Multiple players (several stars) and picks traded hands, massively shaking up the fantasy outlook for the wide receiving corps and quarterbacks of all three teams.
Let's take a look:
Three teams were involved in these trades so the fantasy ripple effect is massive. below I'll go team-by-team to assess the impact.
Earlier this offseason the Bills declined Sammy Watkins' fifth-year option on his rookie deal, making this a make-or-break season for the talented but oft-injured star receiver as he'll hit free agency in 2018. So it makes sense then why the team would want to trade him now, as the returns from their deal with the Rams were greater than what they would have received as a compensatory selection.
As for fantasy, the swap of Watkins for Jordan Matthews is not a 1-to-1 move, as they're vastly different players. Matthews plays predominantly in the slot and is more likely a replacement for Robert Woods (signed with the Rams this offseason) than Watkins. In 2016, Matthews played 58 percent of his snaps in the slot, which is also where most of his production came from (84 targets, 54 receptions, 604 yards, two touchdowns). For Buffalo last year, Woods accumulated 54 percent of his targets and 62 percent of his yards from the slot.
This move is also interesting after the Billsjust signed veteran Anquan Boldin, who played 81 percent of his snaps last year in Detroit either in the slot or tight to the line. Matthews will likely lead the team in targets, while Zay Jones will be tasked with providing an outside/deep threat like Watkins used to. This move is a good one for Matthews' fantasy stock as he escapes the crowded Eagles wide receiver room, but it can't be seen as a positive for Tyrod Taylor. With the Bills already featuring a low-volume passing attack (32nd and 31st in the league in pass attempts in the last two years), losing the big-play ability of Watkins depresses Taylor's fantasy ceiling. He'll still be able to rack up points with his legs, but this is bad news for Taylor's late-round quarterback credentials.
Last year, the Eagles featured one of the worst wide receiving corps in the league. Life comes at you fast in the NFL. Now this group is loaded and thanks to the trade, offers more clarity from a fantasy perspective. Alshon Jeffery, the crown jewel of the free agent wide receivers, should no doubt lead this team in targets now. With Matthews out of the picture, Jeffery is the unquestioned No. 1 option. I was previously concerned with his draft price, but now I feel much better about him going in the WR15-20 range. He might even be a bargain.
Daniel Jeremiah's declaration last week that Nelson Agholor -- and not Matthews -- would be the Eagles starting slot receiver seems to be more of a premonition now. Jeremiah spoke to Agholor's evolution as a player and how he was far more dynamic than Matthews in the slot. After disappointing thus far in his career, the former first-round pick could be a trendy sleeper to target later in fantasy drafts. Matthews saw 113 targets last year, and 84 of them came in the slot. Volume might be reduced all around this year for the Eagles, but Agholor is now worth a dart throw.
Speaking of dart throws, Torrey Smith lives to fight another day. It's hard to put too much fantasy stock into him right now after his disappointing year in San Francisco in 2016, but Smith is still just 28. Keep an eye on his role in this revamped passing attack leading up to the season. Zach Ertz will dominate December once again if you're into that sort of thing. personally, I feel there are better, higher upside tight ends to target late than Ertz, including Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, and Coby Fleener. As for Carson Wentz, this is probably a move that has little impact on his outlook. He gets perhaps a slight upgrade in the slot (if Jeremiah's predictions continue to stay true), but overall the Eagles will likely pass less in 2017, putting Wentz in the low-end QB2 range.
Los Angeles Rams
OK, finally, we land in Los Angeles with Watkins. We've spent all offseason wondering how new head coach Sean McVay would shape the Rams offense, and now we're seeing the fruits of his labors. While in Washington, McVay's offenses thrived on having a 1-2 punch at wide receiver with a reliable possession receiver and a dangerous downfield threat. He now seems to have that by reuniting former Bills teammates Robert Woods and Watkins. Woods should be the leader for the possession work, while Watkins will fill the DeSean Jackson role from McVay's Washington offenses.
While this is excellent news for the Rams as a whole and Jared Goff's future (you've got weapons now, kid, time to perform), it's really terrible news for the fantasy prospects of this entire bunch. Watkins went from having breakout potential to now being a massive risk by putting his suspect injury history into the Rams suspect offense. Woods had late-round appeal as a potential target hog, but with Watkins, Cooper Kupp and Tavon Austin all in the mix, his piece of the passing game pie just shrunk significantly. Plus, their fantasy outlooks are tied to the right arm of a quarterback who last year completed just 54.6 percent of his passes for 4.26 adjusted yards per attempt and a touchdown rate of 2.4 percent. I have faith in McVay to invoke some offensive wizardry at times, but right now, it's hard to believe in any sort of magical season for Woods or Watkins in Los Angeles ... unless they make frequent trips to Disneyland