Fantasy Football 2019: Best Buy-Low Trade Targets

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2019

Fantasy Football 2019: Best Buy-Low Trade Targets

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    It's Week 2 of the NFL season, which means it's the perfect time for fantasy managers to buy low on players who started off with underwhelming performances. You should take some time to scroll through rosters in your league and attempt to pry good assets away from impatient owners.

    Like the real NFL season, every game counts in the fantasy realm. Standard leagues have 14-15 weeks to pile up wins for a playoff spot. Sometimes, it's best to see the big picture and buy low on a player who can help your squad down the stretch.

    This week, you're probably one of the many managers who picked up either running back Malcolm Brown or wide receivers Marquise Brown, John Ross III or Terry McLaurin. Now, try to flip those hot pickups for more proven commodities.

    We all love to own the new big thing, but that mindset can work against even the savviest fantasy football owners. Let's take a look instead at eight players to target in buy-low trade offers.

        

QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    In Week 1, Matt Ryan threw some head-scratching passes; his most egregious went to Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris in the back of the end zone.

    Despite Ryan taking four sacks and throwing two interceptions, he's bound for a strong comeback performance. In two of the last three seasons, the 34-year-old has thrown 35 or more touchdown passes. Between the 2012-14 campaigns under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, Ryan threw for at least 4,500 yards and completed 66.1 percent or more of his passes. After a four-year stint as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Koetter is now back in Atlanta.

    Ryan has a top-notch wideout group, featuring two-time All-Pro Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley—who led the team in receiving touchdowns (10) last year—and Mohamed Sanu, a sure-handed veteran with a 66.3 percent career catch rate.

    With Ryan at the helm, the Falcons have ranked top 10 in passing yards through each of the last eight seasons. Next up on the schedule, Ryan will face the Philadelphia Eagles, who allowed 380 passing yards to Case Keenum in Week 1. Fantasy managers should acquire Ryan now while he's coming off a subpar outing.

RB James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have an opportunity to showcase their offensive tools out of the backfield because the New England Patriots jumped out to a 20-0 lead by halftime. As a result, running back James Conner recorded just 10 carries for 21 yards in Week 1.

    You can hear the panic among fantasy owners with Steelers players: "Oh no, this offense will struggle without Antonio Brown." With that in mind, they're likely to bail on Conner, who could see a loaded box once he takes a handoff. Don't worry about him.

    Conner isn't Le'Veon Bell, but he can catch and run out of the backfield. He caught 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown last year. More importantly, the Pro Bowl tailback has a steady offensive line that returned all of its 2018 starters—the same group that helped him record 973 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. 

    Pittsburgh's three-point showing may encourage owners to place Steelers running backs and wide receivers on the trading block, so buy now while confidence in the offensive group has hit its lowest in years.

RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears battled through a sloppy regular-season opener with only 13 points scored between the two teams. Both defenses also looked stout; neither group allowed more than 260 total yards.

    Aaron Jones recorded 13 carries for just 39 yards against the Bears; his longest run went for nine yards, and he saw only one target in the passing game. 

    Typically when we think about the Packers offense, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams come to mind as must-have fantasy draft picks. Now, with head coach Matt LaFleur taking over for Mike McCarthy, we must consider Jones as a third factor in the mix.

    In 2018, the Tennessee Titans ranked ninth in rush attempts and logged the sixth-most yards on the ground with LaFleur calling plays. Assuming he brings a steady diet of the same to Green Bay, Jones could reach career highs as a ball-carrier. 

    Furthermore, LaFleur talked to reporters about featuring running backs in the passing game.

    "I love it when we can give [running backs] the ball in the passing game," he said. "That's one more eligible that the defense really has to focus on." 

    Last year, Titans tailback Dion Lewis caught 59 passes for 400 yards and a touchdown; we could see similar numbers for the Packers' lead running back.

    Jones didn't show much in the first game, but that will change if LaFleur sticks to his tendencies and original plan.

RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

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    Bears head coach Matt Nagy gushed about David Montgomery during the offseason. Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports put the team's enthusiasm for the rookie in words on Twitter:

    "Offensively, the Bears are in love with RB David Montgomery, who brings a professional approach that is rare for a rookie. He's a no-nonsense guy who takes football very seriously. The Bears love that, plus his receiving skills & make-you-miss. He will help this team immediately."

    The Packers' revamped defense featuring Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith in the front seven deserves some credit for a solid performance, but the Bears only ran the ball 15 times for 46 yards. Montgomery had one more carry (six) than Mike Davis to lead the team in rush attempts. 

    We didn't see Montgomery make an immediate impact in his regular-season debut, but he's likely to lead the team in carries in addition to several looks in the passing game this year. Keep in mind, the Bears ranked sixth in rush attempts under Nagy in 2018. The 2019 third-round pick will have plenty of opportunities to flourish in Chicago.

WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mike Evans lists as arguably the top player on the buy-low list. For starters, he opened the season with two receptions for 28 yards against the San Francisco 49ers, who allowed 35 passing touchdowns (ranked 31st) last year. The 26-year-old followed up with four receptions for 61 yards Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.

    Evans' quarterback, Jameis Winston, is the subject of a lot of criticism after he threw three interceptions—two returned for touchdowns—in his first game paired with new head coach Bruce Arians. The fifth-year veteran looked more like a game manager in the last outing, completing 16 of 25 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.

    Evans was listed as questionable in Week 1 because of an illness, which may explain his modest output. But Winston's constant turnovers and low passing numbers against the Panthers defense may scare owners away from the two-time Pro Bowl wideout. 

    However, looking at Evans' track record, he's been able to produce in spite of Winston's inconsistencies over the years. He's registered at least 1,000 receiving yards in his first five seasons and hauled in 12 touchdown receptions in two campaigns. Even in a less aggressive passing attack, he will have opportunities to post solid numbers as the lead wideout.

    With questions about Winston and the direction of the offense, it's a good time to land Evans in a trade. He's still a safe play in fantasy lineups.

WR Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams

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    Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has a plethora of options in the passing game, including wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Tight end Tyler Higbee, who signed a four-year extension earlier this month, saw five targets in Week 1 against the Panthers.

    Although Cooks seems like a hit-or-miss contributor, fantasy managers should take a look at his production over the last four seasons: He eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of those campaigns. Los Angeles signed him to a five-year, $81 million extension back in July. 

    Based on the Rams' investment in Cooks and his proven track record, he's unlikely to show a sharp decline this season. Despite playing within a talented pass-catching group, the 25-year-old logged a career high in receiving yards (1,204) with Goff under center last year. 

    Although risky, Cooks could fill the WR2 spot for managers who need a boost at the position.

WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

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    With all the buzz surrounding John Ross' 158-yard, two-touchdown outing in Week 1, try to sneak a buy-low offer for Tyler Boyd. The latter had a decent outing that didn't make headlines, hauling in eight passes for 60 yards against the Seahawks.

    Still, quarterback Andy Dalton targeted Boyd 11 times through the air. Despite Ross' breakout game, he's an unproven playmaker who could fall off the radar in any given week. Last year, the 24-year-old caught 21 passes for 210 yards and seven touchdowns with a 36.2 percent catch rate.

    In comparison, Boyd put together his best season in 2018, recording 76 receptions for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns. At the moment, he's more reliable than Ross because of his season-long production.

    According to Laurel Pfahler of the Dayton Daily News, star wideout A.J. Green is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from ankle surgery but remains without a definitive return date. In the meantime, fantasy owners should target a stable cog in the offense. If you acquire Boyd, he can hold the WR2 spot.

TE Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints

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    Coming off a career year in Oakland, Jared Cook is attempting to acclimate himself into the New Orleans Saints' high-powered offense, which ranked third in scoring last year. The 32-year-old caught two of three targets for just 37 yards in Week 1, but there's a reason he's still owned in 95 percent of Yahoo leagues.

    Cook has a decade-long history of operating as the primary pass-catching tight end with solid results. He's done so with four other clubs, so it's clear the veteran doesn't depend on a certain quarterback.

    Now, with an elite passer in Drew Brees, Cook should have another solid year. In the past, the Saints signal-caller has made good use of his tight ends, like Coby Fleener in 2016 (50 catches for 631 yards and three touchdowns) and 38-year-old Ben Watson (35 receptions for 400 yards and two scores), who only played 48.2 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps in 2018. 

    In Week 1, Cook saw the field for 64 percent of the offensive snaps, which gives fantasy owners reassurance that he's going to see a fair amount of looks in the passing game. With some time in the offense, he'll become a steady target and a viable red-zone threat.