By Andrew Metcalfe
The trade deadline is quickly approaching for both Fantasy Football and real life football. Dynasty is all about value and knowing when to buy or sell the right players at the right time. Here are some of my favorite “buys” right now that could help a contending team make a playoff push, or set up a rebuilding team for a brighter future. I’ve also included suggested trade offers, but these are dependent on your league’s trade market and the manager that you are negotiating with. Use these as a starting point in the conversation, not as Gospel.
The Big Names
RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
Many would not necessarily consider the RB11 on the season as a “buy low” candidate, but I believe Jacobs is on the verge of entering the top tier of dynasty RBs. There are managers out there that have been frustrated with his inconsistencies to start the year. His finishes through eight weeks have been RB1, RB23, RB31, RB31, RB5, RB43, RB15. Even though he has only two RB1 finishes so far this season, I’m not concerned about him long-term. When you look at the Raiders’ opponents through eight weeks, he’s had some tough matchups against New Orleans, Buffalo, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. The 2nd half of this season will yield a much better defensive schedule for him. I also like his increased involvement in the passing game. Going into Week 9, he is just two targets shy of his total target count in 2019. If you remove Week 8, where he saw just one target (terrible weather for the passing game overall), his 16-game pace would be 48 receptions. It’s not quite the 60 that we were hoping for in preseason, but still a vast improvement on the 20 receptions that he had in 2019. There’s also no denying his talent as a runner. Player Profiler has him charted for an average of 6.2 evaded tackles per game in 2020 (6th best) and also ranks him 9th in Yards Created. It won’t be cheap to acquire him, likely a 1st round pick plus a decent prospect or veteran RB2/WR2, but this could be the last time he’s attainable before blowing up.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
There aren’t many players that have lost as much fantasy value as JuJu has over the past year, considering that many considered him as THE Dynasty WR1 going into the 2019 season. After injuries derailed his season last year and an up-and-down start to this season, he’s barely in the top 24 conversation among WRs right now. Factor in the emergences of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in Pittsburgh, and JuJu is quickly becoming an afterthought among fantasy managers. While I understand the frustrations of those that roster him, I’m not ready to give up on him being an elite fantasy producer.
First off, many forget how young JuJu is because he came into the league at just 20 years old. His birthday is November 22nd, and he turns 24. That’s still four to five years from reaching the age apex for the average WR. His sophomore season, when he put up 1,426 yards as a 22-year-old, was historic. Since 2000, only nine other WRs have achieved a 1,400+ yard season before the age of 24. Some of those names include legends like Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Isaac Bruce. The only “busts” on this list are David Boston and Josh Gordon (more as a result of off-the-field reasons).
It will be difficult for JuJu to maintain consistent production with such a talented WR corps in Pittsburgh, but he’s set to become a free agent in 2021 and reports indicate that the Steelers intend to let him walk. A 24-year-old receiver with his track record will attract plenty of suitors and he will be able to choose the team that fits him best. I don’t expect him to become a high-end WR1, but you should be able to get top 15-20 WR production from him for another 7-8 years. His value is tricky, due to the wide variance of opinions on him, but I would see if I could acquire him for two 2nd round picks or a mid-late 1st along with a solid depth piece.
The Forgotten Sophomores
RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Yeah, I get it. You’re probably thinking, “yuck”. That thought is the exact reason you should kick the tires on Montgomery’s price in your league. It’s clear that he is not a dynamic athlete and won’t impress anyone with his lack of straight-line speed. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t valuable for fantasy. Montgomery averages 19.38 opportunities per game (rush attempts + targets) which is the 12th most among RBs, giving him a consistent floor. He’s currently the RB17 on the season, but has only scored 2 TDs. No other running back in the top 20 has less than 4 TDs, except for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Montgomery will easily reach high-end RB2 production, with even the slightest positive regression in that department. You also have to consider his involvement in the passing game. Since Tarik Cohen went down in Week 3, Montgomery has seen at least 5 targets in every game. Through Week 8, he ranks 4th in routes run among RBs. I would gladly give up a 2nd round pick, plus a depth piece or even consider giving a late 1st if I’m a contender that needs a solid RB3. At only 23 years old, we can hope that the Bears offense sees better days, which could launch him into RB1 territory at some point in his career.
WR D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
Chark is a candidate for one of the top 2020 busts on the season, currently sitting at WR47 after a preseason ADP of WR21. He started the season dealing with a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss a game and leave early in another. When he has been on the field, Gardner Minshew just hasn’t been able to get on the same page with him. Chark has yet to reach 100 yards receiving in any game this season and I think QB play has been his main obstacle. Minshew ranks 21st in intended air yards per target, which means that he avoids deep passes more than most QBs. Chark thrived on deep targets in 2019, ranking 20th in total air yards and 14th in deep targets. When Minshew does throw the occasional deep ball, his accuracy has been poor. Going into their Week 8 bye, Chark has a catchable target rate of just 68.3%. Only six WRs with more than 40 targets had lower marks (credit: Jay Gibbs, @jagibbs_23).
Earlier this week, Head Coach Doug Marrone announced that Minshew would not be available in Week 9 due to a thumb injury. Some would say they were already going in a different direction, but regardless of the reason, Chark will have a new QB under center. We don’t know whether Mike Glennon or Jake Luton will be an upgrade over Minshew, which is why I consider Chark as a long-term outlook buy while his fantasy managers are not getting much production. If your team isn’t contending this season, I would look to shop a veteran RB like David Johnson or James Connor to acquire Chark (you could possibly get a mid-round pick added on top). From this point, we are looking at two scenarios: Glennon/Luton will perform better than Minshew and allow Chark to become a consistent fantasy producer, or all of the QBs on this roster are terrible and Jacksonville will become front runners in the Trevor Lawrence/Justin Fields sweepstakes. Either way, there should be optimism that Chark’s situation will improve within the next year.