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Dirty Deals Done Dirt Cheap - 2023 Edition (WRs & TEs)

By Doug Orth | 11/9/23 |

Last week, I identified six quarterbacks and running backs I would like to trade for or away. This week, I will do the same with eight wide receivers and tight ends. Much as I did last week, I will provide an example or two of a deal I either have made or would try to make to acquire said player after I provide some analysis of his situation.

Wide Receivers

Trade for: Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers

A little something happened on the way to Aiyuk becoming an every-week WR1 in fantasy: zero red zone targets. That's right; one of the game's better route-runners and contest-catch receivers hasn't seen so much as a single throw in his direction inside the 20 since Week 2. That had to be an oversight HC Kyle Shanahan & Co. noticed during the self-scouting portion of the team's Week 9 bye.

Since he missed Week 3 due to a concussion, Aiyuk ranks ninth in the league with 448 yards receiving. Making that mark even more impressive is that he has done so on 24 catches. It gets a bit sad after that. He is the only player over that span with at least 400 yards receiving and zero touchdowns.

So why the love? As with most things when I analyze fantasy football, I go straight to the upcoming matchups. Over the remainder of the season, San Francisco faces only one opponent who currently ranks outside the top 13 friendliest matchups for receivers (Ravens in Week 16). Two games in three weeks against what had been an improved Seattle defense (until last week anyway) may not be high-upside weeks for Aiyuk, but he could legitimately erupt against any or all of the following: Jaguars, Bucs, Eagles, Cardinals and Commanders.

Potential deals: The lack of red zone usage notwithstanding, Aiyuk should dominate down the stretch. I am not quite sure if he is a top-12 option the rest of the way, but that is a reachable goal for him - even if he remains in the range of about seven targets per game. I would prefer Aiyuk to Jordan Addison, for example, and I would think long and hard about accepting a straight-up offer for Puka Nacua. Garrett Wilson for Aiyuk is another trade I would accept.

Nico Collins

Trade for: Nico Collins, Texans

Collins has flashed a huge ceiling at times this season, but he has been largely a hit-or-miss proposition for over a month. His Week 9 touchdown was his first since his 7-168-2 eruption in the fourth game of the season. It is also worth noting that Collins' weekly targets have almost moved into WR3 territory after a strong start to the season in that area (eight targets per game through four games but only 5.3 since).

While Collins has been a serviceable WR3 over the last month or so, he needed a touchdown to save his fantasy day in Week 9 during a game in which his quarterback threw for 470 yards and five scores. To say there is no risk associated with acquiring Collins would be foolish; C.J. Stroud has proven that he does not need to force the ball to any one pass-catcher.

With that said, there are going to be opportunities for Houston's passing game to feast down the road. Collins may lack Aiyuk's upside when it comes to the number of potentially favorable matchups he will have (Bengals, Jets and Browns will likely be challenging), but the reason I'm pushing for Collins here is his fantasy playoff schedule - specifically Weeks 15 and 17. Although the Titans have tightened things up a bit against the pass, their secondary is still liable to get beat more than most. Furthermore, the combination of Tennessee's stout run defense and Houston's almost complete inability to run the ball should make for a game in which Stroud will attempt at least 40 passes in each meeting.

Potential deals: Collins currently occupies the WR15 slot (total points) for the season and is the primary receiver for a player who looks like the next big thing at quarterback in Stroud. Given the difference in quarterback play, I would be happy to accept a straight-up offer where I receive Collins in exchange for Mike Evans. Although I believe Joshua Dobbs will be able to keep Minnesota's receivers relevant, it is too much to ask Jordan Addison to maintain his current level of play without Kirk Cousins - especially after Justin Jefferson (hamstring) returns. I would also be happy to trade Addison if it meant I could get Collins.

Trade for: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seahawks

In all honesty, I could add DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett instead of Smith-Njigba. Fantasy managers will probably be somewhat hesitant to part with Aiyuk and Collins, but I imagine they will be much more open to dealing away JSN if someone approaches them with a strong offer. The Seattle passing game has been more disappointing than not halfway through the season, which has led to a couple of ceiling games from Lockett and a few high-end WR2 efforts from Metcalf - most of which came before the Week 5 bye - but little else.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the fantasy usefulness of Metcalf and Lockett have both taken hits since Smith-Njigba saw his playing time increase in Week 6. On one hand, it makes sense an offense that has not attempted 30 passes in half of its games would struggle to keep three receivers happy. The bigger point to be made here though is that JSN is now seeing about the same opportunity his veteran teammates are. (Lockett leads the team with 22 post-bye targets, only four ahead of Metcalf and Smith-Njigba. Metcalf missed Week 7 due to injury, however.) That would have been unthinkable before the bye.

The same reason it will be difficult to give up Geno Smith is the same reason why it makes sense to target Seattle receivers now: there is only one defense the rest of the way that ranks lower than seventh in most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. While I highly doubt the 49ers' defense will continue to struggle as much as it has against receivers moving forward, San Francisco also does not have the bodies to match up with Metcalf, Lockett and Smith-Njigba. If JSN is going to continue being treated as an equal partner in this offense AND the 49ers continue to struggle in the secondary, it means the Seahawks have six top-seven matchups left for receivers. It gets even better during the fantasy playoffs when they face the Eagles (most friendly), Titans (seventh) and Steelers (sixth). It will not make much sense for Seattle to try to establish the run in at least two of those games, so the Seahawks could be tempted to go pass-heavy in those contests.

Potential deals: Sharp fantasy managers probably are well aware of JSN's rise since the bye, but the fantasy industry as a whole has been a bit sleepy in terms of announcing it to the masses. It also helps prospective managers' cases that his preseason wrist injury and subsequent slow start have left him as the WR54 (total points) entering Week 10. JSN entered the season with enough hype and name recognition that he probably will not come as cheap as the typical WR54 would. With that said, George Pickens should be enough of a return to pry JSN away from his manager. I might even prefer Smith-Njigba to Zay Flowers.

Trade away: Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins

I was about to put Tyreek Hill's name above but ultimately decided against it. While expectations need to be dialed back a bit for Hill considering the teams Miami will face around Christmas time, some receivers can get open and make plays regardless of the opponent. That probably applies to Waddle as well, but the problem for him is that feeding Hill is higher on the priority list in what can sometimes be a low-volume passing attack. (Tua Tagovailoa has attempted 32 or fewer passes in five of nine outings.)

Much as the case was last week when I advocated trading away Tagovailoa, I am recommending doing the same for Waddle for similar reasons. The path to the fantasy playoffs should be easy enough with games against the Raiders, Commanders and Titans sandwiching a Black Friday meeting with the Jets. After that, good luck. The Jets, Cowboys and Ravens await during the fantasy postseason. Baltimore is currently the easiest matchup of the three on paper and the AFC North leaders rank as the eighth-stingiest defense against receivers. The three teams have combined to allow 12 touchdowns to receivers over 25 games, which Hill and/or Waddle highly unlikely to be ceiling plays.

Hill's volume (10.8 targets per game) should get him through that tough stretch, but Waddle's likely volume (7.4 average through eight games) may not get it done without a touchdown. As I just referenced, touchdowns figure to be hard to come by - especially in Week 15 against the Jets (one receiver score allowed so far). Miami will likely be best served relying on its perimeter running game, which will likely squeeze Waddle's opportunities to the point where he is a WR3/flex option during the fantasy playoffs.

Potential deals: Waddle is the overall WR23 (total points) despite missing a game earlier this season. As crazy as it sounds with his quarterback situation being what it is, I would prefer Garrett Wilson moving forward. I would also accept straight-up offers in which I receive DeVonta Smith, Nico Collins or Mike Evans.

Trade away: Amari Cooper, Browns

The degree to which I got the Cleveland passing game wrong this summer will haunt me for some time. Then again, it is not as if anything has been normal for the Browns this year. Cooper has not been consistent in fantasy or reality in 2023, but he has delivered often enough to be considered a low-end WR2 at the very least.

Cooper is a good enough receiver to remain a solid fantasy starter, but he will be hard-pressed to carry his managers to a fantasy title in 2023. Not only will winter weather in Ohio be a factor around and during the fantasy playoffs, but the ongoing nature of the Deshaun Watson injury saga is also another consideration. Even if the weather does not come into play and/or Watson finishes the season without incident, Cleveland will not catch many breaks before the fantasy postseason or at the end of it. We just discussed how good the Ravens' pass defense is in Waddle's section. That will be the matchup this weekend. Pittsburgh's Joey Porter Jr. appears to be emerging as a very good cornerback and could ask to shadow Cooper. That is next week's matchup. Even if Patrick Surtain II does not shadow in Week 12, Cooper will have to face him plenty in Week 12.

In the fantasy playoffs, the Browns will see the Bears, Texans and Jets. While two of the three do not sound very frightening, Chicago's defense has been significantly better since CB Jaylon Johnson has gotten healthier. Houston ranks as the fifth-stingiest defense against receivers and has surrendered only two TDs to receivers this season. The Jets are the worst matchup for opposing wideouts and have yielded only one receiver score all year. Once again, most managers may not have the luxury of sitting Cooper, but there is a distinct possibility he will perform at a WR3/4 level when it matters the most for managers.

Potential deals: Cooper is coming off a season-best performance (139 yards), so this is a great time to test the waters. With the exception of last week (five targets), his opportunities have generally been very good (at least eight targets in five of eight outings). Cooper's stats are almost identical to Aiyuk's (Aiyuk has played one less game), so that would be a place I would start. I would also be more willing to bet on DeAndre Hopkins with Will Levis as his quarterback moving forward than Cooper and his late-season schedule.

Trade away: Christian Kirk, Jaguars

This one is a projection for any number of reasons, but I choose to believe Zay Jones (knee) will be able to return to the offense at some point before the fantasy playoffs. I also choose to believe Jones' absence is one of the key factors that has played a huge role in Kirk being a more consistent fantasy receiver than Calvin Ridley. Thankfully, there should be ample opportunity for Kirk and Ridley to produce over the next two weeks in home tilts against the 49ers and Titans. Kirk has been Trevor Lawrence's favorite target against man coverage this season, but Ridley holds a slight edge against zone coverage. (What is odd about it is that Ridley has been more efficient against man while Kirk has been more efficient versus zone.) San Francisco and Tennessee are playing zone nearly 75 percent of the time. With that said, the 49ers and Titans both rank inside the top seven in most fantasy points allowed to receivers.

The bad news comes after Week 11. Jacksonville does not have another favorable matchup on paper from that point until Week 16 against the Bucs. Over that stretch, the Jaguars' easiest matchup is the Bengals, who have yielded one TD to a receiver in the last three games despite facing Seattle's talented trio of wideouts, Aiyuk and Stefon Diggs. If Jones returns at some point over the next two weeks, there is a distinct possibility he absorbs Ridley's clear-out role. If that happens, Kirk and Ridley could be fighting over the same kind of targets. I do not think Kirk will win that battle.

It is also worth mentioning this again: HC Doug Pederson suggested after Week 1 - following a game in which Kirk caught one pass - that the former Arizona Cardinal was his man-beater. Given the tough on-paper matchups coming up and the amount of zone the remaining teams on Jacksonville's schedule play, Kirk could disappoint down the stretch.

Potential deals: Kirk is currently the WR20 (total points), just ahead of Garrett Wilson and Marquise Brown and just behind Chris Olave and Terry McLaurin. It is highly unlikely Olave's manager would entertain a straight-up offer, but the other three are reasonable targets. Michael Pittman Jr.'s stock seems to be a matter of some debate as well, so he is another player worth mentioning in this conversation.

Tight Ends

Trade for: David Njoku, Browns

In the interest of full disclosure, Sam LaPorta may have the easiest path to fantasy dominance at his position during the second half of the season. Detroit has no fewer than four juicy matchups for tight ends between now and Week 15. With that said, I have my doubts that LaPorta managers are going to part with him. A more realistic option may be Njoku.

One thing that seems to be clear is that non-Deshaun Watson Cleveland quarterbacks like throwing the ball to Njoku more than Watson does. In nine games with Watson as the starting quarterback dating back to last season, Njoku has attracted more than six targets once - their first game together last season in Week 14. Njoku's highest yardage total with Watson as his quarterback came in the same game (59 yards). In every other contest, the "Chief" has failed to top 50 yards.

So why the recommendation? Call it what you will, but there is going to come a time when the running game and defense will not be able to carry the team. We have already discussed how challenging Cleveland's schedule should be for its receivers, but several of those same defenses are not getting the same kind of play from their linebackers and safeties as they are from their cornerbacks. The good thing about targeting Njoku is that there should be a buying window. Over the next two weeks (Ravens and Steelers), his fantasy stock should depress to the point where his managers will consider letting him go. That would be a mistake. After Week 11, Njoku's next five matchups are against defenses who rank inside the top 12 of most points allowed to tight ends.

Potential deals: With four quality fantasy efforts in his last five outings, Njoku will have some value to his current fantasy managers. My advice would be to hold off on an offer for two more weeks (assuming your league's trade deadline does not come before the end of Week 11 action) and test the waters after what should be down efforts against the Ravens and Steelers. If all goes according to plan, Njoku's stock should be at a point where his manager will part with him for a WR5 or low-end handcuff running back.

Trade away: Dalton Schultz, Texans

The good news is that Schultz is a good enough player and a big enough part of the offense that he should be able to help get his managers into the postseason over the final five weeks of the fantasy regular season. Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Denver all have their reasons for giving up a lot of production to opposing tight ends; only the Broncos would seem to be a candidate to reverse their fortunes in that area. (S Justin Simmons' return to health has been a big part of Denver's recent defensive turnaround.) As we saw last week, C.J. Stroud already appears to be at a place in his NFL career where he is capable of lifting the level of play of his teammates.

There is a possibility Stroud is so good that he can get Schultz through the most unforgiving matchups for tight ends in the fantasy playoffs. I do not want to count on that for two reasons: two of Houston's games (Weeks 15 and 17) are against a Tennessee defense that has yet to surrender a score to a tight end and gives up a ton of production to receivers. The mighty Browns defense awaits in Week 16. Mark Andrews (5-80-2) is the only tight end who has enjoyed even a hint of success against Cleveland. In seven other games, the Browns have permitted a total of 14 catches for 75 scoreless yards to the position.

Potential deals: Schultz is coming off a career game (10-130-1), so now is probably the best time to see what he can fetch in return. I would first set my sights on trying to package Schultz along with another piece for LaPorta. Short of that, I would strongly consider straight-up trades for Cole Kmet, Evan Engram, Dalton Kincaid and Jake Ferguson. Schultz's Week 9 outburst may have been big enough to secure a serviceable WR3 option such as Courtland Sutton as well.

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.