Fantasy News & Analysis

5 players to trade away before Week 1 in fantasy football

October 4, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26) during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So far this week, we have evaluated priority waiver wire adds and players to trade for before Week 1. Today the focus shifts to players we want to unload before the season starts.

These are the players who are most likely to dip in value once real-game action ensues. So, by thinking strategically to stay one step ahead, we can maximize our returns.

Using ADP is an excellent indicator of current public sentiment. Since we focused on players over an ADP of 170 for waivers, we will focus on an average ADP at or under 170 (based on FantasyPros PPR data) for trading purposes.

Remember, the goal is to get value for these players before they have a lackluster performance relative to their current ADP.  Not all trade opportunities are created equal — you will need the right trade partner. Trade from areas of depth — where it makes sense — and target teams with excess talent in your area of need. 

Lastly, make sure you understand your league rules. Roster formats are crucial to determining strategy. For example, don't trade away starting flex players for backups at another spot. The PFF Fantasy Football Trade Chart can help you evaluate different scenarios, especially if you play in a standard-scoring league, as this article is focused more on PPR and half-PPR.

For this exercise, we have left out genuine handcuff plays that are 100% dependent on injury to a teammate. Let's start with the more expensive ADP guys and move on to the cheaper ones.

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RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears | ADP: 31

I laid out the case for fading Montgomery at ADP earlier this week, and all of the same logic applies to why we want to move him proactively. To summarize:

  1. He isn't an explosive playmaker
  2. He has competition for carries and targets
  3. Justin Fields will eventually add additional competition

If you started your draft running-back heavy and Montgomery is your third or fourth back, target a Tier 3 or 4 receiver in a straight-up deal with a manager wealthy at the position. The PFF Fantasy Football Trade Chart is full of names from those tiers that approximate Montgomery's current value.

If you are thinner at running back, consider targeting someone from Tier 5 or Tier 6 and tacking on Trey Sermon. Ian Hartitz has Sermon in line for 45% of the Niners' rushing attack in Week 1, and I agree with him. Sermon's role could also grow as the season goes, providing you with potential pop for the playoff push. As a result, the Ohio State rookie is my most rostered back with an ADP inside the first 85 picks.

RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles | ADP 38

I also have limited my exposure to Sanders. My approach hasn't been quite as extreme as my approach with Montgomery because Sanders has demonstrated more explosiveness. I expect the Eagles' offensive line to improve drastically after an injury-marred season.

However, Nick Sirianni has a history of deploying a multi-back attack that ironically stems from his time under former Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich. Running-back coach James Singleton echoed those sentiments this preseason:

“You need a first- and second-down runner with that really elite ability. You need a guy that can pass protect on third down and be short yardage. You need a back that can run routes, and you can put him out in empty. It's really a combination of that. I think the days of, ‘he's an every-down back,' that's a little skewed these days because of the speed, because of the contact.”

With the Eagles are carrying two talented receiving backs into the season in Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell, Sanders appears to be the early-down back and possibly the primary option inside the five. However, Jalen Hurts will provide competition for touches anytime the team is within striking distance.

All signs point to a dreaded committee situation that will devalue Sanders' stock once confirmed, making now the time to act.

Ian Hartitz's Week 1 projected volume:
Running back Snap % Rushes Targets
Miles Sanders 60% 10.7 2.8
Boston Scott 30% 4.6 2.0
Kenneth Gainwell 10% 2.5 0.7

Consider a plan similar to the one laid out above for Montgomery to maximize your returns.

RB Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | ADP: 83

How Fournette has sustained this ADP is unfathomable to me. The only positive for the Tampa backfield is the potency of this offense. Unfortunately, we are staring down the barrel of a three-way committee with the addition of Giovani Bernard, which drastically impacts Fournette.

Last season, 45% of Fournette's fantasy value came via the passing game. Starting in Week 7, he took over as the primary two-minute offense handling 84% of snaps. That role very likely belongs to Bernard this season.

The most likely role for Fournette in 2021 is providing Ronald Jones II a breather every third series on early downs and sniping carries inside the five. He could have the occasional hot-hand breakout week, but good luck predicting when those will happen.

If you can move Big Lenny to a running back-starved team, I would be willing to do it for almost anything in return. Jaylen Waddle, Marquez Callaway, Sony Michel and Terrace Marshall Jr. are all below Fournette in ADP and are much better options.

WR Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans | ADP: 89

Last season, Cooks was a solid value as a Round 7 or Round 8 investment with Deshaun Watson at the helm and Will Fuller V opposite to attract opposing defenders. Now Cooks will be the focal point of every defensive coordinator as he attempts to catch passes from Tyrod Taylor

That is a huge difference, and the market has underreacted. Despite the lack of competition for Taylors' affection, I don't expect Cooks' target share to move much if any. Historically, he has been a good but not great player, and the 18% to 21% target-per-route rate seems to be home.

When you combine that number with the implications of losing Watson, you could see 1,150 yards turn into 800, and the touchdowns dip from six to three or four. The underlying utilization metrics will look good on this one after Week 1, but the efficiency will be down.

Corey Davis currently has an ADP similar to Cooks', but if for some reason he went later in your draft, I would make him my priority target. Unfortunately, that probably isn't a trade you can pull off, given their proximity in ADP. You could, however, realistically attack multiple other pass-catching options like Elijah Moore and Jakobi Meyers in Tier 9 and Tier 10. All of those rank above Cooks, who lands in Tier 11.

WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers | ADP: 122

I recently outlined my reasons for fading Williams. In short, I think he is what he is, and I am not buying the hype around the “X” role in Joe Lombardi's attack. Williams has failed to eclipse a 17% targets-per-route rate in four seasons as a top-seven draft pick.

Expect Keenan Allen to continue to dominate targets as he works inside routes in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Oh yeah, those are the areas Michael Thomas attacked from the X position in New Orleans. So, despite the Z or Y designation based on alignment, Allen will continue to win in these areas, meaning Williams will have to attack other spaces frequently.

Sell these headlines as the hype behind an effort to unload Williams to a receiver poor fantasy manager in your league. I prefer all of the options outlined above under Fournette.


RB Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins | ADP 50

Gaskin, like the other backs mentioned above, is dealing with a potentially ugly committee situation. He profiles as a player with underwhelming explosiveness and needs substantial passing-down volume to prop up his current ADP.

Additionally, the Dolphins have massively upgraded their weapons this offseason, which sets up another hurdle for the low-draft-capital back to overcome. Seeing a path to a 15% target share and 70 receptions requires glasses stronger than my current prescription, making him a fade/sell play for me.

QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers | ADP 62

I like Herbert, but he has just enough red flags at current ADP to make him a player to trade. He could take a step forward in 2021, but he will have to fix multiple underlying sticky data points for his game to break even:

  • 25th of 32 in clean-pocket grade
  • 27th of 32 in negatively graded throws
  • 25th in uncatchable pass percentage

Lastly, expect a more balanced attack under the new coaching staff and some potential growing pains picking up the new offense. All of this adds up to a lower ceiling and floor, meaning Herbert is probably at max value for 2021 right now.

His ADP should be closer to Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford and below Tom Brady and Jalen Hurts. If you can move Herbert for Brady or Hurts and pick up additional roster components, do it.

WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints | ADP 77

Thomas is an iffy option for the list since his value can't technically go down once the season starts — it should go up each week we are closer to a return. However, I placed him here because we could get bad news on his recovery or relationship with the team. If you can find any value within 20 spots of his ADP, strongly consider making a move.

RB Melvin Gordon III, Denver Broncos | ADP 79

Gordon is a fine filler at RB2/3 early in the season if needed, but his value could nosedive Week 1 if Javonte Williams gets more work than expected or makes a few big plays. Of course, he would get a big bump if Williams were injured, but we can say that for any RBBC backfield.

TE Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers | ADP 89

The chances of Tonyan repeating his 11-touchdown season are unlikely. Those scores accounted for 37% of his fantasy production, catapulting him to first in points over expected (52.2 points). If you can make him part of a package that gets you a player you desire, then make a move and replace him with Cole Kmet off the waiver wire.

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