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Fantasy Football Week 1: Examining Trade Market for Top 100 Flex Players

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2018

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley is tackled by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley during the second half of an NFL football wild-card playoff game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The 2018 NFL season is here, meaning fantasy will soon meet reality.

Mock drafts have long since given way to the real thing. Soon, those draft picks will have real statistics attached to them, and your club will start its move up or down the league standings.

So, naturally, we're already here to talk trades.

Trust us—it makes sense. The best owners understand that all rosters can be improved, and orchestrating a valuable trade now can literally pay season-long dividends.

With that said, let's lay out the trade rankings entering the first week. Only flex options (RB, WR and TE) are considered, and all players are put in tiers attached to specific trade values. Leave any deal with the higher trade value, and you likely won the exchange.

Make sense? Good, let's get started.

                  

Trade Value: 11

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

2. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

The names listed here shouldn't surprise you. Gurley was the top-scoring flex player last season, while Johnson and Elliott were first and second, respectively, in 2016.

When healthy, this trio offers almost guaranteed elite production. If you're going to trade them away, ask for a ton. If you're going to try to land them, be prepared to pay a major price.

Perhaps the only surprise is the one workhorse who isn't listed—Le'Veon Bell. But there's too much mystery regarding his ongoing absence (which we'll discuss later) to give him a top-tier price tag.

                  

Trade Value: 10

Adam Hunger/Associated Press

4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

5. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

6. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

7. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

8. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants

9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

Brown might command a bump to the top tier if Bell's absence makes the stud wideout even more featured in Pittsburgh's offense. Barkley and Kamara might be a step behind the top three at their position, but they're also a step above the rest. The other three receivers are as sturdy as any non-Brown options.

                 

Trade Value: 9

Don Wright/Associated Press

10. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

11. Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

12. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

13. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

14. Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

15. Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

16. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

17. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Bell is almost impossible to evaluate right now. If he plays, he might be the top fantasy option overall. But he's yet to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag, and it hardly sounds like he's in a rush to do so.

"He's going to do the things necessary to protect his value long-term," Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari, said on "NFL Live," per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

It's probably best to avoid any Bell trades at the moment, but if your gut tells you otherwise, we can't stop you.

The other four running backs should all deliver RB1 production, and that's becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. Thomas, Allen and Green, meanwhile, offer more safety than most, but they have a tad less upside and a few more question marks than the first four receivers.

                  

Trade Value: 8

Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

18. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

19. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

20. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

21. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It isn't hard to see the potential with this group. Freeman is the lead back on a high-powered offense. Adams and Gronkowski are favorite targets of two elite passers. Evans possesses a drool-worthy blend of size, strength and soft hands.

The catch is each carries some level of risk. Freeman works in a timeshare with Tevin Coleman. Adams is still searching for his first 1,000-yard season. Gronkowski's medical history is frightening. And Evans' touchdown numbers have varied dramatically (two seasons with 12 each; eight in the other two combined).

                    

Trade Value: 7

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

22. LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills

23. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

24. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

25. Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

26. Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

Some members of this quintet have the upside of a higher tier, but too low a ceiling to rank there. Others have higher floors, but less upside.

It's a good group to own, but unless Mixon or McCaffrey erupt, these players probably aren't winning you a fantasy title.

                    

Trade Value: 6

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

27. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

28. Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings

29. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins

30. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts

31. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

32. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

33. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

So, I kind of like this group. Maybe more than the numbers say I should.

Fitzgerald remains a safety blanket at age 35. He was the 20th-best scorer last season, while catching balls from Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. Baldwin is rock-solid, totaling 247 catches for 3,188 yards and 29 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Drake closed last season on a tear and shouldn't be disrupted by Franke Gore's presence—despite what the depth chart says.

If you want to bet on upside here, consider making a run at home run hitters Hilton and Hill. The former gets Andrew Luck back, and the latter is now working with the rocket-armed Patrick Mahomes.

                    

Trade Value: 5

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

34. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

35. Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

36. Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

37. Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions

38. Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns

39. Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos

40. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

41. Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

42. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns

43. Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

44. Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans

45. Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Detroit Lions

46. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

47. Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans

48. Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns

49. Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers

This is where trade values start to muddle. There's value here, but you aren't building your roster around these players.

Some have risk (Ajayi's health, Gordon's repeated absences, Johnson's role with Carlos Hyde on the roster), others lack major rewards (there aren't many explosive offenses here). Keep your offers and asking prices reasonable, folks.

                  

Trade Value: 4

Steven Senne/Associated Press

50. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

51. Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams

52. Chris Hogan, WR, New England Patriots

53. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

54. Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans

55. Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots

56. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

57. Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

58. Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets

59. Carlos Hyde, RB, Cleveland Browns

60. Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

61. Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans

If you're looking for splash, this section doesn't have a lot. Smith-Schuster, Cooks, Watkins and Coleman can all provide it in spurts, but none is the most important skill player in his respective offense.

The New England entries are interesting, though. With Cooks and Danny Amendola gone, plus Julian Edelman suspended four games, Hogan should command a ton of Tom Brady's attention. As for Burkhead, he might lead the Patriots in rushing attempts, and he could devour the goal-line chances.

                     

Trade Value: 3

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

62. Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams

63. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos

64. Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers

65. Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

66. Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers

67. James White, RB, New England Patriots

68. Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

69. Tarik Cohen, RB, Chicago Bears

70. Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets

71. Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers

72. Michael Crabtree, WR, Baltimore Ravens

73. Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants

74. Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

75. Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

76. Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington Redskins

77. Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers

78. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

79. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers

80. Allen Hurns, WR, Dallas Cowboys

81. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

Players in this tier are mostly dinged for one of two reasons. Either they lack a clear role, or they don't offer the most upside.

There's opportunity if you're willing to wager in the right spots. Breida and Barber could conceivably play their way into featured roles. Fuller has significant breakout potential. Johnson looks like the most dynamic running back in Detroit.

But the chances are these are either players you package with someone else to chase a top-tier(ish) talent, or someone you request as a "throw-in" as part of a bigger exchange.

And then there's Ingram, who's suspended for four games but capable of major production once he's back. He rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, despite sharing the backfield with Kamara.

                  

Trade Value: 2

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

82. Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins

83. Alfred Morris, RB, San Francisco 49ers

84. Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco 49ers

85. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Buffalo Bills

86. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

87. Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears

88. Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins

89. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

90. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings

91. Danny Amendola, WR, Miami Dolphins

92. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

93. Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants

94. Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks

95. Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

96. Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins

97. John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

98. David Njoku, TE, Cleveland Browns

99. Jordy Nelson, WR, Oakland Raiders

100. O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is largely the self-explanatory section. These players shouldn't be given away, but they'll only be involved in either minor deals or as sweeteners in larger swaps.

While it's possible a few of them play their way out of this tier—Penny, Ross and Njoku come to mind—you should wait to see tangible production before buying any hype.

               

Statistics used courtesy of ESPN.com and NFL.com.

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