With four weeks of the 2017 NFL season now in the books, some major storylines have emerged in fantasy football. Trends are becoming patterns. Certain players are proving to be busts. And a few players have shown they hold immense value, as we'll explore below.
That's right, it's time for your weekly trade value chart. As always, players not listed below have a trade value of one. And may the fantasy points be with you!
Trade Value: 11
1. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
3. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
4. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
5. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
6. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
We've hit the quarter pole of the NFL season, so I want to go over which players have been the most valuable to this point.
It's important to note that what follows isn't a projection going forward, and some of the players you see below may appear much lower on the trade value chart. That's because the trade value chart is about projecting a player's value for the rest of the season.
But how do we determine value? Overall points scored aren't enough. A better way of analyzing value is using the concept of Value Over Replacement Player, a metric popular in other sports that I've adopted here and tweaked for fantasy purposes.
The philosophy here is simple: In a 10-team standard league, you must start at least one quarterback, one tight end, one defense and one kicker and at least two running backs and two wide receivers. That means that every week, at least 10 quarterbacks, 10 tight ends, 10 defenses, 10 kickers, 20 running backs and 20 receivers must be named as starters.
So, any other player enters the replacement category. While you must add one flex to your starting lineup, you have the option in most leagues of choosing between running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. You aren't forced to start a second tight end or third running back or wideout, so for my own purposes, I consider flex candidates as replacement players.
So when calculating VORP, I compare each player's weekly average to that of the top replacement player. For quarterbacks, tight ends, defenses and kickers, that's the No. 11 player in the overall rankings. For running backs and wideouts, it's the No. 21 overall player in the rankings.
This gives you an idea of how valuable a player is compared to the best replacement player at the position, but more importantly, how much benefit that player offers your team compared to players at other positions.
Without further ado, I present to you the 15 most valuable fantasy players after four weeks:
- Hunt: +15.5
- Gurley: +15.2
- Stefon Diggs: +7.6
- Tom Brady: +7.1
- Freeman: +6.9
- Fournette: +6.8
- Greg Zuerlein: +6.8
- Detroit Lions D/ST: +6.0
- Bell: +5.6
- Chris Thompson: +5.4
- Alex Smith: +5.1
- Elliott: +4.9
- Rob Gronkowski: +4.8
- Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST: +4.7
- *Dalvin Cook: +4.1
*Cook is out for the season with an ACL tear.
We can draw a few conclusions from this.
First—and most importantly—the top-tier running backs have more relative value than any other position.
Eight running backs appear on this list, more than the other positions combined. While in some cases that means those players are having extraordinary seasons—Hunt and Gurley, for instance—the broader conclusion is that the position sees an extreme drop-off in production outside of its elite tier.
Consider wide receiver, kicker and tight end. Those positions have just one player on this list, meaning that while Diggs, Gronkowski and the Lions defense have been clearly more valuable than any other option at the position, those positions also tend to offer way less variance in weekly production as you go down the rankings.
At wide receiver, that seems to be due to the fact that there is solid depth at the position. At tight end, it's been due to an overall lack of production once you get past players like Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Charles Clay (and even those players have displayed a fairly limited ceiling this year, hence Gronkowski's more modest VORP compared to, say, Hunt and Gurley).
Those positions offer fantasy players a slope when it comes to value drop-off. At running back, you get more of a cliff.
Another interesting conclusion is just how valuable Brady has been. Coming into the year, quarterback was considered arguably the deepest position in fantasy, yet Brady is offering a significant advantage over the top replacement option. He's even been two whole points more valuable per week than the second-leading scorer at the position, Smith.
Even at a deep position like quarterback, that leaves Brady in the running to be this year's fantasy MVP. Well, if Hunt and Gurley's ridiculous rate of production ever slows down, that is.
Trade Value: 10
7. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
8. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
11. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
12. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
We've covered Brady, one of the additions to the second tier. The second is Nelson, who has been fantastic in the three full games he's played, averaging 16.8 points in those contests. Take away his injury in Week 2 and Nelson's the most productive wideout in football thus far this season.
Trade Value: 9
13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
14. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
15. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
16. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Gronk remains the toast of the tight ends and, while he's been very good to start the 2017 season, he hasn't provided quite the VORP that might be expected of him. Nonetheless, Gronkowski's past production when healthy—he's scored 70 touchdowns in 92 career games—makes him a player with unlimited upside.
As for Hyde, Howard and Gordon, they are no-brainer RB1 selections at this point and should be valued as such.
Trade Value: 8
17. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
18. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
19. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
20. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Green's consistency keeps his value high, but his ceiling is limited compared to the top-tier options at the position. McCoy is the final player in the RB1 designation, but the fact that he's rushed for just 106 yards combined in the past three weeks is a concern. Rodgers and Brees are as safe as it gets at quarterback, but they haven't shown quite the upside of Brady to this point.
Trade Value: 7
21. C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
22. Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
23. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
24. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
25. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
26. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
27. Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams
28. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
29. DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
30. Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
Can Diggs keep this up? One of fantasy's most valuable players to start the season, he's posted 22 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns on 32 targets.
It's probably safe to assume Diggs won't finish the season with 16 touchdowns, which he's currently on pace for this year. But his usage is certainly sustainable. He caught 84 passes (111 targets) for 903 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season. Compare that to this season, where he's on pace for 88 receptions, 128 targets, 1,564 yards and the aforementioned 16 touchdowns.
Yes, the yardage and touchdowns would be immense jumps forward. But the receptions and targets would be more incremental improvements. Diggs is still just 23, so projecting improvement from him isn't illogical, and seeing as he's already surpassed last year's touchdown total, it's clear he's taken a next step and Minnesota's offense has made him a major priority as well.
In other words, Diggs may not finish the season as the top wideout in fantasy, but there are plenty of clues to suggest that a WR1 season is realistic.
Trade Value: 6
31. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
32. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
33. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
34. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
35. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
36. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
37. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
38. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
39. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
40. Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots
41. Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots
42. Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
43. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Hogan and Cooks may be the most intriguing wideout pair in football, if only because it's so hard to project them going forward since New England's offense utilizes so many different weapons. Cooks was expected to be the top gun among the wideouts, but take away his monster Week 3 (five receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns) and he has just eight catches for 163 yards and no scores in his other three games.
Hogan has been far more consistent, with at least 60 receiving yards and a score in three straight games. He's also been targeted 26 times, compared to 24 for Cooks. And while he can't be expected to continue averaging a touchdown per game, Hogan's eight red zone targets are second in the NFL to only Larry Fitzgerald (10), per Graham Barfield of Fantasy Gurus.
He added that Cooks has not yet been targeted in the red zone.
What Hogan is doing, in other words, doesn't feel like an anomaly. Cooks has explosive ability, so he has his role as well, but if the first four weeks are any indication, he may be much more of a boom-or-bust option for fantasy owners.
Trade Value: 5
44. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
45. Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
46. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
47. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
48. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
49. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
50. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions
51. Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers
52. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders
53. Mike Gillislee, RB, New England Patriots
54. Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
55. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
56. Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Let's talk about Smith. Namely, can he remain one of the top quarterbacks in fantasy? Or even a QB1?
History would suggest probably not. He was a borderline QB2 last season, and his 3,502 passing yards were a career high. His career high for touchdown passes in a season is 23. He's on pace to throw for 4,268 yards and 32 touchdowns, numbers he's never come close to touching. He's currently completing 76 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception.
What I'm trying to say, folks, is that what Smith is doing likely isn't sustainable.
But—yes, there's a but—he's now notched 20 or more fantasy points in four of his last six regular season games.
In Kelce, Hill and Hunt, he has arguably the best trio of playmakers he's had during his time in Kansas City. And the Chiefs are clearly in a rhythm offensively, so what they are doing doesn't appear to be a fluke. They've scored 24 or more points in four straight games, after all, so there has been consistency to their success.
I remain skeptical that Smith will continue to post gaudy numbers. But until he shows a consistent drop-off in production, he needs to be valued as a QB1.
Trade Value: 4
57. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions
58. Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders
59. Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
60. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
61. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
62. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
63. Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans
64. Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
65. Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
66. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington
67. Chris Thompson, RB, Washington
68. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
69. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
70. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers
Murray isn't going to produce at the same level as Cook. If he has that sort of upside, he would have gotten more than seven carries in the first three weeks. But the Vikings are tied for 13th in the NFL in total rushes (109), and it's hard to imagine them ditching the running game entirely due to Cook's injury.
In other words, Murray is in line to see 15-20 touches a game. How the Vikings also utilize Jerick McKinnon could ultimately hamper Murray's value. But McKinnon has never been a workhorse and seems better suited to a complementary third-down role.
That leaves Murray the opportunity to be the early-downs back, and in turn, a chance to immediately present strong fantasy value.
Trade Value: 3
71. Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers
72. Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants
73. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns
74. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
75. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
76. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
77. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
78. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
79. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
80. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
81. DeSean Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
82. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens
83. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
84. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
The Saints backfield continues to give fantasy owners headaches, though trends are emerging. Ingram is going to be the team's primary early-downs runner and leads the running backs in rushes (42), rushing yards (170) and yards from scrimmage (295).
Kamara, meanwhile, is going to be the team's scatback and an intriguing weapon in the passing game. He leads the backfield in receptions (20), receiving yards (147), targets (28) and overall touchdowns (two). He's the most explosive and dynamic playmaker in the team's backfield and his role seems likely to increase as he grows more comfortable in the offense.
And Adrian Peterson is the clear third fiddle at this point and, barring a major shift from the Saints or an injury to Ingram, doesn't need to be on fantasy rosters.
Put another way: Kamara and Ingram have flex value and little more, while Peterson has virtually no fantasy value.
Trade Value: 2
85. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
86. Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears
87. Buck Allen, RB, Baltimore Ravens
88. Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
89. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
90. Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
91. Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
92. Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
93. Wendell Smallwood, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
94. Coby Fleener, TE, New Orleans Saints
95. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
96. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns
97. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
98. Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
99. Greg Zuerlein, K, Los Angeles Rams
100. Detroit Lions, D/ST
Yes, I know. A kicker. But Zuerlein is 14-of-14 on field goals this year and has made all eight of his attempts from 40 yards or deeper. He's also been one of the most valuable players in fantasy this year, according to VORP, which shouldn't be ignored.
Will his rate of production slow down? Probably. Will his value inch closer to the rest of available kickers? Likely. But until that happens, Zuerlein is offering your team a significant edge over other kickers, a fact that shouldn't be ignored.