Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): It’s been a pretty eventful week in the NFL. The trade deadline brought plenty of fresh fantasy angles. The Alfred Morris/Darren McFadden debate reignited upon news of Ezekiel Elliott losing his suspension appeal, then went dormant again when Zeke got yet another stay from the Second Circuit Court. On top of all that, Deshaun Watson got hurt (Rich already gave that subject plenty of ink Thursday in his fantasy fallout column) and now our long-lost friend Josh Gordon is back for another bite at the apple.
I’m sure everyone has a different take but for you guys, how has the fantasy landscape shifted in the last few days? Will Jay Ajayi benefit from a change of scenery in Philadelphia or will he continue to hit brick walls like he did in Miami? And what do we make of Kelvin Benjamin landing in Buffalo? Personally, I think the move helps Devin Funchess more than it helps Benjamin, but maybe that’s just me.
Rich Hribar (@LordReebs): What this does for Funchess is solidify his fantasy value for the rest of the season. He could have easily slipped to the No. 4 option in that offense upon Greg Olsen’s return, but now he’ll take over as the X receiver, where his volume should be enough to keep him in the weekly WR2/WR3 conversation. Funchess has averaged 24 percent of the team targets per game since Week 2 and is already tied for second on the team in red-zone targets.
I'm a little skeptical of Benjamin. He was having his best season in terms of week-to-week consistency and now switches teams midseason, which is always sketchy. I know there's not much in Buffalo, but I don’t trust his volume in that offense as Tyrod Taylor isn't the type of quarterback to pepper a solo receiver over and over. With Charles Clay nearing a return and this being one of the more run-heavy offenses in football, I think Benjamin loses a bit of his luster, falling from a weekly top-20 option to more of a fringe WR2/WR3.
I'm still not going to bite the apple on Josh Gordon unless I’m playing in a really deep league. He can't return until the end of the month and at that point, you'll have to cold-start him in a spot where your season is on the line. Oh, and the Browns’ coaching staff has absolutely no idea how to use the few talented players they currently have, so why should I believe things will be any different with Gordon?
Connor Allen (@ConnorAllenNFL): Jay Ajayi should be productive in Philadelphia, but it may take him a few weeks. Eagles VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman said LeGarrette Blount is still the starter for now, but after a Week 9 matchup against Denver’s stout run defense and a Week 10 bye, I think we’ll see Ajayi ascend to the lead role. After the bye, the Eagles finish the year with one of the league’s softest schedules against the run. This bodes well for Ajayi who will go from running behind PFF’s 30th ranked run-blocking offensive line in Miami to Philadelphia’s seventh-ranked unit. Those rankings don’t account for the loss of LT Jason Peters, but it’s still a significant upgrade. Ajayi should be a fringe RB1 option after the bye.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): I agree it is a good move for Ajayi. Even with Peters out, this is the best line he has run behind since entering the NFL, running backs are usually able to transition to new teams quicker than players at other positions, and I still think Ajayi is an extremely talented runner despite how things ended in Miami.
Benjamin is interesting because, as Rich alluded to, he was having the best season of his career from an efficiency standpoint and was putting up solid weekly fantasy numbers. While he should have a similar opportunity playing for a Bills team that has been desperate for help on the outside, how quickly will he be able to learn and contribute to their offense? I think he could be a quick study in the red zone where he has a history of success, but it might not amount to much playing with a quarterback who is on pace for just 20 touchdowns passes. Ultimately, I think the move hurts Benjamin, which is disappointing considering what he’s done over the past five games.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): I agree with everyone's Benjamin takes. The WR2/3 borderline sounds about right for him. From a passing perspective, the Bills are basically the more scattershot version of Carolina, even if Tyrod Taylor is a little more accurate than Cam Newton. In Carolina, I'm not sure how much Devin Funchess' volume can really increase. He was already averaging 8.3 targets since Greg Olsen's foot injury and it’s hard to see him getting more than 10 targets a game. I will say that this probably increases both his floor and ceiling because Funchess will no longer be splitting red-zone looks with Benjamin. Of course, Olsen's imminent return will alter the calculus once again.
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Pantuosco: I think one player who’s going to benefit from the Benjamin trade, perhaps more than Funchess, is Christian McCaffrey. The eighth overall pick has already proven quite useful in PPR leagues, leading all running backs in both catches (49) and targets (64). McCaffrey hasn’t shown much as a ball-carrier this year (2.4 yards per carry) and I’m not sure if the Benjamin trade is going to change that. But GM Marty Hurney has already suggested the team will run more in Benjamin’s absence, which should come as great news for owners of both McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart. I’m not sure it’s going to make a major difference for McCaffrey, especially with the 240-pound Stewart still likely to hog goal-line work, but every little bit helps.
With Zeke, Watson and a busier-than-usual trade deadline dominating the conversation this week (not to mention the Colts’ long overdue decision to pull the plug on Andrew Luck), a number of important fantasy developments fell through the cracks. One such headline was the return of Dede Westbrook, who is set to debut Sunday against Cincinnati after beginning the year on injured reserve. I wouldn’t be optimistic about any receiver in Jacksonville’s offense since Doug Marrone has made it his personal charge to hide Blake Bortles this year, but Westbook was phenomenal in college and I think he could have a bigger-than-expected role down the stretch.
Corey Davis is another guy I’d keep a close eye on. He’s been cleared to return this week after sitting out the last five games with a hamstring injury. Fantasy owners may have forgotten, but Davis actually led the Titans with 10 targets in Week 1 before aggravating his hamstring the following week. I think we can all agree the Titans have underperformed relative to expectations, but if Davis can stay healthy, I think it will add another dimension to Tennessee’s passing attack.