The trade deadline is approaching quickly. I get posed trade scenarios every single day and my first question is normally the same: “What’s your team’s record?” At this point in the season, trades are much more complex than a trade calculator can possibly evaluate. It’s up to you to look at your situation and decide who to target and what works for your situation.
I contribute for FantasyPros and their “League Analyzer” is a fantastic tool that shows each team’s likelihood of getting into the playoffs. I think that is the most important factor when weighing a trade this late in the season. In this article, I will highlight players that should be traded for based on your team’s playoff chances.
If you don’t have a FantasyPros account, just estimate yourself given your current record.
PLAYOFF LIKELIHOOD: 75-100 PERCENT
Congratulations! You’ve had a great start to the season and need to prep your team for a playoff run. I personally operate under the thought that playoff seeding in fantasy sports is irrelevant. There is so much luck that goes into this game and I don’t believe that being any specific seed in your bracket gives you an advantage. That being said, here are some players you should try to target in trades now!
Side note: In addition to any players listed below, now is the time to handcuff your RB1 and RB2. If you haven’t already, trade for or pick up your handcuffs.
PLAYERS TO TARGET:
Christian McCaffrey, Chris Carson, Joe Mixon, David Montgomery, Austin Ekeler, David Johnson, Myles Gaskin, Raheem Mostert, Calvin Ridley, Kenny Golladay, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Drew Brees: I thought about doing individual write-ups for each of these players, but I think they are all pretty self-explanatory. You should target them all now if you have a playoff spot locked up. These players are top-end talents that are simply injured. If their owners are sitting with a record below .500, they’re likely to trade away these players away and put themselves in a win-now mode. Some of these players (Chris Carson, Joe Mixon) could be back as soon as next week. Others (Austin Ekeler, Kenny Golladay, George Kittle) carry a bit more risk. Do some research on the injury and make a lowball offer on the guys expected to miss some time.
Lamar Jackson: I know, I know. Given the draft capital it took to acquire him, he’s been a massive disappointment. But he’s still ninth per game in standard-scoring leagues for active quarterbacks and his upcoming schedule gives room to improve. Jackson’s rushing abilities give him a high floor. So far this year, he hasn’t logged less than 15.8 points in a single game. And as for his aforementioned playoff schedule: he plays the Cowboys, Browns, Jaguars, and Giants Weeks 13-16. Those teams are giving up the 12th-, ninth-, third-, and 11th-most points to quarterbacks. Unfortunately, he plays the Steelers Week 12 who kept him to his season-low this year. But you’ve already got a playoff spot essentially locked up so it shouldn’t matter.
Add the play-making quarterback if you have a good record. He can be had for cheap on the trade market right now and will help you win playoff matchups. He’s my number one target in leagues where I’m contending.
Kyler Murray/Patrick Mahomes: I’m lumping these two together because they are my QB1 and QB2 for the remainder of the season and both have friendly playoffs matchups. Unlike the players I’ve already listed, these two won’t come cheap. But, they’ll give you a huge positional advantage every week. If you’ve got a good record and some depth, package your current quarterback with a weekly flex player to the Murray/Mahomes owners. Chances are that if someone snagged Murray or Mahomes in this year’s draft they’re sitting pretty. But if they’re a team that only has a handful of wins, they might be looking to shake things up.
Travis Kelce: In the same spirit as trying to target Murray or Mahomes, adding Travis Kelce to your roster would be a huge positional boost. Disregarding George Kittle, Kelce is currently outscoring the next-best tight end (Darren Waller) by 5.3 points in PPR leagues. A 5.3-point drop-off from Waller would be Anthony Firkser, the current TE22. Having Travis Kelce this year is a cheat code. Try packaging your current starting tight end with another piece to make a move for Kelce.
D’Andre Swift: After being named the Week 10 starter, he’s going to be a tough one to pry away from an owner. The Washington Football Team was giving up the 10th-least points to opposing running backs and he posted 149 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against them on 21 touches. The talented rookie did everything he needed to in order to carve his name in stone atop the Lions depth chart.
Currently the RB21 in PPR scoring, Swift could offer low-end RB1 numbers for the remainder of the season. Better yet, he could still carry his RB2 price tag for an owner who thinks they’re selling high. He plays the Bears and Buccaneers in Weeks 13 and 16 which are going to be tough. But he has the Packers and Titans sandwiched in between during Weeks 14 and 15. Both teams rank in the bottom-eight in points allowed to running backs.
Allen Robinson: He was drafted to be a WR1 and has done so this year, despite awful quarterback play. He’s currently the WR9 in PPR formats and seventh in targets per game. While he’s been consistent in posting low-end WR1 numbers this season, he’s primed to explode down the stretch. In Week 14-16 he plays the Texans, Vikings, and Jaguars who are allowing the sixth-, second-, and 12th-most points to opposing wide receivers. If you can swap out a similarly-ranked player for Robinson, you should do so based on his playoff schedule.
PLAYOFF LIKELIHOOD: 40-75 PERCENT
If you’re sitting middle-of-the-pack in your league I’d recommend trading away one of the players I’ve listed above. Sure, you could potentially help a powerhouse team and anger your leaguemates. But you’ve also got to make sure you’re getting in the playoffs yourself. Don’t do something silly like trade away Christan McCaffrey for an RB3. You should think about moving a top-end talent for a trade target that will offer a good balance of points before and after the playoffs start.
PLAYERS TO TARGET:
D.K. Metcalf: Currently third overall in points per game, he’s not going to come cheap. Jalen Ramsey bottled him up for just two catches for 28 yards and he’s facing off against the Rams again in Week 16. People are freaking out that Metcalf will struggle in the all-important fantasy championship week and he’s popping up on trade blocks. There’s certainly risk that he lays a dud in the championship, but the upside he offers Weeks 11-15 should offset that.
Also, the Seahawks have struggled without Chris Carson in the lineup, losing three of their last four games. Defenses will have to be a bit more honest once Carson returns. Metcalf may have been kept in check last week, but we’ve already seen him burn Steven Gilmore and Tre’Davious White this year. There’s no reason to think he can’t beat Ramsey for one of his signature big plays in a meaningful Week 16 conference game.
Damien Harris: There’s definitely risk involved any time you’re talking about a Patriots running back. Harris is a solid trade target for middling fantasy teams, coming off of a Week 10 game where he saw a season-high 55% of his team’s snaps and posted his third 100-yard game of the season. Early in the season, I would never recommend giving up much for someone in Harris’s situation. Now though, a WR3 should be all it takes to acquire Harris. He also has an upcoming schedule of the Texans, Cardinals, and Chargers, all favorable matchups for running backs. He can offer legitimate RB2 numbers over the next few weeks as Bill Bellichick has a penchant for riding the hot hand.
Ezekiel Elliot: There’s no way to spin it. Since Dak Prescott has gone down, Elliott has simply been terrible. His opportunity is still there, but 3.4 yards per carry and zero touchdowns over the last four weeks have made him incredibly frustrating to own. There’s some hope that once Andy Dalton returns to the lineup it will revitalize the Cowboys offense. I, for one, do not expect that to happen. But the upside with Elliott is undeniable. Elliott has finished all four years in the league as an RB1. This one is a bit of a dart throw, but see if you can trade for Elliott on the cheap and hope that he can turn your season around and offer RB1 numbers in the playoffs.
Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp: It may seem strange lumping these two together but I think their situations are pretty similar, as is their value on the trade market. Both are playing on teams with a lot of pass-catching threats and their workload and position on the depth chart is consistently in question. They may not offer the same value they did on draft day. But with their stock sliding now is a great time to acquire them. They’re in the boom-or-bust tier of receivers but have favorable matchups leading up to the playoffs and can help you get in.
It should be noted that Godwin has a Week 13 bye, which could potentially hurt your chances of getting into the playoffs. His trade value is at an all-time low and I think he’s a great target, but take his bye week into consideration.
Other players to target for middling teams: Carson Wentz, Justin Herbert, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Ronald Jones, J.K. Dobbins, Terry McLaurin, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Tyler Boyd, Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson
PLAYOFF LIKELIHOOD: 10-40 PERCENT
At this point, it’s time to start swinging for the fences and acquire some players that you can start immediately that’ll get you points. The good news is, there are plenty of those available right now. If you have any of the players I listed in the first segment of this article, start offering them for some of these players.
PLAYERS TO TARGET
Duke Johnson, Lamar Miller, Kalen Ballage, Mike Davis, Jerrick McKinnon: All of these running backs are backups who will be seeing additional opportunities over the next few weeks. They won’t help you win any playoffs matchups, but you’ve got to focus on getting there right now. Once you make it in, anything can happen! Duke Johnson will handle starting duties over the next two weeks while David Johnson is on IR. Kalen Ballage will be handling primary backfield duties with Austin Ekeler on the mend. Expect some RB1 weeks from Mike Davis while Christian McCaffrey is out. David Montgomery hasn’t been cleared for practice yet while dealing with a concussion and Lamar Miller was called up from the practice squad to fill in for him. Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, JaMycal Hasty, and Jeff Wilson are all injured, leaving McKinnon as the next man up.
Reminder: This isn’t a list of sexy “rest of season” plays. These are guys that’ll help you win the next couple of weeks. Try and pick them up to piece together some important wins.
Cam Newton: He’s been an up and down player all season, but he has three great matchups coming up. The Texans, Cardinals, and Chargers all rank in the bottom-half of points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Combine that schedule with Newton’s rushing ability and he could put up solid points over the next few weeks. Again, not a smash play by any means but he can help you win now.
Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines: I’m sure I’ll catch flak for this one, but if you’re unlikely to make the playoffs why not throw a Hail Mary? We know everything about the Colts that know from the offseason: excellent offensive line on a run-heavy team with a quarterback that loves to check down. Well, the Colts next five games come against Packers, Titans, Texans, Raiders, and Texans. Those teams rank second-, eighth-, third-, fourth-, and third-best for opposing running backs. It’s impossible to predict who will be the guy in this backfield, but either is worth a shot if you need to get into the playoffs.
D.J. Chark: He’s coming off a quiet game of just four catches for 56 yards but is primed to break out down the stretch. He has a rapport with Jake Luton as shown two weeks ago. Chark hauled in seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in that matchup. And his upcoming schedule is great. He faces off against the Steelers, Browns, Vikings, and Titans, who all rank in the bottom-12 for points allowed to wide receivers. Chark offers true WR1 upside and could be bought for cheap after a disappointing first half of the year, where he ranks as the current WR31 in PPR.
PLAYOFF LIKEHOOD: LESS THAN 10 PERCENT
I’m sorry this is where you are right now. It happens to the best of us. Sure, you could make a case for trading away D.K. Metcalf for Ezekiel Elliott because of Metcalf’s playoff schedule. But all you’re going to do is throw a huge wrench in your league’s outcomes. Sometimes you’ve just got accept defeat, and if you’re just sitting on one or two wins this late in the season that’s what you’ve got to do. Keep setting your lineup, try to spoil someone’s playoff odds, make some waiver moves to stay competitive. But do not make a blockbuster trade.