By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
That was, without a doubt, the most entertaining and active NFL trade deadline I have ever seen in my life. And I loved every minute of it. I’m going to give a quick run down of the most significant moves from a fantasy perspective, and then I’ll get to my picks this week.
RB Jay Ajayi traded to Eagles – This is huge. The Dolphins basically gave up on a top 10 RB — fantasy and NFL — for just a 4th round pick. I get it, some players just don’t buy into a system. But do you think trading them to the best team in the league is punishment? As an Eagles fan, I absolutely love this deal. LeGarrette Blount, while effective with his 4.7 yards per carry average, has been anything but impressive. Every time I watch him run, he gets stuffed at the line 70% of the time. The Eagles have the fourth most rushing yards in the NFL, and Ajayi can only help that. I think he starts as their 3rd down guy, but he will end the season as the starter. But it doesn’t bode well for those that took him high in drafts. He will be most effective in PPR leagues — like Club Fantasy — but he’s merely a matchup play for the next few weeks — Eagles are on a bye in Week 10 — until we see how he fits in the offense.
- This means the Dolphins starting RB gig falls in the hands of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. While neither are rather sexy options, it should be worth noting Drake had more carries in Week 8 than Williams, so early signs point to him being the lead guy in Week 9. This isn’t a situation I would want much to do with, but I’m of the mindset that any starting RB in football should be owned in fantasy. Whether you start them or not is up to you.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo traded to 49ers – If Jimmy G went to Cleveland, I would actually feel sorry for him. But he’s going to a much better organization and to a coaching staff that will put him in a position to succeed. I doubt he plays until after the 49ers have their bye in Week 11, so the earliest I think he would play would be Week 12 at home against the Seahawks. Yes, the 49ers are 0-8, but they have playmakers on offense. Very quietly, RB Carlos Hyde is RB9, WR Pierre Garçon is WR27, WR Marquise Goodwin is a legitimate deep threat, and rookie TE George Kittle has serious upside. Whenever the decide to start Garoppolo, I firmly believe he can be a top 20 QB from the time he starts through the end of the season. He’s certainly a dynasty stash though, as the 49ers will have plenty of cap room and high draft picks to make him a useful fantasy option in 2018.
- No fallout here in New England. They still have Tom Brady at QB. But let’s face it, if anything were to happen to him, you’d feel more comfortable in the Pats’ skill players with Garoppolo throwing to them versus newly signed back up, and former 49ers starter, Brian Hoyer throwing to them.
WR Kelvin Benjamin traded to Bills – Raise your hand if you saw this one coming? When was the last time the Bills had a legitimate number one wide receiver? I’ll wait. Benjamin instantly becomes their top playmaker on the outside and his presence alone helps create even more room for RB LeSean McCoy, who has been outstanding even with defenses keying in to stop him. I doubt he plays this week, and if he does, it won’t be many snaps, thus limiting his upside, but he should remain at best a FLEX option for the remainder of the season. But I like his WR2 upside here.
- This should elevate Panthers’ WR Devin Funchess to a solid WR2, thus warranting a starting spot in your lineup every week. TE Greg Olsen is eligible to return in a few weeks, but Funchess will be QB Cam Newton’s top WR from here on out. WR Curtis Samuel should see some added playing time as a result of the trade, so he’s someone I would keep an eye on, though I wouldn’t rush to plug him into your lineup. The biggest question really becomes, can Newton get Samuel the football in stride to make plays? Time will tell.
OT Duane Brown traded to Seahawks – Let’s face it, QB Russell Wilson could use some protection. As good as he is throwing on the run and scrambling for his life, that’s a great way to invite injury upon you. With a true left tackle on their line, Wilson should have some peace of mind now. This can only mean good things going forward for Wilson and the Seahawks offense.
- And no, this really doesn’t affect the Texans offense or QB Deshaun Watson. Brown had been holding out for a new deal while Watson was tearing up the league so my guess is he’ll continue to do so with no problem. Nothing to see here but greatness in the making.
Why do I bring up these deals? Obviously they have ramifications for many a fantasy lineup going forward. But the trade deadline is likely fast approaching in your own league, with many as early as Wednesday. Start surveying the landscape and see how you can improve your team. Start looking at players who have favorable match ups come Weeks 14 through 16. Even if they’re players you wouldn’t start on a regular basis, they could be nice FLEX options and could be the difference in advancing to a championship or losing in the first round.
That brings us to this week’s Confidence Plays. Here’s your refresher because I know you’ll get this confused. This column serves as a Start/Sit of sorts. I break things down into three categories. Start means exactly that. These are your studs, the guys we know are going to be studs this year and this is a week they return some of that draft value. Get them into your lineup! Play analyzes the fringe starters, your FLEX plays if you will. These guys could be on your bench one week and thrust into your starting lineup the next based on the matchup. When you see them mentioned here, put them in your lineup in some way, shape, or form. Do not misconstrue what Bench means. Seriously. I’m not saying to not start the players that end up in this section. Maybe they’re your studs that you know you’re going to start, but with bad match-ups, temper expectations. If I tell you to bench them, then you can blame me if they go off. These choices are based on my rankings, so feel free to check them out if you haven’t already!
QB Deshaun Watson & WR DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) – I think last week showed, against a Seahawks defense that only allowed the 7th fewest fantasy points to WRs, that Watkins and Hopkins are matchup proof. Seriously, how good has Watson been this season? He’s setting a new standard for rookie QBs and making the Browns look even dumber for having past on he and Carson Wentz in back to back years. Anyway, Watson and Hopkins face off against the Colts this week. Do you need further explanation?
QB Russell Wilson & WR Doug Baldwin (SEA) – What a shootout last week. Wilson has vaulted to the number 2 QB in fantasy on a points per game basis. In doing so, he’s reminding us all how good he is and that the ankle injury that slowed him last year is firmly in his rearview mirror. The Redskins are middle of the road in points allowed to QBs and with the Seahawks at home and a new left tackle protecting him, I think Wilson has plenty of time to find Baldwin, who was left out of the show last week and likely needs some coddling.
RB Kareem Hunt & WR Tyreek Hill (KC) – Hey, if you listened to me and “benched” Hunt last week, you didn’t miss much. But I firmly expect a return to the top this week, as witnessed by his number one ranking. Dallas isn’t exactly the brick wall Denver is so Andy Reid will want to feature the guy who’s helped them get to where they are. As for Hill, can you name any of the Cowboys starting corners? No? Me neither. They allow the 5th most fantasy points to WRs. As long as he’s not throwing interceptions, he should get you plenty of points come Sunday.
RB LeSean McCoy (BUF) – Shady is fantasy’s number seven RB and my number two this week. The Jets allow the 13th most fantasy points to RBs, but also allow almost 53 yards per game receiving to RBs. We know what Shady is capable of and he’s involved in all facets of the offense. And this will likely be the last week he has to do it all, as Kelvin Benjamin should be more heavily involved after this week.
WR Dez Bryant (DAL) – Well Josh Norman had his fun with Dez last week, now it’s time that Dez has some fun this week. Look, Marcus Peters is a good corner. We saw his skill set on display on Monday night. He currently ranks 16th among CBs according to Pro Football Focus. But I don’t think he’ll be covering Dez much, which is why I like Dez quite a bit this week. Call it hunch if you will, but you’re starting him regardless. Just expect more than your projections might indicate.
TE Zach Ertz (PHI) – He hasn’t scored less that 13 fantasy points in a game this season and as we saw on Monday night, the Broncos can’t cover TEs. They allow the 3rd most points, and Ertz is currently the highest scoring TE in fantasy. When life hands you lemons…
QB Tyrod Taylor (BUF) – This is one of my top streaming options at QB this week with another six teams on a bye. The Jets allow the 11th most fantasy points to QBs, and even with only one yard rushing last week against Oakland, he still scored 18.7 points. He’s never needed top WRs, but this is a division game, on a Thursday night, and I think he pushes 250 yards passing with 2 TDs and another 30 yards rushing. That would put him well over 20 points for the week. You can do worse.
QB Jared Goff (LAR) – Going cross country is never easy, but Goff and the Rams have had two weeks to prepare, and the Giants just suspended their best cover corner, Janoris Jenkins, indefinitely. Talk about a defense being served up on a silver platter. The Giants currently allow the 5th most fantasy points to QBs and Goff has been sneaky good in three of his last five games. A great spot start in a pinch this week.
RBs Mark Ingram & Alvin Kamara (NO) – They’re the new Devonta Freeman/Tevin Coleman. It’s only fitting all four RBs are in the same division. The Saints have found a way to limit Brees in the passing game and focus more on the running game, and it’s working. Ingram has averaged 24.3 fantasy points over his last three games, and Kamara currently ranks as RB17, with five double digit scoring games in seven games this year. They play a Bucs team that has allowed more than 300 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs over the last three weeks. Ingram is easily an RB1 this week with Kamara a solid RB2.
RB Christian McCaffrey & WR Devin Funchess (CAR) – When you trade your best WR, you need the other pass catchers on your team to step up. The Falcons allow almost 9 receptions a game to opposing RBs, which basically means McCaffrey is an RB1 this week. Funchess takes over Benjamin’s role in the offense as the number one WR. This isn’t a great matchup for Funchess, as the Falcons allow the 1th fewest fantasy points to WRs, but they’ve allowed at least one receiving TD each week since Week 2, and I’m willing to bet Funchess snags one.
RB Adrian Peterson (ARI) – If you bailed on Peterson after his Week 7 stinker, shame on you. He faces a 49ers team that allows the most fantasy points to opposing RBs. With Drew Stanton filling in for the injured Carson Palmer for the foreseeable future, it’s safe to say AD will be relied upon heavily. This week should provide ample return.
WR Will Fuller V (HOU) – One more week of 2 TD catches and he joins his brethren in the Start section. Fuller’s numbers this season are unheard of. He has 13 receptions, and seven receiving touchdowns! There is absolutely zero way he can sustain that type of production, but do you want to be the guy or girl that doubts him and benches him? I didn’t think so. Plug him in and enjoy the show.
WR Michael Crabtree (OAK) – It legitimately baffles me that the Dolphins allow the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs. I mean, they just released Byron Maxwell who was one of their starting CBs. But their safeties have been fantastic which has helped, but their starters are a rookie and 2nd year pro. A veteran like Crabtree can break through the facade. I trust him more this week underneath than I do Cooper over the top and deep.
TE Evan Engram (NYG) – Engram is really all the Giants have in terms of pass catchers. And while the Rams rank 3rd in fewest fantasy points allowed to TEs, I’m betting on volume here. Engram is a top 5 option for me this week.
TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (NYJ) – The Bills defense does many things well. But they’re below average in covering TEs. ASJ should be effective as a top weapon for the shockingly underrated Josh McCown.
Streaming defenses of the week are Bills D/ST, Cardinals D/ST, & Rams D/ST.
QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) – Just because Deshaun Watson can do it doesn’t mean Kirk Cousins can. You really think the Seahawks secondary wants to be embarrassed a second week in a row? At home? Nah bruh. Besides, Cousins and the Redskins don’t have anything close to the type of receiving options the Texans do. Fading hard this week.
QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) – I hope that after the bye week, Mariota finds himself much healthier. It’s a shame he has to face the Ravens and their stingy defense. They allow the 2nd fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs and Mariota hasn’t exactly been as awesome this season as I’d hoped.
RB Devonta Freeman (ATL) – I’m stretching, as there aren’t a lot of backs to hate on this week, but Freeman runs into a Panthers defense that has allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points to RBs. It’s not like the Falcons offense has been humming as of late and while Freeman is still a top option, averaging the 10th most points at RB, he’s not exactly setting the world on fire. Temper expectations this week.
RBs Darren McFadden & Alfred Morris (DAL) – With Ezekiel Elliott unofficially officially starting his suspension — it’s not completely settled but he’s missing Week 9 it appears –the role of bell cow back in an efficient Cowboys running game goes to… no one, it seems. The Cowboys are employing a committee between McFadden, Morris, and Rod Smith. Morris has a 1,600+ yard rushing campaign under his belt, McFadden has run for over 1,000 yards behind this offensive line, and Rod Smith has the same name as a former great Broncos WR. Because that just needed to be said. Look, until the Cowboys figure out how this backfield is going to work, do you really want to put faith in starting any of them?
WR A.J. Green (CIN) – Even in a great matchup last week, Green underwhelmed. Do you really think he’s gonna show out against the best tandem of corners in the league right now? You’re still starting him, but he’s a fringe WR1 for me this week based off his talent.
WRs Jordy Nelson & Davante Adams (GB) – The last time Brett Hundley trotted out as the starting QB, he had a woeful 87 yards passing. Here’s hoping the bye week fixed him. If he’s ineffective, I don’t have high hopes for Nelson and Adams. Both are still in my top 20 this week, but at 18 & 20 respectively. I have hope based on their track record, but I need convincing from Hundley that they can be relied upon week in and week out.
TE Jason Witten (DAL) – Good TEs have beaten the Chiefs. Witten is a good TE. I just have a bad feeling about this mathup this week.