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Week 3 Fantasy Football Trade Targets: Acquire Austin Ekeler, Sell the Commanders

A sobering, yet necessary view of the fantasy landscape is best to not overvalue or undervalue the trendy players of the moment.

Trade value in the world of fantasy football is a fickle thing.

Constantly updating injury news, suspensions (I'm looking at you, Mike Evans), slumps and hot streaks can depress or improve player perception weekly. This allows you to extract value from opposing teams and unload over-performing players on your squad.

Beyond aggressively hitting the waiver wire, trading is the best way to upgrade your roster midseason. There's, of course, the inherent risk in doing so. Managers had every right to be disappointed with Jonathan Taylor's production through three weeks a season ago. Then he went on to lead the league in touchdowns en route to an RB1 campaign.

It goes without saying you don’t want to trade away the next Taylor—you want to trade for them, ideally in exchange for some players who are perhaps punching above their weight.

Two weeks of games isn’t a huge sample size, but it presents a more complete picture than we had to go off a week ago. That said, here are the buy and sell candidates heading into Week 3.

Buy Targets

RB Austin Ekeler, Chargers

Ekeler has been just fine through two games, and therein lies the problem. He wasn't drafted in the first half of the first round, ahead of world beaters like Cooper Kupp, to be fine. Ekeler was picked to be the do-it-all back on one of the best offenses in football, and right now, he's just outside of the top 12 at his position.

So should you be worried about him? No! Trade for him while you still can.

One of the biggest offseason concerns regarding Ekeler was an expected drop in volume. That hasn’t been the case at all. His 41 touches rank sixth in the NFL—he finished eighth in 2021, his best fantasy season ever—and his 28 carries lead the team by a wide margin, so don’t be worried about Sony Michel or Joshua Kelley, either.

The biggest difference between this season and last so far is touchdown regression, which was bound to come after Ekeler got in the end zone 20 times a year ago. Ekeler didn't go two games in a row without scoring all of 2021, and that's how he began 2022, which admittedly has been a weird one in the touchdown department for the Chargers (fullback Zander Horvath leads the team with two).

Ekeler leads Los Angeles in receptions, so his valuable involvement in the passing game hasn’t gone away. And while his rushing efficiency (2.7 yards per carry) would be the worst mark of his career, he has never been overly reliant on massive rushing outputs. Better days are ahead, so buy low on Ekeler, who has two plus matchups coming up against the Jaguars and Texans.

WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys

Lamb was drafted to be a WR1, and he's not even that on his own team right now, for fantasy purposes, at least. That would be Noah Brown, the former seventh-round pick who leads the Cowboys in catches, yards and touchdowns.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Cooper Rush, who replaced Dak Prescott in the opener and is starting in place of the franchise quarterback while his broken thumb heals. To be fair, Lamb wasn't lighting it up in the three quarters he and Prescott played together against the Buccaneers. He caught two passes for 29 yards. Lamb did, however, see 11 targets come his way. He matched that against the Bengals and cobbled together a more respectable line of seven catches for 75 yards.

Lamb is tied for ninth in the NFL in targets, but he’s the only player in the top 20 with fewer than 10 catches. His dreadful 40% catch percentage is bound to improve, and with or without Prescott—who Jerry Jones says will be back sooner rather than later—Lamb is a better player than he's shown through two games. Whoever is behind center will keep feeding him as it's become evident Dallas cannot run the ball like it used to. A big game is coming; trade for Lamb before it does.

TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons

Pitts might be a difficult player to acquire in a trade because of what he cost managers in drafts. But those managers also might be frustrated enough with their third-round pick already that they’re willing to part with him on the cheap. That’s where you swoop in and (hopefully) address the tight end problem that most fantasy teams tend to have, including those with Pitts—so far.

Nothing is encouraging about his numbers: Four catches on 10 targets for 38 yards and no touchdowns. No one expected the Marcus Mariota-led Falcons to pass like the Chiefs, but the hope was that Pitts' talent would win out, especially considering what the all-time prospect showed as a rookie. Instead, rookie receiver Drake London has been Mariota's favorite target, and coach Arthur Smith's answer regarding the usage of the highest-drafted tight end ever only added insult to injury.

Pitts is out on the field, running routes. He's just not getting the looks one would hope, especially given the opportunity that opened up with Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage out of the picture. Atlanta has surprisingly been very competitive in its two games, allowing the team to run the ball on more than half of its plays, the fifth-highest percentage in the league. That will change, and the Falcons will have to throw the ball more often, whether it's Mariota or rookie Desmond Ridder doing so. London has looked great, but London and Pitts are the core of this passing attack. Pitts had some poor outings as a rookie, and you might have to live with a few more in his sophomore season, but I’m still betting that he’s better than hunting for a touchdown from a streamer each week.

Sell Targets

RB James Robinson, Jaguars

That Robinson is on the field for Jacksonville right now, not to mention playing at a respectable level, is nothing short of amazing. The undrafted rookie tore his Achilles last season and quickly returned to the field—and in the end zone. But the fact is he's outperforming his expectation for fantasy right now and is a prime sell candidate.

Three touchdowns are propping up Robinson's current fantasy value, and those touchdowns will be harder to come by the next two weeks on the road against the Chargers and Eagles. He is fielding the bulk of the team's carries, but he hasn't been particularly efficient with them. Robinson has turned his 34 carries into 134 yards. Take away his season-long 37-yard romp, averaging worse than three yards per carry. Even with it, his efficiency numbers are concerning.

Robinson has been a fine pass-catcher in his career—he caught 49 passes as a rookie—but now that Jacksonville has Travis Etienne, a pass-catching threat back in the fold, that work is going to the younger, more elusive back. As the season progresses, Etienne should see more snaps and touches, especially in games where Jacksonville is trailing, and he might also be a good buy candidate. Robinson has been a fine starter through two weeks, but that won't be the case when the touchdowns dry up.

RB Antonio Gibson, Commanders

In the preseason, it was an open secret that Gibson was on the way to losing his job to Brian Robinson Jr. Then Washington's rookie was shot twice about a month ago. He has been out since but returned to practice this week and is eligible to play as soon as Week 5, though there's no guarantee he will.

Gibson played well in the season opener—he racked up north of 20 touches and totaled over 100 scrimmage yards. Week 2 was a different story when his yards per carry dipped to 2.0, and he was less involved as a receiver. A touchdown salvaged an otherwise forgettable outing, and J.D. McKissic's snap count approached Gibson's. The pass-catching specialist caught all seven of his targets from quarterback Carson Wentz, and Gibson's poor play was a reminder of his tenuous hold on the starting job.

Of course, your fellow league mates are likely well aware of this situation, so Gibson stock isn't in high demand. Still, he's a top-12 player at his position through two weeks who you can potentially offload for something of value, especially to a team in need of production at the running back position.

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs

You're probably starting to sense a theme: Get rid of your overperforming running backs. This play is not sustainable, so cash in while you can, and CEH might be the most pertinent example.

He is tied for 33rd in the NFL in touches and doesn't even have a great monopoly on the running back work in his offense. But still, he is the RB5 largely due to a pair of touchdown receptions from Mahomes in Week 1. He does deserve credit for his efficiency—7.7 yards per carry (inflated by a 52-yard run) and 10.9 yards per catch—but his role as the lead back is not rock solid.

Jerick McKinnon out-snapped Edwards-Helaire in the Chargers game and rookie Isiah Pacheco is also looming. CEH, miraculously, leads the Chiefs in receiving touchdowns despite seeing just seven targets from Mahomes this season. Of the three backs listed as sells, Edwards-Helaire likely has the most intrigue to managers because of the offense he plays in, but the reality of his situation is a timeshare in which he's been the lucky one who scored twice already. Kansas City is so good that it's unlikely CEH falls off entirely, but he won't be particularly reliable week-to-week.

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