2018 Fantasy Football Trade Deadline: Quarterbacks Strength of Schedule, Buy and Sell Advice - Roto Street Journal
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2018 Fantasy Football Trade Deadline: Quarterbacks Strength of Schedule, Buy and Sell Advice

The Fantasy Trade Deadline is upon us, and every single owner — whether you’re in desperate Win Now mode or comfortably set for a playoff run — can improve their fantasy prospects before it’s too late.

One of the most crucial factors in calculating championship-winning moves is Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule. That’s why Roto Street Journal crafted an entire 2018 Strength of Schedule Guide.

At this point in the season, defenses are what they are.  Exploiting RBs vs. Arizona or QBs vs. Tampa Bay, for example, is nearly foolproof. Thus, Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule analysis is far more valid now than in the preseason.

With this in mind, let’s start with Quarterbacks. We’ll break down the:

A) Five Easiest and Hardest Rest of Season (ROS) Schedules

B) The same, but for the Playoffs

Five Easiest QB ROS Schedules

This list is littered with seemingly bleh names, but at least two signal callers should get the fantasy blood flowing. Moreover, even the eye sores should be of genuine interest to the QB-needy, as they are widely available and could blow-up when needed most.

 

1) Joe Flacco (QB-BAL)

Though the thought of starting Flacco might induce puke, he’s actually the QB17 thus far in 2018, outscoring Matthew Stafford (QB-DET) and Alex Smith (QB-WAS) among others. This largely comes on the back of feasting in favorable spots, as Flacco’s been largely irrelevant in tough matchups (5/8 weeks of 15 FPs or less), but he’s exploded against softer D’s.

This is perfect, because Flacco’s schedule is a complete joke moving forward. Every single matchup up until Week 16 is against one of the 10 most generous defenses. John Brown (WR-BAL) has helped Flacco’s strong arm regain life, and expect plenty of deep connections in the coming weeks. Shockingly, Flacco leads the league in pass attempts, and he should be firing early and often in many shoot-out scenarios. At 36% owned, Flacco’s a QB Hail Mary with the set-up to explode.

The biggest risk? If Lamar Jackson (QB-BAL) takes over. Considering his rushing upside and this soft slate, Jackson could be a low-end QB1 during stretch runs. With the Ravens falling out of contention fast, keep Jackson on the watch-list. He could be a fantasy hero.

2) Cam Newton (QB-CAR)

Yes, Newton is matchup proof. He’s topped 21 FPs in 6 of 8 games (75%), and never been below 16. But facing off with four bottom-five defenses in his last seven games? That’s a fantasy gift from the Gods.

Even better: Newton rolls into this cakewalk with a fully loaded weapons cabinet. With 10 catches, 132 yards, and 2 TDs in his last two games, Greg Olsen (TE-CAR) has officially returned. Explosive YAC threats DJ Moore (WR-CAR) and Curtis Samuel (WR-CAR) are making scoring almost too easy for Newton. Devin Funchess (WR-CAR) is mossing people, and Christian McCaffrey (RB-CAR) is exploding. Good God.

Particularly of note is Newton’s Week 14 and 15 dates with the Saints and Falcons, respectively. For most, these weeks mark your semis and finals, and Newton seems likely to hand deliver a title if he’s your QB Anchor. If paying up big for a QB not named Patrick Mahomes (QB-KC), beg for Newton. 

 

3) Dak Prescott (QB-DAL)

As predicted in the preseason, Prescott been largely irrelevant to open 2018. In his first five weeks, he topped 15 FPs just once (18), with two 8 FP duds mixed in.

But the time to avoid has ended.

This horrid start has many overlooking that Prescott has gone for 29 and 20 FPs in two of his last three, with both against two tougher defenses in JAX (29 FPs) and WAS (20). Imagine what he could do with a cakewalk schedule moving forward? And finally with a true No.1 weapon in Amari Cooper (WR-DAL)?

Only 36% owned, Prescott would be the first place I’d look on the Waiver Wire if desperate for a signal caller, even before Flacco. The vast majority of Prescott’s remaining opponents boast the golden, shootout creating set up of A) Blow-up offenses that have  B) Awful Defenses.  (PHI x 2, ATL, NO, TB, IND). This should keep Dak running and gunning for the stretch run.

 

4) Drew Brees (QB-NO)

Now up to the QB5 on the season thanks to a 31 FP blow-up, Brees has been awfully boom or bust in 2018.  He’s strung together 36, 40, 27 and the recent 31 FP week-winners, but also cost weeks with 8 and 6 point duds, despite the Saints putting up 30 points in said games.

When I wrote this last week, Brees was fresh off a 6.8 dud and I labeled him the ultimate Buy Low. A 31 FP effort + Dez Bryant (WR-NO) addition later, and Brees’ asking price has skyrocketed.

Even still, he’s the ideal QB Target after Newton considering this schedule. Those aforementioned 36 & 40 FP days? Came against ATL and TB, who Brees will get to smash once more. He also gets projected shoot-outs with CIN, PIT, and PHI. Even CAR, who is strong against the QB and one of the lone “yellow” matchups on Brees’ schedule, should provide the right game-flow for a blow up. Expect Brees to light it up this holiday season. 

 

5) Baker Mayfield (QB-CLE)

Held under 300 yards and 20 FPs in all but one of his seven starts, Mayfield has been a real-life and fantasy disappointment thus far. Unsurprising, considering the dumpster fire that is the Browns.

Still, he has the ability and the weapons to do some late-season damage. Will new OC Freddie Kitchens be the one to unlock the upside and steer this ship to its potential?

Perhaps. Thus far, Kitchens has schemed around what his players are “comfortable” with, and plans to implement more college-style “Air Raid” offensive formations. A soft schedule doesn’t hurt, either. At  38% owned, I’d turn to Dak first. But Mayfield’s immediate schedule is highly usable for “Win Now” owners.

 

Five Hardest ROS QB Schedules

32) Andrew Luck (QB-IND)

Currently the No.5 QB Points Per Game, Luck is the no-brainer comeback player of 2018. Despite a slow Weeks 1-3 while easing back to health and learning Frank Reich’s system, Luck’s been on absolute fire of late. He’s tossed 3+ TDs and topped 22 FPs in every game since, and appears to have his full arm strength back.

So, obviously, the time to Sell High has arrived.

Mainly, the schedule is absolutely horrendous. Luck has two dates with Jacksonville, and all his matchups fall in the “Red” avoid category. Additionally most of these matchups project against teams that drain clock and purposely play slow, grind-it-out styles of football.

Reich’s attack, currently second in the league in pass attempts, will remain pass-obsessed. Still, Luck seems likely to struggle. Unload while his value is at its peak.

31) Matthew Stafford (QB – DET)

Considering Stafford’s been completely bleh anyways, cutting ties shouldn’t be too difficult. His line is crumbling. The run-game has a pulse under Kerryon Johnson (RB-DET), and is relied upon more than ever before. He just lost his top weapon in Golden Tate (WR-DET)

A daunting schedule makes dropping him even easier.

Stafford has just one “green” matchup, and that’s against a fiesty Carolina defense. Otherwise, he has two tough dates with the tough Bears, followed by a murderer’s row featuring four of the NFL’s toughest ranked opponents. When would you actually feel comfortable using him?

Don’t let a roster spot rot with Stafford. Stash a handcuff or stretch run hero. If Stafford’s your only QB, look towards Flacco or Prescott instead.

 

30) Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC)

Look at the brutality of this schedule! The time to sell high on Mahomes has arrived!

Kidding… mostly.

Look, Mahomes has been a genuine Godsend. No one was higher preseason than us, and I legitimately love him. Actual love. He’s completely matchup proof because this offense is indefensible. The weapons cabinet is too stacked, Andy Reid is too pass-happy, and Mahomes’ arm is too strong for anything less than perfection.

Yet, at least consider this:  Tyreek Hill (WR-KC) is dealing with a groin injury, and who knows if that’ll worsen. The schedule is brutal, despite Mahomes’ matchup-proofness. If, and only if, you could yield a true RB1 or WR1, moving Mahomes could be justified. I never thought I’d type those words, but he might be slightly more human these last few weeks. 

Again, I’m not saying to sell Mahomes. Only that the once unthinkable can at least be considered — depending on the yield and if you’re really desperate at the skill positions. Most likely, you should just ride the gift of the Fantasy Gods to glory.

 

29) Mitch Trubisky (QB-CHI)

Since his 6 TD outburst in Week 4, Trubisky actually ranks No.1 among QBs in FPPG with a whopping 26.4 FPs per start. After some growing pains, Trubisky has really taken to Matt Nagy’s offense, and is also consistently gaining FPs with his legs and underrated athleticism.

Thus, I’m not overly worried by his 4th lowest SOS for the ROS. It doesn’t appear overly daunting, and dates with Detroit and GB could easily turn into shoot-outs. Last week’s 8 FP dud against Buffalo is a reminder Trubisky can disappear if his team goes up huge. Yet, most matchups here look competitive. Don’t sweat the tough schedule, as Trubisky remains a high-end QB2.

 

28) Deshaun Watson (QB – HOU)

Watson hasn’t exactly been the lights-out cheatcode we expected with when ranking him as our No.1 QB for 2018. Still, his current QB8 ranking isn’t too bad, though it’s largely come in the boom-or-bust style. Thankfully, more have been booms, as he’s topped 20 FPs in 5 of 8 starts. But the busts have been brutal, with those other three at 11 FPs or fewer.

Most of these were health related, as Watson had been getting crushed behind his awful line while also dealing with a brutal chest/lung injury. In fact, he had been taken down a whopping 15 times between Weeks 4-6, and was on pace to get sacked over 70 times. Contrastingly, he’s been sacked only 5 times over his last three (Weeks 7-9), and looked back to full health in the process.

But the upcoming schedule could include some more lulls. Granted, he only has one truly “red” matchup, and many of the yellows aren’t overly intimidating, making Watson a must- hold. Just have a safe backup in case the line woes return.

Fantasy Playoffs QB Outlook

Five Easiest:

1) Ben Roethlisberger (QB-PIT)

2) Drew Brees (QB-NO)

3) Cam Newton (QB-CAR)

4) Joe Flacco (QB-BAL)

5) Derek Carr (QB-OAK)

 

We’ve already raved about Brees, Newton, and Flacco’s cakewalk ROS schedules, and all three of those carry into the time you’ll need them most. Of the three, Brees is the most obvious “Buy.” All three of his matchups @TB (1st easiest), @ CAR (17th), and vs. PIT (5th) project as shoot-outs, with two in the bottom-five against QBs.

Newton in the Fantasy Semis and ‘Ship is going to be just unfair against NO (3rd easiest) and ATL (2nd easiest). 30+ FPs is easily possible both weeks. Do all you can to Buy if you think you’ll have a Week 14 Bye.

Even easier than these two studs, however, is Ben Roethlisberger (QB-PIT). Just the QB15 in PPG, Roethlisberger isn’t likely to be too pricey as a Buy. Yet, in Week 14 he gets the crumbling Raiders who just gave up 3 TDs to Nick Mullens (QB-SF). Shortly after loom shootouts versus the porous New England (9th most FPs) and New Orleans (1st most FPs) secondaries. Big Ben will be a Top-7 guy for three straight weeks that can likely be had for bench assets.

Meanwhile, ignore Derek Carr (QB-OAK), and all Raiders. Thanks.

*BONUS* If looking at a playoff Bye, keep Russell Wilson (QB-SEA) in mind. His price is likely dirt cheap right now, and he gets SF (6th easiest) and KC (7th) in Weeks 15 + 16. 

 

Five Hardest

32) Carson Wentz (QB-PHI)

31) Pat Mahomes (QB-KC)

30) Alex Smith (QB-WAS)

29) Matthew Stafford (QB-DET)

28) Nick Mullens (QB-SF)? 

Hopefully, you’re not considering Alex Smith or a 49ers QB for your starting lineup. Otherwise, it’s unlikely the fantasy playoffs would matter to you. As for the others…

Not only is Stafford’s ROS schedule brutal, his playoffs are some of his toughest games. He’s unlikely to be the guy to get you into the playoffs, and even unlikelier to win you the ‘ship if he somehow gets you there, with tough games against ARI (30th easiest), BUF (28th), and MIN (18th).

Carson Wentz (QB-PHI) has been on fire since returning, with 20+ FPs in 4 of his last 5 and none below 18. However, with matchups versus DAL (23rd), LAR (29th), and HOU (26th) looming, Wentz may struggle when you need him most. I wouldn’t be selling too hard, though, especially since the last two could wind up being shootout point bonanzas. With Golden Tate (WR-PHI) now added to an already strong weapons cabinet, Wentz’s schedule shouldn’t scare you away. Hold or Buy.

Last, and never ever least, is Pat Mahomes (QB-KC). With the hardest and second hardest matchups in Week 14 & 16, some may fear regression when you need him most. Hopefully you don’t need me to remind you this guy is completely matchup-proof, and should never be avoided. Fire him up as always, and try to use the tougher schedule as a buying point if his owner would ever believe it.

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