The NFL trade deadline used to be one of the ultimate bait-and-switch days, a time for big imaginations and little in actual return. But the rules are different these days, and the 2017 trade deadline was a juicy delight. Mostly treats, minimal tricks.
The Bills and Panthers provided the final piece of the segment, finishing a Kelvin Benjamin deal shortly before Tuesday’s 4 pm ET bell. Buffalo lands Benjamin, under control through 2018, while the Panthers get third- and seventh-round picks in next year’s draft.
I’ve generally viewed Benjamin as mildly overrated, a player who looks better from far away than he does from up close, but the receiver-starved Bills welcome him. Buffalo’s wideouts are 30th in fantasy points scored per game. Zay Jones has been a bust, Jordan Matthews tied down by injuries and inconsistency. As soon as Benjamin gets up to speed, he should become Tyrod Taylor’s preferred downfield option.
Call it a lateral move for Benjamin, and an eventual boost for Taylor.
Benjamin’s fantasy owners might have to punt in Week 9, however. Buffalo plays at the Jets on Thursday. Passing games are complicated. Perhaps Benjamin will be in uniform, but he might not be asked to do much right away.
Carolina didn’t recoup a lot for Benjamin, which makes you wonder if they’ve internally soured on him. Then again, it’s interesting that they traded him to Buffalo, basically Carolina north — head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane came from the Panthers, and had overlap with Benjamin’s career.
Devin Funchess, himself an inconsistent receiver, could be the big winner in all this. His role in Carolina figures to be on the rise with Benjamin out of the picture. Rookie WR Curtis Samuel might be in line for extra work, not that his skills and playing style are similar to Benjamin’s. Carolina also hopes to get TE Greg Olsen back for the final quarter of the year.
I’m going to keep Cam Newton in the same bucket. He never had a special chemistry with Benjamin to begin with; heck, Newton’s 2015 MVP season came in the year Benjamin missed entirely. Newton’s aggressive running has returned over the last three games (31 carries, 165 yards, one score), and that’s always a major chunk of his value.
As for the other two major deals:
Jimmy Garoppolo Trade: It’s a fun deal, it’s an interesting deal. The Patriots felt they waited as long as they could, and eventually holding a vanity backup QB was something that didn’t make sense. Garoppolo’s deal is up at the end of 2017, and they weren’t going to franchise him. It’s also nice to trade him to the Niners, a team out of conference, out of mind. That’s basically a “nom-compete” release.
How good is Garoppolo? How ready is he to succeed? How much will San Francisco’s flimsy supporting cast hold him back? Keep in mind, the Niners still don’t have a touchdown from Pierre Garcon or Marquise Goodwin yet. Garoppolo has just 94 pass attempts in his four-year career. He turns 26 later this week. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is a plus, but it’s not like he’s coaxed fantasy usefulness from Brian Hoyer or C.J. Beathard.
It’s not clear when Garoppolo will be ready to start for the Niners. Week 9 never made sense on a short turnaround (playbooks are thick and complicated, kids), and perhaps the club will also ask him to observe in Week 10 against the Giants. San Francisco has a Week 11 bye, then finishes this way: Seattle, at Chicago, at Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville (ouch, in Week 16), at Rams.
In standard one-QB leagues, I’m going to ignore Garoppolo — if someone wants him and is willing to stash him, fine. I should have better alternatives already. If I were shuffling QBs right this moment, I’d have Garoppolo in the 20-25 range, a lower-end QB2 or fill-in for the final third of the year, when he’s finally given a chance to play. And perhaps he’ll be in the QB 14-20 bucket next year, when the Niners could have better help pieces in tow. They have a ton of cap room to add resources. Granted, they also need to sign Garoppolo, but you have to figure that’s likely to happen.
Jay Ajayi Trade: Our man Bradley Evans covered this in detail here, but here’s my two cents. I consider it an upgrade for Ajayi, even with the Eagles backfield more crowded. Philly has the superior offensive line — even with LT Jason Peters out — and the Eagles figure to be in scoring position far more often than Miami ever was, given the presence of MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Ajayi will have to absorb a second bye week, but he has a better chance to succeed in his new locale.
Miami’s ground game has been a mess all year, and I can’t imagine Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake running to glory. How did the Dolphins beat four other teams? If I had to place a chip on someone here, Drake is my first pick. But I will not aggressively chase him in Tuesday night’s FAAB run.