Jonathan Stewart among top mid-season trade targets

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Every game, all season

While drafting smartly and managing the waiver wire are keys to fantasy success, few teams lift up a trophy at season's end without swinging some trades along the way. All season long I'll try to help you figure out when the time is right to trade for and trade away certain players in this weekly series, dubbed "Trade Calls." For this week at least, I'm punting the trade away segment. In my opinion, there weren't many great sell-high candidates, and rather than waste everyone's time by blathering on more about why you should cut ties with Peyton Manning, I'll devote more time to the mailbag portion.

So below are a few players to target in trades as Week 8 approaches, as well as my answers to your mailbag questions.

Trade for:


Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers: Few people were as high on Stewart this offseason as me, so admittedly I was taking it on the chin as he performed poorly in fantasy during the season's first month. Heck, I even cited him as the biggest disappointment in fantasy when we doled out our quarter-season awards earlier this month. So, imagine my surprise (and delight) seeing Stewart post two very solid back-to-back games against two tough run defenses (Seattle, Philadelphia). Those D/STs boasted impressive .488 and .596 fantasy point per touch averages to opposing RBs, the best and fourth-best marks in their respective weeks. Stewart has scored more fantasy points in the last two weeks (33.1) than he did in his first four games combined (24.2), and that's on the back of an increased volume of touches. Coming out of a Week 4 bye, it seemed Carolina wanted to refocus the running game through Stewart, and not its $100 million quarterback. In Weeks 1-4, Stewart saw only 67.8 percent of the backfield rushes, and 45 percent of the total team rush attempts. In Weeks 6 and 7, Stewart saw 88.5 percent of the backfield rushes, and 67 percent of the total team rush attempts. That's a jump of over 20 percent in each regard, which is a HUGE uptick. Stewart has ran the last two weeks the way he ran to close out the season in 2014 -- i.e., extremely well. He has a softer slate of rushing defenses to face for the rest of the season, and with the team putting the ball in his hands more often the sky is the limit for Stewart from here on out. If you can swing a trade for him, do so immediately. Try to use his early-season struggles to your advantage in negotiations, and hope his owner doesn't read this column.

Ryan Mathews, RB Philadelphia Eagles: I argued a few weeks back why you should target Mathews in trades, and I sure hope you listened. After out-performing DeMarco Murray again in primetime in Week 7, Mathews might be a little harder to pry out of his owners hands. Mathews did tweak his groin against the Panthers though, so you could wait until that news surfaces more before trying to swing this trade. However, it has become more and more apparent with each week that Mathews is the better overall fit for Chip Kelly's offense. Murray has his role, and does well between the tackles, but he lacks the speed and lateral agility to make the most of the stretch runs so commonly used by the Eagles. And the proof is in the pudding. Mathews has out-rushed Murray 342 yards to 307 yards on 32 fewer carries (56-88). This has led Mathews to be the far more efficient back with his touches as well, averaging .94 fantasy points per touch compared to .61 for Murray. While Mathews' groin injury is concerning, he's heading into his bye week so he'll have time to heal. And the Eagles will hopefully have time to realize that the offense needs Mathews to see more touches. Use the bye week as a chance to try and target Mathews, as he has league-winning upside if he starts to see a larger share of the Eagles rushing attack down the stretch.

Pro Bowl ballot

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: How badly does Dez want to get back on the field? Well, last week he bought his own plane ticket to New York to be with the team so he could warm up on the field. That's right, since he was still injured he wasn't going to make the trip with the team, but Dez decided otherwise and paid his own way. The guy is raring to go, and I'd hate to be the first cornerback he faces once he gets back on a football field. I don't really have much more analysis or statistics to point to since Bryant hasn't played since Week 1, but if you can find a way to snipe him from one of your leaguemates, do so.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers: I've been writing about targeting Lacy for weeks now, so I'll just remind you that this could be your last chance to get a talented back in an explosive offense for cheap. Last year, Lacy's breakout game came against a Minnesota team that was allowing around 18 fantasy points total to opposing RBs, and Lacy gashed them for 25-plus on his own. The Broncos defense has been great all season but, call it a hunch, this could be just the type of "get right" game Lacy needs. If you believe in his talent and the Green Bay offense at all, try and swing a deal for the big back before he breaks out of his slump.

Mailbag:


As is the case every week, I received an overwhelming number of trade questions when I put out the call on Twitter. Apologies if I didn't get to yours in this space or on Twitter. Send me another tweet later this week (when my mentions aren't on fire) and I'll try my best to get to as many as possible. For now, here are some of the most interesting questions I received for Week 8:

I really liked this question, as this is how I tend to work trades. I ideally work from a position of strength on my own team to target other players to improve my roster as a whole (not a revolutionary approach, I know, but you'd be surprised at some of the trade questions I get). This trade is solid, but I honestly would aim a bit higher than Giovani Bernard for Antonio Gates. Maybe Chris Ivory's owner needs a TE? If not, Bernard would be a great get in exchange for Gates with you already having Gronk on your roster.

If you're giving up Demaryius Thomas and Mark Ingram, I'd do this trade in a heartbeat. DT has been one of the least efficient wide receivers in fantasy on a points per target basis, as Peyton Manning simply hasn't been able to push the ball downfield accurately, and Thomas has suffered through some bad drops of his own. Ingram has been great, but is a risk to have scores and touches vultured every week thanks to the likes of Khiry Robinson and C.J. Spiller lurking on the bench. Evans has struggled to start the year, and will have bad games, but he's finally healthy and is the perfect wide receiver for Jameis Winston. Todd Gurley is a transcendent talent. I think you might have to offer up more, but if the other owner accepts this trade you should jump for joy.

Sorry to hear about your luck with losing both Jamaal Charles and Arian Foster, that's a tough break. However, I think you're spot on in your trade targets. As you can see above, I argued rather passionately to try and trade for Stewart, while Charcandrick West (I'm assuming that's who you meant, as there's no J. West in the NFL) is also a good target. Plenty of owners jumped ship on West after he struggled in his first start, but he bounced back well last week and owned almost 85 percent of the backfield carries and over 50 percent of the red zone touches (h/t @DrewDrinkmeyer). I think it'll be hard to get both for Evans alone, but float that out and see what you can do in terms of negotiating.

As long as you have another stable QB option, absolutely. Matt Ryan has been riding on an unnecessarily high reputation for years, especially in fantasy, when the truth is he's a slightly above-average NFL quarterback. He's had as many multi-interception games this year as multi-touchdown games (three a piece) and has failed to score more than 18 fantasy points in four of his seven contests. Yeldon is a nice RB3/flex play based purely on volume, so I like him as a target for Ryan. Hopefully you can lure this leaguemate into this trade on Ryan's name value, as his actual fantasy value is not as high as most think. You could just as capably get by streaming the quarterback position the rest of the way instead of holding onto Ryan, too.

I'm all for targeting Eddie Lacy in trades ... just not at the expense of Lamar Miller. We're finally seeing the Miller we thought we would all season, thanks to interim head coah Dan Campbell actually giving him the football. Miller is poised to continue this hot streak, and while I believe Lacy can turn it around, you'd be foolish to give up Miller for him.

If you're giving up Justin Forsett and Eric Decker for Latavius Murray and DeMarco Murray, I would stop immediately. Decker and Forsett are talented football players with clear roles in their offenses. Latty Murray has been benched in a few games for ineffectiveness and injuries, while DeMarco has been out performed by his "backup." If you're going to part ways with the likes of Decker/Forsett, make sure you're getting something of at least equal or better value in return. Trading them away for L. Murray and D. Murray would be ill-advised.

So it sounds like you really want Todd Gurley? OK, that's not a bad proposition, though I would have a hard time parting ways with Odell Beckham or Rob Gronkowski for the likes of Gurley. That being said, if you can in fact make that second trade happen, I'd say go for it. You'd be the clear winner giving up Christine Michael and Tavon Austin in exchange for DeMarco Murray and Julius Thomas (taking the Gronk for Gurley out of it). But still ... I'd personally have a very hard time trading away Gronk, but that might just be me.

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang discusses the Arian Foster injury fallout, looks ahead at Week 8 waiver wire targets, and recaps the thrilling Baltimore-Arizona game. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer/editor for NFL.com, and the producer of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. Hit him up on Twitter @AlexGelhar for movie recommendations or fantasy advice.

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