Hey there. How about tricks and treats for National Football League fans and fantasy owners. Unlike Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League, the trade deadline in the NFL normally comes and goes without any fanfare whatsoever. However, it was quite different on this Halloween 2017, as teams were swapping players for picks like it was going out of style. And the deals changed the fantasy landscape quite dramatically. While I never refer to myself as an 'expert', I am in several expert leagues and multiple seasonal leagues for money. It takes me several minutes each week to make my waiver claims, but today it took at least an hour to get everything together.
The most surprising deal at the deadline might have been the Carolina Panthers dealing Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills for a third- and seventh-round pick in 2018. The deal was announced right under the deadline, and it was a big shock. The Panthers traded the only player to catch a touchdown for them in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane know Benjamin well from their days with the Panthers, and he will immediately take over as the team's No. 1 receiver. Buffalo desperately needed a No. 1 receiver after dealing Sammy Watkins in the preseason, and Jordan Matthews hasn't been the answer, while Zay Jones is clearly not ready.
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Benjamin posted 32 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns in eight games with the Panthers, including six grabs for 77 yards in Week 2 against the Bills. He was really starting to get into a groove with Cam Newton, connecting with his quarterback for at least three receptions in each of the past five games. Now, No. 13 will need to learn the intricacies of the Buffalo offense and adjust to a new quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. As for Matthews, he'll remain in the slot while Jones will work as the 'Z' receiver. Benjamin will take a bit of a hit from a fantasy perspective, at least initially, while he adjusts to his new team.
The move is good news for Tyrod Taylor, who gets another top-notch receiver. He hasn't had a dependable target since Charles Clay (knee) went down with a knee injury a few weeks back. While McDermott has said Clay will have a difficult time making it back for Thursday's game against the New York Jets, he appears to be making progress and could return for Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints in a very favorable matchup. That might be the matchup where Benjamin makes his first meaningful contributions, as he obviously knows the Saints well from his days with the Panthers.
With Benjamin moving to Buffalo, Devin Funchess is expected to slide up to the No. 1 receiver job. He had difficulty with drops in his rookie season, but he has been much better this season. 'Fun' has posted at least two catches in each of his eight outings, while going for four or more catches in six of the past seven. Fantasy owners in PPR leagues were already in on Funchess, who has been targeted at least six times in seven straight outings. However, he'll be worth using as a WR3 in standard fantasy formats as well now that he sits atop the depth chart without any real challengers to his new spot.
The biggest loser in this trade might just be Cam Newton. He hasn't exactly worked with the cream of the crop, as far as receivers were concerned. He has been without Greg Olsen due to a foot injury, and the veteran is targeting Week 12 for a return from the Reserve/Injured - Designated to Return list. So Newton will have to make do with Funchess, Ed Dickson, Curtis Samuel, Russell Shepard, Damiere Byrd, Kaelin Clay and Charles Johnson. That's not exactly a who's who of receivers. Of course, the Panthers went to Super Bowl 50 after winning 15 regular season games with Benjamin on the sidelines, so Newton has pulled rabbits out of a hat before.
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All About That Jay
The rich got richer on Tuesday afternoon when the 7-1 Philadelphia Eagles acquired Jay Ajayi from the Miami Dolphins for picks. The move might be great news for Ajayi, who was spinning his wheels in Miami. While the Dolphins were 4-3, they weren't seriously contenders, especially with an ultra-difficult schedule in the second half awaiting them. Ajayi moves to Philly where it will take time for him to adjust, but he will eventually take over and supplant LeGarrette Blount as the top dog in the backfield behind a decent offensive line.
Blount's fantasy owners can't be terribly pleased about the news, nor can anyone who owns stock in Wendell Smallwood. Ajayi was averaging 66.5 yards per game on the ground this season through seven games, including two 100-yard games, but he hadn't yet found the end zone while losing a fumble. The Dolphins are overhauling their offense, and have two capable backs waiting in the wings in Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Both backs are worthy of fantasy consideration going forward, and each had ownership at 10 percent or less across most fantasy formats. That will change this week heading into a favorable matchup against the Oakland Raiders.
Williams posted 12 runs for 32 yards and just 2.7 yards per game so far this season, while adding eight receptions with 13 targets. Drake saw a season-high six carries for 22 yards last week in a thrashing from Baltimore, and he has just three receptions. For PPR purposes, Williams is the player to target, while Drake is the hammer who is 6'1" and 211 pounds, working it up the middle for the tough yards. Williams is likely to have more fantasy appeal in the short term, while Drake might not do as much initially, but he could be the guy for the longer term in South Florida.
Quick Hits: Oh yeah, there is Jimmy Garoppolo. He was dealt on Monday night from the New England Patriots to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick. He'll be the quarterback of the future in Frisco, but fantasy owners shouldn't be clamoring to pick him up right now. It's likely to be Week 12 before he has a grasp of the playbook and is handed the keys to the offense, so C.J. Beathard is expected to keep the seat warm for a few more weeks. … Ezekiel Elliott had his request for an emergency injunction denied in the Southern District of New York, so it appears he is about to start his long-awaited six-game suspension. We'll know officially before 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, when a decision from the Second Circuit will be known. Fantasy owners are holding their breath. For now, waiver claims for Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and even Rod Smith are warranted. … It appears a paperwork snafu kept the Browns from completing a deal for A.J. McCarron. It might work out best for the team, as they were ready to part with a second- and third-round pick to the Bengals for the former Alabama signal caller. That's a higher price than the Niners paid to the Pats for Garoppolo. … Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday that he expects David Johnson (wrist) to miss the remainder of the 2017 season. Fantasy owners who picked Johnson in the first round were already dealt a tough blow when they lost D.J. in Week 1. This is just more bad news. … Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler are likely to start in Week 9 for the Broncos, as Paxton Lynch is not believed to be a candidate. Siemian was a turnover machine on Monday night in Kansas City, but he did recover somewhat in the second half. Either way, it's a tough matchup in Philadelphia for whomever is under center. … The NFL suspended Jeremy Kerley for an unspecified amount of games. While he hasn't been a huge contributor, there is no reason to bother with him in fantasy now.