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." After three weeks of NFL action, some trends are starting to form, while owners' opinions about players are firming up into concrete truths. These are the situations that create profitable trading opportunities, and savvy fantasy owners should try to exploit them.
Let's take a look at some options to trade for and trade away as Week 5 approaches.
Joseph Randle, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Last week in this space, I made a passionate plea for you to deal Randle then. If you did, consider yourself lucky. The task has become slightly more difficult this week. Yes, Randle scored a touchdown in the Cowboys' loss to the Saints, but he was essentially benched after that after nearly fumbling on his touchdown plunge. Head coach Jason Garrett was not thrilled Randle reached for the goal line after the coaches had told Randle that was a dangerous feat to attempt and wanted him to avoid trying it. Randle only saw four totes in the second half, while all of Darren McFaden's carries came post-Randle touchdown (or near fumble). Randle will likely remain the lead back, but excluding his first three carries from last week, Randle has now gained a grand total of 28 yards on his last 22 carries (1.27 ypc average). He's mired in a committee on a team with a bad quarterback and no dynamic weapons in the passing attack for the foreseeable future (more on that later). There's very likely a fantasy iceberg ahead, and you'd be wise to jump ship while the boat is still afloat and there are life boats available.
Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants: There's a trend in the "trade away" section this week, and that's to get the (expletive) out of three-headed backfield committees. Jennings has given you a golden opportunity to flip him in a deal to a RB-needy team. After his splashy stat line in Week 4 (92 total yards, one touchdown), owners who don't watch the Giants on a regular basis might think that this is a sign of Jennings winning the starting role. However, 73 percent of Jennings' fantasy points this week came on his 51-yard touchdown reception that the Bills played horribly. You likely won't be able to flip Jennings on his own, but if you can package him with another asset and move him away from your team, it will make setting your lineup every week infinitely less stressful, sad and painful.
Ronnie Hillman & C.J. Anderson, RBs, Denver Broncos: Last week I argued for buying extremely low on Anderson, as I didn't think he was quite done. And while I still don't think he is done, I think his run as a featured back is. This seems destined to be a 100 percent committee backfield now between him and Hillman, and I think fantasy owners should try to get what they can for Anderosn or Hillman before it's too late. Hillman is a prime example of using the advantage a "nice" box score affords you when trying to trade a struggling player. Hillman has found the end zone in consecutive weeks, and is at worst in a 50-50 split with Anderson for work right now. His value might never reach the heights it is at right now, so this is the perfect time to try and move him. Staying away from these migraine-inducing hydra-esque backfields for the rest of the season is the way to go. If you're able to get Hillman and Anderson out of your fantasy life and rely on other more stable backs, do it now.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: Foster finally returned to the football field this week, but only managed 10 yards on eight carries, 25 yards on three receptions and lost a fumble when he ran into his own lineman. Owners who had been hanging onto him all season and started him are rightfully disappointed. Which has created a window for you to strike and try to trade for Foster before the Texans play the Colts on Thursday night. Foster claims to be 100 percent now, and part of his struggles came as the game script completely got away from the Texans when they fell behind 21-0 early. The team will likely turn to him even more on Thursday now that he's seen the field and survived. There's a good chance Foster makes a big splash against the Colts, too. They just conceded a 105-yard rushing day to T.J. Yeldon, who isn't half the back even a hobbled Foster is. Plus, Foster has owned the Colts in recent years, averaging over 117 rushing yards per game and scoring three touchdowns in his last four games against them. Now, I typically disregard "player X has owned Y team" stats in fantasy, but there are a few reasons I'd get behind this one for Foster. 1) The Colts are a division rival, and familiarity helps breeds more reliable statistics/results (see Jay Cutler vs. Green Bay, for instance), and 2) the Colts have had the same head coach/defensive coordinator during this span. Foster is one of the most talented backs in all of football, and his asking price in a trade likely won't be lower than it is right now. He's coming off of a bad debut on a one-win team in the midst of a quarterback controversy. Strike now if you can.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: As soon as Dez suffered his foot injury, I tried to throw out trades for him and advised you to do the same thing, as the time-table for his return was murky. When it seemed more likely that Bryant would miss close to 12 games, I backed down a bit, but now things could be clearing up. There was a report Monday that claimed the Cowboys think they could see Bryant return to the lineup as early as the team's Week 7 matchup with the New York Giants. This would be a coup for Bryant owners, as he would have returned in roughly half of the at one point 12-week projected recovery time. If you can still make a move for Bryant, try and do so immediately before more positive reports start flowing in about his health. Bryant will be able to succeed with Weeden under center for a few weeks, as Romo could return by Week 11. That would set you up favorably to have gained one of the true elite receivers in the NFL and fantasy football just in time for the fantasy playoffs.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams: Welcome to the party, Mr. Gurley. What a showing that was from the tenth overall pick, dropping a whopping 146 rushing yards on the Cardinals defense on just 19 carries. He became the first rookie drafted in the first round with 100-plus rushing yards in the fourth quarter of a contest since Adrian Peterson in 2007, per NFL Communications. And this was only the beginning. If you can somehow swing a deal for Gurley, do it. He was billed as a transcendent talent coming out of the draft, and we just saw our first glimpse of what he's capable of in the NFL. I wish I'd advised trading for Gurley even earlier, as the cat might be out of the bag now. But there could be owners out there looking to sell high because, you know, the Rams and all. If someone in your league falls into that category, take advantage of their mistake immediately.
BONUS: Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Just a reminder that if you are in need of wide receiver help earlier, Bryant is a fantastic target. When he was in the lineup last season, the team scored 11 more points and had almost 70 more receiving yards per game. Now, obviously that was with Ben Roethlisberger under center, but Mike Vick can still hurl up a YOLO ball with the best of them. Bryant should be able to take advantage of a few. Plus, once Big Ben returns in a few weeks, you'll have a likely top-20 wideout to solidify your roster for the stretch run.