The NFL trade deadline could not go quietly into the night, this year, as the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills swung a deal at the 11th hour to send Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo in exchange for third- and seventh-round draft picks. With that formality, let's quickly look at the fantasy implications.
First off, this is bad news for Cam Newton's upside. Devin Funchess has been solid this year, but now the Panthers have no true No. 1 receiving option, as Greg Olsen remains sidelined until roughly Week 12. Funchess will likely see a bump in passing volume, but it'll be up to veteran journeyman Russell Shephard and rookie Curtis Samuel to fill in more of the void. Shephard has played far more than Samuel recently but has spent most of his time in the slot (69 percent). He did play predominantly on the outside last year in Tampa Bay, though, which is why it'd stand to reason that he is the more likely candidate as the "next man up" over Samuel, who converted to wideout from running back this past year. All of this combined with Newton's recent struggles (fewer than 13 fantasy points in each of last two games) really sullies his outlook in the coming weeks. He does still get Green Bay and Tampa Bay at home in the fantasy playoffs, though, so keep an eye on him if he ends up on the waiver wire in your league.
The Bills desperately needed help in the pass-catching department. After eight weeks the team's leader in targets and receptions is LeSean McCoy, with the injured Charles Clay holding a slight edge over Shady in yardage (258 to 242). Rookie Zay Jones has been struggling mightily (to put it nicely) hauling in just 10 of 37 targets for 115 yards. Kelvin Benjamin will give the team a big target in the red zone and a semi-reliable chain mover. This is excellent news for Tyrod Taylor, who'd been having to make plays with his legs all too often. For Benjamin, his volume will likely come down (the Bills attempt roughly six fewer passes per game), but he should be the primary target here. I'd consider him a flex option moving forward, though he could be tough to trust this week considering his first game with the Bills is TWO DAYS after he gets traded to the team (at NYJ on Thursday night). We weren't chasing any of the other Bills pass-catchers in fantasy, so there's no reason to discuss any sort of trickle-down effect. If Taylor and Benjamin can get acquainted quickly, they do have some nice matchups on the horizon with the Saints, Chiefs, Patriots (twice), Colts and Dolphins all on the slate. It could be worth exploring buy-low offers for Benjamin if his owner is salty after the trade.