The Read Option


Not hyperbole: the 2017 NFL trade deadline was the most exciting trade deadline in NFL history. Even as a few big trade rumors failed to come to fruition1 there was a flurry of activity including two trades – Jay Ajayi to the Eagles and Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills – that came out of nowhere and that could prove to be very meaningful to the remainder of both the NFL and fantasy football seasons.

In light of all this game changing activity, our team of analysts set out to determine which trades were the best, which trades were the worst and which trades they wanted to see happen but didn’t.


Best Trade: Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco
Remember when San Francisco went, like, a century without ever having to worry about their quarterbacks? Well, that’s not the case anymore. Since 2004, the 49ers have had 13 different starting quarterbacks and only Alex Smith and Colin “Somehow I’m Still Not On A Team” Kaepernick have played an entire season for them in that span of time. Queue Jimmy. He might only have a total of 94 passes attempted in the NFL, but he’s already proven he’s a better option than the Blaine Gabberts, J.T. O’Sullivans and Trent Dilfers of the world. Holy God they’ve had some bad quarterbacks.

Worst Trade: Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo
Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has all the talent in the world, but never seems to be, well, good. He finished last year as the eleventh ranked QB in fantasy scoring. And when Jordan Matthews went down early last month, things weren’t looking good for his 2017 prospects. But with the addition of Benjamin, Taylor’s got another deep threat that can complement Zay Jones’s speed and Brandon Tate’s random exceptional playmaking. The problem here is that the Bills don’t throw the ball often enough to give Benjamin any real opportunity. Buffalo ranks 9th in the NFL in pass yards per game and 0th in pass plays. Benjamin has talent but the Bills might not be able to capitalize on it.

Wish List: Martavis Bryant to any other team
Let’s face it, everyone is #TeamJuJu in the Bryant-JuJu dust-up, and clearly Bryant is feeling the heat. He missed last week’s game against the Detroit Lions and Smith-Schuster put on a show. Dude caught 7 balls for 193 yards, scored a touchdown, and won everyone’s heart with his heartwrenching stolen bike fiasco.


A post shared by JuJu Smith-Schuster (@juju) on

All things considered, Bryant’s looking like he’s gonna lose some targets going forward. He would have been much better served had he been moved to a team in need of a speedy deep threat. But who needs that?


Best Trade: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
Every week I write about the dumb things that happen in the NFL so naturally when I learned that the Cleveland Browns – the NFL’s foremost experts in incompetence – had botched a trade by fucking up the required paperwork, well, it just made my day. Part of what makes this disaster so spectacular is that not executing the deal – i.e. an absolute failure to complete Cleveland’s objective – is probably the best possible outcome for the Browns as far as roster construction is concerned. Sure McCarron looked pretty good in his extremely limited Bengals appearances, but he was playing behind a great line and surrounded by a ton of weapons. That’s, um, not the situation in Cleveland. And while McCarron – a former fifth round pick – would have been playing on a restricted tender next year, the second and third round draft picks Cleveland had planned to give up to get him would have been playing on, bear with me here, rookie contracts. I’ll take my chances with the rookies.

Worst Trade: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
Can we go back to the part where Cleveland lost out on this trade because they failed to execute basic league requirements? Then they appealed for an exception and were denied? It’s one thing to try and fail at acquiring a superstar but this is not that. McCarron is far from a sure thing – Cleveland’s long pursuit of Jimmy Garoppolo indicates that McCarron wasn’t even their first choice – but that they tried so hard to get him and then celebrated so much once they thought they had…I mean, this is pretty bleak for Cleveland. After decades of misery, they didn’t have much respectability to lose but what little they had is certainly gone now.

Wish List: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
There is nothing left to wish for. This debacle has everything I could ever want in an NFL trade: a flailing team desperately trying to trade valuable assets for an unknown quantity, an entire organization spiraling into self-parody and front office nerds celebrating so hard that they forget to do their paperwork. Front office nerds love their paperwork! It’s practically their defining characteristic. Think about how hard those nerds must have been celebrating! And still, however boisterous the Browns’ brouhaha, however fabulous their fete, know that their celebration paled in comparison to my unquenchable glee when I heard this ridiculous-ass story. Thank God for the Browns.


Best Trade: Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco
The 49ers – a QB black hole this year – acquire a clear cut #1 QB that has been waiting patiently behind the GOAT, Tom Brady. Jimmy G brings a spark to the Bay Area and this move will attract free agent weapons in the upcoming offseason. The 49ers were able to finally solidify this position of need and Garoppolo’s arrival should allow them to get back on their feet sooner rather than later.

Worst Trade: Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia
Ajayi was a disturbance in the Dolphins locker room and the franchise promptly sent him packing. Now, Ajayi is running behind an offensive line that has lost LT Jason Peters for the season. Ajayi will have to split carries with LeGarrette Blount and doesn’t offer much in the versatile passing scheme that the Eagles have flourished with this season.

Wish List: Jarvis Landry to a competent offense
Honestly, I would’ve like to have seen Jarvis Landry sent to a team that is willing to expand upon his skill set. Without Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins have had major issues at the QB position. Jay Cutler and Matt Moore simply have not been able to funnel the ball to Landry and his average YPC is a measly 8.0. Landry would’ve been a nice addition to any team in the playoff hunt and could’ve blown up even more in a pass heavy system. Instead, his value remains stagnant as he’s stuck in this anemic Miami offense.


Best Trade: Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo
I know, I know. This is such a 2015 pick. However, the Buffalo Bills are a top 10 red zone team this year without a true number one receiver. Perhaps Benjamin will enjoy a resurgence on a team that has actually been able to move the ball pretty well despite a lack of star power outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor, for all the criticism he receives, is actually a better of a passer than Cam Newton in terms of air yards per completion and AYD.2 Assuming he gets healthy, Benjamin instantly becomes the big playmaking number one receiver the Bills have needed.

Worst Trade: Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia
Jay Ajayi is a volume running back. In 2016, when Ajayi broke out, he averaged 18.6 rush attempts per game in a lead back role. He’s not going to get that in Philadelphia with LeGarrette Blount playing as well as he is. Had Ajayi been traded in the offseason, I would have liked this trade a lot more. Assuming he does take the lead role from Blount, he’ll be facing eight in the box around 35% of the time3 which is an awful lot higher than the 22% Ajayi saw in 2016.

Wish List: T.Y. Hilton to a team with a quarterback
I selfishly want this because I drafted Hilton with the anticipation that he’d get Andrew Luck back at some point. Alas, Luck is done for the year and Hilton is stuck with Jacoby Brissett passing to him. If last year’s leader in reception yards could have gotten traded to a team like New Orleans, Seattle or Kansas City he could have re-established himself as one of the better wide receivers in the league. That didn’t happen and now we’re stuck with another half season of Hilton chasing down errant passes and failing to put up the type of numbers he’s capable of.

Alex Schillinger: I think the response to Amari Cooper’s 2017 season has been a collective, “What the fuck?” In his first two seasons as a pro, Cooper caught over 150 balls for over 2,100 yards while pulling down 11 TDs. But this year…this year he’s been plain awful.

Mike Bergsman: Awful is an understatement. The crazy thing is he’s actually not been good for quite a while. His last game over 100 yards receiving was in Week 8 of last year. So it’s been 13 games played, and almost a year in real time, since Cooper last broke 100 yards. That’s nuts. Since that last big game, he’s amassed 44 receptions for 484 yards and four touchdowns. That’s only worth 8.95 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues! There’s only one logical conclusion here. Amari Cooper is past his prime. He’s getting old and he just can’t do what he used–wait…he’s only 23? Okay maybe that’s not it.

Alex: It’s not like he doesn’t have skill. He’s proven he can be one of the top fantasy WRs in the league. He’s got character, a strong work ethic and no real injuries.1 Sure he’s dropped a few balls but, c’mon, that can’t be his only issue, can it? He’s not even getting targeted in the first place. Wait…

Look, I know I’m not the numbers guy here but I did some digging. Oakland is averaging seven fewer passing attempts per game than they did last year. My guess: it’s because of their (suddenly, surprisingly) piss poor line. Right now, they are on pace to allow more than twice as many sacks than they did all of last season. That’s disastrous and it’s not like the running game is helping them out at all either. They’re averaging a pedestrian2 4.2 yards per attempt and 30 yards per game fewer than what they ground out3 last year. Honestly, I don’t know that Cooper is the problem…the Raiders kinda suck.

Mike: You’re definitely onto something with the whole Raiders-sucking concept and the numbers back you up. Cooper’s getting targeted 6.6 times per week in 2017, compared to 8.2 per game in 2016. Looking back to Week 9 in 2016, across that miserable 13-game stretch, he’s averaged 6.5 targets per game. That’s really low usage and it’s been going on long enough to suggest that no change is imminent. As a point of reference, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins, number one and two in targets so far this year, have been targeted 12.8 and 12.2 targets per game, respectively.

Cooper has been targeted outrageously little in the last 13 games but even when he has been targeted, he’s been ineffective, catching only 52.3% of the passes thrown his way. Hopkins has a catch rate of 57.3% with Brown at 62.5%. Is this another Raiders-sucking problem? Well, Raiders wideout Michael Crabtree is catching 79.1% of catches so far this year meaning this one falls squarely on Cooper.

This feels insane to say but here we are: Cooper is not even worth starting as a flex option at this point in what has been an unbelievably bad stretch for him. Even worse, it’s hard to imagine him turning things around given his porous offensive line, poor QB play,4 and lack of a running game. With that being said, he’s still got all that talent that made him so great in the past and his owner is probably dying to give him away. He could be worth a flyer as a trade target if you’re willing to take on some risk.

Maybe I’m not being fair. You drafted him; what do you think , Gollumpus?

Alex: I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s not worth keeping him on your roster. He’s still the top WR on a team that’s not the Cleveland Browns. That still counts for something. Sure, he’s getting hounded by the press about his abissmal hands which, you know, is never good, but I don’t think he’s done for just yet. He’ll do fine this year once Carr is back to 100%. I say that this year-long slump is mostly bad luck and worse circumstance. He’s due to bounce back soon enough, so I think Cooper’s still a good Flex play going forward.

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Can Kareem Hunt keep this up?”

Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
2017 : 3 GP | 401 yds | 9 rec | 137 yds | 6 Total TDs

Alex Schillinger: Kareem Hunt didn’t exactly have the best start to his professional career: he fumbled his very first NFL carry. After that, though, he’s been pretty much flawless with 392 yards (on 46 carries) and four rushing TDs to go with a pair of receiving TDs. The Toledo alum has worked his way onto 100% of the rosters in ESPN leagues and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But the question remains, is it even possible for the rookie to keep up this pace?

Mike Bergsman: You mean, a pace of 2,138 yards rushing, 731 yards receiving, 32 touchdowns, and 48 receptions? A pace that equates to an average of 32.3 PPG and 516 total fantasy points, shattering every record ever, and probably inserting himself into the Hall of Fame based on one year alone? Absolutely not.

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is Tom Brady worth it?”

Tom Brady – New England Patriots
2016: 12 GP | 67.4 Comp % | 3,554 yds | 28 TDs

Alex Schillinger: We get it Tom. You’ve proven that you’re the best quarterback in the game…again. You currently rank in the top four all-time in wins, passing yards, passing touchdowns and a bunch of other stuff. Oh, and to top it all off, you’re married to one of the most beautiful women in the world, and you’ve got your next career all lined up: Hollywood, here comes your next leading man.

But none of that matters now. Not on the gridiron.1 No, what matters here is whether or not Tom Brady is worth the cost he’s going to demand in this year’s fantasy drafts. Right now, his ADP among QBs is 2nd and he’s the 3rd overall player off the board. In auction leagues, he’s going for $22 on average. No way is he, or any other QB for that matter, worth that much.2

Mike Bergsman: The thing is, Brady has so much cache that people are actually going to pay that much for him or draft him in the third or fourth round. People are dumb. Now, while I do think Brady is legitimately the best QB ever, I absolutely would not draft him for that much or that early. That’s not a knock on him as much as it is me just not being a moron.

While we can both agree Brady isn’t that valuable,3 he’s still going to be one of the best fantasy QBs in the league, right? Homeboy just added Brandin Cooks as a deep threat to join the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman,4 James White, Dion Lewis, Dwayne Allen, and Danny Amendola. Also, he made this. Yeah, that’s a $200 cookbook. George Foreman ain’t got nothin’ on TB12.

Alex: Seriously, $200 for a cookbook gives me just enough cause to not draft this guy regardless of how well he performs on the field. That said, I still wouldn’t draft him, even if he is the world’s greatest QB5 and sold his cookbook for a more reasonable $29.99.

That might sound like crazy talk, but hear me out. Brady nearly always finishes in the top five in fantasy scoring, but he’s only finished in the top 3 in scoring four times in his entire career. Granted, that’s still pretty good, but it’s not $22 good, it’s not even $10 good. And there’s no way he’s going for anything less than that. What about you, would you spend more than $10 on your GOAT?

Mike: To answer your question, no. I would not spend $10 or more on a goat man.

As seen in the groundbreaking – neigh, revolutionary! – statistic introduced here, very seldomly do quarterbacks provide the kind of value that other positions do. I can’t justify spending a large amount of precious draft capital on someone who will only get me a couple of more points per game than a low-tier QB.

I’d rather spend an early pick or a high percentage of my draft dollars on guys who far outperform their peers.

Alex: We’re in complete agreement here. I hate it when that happens. But it’s instructive: no matter how good a QB is, he’s just not worth more than $4, which is exactly where I have Mr. Gisele Bundchen. If I’m snake drafting, I’m taking him well after I’ve found my starting WRs and RBs and maybe even my TE.

Mike: So basically, what both of us are saying is, “Fuck Tom Brady and his four minute 40 time.” Also, Tom Brady is the man and I want his life. Both can be true. However, don’t go overboard spending a significant amount of draft dollars or an early draft pick on any QB, ever. You can get a serviceable QB in later rounds, whereas you will not find a value-producing RB or WR in later rounds. At least, not without a healthy dose of luck.

Alex: I feel like we can’t go out on that note…so here’s more of Tom doing what he does second best.

You know how you prep all summer for your auction draft and go in knowing exactly who you’re going to draft and how much you’re going to spend on them? Of course you do. And you know how, once the draft actually begins, you get exactly none of those guys at anything close to those prices? Of course you do.

Since their fantasy drafts won’t ever unfold as perfectly as they’d want, we let our writing team indulge their draft fantasies and put together the exact teams that they’d want.1

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”

LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
2016: 16 GP | 299 Carries | 1,161 yds | 18 TDs

Alex Schillinger: There’s no denying it. LeGarrette Blount had a killer year last year. 18 touchdowns?1 Are you kidding me? There isn’t an adjective powerful enough to describe a fantasy year like that. But it wasn’t just that. He topped one thousand yards rushing and he played in all 16 games.2 Look at those numbers! Blount’s a stud, right?

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”

Alshon Jeffery – Philadelphia Eagles
2016: 12 GP | 52 rec | 821 yds | 2 TDs

Alex Schillinger: Sure, there are some red flags. Jeffery is on a new team, in a new system. He’s scored more than seven touchdowns in a season a grand total of one time. He’s had some injury issues in the past, and then there’s that whole illegal performance enhancing drugs suspension thing. There’s reason for concern, is what I’m saying. But he’s got some definite upside too. If you extrapolate out his yardage over a full season, Jeffery would have had over 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last four years.1 He’s on a one-year “prove it” contract, and he’s got something to, you know, prove. Despite those initial red flags, it looks to me like Jeffery’s poised for a strong year. What do your stats say, Mikey?

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”

Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
2016: Did not play (retired)

Mike Bergsman: One of the most interesting storylines of the 2017 season is Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement to play for his hometown Raiders. From 2012 to 2014, Lynch was the top RB in standard fantasy leagues, and despite not having much of a reputation as a receiving back he was still ranked third in PPR leagues, behind noted pass-catchers Matt Forte and Jamaal Charles. That’s a great bit of history but it’s just that: history. After a year off, it’s tough to know how well Lynch will play, especially on a brand new team and in a brand new offense. Will he tear it up like the good ol’ days or go all Steven Jackson on the Falcons?

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Is this guy any good?”

Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
2016: 15 GP | 92 rec | 1,137 yds | 9 TDs

Alex Schillinger: As a Brandin Cooks owner last year in a PPR league, there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t say, “who the fuck is this Michael Thomas guy?”1 By Week 8 it felt like he’d stolen all of Cooks’ points,2 so I started doing some research. Sure Thomas had the measurables. He’s 6’3” and 212 lbs with monster 10.5” hands and a family pedigree at wide receiver that includes former number one overall pick Keyshawn Johnson.3 But could a moderately fast, mid to deep threat, outside option really keep up this pace? Turns out…yes.