Crystal Ball Week 9 2017

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano Generally speaking, when comparing the NFL’s trade deadline to other major sports (most notably MLB), it is typically very quiet, and few (if any) Fantasy relevant deals occur.

Enter 2017. Perhaps in part due to the rash of injuries which has happened around the league over the past several weeks or the largely parity-driven standings, a number of trades were approved prior to the 4 PM EST deadline on Monday afternoon. Several of those will result in pertinent players having their value either increase or decrease – a hot topic which dominated my Twitter feed the last 24 hours.

As a result, I wanted to take a quick moment and discuss in detail all of the moves that mattered from a Fantasy standpoint, coupled with tidbits of news that I found particularly interesting.

Jay Ajayi was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round pick

From first glance, it would be easy to assume that this is a massive upgrade for Ajayi, as the Eagles rank 5th in the league in rushing yards per game, and boast a much stronger offensive line than the Miami Dolphins. However, from a volume-based standpoint, Ajayi will have to contend with LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement for touches in the backfield, so it would be difficult to assume that he maintains his average of 20 attempts per game. Eagles VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman also stated immediately after the trade that Blount will remain the starter, though confirming that it was ultimately up to the coaching staff how it all shakes down. Of the existing Eagles backs, Blount is affected the most, and will concede the largest number of snaps. As Clement and Smallwood are mainly pass-catching options (a skill that Ajayi and Blount are inferior in), they aren’t impacted quite as much. Ajayi should still be seen as a mid-tier RB2, while Blount is now no more than a FLEX, with Smallwood/Clement being dart throws in PPR formats.

Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick

After several long years of waiting in the shadow of Tom Brady, Garoppolo will finally have his chance to start over an extended period of time for another franchise. It will likely take several weeks for Garoppolo to adjust to a totally different system, but he is by far and away the most talented signal caller on this team, and will start instantly. All of the 49ers pass catchers benefit instantly from this deal, most notably Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and George Kittle. The very fact that teams will need to game plan against the passing attack of San Francisco is new, and might make things easier to run in the box for Carlos Hyde. The New England Patriots reached out to Brian Hoyer, who will now back up Brady in Foxoboro.

Kelvin Benjamin was traded to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for 2018 third and seventh-round picks

In the waning moments of the trade deadline, the Carolina Panthers pulled the trigger on this deal, which seemed to come from nowhere. This was the most surprising deal completed yesterday, since a 5-3 Carolina Panthers team was trading their best receiver despite being in the midst of a playoff hunt. From Benjamin’s side – little changes. He will remain the top passing option for a team with few other playmakers, and is likely to still see double-digit targets each week. Benjamin remains a mid-tier WR2 in most formats, and will benefit from playing with Tyrod Taylor. Similar to Newton, Taylor is a mobile threat capable of picking apart defenses when plays fail to develop, but he is a much more accurate passer. Each week Newton would inexplicably sail several passes over Benjamin’s tall 6’5 frame – a testament to how imprecise he was. Taylor receives a definite boost in value, as does Devin Funchess, who is now the de-facto No.1 receiver for the Panthers. An interesting name to keep on the radar in Carolina Is Curtis Samuel, the team’s second-round selection. Used sparingly earlier this season as a multi-purpose threat out of the backfield and in the slot, Samuel has tremendous elusiveness in the open field, and stands to benefit from a large increase in snaps. Look for the Panthers to take more of a run-first approach, behind Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart.

Duane Brown was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a 2018 fifth-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick

Wait a minute Evan – I thought that you said that you were only commenting on Fantasy relevant trades? I am! Brown’s departure to Seattle is a massive upgrade at left tackle for the team, and instantly makes J.D. McKissic an interesting flyer for owners with deeper benches. You might be wondering why I didn’t say that this was an upgrade for either Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy first, right? Simply put, both of those backs have been downright awful in their own rights, and neither has capitalized on the failures of the other. McKissic is similar to Ty Montgomery in the WR-turned-RB storyline, and plays much more physical than this 5’10, 195 lbs. frame would suggest. With C.J. Prosise injured yet again (shocking, I know), McKissic is easily the most explosive talent on the team, should the Seahawks continue to feed him the ball.

Other interesting tidbits around the NFL include… Josh Gordon is scheduled to meet with the NFL on Wednesday /regarding a possible reinstatement

To quote Brokeback Mountain “I wish I knew how to quit you”. Ah, Josh Gordon – one of the most tantalizing talents to come across the league in a number of years will possible make his grand return to the NFL soon. The Cleveland Browns opted to hold onto his rights at the deadline, which means that if (and it is still a big IF) he is reinstated, he would have to return to their team. He’s been out of the league since 2014 while dealing with a much-publicized struggle with marijuana usage, but he is still just 26 years old, and has been training with Olympic coaches to regain his burst since his release from rehab. I wrote earlier about taking a leap of faith with J.D. McKissic – this falls under the same territory. Who knows what sort of player he will be if he ever gets back on the field, but there is a chance (albeit a small one) that he regains his 2013 form, where he caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in just 14 games. If he finally has things figured out, the sky is the limit for him.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians stated that he now expects David Johnson to miss the entirety of 2017 while recovering from wrist surgery

This news isn’t entirely unexpected, but for those owners who were holding onto him with the false hope of him rescuing their season and returning around Thanksgiving – he can safely be cut now. Arians, Cardinals GM Steve Keim and even David Johnson haven’t been very positive about a return to the field in 2017, and this essentially confirms things. If Johnson was in your IR slot, feel free to hold onto him, but he can safely be cut elsewhere in non-keeper formats.

Exekiel Elliott was denied a request for an injunction, which means that his six-game suspension is now back on… temporarily.

Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden are sure to be the most popular recommendations this week off the waiver wire (in leagues where they were somehow still available). Yet, there is still a very large and ominous cloud of uncertainty which follows this situation around. No one could honestly tell you if Elliott’s 900th appeal is going to be approved, denied, tossed out, or even considered at this point. The entire situation is mired in legalese, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any clearer. Either Morris or DMC is worth a stash if the suspension actually holds up, but either back wouldn’t crack my top 20 rankings each week. The Dallas Cowboys line isn’t as good as previous incantations, so expectations should be tempered here.

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