Dwight Howard

NFL Fantasy Trade Value Column

Week 5 is upon us, and if we don’t see patterns emerging we’re not paying attention. The first bye weeks are here, so teams will start having chances to implement new looks or personnel. For the most part, things can be expected to remain as they appear.

For the record, some things appear pretty messed up.

The best players aren’t necessarily the fantasy football scoring leaders after three weeks. Game plans, play-calling, and workloads are stifling some players and lifting others.

Experienced fantasy managers know talent will work its way out of coach-induced purgatories, and shine in time to salvage some championship runs.

Other managers are unsure and wary. They are already looking for replacements and backups. Their rosters are where savvy managers find trade bargains, or use some early-season chips to bolster their weaknesses.

There are managers who will bravely ship out early-season stars, and bring on a disappointment or two in the belief their off-season research will prove accurate in the long run.

Let’s look at a few of the folks these trade masters will be targeting.

Quarterbacks I’m selling high: Brady, Wentz

Tom Brady fans are probably screaming unspeakable things at me about how the Ageless Wonder is throwing the ball so well and might have his best wide receiving corps in years. He also has a lot of mileage, a large running corps, and a coach who will again save as much of Brady as he can for the real-life playoffs.

Brady will pull his usual fade, hitting his lowest points during the playoffs that matter, the fantasy football playoffs. Trade him soon to get maximum returns.

Carson Wentz has good fantasy football playoff matchups, but he might have trouble getting your team there. He faces a brutal schedule from Week 6 through Week 12. With a vexed receiving corps, it might be worth sending Wentz to a quarterback-needy team before Week 5.

Quarterbacks I’m buying low: Garoppolo, Mayfield

Jimmy Garoppolo is not going to give the ball away three times per game most weeks. We see some signs of life from Dante Pettis, and as good as the running backs have been, the team will soon add Tevin Coleman to a jack-of-all-trades role. All of this will help Garoppolo.

Mayfield is a bit more of a gamble. In the preseason, I predicted he would be a bust this season. But Mayfield, as well as players like Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, respond to being dissed. They are almost at an “us-against-the-world” mentality once again as their preseason hype melts away.

Running backs I’m selling high: Gore, Henry

Frank Gore is another ageless wonder who is probably good for about 10 points most weeks. But as the season goes on, Devin Singletary is destined to take over the lead role in Buffalo. Gore is a reliable plug-in. Take advantage of him now.

Derrick Henry is the current RB-6. He is averaging 70 yards and a touchdown each game. He was benched when the Titans fell behind last week, but jumped off the bench to salvage his week with a one-yard touchdown. Workhorse runners who double as the goal-line smasher have value if they remain healthy and the team is playing close.

We are trusting Marcus Mariota to keep games close. That’s not ideal. If you would trade Henry, you must get at least a potential quality replacement. Someone selling low on Chris Carson or Leonard Fournette might be willing to throw in a WR-3 to sweeten a deal.

Running backs I’m buying low: Carson, Fournette

Pete Carroll is not a coach I trust, but he named Chris Carson the Week 4 starter and vows he’ll correct the recent fumble issues that cost him half of last week’s game.

Take advantage of Carson owners scared that Rashaad Penney will take over. This won’t be the first time someone has a fluky few games and comes back flawless the rest of the season.

Leonard Fournette saved his fantasy day with a 69-yard run last week. Otherwise, he ran for negative yardage in what should be a true workhorse role behind a backup quarterback. It is enough to make his owners jumpy.

But Fournette is the only running back with a top-five carry count and a top-five pass target count. There is nobody else to take over in Jacksonville. Fournette will have more good games than bad. Grab him on the cheap if you can.

Wide receivers I’m selling high: Watkins, Ross

Sammy Watkins is finally having the type of year we imagined when the Mahomes Express took over in Kansas City. Many fantasy football managers would love to have the WR-3 in their lineup.

Trade him to them. When Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams, and LeSean McCoy are healthy, Andy Reid is not going to throw Darnell Williams, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson under the bench. Watkins might still have some big games, but maybe not enough to make you regret picking up a high-value player or two for him.

Similarly, John Ross will not go away when AJ Green comes back. But with Tyler Eifert showing signs of life, I have a hunch Andy Dalton will find his muscle memory kicking in when Green and Eifert are out there. Tyler Boyd is the other Bengal wide receiver I would keep. I think Ross’ production drops a bunch if Green returns.

Wide receivers I’m buying low: Stills, Anderson

Kenny Stills officially passed Keke Coutee on the depth chart in Houston and lines up in the slot most of the time. That gives a player some value right off the top. But it gets better.

For reasons known only to Bill O’Brien, Houston refuses to get Duke Johnson into the receiving flow. Deshaun Watson is hitting his slot receiver as the hot read and ignoring his backfield. Stills’ game from Week 3 will be close to his routine unless the game plan changes.

Sam Darnold is not Adam Rodgers. But, he’s not Luke Falk, either. And most teams don’t have defenses like the Patriots. Darnold loves taking shots downfield and Anderson is the guy to receive them. Expect Le’Veon Bell to distract defenses enough for Anderson to break free for some big plays.

Untradeable Players

Too many fantasy football managers trade for the sake of trading. It is hard to discern any reason for some moves other than the thrill at pulling off a deal. They see every injury or bad performance as an opportunity to trade with that owner.

Don’t try to pry away a superstar and don’t insult anyone. I actually got offered TJ Hockenson and Jay Ajayi for my Saquon Barkley, because apparently, I “needed a better tight end (I have Waller) and the Giants will probably sign Ajayi.”

Besides the insult factor that I would buy an explanation like that, there are some players that owners should never trade. So don’t ask. Here is a list of 30 players I would never deal, loosely grouped in reverse order unless someone is trading me another player within these groups. But just a heads up, I ranked them from 31-1 with 1 being univocally untradeable to 31 being I’m more inclined to consider it.

*Also, I’m joined in the footnotes by my overseer, Joe Garcia, for extra commentary.

Group I: The “Other” Tight Ends

31. Darren Waller

30. Mark Andrews

29. Zach Ertz

Waller and Andrews are too young to be untradeable. But since they are both primary targets in their respective passing games, it is difficult not to mention them, either.

Without the rookies, Ertz is the 30th player on my list of untradeables. He could arguably rank higher on this list, but I bumped him down due to competition for Eagles targets and signs of wear and tear. Ertz doesn’t seem to be running through people anymore.

Group II: 3 Ty’s and 3 other receiver guys

28. Odell Beckham Jr

27. Davante Adams

26. Amari Cooper

Adams had a terrible start and now is injured, but you still can’t trade him away when Aaron Rodgers and the offense hasn’t even kicked into gear yet. Odell Beckham Jr[1] has an inexperienced quarterback with an inexperienced head coach, but he’ll be a top-ten wide receiver when the season ends.

Cooper is having some foot issues, but he still runs pretty routes and catches anything thrown in his general area. He is exactly the type of player Dak Prescott wants to throw to, so he will.

[1] Call we all agree we have no idea if Freddie Kitchens is even running an offense out there!? Out of all the receivers, I had Odell as my highest ceiling receiver taking him from Drunk Eli and that horrible o-line to Baker Mayfield. After 1052 yards and 6 touchdowns last year I would have bet the farm he would have come close to doubling that this year, now owners will be happy if he even scratches that.

25. TY Hilton

24. Tyler Lockett

23. Tyreek Hill

Hilton is still the top receiver on a passing team, regardless of the quarterback’s name. Lockett is one of the most efficient receivers in football and now he is getting more targets. Hill is a featured player in one of the most prolific offenses in history.

Group III: Really Reliable Runners

22. David Johnson

21. Dalvin Cook[2]

20. Le’Veon Bell

All have clear workhorse roles that are not likely to diminish any time soon. Opportunity (touches) wins fantasy games. Touches plus talent wins championships. The only thing keeping these three from top dawg status is their injury history.

[2] Sorry, but definitely have to disagree on this one. Cook is definitely in my top 3 most untradeable players. He’s this year’s Todd Gurley – super explosive ball carrier that has an offense built around him. I watched the Saints/Cowboys game waiting for Sean Payton to unleash Alvin Kamara – linebacker mismatches, quick tosses, sneaky screens; instead he was used as a decoy and barely even touched the ball. It was a travesty. Well that’s not happening with Cook. You know he’s getting his even with Diggs and Thielen on the team. That’s why I have Cook ranked higher than Kamara this year.

19. Mark Ingram

He shares the Ravens’ rushing duties a little, but makes the most of what he gets. He is reliable, pushes through tacklers, and is a great goal-line rusher.

Group IV: The 1-A passers

18. Dak Prescott

Is a consistent top-ten fantasy quarterback. He has deceptive running ability and an improved set of skill players around him.

17. Matt Ryan

He is consistently among the league leaders in touchdown passes, including eight through the first three games of 2019.

16. Russell Wilson

His fans want him to throw more. But he continues to make the most of his opportunities and anyone who follows fantasy football, knows Wilson gets better as the season goes on.

Group V: Tightest Tight Ends

15. Evan Engram[3]

14. George Kittle

13. Travis Kelce

They might as well be the WR-1 on their respective teams. Each of these three commands more targets than most tight ends and are trusted “go-to” guys for their quarterbacks.

[3] Made better with the arrival of… DAAAANNNYYY DIIIMMMEEESSSS!!!!!

Group VI: A Pass-Catching Quintet

Any wide receiver can disappear for a game here and there based on matchups and game situations. But these next five players always end up with the lion’s share of targets and consistently turn them into a bevy of fantasy football points. That helps them win spots among my top 12 fantasy football players.

12. Julio Jones

He’s consistently a top pass receiver in the NFL. Julio Jones catching touchdowns, as he has in every game this season, is a fantasy football championship maker.

11. Keenan Allen

He is playing out of his mind but has always been a consistent top-12 receiver.

10. DeAndre Hopkins[4]

Had his annual snoozer in Week 3 and will be back to his other-worldly self Sunday.

[4] I don’t trust his shaky offensive line. I’d rather have Allen with that AFC West schedule than face Indy, Titans, and the Jags & Gardner Minshew.

9. Mike Evans[5]

is the best wide receiver in a pass-first offense that is just starting to click.

[5] Don’t trust his shaky quarterback.

8. Michael Thomas[6]

Simply one of the most reliable receivers in history receiving passes from one of the most reliable passers in history.

[6] Is there anything this dude can’t catch??? I thought Odell was great, but Thomas is somehow better? Does his training involve catching flies with his hands? Come on Sports Science, show me something!!!

Group VII: Four Fleet-of-Foot Footballers

7. Ezekiel Elliot

6. Alvin Kamara

5. Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey, Kamara, and Elliott are in the same class as Barkley. All these players have reliable workloads and give their managers consistent game-winning results. There is a reason they all consistently went off draft boards among the first five selections.

4. Saquon Barkley

Even when he is injured, Barkley is untouchable. You just don’t give away a potential championship-winning rusher before you know how long he will be out. Even in the worst-case scenario, Barkley will be back before fantasy playoff season.

Group VIII: The Three Young Guns[7]

3. Deshaun Watson

2. Pat Mahomes

It’s not just that Mahomes and Watson can light up a scoreboard. Both of these passers showed they are a more-than-reliable fixture in your lineup. Watson played with bruised lung last season and Mahomes shrugged off a sprained ankle on Opening Day.

[7] Are we sure couldn’t name this group “The Mahomies”???… The Pat “Mahomies”

1. Lamar Jackson

He hasn’t had the chance to show us how he reacts to injuries, because no one can catch him. No owner in their right mind will trade any of these three quarterbacks. They are the most valuable fantasy players on your rosters.

So, there you have 30 players I will never trade. Other players might be deemed untouchable by their owners, too. Don’t get offended or nasty if someone refuses to make a deal with you. It’s their team and they like it the way it is.

Some players who have owners thinking trade

We already spoke about Chris Carson and how his flurry of fumbles could make him a trade target or bait. But there are a few other players who have managers wondering what to do.

Devonta Freeman (RB-35) was considered a draft day steal at his low RB-2 position, but it took a 95-yard effort Sunday to lift him into the tail end of RB-3 territory. The question now is whether that is a sign he is ready to kick things up a notch? Or was it just a decent week that might help owners get a little more for him in a trade? I am rolling the dice and holding on for another week.

Sonny Michel (RB-44) has two rushing touchdowns. Otherwise, he’d be out of the rankings altogether. James White (RB-36) missed a game and is still ranked higher. The real threat, however, is Rex Burkhead (RB-15).

Bill Belichick is known to play the hot hand, so if Michel can get something going, he can get back into the picture. In fact, at least one New England beat writer thinks Michel could get 30 touches this week.

But Burkhead has always had Belichick’s trust, as does White. Michel still has some value, but I’d wait for the next time he shows signs of life and try to get something for him quickly.

Aaron Jones’ value is restricted only by his coach’s insistence of sharing snaps with Jamaal Williams. Jones should be held on to as he is known to be efficient and will win some games for you as an RB-2. But if you don’t own him, watch to see if his owner is panicking enough to sell him low.

The San Francisco running back committee is doing alright for the 49ers. The pending return of Tevin Coleman will complicate matters. I am inclined to hold Matt Breida since at least a two-man committee will continue all season. But I will take reasonable offers for Raheem Mostert.

Devante Adams could reasonably be expected to bounce back in a pass-first offense. But what about Stefon Diggs (WR-70)? Preseason hope was based on last season’s target share under then-interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

But it is clear Adam Thielen (WR-24) is Kirk Cousin’s favorite target when the Vikings throw, and they aren’t throwing too often. Even when they got a wide receiver involved in the running game Sunday, that was Thielen, not Diggs, running it in from a yard out.

Rushing for a touchdown put the “favorite” receiver barely into WR-2 range. It might be okay to cut bait with Diggs if you get a reasonable offer.

Waiver Wire Wonders

There are some players still available on waivers for those who don’t like to trade for their help.

Darrell Williams came on in relief in Kansas City and had the kind of game that will have all the owners who didn’t pick him up just before game time Sunday looking for him early this week.

With all the talk of questionable running back situations, we did not touch on James Connor (RB-24). He has not taken the bull by the horns in Pittsburgh the way folks who drafted him as a mid-to-late RB-1 expected. After a couple of fumbles, picking up Jaylen Samuels or even Benny Snell, Jr might not be a bad idea, but only for future usage.

Wayne Gallman won’t replace your Saquon Barkley numbers, but he is the starting running back for the Giants in Week 4. Don’t be surprised if Elijah Penny steals a considerable number of touches.

Phillip Dorsett reminds me of Chris Hogan circa 2017. Hogan paid off pretty well for me that year, so I’d pick up Dorsett if I needed a wide receiver.

Dede Westbrook saw some more targets this week, but he also dropped a couple. That only solidifies DJ Chark’s status as Gardner Minshew’s favorite target and an excellent waiver target.

You can find Sterling Shepard in almost half of all fantasy football leagues. He was the WR-3 this week. Dontrelle Inman is a rare healthy receiver for the Chargers going against the Dolphins.

If I need to stream a quarterback this week, I’m going with Daniel Jones or Jacoby Brissett ahead of any of the available veterans. Matt Stafford is not a bad third option.

You could do worse than Will Dissly versus Arizona at tight end, but only if Greg Olsen and Austin Hooper are not available.

Extra points

Tony Pollard outscored Ezekiel Elliott in the Cowboys’ rout over Miami. That does not make him waivers material.

Given how things turned out, I am proud to admit I started Daniel Jones in one of my leagues. Unfortunately, I lost the game because Freddie Kitchens wouldn’t let Nick Chubb run the ball in from the 4-yard line at the end of last night’s game.

Gotta love fantasy football.


Pat Opperman NFL Fantasy Analyst, click here for more.

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