There were several deals made at the trade deadline, but only two have lasting effects that you need to know about with fantasy line-ups. Let's go through both of those deals, as well as talk about the Ezekiel Elliot suspension, and what you need to know about their impact on the rest of the fantasy season.
Kelvin Benjamin:Benjamin was traded from the Panthers to the Bills in exchange for 2018 3rd and 7th round picks. He goes from one running offense to another. He'll occupy the Bills "X" slot, which is the same WR1 role he had for the Panthers.
With Benjamin as the lead WR, Zay Jones opposite him on the field, and Jordan Matthews manning the slot, the Bills passing attack clearly gets better. However, Benjamin's value doesn't really change from what he had in Carolina. He'll remain a WR2 with the Bills a run-heavy offense, but could become their redzone threat for those in TD-heavy leagues.
Jay Ajayi:The Dolphins sent Ajayi to the Eagles for a 4th round pick in 2018. The Dolphins obviously soured on Ajayi as a runner, but he moves on to a 1st place Eagles team with a far better offensive line for him to run behind.
The question is how long will it take for him to unseat LeGarrette Blount as the Eagles lead-back? Eagles VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman said LeGarrette Blount remains the team's starting running back, but I think that is just NFL talk for "Ajayi needs to learn the playbook before we crown him the starter."
My take on Ajayi is he won't be worth playing this week, but should take over as the starter for Week 11, given the Eagles Week 10 bye.
Ezekiel Elliot:The on-again, off-again, Zeke suspension is once again back on after a federal judge dissolved his temporary injunction against the NFL. Then, on Tuesday, the Southern District of New York denied Elliot's request for an emergency injunction. He's now taking his fight to the Second Circuit appeals court.
The long and short of it is Elliot is suspended for six (6) games, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said Alfred Morris will be the starter while he is out. I think many of us expected Darren McFadden to step into the role since his running style is more similar to Elliot than Morris' is, but that doesn't appear to be the case… for now.
Deshaun Watson – Texans:It's not often that a rookie QB is talked about in the same circles as Tom Brady, but that is exactly where Deshaun Watson is with his impressive fantasy production this season. Over the past four games, Watson is averaging 46.17 fantasy points, which is 9.07 points above the #2 QB (Russell Wilson), and 23.74 points above Brady who sits at #12 over that span.
This week Watson takes on a Colts defense that has given up 20 or more points to fantasy QBs in every game this season but one (Week 6, Marcus Mariota had 19.80 fantasy points). With Will Fuller looking like he is past the hands of stone that plagued him last year, and DeAndre Hopkins an elite WR1 in fantasy terms, all the cards are lined up for Watson to possibly finish as the top fantasy QB for Week 9.
Dak Prescott – Cowboys:Prescott owners are complaining that he hasn't been the same fantasy QB he was last season, failing to reach 300 yards passing in a single game this season. But, did you know, Dak is averaging 28.04 fantasy points this year, compared to 24.37 points last year? In fantasy terms, he is better this year than last year!
Now, with Elliot suspended, the Cowboys will be forced to lean on their QB more than ever. Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden will split carries at RB, but they are not guys that demand the same attention Elliot does.
Even with Cole Beasley still in the concussion protocol, I expect Dak to step up and finish with QB1 numbers in a week where several fantasy stars on out due to their bye. I would consider him as high as a top-3 fantasy QB play this week, with a floor more in the top-5 range.
Aaron Jones – Packers:Jones has officially taken over RB duties from T.Y. Montgomery, and is really the only offensive weapon the Packers have that you can rely on with Brett Hundley under center.
Jones is averaging 23.47 fantasy points over the last four weeks, and the Lions are giving up 32.86 fantasy points to RBs over that same span. I wouldn't go so far as to call Jones an "elite" option this week. But, a top-10 finish for RBs is well within his grasp if the Packers O-Line can give him a few lanes to run through.
Alvin Kamara – Saints:The Saints liked what they saw in Kamara so much, they traded Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals for a conditional 6th round pick. Kamara isn't going to wow you with 100-yard games on the ground. But, the rookie is averaging 71.4 total yards-per-game this season, and is reeling in 4.4 catches-per-game for those in PPR formats.
Mark Ingram is the early-down back in New Orleans, so Kamara's upside is capped. But, as an all-purpose PPR back, he should be able to give you 10 points on the low-side, and 20 on the high-side. Those numbers would put him on the RB2/Flex bubble for most teams.
Will Fuller – Texans:Fuller has been on a fantasy scoring frenzy since returning from a broken collarbone in the pre-season, racking up an insane 7 touchdowns in 4 games. I was slow to buy in on his new-found success in finding the endzone, given the fact that he is only averaging 5.5 targets per-game, and hauling in 3.25 receptions each week.
Even with 5 targets and 3 catches, Fuller has managed to keep his yards-per-game total at 69.8, and put up a career-high 125 yards last week. Hopkins is the lead dog in Houston, but Fuller is no longer a guy you can overlook at WR. Consider him a must-start WR2 until either he, or Watson, cools off.
Ted Ginn Jr. – Saints:Like Fuller, most fantasy owners have been waiting for Ginn's production to slow down this season, but that hasn't happened yet. Even with the return of Willie Snead to the WR corps, Ginn is still keeping pace with Michael Thomas for receiving yards this season (421 – Ginn vs. 480 – Thomas).
Drew Brees spreads the ball around, which makes knowing which Saints WR will have a good week about as hard as predicting what Patriots WR is the best bet from week-to-week. However, Ginn is clearly the deep-threat when Brees needs chunk yardage, and the Buccaneers secondary is very beatable deep.
Ginn is more of a fringe WR2/3, but a guy that has real value in a week where the Steelers, Patriots, Vikings, and Chargers are all on a bye.
Vernon Davis – Redskins:Vernon Davis, there is a name fantasy owners haven't seriously thought about since Week 7 of 2016. The 33-year-old back-up TE is set to start with Jordan Reed (hamstring) injured… again.
The Redskins passing game consists of check-downs and short over-the-middle throws, which is perfect for a guy like Davis. He may be past his best days as a fantasy TE, but he is well worth picking up and playing against the Seahawks this week with the TE waiver wire about as baron as a desert island.
Philadelphia Eagles defense:The Eagles offense is what people talk about with Carson Wentz performing at a Pro-Bowl clip this season. However, their defense is keeping pace with the offense in fantasy terms, ranking out as the 5th best fantasy defense heading into Week 9.
The Eagles 22 sacks ranks 9th in the NFL, while their 9 interceptions tie them for 5th in the league. Sophomore CB Jalen Mills was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after picking off C.J. Beathard and taking it 37 yards for a pick-six touchdown, racking up 3 tackles, and allowing just 2 catches (6 targets) for 26 yards against him.
The Eagles are at home against a Broncos offense that will feature Paxton Lynch at QB, after Coach Vance Joseph benched Trevor Siemian. I would consider the Eagles a top-3 fantasy defense, with a real chance to take the top spot in the rankings for Week 9.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: Mariota is a QB I was high on heading into the fantasy draft this season, but he has failed to live up to my expectations thus far. In 6 games this season, Mariota has thrown for less than 260 yards in 5 of them, and is currently the 27th ranked fantasy QB.
Getting Corey Davis back at WR will certainly help him. But, it is going to take Davis at least a couple of games to get back into the flow of the offense. Until that happens, Mariota shouldn't be relied on as a starting option, even in a QB bye-heavy week.
Eli Manning – Giants:There isn't much that has gone right for the Giants offense this year, with their entire WR corps on the I.R., and the backfield unlikely to scare any defenses. As of Week 9, Manning's top WRs are Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, and Tavarres King, and he has a rookie TE in Evan Engram.
The Giants take on the Rams, and their defense is ranked 10th in fantasy football right now. The Rams only have 5 INTs this year, but they have 26 sacks, and 4 fumble recoveries on their resume. If Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers get to Manning early, it could rattle him enough that he could come unglued before halftime.
Jay Ajayi – Eagles:I'm not a fan of playing anyone in the same week in which they are traded. The reality is they don't have enough time to learn the playbook. Right now the Eagles have [LeGarrette] Blount in place, and he knows the offense inside and out. Behind him they have Wendell Smallwood, who also knows the offense. And, as I mentioned before, it doesn't help that the Eagles are saying (publically anyway) that Blount is still the starter.
If you can, I'd consider sitting Ajayi this week. I'd bet the coaches give him a light workload this week since he will only get a few practices in before the game. But, with the Eagles on a bye in Week 10, he should take over as the starter in Week 11. You don't trade for a RB like Ajayi, then stick him in a committee.
Darren McFadden – Cowboys:I was sure that the Cowboys would let McFadden handle the early-down duties once Elliot's suspension was officially in place. He is more similar to Elliot than Alfred Morris is in terms of running style, which makes it easier for the offense as a whole to transition to a new running back.
But, as I said earlier, owner Jerry Jones is dubbing Morris the starter. Maybe this is an Ajayi situation, where McFadden needs time to get up to speed. Maybe there is a reason why McFadden hasn't been active yet this season and we just don't know about it. Either way, until something changes, McFadden shouldn't be viewed as anything more than a RBBC handcuff to Morris. I honestly do think McFadden offers a higher ceiling for the running game, but the Cowboys don't seem to feel the same way.
Any Broncos WR:Trevor Siemian is out at QB, and Brock Osweiler is in. With the running game averaging 123.4 YPG this season, and the passing game averaging 218.3 YPG, the Broncos are likely going to be a run 1st, 2nd, and 3rd kind of team from here on out.
I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but the reality is the Browns are paying Osweiler $16 million this season to play for the Broncos for a reason. At BEST he is a QB2, but is now forced into a starting role because Siemian has been a complete disaster.
The only hope for a guy like Emmanuel Sanders is that Osweiler views him as a safety blanket in the passing game, and he racks up a bunch of short, safe, catches for those in PPR formats. But, yardage and touchdowns… I wouldn't bet on them for him, or Demaryius Thomas.
Terrelle Pryor – Redskins:If there is a picture on a milk carton somewhere in fantasyland, you can be sure Pryor's likeness is on it! In 7 games this season, Pryor has failed to eclipse 31 receiving yards in all but two of them. Last week he hit rock-bottom when he was out-snapped by Josh Doctson (19 for Pryor, 47 for Doctson), and finished with 1 target and no catches.
Pryor could have a decent game with [Jordan] Reed out, but it isn't something I would pin my hopes to. The move from Cleveland may have been a good thing for Pryor, given the state of things with the Browns. However, he didn't land in a much better situation with the Redskins.
Ed Dickson – Panthers:The Panthers traded their WR1 in Kelvin Benjamin, leaving Devin Funchess to fill the role. The explanation given was that Benjamin's departure would "clear out the box" and allow the "run game to flourish". If that is code for "we HAVE to run the ball now", then yes, I agree.
Cam Newton has been inaccurate all season long. Yet, without Benjamin, and knowing Newton's accuracy problems, I've seen websites recommending Ed Dickson as high as a top-10 TE play this weekend. Dickson blew up in Week 5, hauling in 5 catches for 175 yards. But, since then, he's finished with yardage totals of 36, 18, and 24. On top of that, he hasn't scored a touchdown this season.
Dickson is nothing more than an emergency bye-week filler at TE in the deeper leagues where you already missed out on Vernon Davis.
Denver Broncos defense:The Broncos defense is a far cry from what it was last year, going from the 2nd best fantasy defense in 2016, to the 20th ranked fantasy defense as of Week 9 of 2017. The Broncos have scored fewer than 10 fantasy points on defense in all but one game this season, and have finished with 5.00 or less points in 4 of their 7 games.
With the offense unlikely to get better under Osweiler, the defense will be leaned on even more so than before. Being that they haven't exactly stepped up to the challenge thus far, I would expect them to suddenly shut down the hottest team in the NFL, on the road!