Fantasy Trade Advice Week 8: Pretenders To Contenders

Fantasy Trade Advice Week 8

Fantasy FootballIf your team is 7-0 or 6-1 and you are crushing everyone, well, you probably don’t need my (or anyone’s) advice. For the rest of you, however, this is a must read, as we’ll be talking about how to give a mediocre roster the chance to win a championship.

Contenders vs. Pretenders

Before jumping into fantasy lineups, we can discuss this same idea using real life NFL teams; specifically, the 3-4 Seattle Seahawks and the 6-0 Cincinnati Bengals. Who do you think has the better chance to win the Super Bowl?

I wholeheartedly believe the answer is Seattle, and it’s not because I think the Seahawks have a particularly good chance; it’s because I think Cincinnati has almost no chance. Despite being surrounded by an excellent supporting cast and defense, I think Andy Dalton is too limited to compete when it matters most. He is what I call a ‘solid contributor’. Dalton also needs everything to be nearly perfect around him to succeed – he has tons of great weapons and an elite offensive line. One injury could be all it takes to derail him.

Meanwhile, Russell Wilson is a superstar – the type of player who can defy the odds stacked against him (bad record, bad offensive line, suspect defense) and just plain find ways to win when it matters most (i.e., the playoffs). We know who these guys are: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are other examples.

Whether you agree with my opinion about the Bengals/Seahawks or not, I’m sure we can agree on one thing, and it’s the point of this post:

If you put Andy Dalton on Seattle’s already flawed roster, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

It’s the same with our fantasy teams. If you are 7-0 and putting up tons of points with a team based on superstars (this can include both the old guard, like Rodgers, and the new guard, like Freeman), it’s acceptable to round out your team with dependable, ‘solid contributor’ type players. However, if your roster is leaning on a bunch of solid contributors with limited upside, and/or if your record and point total isn’t going to cut it for the playoffs, you have to start taking risks if you want to win the league. You must find a way to get star power on your team. If you don’t… sure, you might end up limping to a 4th or 5th place finish, but who cares? If you aren’t first (or at least making it to the championship), you might as well be last.

OK, so… I’m saying that you need superstars to win. That’s not exactly a shock. Plus, you know that you can’t just trade solid contributors for studs. Owners want star power in order to give up star power. There is a way around this, however.

There are players that have huge weekly potential but, due to injury, lack of recent production, or inconsistency, they are not valued on the same level as the ultra-dependable studs like Aaron Rodgers and Julio Jones. These players are our targets. They will come more cheaply in trades; in fact, we may be able to trade away the ‘solid contributor’ types to get them.

Now that we’ve gone over the idea, it’s time to look at each position. I’ve identified both elite-upside players who should come at a discount on the trade market and ‘solid contributor’ types who you should try and replace with star power if you are lacking upside. Each player has their current PPR points per game ranking at their position in parenthesis (e.g., QB11, RB10, etc.).

Quarterbacks

(as a general rule, I avoid trading for QBs because they can be found on the waiver wire; however, it might be possible to get one of these guys as a throw-in)

Star Power on the Cheap:

Ben Roethlisberger

 Ben Roethlisberger (QB11) – Ben put together some Odell Beckham-like fantasy performances down the stretch last year, including back to back 6 touchdown performances. Coming off injury and losing his left tackle for the season, he is riskier than he’d normally be, but again, you have to take risks like this in order to give yourself a chance to win.

Dual-threat QBs:

 Cam Newton (QB6)

 Tyrod Taylor (QB5)

 Russell Wilson (QB16)

QBs who can run the ball are always capable of monster fantasy performances, and this year is no exception, as Cam, Tyrod, and Russell have each had games at or near 30 points this season. They aren’t in consistent passing offenses, and are therefore capable of dud games, but their rushing ability could get you some massive weeks, and remember, upside is what we are after here.

Overrated and Underwhelming:

 Drew Brees

 Matt Ryan

 Peyton Manning

Would you believe that none of these three namesakes are even in top 16 at the QB position in PPG right now? I’m listing them here because I still see a disturbing amount of them starting in fantasy lineups. You can do better, and what’s more, you might find someone who values one in a trade because of their name. Try to make a swap for a QB with more raw upside, such as the ones I’ve identified above.

Running Backs

Star Power on the Cheap:

Adrian Peterson

 Adrian Peterson (RB12) – Peterson hasn’t lit up the stat sheet recently, but watch some highlights and you can see that he’s still got his trademark power and explosiveness. He’s still the best weekly bet for a 200 yard rushing game, and that’s a guy you want to get onto your roster. He won’t be as cheap as other guys on this list, but he shouldn’t be unattainable like he would have been to start the season. Try and pounce this week before he plays the Bears.

 LeSean McCoy (RB19) – Watch his highlights from the past two games and you’ll see that McCoy looks healthy and explosive. Yet the perception on him is still negative right now. Watch these highlights from Week 4 of 2013 and you’ll see McCoy crushing the Lions for 200 yards in the snow. Last time I checked, it snows in Buffalo. A lot.

 Dion Lewis (PPR leagues) (RB8) – Lewis is ranked highly in terms of production, but he’s nicked up right now and will come at a discount. He’s had one huge game this year (vs. Dallas) and the Patriots will keep him heavily involved.

Overrated and Underwhelming:

Danny Woodhead Fantasy

 Danny Woodhead (RB9) – Woodhead ranks 9th among RBs, and while he’ll put up some nice receiving games with the Chargers frequently playing from behind, his upside is capped by a backfield timeshare. He’s a great sell high right now, as his value probably won’t ever be higher than it is right now.

 Gio Bernard (RB17) – Bernard has played extremely well for the Bengals, and he’s been in double digits in PPR points every single week this season. But unless Jeremy Hill gets hurt, Bernard isn’t going to give you star power. He’s been a model of consistency, and while these guys are great as a supporting cast, a roster full of Woodhead/Bernard players doesn’t stand a chance in the long run.

Wide Receivers

Star Power on the Cheap:

A.J Green

 A.J. Green (WR14) – Green dropped 13/227/2 on the Ravens this year. We’ve seen him have games like this before, so it isn’t a shock. He’s prone to disappear at times, but that makes him come more cheaply than the high floor studs like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown.

 Steve Smith, Sr. (WR9) – Steve Smith isn’t a consistent fantasy player at all. Two of his games this season have gone for fewer than 7 points. But you know what that means – he got to his current WR9 ranking with some monsters, including a 13/186/2 smackdown on a great Bengals defense. Smith can win a week for you, and chances are he’s not being valued like the other top WRs.

 Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR17) – See weeks 9 through 17 of 2014. No further explanation required. He’s had two straight weeks of down production; pounce if you can.

Overrated and Underwhelming:

 Demaryius Thomas (WR30) / Emmanuel Sanders (WR14) – I few weeks ago, I wrote that I wasn’t sure what to make of Thomas. After seeing Peyton Manning against Oakland and Cleveland, I’ve made up my mind. He’s too limited to give either of these guys the elite ceiling that they once possessed. Their names have trade value though, and you can try to take advantage of that.

 James Jones (WR21) – Jones has scored in every game but one, which is absurd given his limited number of targets (I wrote about this last week, too). Even if he keeps this up, it’s giving him a great floor, not a great ceiling. WR ceiling is about potential target monsters who are explosive, and Jones, while a fine player, is neither of those things.

Tight Ends

Star Power on the Cheap:

Greg Olsen

 Greg Olsen (TE7) – Olsen, like Steve Smith and A.J. Green, is not a consistent player. He has two games under 5 points this season. However, he has put up 11/134/2 and 11/131/1 lines this season. He’s another great example of an elite ceiling player that will come much cheaper than the more consistent Gronkowski or Eifert.

 Jordan Reed (TE3) – I’ve actually seen a lot of ‘sell high’ advice on Reed this week. Just think of him like Arian Foster: it’s almost inevitable that he will get hurt, but when he’s on the field, there aren’t many better plays at his position. You’re taking a risk – but that’s why you can get a guy like Reed so much more cheaply. His 11/72/2 line last week was not a fluke. He’s really that good.

Overrated and Underwhelming:

 Travis Kelce (TE9) – Among the most consensus man crushes in the fantasy football community to start the season, Kelce simply isn’t being utilized how we all want him to be utilized. Alex Smith isn’t pushing the ball to him, and without Jamaal Charles to keep teams honest, Kelce’s ceiling is looking smaller by the week. He has a big name with corresponding trade value, and that’s why he’s on this list. I’d much rather have Reed or Olsen if my team is lacking overall upside.

 Jason Witten (TE10) – Witten is the perfect type of player to trade back to someone when targeting a TE, because his name makes an owner feel comfortable that he’s still getting ‘a good TE’ back. What he’s getting is someone with a high floor, but an incredibly low ceiling. Dallas will remain a run-first offense even when Tony Romo returns.

Conclusion

The point of this post is to get you to take a hard look at your team and ask yourself if your roster can compete for the championship right now. If you are missing star power, and/or if you’re below .500, the answer – more often than not – will be no. And if that’s the case, you must take risks to give yourself a chance to win.

Trade for the top players if you can, but it’s usually impossible to pry the Aaron Rodgers / Julio Jones type of players away from owners without giving up plenty of star power in return. That’s why I’ve offered you a selection of players to target that, due to inconsistency and unreliability, will come much more cheaply. If they don’t pan out, you’ll finish near the bottom of your league, and after a couple of jabs, people will forget and move on to the next season. If they do pan out, your season will be talked about by your friends as that time when you created something out of nothing to win the league.

Or you can stand pat with your ‘solid if unspectacular’ team and look forward to an early exit from the fantasy playoffs, just like those good old Cincinnati Bengals.

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