Last week, I identified
six quarterbacks and running backs I would like to trade for or
away. This week, I will do the same with eight wide receivers and
tight ends. Much as I did last week, I will provide an example or
two of a deal I either have made or would try to make to acquire
said player after I provide some analysis of his situation.
A little something happened on the way to Aiyuk becoming an every-week
WR1 in fantasy: zero red zone targets. That's right; one of the
game's better route-runners and contest-catch receivers hasn't
seen so much as a single throw in his direction inside the 20
since Week 2. That had to be an oversight HC Kyle Shanahan &
Co. noticed during the self-scouting portion of the team's Week
Since he missed Week 3 due to a concussion, Aiyuk ranks ninth
in the league with 448 yards receiving. Making that mark even
more impressive is that he has done so on 24 catches. It gets
a bit sad after that. He is the only player over that span with
at least 400 yards receiving and zero touchdowns.
So why the love? As with most things when I analyze fantasy football,
I go straight to the upcoming matchups. Over the remainder of
the season, San Francisco faces only one opponent who currently
ranks outside the top 13 friendliest matchups for receivers (Ravens
in Week 16). Two games in three weeks against what had been an
improved Seattle defense (until last week anyway) may not be high-upside
weeks for Aiyuk, but he could legitimately erupt against any or
all of the following: Jaguars, Bucs, Eagles, Cardinals and Commanders.
Potential deals: The lack of red
zone usage notwithstanding, Aiyuk should dominate down the stretch.
I am not quite sure if he is a top-12 option the rest of the way,
but that is a reachable goal for him - even if he remains in the
range of about seven targets per game. I would prefer Aiyuk to
Jordan Addison, for example, and I would think long and hard about
accepting a straight-up offer for Puka Nacua. Garrett Wilson for
Aiyuk is another trade I would accept.
Collins has flashed a huge ceiling at times this season, but
he has been largely a hit-or-miss proposition for over a month.
His Week 9 touchdown was his first since his 7-168-2 eruption
in the fourth game of the season. It is also worth noting that
Collins' weekly targets have almost moved into WR3 territory after
a strong start to the season in that area (eight targets per game
through four games but only 5.3 since).
While Collins has been a serviceable WR3 over the last month
or so, he needed a touchdown to save his fantasy day in Week 9
during a game in which his quarterback threw for 470 yards and
five scores. To say there is no risk associated with acquiring
Collins would be foolish; C.J. Stroud has proven that he does
not need to force the ball to any one pass-catcher.
With that said, there are going to be opportunities for Houston's
passing game to feast down the road. Collins may lack Aiyuk's
upside when it comes to the number of potentially favorable matchups
he will have (Bengals, Jets and Browns will likely be challenging),
but the reason I'm pushing for Collins here is his fantasy playoff
schedule - specifically Weeks 15 and 17. Although the Titans have
tightened things up a bit against the pass, their secondary is
still liable to get beat more than most. Furthermore, the combination
of Tennessee's stout run defense and Houston's almost complete
inability to run the ball should make for a game in which Stroud
will attempt at least 40 passes in each meeting.
Potential deals: Collins currently
occupies the WR15 slot (total points) for the season and is the
primary receiver for a player who looks like the next big thing
at quarterback in Stroud. Given the difference in quarterback
play, I would be happy to accept a straight-up offer where I receive
Collins in exchange for Mike Evans. Although I believe Joshua
Dobbs will be able to keep Minnesota's receivers relevant, it
is too much to ask Jordan Addison to maintain his current level
of play without Kirk Cousins - especially after Justin Jefferson
(hamstring) returns. I would also be happy to trade Addison if
it meant I could get Collins.
In all honesty, I could add DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett instead
of Smith-Njigba. Fantasy managers will probably be somewhat hesitant
to part with Aiyuk and Collins, but I imagine they will be much
more open to dealing away JSN if someone approaches them with
a strong offer. The Seattle passing game has been more disappointing
than not halfway through the season, which has led to a couple
of ceiling games from Lockett and a few high-end WR2 efforts from
Metcalf - most of which came before the Week 5 bye - but little
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the fantasy usefulness of
Metcalf and Lockett have both taken hits since Smith-Njigba saw
his playing time increase in Week 6. On one hand, it makes sense
an offense that has not attempted 30 passes in half of its games
would struggle to keep three receivers happy. The bigger point
to be made here though is that JSN is now seeing about the same
opportunity his veteran teammates are. (Lockett leads the team
with 22 post-bye targets, only four ahead of Metcalf and Smith-Njigba.
Metcalf missed Week 7 due to injury, however.) That would have
been unthinkable before the bye.
The same reason it will be difficult to give up Geno Smith is
the same reason why it makes sense to target Seattle receivers
now: there is only one defense the rest of the way that ranks
lower than seventh in most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers.
While I highly doubt the 49ers' defense will continue to struggle
as much as it has against receivers moving forward, San Francisco
also does not have the bodies to match up with Metcalf, Lockett
and Smith-Njigba. If JSN is going to continue being treated as
an equal partner in this offense AND the 49ers continue to struggle
in the secondary, it means the Seahawks have six top-seven matchups
left for receivers. It gets even better during the fantasy playoffs
when they face the Eagles (most friendly), Titans (seventh) and
Steelers (sixth). It will not make much sense for Seattle to try
to establish the run in at least two of those games, so the Seahawks
could be tempted to go pass-heavy in those contests.
Potential deals: Sharp fantasy
managers probably are well aware of JSN's rise since the bye,
but the fantasy industry as a whole has been a bit sleepy in terms
of announcing it to the masses. It also helps prospective managers'
cases that his preseason wrist injury and subsequent slow start
have left him as the WR54 (total points) entering Week 10. JSN
entered the season with enough hype and name recognition that
he probably will not come as cheap as the typical WR54 would.
With that said, George Pickens should be enough of a return to
pry JSN away from his manager. I might even prefer Smith-Njigba
to Zay Flowers.
I was about to put Tyreek Hill's name above but ultimately decided
against it. While expectations need to be dialed back a bit for
Hill considering the teams Miami will face around Christmas time,
some receivers can get open and make plays regardless of the opponent.
That probably applies to Waddle as well, but the problem for him
is that feeding Hill is higher on the priority list in what can
sometimes be a low-volume passing attack. (Tua Tagovailoa has
attempted 32 or fewer passes in five of nine outings.)
Much as the case was last
week when I advocated trading away Tagovailoa, I am recommending
doing the same for Waddle for similar reasons. The path to the
fantasy playoffs should be easy enough with games against the
Raiders, Commanders and Titans sandwiching a Black Friday meeting
with the Jets. After that, good luck. The Jets, Cowboys and Ravens
await during the fantasy postseason. Baltimore is currently the
easiest matchup of the three on paper and the AFC North leaders
rank as the eighth-stingiest defense against receivers. The three
teams have combined to allow 12 touchdowns to receivers over 25
games, which Hill and/or Waddle highly unlikely to be ceiling
Hill's volume (10.8 targets per game) should get him through
that tough stretch, but Waddle's likely volume (7.4 average through
eight games) may not get it done without a touchdown. As I just
referenced, touchdowns figure to be hard to come by - especially
in Week 15 against the Jets (one receiver score allowed so far).
Miami will likely be best served relying on its perimeter running
game, which will likely squeeze Waddle's opportunities to the
point where he is a WR3/flex option during the fantasy playoffs.
Potential deals: Waddle is the
overall WR23 (total points) despite missing a game earlier this
season. As crazy as it sounds with his quarterback situation being
what it is, I would prefer Garrett Wilson moving forward. I would
also accept straight-up offers in which I receive DeVonta Smith,
Nico Collins or Mike Evans.
The degree to which I got the Cleveland passing game wrong this
summer will haunt me for some time. Then again, it is not as if
anything has been normal for the Browns this year. Cooper has
not been consistent in fantasy or reality in 2023, but he has
delivered often enough to be considered a low-end WR2 at the very
Cooper is a good enough receiver to remain a solid fantasy starter,
but he will be hard-pressed to carry his managers to a fantasy
title in 2023. Not only will winter weather in Ohio be a factor
around and during the fantasy playoffs, but the ongoing nature
of the Deshaun Watson injury saga is also another consideration.
Even if the weather does not come into play and/or Watson finishes
the season without incident, Cleveland will not catch many breaks
before the fantasy postseason or at the end of it. We just discussed
how good the Ravens' pass defense is in Waddle's section. That
will be the matchup this weekend. Pittsburgh's Joey Porter Jr.
appears to be emerging as a very good cornerback and could ask
to shadow Cooper. That is next week's matchup. Even if Patrick
Surtain II does not shadow in Week 12, Cooper will have to face
him plenty in Week 12.
In the fantasy playoffs, the Browns will see the Bears, Texans
and Jets. While two of the three do not sound very frightening,
Chicago's defense has been significantly better since CB Jaylon
Johnson has gotten healthier. Houston ranks as the fifth-stingiest
defense against receivers and has surrendered only two TDs to
receivers this season. The Jets are the worst matchup for opposing
wideouts and have yielded only one receiver score all year. Once
again, most managers may not have the luxury of sitting Cooper,
but there is a distinct possibility he will perform at a WR3/4
level when it matters the most for managers.
Potential deals: Cooper is coming
off a season-best performance (139 yards), so this is a great
time to test the waters. With the exception of last week (five
targets), his opportunities have generally been very good (at
least eight targets in five of eight outings). Cooper's stats
are almost identical to Aiyuk's (Aiyuk has played one less game),
so that would be a place I would start. I would also be more willing
to bet on DeAndre Hopkins with Will Levis as his quarterback moving
forward than Cooper and his late-season schedule.
This one is a projection for any number of reasons, but I choose
to believe Zay Jones (knee) will be able to return to the offense
at some point before the fantasy playoffs. I also choose to believe
Jones' absence is one of the key factors that has played a huge
role in Kirk being a more consistent fantasy receiver than Calvin
Ridley. Thankfully, there should be ample opportunity for Kirk
and Ridley to produce over the next two weeks in home tilts against
the 49ers and Titans. Kirk has been Trevor Lawrence's favorite
target against man coverage this season, but Ridley holds a slight
edge against zone coverage. (What is odd about it is that Ridley
has been more efficient against man while Kirk has been more efficient
versus zone.) San Francisco and Tennessee are playing zone nearly
75 percent of the time. With that said, the 49ers and Titans both
rank inside the top seven in most fantasy points allowed to receivers.
The bad news comes after Week 11. Jacksonville does not have
another favorable matchup on paper from that point until Week
16 against the Bucs. Over that stretch, the Jaguars' easiest matchup
is the Bengals, who have yielded one TD to a receiver in the last
three games despite facing Seattle's talented trio of wideouts,
Aiyuk and Stefon Diggs. If Jones returns at some point over the
next two weeks, there is a distinct possibility he absorbs Ridley's
clear-out role. If that happens, Kirk and Ridley could be fighting
over the same kind of targets. I do not think Kirk will win that
It is also worth mentioning this again: HC Doug Pederson suggested
after Week 1 - following a game in which Kirk caught one pass
- that the former Arizona Cardinal was his man-beater. Given the
tough on-paper matchups coming up and the amount of zone the remaining
teams on Jacksonville's schedule play, Kirk could disappoint down
Potential deals: Kirk is currently
the WR20 (total points), just ahead of Garrett Wilson and Marquise
Brown and just behind Chris Olave and Terry McLaurin. It is highly
unlikely Olave's manager would entertain a straight-up offer,
but the other three are reasonable targets. Michael Pittman Jr.'s
stock seems to be a matter of some debate as well, so he is another
player worth mentioning in this conversation.
In the interest of full disclosure, Sam LaPorta may have the
easiest path to fantasy dominance at his position during the second
half of the season. Detroit has no fewer than four juicy matchups
for tight ends between now and Week 15. With that said, I have
my doubts that LaPorta managers are going to part with him. A
more realistic option may be Njoku.
One thing that seems to be clear is that non-Deshaun Watson Cleveland
quarterbacks like throwing the ball to Njoku more than Watson
does. In nine games with Watson as the starting quarterback dating
back to last season, Njoku has attracted more than six targets
once - their first game together last season in Week 14. Njoku's
highest yardage total with Watson as his quarterback came in the
same game (59 yards). In every other contest, the "Chief"
has failed to top 50 yards.
So why the recommendation? Call it what you will, but there is
going to come a time when the running game and defense will not
be able to carry the team. We have already discussed how challenging
Cleveland's schedule should be for its receivers, but several
of those same defenses are not getting the same kind of play from
their linebackers and safeties as they are from their cornerbacks.
The good thing about targeting Njoku is that there should be a
buying window. Over the next two weeks (Ravens and Steelers),
his fantasy stock should depress to the point where his managers
will consider letting him go. That would be a mistake. After Week
11, Njoku's next five matchups are against defenses who rank inside
the top 12 of most points allowed to tight ends.
Potential deals: With four quality
fantasy efforts in his last five outings, Njoku will have some
value to his current fantasy managers. My advice would be to hold
off on an offer for two more weeks (assuming your league's trade
deadline does not come before the end of Week 11 action) and test
the waters after what should be down efforts against the Ravens
and Steelers. If all goes according to plan, Njoku's stock should
be at a point where his manager will part with him for a WR5 or
low-end handcuff running back.
The good news is that Schultz is a good enough player and a big
enough part of the offense that he should be able to help get
his managers into the postseason over the final five weeks of
the fantasy regular season. Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Denver
all have their reasons for giving up a lot of production to opposing
tight ends; only the Broncos would seem to be a candidate to reverse
their fortunes in that area. (S Justin Simmons' return to health
has been a big part of Denver's recent defensive turnaround.)
As we saw last week, C.J. Stroud already appears to be at a place
in his NFL career where he is capable of lifting the level of
play of his teammates.
There is a possibility Stroud is so good that he can get Schultz
through the most unforgiving matchups for tight ends in the fantasy
playoffs. I do not want to count on that for two reasons: two
of Houston's games (Weeks 15 and 17) are against a Tennessee defense
that has yet to surrender a score to a tight end and gives up
a ton of production to receivers. The mighty Browns defense awaits
in Week 16. Mark Andrews (5-80-2) is the only tight end who has
enjoyed even a hint of success against Cleveland. In seven other
games, the Browns have permitted a total of 14 catches for 75
scoreless yards to the position.
Potential deals: Schultz is coming
off a career game (10-130-1), so now is probably the best time
to see what he can fetch in return. I would first set my sights
on trying to package Schultz along with another piece for LaPorta.
Short of that, I would strongly consider straight-up trades for
Cole Kmet, Evan Engram, Dalton Kincaid and Jake Ferguson. Schultz's
Week 9 outburst may have been big enough to secure a serviceable
WR3 option such as Courtland Sutton as well.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.