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. With the trade deadline rapidly approaching (Nov. 27th in standard NFL.com fantasy football leagues), time is running out to make a potentially season-saving move. That's what we'll discuss this week and next in "Trade Calls." I've brought back the standard "trade for" and "trade away" segments and also dive into some reader-submitted questions below. If your question didn't get answered in this space, feel free to send it my way on Twitter @AlexGelhar.
Charcandrick West, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Since taking over the starting running back gig after Jamaal Charles' season-ending injury, West has been one of fantasy's top backs. Over his last four games, he's seen 88.5 percent of the backfield touches (21.25 touches/game) -- a reliable week-to-week volume that's actually more than Charles was receiving (19.8 touches/game). And in his last three games, he's made the most of those touches in fantasy, scoring 65.2 fantasy points on 75 touches for an impressive .869 fantasy points per touch. Andy Reid's offenses have historically funneled through the running back position, which is reassuring that West's role and volume won't waiver down the stretch. Addding to his allure as a potential trade target is his fantasy playoff schedule, which features home games against San Diego and Cleveland, and a road contest against Baltimore. The Chargers and Browns bleed points to running backs (.864 FPPT and .698 FPPT respectively), but West doesn't need a good matchup to thrive. He just posted his best game of the year (28.1 fantasy points) against a Denver defense that was among the best in the league at shutting down running backs, only allowing 16.13 fantasy points to the position over the previous four weeks. In fact, his point total was more than any team of rushers had scored against Denver all season. West should be to deliver in each of his playoff matchups and could be a season-winning acquisition.
Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Gore saw a season-high 29 touches last week in Rod Chudzinski's first game as interim offensive coordinator, turning in a 102-yard, one-touchdown performance against the stout Denver defense. Despite the return of Ahmad Bradshaw, this remains Gore's backfield, and the team could turn to him even more down the stretch with Matt Hasselbeck filling in for Andrew Luck for anywhere from two to six weeks. Gore has seen 79.8 percent of the backfield touches since Week 6, and 77.8 percent on the year. He also gets a cushy series of opponents through the fantasy playoffs, with matchups against the Jaguars, Texans and Dolphins. Each of those teams has allowed 20-plus fantasy points per game to opposing rushers and a combined 31 touchdowns to the position. Gore is an excellent target if your team is in need of a safe week-to-week RB2.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Flacco is an easy punching bag during the regular season, as his sometimes erratic play makes people wonder where the clutch postseason quarterback hides from September-January. Well, Flacco has upped his hair game this season, as well as his game on the field -- especially in Baltimore. So far this year, Flacco has averaged 22.1 fantasy points per game on his home turf, as opposed to just 12.32 fppg away from M&T Bank Stadium. Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, Flacco gets home tilts against the Seahawks, Chiefs and Steelers. The Chiefs and Steelers can be beaten through the air, while the Legion of Boom isn't quite as fearsome outside of Seattle. They've allowed 18 or more fantasy points to three signal-callers while on the road this year, and one of them was Nick Foles (who was benched this week for Case Keenum). Flacco could be a sneaky add off of the waivers in some leagues, and a relatively cheap acquisition via trade. His upside in the playoffs makes him every bit worth a stash on your bench for the next few weeks.
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens: Forsett is a very good running back, who simply hasn't been able to get it done in fantasy because he isn't seeing quite enough touches in an offense that revolves around the pass. Three of Forsett's four best fantasy games this season came (not surprisingly) when he saw his most (27), second-most (25) and third-most (24) touches. Since then, he's failed to cross the 20-touch plateau in three straight games, scoring double digit fantasy points in only one of those (thanks to a touchdown). PPR owners might want to hold onto Forsett, as he's seen roughly 4.5 targets per game over his last five contests. Owners in standard leagues might want to consider trading the veteran back before his production begins to sink the value still attached to his name and draft status. Forsett's playoff schedule is brutal as well, as he has to face Seattle, Kansas City and Pittsburgh -- three defenses that are among the top-10 toughest on fantasy running backs, including the top-two toughest (Pittsburgh and Seattle).
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers: If you've read any of my work on NFL.com over the past year, you know I've been a huge fan of JStew, and even advocated trading for him in this space weeks ago before he got hot. Well, looking ahead, now might be the time to sell high on Carolina's feature back. Stewart receives consistent volume in terms of running back/fullback touches, owning 83.7 percent of them since Week 6, and 66.3 percent of the total team rush attempts in that span as well. There are two things working against Stewart as we look ahead: the risk of touchdown vulturing from Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert, and his fantasy playoff matchups. The first part is simple to discern, as for the most part Stewart needs to score from more than 10 yards away, otherwise there's a great chance the goal-line attempt goes to Newton or Tolbert. The second reason is where we must dig a bit deeper. On the surface, Stewart's fantasy postseason schedule -- vs. Falcons, at Giants, at Falcons -- looks great on paper, as those teams both rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs, each conceding 19-plus per game to the position. However, a closer look reveals that 33 percent of the fantasy points allowed by Atlanta and 32 percent by New York have come on receptions by running backs. On the season, Stewart has just eight receptions for 33 yards, good for a measly 3.6 percent of his total fantasy output. The Carolina offense simply does not target Stewart in the passing attack, at all, which won't allow him to take advantage of his upcoming opponent's biggest weaknesses. Atlanta has stiffened up against opposing rushers on the ground, only allowing 3.56 yards per carry, while the Giants are a bit more lax, allowing 4.21 yards per carry. Add all of that together and it puts a decent ceiling on Stewart's fantasy outlook in those contests. He'll need to score from distance to return the RB2 value his owners are expecting when it matters most, and as we've seen this year those plays are hard to come by for a player of Stewart's age and speed. He's a great back, but simply not a home-run hitter. Given his recent run of fantasy scoring, you can likely flip him for a player with more upside down the stretch to an RB-needy team. It'll be hard to say goodbye, but sometimes it's better to cut ties too early rather than too late.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots: While I advocated for Amendola as the week's top waiver wire pickup, I believe Julian Edelman's injury also creates an excellent trading opportunity. Tom Brady came out and said this week that Edelman is too good to simply be replaced by one player (read: Amendola), and he's absolutely right. The offense as a whole will need to adjust, and while Amendola will see an uptick in snaps and targets (and be a solid fantasy contributor), he won't be Julian Edelman 2.0. We saw the same thing happen when Dion Lewis was lost for the season with a torn ACL, as James White and Brandon Bolden combined to form a poor facsimile of one of the NFL's most electric players. Special players simply cannot be 100 percent replaced by their backup, no matter how many times coaches espouse a "next man up" philosophy. However, casual fantasy owners tend to oversimplify things, which is why if you own Amendola or win him off of waivers this week, the Edelman owner in your league might be a little overzealous when it comes to trading for him. Float out an offer and see how what you can get in return for Amendola. The names might just surprise you.
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 11:
I received quite a few inquiries about the dynamic Denver wide receiving duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders this week, given the news that Peyton Manning is battling plantar fasciitis and will cede the starting job to Brock Osweiler, at least for Week 11. I've been advocating trading away the Denver wideouts for a while now, as I've long-feared that Manning's inevitable late-season, cold-weather decline would dampen their value significantly. The jump from Manning to Osweiler isn't encouraging, either, so if you can part ways with them now by all means try. I just can't imagine you'll have that much luck. As for the question above, I like the idea of sending off one of your running backs for a top-end wide receiver, but I would NOT target Thomas and I would honestly consider trying to trade Marshawn Lynch instead of Danny Woodhead. Lynch has a tough upcoming schedule and has been battling injuries all season. Woodhead has a safe week-to-week yardage floor with touchdown upside, and potentially more passing targets coming his way with Malcom Floyd injured.
Oh man, I would veto this trade on your behalf, because this is the equivalent of highway robberty. Dez Bryant and Jeremy Maclin are both in line to see massive shares of their passing attacks the rest of the season, and with Tony Romo possibly returning this week, Dez's value is about to go through the roof. On the flip side, Julio Jones is an amazing player, but has to contend with Josh Norman (the NFL's best shutdown corner this year) twice in the fantasy playoffs. Stand pat with your team, you'll be fine.
Given the players already on your roster, I would absolutely look to move Calvin Johnson, and Latavius Murray is a decent target to seek in return. He's seen a steady volume of touches for Oakland, and while he struggled last week against the Vikings, he should have an easier go of things down the stretch. Any part of the Lions offense worries me, including Megatron. Despite his talent, he's also battling an ankle injury while playing on a bad football team. That's not a winning combination in fantasy.
-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer/editor for NFL.com, and the producer of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. He's trying his best to resist the urge to buy "Star Wars: Battlefront" until after the season. Let him know your thoughts on the game if you've played it on Twitter @AlexGelhar to help tide him over, or spur him to race to the store and buy it.