Now that we’re fully entrenched in the 2017 NFL season, the idea of trades fantasy owners can actually make has taken shape. We’ve also reached the point of the season where some owners may need to make a trade to save their playoff hopes, while others can capitalize on a hot start to take a risk. In short, trade season is upon us.
The general goal when assessing trade prospects is to buy low and sell high, but there are times when buying high and selling low makes sense, as well. And, as always, you want to be a good trade partner. No one likes the owner in their league who regularly offers terrible trades or goes into trade talks looking to make an unbalanced deal.
Looking at multiple factors for a trade target will serve you best, such as schedule, potential floor and ceiling, and health of surrounding teammates. You’ll see references to 4for4’s Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) metric in this column, which we rely on heavily to determine weekly matchup strength. As the season progresses and more data is available, aFPA becomes even more reliable, thanks to its rolling 10-week data.
Each week, I’ll take a look at the top players to target, and those you should aim to sell to get the best value moving forward. Here’s this week’s crop of players.
Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
Owners are most likely in panic mode over Cooper’s two-week slide. After putting up 17.2 PPR points the first week of the season, he was outshined by Michael Crabtree in Week 2, and suffered along with the rest of the Raiders anemic offense in the Week 3 loss to the Redskins. Cooper talented is unimpeachable, and even though he has left the fantasy community wanting more to this point of his career, he’s a good bet to rebound. What’s more, Cooper’s value could go down again after this week with the Raiders visiting the Broncos and their stout pass defense on Sunday. Nine times out of 10, you want to bet on talent rising, not falling.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
Kelce is sixth among tight ends in points in PPR leagues, yet most of those came on a monster Week 2 outing, when he piled up 24.3 points. Last week, Kelce had a bizarre line of one target and one catch for one yard. Running back Kareem Hunt has been lights out these first three weeks, leaving very little for his surrounding teammates. With Hunt hogging the spotlight, it’s entirely possible Kelce’s owners have soured just enough to make him available. There’s plenty of room for Hunt to remain the RB1 but to also see his output come back to earth a bit, opening up more opportunities for Kelce. Putting some feelers out to see what it would take to acquire him is well worth it at this point.
Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
There is zero hype surrounding the New Orleans running back, who ended the 2016 season with the eighth-highest fantasy points in PPR formats. Sure, he has a few more guys to share the rock with this season, and through the first three weeks, he’s averaging 13 touches a game to last year’s 15.7. Owners are understandably scared off by the timeshare, as well as Sean Payton’s bizarre unwillingness to feature Ingram. Still, it’s worth betting on the player who is clearly the team’s best option in the backfield, especially with the potency of the Saints offense. There’s a chance you can buy Ingram for next to nothing right now.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
Currently sitting as the No. 47 wide receiver in PPR points after the first three weeks, Bryant isn’t exactly selling himself. However, his exceptional talent should always have him on the buy radar. Just last week, the Steelers’ wideout burned Chicago corner Marcus Cooper on the very first play from scrimmage for what should have been a bomb of a touchdown, but he short-armed the reception and it ticked off his fingertips. That’s the way the season has gone so far for Bryant, but shouldn’t continue as such. Looking way ahead, Pittsburgh’s two opponents during the fantasy playoffs, New England and Houston, have been weak versus the wide receiver position, with aFPAs of 42.2 and 36.2 respectively. Bryant could be a steal at this stage of the season.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Yeah, this might be a longshot, but it’s also one of the few realistic opportunities you’ll have ot swing a deal for Bell. His start has been sluggish by his standards, but he has scored more fantasy points with each passing week starting at 7.7, jumping to 13.1 in Week 2, and then getting in his usual range with a 21.8 PPR-point performance against the Bears last week. That may have brought some Bell owners back from the ledge, but if you can make a legitimate offer for him, meaning one that involves a true WR1 or RB1, now is the time to strike.
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Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams
Watkins is coming off his best game as a Ram, catching six passes for 106 yards and two scores in the team’s win over the 49ers last week. Watkins will always have injury questions, though, and he’s dealing with a concussion in advance of Week 4. He’s also running third on the team in targets, tied with Cooper Kupp and trailing Robert Woods and Todd Gurley. The Rams have yet to have either of their games with Seattle or Arizona, meaning Watkins has four very tough matchups in his future. He also has future dates with Janoris Jenkins and Xavier Rhodes.
Chris Thompson, RB, Redskins
First and foremost, Thompson has been one of the most impressive players of the first three weeks of the season. Just as important, he has a long injury history, and his coach, Jay Gruden, understands that as well as anyone. He stressed that Thompson’s role won’t be changing, even though he has been the team’s most dangerous weapon thus far in 2017, averaging 13 yards per touch. Sure, his fantasy numbers are huge, but it’s highly unlikely the five-year veteran can keep up this kind of production, especially without more time on the field. His value is clearly at a peak right now, and Robert Kelley’s status for this week is cloudy, making this a great time to sel. Consider targets like Mark Ingram or Tevin Coleman.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
We all know what Jackson is at this point of his career. He’s a boom-or-bust player who booms a bit more than the average player in that mold. He went bust in Week 2, then exploded for 18.4 PPR points last week. Tampa Bay’s offense has more than its fair share of mouths to feed, so expect Jackson’s production to be as spotty moving forward. Still, the good comfortably outweighs the bad, here, and that should make it easier to sell him. Remember, you want to offer players in trades that people actually want to acquire, and that will bring back attractive assets. Jackson should do that, especially after his big game in Week 3.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Selling a quarterback in one-quarterback leagues is always harder to do than advertised, and Rivers has not looked like his usual self through the first three weeks of the season. He threw three touchdowns in Week 1, but had just 192 yards and 5.82 yards per attempt. In Week 2, he piled up 331 yards and 8.49 YPA, but threw only one touchdown. Last week, he threw up a stinker against the Chiefs, throwing for 237 yards, 5.93 YPA, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Rivers gets a friendly matchup with the Eagles at home this week, though, and if he comes out firing, next week could be the perfect time to trade him. From Week 10 through Week 16, Rivers faces four teams that are in the top five at defending the quarterback position, with an average aFPA of just 7.5 points.