As each week passes, the Dec. 1 trade deadline in ESPN fantasy football leagues draws a little closer.
Fantasy managers often ask me what players to trade for, and my advice is this — be proactive. Seek out the undervalued players and those with favorable remaining schedules. Find the fantasy managers in your league that may have an abundance of players at a certain position and, therefore, might be willing to unload some of that depth to upgrade another position.
Here are 13 players you should trade for right now.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes’ subpar play is well documented. Has he really been that bad? Mahomes has averaged 299 yards and 26.1 fantasy points per game. Four touchdowns and five interceptions in three games is concerning, but Mahomes isn’t the first or last NFL quarterback to deal with adversity. His team boasts one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Travis Kelce, the best deep threat in Tyreek Hill, and one of the best play callers in Andy Reid. We will see Mahomes bounce back soon, with the Monday Night game against the New York Giants in Week 8 being a perfect opportunity to do so.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Fantasy managers are concerned about Mixon’s limited targets or Samaje Perine’s 75 yards and touchdown against the Ravens. Well, fear not. Only Ezekiel Elliott (20.2), Christian McCaffrey (23), Alvin Kamara (23.4), Dalvin Cook (24.5), Najee Harris (24.7), and Derrick Henry (30.1) have more opportunities per game than Mixon (20). The rest of Mixon’s season looks promising now that he’s healthy and a part of one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses.
DJ Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Given how Sam Darnold is imploding before our eyes, it’s easy to overlook Moore. However, the only receiver with more targets per game than Moore is Cooper Kupp (11.6). He also ranks sixth in receiving air yards per game. Moore is talented enough to overcome poor quarterback play and the Panthers’ remaining schedule is WR friendly. Before the Panthers’ bye week, Moore will face a number of defenses that have allowed high numbers of points per game to wide receivers, including the Falcons (8th), Patriots (15th), Washington Football Team (2nd) and the Dolphins (3rd).
Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals
Ertz caught three passes for 66 yards and a score in his first game with the Cardinals and became just the second player since 1970 to score a touchdown for two different teams in consecutive weeks. His wife quizzed him nightly on Arizona’s playbook leading up to last week’s game, according to reports. In the past, the Cardinals haven’t featured the tight end position, but it’s hard to believe Arizona would trade for a player they weren’t planning to utilize. Ertz will face a number of defenses that have allowed a steady number of points to tight ends in the weeks ahead. The Packers, 49ers, Panthers and Seahawks have allowed an average of 11.84 points per game to the position.
Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets
With 19 touches for 104 yards, Carter played a season-high 72.3% of the Jets’ offensive snaps. The offense for New York is a dumpster fire this season, ranking 31st in yards and 32nd in points. The Jets’ quarterback situation is even worse with Joe Flacco taking over for the injured rookie Zach Wilson. This workload (especially the targets) makes Carter fantasy relevant regardless of game flow.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Dolphins are one of the most talked-about teams in the NFL, but for all the wrong reasons. The one bright spot has been Waddle. In last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, he caught seven of eight targets for 83 yards. Among wide receivers with 25 or more targets this season, he ranks fourth with a catch rate of 76% and also has four games with 60 or more receiving yards. Among Tua Tagovailoa’s touchdown passes, Waddle’s caught 42% of them. The Dolphins’ schedule for the rest of the season is challenging for wide receivers, but it softens considerably from Week 15-17 with games against the Jets, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans.
Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The dynamic between Edmonds and Conner in Arizona is intriguing. Both players have similar opportunity shares (rushing attempts plus targets). Edmonds has averaged 14.6 per game while Conner has averaged 13.6; a committee at its best. The reason Conner has been valuable in fantasy is that he’s averaging 0.9 touchdowns per game and has seen plenty of red zone carries in a Cardinals offense (402.1) that is averaging the seventh-most team yards per game. The touchdown rate of Conner is not sustainable, but Edmonds’ stranglehold on targets makes him more intriguing for the remainder of the season. Edmonds has averaged 81.3 yards per game, and the positive regression in touchdowns is coming.
Laviska Shenault Jr, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
After DJ Chark’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 4, the Jaguars’ receivers are still recovering, and Jacksonville’s bye week was a blessing in disguise. In the absence of Chark, Shenault has been underwhelming so far, but many fantasy managers overlook the fact that he has moved from the slot to Chark’s X receiver position. In Weeks 5 and 6, Chark was not in the lineup, so Shenault played 19 snaps in the slot and 84 on the outside. The Jaguars are likely to move him around more against a struggling Seahawks’ defense this week, which will improve Shenault’s chances of succeeding.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Pitts’ debut against the Dolphins was so epic that he accounted for 40.2% of the Falcons’ receiving yards, and fantasy managers had balloons and appetizers. In a let-the-air-out type of performance, Ridley only finished with 26 yards and a touchdown. A season ago, he averaged 91.6 receiving yards and 136.8 receiving air yards per game. So far this season, he has been targeted 52 times. Things have to improve, right? Matchups against the 49ers in Week 15 and Lions in Week 16 are also very appealing.
Darrell Henderson Jr, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Henderson was supposed to breeze past the Lions’ front seven last week. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and he had his worst statistical performance of the season. However, Henderson has averaged 92.5 total yards per game this season and has a chance to redeem himself in the weeks ahead. Leading up to the Rams’ bye week, Henderson faces the Texans, Titans and 49ers. Tennessee (12th) and Houston (9th) rank in the top-12 for total fantasy points allowed per game to opposing offenses. Henderson will be able to flourish not only as a runner between the tackles behind the Rams’ talented offensive line, but also as a receiver out of the backfield.
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams
Higbee’s 46 yards were his most since the season opener, when he had 68. This season, he has only averaged 4.7 targets per game, while Cooper Kupp (11.6) and Robert Woods (7.1) are both actively targeted on a per game basis. In spite of that, Higbee played 100% of the Rams’ offensive snaps last week, ran a route on 96% of Stafford’s drop backs, and had eight targets against the Lions. In this week’s game, he faces a Houston Texans defense that allows the second-most fantasy points to tight ends (18.54). Given the Rams’ upcoming schedule, Higbee can expect more productive games in the near future.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Fantasy managers with Hopkins on their team have fond memories of the 2020 season when he averaged 10 targets, 7.2 receptions and 87.9 receiving yards per game. Oh, those were the days, and so far in 2021 he’s taken a step back in the productivity department. Hopkins has only been targeted 6.3 times per game this season and hasn’t surpassed 90 yards in any game. So why trade for him now? Because there’s reason’s to believe in Hopkins the rest of the way. For one, Kyler Murray has a passer rating of 149.3 when throwing to Hopkins — the highest rating of all the Cardinals’ pass catchers. Additionally, the Cardinals still have games against the 49ers, Seahawks and Lions — all defenses with major issues at cornerback.
J.D. McKissic, RB, Washington Football Team
Antonio Gibson is valiantly playing through a shin injury that could hobble him for the rest of the season, and the opportunity share for Gibson (14.5) and McKissic (14.5) has been nearly identical over the last two games. Washington’s remaining schedule is favorable for dual-threat running backs like McKissic. Despite his lack of allure, he can still provide you with a high-quality RB3/flex every week.
Matthew Berry and Field Yates examine Washington’s backfield and if J.D. McKissic has more value than Antonio Gibson going forward.