While drafting smart and managing the waiver wire are keys to fantasy success, few teams lift up a trophy at season's end without swinging a few 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." Right now, the trade waters are a bit rough as we've yet to see any of these players in a real NFL game that they've truly schemed or prepared for. However, there has been enough movement in various areas where several players are being over or undervalued, creating potentially profitable trading opportunities.
Let's take a look.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills: McCoy has been a fantastic player for several years now, but there are reasons to be skeptical about his fantasy production this season. He has left the comfy confines of Chip Kelly's offense that finished first and 13th in offensive plays ran in his first two years, and landed in Greg Roman's offense that has finished 27th on average in plays ran over the last three years . McCoy was also a less effective runner last year than we'd previously seen, suffering from happy feet that carried over into this preseason (albeit, this is coming from the small glimpses we saw). There's also the fact that he's playing behind a lesser offensive line, too, and has already been injured (toe, hamstring) this offseason. Now, could McCoy still post a top-10 RB year in Rex Ryan's ground-and-pound attack? Sure. However, given the news today that McCoy will be starting in Week 1 for the Bills, his stock has risen immensely in the eyes of the average fantasy player who might rely more on name recognition than in-depth research. You can likely flip McCoy for a couple younger, more valuable assets to get a nice return on your investment and not have to worry about a lackluster season.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions: Recovering from knee and achilles injuries, Bell didn't play a snap all preseason, which allowed rookies Ameer Abdullah and Zach Zenner to shine. However, with Bell now healthy, the team has listed him as their Week 1 starter. If you landed Bell later in drafts, this is the time to try and trade him to a running back-needy team in your league. Bell has been great for a few years in Detroit, but has all of the red flags that typically come with a running back set to decline in production: He's closing in on 30 years old, coming off a series of injuries, and the team just invested heavily (a second-round pick) in a potential replacement (Abdullah). You probably won't be able to find a king's ransom in return for Bell, but if you have the depth at RB and can send him off for a high-upside WR, or package Bell in a larger deal, it's definitely worth considering.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Newton, like McCoy, is another name fantasy player whose stock has taken a hit. The loss of Kelvin Benjamin was severe, as the team will now be starting Philly Brown and Ted Ginn Jr. at wide receiver, with rookie Devin Funchess playing a big role as well. That is not a unit that inspires a lot of confidence. Optimists will argue that Superman's running ability could keep his fantasy value high, and that is true. During the final four weeks of the season -- all wins -- the Panthers ran the ball on 55 percent of their offensive plays, as opposed to just 41 percent from Weeks 1 through 13. Cam played in three of those final four games, and if you toss in his two playoff games with those starts he averaged 9.6 rushing attempts per game. However, most of the run-first focus in 2015 will likely fall on the shoulders of Jonathan Stewart, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry during that span and enters the season fully healthy and with no one else competing for significant carries. All of this isn't to say that Newton is going to plummet this year in fantasy, but given his name recognition and upside, he represents an ideal trade bait to throw out there given the amount of viable starting quarterbacks on the waiver wire or other teams' benches. If you can flip Newton for a few high-upside assets and manage to get someone like Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford or Carson Palmer as your QB1, you'll come out ahead in this trade.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions: While Abdullah figures to be mired in a committee situation to start the season with Bell and Zenner, it's clear he's far and away the most talented runner in this backfield. And when targeting early-season trade options, you always want to go for the best combination of youth/talent/upside, and there's no greater target right now than Abdullah. His owner in your league might have soured on the Nebraska product a bit given Bell's return to the active roster and Zenner's splashy late preseason play. This is when you need to jump at the chance to acquire Abdullah before he starts ripping off explosive plays like in the video to the right ... only against regular season competition.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Bryant was one of the offseason's biggest fantasy darlings, but a four-game suspension to start the season will likely have his owners fretting over what to do with the talented young wideout. This is when you can strike to gain tremendous late-season value for your fantasy squad. Bryant finished 42nd in fantasy scoring among wide receivers, despite not seeing a snap until Week 7 and also receiving far fewer snaps than Markus Wheaton. While Wheaton has a chance of holding off Bryant with a strong early-season performance, Bryant should immediately slot back into a major role in this offense come Week 5. If you have depth elsewhere, use that to target Bryant and get him on your squad. His arrival in the Pittsburgh offense last year resulted in roughly 70 more passing yards per game and almost doubled Ben Roethlisberger's per-game touchdown output. That's the kind of spark you want to give your fantasy lineup midseason.
Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: I'm fully on the Sam Bradford hype-train, and have been for some time now. But if you want to get on board, do it before Week 1. Bradford and the Eagles offense could be involved in a shootout Week 1 in Atlanta, which will raise his stock significantly (assuming DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews don't run all of the touchdowns in). Bradford appears to be a perfect fit for Kelly's system, and before you come at me in the comments or on Twitter, yes, he's been injured. But newsflash, this is the NFL. Injuries happen. Operating your team out of fear for the spectre of injuries is a surefire way to miss the fantasy postseason, especially when said fear stears you clear of obvious value plays like Bradford. If you can trade for Bradford with an owner who is leery of his admittedly long injury history, move to acquire the signal-caller immediately.
In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang previewed Thursday night's NFL season opener between the Patriots and Steelers and reacted to the rash of roster moves from over the weekend. They also answered some of your burning fantasy questions via the mailbag. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!