The NFL trade deadline is often more pomp than circumstance. More
bark than bite. More sizzle and less steak. There was a time the
league wasn't that way, but the great train robbery at the 1989
trade deadline orchestrated by then-new HC Jimmy Johnson and a brash
new owner named Jerry Jones seemed to, at the very least, serve
as a cautionary tale for front offices in regards to the importance
of draft picks and asset allocation.
For those who may not have been around quite yet or had yet to
develop a love for football, "The Trade" (as it known
by many nowadays) laid it out like so:
The Minnesota Vikings received:
RB Herschel Walker, a 1990 third-round pick (TE Mike Jones), a
1990 fifth-round pick (WR Reggie Thornton), a 1990 10th round
pick (WR Pat Newman) and a 1991 third-round pick (WR Jake Reed).
The Dallas Cowboys received:
LB Jesse Solomon, LB David Howard, CB Issiac Holt, RB Darrin Nelson,
DE Alec Stewart, Minnesota's 1990 first-, second- and sixth-round
picks, Minnesota's 1991 first- and second-round picks, Minnesota's
second- and third-round pick and Minnesota's 1993 first-round
pick. (The last five selections were conditional.)
For the sake of time and space, follow this
link to see/recall how the rest of the trade played out.
Walker made the Pro Bowl in the two years prior to the trade
in an era where running backs were considered essential, so the
logic of the trade for a Vikings' team that believed it was one
player away from a Super Bowl run made some sense. However, the
execution of the deal, well, stunk. Then-GM Mike Lynn did what
no front office executive should do - let the terms of the deal
be dictated to you. Johnson made it clear at least one other team
(the Cleveland Browns were reportedly the team) was interesting
in acquiring Walker, and he was ultimately successful in driving
up the price to a point where Walker would have needed to replicate
himself two or three times in order to fill all the holes the
trade ended up creating.
As a result of the massive influx of draft picks the Cowboys
received from this trade (which obviously led to even more deals),
Dallas landed players such as Hall-of-Fame RB Emmitt Smith, five-time
Pro Bowl S Darren Woodson, DT Russell Maryland and CB Kevin Smith.
With their own No. 1 overall pick from earlier that year (QB Troy
Aikman) already on the roster, the Cowboys quickly turned their
fortunes around from a team that went 1-15 in Johnson's first
season to a team that won three of four Super Bowl during the
In the 23 years following that trade, the willingness for general
managers to pull off deals at the deadline dropped off precipitously,
as only 32 "deadline deals" were made from 1990-2013
- few of which involved impact players or players in their prime.
The most lopsided of the bunch over that time may have been one
of the last, as the Oakland Raiders traded their 2012 first-round
pick and a 2013 conditional second-round pick to the Cincinnati
Bengals for then-disgruntled holdout quarterback Carson Palmer.
The Marshawn Lynch deal from the Buffalo Bills to Seattle Seahawks
in 2010 was one of the most impactful for the team acquiring the
veteran player instead of the draft picks.
While this week didn't see a deal beat "The Trade"
in terms of shock value (what could?), it was probably the closest
thing the NFL has seen to the MLB trade deadline in terms of wheeling
and dealing. Five legitimate players - including two current every-week
starters in fantasy and a potential starting quarterback at some
point in the near future - were moved in about a 24-hour period.
While it is hard to say that any player's actual NFL or fantasy
stock was altered drastically, there will be a ripple effect felt
on each of those teams. As a result, I want to devote my time
this week to analyzing each and every player who figures to see
his role affected as a result of each of the five players changing
Don't count on Jimmy Garoppolo taking
over the starting QB job after the 49ers' Week 11 bye.
Garoppolo Previous Employer:
New England Patriots New Employer: San Francisco
Garoppolo obviously is not going to save the 49ers' season, nor
was that the intent of this trade. This is also not a deal that
should be compared to the one the Vikings made last summer for
Sam Bradford. For starters, Bradford was already familiar with
Minnesota then-QB coach Pat Shurmur (who took over as offensive
coordinator following Norv Turner's resignation). Garoppolo will
be transitioning from the concept-based "Erhardt-Perkins
system" to HC Kyle Shanahan's more traditional West Coast
offense. (If you want to look for one of the several reasons why
Bill Belichick-era quarterbacks who leave the Patriots don't experience
much success elsewhere, this is one place to start.) Garoppolo
operated mostly a spread attack at Eastern Illinois during his
college years, so there's no reason here to suggest something
in his background will help them make a quick transition.
In other words, anyone hoping Garoppolo will be ready to run
the team following the Niners' Week 11 bye is likely fooling themselves.
While C.J. Beathard is only a rookie himself and isn't the same
kind of "prospect" as Garoppolo, the latter cannot be
expected to run a wildly different offense from the one he spent
his first three-plus pro seasons operating, mostly doing so with
limited snaps in practice during the regular season. As a result,
the earliest anyone should expect the former Patriot to take the
field is December barring an injury to Beathard. Sticking a younger
quarterback learning a new system out on the field - behind a
questionable offensive line, no less - before he is anywhere close
to ready mentally is a good way to get him hurt, shake his confidence
and destroy the investment the team made in him.
That does not mean this trade lacks significance (quite the opposite,
in fact). In acquiring Garoppolo, it seems logical - although
Shanahan has and will likely continue to deny it - that someone
such as GM John Lynch decided it was prudent to hit a double or
triple with a young player they have already seen play at the
pro level as opposed to going down the home run/strikeout route
that a top-five quarterback can take a team. The popular Kirk Cousins-to-San Francisco rumors figure to come to a screeching
halt as well. The upside for the 49ers is they get a two-month
behind-the-scenes look at Garoppolo before deciding how they want
to approach his upcoming contract negotiation and a two-month
head start on teaching him Shanahan's offense.
As such, this trade isn't exactly the one redraft owners were
hoping for in terms of potentially upgrading Pierre Garcon or
Carlos Hyde's value the rest of the way. Ditto for Marquise Goodwin
or George Kittle. Beathard was drafted to be the long-term backup
this spring and operated something resembling a pro offense at
Iowa, so the status quo applies here for all parties in San Fran.
The same could be said for New England since Tom Brady has taken
all 594 offensive snaps this season.
Ajayi Previous Employer: Miami Dolphins New Employer: Philadelphia Eagles
The knee-jerk reaction to this trade will likely be Ajayi will
replace LeGarrette Blount in a week or two, if only because Ajayi
is a younger, more nimble version of Blount and running back is
by far the easiest position to learn whether a player is moving
from the college game to the pro game or switching teams. As with
most things, it's unlikely to be that cut-and-dried. Despite what
has been two straight down weeks, Blount is still averaging 4.7
yards per carry midway through the season. However, he provides
next in nothing in the passing game - something Philadelphia was
very aware of when it signed him to a one-year deal in May. So
if owners are looking for a Week 9 role for Ajayi in his new surroundings,
it might be as the player who occupies the touches Corey Clement
and Wendell Smallwood have been getting lately.
Much like the deal for the 49ers pulled for Garoppolo, the acquisition
of Ajayi was done with 2018 and beyond in mind. Blount is almost
certainly done with the Eagles after this year - he turns 31 next
month - and Ajayi is simply a more versatile player who comes
at a very reasonable cost ($705 K) next season. That's not to
say he won't contribute to fantasy teams before then, because
it seems unlikely Philadelphia used a fourth-round pick in a year
it is making a run to be the best team in the NFC to trade for
a running back with knee issues to "play for next year."
Unlike Garoppolo above, it is quite reasonable to assume Ajayi
will be able to learn enough of the offense over the next two
weeks (the team goes on its bye in Week 10) to take over as the
primary back. At the very least, he should have advanced to the
point where he's sharing carries.
Blount's value almost certainly takes a dive as a result of Ajayi's
arrival, while one of the two from the tag team of Clement and
Smallwood may end up getting cut, especially considering the team
seems to like Kenjon Barner. Even if he manages to absorb all
the information he needs in order to make the coaches feel comfortable
with him as the primary early-down back by Week 11, Ajayi is unlikely
to realize the value owners believed he had when they made him
a top-20 pick in fantasy drafts this summer. He should, however,
be able to find the end zone with some degree of regularity -
he has yet to score in 2017 - and average more than the 3.4 YPC
he was in Miami prior to the deal.
The more interesting - albeit less fantasy-significant - debate
is how this affects the Dolphins' backfield. Damien Williams has
taken nearly twice as many snaps (82) as Kenyan Drake (45), whose
durability has been in question since his days at Alabama. Prior
to the trade, HC Adam Gase only said he'd like Drake to be the
No. 2 back behind Ajayi. Contrary to what appears to be conventional
wisdom, recent snap counts (last week's disaster versus the Baltimore
Ravens notwithstanding) suggest Williams is still the preferred
option. Drake was drafted as a complementary back in 2016 and
he has done little to suggest he's earned a bigger role. My opinion:
as much as fantasy owners do not want to hear it, the odds are
quite strong Gase & Co. chooses to use a committee approach
for the remainder of the season. Given how poorly Miami's offensive
line has blocked in the running game up to this point, Drake is
probably the better bet of the two in fantasy since he is more
likely to work in open space (i.e. see his touches in the passing
Benjamin Previous Employer: Carolina Panthers New Employer: Buffalo Bills
It is rare when a contending team deals its top receiver to another
contending team and pulls out the gem of "we had too much
of the same thing" at the position. Those with long memories
may remember the very reason the Panthers drafted Devin Funchess
in 2015 was to make sure they had two of the "same thing"
at receiver because QB Cam Newton tends to miss high when he misses
throw and the prevailing thought was that a pair of skyscraping
wideouts would be able to haul in a few more of those overthrows
than the traditional 6-1 or 6-2 receiver.
While Newton has shown more faith in Funchess this year than
he did in his first two years, the latter's 10.8 yards per reception
is easily the lowest of his career. The lower yard-per-catch mark
reflects the fact he is running shorter routes and partially explains
why his catch rate (56.9 percent) is so much better - although
far from great - in 2017 than it was in his first two years (44.6),
as he is running higher-percentage routes with a quarterback known
for having a strong - but not particularly accurate - arm. Need
proof? Per Next Gen Stats, Newton and Funchess are 0-for-10 on
deep balls. Funchess' promotion into the lead receiver role doesn't
necessarily mean he is ticketed for a bigger role - he has averaged
8.3 targets since Greg Olsen went down with a foot injury in Week
2 - so what owners were getting before from him should be roughly
what they are going to get going forward. The Benjamin trade should
lock Olsen into "top-target" status and eliminate any
chance he comes out of the gates slow once he is eligible to return
from IR in Week 12. He should pick up the targets left behind
The player most who should see his stock improve the
most is Curtis
Samuel, although he's hard to buy into as a redraft owner
when he has struggled to stay healthy since the moment he arrived
in Carolina and tallied 47 yards on seven catches through seven
games. While he should be a fascinating player to own down the
road, it's hard to see the rookie lighting it up in 2017. Russell
Shepard is a good bet to remain in the situational deep threat
role, meaning any boost to his fantasy stock will be modest at
The one player who could see his role increase - as hard as it
might be to believe considering he already has 49 receptions -
McCaffrey. As if it wasn't somewhat obvious based on its last
two games, Carolina has a highly flawed offensive attack. Many
want to point to his "inability" to run in between the tackles,
Stewart - a noted inside runner - hasn't been any better.
If any of the McCaffrey's critics would bother taking any time
to look at the film, they would notice the interior of the Panthers'
line is consistently losing the battle at the point of attack
in the running game. It has to be part of the reason interim GM
Marty Hurney is looking to "clear
out the box" and put more speed on the outside. Reading between
the lines, it would seem Hurney is hinting at more spread formations.
Such a change would favor McCaffrey, who is about as scheme-versatile
as they come. There's not much room for more targets for him -
his 66 targets rank ninth in the league regardless of position
- but there is plenty of room for an increase in carries, which
is something that would likely happen if Carolina was experiencing
even a hint of success running in between the tackles. I don't
think there's any question McCaffrey will at least maintain his
current level of activity, and I think there's a very good chance
it increases if Hurney's vision becomes a reality.
As for Benjamin, it could be argued his move to Buffalo represents
an upgrade at quarterback, at least in terms of accuracy. The
Bills have already confirmed he will remain in the same "X"
receiver role he had in Carolina. While Buffalo hasn't exactly
torn it up on the ground in terms of efficiency, LeSean McCoy
obviously demands more attention at this point of his career than
McCaffrey or Stewart, meaning defenses shouldn't be able to prioritize
shutting down KB. Benjamin would also seem to be the obvious top
option in the red zone as well - something that wasn't always
a given in Carolina - so this trade may actually serve to increase
his stock as well, although how quickly depends on how fast he
is able to absorb OC Rick Dennison's playbook.
Charles Clay will probably go from the top option in the Buffalo
passing game upon his return to more of a secondary role behind
Benjamin and McCoy, although fantasy owners need not fret since
Dennison has a history of keeping his tight end busy. Zay Jones
could benefit slightly as well as the rookie should avoid the
physical coverage he was seeing off the line of scrimmage at the
"Z." Jordan Matthews has been tabbed as a slot receiver
by multiple regimes and that is the role he will mostly spend
his most time in moving forward. With that said, this trade figures
to wipe out what limited value either player had, leaving Benjamin,
Clay and McCoy as players who could vie for 20-percent target
LT Duane Brown Previous Employer: Houston Texans New Employer: Seattle Seahawks
Brown's trade to Seattle doesn't exactly shock the Texans' system
since he only played one game with them this season (Week 8) after
ending his long holdout days earlier. However, whatever hope Houston
had of getting more efficiency out of its ground game probably
left with Brown, as fill-in LT Chris Clark is among the offensive
tackles with the lowest pass- and run-blocking grades in the league
this year, per Pro Football Focus, and developmental OT Julie'n Davenport is not ready to be a starter. OGs Xavier Su'a-Filo and
Jeff Allen have both struggled mightily as well, meaning bad things
usually happen when the Texans try to run to the left or up the
middle. As electric as Deshaun Watson has been and as elusive
as he is, there's also plenty of reason to worry about his ability
to avoid blindside hits moving forward. His 8.5-percent sack rate
is tied with Matthew Stafford for the eighth-highest in the league.
Trading away the one player who may have been able to improve
that a bit isn't going to help the rookie's cause for staying
Brown said the Seahawks' offense is similar to the one Houston
ran over the first six years of his career, so it may not be asking
the world for him to have an immediate impact on Seattle's offense.
The Seahawks' issues running the ball will not be solved simply
with the addition of a solid left tackle, but there is plenty
of reason for owners to be optimistic in regards to the passing
attack. When offensive coordinators know their quarterbacks will
have more time to throw, they tend to become more willing to take
more deep shots and let their tight ends run routes more often.
This obviously bodes well for Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett and
Jimmy Graham. Because Richardson and Lockett tend to share snaps
to a large degree, they will likely remain inconsistent from a
fantasy perspective, although they may "hit" for fantasy
purposes more often. Graham, who was already becoming a bigger
part of the offense despite a handful of drops in recent weeks,
should have even more opportunity to produce and cement his status
as an every-week starter - if not top-five option - at tight end.
(Hopefully, this move will allow him to not be so touchdown-dependent
The Jacksonville defense has been known to make babies cry, cause
nightmares in adults and send quarterbacks into panic attacks.
While some and maybe all of that may not be true, their 33 sacks
through seven games matches or surpasses the season total of 14
teams from all of last year. (Ironically, it matches the Jags'
total in 2016.) The pass defense has allowed 150 fewer yards than
any other team and nearly 200 fewer than the vaunted Denver Broncos'
secondary, surrendered four passing touchdowns - next closest
is six - and permitted one receiving score to a receiver (DeAndre
Hopkins, Week 1). Needless to say, Jacksonville is doing a bang-up
job just about any time the opponent drops back to pass.
The run defense is a different story. While the Jaguars haven't
handed out the number of yards on the ground quite like the Chargers
and 49ers, they are allowing a league-high 5.2 YPC. For a front
four that includes big-ticket free-agent items such as Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson, it's a red mark on what is otherwise
a menacing defense. Campbell has been living up to his end of
the bargain (his PFF run defense grade of 84 ranks 19th in among
edge players), but DTs Arby Jones (run defense grade of 75.8 ranks
54th among qualified interior players) and Jackson (70.4; 76th)
have not. Dareus hasn't been substantially better (79.1; 44th),
but a team taking a low-risk gamble on such a talented big player
- especially one deep enough to limit his snaps and keep him fresh
- is not a bad way to go about solving the problem. Dareus' presence
alone is not enough of a reason to think the league's most forgiving
run defense is suddenly going to become a bad matchup for fantasy
purposes, but all we have to do is look at the Baltimore Ravens
with and without Brandon Williams to see what kind of impact a
330-pound anchor can have on a run defense. Count your blessings
if a running back on your fantasy squad faces Jacksonville over
the next week or two, but don't be a bit surprised if that all
changes by the time December rolls around, presuming Dareus finds
it within himself to play up to his talent consistently and can
stay out of the doghouse longer than he ever could in Buffalo.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.