Hello – my name is Steve Miller, no I don’t play in the band, but yes, I do consider myself a galactic maverick. Like Han Solo, I fly by the seat of my pants… mostly into battles I shouldn’t win. And that’s how you need to approach fantasy football trades at this time of the year.

Target players you shouldn’t be able to get… but somehow, owners might still sell.

Let’s play a little game that one of the earliest leaders in the fantasy community, Matthew Berry, likes to play each season… It’s called Player A v. Player B. Berry usually uses the exercise to point out that anyone can find any stats to tell an awesome story. I like it because it helps you put a player’s value into perspective, specifically if you’re trying to shift the preseason notion of an under-performing guy. So, let’s look at two RBs.

Player A is on a 2-1 team, has racked up 20 touches per game through three weeks, at an average of 5.34 yards per touch. He’s been in the end zone multiple times (one per week to be exact), and is as healthy as he’s been in the past few years. He also is playing in an offense that features the RB consistently, as both he and his backfield mate are top 10 PPR RBs at this point in the season.

Player B is on an 0-3 team, has only 15 touches per game, and is averaging a significantly lower clip – 4.07 yards per touch. He’s managed to keep some value by getting into the end zone. He’s still a top 20 RB in PPR, but his value is significantly lower than it was on draft day.

Player A is Adrian Peterson. Player B is David Johnson. And I’d trade the former for the latter, right now, 100% of the time.

Now, only 5-10% of other owners would take AD over DJ, but that’s the owner you need to find. And that percentage jumps up if you throw in an upside WR3 who has shined early on, like Chris Godwin, John Brown, or Tyler Lockett. Find yourself a panicky owner sitting at 1-2 or 0-3, and pitch them a trade that makes their starting line-up better. It might involve getting rid of a key player, but if they’re not starting a T.J. Yeldon or Amari Cooper in that Flex spot anymore thanks to your Godwin/Brown type, you can weasel a stud like DJ away.

Remember, now is the time to target those teams that have weaknesses. You’re not getting studs away from teams with winning records, but those who are desperate for a Week 4 win (maybe CMC is on a bye) might be willing to part with better players. So… who should you be targeting?

Buy Low Candidates:

David Johnson (RB 19). As I mentioned above, DJ is not getting the touches he needs to perform as a true RB1 right now. However, there are a lot of positive signs for him. First, Sam Bradford is not a great QB. He’s led an anemic offense through three weeks, and it has officially cost him his job. (Although per Andy Brandt, the 3 starts he made are enough to guarantee him a $15M season payout, despite losing around $300K per game he doesn’t start the rest of the way. He really is good at the business side of the game.) Money aside, he’s not getting the job done, and it’s hindering my preseason RB1 in all formats. With Josh Rosen primed for his first start, I’m excited to see how the offense changes. That said, Mike McCoy has been the biggest stick in the mud in terms of play calling this year, epitomized by having Chase Edmonds lose 3 yards on a stretch run play after a timeout in one score game with 2 minutes left, in which DJ wasn’t on the field because he was talking to his RB coach about a missed blocking assignment. That’s just dumb. Put your best player out there, Cardinals!

Another stud RB I’m looking at, one with a similar price tag to DJ, is Bears thunderback Jordan Howard (RB 16). Howard, like DJ, has the makings of a steady cog in your fantasy machine. If you didn’t get Howard near the ⅔ turn in redraft leagues, then you missed out. That said, he’s not exceeding his original price tag, so you might be able to get him as a bargain. Howard has only one drop this season and has been more involved in the passing attack, his biggest knock prior to this preseason. With Nagy calling the plays, and an offense that is primed with weapons, Howard is positioned to do quite well the rest of the season. He did get into the end zone in Week 3, a bummer because his value jumped with the score, but I’m still targeting Howard as a difference maker.

All the Patriots… well, most of them. I am trying to get shares of Brady, Gronk, and Sony Michel this week. As they stand, you’re looking at QB18, TE6, and RB65 in PPR scoring. We know who the Patriots are, and a September team is not their strong suit. How many years have we seen them experiment and struggle in the first month of the season only to become the best team in the league for the final 12 weeks. I know in the football world you want to be one year too early, rather than a year late, but I’m not in that boat with the Patriots. Four years ago, I sold Tom Brady for pennies on the dollar after his slow start, and I still wake up thinking about how that season ended. Gronk, well, he’s Gronk. He’s the best PPG fantasy tight end in the game… though I do love Travis Kelce. Plus, I love rooting for Gronk. He won’t be easy to buy, but if you have Zach Ertz plus a guy, you might be able to pry away the best TE of our generation. Remember, when Julian Edelman is back in a week, the whole offense will open up, and that’s great news for Gronk who needs someone else to man the middle of the field. Finally, there’s Sony Michel. Belichick force fed the rookie the ball against the Lions last week, and with Burkhead on his way to the IR, the sky is the limit for Michel’s touch count. It’s also worth noting the Patriots are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to scoring touchdowns on the ground, and they’ve yet to do that this season. I fully expect that to change, and Sony should be the primary beneficiary.

Quick Hitters on the Buy Low list:

  • Keenan Allen (WR35) – a guy I’ve traded for in two leagues, I love his target share, his route-running, and the whole Chargers offense. Go get Keenan Allen.
  • Russell Wilson (QB16) – a perennial second half player, I like Wilson as a buy low, as well. He should be getting Doug Baldwin back in a few weeks, and has really not rushed the ball at all this season, managing just 21 yards on 7 carries through 3 games. That number should rise.
  • Jordan Reed (TE7) & Tyler Eifert (TE15) – Two consistently injured players who appear to be at full strength right now. I love each of them as a weekly play, as the TE position is just a cluster**** right now.
  • Matt Brieda (RB13) – A fun stat I saw this week looked at QB C.J. Beathard who takes over for Jimmy G. No QB throws to RBs more than CJ… not last season, not this preseason. It’s C.J. to RBs for days. Brieda is the guy who gets the biggest bump here. He’s also outperformed inital expectations, but due to the name, you might still be able to get him for cheap.
  • Larry Fitzgerald (WR66) – Like DJ, I can only expect things to get better for Fitz. Though it’s worrisome as he has been a faster starter than closer in the past few years.
  • Devonta Freeman, Joe Mixon, Mark Ingram, Leonard Fournette, LeVeon Bell, Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt – Seven guys taken as top 20 RBs that are either injured, underperforming, or suspended or justly sitting out. Each is worth inquiring about because when healthy, they’re being plugged into your lineup.

Sell High… Do It NOW!

Patrick Mahomes (QB2). Yes, that Patty Mahomes. The one with the rocket arm and the numbers galore. Regression is a feisty, petulant nag, and it is coming for this young wonderkid. Yes, Mahomes has been the MVP of the young season, and yes, that team is loaded with both offensive talent and innovative play calling, but defenses adjust and scoring regresses. Part of my Buy Low targeting featured Kareem Hunt last week, as Mahomes accounted for 10 passing touchdowns to zero rushing scores as a team. And while the Chiefs still put up 5 more scores, 2 came on the ground in Week 3. Hunt (RB 21) may not be available in your leagues, but if you can pry him away from owners, I’d try to do so. And personally, QB is simply so deep that you can get replacement value for Mahomes. The three Ryans are probably available: Matt, Fitzmagic, Tannehill, and while they won’t equal Mahomes value… the upgrade you get at RB, WR, or TE will.

Isiah Crowell (RB 11). This one is easy to toss out there, because he’s been in the end zone so often. Sitting at RB11 in PPR leagues, Crowell could easily be a part of a 2 for 1 trade for a guy like Jordan Howard or Kareem Hunt. Sell the other owner on his touchdown value in an offense that pounds the ball. I’ll simply sell Crowell as an early season performer destined to fall off the map. Now is his peak value, take advantage.

I mentioned Tyler Lockett (WR 21) above as a guy to sell, and that’s partly because I think Doug Baldwin is due back sooner rather than later. Baldwin is another on my Buy Low list, but I think his cost may be cheaper next week, should he not play as expected this week. Lockett has looked great, is in his 3rd year, a traditional breakout year for WRs (look at Agholor last season as a similar comp), but I think you can leverage his current value for someone with a higher target share for the rest of the season. He’s a guy I’m offering straight up for Allen Robinson and Demaryius Thomas, or pairing with an RB2 for someone like Keenan Allen.

Quick Hitters on the Sell High list:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB1) – the best gun slinger through three weeks, now is the time to include Fitzmagic in offers to the Cam Newton or Alex Smith owner. He may be able to net you someone worth starting, and if you have him, you likely have other QB options.
  • Buck Allen (RB 12)– Three touchdowns in three weeks. Averaging less than 10 touches a game. Regression coming.
  • DeSean Jackson (WR 7) – it may be too late, as D-Jax had a return to earth in Week 3, but he’s still a top 10 WR right now, and some people are willing to chase past stats.
  • Jared Cook (TE 3) – he’s a top TE through three weeks, but he’s never had a season over 759 receiving yards, leaving him just 500-ish yards for the next 13 weeks, if he breaks his record. That’s just 38 yards per game. For a guy who hasn’t eclipsed 3 touchdowns in the past 5 years, I just don’t like that set-up. Someone else might, though.

To close, I should note that if you’re considering trading a player I’ve mentioned above as a target, there’s nothing wrong with selling now. This entire game is about the fun of valuing players differently. I simply tend to believe that those we value at the beginning of the year should have more than three weeks to prove themselves before being shipped off, but not every owner feels that way.

Additionally, those late round fliers who put up big numbers in the first three weeks (I’m looking at you D-Jax, Brieda, P. Lindsay, FitzMagic, and more), have way more value as a trade piece RIGHT NOW than they will on your roster the rest of the season. Leverage that “WR 7” next to Jackson’s name and go out and get a top 15 RB in terms of touches, like Marshawn Lynch, the aforementioned Howard, or Dalvin Cook. The best of luck to you in your negotiations.

As always, go tell your friends… or don’t.

About The Author Steven Miller

Steven Miller graduated in 2012 from UW-Madison's School of Journalism and has been on the marketing side of things for the past decade. Making his first appearance since a brief stint with Thought Catalog, Miller is excited to bring his insights and hot takes for fantasy football fans looking to wheel and deal. His weekly series, Swapping for Success, looks at buy low targets, sell high players, and types of moves you can make throughout the year.