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Two significant trades occurred within the past week — we'll discuss them both. We'll also examine running back candidates for a strong second half of the season and preemptive pickups.
The Amari Cooper Trade
Matt Waldman: How do you value Cooper and Dak Prescott for the rest of the year and in dynasty leagues now that he's in Dallas? Does Cooper significantly help or hurt anyone else's value on the Cowboys' offense?
Chad Parsons: Dak Prescott was a low-end Superflex option before this trade, but now has more streaming potential in start-one formats. Dallas also has a pretty nice passing schedule remaining, including the Saints (Week 13) and Buccaneers (Week 16).
Amari Cooper will open up Ezekiel Elliott in the run game, where the box has been squeezed without a legitimate threat down the field (no offense, Michael Gallup and Tavon Austin with their sporadic plays over the first seven weeks). I was always higher than consensus on Amari Cooper from a dynasty perspective, citing a Davante Adams-like argument of 'if we have seen Cooper's best already, he will go down as one of the biggest metric wide receiver prospect disappointments in recent memory.'
Oakland is a toxic situation and Cooper is fortunate to escape while entering a receiver's historical peak window in their mid-20s. The issue with Cooper has been the expectations for Cooper to progress from two promising seasons to open his career to an auto-start WR1 for lineup decisions. If adjusting to the prism of being a WR3 with upside for lineups, Cooper has been decent, if not promising, this season with two games of 21+ PPR points.
Changing teams generally leads to negative outcomes, but when players like Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper are traded for premium assets (Round 1 picks), they are the exception to the rule compared to leaving in free agency without their previous team getting significant trade compensation.
Dan Hindery: It is hard to get excited about Cooper. He goes from an Oakland team completing 27.8 passes per game to a Dallas team completing just 18.3 passes per game. Plus, he wasn’t even producing fantasy numbers in Oakland’s more prolific passing offense.
Talent has never been the issue with Cooper, he just hasn’t ever fully picked up the new Oakland offense. A few times this season, the typically mild-mannered Derek Carr was furious with Cooper for running the wrong route. Most notably on a 4th-and-goal play in the final two minutes of the Cleveland game when Cooper ran the wrong direction and Carr went off on him.
Perhaps Cooper will be able to come in midseason and pick up enough of the Cowboys offense to make a major impact. But it seems like an uphill battle, especially considering the Cowboys slow-paced, run-first offense.
We should remember that Cooper is a young man (only 24 years old) with enough talent to play at this level, evidenced by his early-career numbers: As a rookie in 2015, he saw 127 targets for 70/1,060/6 receiving and then had a decent sophomore campaign (131 for 82/1,149/5). However, drops have been an issue for Cooper (he averaged 14 a year in his first two campaigns) and there have been lapses in concentration as Dan explained: "A few times this season, the typically mild-mannered Derek Carr was furious with Cooper for running the wrong route."
All that said, in a new environment where he is the clear-cut No.1 option and getting a fresh start with the Cowboys' organization, we should expect Cooper to have a shot at resurrecting his career during 2019. It is overly optimistic to expect him to have an immediate impact in Dallas this year - but allowing him a few weeks to learn the offense Cooper could be relevant in fantasy terms starting with the favorable matchup @Atlanta in Week 11 and moving forward from there. Any impact during Weeks 9 and 10 would be gravy for Cooper owners.
I am holding Cooper in the dynasty leagues where I own him rather than seeking to trade him.
Cooper can also assist Michael Gallup's development by pulling some of the defensive backs off of coverage on Gallup and by stretching the opposing defenses vertically. This could be a very effective 1-2 punch for Dallas as Gallup gains experience and learns the nuances of his position at the NFL level.
So from the route designs, the play-calling to the play from the passer, I'm still not buying this Cowboys' offense.
Maurile Tremblay: I don't think this move does much for Cooper's value one way or the other. He has good upside potential in Dallas, but he already had that potential in Oakland. There was a decent chance that he'd have turned things around and had a strong second half of the season with the Raiders, though it was no sure thing.
The exact same thing is true of his prospects with the Cowboys. I don't see a major difference between the Raiders' and Cowboys' overall passing offenses such that this is a significant move for Cooper's own outlook.
Cooper's acquisition does hurt Cole Beasley's value, and it also helps Dak Prescott's. There's been more wrong with the Cowboys' offense than just not having Amari Cooper in the lineup. So Cooper won't be a panacea for Prescott or for the offense in general. But he'll help.
He has speed and athleticism currently lacking among the Cowboys' group of receivers, and he's shown good route-running ability and hands (albeit inconsistently) during his time in Oakland. Cooper's presence won't turn Prescott into a fantasy starter in traditional leagues, but it could bump him a few spots in the rankings.
If Cooper does help jump-start the Cowboys' offense, Ezekial Elliott will benefit from more goal-line opportunities.
Justin Howe: Dan hit the nail on the head here; forget the upside, where’s the floor? Cooper could immediately install as a target hog in Dallas’ anemic pass game and still have to scrape and scrape for more than 6-7 targets a week.
If he were even a moderately consistent receiver or one with exceptional downfield skills, he could spin that kind of usage into occasional WR2 gold. But as it stands, he’s little more than a wealthy man’s Allen Hurns; a veteran retread who doesn’t look likely to set the Cowboys’ low-impact world on fire.
The Carlos Hyde deal
Waldman: How do you value Hyde for the rest of the year and in dynasty leagues now that he's in Jacksonville? How does it impact Leonard Fournette short- and long-term? Does Hyde significantly help or hurt other Jaguars skill talent?
Tremblay: I don't think Hyde's arrival will affect the Jaguars nearly as much as his departure will affect the Browns. The most obvious consequence of the trade is that it clears the way for Nick Chubb to carry the load in Cleveland. Hyde has been the workhorse there this season, but Chubb is the more talented running back and he should be a fantasy starter going forward.
In Jacksonville, I think Leonard Fournette will still be a ball hog when he is healthy. That the Jaguars gave up a fifth-round pick to get Hyde can be interpreted in a number of ways. Maybe it means they aren't confident that Fournette will return for another month or more.
Maybe it means they see T.J. Yeldon as merely a passing-down back, and their offense is too limited without a more powerful inside runner. Maybe it means they don't intend to re-sign Yeldon in the offseason, and this move was as much about 2019 as 2018. Or maybe it means that they intend to give Fournette a reduced workload when he comes back and they needed another committee member to pair with him.
I think that the last possibility is the least likely, though. When Fournette is healthy, I'd expect Carlos Hyde to be strictly a backup in Jacksonville. I suspect that the trade was driven by a combination of those first three possibilities.
So in terms of who the move helps or hurts (besides helping Chubb and hurting Hyde), I'd expect the move to hurt T.J. Yeldon's fantasy value (both short-term and long-term), but not to have a large effect on Fournette's.
Wood: This trade speaks to frustration on the part of Tom Coughlin, who is old school and tried to build a championship contender around a power running game and stifling defense. It's fair to say Fournette's injuries are not the only issue in Jacksonville, but he has been disappointing, to put it mildly.
The only question I have is how Hyde changes the tenor of the offense; T.J. Yeldon has been terrific in Fournette's stead. Hyde's near- and long-term fantasy value take hits with the trade. I expect him to split touches with Yeldon until Fournette returns, and then he'll be a backup thereafter. And his dynasty value plummets as the team remains committed to Fournette, or could draft another young power back in a season or two.
Schofield: Leonard Fournette is still the long-term plan in Jacksonville, and as a result, Hyde is nothing more than a handcuff option. Now, the slight caveat to this is Fournette's health, as he was dealing with lower body injuries all last season and has missed significant time this season. Even then, T.J. Yeldon is the main Plan B for the Jaguars this season. So putting it together, Hyde is a player I'd be passing on.
Wimer: Leonard Fournette is struggling to return (chronic hamstring injury), so expect to see Hyde in the grinder/early-down role in Jacksonville starting after the Jaguar's Week 10 bye. I think Fournette may be heading for IR with Jacksonville crashing-and-burning into a lost season.
If the Jaguars drop both games to Indianapolis in Week 10 and Week 13 I think Fournette will be pulled and allowed to start healing (assuming he hasn't played in either game). In this scenario, Hyde will have some volume-based appeal for the fantasy playoffs, although as noted by the other Footballguys previously the offensive line in Jacksonville is a hot mess at mid-season.
Longer term I agree with this sentiment Dan articulated (assuming Hyde stays in Jacksonville for subsequent seasons) - "Yeldon is a free agent this offseason and Hyde could enter 2019 as the clear No.2 option, at which point he is just a handcuff in case Fournette goes down again. "
Hindery: The move to Jacksonville is a downgrade for Hyde both short and long-term. In the short-term, Hyde is locked in a committee with T.J. Yeldon in a broken offense. This Jacksonville offense has been decimated by injuries and is unlikely to recover this season.
The Jaguars lost their starting left tackle (Cam Robinson) and then his backup (Josh Wells) for the season and are desperately trying to plug holes with subpar options. Tight end has been an even bigger issue with the starter (Austin Seferian-Jenkins)and backup (Niles Paul) on injured reserve while even the third-stringer (James O’Shaughnessy) couldn’t go last week.
It is hard to see how the Jaguars are going to have success with Blake Bortles behind a makeshift line regardless of who is running the ball. Longer term, this is still Leonard Fournette’s team. Yeldon is a free agent this offseason and Hyde could enter 2019 as the clear No.2 option, at which point he is just a handcuff in case Fournette goes down again.
Parsons: Carlos Hyde is nothing more than an expensive handcuff going forward. The fifth-round pick is minimal cost and Jacksonville looking ahead to the offseason where T.J. Yeldon is leaving in free agency is as much a factor as wanting another viable option for the rest of 2018.
Leonard Fournette will get every opportunity to be the unquestioned lead back when healthy and Hyde is similar to Derrick Henry in that he is the most expensive dynasty running back who still needs an injury to be a decent starting projection in lineups.
Waldman: I don't want to come near Fournette in a dynasty league. When Jene Bramel noted that Fournette's ankle will be an oncoming issue that will only get worse, I see it has a ticking time bomb for fantasy players.
Yeldon is a good football player who can fit in a committee for any team. Hyde is a yardage-creator who fits the mentality of the team as a substitute for Fournette. It's a better long-term fit for the Jaguars' plans if (and in my opinion, WHEN...) Fournette gets hurt again.
Second-Half FAntasy Running Backs
Waldman: We discussed Carlos Hyde at length. If Blake Bortles plays like he did in 2017 and the line gets healthy, there's a lot of upside if Leonard Fournette isn't ready.
Nick Chubb is the 37th-ranked fantasy back despite one start in seven weeks. With Carlos Hyde gone, Chubb could thrive like fellow rookies Saquon Barkley, Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, and Philip Lindsay.
Let's not forget Duke Johnson Jr, who earned 1,000 yards receiving last year. The departure of Hyde could make Johnson a viable every-week fantasy option.
With Marshawn Lynch on IR, Doug Martin gets a shot to be the lead back in Oakland. He'll take over for Lynch who will miss at least eight weeks.
Marlon Mack has only played half the season but he exploded for fantasy players last weekend.
Tarik Cohen has been the No.15 back in standard leagues and No.11 in PPR formats for the past three weeks.
Which of these backs would you target as candidates for a trade if these were your choices to supplement your fantasy backfield for the second half of the year? If you wish, you may also pick one back not mentioned who is outside the top 20 in standard leagues.
Hindery: I’d love to have Tarik Cohen for the stretch run. Over the last three weeks, he is playing 49.3 percent of the snaps and is averaging 15.3 touches per game to just 12.6 for Jordan Howard. Cohen has seen 9.7 targets per game over this stretch and is producing just under 10 yards per target.
Some of the increase in favor of Cohen has been based upon matchups, especially in Week 7 against the Patriots slow linebackers, but Cohen has been the more impactful of the two by far and earned more touches moving forward.
The increase in playing time for Cohen has also coincided with the Bears offense looking more like the one people were hoping to see. With Cohen more involved the Bears have scored 107 points over the past three weeks (35.7 per game).
Schofield: If there's a running back I'm most excited about going forward it is Tarik Cohen. I discussed him at length last week, and I'll revisit some of those ideas for this roundtable.
Cohen presents such a mismatch dilemma for opposing defenses and over the past few weeks, Matt Nagy has uncovered more and more ways to use him to stress a defense.
A prime example of this was on Mitchell Trubisky's touchdown pass to Trey Burton for a touchdown late in that game. Nagy used a Y-Iso formation out of 12 personnel, which meant the Patriots were in a 3-3-5 nickel package which is more of a base look for them instead of their 3-2-6 dime, but the Bears put Cohen in the backfield shaded to Burton's side of the field. By doing this they forced the Patriots to declare with their defense, and the personnel and formation got Cohen isolated on Elandon Roberts, arguably the Patriots' worse cover linebacker.
The throw went to Burton because the cornerback fell, but Cohen can exploit matchups like that all day long. The more and more Nagy uses formations like this, the more favorable matchups Cohen will see. I'm a buyer.
Wood: Nick Chubb is the answer. Chubb was Matt top-ranked rookie running back in his impeccably well-research Rookie Scouting Portfolio, but he suffered the indignity of being drafted by a team that signed Carlos Hyde to a multi-year contract and gave Duke Johnson Jr a sizable extension.
It took a while, but the Browns traded Hyde to Jacksonville and freed Chubb from his depth chart gallows. The Browns may not have a great win-loss record but they're competitive, and the defense is opportunistic. Chubb's a transcendent talent and could push for top-12 value over the second half of the season.
Hope: Chubb also ranks highly for me down the stretch. I know, low-usage backs project better than starters, considering the situational value they carry, and we shouldn’t read too much into Chubb’s and Hyde’s starts. But the difference in efficiency between Hyde (3.35 yards per carry) and Chubb (7.44) has been stark; simply put, I’ve been watching one talented young back and one that’s just another guy.
Hyde isn’t quick or powerful enough to maximize his opportunity behind the Browns’ rebuilt front line, but Chubb is. The rookie runs angrily and with a sense of purpose that Hyde, Isaiah Crowell, and the rest of Hue Jackson’s backs haven’t.
Jackson will always lean on his ground game, and he’ll always appreciate a powerful back who can grind out the clock. (Why the Browns would ever want to grind out the clock, I don’t know, but still...) Hyde saw some monster workloads early in the year, big enough to make Chubb a real RB2 option as of today.
I know that Doug Martin fell flat the last two seasons in Tampa Bay, but the situation in Oakland is now such that they have to feed him the football to run what is left of their offense. Martin has the support of Head Coach Jon Gruden and so, based on Martin handling 20+ carries a week, I am going to scoop him up (actually, I was already holding him in one dynasty league and I picked him up in another).
Waldman: Daniel's weekly column focuses on preemptive additions who you can add to your team with the hope of them emerging into values without spending money during waivers. Let's each name a player that you believe could be a preemptive addition of value to your roster. Broncos quarterback Chad Kelly comes to mind for me...well, he did about the same time of night that he was walking into a stranger's residence to have a seat on the couch next to a woman with her child, mumbling incoherently.
Share your picks and the rationale behind them.
Schofield: Three names I'm strongly considering are Courtland Sutton, Cody Kessler, and Kyle Lauletta.
With Sutton, it's because the Denver Broncos seem to be ready to move him, and start a bit of a youth movement. If there's a player to own when the eventual Demaryius Thomas trade happens, it's Sutton.
As for Lauletta and Kessler. Both are longshots. But it is clear at this point that the Giants will be moving on from Eli Manning next season, one way or the other, and with their 1-6 start odds are they're gonna have a high draft pick. They'll need to do some due diligence on Lauletta before using that pick on a quarterback. Or maybe players like Justin Herbert and Dwayne Haskins, arguably the top two quarterbacks in the next class, do not declare. I cannot imagine Dave Gettleman using a top three pick on a Will Grier, or a Brett Rypien, or a Drew Lock. So there's an opportunity there.
As with Kessler, it does seem like things are reaching a head with Blake Bortles given rumors of locker room fights and players-only meetings. Bortles may be the starter this week across the pond, but is he when the Jaguars return to the States?
Wood: Like Matt, I had Kelly as a selection until hearing about the arrest. I am with Mark on Lauletta. The Giants are officially looking toward 2019, and it makes no sense to keep starting Eli Manning. Even if the Giants are likely to draft a quarterback in the first round next year, they need to first put Lauletta on the field to see if he's capable of fighting for the job. I like rolling the dice on Lauletta much more than Kessler in Jacksonville, by comparison.
Wimer: Like Matt and Jason, Kelly was first on my list. Now, I am adding Taysom Hill where I can — Brees will start in New Orleans as long as he wishes/is able, but Hill is being groomed to take over for Brees (and he has the upside of picking up a rushing TD here and there with Hill's part-time role as a gadget/wildcat QB this season).
I think if Brees went down this season, you'd see Teddy Bridgewater in there first, but for future years I expect Hill to become the primary backup. Brees is not a young man anymore and as we've seen with Peyton and then Eli Manning in recent seasons when the passing arm goes dead the end comes rapidly.
Hindery: The trade market before the deadline could be hotter than ever before. NFL front offices are no longer afraid to make big moves midseason and we are seeing more major trades than any time in recent memory. Trades could open big opportunities for younger, ascending players.
One who could most benefit is Courtland Sutton in Denver. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have been rumored to be on the trade block. Thomas seems the more likely of the two to get moved. He is overpaid, 30-years old, and a player who would fit best on a win-now team.
Denver may be thinking 2018 isn’t their year with the Broncos and Chargers pulling away in the division and looking like two of the best in the AFC. If Thomas is traded, Sutton could be an impact wide receiver down the stretch. Sutton has narrowly missed some big plays this season, keeping his numbers modest, but he could break out in a big way as the No.2 option in this offense. He would be especially intriguing if the Broncos go with a full-blown youth movement down the stretch.
Howe: Many will be focused on the trade market over the next week or so, and for good reasons that Dan has already pointed out. But they might forget about the injured reserve market, which could be just as fruitful. As injuries pile up and teams fall out of the running, we’ll see more and more young afterthoughts and forgotten veterans called upon to close out the season for their 2-6 teams.
Tremblay: For a dynasty stash, Justin Jackson has some intriguing potential if you're willing to wait. Melvin Gordon has one year left on his contract after this season. Austin Ekeler is already owned in every fantasy league as Gordon's current handcuff, but I think Jackson has just as good a shot to become the primary back if Gordon leaves after 2019.
He's a long shot, to be sure, but so is everybody we're talking about here. Jackson was sidelined by injury during much of training camp and the preseason, so he didn't really get to challenge Ekeler for the top backup spot this year. But it's a battle he could win next preseason, and he could then find himself as the leading contender to fill Gordon's shoes after his contract is up.