Bill Belichick, synonymous with being "cold and calculating," is known for his strategic mindset as much as his iconic snipped-sleeve hoodie. In dynasty fantasy football, adopting Belichick's approach of trading players early is crucial for long-term success. Evaluating player values and taking risks on promising young players can transform your roster. While it might be tough to part with established players, below is a list of running backs and wide receivers you should consider trading, along with my reasoning.
Because of the physical demands of the position, NFL running backs have short careers compared to other positions. The high contact and repetitive nature of duties can lead to injuries and wear and tear on the body. Since 2010, only 87 running backs have scored at least 250 fantasy points in a season. If you dive deeper, nearly 70% of those seasons took place between the ages of 23 to 26. While it's essential to be aware and flexible when managing your fantasy teams, it's important to note that these guidelines are not necessarily the be-all and end-all. There are always exceptions, as players like Derrick Henry can defy conventional wisdom. So, keep an open mind and consider these factors while making decisions, but also be willing to adapt when necessary.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns: Chubb is an absolute force on the field, showcasing his prowess as one of the league's premier rushers. Chubb consistently delivers jaw-dropping performances and has an impressive track record over the past three seasons: 18.2 touches, 102.7 total yards and 16.3 fantasy points per game. As he gears up for his age-27 season, the Browns have him under contract until 2025, but the team does have a potential out in 2024. Now, following Chubb's RB6 finish in 2022, fantasy managers find themselves at a crossroads.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings: All signs point to Cook being traded or released, but ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported earlier this month that the Vikings want to "do right by [Dalvin] Cook" and want him to "go to a place where he can play and be happy." And why wouldn't they? In the past three seasons, he's averaged 21.4 touches, 108.4 total yards and 17.7 fantasy points per game, despite battling multiple shoulder injuries that led to missed games and successful surgery in February. Cook's impact on the field is undeniable, and whether he stays with the Vikings or lands on a new team, he'll remain fantasy-relevant. Now is the ideal time to explore trade possibilities for the soon-to-be 28-year-old running back.
Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers: Jones is another player nearing the end of his prime as a fantasy running back. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 16.2 touches, 90.5 total yards and a solid 16.0 fantasy points per game. Despite experiencing his worst fantasy season since 2018, the 28-year-old still finished as RB9 in 2022. The way he was utilized out of the backfield as a receiver was encouraging. However, with the presence of AJ Dillon on the roster and the Packers' offense likely to take a step back with Jordan Love under center, the opportune moment has arrived to explore trade options for Jones.
Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers: When it comes to dynasty leagues, there's no denying that McCaffrey reigns supreme as the top running back. His remarkable versatility as a runner and receiver sets him apart from the pack. After enduring the frustration of seeing McCaffrey play in a mere 10 games combined in 2020 and 2021, witnessing him remain healthy last season was nothing short of euphoric. He averaged an impressive 23.7 fantasy points per game after he was traded from the Panthers to the 49ers. With three more years left on his contract with San Francisco, now is the time to capitalize on McCaffrey's sky-high fantasy value to receive maximum return. The 27-year-old is at his peak, making him an irresistible asset. If your running back depth is secure, don't miss this golden opportunity to make a power move that could reshape your dynasty team's future.
Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers: Ekeler's genuine love for fantasy football has won over managers' hearts, but with his revised contract and aspirations for a more lucrative deal in 2024, it's prime time to part ways with him on your fantasy team. Ekeler's electric performance has seen him average a remarkable 21.7 fantasy points per game over the past two seasons. Like McCaffrey, he poses a dual threat as both a dynamic runner and a reliable receiver. Even though Ekeler just turned 28, his skill set is still valuable for at least a couple of more seasons. However, this leaves fantasy managers in a delicate predicament. Even if Ekeler is productive in these next two seasons, he might not provide the week-winning fantasy performances managers are used to. It's time to maximize his trade value.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals: Mixon has had a generally productive career since being drafted by the Bengals in 2017 to be their primary back. However, the soon-to-be 27-year-old is showing signs of decline. After posting a career-high 1,205 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021, Mixon fell short of the 1,000-yard mark last season, finishing with 814 yards. This drop in performance was also evident in postseason games against the Ravens and Chiefs. Mixon was 33rd last season in yards per carry among qualifying running backs and 35th in big-run percentage, which measures the rate of carries of 10 or more yards. Last season, he averaged 19.3 touches and 17.1 fantasy points per game because he had a career high in targets. Another factor to consider is the financial aspect. Moving on from Mixon would provide the Bengals with significant cap savings of more than $7 million. This extra money could be used to help secure a lucrative extension for quarterback Joe Burrow or retain other key players on the team. Mixon also has a pending legal situation, as he is facing a charge that was refiled in April. Given these circumstances, fantasy managers should attempt to part ways with him now.
DeAndre Hopkins, free agent: The Cardinals couldn't find a trade partner for Hopkins, so they released the soon-to-be 31-year-old receiver. A suspension and knee injury sidelined him for much of last season, but even in his limited appearances, Hopkins proved his worth with 7.1 catches, 79.7 yards and 0.33 touchdowns per game. There is optimism surrounding him looking toward the 2023 season, regardless of the team he joins. This presents a trading opportunity for fantasy managers. Hopkins has been an unstoppable force on the field for most of his career. Since his 2013 debut, he is first in receptions, second in receiving yards and fourth in receiving touchdowns.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Evans stands as the most accomplished wide receiver in Buccaneers history. As he enters his age-30 season in 2023, Evans boasts an impressive track record of surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in all nine seasons of his career and has averaged 8.6 targets, 76.1 receiving yards and 16.2 fantasy points per game. He is 12th all time in receiving yards per game, ahead of legends such as Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin. However, a lingering question looms: Will Evans finish his career as a Buccaneer? With free agency approaching in 2024, it's an opportune time to consider trading him, given his exceptional statistical resume and ability to excel with various quarterbacks.
Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders: After years of thriving as Aaron Rodgers' top option, Adams averaged 19.7 fantasy points per game with Derek Carr under center last season. The plot thickens as the 2023 season approaches. Carr is gone, replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo, whose foot injury casts doubt on his availability. Despite initial hopes for a nonsurgical solution, Garoppolo underwent surgery after signing with the Raiders. His contract even includes a waiver related to the injury. The uncertainty surrounding the quarterback situation could prompt fantasy managers to consider trading Adams. As Sun Tzu famously said, "In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity." It's a mindset that savvy fantasy managers should embrace as they navigate this unpredictable landscape.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers: Allen has been a pillar of consistency for fantasy football managers over the past decade, averaging 9.2 targets and 16.2 fantasy points per game. While he did miss some games last season, it was the first time he's missed significant time since his ACL tear in 2016. There's no denying the inevitable as Allen approaches the twilight of his career. He doesn't rely heavily on pure speed and leaping ability, so his skills will allow him to age gracefully. At 31 years old, the physical toll of professional football becomes more difficult. After the Chargers drafted Quentin Johnston this spring and with a potential out in Allen's contract in 2024, the time might be right to part ways with the seasoned receiver. It's a tough decision, but one that might make sense for fantasy managers and the team.