Fanelli’s Fantasy Files: Five Midseason Trade Targetsby Mike Fanelli October 29, 2021 1 comment
The 2021 NFL trade deadline is only four days away, and teams are burning the midnight oil trying to make deals. While most fantasy leagues won’t have their trade deadline till Thanksgiving or later, it’s never too early to make a move. With seven weeks in the books, every fantasy team has an idea of what their team needs to improve their roster. Whether it’s an injury replacement or preparing for the fantasy playoffs, there is no such thing as the perfect team. The five players below are not necessarily typical buy-low candidates, but rather players fantasy owners should try and add to their team.
All stats are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.
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Carson Wentz, QB, Indianapolis Colts
While he started the season slowly, Wentz has picked up his play recently. Despite the slow start, Wentz is the QB14 for the season entering Week 8. The Colts have a 3-1 record during the last month. They would be 4-0 if not for the defense collapsing against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5. More importantly, Wentz has thrown two touchdowns in each of his past four games while not throwing an interception, making him the QB10 over the past month. Wentz has averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game, scoring 17 or more fantasy points in every game during that span. While Wentz won’t turn into a plug-and-play QB1 in 12 team leagues, he is the ideal trade target for those in super flex or two quarterback leagues.
The Colts are entering the weakest part of their schedule. The Colts will face the Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Houston Texans over the next six weeks. All those teams rank in the bottom 14 against quarterbacks, giving up an average of 19.9 fantasy points per game. Furthermore, three of those teams give up the 11th most or better fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Meanwhile, Michael Pittman Jr. is turning into a star wide receive while T.Y. Hilton should be healthy next week. While the weapons are far from elite, Wentz has proven he can succeed with an average supporting cast. Trade for Wentz before he picks up his play over the next six weeks.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team
Life has been frustrating for Washington fans and Gibson’s fantasy owners lately. Between the going on shin injury and the inconsistent workload, everyone is ripping out their hair. In the games with over 15 rushing attempts, Gibson has averaged 16.5 fantasy points per game this season. By comparison, Gibson has averaged only 10.4 fantasy points in the games with 13 or fewer rushing attempts, scoring under 9.5 fantasy points in two of those three contests. Furthermore, when Gibson gets enough workload, he finds the end zone. In the four games with 16 or more touches, he has scored three touchdowns. By comparison, in the three games with under 16 touches, Gibson has only one touchdown, coming on a long screen pass.
Unfortunately, the schedule is very ugly for Gibson’s fantasy owners moving forward. This week Washington faces the Denver Broncos, the ninth toughest team against running backs. Then they face the Buccaneers (10th against running backs) and the Carolina Panthers (first against running backs) in their first two games after their bye week. However, Washington then faces the Seattle Seahawks, who give up 31.1 fantasy points per game to running backs. More importantly, Washington faces the Philadelphia Eagles twice during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 15-17). The Eagles have given up 30.5 fantasy points per game to running backs this season. While the next month is rough on Gibson owners, he is a league winner, thanks to his fantasy playoff schedule.
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
Much like Gibson, Williams shares the backfield with a veteran. However, Melvin Gordon could get dealt before the trade deadline. Even if he doesn’t get traded, Williams will take over the backfield sooner than later. Despite playing 45 fewer snaps than Gordon this season (6.4 per game), Williams has scored only 7.1 fewer fantasy points. He has touched the ball on 43.8 percent of his targets compared to 37.5 percent for Gordon. Williams has also caught 20 of his 22 targets this season. By comparison, Gordon has caught only 15 of his 19 targets. More importantly, Williams has three or more catches in five straight games, including a career-high six last week. While Gordon has played more snaps this season, Williams is already the better running back in Denver.
It seems like every week we hear, “this is the week Williams breaks out.” However, the breakout is still a few weeks away. Williams faces Washington and the Dallas Cowboys over the next two weeks. Then, he takes on the Eagles, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Detroit Lions in his next four games. Three of those four teams have given up the fifth-most or better fantasy points per game to running backs. Williams has 11 or more carries in over half his games this season, rushing for 45 or more yards in three of those games. Between his work on the ground and the improvements in the passing game, the Broncos should realize Williams is their best running back. Williams could be the push needed to make the playoffs.
Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase might be the best wide receiver in the NFL right now despite being a rookie. However, his running mate on the other side is vastly underrated. Despite missing two games with a should injury, Higgins is only eight targets behind Chase for the team lead. Removing the two weeks Higgins missed, he leads the team in total targets with 43. By comparison, Chase has 37 targets while Tyler Body has 28 targets in the five games all three wide receivers have played. More importantly, Higgins has averaged 9.3 targets per game since returning from injury. He has seen six or more in every contest, including a career-high 15 last week against the Ravens. The 15 targets were also a season-high for anyone on the team.
Many will argue that Chase is still the better receiver despite seeing fewer targets in the games all three wide receivers played. They would be correct. However, since returning from the should injury, Higgins has a 26.7 percent target share compared to 24.8 percent for Chase. More importantly, the Bengals have increased the number of passing plays per game recently. Over the first four games, Joe Burrow averaged 26.8 pass attempts per game, throwing over 28 attempts just twice. By comparison, in the three games since Higgins returned, Burrow has averaged 35 pass attempts per game, throwing over 37 pass attempts twice. With everyone excited about Chase, the clever fantasy owners will trade for Higgins.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite Jalen Hurts completing only 61.2 percent of his passes this season, Smith has averaged 11.2 fantasy points per game, despite scoring only one touchdown. However, Smith leads the team in targets with 53, averaging 7.6 per game. Entering Week 8, Smith’s 53 targets are 18th most in the NFL, ahead of star wide receivers like Chase, D.K. Metcalf, CeeDee Lamb, and DeAndre Hopkins. More importantly, Smith has a 21.9 percent target share this season. By comparison, Kenneth Gainwell is second on the team with a 12.8 percent target share. Through the first seven games of the season, Smith has led the team in targets in five of them, averaging 8.6 targets per game in those contests. More importantly, Smith has seven or more targets in all but two games this season.
Meanwhile, Hurts will either pick up his play or get replaced by Gardner Minshew. After the Eagles traded Joe Flacco, Minshew will take over as the No. 2 quarterback and is just a few mistakes away from the starting role. This week Smith should have the best game of his career against the Lions as they give up over 37.5 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Much like Gibson, Smith could be a league winner thanks to his fantasy playoff schedule. The Eagles will face Washington in Week 15 and Week 17. Their secondary has been awful, giving up almost 46 fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. Any team that can afford to stash Smith till the fantasy playoffs should make a deal before Sunday’s game.
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