You know, the very first fantasy league I ever played in was in 1984. (I was a kid). And I’ve never stopped. Which means I have been wheeling and dealing in multiple fantasy leagues in multiple sports for 35 years, which, now that I just actually did the math and wrote that out loud made me freak out a bit.
It also occurred to me that while I had written about trades a decent amount over the years, it had always been certain slices of trading. One column about etiquette, one about strategy, another about funniest or regrettable trades and another that was just a long anti-veto rant. But what I hadn’t done is put it all together in one column.
Anyway, you do something for three-plus decades, and you have a very specific point of view on it. So, here, now, is the Definitive Matthew Berry Guide to Trading in Fantasy.
1. Assess your team.
So you’ve decided to make a trade.
Let’s say you need a running back, and the waiver wire is dry. Great. But you need to understand not only what you need, but what you can trade away. A good exercise is to rank (at least mentally) the players on your team so that you truly understand how you value everyone.
2. Assess everyone else’s teams.
Don’t target one specific player. Yes, you’d like to have Dalvin Cook. Everyone would. That’s too narrow a window. It’s much better to find teams that might have an extra running back to deal. Or conversely, a team that needs what you have a surplus of; good tight ends or a quarterback, for example. Ideally you’ll identify a few teams that are potential trade partners.
3. Establish the market.
Don’t just send a bunch of cold trade offers out of the blue via the league website. This has a high probability to just get turned down. You want to start a conversation, and there are many ways to do that: via the site messaging system, social media or email; or if it happens to be your significant other, taking them to dinner and, over dessert, casually bringing up the fact that their team is one good tight end short of unbeatable …
In general, I also don’t like the trade block or announcing to the league “so-and-so” is on the block. I always feel that devalues the player, like you’ve already announced you’re getting rid of him. The exception to that is if the player is truly elite and there are no questions about him. And even in that scenario, you need to be selective. The message is “I hate to do this but my RBs have been ravaged by injury and I gotta do something. Patrick Mahomes is on the block. Make your best offer.”
I would not send that leaguewide. Send it just to the top 3 or 4 teams in the league, all copied on the same Snap or text. This creates a competition where the league leaders may or may not want Mahomes, but they sure don’t want their rival to get him. So you can play people off each other.
One final marketing trick, with a hat tip to my friend Yasin Abbak: Set the lineup on your team so that the player you hope to deal is listed as a starter. Makes him seem more valuable than if he’s on your bench as surplus rather than a valued member of your starting lineup.
4. Connect with your potential trading partner(s).
It’s now all out in the open, and time to talk to specific teams to see if there’s mutual interest. If they responded to your feelers, great — you have a good starting point. If it’s a colder approach, make it loose and casual at first. “You open to talking trade?” or some such. You can be specific about your motive if you want. “I need a running back – you open to a deal?” Because if they aren’t, why waste your time?
Let’s say Cook is on one of the teams you think has RBs to spare. Play it cool. Ask if they are open to dealing one of their running backs, rather than asking straight up for their top pick and best player. Work up to Dalvin in the negotiation.
Now, if you are on the receiving end of a query like that, you are welcome to say no, of course. But answer. Ignoring a reasonable and polite inquiry is rude. And also, what are you doing? You in this league or not? Say yes or no — just say something.
I am perfectly fine with multiple negotiations going on just so long as everyone is upfront. If, when you make an offer you say, “FYI, I sent offers to two other teams tonight” no issue. Or, “I’m only talking you about this but I need to do a deal by Saturday, so if we can’t agree tonight I’m reaching out to others.” Whatever it is, just be clear about who else you’re talking to.
I sometimes like making it an offer that could either way so as to open up negotiations. Earlier this week I sent a text saying “You open to dealing Damien Williams? Or are you interested in Darrel Williams? We should get these wacky kids together.” We ended up not doing a deal, but the idea was to open a dialogue where he had a choice of giving someone up or acquiring someone of mine that, in theory, would have helped his team. You never know what will pique someone’s interest. Your goal is to get them to talk to you. Then you can negotiate.
5. The Negotiation.
Now that you’ve got a potential trade partner talking, your first question should be “What do you need?” You already know what he/she can do for you. Let’s find out what you need to do for them so you can craft a deal that helps them.
It’s important to phrase that request as a way to help you help them. As a guy named Crosby Spencer put it on Twitter: “Someone says, ‘I’m interested in Player X, what do you want for him?’ Great. So now you want me to research your team to find a POTENTIAL match that MIGHT make you interested in acquiring a player I wasn’t looking to trade, all so you can turn me down if it’s not a Godfather deal?” Try to make it as easy for your potential trade partner as possible. Not everyone has the same amount of time to obsess over it like we do.
Listen to what the other player needs. Really listen. The only way this will work is if it’s a two-way conversation about what you both need and want. Hearing their concern and enthusiasm about players is the best way to get something done and give you an advantage in negotiation.
Ask the potential trade partner to rank their players at the position you’re looking at. This allows you to a) get a sense of how they value certain players, which might be different than how you value them and b) Has inherently put them in a position where they have subconsciously devalued some of their players (whoever they rank lowest). Be prepared to reveal your rankings as well. Ideally, line up your players to match the player you want to trade to “equal” the player you want from them.
When negotiating, don’t treat your potential partner as if they are stupid. They are not interested in trading their underperforming Week 1 star for your Frisman Jackson (Google it, kids). Don’t try to talk down the player you want to acquire and don’t oversell the guy you are dealing. Don’t lie about injuries or changes in value. Better to be honest, because they already know it (or will soon enough) and they will trust you more in negotiating.
Don’t be afraid to lay out why you want to make a deal, help them understand what’s in it for you. “Yes, this player is in a RBBC but he’ll get the majority of goal-line work. However he’ll never play for me because I have this backup that popped. And the difference between him and your top 15 WR is clearly someone, so how can I fill in the gap?”
Except in rare circumstances where I desperately need depth, I want to be the one getting the best player in a deal. I try not to do 2-for-1 deals unless I am getting the one. But not all 2-for-1 deals need to actually be 2-for-1. If I am the one offering the two players, I will ask for a throw-in. These two guys for your stud and whoever you want to throw in. Or the worst WR you have, etc., etc. The 2-for-2 is weirdly more palatable than a 2-for-1, because there is a perception that they are “getting” something for their worst player.
You obviously want to accentuate the positive but don’t sell it as a steak if it’s a hamburger. Better to sell it as the best hamburger available for the price.
Everyone is available. Never say “Sorry, Mahomes is untradable.” If someone offered you Lamar Jackson and Dalvin Cook, Julio Jones and Travis Kelce for him and some roster depth, you’re obviously doing that deal. You can say it would take quite a lot to get Mahomes, you value him highly, but everyone is tradable in the right deal.
Being willing to talk about your best player has the added benefit of getting them to talk about theirs. If they think they can get Mahomes and get them talking out loud about the idea of dealing Kelce, Cook and Julio, they’ve started to accept the idea of trading those players and you can dial the deal back to a way where you keep Mahomes but still acquire Julio. “That’s not enough for Mahomes, but what about X and Y for Julio?” And now you’re discussing Julio, not Mahomes. Make sense?
Put a time limit on it. “OK, well let me know by 10 p.m. tonight.” Otherwise too many trades sit in limbo. It puts some urgency on the deal and lets the other person know you mean business. Also, the longer a deal takes, the less likely it is that it gets done. Doubt sets in and the excitement is lost.
No is no. If you make an offer and the other person says no, you’re allowed one follow-up to say “Well, is there something else you’d consider for so and so? Could we keep talking?” But if the answer is still no, then you gotta move on.
If the other person says they are negotiating with someone else, it’s fair to ask “Well, before you agree to a deal for Cook, will you give me a chance to beat it? Maybe I can, maybe I can’t but this way you know you’ll get maximum value.” Gives you one last chance, gives you info on what others in the league are offering and if it’s a no, at least you know you gave it your best shot.
There comes a point in the negotiation where it’s time to make a solid offer, or you have received one you need to accept or reject.
First, understand your goal is to improve your team with a focus on your starting lineup. You don’t need to “win” the trade for it to be valuable to you. You may deal a top-10 quarterback for a decent flex running back which, on the surface, means you “lost” the trade. But if that quarterback was never playing for you, and this was the best available player to you, and your starting lineup is better for it, then you “won” too.
In addition to thinking about how the deal works for you if everything goes well, you also need to evaluate the floor. If everything turns horrible, how does the trade affect you? Did you deal too much depth? Are you now one random injury away from disaster? Everyone sees the upside; not enough people think about the downside.
As my late, great Uncle Lester used to say, “If you’re in a poker game with five other guys and each guy has $100 and you’ve won $400, it’s time to leave. You’ve already won most of the money.” He would also say “If you can get 80 percent of what you want in a deal, take it. Most guys screw it up trying to get the last 20 percent.” My uncle was one of the truly great negotiators who ever lived. Don’t get greedy. And remember, it’s only a good deal if both parties are satisfied. And if both people are happy but didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s probably as close to a perfect deal as you can get.
A deal is a deal as soon as both parties agree to it. I have been in negotiations where the person and I have verbally agreed to a deal, then I’ve gone to put it through the website and they turned it down. “I had second thoughts.” No, man … we agreed. We’ve been negotiating for two days. A deal is a deal. A person’s word needs to mean something, and whether a deal was agreed to verbally, via text or email or through the website, it’s still a deal. Don’t weasel out on some technicality. All you have is your rep and your word.
A few parting thoughts
1. Understand people are often dazzled by name value. Which often is different than actual production. Try to sell names. Try to acquire production.
2. You should begin preparing for trades well before you need to make one. Take notes during the draft or auction. Who expressed disappointment or had the last bid on a player you acquired? That should be your first call if you are dealing that player.
3. Don’t gloat. Even if you completely got the better of someone, say you think it was a fair deal. Assuming you are in a league with the same people year after year, the better you make someone feel about trading with you — and that includes after the deal is done — the easier the next negotiation will be. Plus, you never know when a deal will blow up in your face. Don’t make it worse for yourself by having been a jerk about it.
4. Never veto. Unless there is provable collusion, every trade must be allowed to stand. Everyone should be able to run their team the way the way they want to. Even if it’s not how you would do it. Even if it’s badly. I’ve written extensively about being anti-veto for years, but seriously, the veto is the coward’s way out.
5. Stop using any variation of the phrase “trade rape.” It’s a truly horrific and repugnant phrase and anyone that throws it around in something as trivial as fantasy football is beyond tone-deaf. Seriously. I don’t get on my soapbox often, but I’m adamant about this.
6. One last Uncle Lesterism. “The best way to double your money is to fold it up and put it in your pocket,” he would often say. Sometimes the best trades are the ones we don’t make. Don’t be afraid to walk away.
And with that, let’s get to it. You get it by now. This is not a start/sit but rather whom I think will meet and/or exceed projections (“loves”) and who I believe will fall short (“hates”). Thanks as always to “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast and The Stat-A-Pillar, Damian Dabrowski, from The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ for their help at various points in this column.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 5
Tom Brady, New England Patriots (at Redskins; ESPN projection: 18.1 points): In front of what will be a half-empty FedEx Field, where the people who show up will all be wearing Patriots gear, Brady will work out the frustrations from last week on what could very possibly be the worst franchise in professional football. Hey, at least Miami has a direction. Make no mistake. I am still a fan of this team. It’s in my blood, and I’ll never get it out. But I’m also not blind. Just understand, for those who think this franchise can’t sink any lower, wait until you see what TB12 does to a “defense” that has allowed at least three TD passes in three of four games this season, and has allowed all four starting QBs (Dak Prescott, Mitchell Trubisky, Daniel Jones and Carson Wentz) to complete better than 71% of their passes. This is going to be ugly and embarrassing, and I feel bad for Jay Gruden, who will be doing the best he can with what little he will have to work with on the field Sunday, with many talented players hurt, holding out or having escaped to other teams. Fun fact that has nothing to do with fantasy: Since 2010 (the first full season Bruce Allen was the executive vice president and general manager of the Redskins), Washington is 59-88-1, a .402 winning percentage, which is 28th in the NFL during that stretch. The only teams worse in that span are Jacksonville, Cleveland … and the two other NFL teams on which Allen had a significant impact prior to joining Washington: Oakland and Tampa Bay.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Jets; ESPN projection: 17.8 points): In a game where, as of this writing, we don’t know if Sam Darnold will play, Philly hosts a Jets team that is allowing 286.7 passing yards per game this season (fifth most) and has the third-worst red zone defense in the NFL. Wentz has had 10 days to prepare for a Jets team that is 28th against the pass and blitzes at the fifth-highest rate. (Against the blitz, Wentz is fifth best in the NFL in completion percentage).
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Saints; ESPN projection: 18.9 points): I’m on him, I’m off him, instead of “Love/Hate” should I just call this column “Jameis Winston”? Pretty much means the same thing. But a week after I dumbly had him on the “hate” list (Yeesh), I’m back in on him in what Vegas thinks will be one of the higher-scoring games of Week 5. After back-to-back weeks as a top-five QB, he now gets a Saints team that is allowing 24.7 PPG to QBs this season (second most), allowing 6.3 yards per play (fifth most) and owns the 10th-lowest interception percentage.
Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts (at Chiefs; ESPN projection: 19.4 points): As of this writing (Wednesday), T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack have missed practice. Obviously their returns would certainly help, but even without them Brissett should be top-12 viable against a Chiefs team that is allowing 19.8 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs in a game with by far the highest over/under on Sunday’s slate. The only QB in the NFL to throw multiple TD passes in all four weeks this season, and averaging 287.5 passing yards in his past two games, Brissett is still available in 53% of ESPN leagues.
Others receiving votes: In his past two games, Kyler Murray has 96 yards rushing and a touchdown. Now he hits the road to face a beat-up Bengals team operating on a short week and allowing opponents to complete better than 72% of passes this season, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL. … Adam Thielen is yelling at him and he has a lot of familiarity with the Giants, so if ever there is a week Kirk Cousins is a top-20 play, it’s this one. The G-Men have allowed 414 yards off play-action this season (second most in the NFL), and combined with Dalvin Cook, Cousins remains one of the NFL’s best off play-action. … In what should be a high-scoring game between two decent offenses and two bad defenses, I like Andy Dalton to rebound from Monday night to have a good fantasy day against the Cardinals. Did you know, even with the clunker versus the Steelers, Dalton is on pace for 4,600 passing yards? The Cardinals allow a touchdown on a pass attempt at the third-highest rate in the NFL.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 5
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Packers; ESPN projection: 19.4 points): For his career, in games Prescott has played without left tackle Tyron Smith, his TD/INT rate dips, his TD% is nearly cut in half, his off-target rate nearly doubles, he takes fewer deep shots and he averages 12% fewer fantasy points per game. (In the nine games without him he averages 15.98 PPG. Now, those games are all without current offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, but still, it’s not ideal that Smith will miss this game.) I’m taking the under against a Packers team that has had 10 days to prep, allows opponents to complete just 57.1% of passes (tied for third best in the NFL this season) and also coughs up 5.04 yards per carry. This is gonna be a huge Zeke game, making the need for Dak to go nuts unlikely.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (at 49ers; ESPN projection: 16.1 points): “Hahaha Berry! You put Mayfield on your hate list last week and he blew up! He showed you, you ^$&%$ moron!” — my Twitter mentions, I’m guessing. Believe it or not, Mayfield was actually a “win” for me last week, finishing with 15.7 points, below the 15.8 projection he had. Oh yeah! Below the projection! Tenth of a point, baby! All right, so he looked a lot better and I got lucky in that Nick Chubb went nuts and Mayfield had only one touchdown pass, but whateves, man. Still a win in the record book! So why am I doubling down and taking the under on 16.1? On the road at a much-better-than-you-think Niners defense that has had two weeks to prepare, this feels like a much slower game than folks might expect. (San Fran is fourth in average time of possession). Cleveland’s success came from running the ball, and I expect another healthy dose of Chubb in this one, limiting Mayfield’s upside and volume against a San Francisco secondary allowing opponents to complete just 57.1% of passes (third best in the NFL).
Gardner Minshew II, Jacksonville Jaguars (at Panthers; ESPN projection: 14.1 points): I’m as excited about Minshew Mania as the next guy — he’s an easy guy to root for. But the Panthers are a legit-good defense, allowing the second-fewest yards per pass attempt this season (5.16). In operating what is still a run-heavy offense, Minshew has been insanely effective when going downfield (a 133.3 passer rating on deep passes. For comparison, Patrick Mahomes has a 133.8 rating). The issue is the Panthers are awesome at defending the deep pass, especially if their secondary is fully healthy in this one. In fairness, Houston just missed two long passes against them last week. But miss they did, and opponents are 6-for-26 throwing deep against the Panthers (just 23.1%) with more interceptions (two) than touchdowns (one).
Running backs I love in Week 5
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (at Panthers; ESPN projection: 16.4 points): Just insane volume (he’s top five in the NFL in terms of the highest percentage of his team’s rushing attempts and rushing yards), and I like the passing-game usage (at least 20 receiving yards in all four games this season after just three such games last season). Among the reasons I am down on Minshew is I think the way to beat the Panthers is on the ground, where they are the ninth-worst run defense this season and allow 4.89 yards per carry (fifth most).
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cardinals; ESPN projection: 14.6 points): This is the week. As Field and I talked about on the podcast this week, I am nervous about Mixon for the majority of this season given the Bengals’ offensive line issues. So after this week, I believe he will be a prime “sell high” candidate because he should have a big game Sunday. With multiple catches in all four games this season and in 15 of his past 16 games, Mixon gets terrific volume. He’s responsible for 75.3% of the Bengals’ rushing yards this season, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. The Cards are 28th against the run and just resurrected Chris Carson.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (at Cowboys; ESPN projection: 15.1 points): Free Aaron Jones! Not the way we want it to happen, of course, but as of this writing I expect Jamaal Williams and Davante Adams to miss this week’s game due to injury. With those two out, expect increased touches for the playmaker Jones, especially in the pass game, where Jones has seen at least six targets in two of the past three weeks, something only six other running backs can claim. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have allowed 25 RB receptions (eighth most) this season. Last season, they allowed the fifth-most RB receptions. With four rushing touchdowns in his past three games and a heavy workload, gimme the over on 15.1.
Sony Michel, New England Patriots (at Redskins; ESPN projection: 10.7): I know, I know, I know. He’s been brutal this season. But he looked better last week, and if I had to pick one guy to score a touchdown this week, it’s Michel, who New England knows (along with its offensive line) it has to get on track. In a game the Patriots should dominate from start to finish in front of a “home” crowd in D.C., Michel will get plenty of work (he has at least 15 carries in three of four games so far), especially in close. Michel leads the NFL in carries inside the 10-yard line this season, believe it or not. The Redskins have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards this season and just made Wayne Gallman look like Saquon Barkley.
Others receiving votes: In an expected high-scoring game against a Colts team that allows 5.46 yards per carry (second most) and the eighth-most rushing yards per game and since the start of last season has given up the third-most receptions to opposing running backs, I like LeSean McCoy and whichever Williams gets the start (Damien or Darrel) to both return top-20-ish value this week. … The Saints have given up six rushing scores this season (second most), and I’m on the RoJo > Barber bandwagon. Gimme Ronald Jones as a viable flex play this week. … As a two-touchdown home favorite against the Jets, I like Jordan Howard building upon last week’s breakout game and having a flex-viable game as the Eagles finish off New York in the second half. … The truly desperate among us in deeper PPR leagues could probably do worse than Duke Johnson Jr., who has seen 13 targets to Carlos Hyde’s six this season, against a Falcons team that has allowed the most receptions to running backs for four years running. I have Duke as RB38 going into the week, so don’t go crazy, but if you’re looking a guy with a bit of a pulse this week, Duke could be it.
Running Backs I hate in Week 5
Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets (at Eagles; ESPN projection: 18.6 points): Look, you still have to start him. Don’t get cute. He is a must-start regardless of who is under center for the Jets. But 18.6 is a high number for a guy going against a defense that has yet to allow any opposing RB to reach even 50 rushing yards this season. Kerryon Johnson, Devonta Freeman, Aaron Jones and Derrius Guice against the Eagles this season have combined for 54 carries for 97 yards (1.8 yards per carry), with none of those 54 carries gaining more than 11 yards. The Jets are gaining just 1.16 yards per carry before first contact this season when there are seven-plus men in the box, and the way you attack Philly is working on its secondary. You have to hope for massive passing game usage from Bell (certainly a possibility!) because he ranks 42nd of 44 qualified RBs in yards per carry this season. But my feeling is Philly loads the box and takes its chances against Luke Falk or Sam Darnold in his first game back.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (vs. Bears; ESPN projection: 11.8 points): Jacobs makes his London debut, but he has to face the Bears. With just three catches in four games this season, he hasn’t been involved in the passing game as much as you’d like, and in what should be a slow-paced game on both sides of the ball and against the Bears’ third-ranked run defense, I’m taking the under on an already-low projection of 11.8.
Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (vs. Vikings; ESPN projection: 14.9 points): You had me at Vikings. Last week’s breakout is unlikely to repeat against a Vikings defense that has allowed just one rushing score on 103 opponent rush attempts. Allowing the fifth-fewest yards per carry after first contact, Minnesota should have no problem with Gallman, who last week, in a much easier matchup, gained just 0.83 yards per carry after first contact (third worst among 36 qualified RBs in Week 4).
Pass-catchers I love in Week 5
Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (at Giants; ESPN projection: 13.6 points): It’s one thing to apologize with words, but you know what truly makes up for it? Some deep throws. Expect Kirk Cousins to grease his squeaky star receiver, or something like that, with at least a few deep shots. (Thielen already has 61.5% of the Vikes’ deep targets). He’ll get chances and he’ll be successful with them against a Giants team that has allowed the second-most deep TDs, second-most yards per deep attempt and third-most deep yards (568) this season. And if Case Keenum could have gotten the ball anywhere near Trey Quinn on a couple of deep attempts when he was wide open last week, those numbers would be worse.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers (at Cowboys; ESPN projection: 13.3 points): With Davante Adams unlikely to play, MVS should see the lion’s share of the targets, and Aaron Rodgers will certainly have time to find him. The Cowboys create pressure at the third-lowest rate (only the Raiders and Dolphins have been worse). When Rodgers has not been under pressure this season, he has a 106.8 passer rating, 71.2% completion rate and 4.5% TD rate. When he is pressured: 59.2 passer rating, 34.3% completion rate and 2.9% TD rate. In his one game this season with at least eight targets, MVS put up a 6-99-1 line in Week 3 against Denver, and I like his chances of seeing that amount of targets this week.
Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cardinals; ESPN projection: 14.8 points): After a brutal Monday night, I’m back in on him against a Cardinals defense that has allowed 10 touchdown passes in four games. He should have plenty of chances; prior to Monday night, Boyd had seen double-digit targets in three straight and now John Ross III is out for quite some time. Yeah, Auden Tate will get some love (and is an interesting play this week as well, especially in DFS), but as Mike Clay notes, in a plus matchup with Tramaine Brock, I want the over here for Boyd.
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Colts; ESPN projection: 15.0 points): The impending return of Tyreek Hill and Watkins’ inconsistent production recently may scare some folks off, but I like Watkins to rebound here in what should be a high-scoring game. Colts’ opponents are completing a league-high 86% of passes when targeting the slot this season (league average: 67.5%) and to date, Watkins owns a 45.3% slot target share this season. While I am not sure how DeMarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman’s playing time will be impacted if Hill returns this week (which sounds unlikely as of this writing), I do know Watkins will be out there and, just like I do every week, I want as much of the Chiefs offense as I can get.
Will Fuller V, Houston Texans (vs. Falcons; ESPN projection: 10.2 points): Little bit of a gut call here, but Fuller is due. He could’ve had a touchdown on a long pass that Deshaun Watson just missed on last week, he has at least six targets in three straight games, he actually leads the Texans in routes run this season (141), and Kenny Stills is banged up. Against a Falcons secondary that let Corey Davis and A.J. Brown eat them up last week, I like Fuller as an upside play this week in a likely shootout with one of the five highest over/unders on the slate.
Others receiving votes: If Sam Darnold is under center, gimme some Robby Anderson against an Eagles secondary that has allowed a 100-yard receiver in all four games this season. … Geronimo Allison ran 46 routes last week and with Adams likely out, expect him to get to that number again, at a minimum. In 11 career games in which he has run at least 30 routes, Allison has double-digit fantasy points in eight of them. … Since Antonio Brown was released, Phillip Dorsett has a 20.3% target share, and as you may have heard, the Redskins have given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season. … Will Dissly has scored in three straight games, his targets and receptions have increased each week this season and he’s being targeted on 30.1% of his routes (fifth highest among TEs). … Greg Olsen has run 130 routes this season (fifth most among TEs), he has at least seven targets in three of four games, and given how strong the Jags’ corner play is, it’s no surprise Jacksonville has given up the ninth-most receiving yards to TEs this season. … This week’s tight end who gets to play Arizona is Tyler Eifert, who saw a season-high six targets last week. The Cardinals have given up the most yards and TDs to tight ends this season, including at least one TE touchdown in each of their four games. … Desperate tight end streamers looking for help could search for Jack Doyle. Especially if T.Y. Hilton doesn’t play in this one, Jacoby Brissett will be looking around for help. Doyle ran a season-high 26 routes and had eight targets last week. The Chiefs have already allowed 32 TE receptions this season (tied in the most).
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 5
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Ravens; ESPN projection: 12.3 points): I’m officially nervous. JuJu had the 76-yard TD in Week 3, right? His other 11 targets since Mason Rudolph became the starter in Week 2 have resulted in 20 yards. Total. That’s not a misprint. Without the big play, that’s 1.8 yards per target. Now, Rudolph had some success with JuJu in Week 1 when he came in for Big Ben, but still. At home in a great matchup last week, things should have gone a lot better. And now he potentially gets shadow coverage from Marlon Humphrey, who shut down Odell Beckham Jr. last week. Sure, Smith-Schuster runs a lot of routes from the slot and Humphrey doesn’t always travel to the slot. And obviously Jarvis Landry absolutely crushed Baltimore from the slot last week, so this call could very easily blow up in my face. But my guess is that they allow Humphrey to follow him to the slot. JuJu is a big-play guy and he could take any pass to the house, so you may not have a better option than him in season-long leagues, but … yeah. He’s just WR39 on the season and I’m definitely a bit worried until we see Rudolph open it up a bit.
DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers (vs. Jaguars; ESPN projection: 12.1 points): If Jalen Ramsey misses this game, I’d take Moore off the hate list, but with just a 12.1% target share from Kyle Allen (compared to 27.9% from Cam Newton) you can’t feel excited about this. Now, it’s just two games, so this is a very small sample size, but a tough matchup and a lack of evidence in a connection between Allen and Moore makes you nervous, as does this stat: The Jaguars are sixth in blitz percentage this season. In Allen’s two starts, Curtis Samuel has seen six targets to Moore’s two when Allen has been blitzed.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins (vs. Patriots; ESPN projection: 11.6 points): McLaurin is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lost season for Washington. As of this writing, we have no idea who the QB will be on Sunday. Gut call here, but if he’s healthy I’ll bet it’s Colt McCoy. That said, I also don’t think it matters. Stephon Gilmore will shadow McLaurin, who may not even be 100% healthy. Even in expected junk time here, it’s worth noting that no player has even 80 receiving yards in a game against New England this season, and opponents have two red zone completions against the Patriots for the season. Two. I love McLaurin like he is one of my kids, but he’ll be on my bench in the 16-team league in which I have him this Sunday.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (vs. Bills; ESPN projection: 10.3 points): The Bills have allowed just 11 TE receptions this season (third fewest), the fourth-fewest yards per TE reception (7.6) and no touchdowns to the position. This is a daunting matchup for the veteran in what Vegas expects will be the lowest-scoring game on the slate.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — would like everyone in all his leagues to know he’s open for business.