As most tenured fantasy football players can tell you, the draft is merely the first step to assembling a championship roster.
Being vigilant on the waiver wire and open to possible trades is just as important to sustained, season-long success. But it’s rare when anyone is willing to make a trade in which they don’t feel like they’re getting the upper hand.
Which is why it’s important to make the owner you’re bartering with think they’re getting the better end of the deal. The key to doing that is offering players who’ve had early season success that you don’t think they’ll maintain. Granted, it’s a bit of a guessing game. Take last season, for instance.
Few who moved Jay Ajayi after his first 200-yard game expected him to have two more such outings. On the other end of the spectrum, those who unloaded Marvin Jones after his 482-yard opening month probably expected that his production would fall off some.
Below are five players who we don’t expect to maintain their torrid Week 1 pace and, as such, should be considered trade options worth exploring.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Depending on when you drafted, Kareem Hunt could have been anywhere from a 16th-round pick to a second-rounder. Hunt, a rookie, went from a late-round flier to a high-end second running back after Spencer Ware suffered what’s likely a season-ending injury. Hunt certainly looked like a No. 1 runner in Week 1. The Toledo product totaled a jaw-dropping 246 total yards and three scores in his pro debut.
Is that level of production sustainable? Probably not, but barring a massive drop-off, Hunt is likely to remain Kansas City’s workhorse. We’re not advising you unload him if you drafted him to be your first or second running back. But for those who drafted in mid-August and took Hunt as a fourth or fifth back, it’s well worth considering.
After David Johnson suffered an injury that could cost him a good chunk of the year, his owners are likely scrambling for a replacement. Hunt has the potential to finish as a top-five fantasy scorer. So you certainly shouldn’t trade him for pennies on the dollar. But if you can fetch a king’s ransom for him, and have running back depth to spare, then it’s well worth considering.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
C.J. Anderson became a hot fantasy commodity after a torrid eight-game stretch in 2014. In fact, the Broncos back emerged as a consensus top-10 pick heading into the next season. But two disappointing seasons in a row have dropped him back into the RB3 tier. Anderson has had his moments, but injuries and maddening inconsistency have made him frustrating for owners.
Between 2015-16, Anderson missed 10 games. He’s been hit-or-miss in the 22 games he has played. Anderson exceeded 70 rushing yards in seven games. In the other 15, however, he fell below the 60-yard threshold. In other words, Anderson has enough strong games to remain on fantasy radars, but enough bad ones to frustrate owners who start him in a given week.
Fortunately, Anderson is coming off one of his better outings. He had a 20-carry, 81-yard showing against the Los Angeles Chargers. With his reputation, he won’t fetch the same sort of return as the more promising Hunt. But a David Johnson owner in search of a starting runner would probably part with some valuable asset(s) all the same.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, WRs, Minnesota Vikings
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen both had solid 2016 campaigns. In fact, each wideout posted over 900 yards. With quarterback Sam Bradford a year more comfortable in the offense, both have 1,000-yard potential. But neither’s trade value is likely to get any higher than it is right now.
Diggs (seven receptions, 93 yards, two touchdowns) and Thielen (nine receptions, 157 yards) both looked like No. 1 targets during Monday night’s victory over the New Orleans Saints. But let’s spotlight the opponent for a moment. New Orleans had a historically bad pass defense in 2015 and ranked last in the league in the category again in 2016. Based on Bradford’s 27-of-32, 346-yard, three-touchdown performance on Monday, things aren’t looking up much for the Saints secondary.
That’s not to say Diggs and Thielen won’t have fantasy value for the remainder of this year. Each is a solid starting option with a reasonably high floor. But they won’t sustain the level of excellence they showed in Week 1. If you can find an owner who thinks they will, now’s the time to pounce.
Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Austin Hooper finished 2016 ranked seventh on his own team in terms of receiving yardage, between Aldrick Robinson and Levine Toilolo. After Week 1 of this season, he’s Atlanta’s leading receiver. Yes, even ahead of Julio Jones. Of course, nobody’s expecting to keep up — but Hooper did show reason to believe he’ll be a bigger part of the Atlanta offense in ’17.
The second-year tight end had 128 receiving yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He did this on just two catches — a 40-yard grab and an 88-yard score. Hooper punctuated both plays with filthy stiff arms. If he doesn’t catch another pass this season, he at least has a couple of nice highlights already. But make no mistake, the second-year pro does figure to enjoy a larger role in this potent Atlanta offense.
Just how big a role remains to be seen. After all, he’s still vying for touches with Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. His big-play potential makes him a threat to go off any given week, but consistent production is much harder to guarantee. With that in mind, use the highlights he produced in Week 1 and the potent offense that utilizes him, to sell Hooper to someone who decided to wait and grab a Hunter Henry or Eric Ebron.
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