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Players to Buy Before the Trade Deadline


The NFL trade deadline is now less than a week away, which gives you just enough time to get ahead of your competition. The deadline hasn't historically been filled with a flurry of moves, but we're at a time in the fantasy seasons where the end of our benches should be filled with high-end stashes that have to upside to win leagues if all breaks right.

Most of the time that takes the form of the upstart rookie or scouting-darling, but it's often just as worthwhile to use the end of your bench to stash players who may find themselves with new opportunities after the trade deadline.

In this post, I'll let you know which guys seem most likely to be traded into situations that would benefit their fantasy value, as well as players that will also gain value from teammates being moved off of their original teams.

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Quarterback

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Stash in 12-team leagues and deeper (and 10-team leagues if your league tends to roster backups)

One of the most prevalent rumors is that the Cleveland Browns will trade for left tackle Trent Williams. This would immediately change the outlook for Baker Mayfield, who came into this year as a prime breakout candidate. After Hue Jackson was fired last year (from Week 9 on) Baker had the 10th-most points of any quarterback in fantasy, and he was only 3.3 total points from vaulting ahead of Andrew Luck for eighth-best.

In the offseason, the Browns added Odell Beckham Jr and Kareem Hunt, and Nick Chubb figured to talk another step forward in his development. All of this pointed to major success for the second-year signal-caller, except that the offensive line has taken a massive step backward. After trading Kevin Zeigler, and in their second season without future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, the Browns are 24th in the NFL with an adjusted sack rate of 8.2%. The increased pressure has led to rushed throws and poor performance from a jittery Mayfield. If he were to have an anchor on the offensive line, it's not unreasonable to expect him to make better use of his options and climb up the fantasy leaderboards, especially with the likely imminent additions of Kareem Hunt and David Njoku to the offense.

 

Running Back

Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins

Stash/Acquire in 10-team leagues and deeper

The Dolphins are trending towards securing the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Kenyan Drake has been supplanted in the starting role, seeing only 41% of the team's snaps this past week. However, the Alabama product has shown he can be a solid contributor for both real and fantasy football teams. This year he's breaking 12.8% of tackles and gaining 61% of his yards after contact, both above league average. He is also reminding people how effective he can be in the passing game, soaking up 15.6% of the team's targets. It seems likely that the Dolphins try to extract some draft pick value for him, and if he finds his way into a sizable role with a good team he'd be more valuable than current timeshare backs like Jordan Howard, Royce Freeman or Devonta Freeman.

Mark Walton, Miami Dolphins

Stash/Acquire in 10-team leagues and deeper

As mentioned above, Mark Walton has already supplanted Drake as the starter in Miami and actually rooked pretty good against the Bills. He ran hard and was elusive in short areas. I already told you to pick him up weeks ago, but he stands to inherit an even greater role if Drake and his 41% snap share are traded. Walton's only competition for carries in that scenario would be Kalen Ballage, who has already wasted his opportunity and would likely be used solely as a goal-line back. With Walton taking over the entirety of the passing down work, he would be usable in most matchups.

Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons

Stash/Acquire in 12-team leagues and deeper

Smith has been an effective member of a two-back committee in Atlanta so far this season. Before sustaining a concussion, he was seeing about 40% of the Falcons' snaps at the position and had a positive run percentage of 82%, superior to Devonta Freeman's 75%, which is below league average. He has also seen nine carries in the red-zone to Freeman's 10.

Yet, while Smith hasn't been producing at a level that would suggest he push Freeman out of a job, this would be more about salary flexibility. Freeman is the fifth-highest salaried running back in the league, and the Falcons have already shown that they're ready to sell off parts when they traded Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots. If they find a taker for Freeman's contract, Smith will find himself as the lead back in a high-caliber offense. That's also why I'd recommend stashing Brian Hill in 14+ team leagues, especially with Smith's recent concussion.

Ty Montgomery, New York Jets

Stash in 14-team leagues and deeper

This one might be a longshot, but the Jets were a disaster on Monday night, and Adam Gase openly suggested at the beginning of the year that he didn't want the team to acquire Le'Veon Bell in the offseason. If the Jets wanted to move on from Bell's salary in a down year and address running back in the draft, then Montgomery would likely step into an enviable workload. Due to his receiving ability, he's currently on the field for 16% of Jets snaps, even with Bell operating as the team's workhorse, and he was brought to New York by Gase because of his versatility. Given that he would remain on the field in passing situations, even if Montgomery split carries with Bilal Powell, he would have enough usage to be a very usable fantasy back, especially in PPR and half-PPR leagues.

 

Wide Receivers

For the record, I know almost all leagues already have A.J. Green rostered, but a deal seems unlikely, so I wouldn't be looking to trade for him. His owners should just hold on and cross your fingers if you have him. 

Emmanuel Sanders, San Francisco 49ers

Stash/Acquire in 10-team leagues and deeper

Just after drafting this, sure enough a trade occurred that sent Sanders to the 49ers - a contending team willing to take a chance on a 31-year-old wide receiver coming off of a major Achilles injury. This leads to an improvement in his offensive situation and the opportunity to catches passes in a more dynamic offense from a much better quarterback than Joe Flacco. After seven weeks, Sanders was seeing 28% of Denver's Air Yards but only 10 yards down the field on average; that's not going to net you lots of fantasy points.

Sanders has still shown good hands and the ability to gain separation, so he could be effective as a chain-mover in a more dynamic offense. You may add him and find that he just becomes a complementary piece on a deep team but there's still a good chance he becomes the top target in Kyle Shanahan's offense, which is not a bad thing at all.

Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins

Stash/Acquire in 12-team leagues and deeper

Since being taken in the first round out of Louisville, DeVante Parker has never quite matched his lofty draft expectations. Every season we get a story about how he's turning it on and looks great in practice. Then he disappoints when the season begins. However, Parker is in the middle of an upswing right now. He's scored a touchdown in each of his last three games while averaging over 13 points per game in half-PPR leagues over that time. What's more is that his drop rate, something that has plagued him in the past, sits at only 2.6% so far this season. At only 26-years-old, and with immense natural talent, Parker could explode if he was traded to a team with a more creative offense or better quarterback, like the 49ers, Panthers or Eagles. Miami seems to be willing to trade anything that isn't nailed down if it nets them draft capital, so it's not our of the question that Parker is in a new uniform in a week.

Preston Williams, Miami Dolphins

Stash/Acquire in 12-team leagues and deeper

Preston Williams has already been emerging in Miami, so he should be on your radar regardless of whether rumored trades come to fruition. The undrafted rookie is seeing 80% of Miami's snaps and averaging over seven targets a game. What's more is that with the offense now looking more effective under Ryan Fitzpatrick, Williams is seeing high-value targets. He's seen seven targets inside the 2o-yard-line, which is 37% of Miami's total.

All of this suggests that there's upside for more value before you even factor in a possible trade of Parker, who has been on the field for 87% of Miami's snaps and is also seeing over seven targets a game, including 10 last week against Buffalo. If Parker were traded, it would make Williams the clear-cut number one in Miami. They're not a good offense, but they will always be playing from behind with a quarterback that loves to take shots with the ball.

Daesean Hamilton, Denver Broncos

Stash in 12-team leagues (only with deep benches) and deeper

With Sanders now dealt, Hamilton, who already plays 64% of snaps and sees 10% of the team's targets, jumps into a starting job for the Broncos. Now, this isn't a dynamic offense, and they clearly want to run the ball, but they're also a bad team that will continue to be trailing. As NFL defenses scheme to slow down rising star Courtland Sutton, Hamilton could find himself with a strong opportunity for production. During his rookie season last year, Hamilton showed impressive route running and strong hands, which led to him catching 25 passes over the final four games and having people excited about a possible breakout this season. Perhaps it will just come later than we thought.

Demaryius Thomas, New York Jets

Stash in 12-team leagues and deeper

Recent reports have suggested that the Jets are trying to trade Robby Anderson, which would open up a huge opportunity for Thomas. Jamison Crowder is locked into a role as the slot receiver in the Jets offense so he won't take outside snaps, and Thomas has played 77% of the Jets snaps over the last three games while seeing 22 targets. With the Jets about to face the Jaguars, Dolphins, Giants, Redskins, Raiders, Bengals, and Dolphins again, Thomas could have some strong weeks ahead.

Justin Hardy, Atlanta Falcons

Stash in 14-team leagues and deeper

Mohamed Sanu is already off to New England, which likely means more targets for Calvin Ridley in the Falcons offense. However, the Falcons have also shown a clear desire to operate out of three-wide receiver sets, playing in 11 personnel (three wide) on 66% of the time, according to Sharp Football. With Sanu gone, Hardy is the next man up.

The fifth-year pro is only playing 15% of snaps in Atlanta currently, but he's been operating as the back-up when any of three wide receivers (Julio Jones, Ridley, Sanu) are taken off the field. Hardy has never done much in his NFL career, but he's on a team with a terrible defense that figures to throw a ton in the second half of the season. You want him on your bench case that leads to production. I'd recommend also stashing Russell Gage in 14+ team leagues, in case he slides ahead of Hardy and takes the third wide receiver snaps.

Keelan Cole, Jacksonville Jaguars

Stash in 14-team leagues and deeper

Cole was a once sexy sleeper pick after he exploded for 748 yards during his rookie season. While he failed to meet expectations last year, a lot of that had to do with the quarterback play of Blake Bortles. Even though Jacksonville finally has a competent quarterback, they also have D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook emerging as consistent receiving options. In fact, Cole has fallen behind Chris Conley and Marqise Lee as well.

With the Jaguars already trading Jalen Ramsey, it stands to reason that they may look to sell other assets for draft picks. A team looking to take a low-cost flyer on Cole's once intriguing upside will likely find the Jaguars to be an interested trading partner. With Cole's track record of success in only two NFL seasons, he could be a valuable deep league option if he gets moved to a team with a more established quarterback and a more dynamic passing offense.

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams

Stash in 14-team leagues and deeper

The Rams are off to a slow start this year, but their trade for Jalen Ramsey showed that they're still banking on a playoff push. That means they will need to fix the massive holes on their offensive line. If the Rams want to upgrade this year without giving away a major contributing piece then Reynolds seems like a logical choice.

He's clearly fourth on the depth chart behind a trio of wide receivers who are on longer-term deals. The 6'3" third-year pro had enough success when filling in for Cooper Kupp last year that some team may be looking to take him on instead of a draft pick in exchange for an interior offensive lineman. Even if he was moved to a worse team, he could see a spike in value by getting more time on the field than the 112 combined snaps he's seen so far this year.

 

Tight Ends

Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

Stash/Acquire in 12-team leagues or deeper

Dawson Knox has already emerged as fantasy-relevant given his performance with Tyler Kroft out with an injury. He's shown solid athleticism and tremendous run after the catch skills. The Bills also have a tremendous schedule for pass-catchers with games upcoming against the Eagles, Browns, Redskins, Dolphins, and Jets. What's more, the Bills may be looking to move on from Kroft after he's been bitten by the injury bug so often early in his career.

If Knox no longer has any competition for snaps, the rookie should continue to improve his fantasy value. He will have some bad weeks, but his upside will be high enough to make him worthy of a roster spot at the worst position in fantasy football.

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Stash/Acquire in 12-team leagues or deeper

I know we're all done with Howard and I know the Bucs have claimed they're not trading him. I just don't buy it. The Bucs are not contending, and there are teams around the league that would love to get their hands on a receiver of Howard's ability at the tight end position. The 24-year-old averaged over 11 yards per target over his first two seasons while proving to be a solid red-zone option in addition to his above-average run-after-the-catch ability. In short, he's a game-breaking option at a bad position.

I'm holding him on my roster until the deadline passes just in case he gets moved to a team like Seattle or Green Bay, where he would become an elite option at the position again.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Stash in 14-team leagues or deeper

If Howard gets moved then Brate will step into a full-time role. Yes, this may mean that Brate is asked to do the blocking that Howard is currently doing, but on an offense with lots of potential through the air, I'll take my shot on their only tight end, especially one who has already caught two touchdowns with a 66% touchdown conversion rate in the red-zone.

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