Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer: Examining the RB market

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By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Welcome to the Week 3 edition of Trader’s Alley for the 2021 fantasy football season. With just two weeks of games under our belt, we can’t quite toss out all we know about the teams and players heading into the year, but in certain cases, it’s clear that their situation has changed. In those cases, it’s advantageous for us to begin planning out our trade targets so that our teams can be stronger by season’s end than when we finished our drafts.

Below are my trade targets, a player to deal and one to hold heading into Week 3. In addition to this article, don’t forget to use the 4for4 Trade Evaluator to try and mine even more value out of your moves. And remember, these recommendations are just the beginning of your fantasy trade considerations. Every league and every team is different. These are just some of the players — from a bigger list — who I’m interested in this week.

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Trade for Jonathan Taylor

Taylor has been a disappointment for those who spent early-round draft capital on him thus far, averaging just 10.7 half-PPR fantasy points per game, barely inside the top-30 running backs. Heading into Week 3, Taylor’s two straight middling performances may have opened up an opportunity to pounce on a trade, taking advantage of a panicked manager looking to make a drastic move after that slow start. While it’s true the Colts' offense is in flux due to the injury to Carson Wentz, the underlying opportunity metrics look strong enough that running back-deficient teams should absolutely still send out an offer, especially if the Taylor manager is concerned over Taylor’s inefficiencies and Wentz’ injuries.

Taylor ranks fourth among all running backs in expected fantasy points per game, but already sits at three touchdowns below expectation this year. In 2020, Taylor was one of the most efficient backs in the league, scoring well over two fantasy points per game over his expected total, giving us a solid reason to believe Taylor can eventually break out of his slump. Taylor has a slew of bad defenses on the docket, including the Titans in Week 3, who currently rank bottom-five in adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to running backs.

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is off to a slow start, but better days could be ahead. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Trade Najee Harris

This is more of an indictment of the Steelers’ offense as a whole. Yes, it’s true that Harris is thus far accounting for 93% of the Pittsburgh running back rushes, and that he currently ranks top-20 at his position in target share. But Harris is getting mostly low-quality touches in a Steelers’ offense that currently ranks bottom-10 in PFF’s overall offensive grade. They're currently graded as the fourth-worst rushing team in the league, and it’s showing in Harris’ efficiency metrics. Harris ranks 12th among running backs in expected fantasy points per game but is the RB96 in fantasy points scored versus expectation. With several question marks on the offensive line, and a passing offense that’s unable to consistently get the offense near the goal line, Harris won’t be able to fully capitalize on a decent strength of schedule for running backs in the weeks ahead. The floor projection will be fine for Harris rest-of-season, but his ceiling simply isn’t there in the current iteration of the Steelers’ offense. Trade him to a manager who still values Harris as a top-20 player.

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Hold Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Possibly the most alarming part of Edwards-Helaire’s disappointing start to the 2021 season is his lack of targets. He’s averaging fewer than two targets per game thus far, and without consistent goal-line opportunities, Edwards-Helaire has seen middling opportunity, despite playing on one of the most prolific offenses in recent memory. His value is dampened by the fact that Mahomes and company score from outside the red zone with such frequency, but the lack of targets is the double-whammy. Tony Pollard is currently averaging the same amount of expected fantasy points per game as the Chiefs’ 2020 first-rounder. To make matters worse, his late-game fumble in the waning moments of the Chiefs’ Week 2 matchup against the Ravens cost his team the game.

Even with all that said, the quality of the overall offense is still enough to make Edwards-Helaire a startable FLEX option most weeks, but possibly most important is the fact that moving him now means dealing him at his lowest value. That's typically not the right move unless there’s no way we could reasonably see the situation improving. In this case, we absolutely can, as even just a slight increase in the quality of his touches, or in per-touch efficiency could boost Edwards-Helaire back into the weekly top-15 running back conversation, or at the very least increase his trade value for future potential deals.

Bonus tip: Float a deal for Austin Ekeler

Austin Ekeler got back to his old ways in the passing game, earning nine targets (and catching all nine), ranking fourth among running backs in expected fantasy points. He’s a bonafide RB1 in the Chargers’ offense, and if Ekeler’s fantasy manager doesn’t realize it, strike now before a 20-plus point performance makes him untouchable.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

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