Fitz on Fantasy: Fantasy Fallout From The Trade Deadline
The NFL trade deadline usually has all the excitement of a dentists’ convention. This year, however, several teams shed their inhibitions and threw around their assets. It was a dentists’ convention with an open bar, starting with Bloody Marys at 9 a.m. Another pickled asparagus spear, Dr. Wilson?
Let’s take a look at the fantasy impact of the deals that went down on Tuesday.
Eagles acquire WR Golden Tate from the Lions for a 2019 third-round draft pick
On the surface, this is a curious deal for the Eagles. A third-round pick is a lot to give up for a 30-year-old slot receiver in the final year of his deal when you already have two other receivers (Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews) who do their best work from the slot. But Philadelphia’s best receiver, Alshon Jeffery, has a troubling injury history, and before this trade the Eagles were just one receiver injury away from a bleak situation.
Tate owners take a hit on this, no question. The Golden One was on pace for a fifth consecutive 90-catch season, and during his time in Detroit he averaged 8.4 targets, 5.9 catches and 66.8 receiving yards per game. He’s been a PPR dynamo. Even with Kenny Golladay breaking out this year and the Lions finally running the ball effectively, Tate was on pace for 101 receptions and 1,182 yards. Now he has to share targets with Jeffery, Agholor and stud TE Zach Ertz, who, like Tate, does much of his damage over the middle of the field. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Eagles are on bye this week, so Tate owners will have had to deal with two byes instead of one. Gah.
Ertz owners are probably feeling slightly annoyed by this trade, but how mad can they really be? They have a tight end who’s on pace for 122 catches, 1,288 yards and six touchdowns. Tate might siphon off a few targets, but he won’t threaten Ertz’s status as an elite tight end. For Ertz owners, it’s like enjoying the perfect birthday – friends, family, gifts – but the cake has coconut shavings, and you don’t like coconut. Tate’s targets are the coconut shavings on the Ertz owner’s cake.
Jeffery has four TD catches in five games this season and is averaging 68.2 receiving yards. As a pure boundary receiver, Jeffery’s numbers shouldn’t take much of a haircut with Tate’s arrival. Agholor, on the other hand, goes from fringy flex option to borderline unrosterable. He’s been much better in the slot than on the perimeter during his time in Philly, and Tate’s arrival will almost surely push him outside for a majority of his snaps. Agholor’s snap and target counts are now in serious jeopardy. And let’s pour one out for Jordan Matthews’ fantasy value, which is now dust. So long, old friend.
We can’t forget about the one Eagle whose fantasy value gets an undeniable boost in the deal. Hello, Carson Wentz! Over his last five games, Wentz has averaged 306.6 passing yards, with multiple TD passes in each of those starts. He’s running again, too, with a season-high six rushing attempts in Week 8. Wentz is once again a rock-solid QB1, and Tate is another sharp arrow in his quiver.
If Kenny Golladay owners were feeling angsty after two weeks of poor numbers, they have to be feeling pretty good now. Tate’s departure is a target windfall for Golladay and Marvin Jones. It’s the 24-year-old Golladay, a rare talent, who should benefit most, with a good chance to become a top-15 receiver in Tate’s absence. You’re starting him every week without question. By 2020, Golladay could be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts.
Jones, a fine receiver in his own right, has five TD catches this season, but his yardage totals have been all over the place. His production should smooth out now that he and Golladay are going to be dominating targets for Detroit.
Formerly one of the pass-happiest teams in the league, the Lions are now close to the middle of the pack in passing play percentage at 62.7%. Without Tate to haul in those short, chain-moving receptions, perhaps the Lions become even more run-heavy, or they become less efficient through the air, or both. Regardless, there’s now way to spin the Tate deal as a good thing for Lions QB Matthew Stafford, who’s now squarely in QB2 territory
It’s possible that Lions RBs Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick get a few more targets out of this, but the Tate deal doesn’t fundamentally change their fantasy value. And Lions TEs Luke Willson and Michael Roberts won’t become fantasy-viable either, even though their might get a few extra looks.
Texans get Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos for a 2019 fourth-round draft pick
The Texans really needed this one. They’ve been playing well and have designs on an AFC South title, and Will Fuller’s torn ACL left them in a Mark Knopfler situation at wide receiver. (Get it? Mark Knopfler was the singer/guitarist for the band Dire Straits … Oh, never mind.)
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the game’s best, and Keke Coutee looks like he’s going to be a playmaker out of the slot, but if the Texans didn’t find another perimeter fast, they were facing the very real possibility of having to play Sammie Coates and his WD-40 hands.
From 2012 through to 2016, Thomas averaged 98.4 receptions, 1,374 yards and 9.2 touchdowns a year. The Texans know they’re not getting that Demaryius Thomas. But Thomas, who’ll turn 31 on Christmas Day, is still a nice stocking stuffer, giving Houston the complementary outside threat it so desperately needed after the Fuller injury. As for DT’s fantasy value, there probably won’t be much of a change. His target count will probably be about the same. He gets a QB upgrade, going from Case Keenum to Deshaun Watson, but Thomas will also have to adjust to a new offense, and he’ll now be playing with one of the biggest target hogs in the league in Hopkins.
There’s no change whatsoever to Hopkins’ status. He’s still gold-plated.
Keke Coutee owners were excited about a major surge in value, but Thomas is a human surge protector. There’s still value in a quality slot receiver with splash-play speed operating in an above-average passing attack, but the Thomas deal kills the chances of a target windfall for Coutee. (And by the way, with Coutee nursing a hamstring injury and the Texans on bye in Week 10, there’s a good chance we won’t see the rookie again until Week 11.)
There’s probably no discernable change in value for Deshaun Watson, last seen lighting up the Dolphins for five touchdowns on only 20 pass attempts. Losing a big-play artist like Fuller hurts, but the acquisition of Thomas is a dose of prescription-strength ibuprofen.
With Thomas out of Denver, the runway is clear for Courtland Sutton, who has looked like the top rookie in this year’s WR class. Sutton has only 17 receptions so far, but several of them have been circus jobs, and he’s averaging 19.1 yards per catch. At 6-4 and 216 pounds, Sutton has prototypical size, and his PlayerProfiler.com agility score is in the 97th percentile. The kid is a terrific athlete. Sutton has averaged 4.6 targets per game thus far. I think that number settles in the 7.2-8.0 range with Thomas out of the picture, which should mean a BIG bump in fantasy numbers. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Sutton gets a plum matchup this week against the Texans, whose secondary has so many injuries that the defensive backs’ meeting room looks like a Civil War infirmary. In leagues that have FAAB bidding for free agents, Sutton is going to be a budget buster this week – and with good reason.
Sanders may get a handful of extra targets with Thomas gone, but most of the spillover will go to Sutton. Another rookie, DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State, becomes the new No. 3 man, and though Hamilton is the Nittany Lions’ all-time receptions leader, the promotion isn’t likely to make him fantasy-viable. TE Jeff Heuerman may get a few extra targets, too, but he’s still a matchup-dependent TE2 at best.
Broncos QB Case Keenum shouldn’t lose any value. He’s losing a starting receiver, but the additional targets that will be directed at Sutton are higher-value targets than the ones that were being directed at Thomas.
Ravens acquire RB Ty Montgomery from the Packers for a 2020 seventh-round pick
Nah, the Packers weren’t upset with Montgomery for bringing that kickoff out of the end zone Sunday against coaches’ orders and denying Aaron Rodgers a chance to engineer a 2-minute drill for the win. Not at all.
Montgomery isn’t likely to have a fantasy-relevant role for the Ravens, but this deal bodes ominously for Javorius “Buck” Allen, whose snap counts and touches have been down ever since he coughed up a fumble in a Week 5 overtime loss to the Ravens.
The big winner in this deal is Aaron Jones, who had been stuck in a three-headed hydra of a backfield. Now, the only other head belongs to Jamaal Williams, and Jones played 62% of the offensive snaps Sunday against the Rams, while Williams plodded out there for 25% of the snaps.
Packers fans (including yours truly) have long wondered what it would take for Mike McCarthy to get it through his thick skull that Jones should be playing more. All it took was a game-losing fumble by one of Jones’ stablemates. Yay.