It’s hard to remember a pair of trades that caused as much whiplash in the preseason, especially in the wake of one of the most important suspensions to be handed down in recent memory. Let’s catch our breath and comb through the winners and losers after the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews and a third to Bills for Ronald Darby right after the Bills dealt Sammy Watkins to the Rams for EJ Gaines and a second.
Todd Gurley, LAR - There is no bigger winner for fantasy football looking over the new depth charts for the three teams involved. Gurley will face fewer stacked boxes and defense will have to respect the pass as long as Jared Goff is functional. Shorter range targets like Cooper Kupp and Tavon Austin will have more room to operate, but that only serves further to keep defenses off balance, assuming Sean McVay’s play design utilizes players in a way that sets them up to succeed. Goff is the key, but he will be very managed and just need to execute the plays as drawn up.
Tavon Austin, LAR - Austin might see fewer snaps and targets with the addition of Watkins, but he is no longer the #1 player that the defense needs to account for in the passing game. Austin’s deep speed can trigger big plays more often with Watkins distracting safeties and Gurley keeping the box defenders attention. Again, we are counting on Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur to have and execute a plan to maximize the talents assembled around Jared Goff, but their recent success in Washington and Atlanta and the addition of Andrew Whitworth on the offensive line point in the right direction.
Jared Goff, LAR - This doesn’t raise Goff much on our boards, he’s only a bye/injury/emergency/matchup DFS play, but his weekly ceiling is much higher and his dynasty ceiling just got a lot prettier. Goff’s job should be easier with defenses having to account for a diverse set of threats, including Tyler Higbee at tight end.
Nelson Agholor, PHI - This is more for dynasty than redraft. Agholor will have a big chance to build on his offseason momentum as the slot receiver, and neither outside receiver is signed in a way that makes them a big long-term factor. If Agholor impresses and riffs with Carson Wentz, his role can grow over time and he can become fantasy relevant in upcoming years.
Wide Receivers against the Bills - Now the team has let both halves of their 2015 dynamic duo go - Stephon Gilmore is in New England and Ronald Darby was traded. I’d say start the #1 receiver against the Bills every week, but they face the Jets in Week 1.
Eagles D/ST - With Jim Schwartz and an already very strong and deep front seven, this defense now has three pieces in the secondary set and they can hide their weakness at the corner spots easier. If Darby returns to form, this could be an elite fantasy defense
Sammy Watkins, LAR - This isn’t a novel take. Goff is not as ideal for his talents as Taylor, and he has much better competition for targets. Watkins might be in a more balanced offense (The Bills were 32nd in the league in pass attempts - the Rams were 27th, but had almost four more a game), and his talent is undeniable and able to tilt a passing gameplan toward him no matter the original design. What he has to overcome in quarterback play isn’t much bigger than Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins’ tasks, and he should go around the same point in drafts. I have a feeling the fantasy world will overreact to this and Watkins will be a value pick.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF - Not only does Taylor lose Watkins, but now he is on a team that is clearly playing for next year. At what point do they look to the future and see what Nathan Peterman can offer before deciding whether to spend one of their two first-round picks on a quarterback?
LeSean McCoy, BUF - McCoy could lead the team in targets, but the number of touchdown drives will go down and the number of defenders in the box will go up. He did great without Watkins for a lot of last year, but how will this team react to the message from the top that they aren’t playing for this season?
Eagles Opposing #1 receivers - The Eagles best corner is now Ronald Darby. If they get the 2016 version of Darby, he’s vulnerable, but still an upgrade. If they get the 2015 version, they have a strong CB1 and can focus on hiding their #2 and slot corners with a strong front seven and very good safety combination. Dez Bryant, Terrelle Pryor, and Odell Beckham won’t see as many easy looks. Beckham was greatly frustrated by Darby and Stephon Gilmore in 2015 to the tune of only five catches for 38 yards.
New England Patriots skill players? - Will they have the division clinched by Thanksgiving, when they then have divisional opponents in five of the remaining six games? Will they have anything to play for late in the season other than 16-0? Two of their opponents are playing for 2018.
Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, LAR - There was some potential value at wide receiver of this pass offense, but no longer with the addition of Watkins. He is only signed for one year, so don’t bail in dynasty, but know that if Watkins pans out, it could be bad bad news for their dynasty stock in addition to killing what redraft promise they had - assuming Watkins stays healthy.
Should We Even Care?
Zay Jones, Jordan Matthews, Anquan Boldin, BUF - This pass offense isn’t going to look much better than last year, when they were among the league’s worst in many categories. They have three slot receivers and a quarterback whose development has stalled out. No thanks.
Zach Ertz, PHI - Ertz got a lot of volume when Jordan Matthews was out last year, but Nelson Agholor is a reasonable replacement and the team still has two viable outside receivers that they didn’t have last year. He is unmoved on my board.