in yet another touchdown. Antonio Gibson, once again, had a poor outing salvaged by a touchdown, and we are one week closer to Brian Robinson Jr.’s return. And even though Clyde Edwards-Helaire had another productive fantasy outing, seven carries for zero yards and 14.9 fantasy points is an anomaly and not worth chasing.
Now onto the Week 4 trade candidates!
RB AJ Dillon, Packers
Green Bay is feeding Dillon touches, he’s just not eating—yet. The third-year back leads the team with 48 through three games but his production as a rusher and receiver has dipped and he has not made up for that with trips to the end zone.
That can partially be attributed to the Packers’ lackluster offensive play despite their 2-1 start. They average the sixth-fewest points (16) in the NFL and rank ninth in DVOA, down from second a season ago, and Aaron Rodgers is decidedly not putting up MVP numbers, which was to be expected with Davante Adams’s departure. Still, it’s Dillon (RB26), not his backfield counterpart Aaron Jones (RB7), who has been a disappointment for fantasy managers.
Dillon’s usage is encouraging, though, as is the return of left and right tackles David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, respectively. Dillon has also played at least 50% of snaps in each game so far this season and the schedule is about to lighten up: Patriots, Giants, Jets, Commanders. As the Packers take better control of games against lesser opponents, he will return to his sophomore season efficiency, only with more opportunities.
RB Josh Jacobs, Raiders
There’s no running back committee in Las Vegas. It’s been all Jacobs through the Raiders’ equally surprising and disappointing 0-3 start. He’s handled almost 80% of the team’s carries and is averaging the second-most yards per carry (4.6) of his career. Jacobs also ranks 14th in the NFL in carries and 17th in touches, so the opportunities are clearly there.
So what makes him a buy low if he’s playing so well? He hasn’t scored—no Raiders player has on the ground—and his involvement in the passing game has dipped with the arrival of Adams and emergence of Mack Hollins. That’s why Jacobs, at RB29, ranks outside the RB2 range despite fielding the workload of a high-end RB2.
That Jacobs has seen at least 10 carries in each game so far—again, all losses—is evidence that this coaching staff wants to and will continue to lean on its lead back during the final year of his contract. Positive touchdown regression is coming for Jacobs, who has nine red-zone carries. The Raiders are going to win some of their upcoming games and you’ll want the 20-plus carry, 100-yard Jacobs game to happen on your roster, not your opponent’s.
WR Tee Higgins, Bengals
Instead of singing Higgins’s praises, I encourage you to just enjoy this ridiculous highlight. Watched it? Now rewatch it. Okay, the player who did that is currently the WR34. (Partly because he wasn’t inbounds, but did you see how he went up for that ball?!) Higgins has outscored teammate Ja’Marr Chase in both games since he left the season opener early with a concussion.
He has 21 fewer yards than Chase on 16 fewer targets and eight fewer catches this season. If Higgins hadn’t left Week 1 early, he might be outscoring Chase outright. Jacob Gibbs of CBS Sportsline outlined on Twitter this week that Higgins has actually outperformed Chase on the plays they’ve shared the field throughout their careers.
Much is made of the uncanny deep connection between Burrow and Chase, but this is also Higgins’s third season playing with Burrow. Higgins was cheap in drafts compared to Chase, who cost a late first, and his price is even more depressed at this point in the season. Buy low while you still can.
RB Damien Harris, Patriots
Harris is an early-down, touchdown-dependent back on a below-average offense that is about to be without its starting quarterback for several weeks. But because he found the end zone in back-to-back weeks, he ranks just inside the top 24 players at his position. Don’t count on that continuing.
Rhamondre Stevenson outsnapped Harris in each of the last two games and is in on more than 50% of New England’s plays. Stevenson is the better pass-catcher, which will matter with either Brian Hoyer or rookie Bailey Zappe starting in Mac Jones’s place, and just had his best game of the season: 101 total yards on 16 touches and a score. Meanwhile Harris gained a season-low 41 yards on 11 carries.
The only issue with trying to dump Harris now is that he’s already trending in the wrong direction and Stevenson’s arrow is pointing up. Don’t just give him away, but see if you can cash in to an RB-needy team before Steveson truly takes over this backfield.
WR Deebo Samuel, 49ers
That Samuel was a threat in the rushing and receiving game in San Francisco’s offense made him extremely desirable last season. His rushing was a welcome fold in coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and it made Samuel a dynamic player in fantasy football. But it’s important to remember the vast majority of his points in 2021 were a result of his proficiency as a pass-catcher—the rushing was gravy.
Samuel’s 18 yards per catch led the league last season; he’s down to a career-low 10.9 through three games. His 1,400 receiving yards were also the fifth-most in the NFL and now he’s in a battle with Brandon Aiyuk for the team lead (Aiyuk has the slight edge, 141-131). His rushing attempts are up to 5.7 per game from 3.7 last season and his yards per carry have jumped from 6.2 to 6.5, so his value and involvement as a rusher is still very much a reality. But his value as a receiver, so far, has plummeted even with Jimmy Garoppolo behind center rather than Trey Lance. Samuel’s average depth of target is 3.3, down from 8.4 last season
He still has plenty of name appeal from his All-Pro season and he hasn’t been a massive disappointment this year, but between Aiyuk’s emergence, Garoppolo’s struggles and the injury to All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, there are reasons to get off the Samuel ship.
WR Mike Williams, Chargers
The Williams experience has been a rollercoaster. He has two games outside of the top 50 at his position and one inside the top 10. That’s averaged out to WR35, not great, but sort of par for the course for a player who has historically been a boom or bust candidate week in and week out.
After the financial commitment Los Angeles made to him in the offseason, there was hope Williams would assume a larger role in the offense. That hasn’t really happened. He’s fourth on the team in receiving yards despite being tied for second in targets, and that’s with Keenan Allen having missed two games already. The bulk of Williams’s production came Week 2 against the Chiefs when he caught eight passes for 113 yards and a score. He’s combined for three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown in two other contests.
Things are looking bleak for the Chargers—Justin Herbert is nursing a rib injury and tackle Rashawn Slater is out for the year. The quarterback tasked with getting Williams the ball did not look healthy in the blowout loss to the Jaguars, the lineman tasked with protecting Herbert’s blind side is out and Allen, a target magnet, might make his return this week. The boom weeks will always be there for Williams, but they might be too few and far between.
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