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Much of fantasy football in-season owner strategy centers around which players to pick up from the waiver wire or to target in the trade market. However, roster spots are a premium resource. Cutting a player - or adding them to a trade - opens a roster spot for a key waiver wire addition or flexibility to keep a currently injured player through a missed game or two. Here are the key players to cut or trade after Week 7:
*15-18 roster spots*
Why: QB16 in Roster Rate, Darnold was yanked from the game in Week 7 against a decent, but certainly not a shutdown, Giants defense. Darnold has been reeling fantasy-wise since a quality early-season schedule start. Any matchup should draw a skeptical eye for Darnold in fantasy lineups going forward, especially with the risk now of being a partial game participant beyond injury.
Why: RB39 in Roster Rate, Murray has a high ankle sprain and missed Week 7. Beyond his own injury where a limited Murray would have even lower upside, the Baltimore running back depth chart is a trap. One running back (Ty'Son Williams in Week 3) has hit at least 50% route rate in a game this season and the same applies to total snaps. Regardless of who is the RB1, the Ravens are running a heavy rotation of 2-3 backs a week. Murray has only two games this season with any targets as well. Shallow format roster spots, even more than deeper leagues, are about ceiling and Murray - as well as the rest of the Baltimore backs - limit a fantasy team's season-long and weekly ceiling.
Why: Crowder has been squeezed for upside on an improving Jets wide receiver corps since he has returned from injured reserve with Corey Davis and now Elijah Moore challengers for meaningful work. Zach Wilson's Week 7 injury now points to a multi-week absence (potential for longer) where Crowder was already dealing with a bottom-tier passing game. Shrink the total size of the pie and squeeze Crowder's market share down the stretch and Crowder is a classic roster clogger in more shallow formats.
Why: Smith has yet to have a higher Route% in a game than Hunter Henry this season and at least 15% target share in just one game. On the fantasy side, Smith has had logged more than three receptions in a game since Week 2. A shallower format is the wrong depth to roster a backup tight end behind a currently healthy starter.
*18-22 roster spots*
Why: The Lions have one of, if not the, weakest wide receiver corps in the NFL. As a result, they use T.J. Hockenson dreadfully close to the lineup of scrimmage as a possession target. Also, the schedule was front-loaded with decent pass defense matchups for optimal production. Week 16 is the next time Detroit and Goff have a bottom-half fantasy pass defense (Atlanta). The schedule is brutal and Goff has Kalif Raymond as his de facto WR1 and has limited rushing upside (one game of at least 15 yards this season).
Why: Williams returned from the COVID list in Week 7 to an entrenched (and rising) Khalil Herbert in the starting role. Herbert had a more than 4x edge in snaps and 6x in carries over Williams in the backfield 'split' for the Bears. David Montgomery is still a few weeks away from a possible return, but Williams' 1A role looks evaporated outside of Herbert missing time.
Why: Already behind Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty returned to the active roster in Week 7 and immediately lapped Sermon for the RB2 role. Jeffery Wilson is still multiple weeks away from a return, but is Wilson next to surpass the dropping Sermon? Sermon and Brandon Aiyuk are two of the more perplexing fantasy names on the 49ers' offense. At a minimum, Sermon now needs multiple injuries to have lineup confidence in the coming weeks.
Why: Firkser was a trendy breakout candidate this season. However, half of the fantasy regular season later, Firkser has 95 yards and zero touchdowns. This is on a Tennessee passing game where A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have missed cross-sections of the season. Firkser is more of a 2TE format play than anything in the 1TE realm.
*25+ roster spots, more dynasty-focused*
Why: Robinson is one of the massive disappointments (compared to even tepid expectations) for 2021 at the wide receiver position. Robinson has soaked up WR2 snaps paired with Patrick Mahomes II through seven weeks and yet has collected more than 9% target share in two games and none higher than 13%. With more of a dynasty-centric lens, Robinson, along with Byron Pringle and possibly Mecole Hardman are at high risk to be upgraded or replaced in the offseason.
Why: The Jets are a flimsy passing game to invest in for the rest of the season (see Jamison Crowder above) and Cole has even more hurdles. Cole has seen an equal target share over the past two games to Denzel Mims, who has struggled to get meaningful snaps all season. With Elijah Moore and Crowder back healthy, Cole is a veteran retread, on a poor offense, with minimal dynasty appeal.
Why: Brown is still rostered in plenty of dynasty leagues with roster size in the high-20s to mid-30s. Brown struggled to latch on with any team this season and currently resides with Denver, where he has seen one target over two games. At 31 years old, it is difficult to declare him a post-2021 asset on dynasty rosters, but Brown looks to offer minimal current year appeal playing behind Kendall Hinton (quarterback convert) as the WR4/5 on a team where more than two wide receivers generally fantasy rostered is a stretch of optimism.
Why: Questions abound with the ancillary (non-Deebo Samuel) 49ers passing game. Dwelley has disappointed even with George Kittle out in recent weeks. Dwelley has yet to surpass 25 yards in a game or two targets. Jene Bramel's expectation is Kittle returns Week 9, squeezing Dwelley's 2TE window even if he were producing.