Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell
- Here are some fantasy football players to trade for, or trade away, before their value changes after Week 1.
- Le'Veon Bell's upside outweighs the cost of purchasing him from a panicked fantasy rival.
- Kenyan Drake looks an awful lot like the next talented back that's unfortunately stuck in a committee backfield.
If you haven’t considered making a trade in your fantasy football league yet, you’ve come to the wrong place.
The NFL’s ridiculous nonguaranteed contracts and salary cap have made player-for-player trades fairly rare over the years, but it’s a market that can be exploited in fantasy by focusing on potential mistakes in popular public opinion as well as season-long trends.
Let’s break down some of Week 1’s top trade targets, as well as players you should consider selling sooner rather than later.
Key Fantasy Football Trade Target
Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell
Bell’s agent sent fantasy owners into a frenzy Wednesday afternoon, noting that Bell is “going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term.” Any Bell owner would’ve laughed at a trade proposal as recently as a week ago, but now Week 1 is here, and the Steelers’ do-it-all running back is nowhere to be found.
This situation isn’t pretty, but let’s take a deep breath and look at the long-term situation.
- Bell tweeted an apology to Steelers fans in July after failing to secure a long-term contract and stated 2018 would be his “best season to date.”
- Training camp came and went without Bell offering any indication he planned on showing up.
- Bell’s wild-card agent went to the media and said the running back wants to protect his long-term health.
The ensuing backlash from various Steelers offensive linemen furthered the notion that Bell’s relationship with the team is in a very bad place.
The good news? It would be very difficult for the Steelers to trade Bell because of his huge cap hit and lack of a long-term contract. Plus, the running back, who is obviously concerned about his wallet, will lose his weekly paycheck of $855,000 if he fails to report by Saturday. The Athletic’s Ross Tucker seems to have provided the best-case scenario for both parties:
Bell’s fantasy owners are in a tough spot. You should embrace the unknown, and take advantage of their vulnerable state by snatching their blue-chip workhorse at a fraction of the cost, if possible.
Even if the worst-case scenario of a potential Week 10 start becomes true, the best-case scenario is obtaining one of the league’s premier talents before the season even starts. Consider packaging a highly touted quarterback or tight end in a trade proposal, as the positions are easier to fill on the waiver wire than replacing a three-down bell cow happens to be.
- Ravens WR Michael Crabtree: Crabtree joins Antonio Brown as the only wide receivers with 8-plus touchdowns during each of the past three seasons. There is plenty of red-zone opportunity available in a Ravens offense that scored a league-high 31.8 PPR over the final five weeks of 2017 and is without Hayden Hurst (foot).
- Redskins RB Chris Thompson: Adrian Peterson’s emergence in Washington renders backups Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley irrelevant, but Thompson remains the back to own in full-point-per-reception formats. The elite pass-catcher averaged 7.8 yards per touch to lead running backs in 2017.
- Patriots RB Jeremy Hill: Hill seems poised to work as the Patriots’ goal-line back this season. The public’s perpetual fear of New England’s committee system could make the cost cheap. The Patriots are one of three teams to average 10-plus rushing touchdowns inside the 5-yard line over the past three seasons.
- Eagles WR Nelson Agholor: Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and Mack Hollins (groin) missed Week 1 and aren’t guaranteed to suit up in Week 2. This could open up even more opportunity for Agholor, who led Philly’s wideouts in total receptions last season, as well as targets from current starter Nick Foles.
Fantasy Football Players to Sell
Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake
There’s little debate that Drake is #good at football, as only Mark Ingram has averaged more yards per carry since 2016. Overall, Drake led the league in yards after contact per rush and was Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 back in Elusive Rating and Breakaway rate last season.
Real football is a battle of brains, toughness and athletic ability, but fantasy football largely comes down to obtaining guys who get the ball a lot.
Drake didn’t receive a workhorse role in 2017 until Jay Ajayi was traded AND Damien Williams was hurt. Williams is no longer in the picture, but offseason addition Frank Gore is listed as a co-starter alongside Drake, and fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage looms as the Dolphins’ latest talented rookie running back.
Head coach Adam Gase recently stated he was hopeful Drake could see upward of 20 combined carries and targets per game, but Gase also stated he was looking for the offense to run 70 to 75 snaps a game.
The former point seems unlikely considering Gase’s continued reluctance to feature a single back, while the latter is borderline asinine considering the Patriots ran a league-high 67.5 plays in 2017.
Drake’s value stands to plummet depending on how the Dolphins’ committee backfield looks in Week 1. Get as much value as possible from the talented but underused starting tailback before it’s too late.
- Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson: The days of D-Jax routinely torching defenses might be over. Head coach Dirk Koetter says he looks at each of Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries as starters alongside No. 1 WR Mike Evans. Jameis Winston’s suspension certainly doesn’t help matters.
- Giants WR Sterling Shepard: Shepard is talented, but he has averaged 2.7 fewer targets and 3.0 PPR with Odell Beckham Jr. active during his career. No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley will demand a massive role, plus Evan Engram has already been cleared from the concussion protocol and won’t miss any time.
- Seahawks RB Chris Carson: Carson is the starter, but the Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round for a reason. PFF’s 30th-ranked offensive line, combined with a likely committee in a potentially ancient Brian Schottenheimer-inspired scheme, is bad news for everyone in the backfield.