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 five 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 6 approaches.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints: Cooks posted a nice looking stat line in Week 5 -- five catches, 107 yards, TD -- which means this is the moment you've been waiting for: The moment you can trade away Cooks. Were it not for a garbage time touchdown as time expired, Cooks would have finished with yet another disappointing stat line. On the season, Cooks has been a picture of fantasy inefficiency. He's played on 89 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps, yet has scored a mere 38.2 fantasy points. For comparison's sake, Willie Snead has only seen the field for 54 percent of the offensive snaps, yet has scored more fantasy points than Cooks (42.1). Cooks also isn't getting it done when he gets targeted either, posting a dreadful .96 fantasy points per target average (fourth lowest among the top 30 WRs), and if you take away his last-second touchdown in Week 5, only Demaryius Thomas is averaging fewer fantasy points per target. All told, Cooks is a fantasy asset you want to part with as soon as possible. His stock might not get higher than it is now, so see if you can spin the narrative of Brees returning/Cooks' outburst to lure a league-mate into taking Cooks off your hands.
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos: For my full takedown on why you need to get away from Manning ASAP, head here. However, I'll hit the highlights in this space as well. Manning has struggled mightily this season, posting three single-digit fantasy outings in five games -- he only posted three such outings over the previous two seasons. His arm strength and mobility are diminished, and both will likely only get worse as the season gets longer and the weather gets colder. He has no running game to lean on behind a patchwork offensive line, and will continue to hurl more pass attempts than he should (he's already on pace for north of 600) with brutal inefficiency. I'm of the mind that it's not even crazy to just drop Manning outright, but given his name value alone you should be able to move him in a trade in the coming weeks. Even if Manning's name only nets you a backup/rotational running back or wide receiver, I'd still do it. It's time to let the Sheriff ride off into the sunset after a remarkable fantasy (and NFL) career. Just let him do so for someone else's squad.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: I think Megatron can still salvage something out of this season that is rapidly slipping away from the Lions. He's too talented not too. However, when he actually is able to produce will be tough to predict, as the Lions offense is a worse disaster than that earthquake The Rock is trying to save people from in "San Andreas." Megatron has a plus-matchup this weekend when the Chicago Bears come to town, so you may want to hold off a week before sending out trade offers involving him. He could make a splash against the porous Chicago secondary, which would give you more sway on the trading table. Either way, it'll be a frustrating game the rest of the season waiting for Megatron to produce. Use his name and a hopefully solid outing next week to return maximum value.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers: If you invested a first-round pick in the bruising back out of Green Bay, you've likely been disappointed thus far. Lacy played as expected in Week 1, but an ankle injury in Week 2 has limited his touches, burst and fantasy output over the last three weeks. Lacy isn't alone in his struggles though, as the entire Packers offense has been lackluster since trouncing the Chiefs in Week 3. That's why this is the perfect opportunity to try and swing a deal for the Gouda Buddha. Lacy is a talented back who is still averaging 4.1 yards per carry despite his injury. Also, in his young career he's performed better as the season has worn on. Over the last two seasons, 76 percent of his fantasy scoring has come in games seven through 16. Now, that's not the most indicative of stats, as Lacy was injured to start both of these years, but my point is we've seen this before with the big guy -- and the result (sixth place fantasy finish among RBs in 2013 and 2014). Right now, the Packers offense isn't getting it done at the prolific levels we're accustomed to, and part of that undoubtedly comes from not having a fully healthy Lacy. He has a nice matchup this weekend against the Chargers, and then goes on his bye. I'd be trying to acquire him before Sunday in case he has a nice outing against the Bolts, who are allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs. The Packers offense is too good to stay average much longer, and once they start thumping opposing defenses again Lacy will be a big reason why. Any time you can buy low on a key part of one of the NFL's top offenses, you do so. Try to get him on your roster now and ride him throughout the fantasy postseason.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Aside from his 34.7-point drubbing of the Ravens in Week 3, Green has had a rather pedestrian start to the season, averaging just 8.2 fantasy points per game in his other four contests. Part of that has to do with the Bengals having a wealth of weapons on offense, but that's also partly due to a few fluky plays -- Green dropped a wide open touchdown in the end zone in Week 1, and had a loooong touchdown called back last week on a questionable holding call. His owner might be souring on Green a little bit after watching Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones et al dancing in the paint in recent weeks, which is why I'd advise trying to target Green in trades. He's still the fourth-highest scoring wideout in fantasy so far this season, so you'll have to give up some decent pieces to get him. But the return could be massive for your fantasy team down the stretch, as Green faces Pittsburgh and San Francisco in the first two weeks of the fantasy playoffs, before a tough matchup against the Broncos.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles:DeMarco Murray climbed his way into the top scoring fantasy backs after a solid outing last week (25th in standard), but Mathews is right behind him (27th). Why I'm advocating trading for Mathews, is because of the two runners the former Charger has looked more explosive, like a better fit for the offense, and has been the more efficient of the two from a fantasy perspective. Mathews ranks 15th among all running backs with 0.837 fantasy points per touch, while Murray is all the way down at 37th with an unspectacular 0.627 FPPT average. Murray definitely looks slower this year than his 2014 campaign, and given his heavy workload in that run, he's still a risk to get injured. Mathews might come with a bit higher of a price tag now after posting 15.6 fantasy points last week, but trying to stash him on your bench could prove to be one of the savviest moves of the season. The Eagles offense is starting to get going, which will raise Mathews' value on it's own. However, if he eventually steals more touches from Murray, or the reigning Offensive Player of the Year goes down with another injury, Mathews will have season-winning upside.
I wanted to add a mailbag segment to this column, and 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 6:
While I love Hyde as a player, I would not make this trade. He is suffering from the play of the rest of his offense, as we suspected all offseason. Gore on the otherhand, has slowly been earing a bigger role in his offense that could catch fire in the coming weeks once a healthy Andrew Luck returns to the starting lineup. While I understand the need for some running back help, look to the waiver wire and try to snag Charcandrick West or a different body to fill the void. Or, negotiate a trade where you don't have to give up Gore, who looks destined to finish among the top-20 fantasy backs once again.
Hmmm, this is an interesting one. While I love the notion of trading for Foster before he starts wreaking havoc on opposing defenses, I don't think I'd part ways with both John Brown AND Dez Bryant. Brown has had a slow start to the season, yet still ranks as the WR24 thanks to his consistent yardage totals each week. He's still a candidate for a massive game any week now. Bryant, meanwhile, will be one of the top-five wide receivers once he returns to the field, even if he's catching passes from Brandon Weeden (or Matt Cassel). That's too much of a bounty to sacrifice for Foster.
I haven't been in love with Randle at any point this offseason or season, but I'd absolutely do that trade now that Olsen is returning from his bye week. Plus the Cowboys are apparently willing to give giveChristine Michael some first team reps in practice during their bye week. If Michael's role increases, that means less touches to go around for Randle. Getting a part of a semi-productive committee for a player who will be on your bench more often than not is a solid deal.
How quickly can you hit accept?!? Gurley has a shot to finish in the top-10 running backs in fantasy scoring, despite missing much of the early slate of the season. I did a spit-take when I saw this trade initially. Accept, accept, ACCEPT!
Man, if all of these players are on the same team for you, I apologize. It must have been a rough start to the season. I wanted to address this question as I saw a lot of questions coming in pertaining to these players. The one I absolutely wouldn't trade away is Eddie Lacy, as I detailed above. The rest ... I could absolutely see moving. I'd probably wait and see with Lamar Miller, as he could rebound simply by getting more carries (he only received more than 10 ONCE in the first four games). I love Hill's talent and will probably hold onto him too long in all of the leagues I own him in, but if you can get anything for Jeffery, it isn't crazy to try and move him. He could return and dominate as he did last year, or the hamstring could be a season-long problem. I'm OK with letting that be someone else's headache. As for Kelce, only trade him if you have a serviceable option on the bench as well. Tight end is too volatile to give up someone as talented and in as great of a situation as Kelce.