Fantasy managers are eagerly awaiting the official kickoff of the 2021 NFL season. We are only days away. Depth charts are finalized, but there is always opportunity in chaos. The perception of certain players isn’t always reality. Here are a handful of players entering Week 1 of the fantasy football season, presenting an optimal opportunity to either buy low or sell high on them.
Who are some fantasy football buy-low Week 1 trade targets?
All of these candidates are in a position to exceed the expectations of fantasy managers. Everyone views players differently. Here are four such candidates you can trade for at a discount.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts has been touted as a breakout candidate all offseason. Some managers are buying into the hype while others are not.
As a rookie, Hurts averaged an astounding 26.3 fantasy points per game from Weeks 14 to 17 as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. He only played three quarters in Week 17 but finished as a QB1 the three games prior. In his four starts, Hurts averaged 230 passing yards, 1.2 passing touchdowns, and 0.8 interceptions per game.
Additionally, Hurts excelled as a runner. He averaged 68 rushing yards per game and scored 4 rushing touchdowns during that time frame.
But what about Hurts’ 52% completion percentage last year? This opportunity could turn into a strength this season, as Hurts’ quarterback coach is now former Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson.
Johnson has known Hurts since he was four years old. He grew up in the Houston area and played high school football at Baytown Lee High School. One of his coaches was Averion Hurts, Jalen’s father. Johnson has additional motivation for Hurts’ first full season as a starter to be a successful one.
Hurts and the Eagles have several favorable fantasy matchups in the first half of the season (Falcons, Cowboys, Chiefs, Panthers, Raiders, Lions). He’s set to prosper with receivers DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert. Now is your final chance to acquire him before his value steadily increases.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs has averaged 21 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets), 93.5 total yards, and 15.3 PPR fantasy points per game over his two-year career. He’s finished as an RB2+ in 57% of his 28 active games.
However, this offseason, the Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to a two-year, $11 million contract with every single dollar guaranteed. This strongly implies that he’ll have a role. Yet, it’s worth noting that the chatter surrounding Drake’s signing suggests he’ll be used more as a receiver out of the backfield and act as a change-of-pace option in the running game.
Thus, it’s possible that Jacobs continues to have a similar workload in 2021. He excelled as a runner last season. According to Pro Football Reference, Jacobs ranked seventh in broken tackles (20) and yards after contact (540). He was also provided 79% of the Raiders’ rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line last season.
There is an opportunity to trade for Jacobs while his value is depressed. The Raiders are likely to lean heavily on the running game early in the season. Las Vegas’ pass protection needs time to develop further. Jacobs had a solid training camp and preseason and is a solid RB2 for your fantasy team.
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Let’s be transparent. Ja’Marr Chase had a preseason and training camp that he wishes he could unlock the Eye of Agamotto from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to redo.
But context is also important. As a reminder, the rookie opted out of last season to concentrate on his professional career.
In 2019, Chase set SEC records with 84 receptions and 1,780 receiving yards. He had 24 receptions of 20+ yards and was the most productive receiver on an LSU team that birthed the most prolific rookie WR season in NFL history in Justin Jefferson.
The good news is that Chase and Joe Burrow have an opportunity to start the season on a positive note. The Bengals face a number of secondaries during the first half of the season (Bears, Jaguars, Lions, Ravens, Jets) they could exploit. Now is an ideal time to acquire Chase.
Jonnu Smith, TE, New England Patriots
The Patriots’ passing game is expected to soar with rookie Mac Jones under center as the starter. Jonnu Smith is one player in particular that stands to benefit the most. Head coach Bill Belichick has spoken favorably about him in the past.
Many of the Patriots reporters have said that Smith and Hunter Henry will be used heavily in the red zone. New England’s acquisition of both addresses an area of opportunity for the team.
Did you know that over the last two seasons, the Patriots have accumulated the fewest targets (87), receptions (55), receiving yards (673), and receiving touchdowns (3) from tight ends in the NFL?
The Jets were the next worst team with only 87 receptions over that span.
Smith missed a few practices with a low ankle sprain that wasn’t considered serious. On the other hand, Henry missed most of August with a shoulder injury. Smith could see a significant increase in targets to start the regular season if Henry is still sidelined.
The perception is that Henry will see a high percentage of the tight ends targets, but my candidate is Smith.
Which potential trade targets should you sell high on?
Many of the players on this list are widely known by fantasy managers. Some of them could disappoint early in the season. Will you cash your chips in?
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson is the QB7, according to Fleaflicker’s average draft position (ADP) data. Last season, Wilson averaged 25.6 fantasy ppg — finishing as the QB6. However, his first and second half of the season are radically different.
From Weeks 1-9, Wilson averaged 32.2 fantasy points per game. Yet, his per-game average dropped dramatically the rest of the season. Wilson only averaged 19 fantasy ppg the rest of the way, as the Seahawks didn’t allow Russ to cook. It’s unknown if they ever will.
The Seahawks have one of the most difficult schedules for quarterbacks to start the season. In the first eight games, Wilson will face the Colts, Titans, 49ers, Rams, Saints, and Steelers.
Fortunately, in fantasy football, the quarterback position is very streamable. There are many quarterbacks who have a very favorable first half of the season. Kirk Cousins, Matt Ryan, Tua Tagovailoa, and Sam Darnold immediately come to mind.
Darrell Henderson, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Darrell Henderson was expected by many to lead the Rams’ backfield after Cam Akers’ torn Achilles ended his season. Head coach Sean McVay, however, threw a significant curveball to fantasy managers after Los Angeles traded for former Patriots running back Sony Michel.
McVay has maintained the stance in the media that Henderson is “still going to have a very big role.” This is hard to believe, considering the Rams acquired Michel in exchange for a 2022 sixth-rounder and a 2023 fourth-rounder. He’s also in the last year of his contract.
While Michel was demoted and not exactly fantasy-relevant in 2020, it’s important to look at things from all angles.
Michel quietly had a solid 2020 campaign, but he only played 33% of the offensive snaps in nine active games after missing seven with a quadriceps injury. Michel averaged just 9 rushing attempts per game but made the most of his limited touches. He averaged 50 rushing yards per game on 5.7 yards per attempt and generated a career-high 6 attempts of 15+ yards.
The Rams’ schedule for the first half of the season is not for the faint of heart when it comes to the RB position. They face the Bears, Colts, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Giants during this time.
This is your last opportunity to parlay Henderson into another useful component for your fantasy football team.
Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans Saints
This trade may make you feel uncomfortable. Michael Thomas was placed on the PUP list, meaning he will miss at least the first five games of the 2021 NFL season. The veteran receiver has averaged 9.4 targets in his career.
It’s unlikely that Marquez Callaway will inherit all of Thomas’ volume. I believe it will be diversified amongst all of the players. Saints head coach Sean Payton has historically leaned heavily on his running backs as receivers out of the backfield. Since Payton’s arrival in 2006, RBs have averaged 10.6 targets per game.
Callaway’s value will never be higher. Meanwhile, the Saints face some difficult secondaries in the first half of the season, including the Packers, Patriots, and the Washington Football Team.
Robert Tonyan, TE, Green Bay Packers
Robert Tonyan caught 52 of 59 targets for 586 receiving yards and an inconceivable 11 touchdowns. He averaged a touchdown on every 5.3 targets for a ridiculous 18.6% touchdown rate.
That — and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ touchdown rate — is not sustainable. Additionally, the Packers are reunited with former Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb, negatively impacting Tonyan’s fantasy value.
Green Bay faces numerous defenses (Saints, Lions, 49ers, Bengals) early in the season that defend tight ends well. Now is a perfect time to move on.
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