Written by Bobby Duke (Twitter: @TheBobbyDuke)
On top of the plethora of injuries that seem to keep piling up every week, this 2020 NFL season has been far from predictable and it is probably really starting to reflect in your fantasy football lineups as we sit almost halfway through this year. Feeling like getting in a good trade before the deadline approaches in your league? Here are a few helpful wide receiver moves you can make to improve your chances of hoisting that coveted first place trophy (or collecting that beloved prize money) through the last half of the season.
Travis Fulgham, Philadelphia Eagles
A few weeks ago, you may have seen Travis Fulgham pop off your waiver wire. If you weren’t the one that picked him up, your initial thoughts were probably along the lines of the sample size is too small or he’s going to be benched again as the Eagles’ depleted pass-catchers get healthy. Well, after three consecutive games of at least 57 yards and a touchdown, Fulgham has looked not as much like a great fill-in receiver for Carson Wentz to target, but more like a potential long-term solution to the Eagles’ veteran-player injury problems.
Even with DeSean Jackson playing most of last week (before exiting with an unfortunate ankle injury), Fulgham continued to see an abundance of targets (11) come his way. And while his final numbers weren’t as strong during that game (just five catches for 73 yards and no touchdowns), he seems to be a clear front-runner for the future of the Eagles’ receiving core (alongside Jalen Reagor when he returns from injury). After his first mediocre performance this past weekend, and with potential talk of Reagor, Alshon Jefferey, and tight end Dallas Goedert returning soon, there is no better time than now to talk the fantasy manager holding Fulgham into a nice trade as they begin doubting the future of his output. Fulgham seems to be here to stay and will leave you with a consistent producer at the wide receiver slot the rest of the season.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
One of the only consistent pieces of good fortune on the Washington Football Team this year has been the play of Terry McLaurin. As a true number one receiver on a team that didn’t have much of a playmaker at the quarterback position through the first five weeks, McLaurin still saw his fair share of volume (46 targets). However, since new starter Kyle Allen has been under center and healthy the past two weeks, McLaurin has already seen 23 targets, which he has converted into 14 catches, 164 yards, and a score.
If you drafted McLaurin, you (along with the Washington Football Team) were counting on his volume to pay off. But now, look for McLaurin’s value to increase even more as not only will he continue to get looks his way, but he should see an increase in output from those targets as he becomes attuned with a more accurate quarterback. If you don’t have McLaurin on your roster, do what you get to attain him for the rest of the season; your fantasy team will thank you.
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
So this one may come as a bit of a surprise. And I know – another lowly NFC East team. My apologies. But with so much talent on that Dallas Cowboys’ offense that seems to be going to waste now that their superstar quarterback, Dak Prescott, is out for the year, I have to talk about the lone bright spot so far in Dak’s absence. And that is, Amari Cooper.
After being completely ignored when Andy Dalton entered the game in Week 5, fantasy managers with stock in Cooper hung their heads very low. But in an atrocious Week 6 loss to the Cardinals, Cooper managed to wrangle in seven catches (on 10 targets) for 79 yards and the team’s lone touchdown. While a lot of his production did come in garbage time of the second half, it still came. And even with Dalton exiting Sunday’s game with a concussion late in the third quarter, and rookie seventh round pick Ben DiNucci only throwing for 39 yards, Cooper still managed to haul in his seven total targets amassing for 80 of the Cowboys’ 114 total yards through the air.
Like everyone expected, Dallas’s record-breaking passing numbers have plummeted since Prescott left in Week 5. But while Michael Gallup’s and CeeDee Lamb’s numbers have taken a toll, Cooper’s, while not as breathtaking as they were early on in the year, are still very valuable from a fantasy perspective. Trade for Cooper while you can get him dirt-cheap. Even if Dallas’s offense can’t turn it around, expect Cooper to still continue to see a fair amount of volume as the Cowboys will be down in a number of games going forward and be forced to get the ball in their star play-maker’s hands.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers. The only undefeated team left through seven weeks of the 2020 season. A big part of that comes from the astounding play from their wide receivers. Names like Chase Claypool, who we’ve seen over the past few weeks burst onto the scene as a rookie, come to mind. Also Diontae Johnson, who, when healthy, has seen a greater number of targets than any other receiver in the NFL on a per game basis; while, unfortunately, that has only been for three games. And then you have the fourth-year star, JuJu Smith-Schuster. With all of these big names and performances coming out of Pittsburgh, JuJu seems to be the one getting lost in the shuffle.
Coming into the season, it looked to be Smith-Schuster’s year with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back at the helm after recovering from a season-ending injury that kept him out most of the 2019 season. With JuJu as the first option, and Johnson as the second, Claypool and fellow receiver James Washington looked to be deeper options for Big Ben. While Johnson’s upside was not overlooked, his health has made him a challenging fantasy play. And while there was talk of Claypool’s talent, we didn’t realize it would be on full display as early as Week 5 to the tune of four total touchdowns; although we are also seeing his production massively affected when the other receivers are healthy. And yet, as good as the Steelers have been, Smith-Schuster’s play has been arguably the most wildly inconsistent, and more recently, consistently bad. After scoring two touchdowns in his first game, Smith-Schuster has only notched one other score this season. And before this past weekend, he hadn’t eclipsed 50 yards since the season opener. Still without a 100-yard receiving day, no matter what other receivers are in (or not in) the lineup, JuJu has struggled to produce.
After his ‘bounce-back’ game this weekend, though (having caught 9 balls for 85 yards), this could be a great time to trade away a player that you drafted reasonably high that has disappointed so far. With a number of mouths to feed in Pittsburgh, and with Johnson and Claypool seemingly stealing the show in the endzone week-to-week, do what you can to sell JuJu Smith-Schuster at his highest point before it’s too late.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Oof. That’s about the only word I can think of to describe the poor souls that spent a first round draft pick on the single-season reception record holder, Michael Thomas. After going down with an ankle injury in the Saints’ season opener, at least the upside was that he would return before it got too hard for your fantasy team, right? Maybe you had to struggle with a few ringers for a couple of weeks early on, but if you could pull off a win or two, you would still be in good shape for when your sure-fire target hog returns.
But then came the ‘altercation’ with a teammate that kept him out for the Saints’ Week 5 matchup with the Chargers. And then New Orleans had their bye in Week 6. Ok, well he is definitely rested now, after two unplanned weeks off, right? Well, then in practice leading up to Week 7, Thomas strained his hamstring, missed that weekend’s game, and has already been ruled doubtful for the Saints’ upcoming Week 8 game.
Yikes. From someone who has been the epitome of consistency over the course of his career, this season is one Thomas, and fantasy owners alike, will want to forget. But you know what? It’s never too late. He could step back in that offense and produce right away. But why not get something out of him now while you still have a shot? For all we know (and as lingering as hamstring and ankle injuries can be), Thomas may not be fully back to 100% this season. So why not cut your losses now and get a solid trade for the All-Pro wide receiver that has only frustrated your fantasy decision-making up to this point? It wouldn’t be 2020 without trading away your number one draft pick anyway, would it?
Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Welp, I definitely didn’t expect to be writing his name on a Week 8 article in 2020 focused on trading wide receivers. But here we are. And I’ll tell you what; after being added in over three quarters of fantasy leagues since news broke last week that he would be joining Tom Brady in that loaded Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense, this has been the conversation to be had. My take? Trade him now.
You may be wondering why I would suggest trading someone you just picked up and who has historically been one of the best receivers in football. Or you may be thinking shouldn’t I see how he performs in his first game back before I trade him? Or even why would I trade him? I picked him up because even though he’s only played one game in the past year and a half, he was awesome in it. And it was with Tom Brady! Those are a lot of great thoughts; and arguably all worth pursuing. But I say trade away Antonio Brown now, before he even has a chance to slip on his “standard league-approved” helmet with the Bucs (it’s never too soon for a ‘crazy AB’ joke).
Every NFL fantasy season there is always that one player whose enigma of actually being in the game is a million times higher than their actual production on the field. Could Antonio Brown be a star caliber receiver in a Tom Brady-led offense? Sure. Could he more realistically be at least a solid WR2/3 play going into the fantasy playoffs on a team that is headed in the right direction through the air? AB-solutely (ok, that one was a little lame, I admit). But what’s more of a sure thing is the value you can get from trading him right now. You have the benefit of mystery on your side with Brown returning to football, but no one having any clue how he will perform. People looovve to be a part of the mystery; especially when it’s as hyped as this one is in the fantasy world right now. Could you easily get a WR2/3 option that you are pretty confident about going forward the rest of the season right now for AB? Definitely. Is there a good chance Brown doesn’t produce as expected and after one game this mystery goes away or the perception becomes Brown’s consistency will get lost in Tampa Bay’s loaded offense? Also yes.
If you want a more sure-fire chance of getting a producer in the receiver slot for your fantasy squad, trade Brown now before this mystery fades.