By Neil Dutton, Player Profiler
Special to Yahoo Sports
With the fantasy trade deadline in most leagues later this week, crunch time is upon us. In the real world, teams can limit reps in practice or games or can take time off in bye weeks to ensure their rosters remain fresh. In fantasy, we are afforded no such luxury. If you are truly serious about mounting a late season push, you’ll probably need reinforcements for the weeks to come.
With this in mind, here are three positional players you should look to trade for by any reasonable means necessary. Once acquired, these guys are must-start material to close out the season:
Nick Chubb has chance to run wild with Browns
Fantasy is often a celebration of talent meeting opportunity. This would certainly seem to be the case for the Cleveland Browns’ Nick Chubb. Since the team traded away Carlos Hyde, Chubb has enjoyed almost a monopoly on the team rushing attempts. Chubb has had 58 carries in his last three games, with ten coming inside the red zone. The Browns have called the 11th-most running plays in 2018. Coincidentally, they also own 11th-best schedule for running backs the rest of the season.
When opportunity meets efficiency, fantasy points rain down. Chubb is one of the most efficient running backs in the NFL. Thus far, he’s leveraging his 129.5 (91st percentile) Burst Score to deliver a high rate of explosive plays. In fact, his 3.16 Yards Created Per Carry is No. 1 among qualified running backs this season. Chubb is generating extra yards with elusiveness, evidenced by a 37.7-percent Juke Rate (No. 2) and 8.1-percent Breakaway Run Rate (No. 8). Delivering touchdowns around the goal line and on splash plays, don’t be surprised when Chubb makes a run for the top-10 fantasy backs in the second half.
Put John Brown’s recent struggles aside
Let’s start with the bad news first: John Brown is only commanding a 17.6-percent Target Share, trailing both Willie Snead and Michael Crabtree. Now, some good news: the Ravens pass more than any other team in the NFL.
Here is some really good news: Brown’s 1211 Total Target Distance (also referred to as Total Air Yards) ranks No. 2 among qualified NFL wide receivers, and his 18.1 Average Target Distance (also known as aDOT), ranks No. 3. It seems every time Joe Flacco looks in Brown’s direction, he is looking for a big play. More surprisingly, the Ravens are targeting Brown heavily in the end zone. At 5-foot-10, Brown’s nine end zone targets rank No. 8 among all NFL wide receivers. For Brown, target quality trumps target quantity.
Brown is perfectly positioned to score copious fantasy points regardless of target volume, and the Ravens passing game will face off against lackluster secondaries in the weeks ahead. Assuming Baltimore sticks with Joe Flacco at quarterback following their bye, Brown is destined for some splashy weeks in the second half.
O.J. Howard a tight end worth chasing
“It’s been an underwhelming year at tight end,” is something that we seem to say every year, especially in years in which Rob Gronkowski has done little in fantasy terms. Howard is the exception to the rule this season, particularly when Ryan Fitzpatrick, is under center. Howard could remove your need to stream for the rest of the season.
His 472 receiving yards ranks top-5 among all NFL tight ends, powered by an impressive 16.9 yards per reception. Like an efficient version of David Njoku, Howard is at his best securing footballs in traffic, evidenced by a 70-percent Contested Catch Rate, which ranks No. 2 among qualified NFL tight ends.
Howard’s ability to squeeze the football in converges nicely with Fitzpatrick’s affinity for throwing into crowds, evidenced by his 6.5-percent Danger Play Rate this season. The Buccaneers soft second-half schedule sets up nicely for Howard to further entrench himself as one of the NFL’s signature young tight end über talents.