The first rule of football (and fantasy football) is that it’s all contextual. Put Randy Moss on the Raiders, he’s ordinary. Ship him to New England, records start falling. Every fantasy team is different, every fantasy league is unique. Every NFL week (and season) is weird, and weird in its own way.
I don’t offer too many trade-suggestion pieces because of these contextual bars. Some leagues flat-out prohibit trading. Others might be filled with managers reluctant to make changes. Paradox of choice is a thing, friends.
But there are enough trade-friendly leagues in existence to justify a quick word about two players I’d be interested in shopping. At least take the temperature of your league, kick some tires, see what’s out there.
Can you time the Odell Beckham Jr. market?
On first blush, the Beckham story looks glorious. The Browns smashed in Week 4, scoring 49 points at Dallas and getting Beckham unlocked (three touchdowns). After three frustrating games to open the season (WR77, WR19, WR47), OBJ finally bent it like Beckham (WR1).
But let’s accept the unusual circumstances of the game. Beckham caught one of his touchdowns from Jarvis Landry — a left-handed laser I watched about 50 times — and the final touchdown came on an end-around run that was poorly defended. Sure, these plays count and they’re fun and they’re fantasy-lucrative. But it also means only one of Beckham’s touchdowns came from quarterback Baker Mayfield.
And as Mayfield works through his third season, it’s fair to question how good he really is. He managed a paltry 5.5 YPA in that romp over Dallas, and the new Browns coaching staff has focused on its power-running game through four weeks. Maybe it goes too far to suggest the Browns are hiding Mayfield, but they’re certainly not featuring him. And even without Nick Chubb for several weeks, that’s probably the shape of the future.
Beckham only has 30 targets for the year, on pace for an ordinary 120. Cleveland has thrown a piddly 116 passes, third-fewest among teams with a full schedule. And given that the Browns are 3-1, the approach is unlikely to shift. The immediate schedule also looks imposing, with the Colts and Steelers (two outstanding defenses) lying in wait.
Maybe you can find a Browns fan in your league, or someone who rostered OBJ in the glorious 2014, 2015, or 2016 seasons. Beckham just had what will likely be his best game of the year, and it happened without us feeling better about his quarterback. The best time to explore this type of trade is after a blow-up game.
Be clear on what I’m suggesting. Don’t follow the Houston Texans blueprint and auto-accept the first offer you get. The idea is to shop around, see if someone will overpay in a deal or offer pieces that notably improve your roster shape. If you don’t like what’s available, you can always back away.
How many times can Todd Gurley fall into the end zone?
Gurley’s opening month matched what most fantasy pundits expected. He’s been middling as a runner (3.9 YPC), invisible as a receiver (nine yards), and largely touchdown-dependent when it comes to fake-football value. Four early touchdowns have buoyed Gurley’s fantasy rank; he’s RB13 in standard formats and RB19 in the PPR world.
For Gurley to keep this solid RB2 standing, he needs to keep scoring TDs. His efficiency isn’t cutting it, and he’s a game-flow risk any time the Falcons fall behind. And although two colossal giveaways drive Atlanta’s 0-4 start, this is a team that will be chasing the game plenty in the final three months.
Gurley is also helped if the Falcons passing game can stay afloat — longer possessions, more team points. If you’re a Gurley fan, you want a better Matt Ryan, not a scuffling Matt Ryan. You also want to see Atlanta’s star receivers healthy and producing. The tide rises, all boats rise.
Right now, the Falcons passing game is a mess. Julio Jones isn’t healthy and missed half of Monday’s loss at Green Bay. Calvin Ridley was also physically compromised, leading to a shocking bagel on five targets. Russell Gage suffered a concussion in Week 3, then had a quiet Monday.
I don’t blame you if you hold off a week before exploring the Gurley trade market. Atlanta faces Carolina’s defense in Week 5, the youngest defense in the league. Kenyon Drake wasn’t able to produce in Week 4, but most running backs have tormented the Panthers.
Every week won’t bring this type of matchup, however. Atlanta’s schedule after its Week 10 bye is particularly daunting, and Gurley’s arthritic knees aren’t going away, either. I can’t promise you it’s the perfect time to move on a Gurley trade, but this isn’t the type of player I want a full-season commitment on.
As always, your mileage will vary. You know your league better than any outsider could. Do your diligence. Go into trade discussions with general thoughts; don’t make it obvious what you’re trying to do. And above all, trust yourself and listen to yourself. Measure accurately, take a second look, then let it rip.