The first two weeks of the NFL season have offered plenty of disappointments, none more significant than the serious injuries suffered by Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Their absences necessarily alter the landscape of the sport, and with it the world of fantasy football. Owners of Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, JuJu Smith-Schuster and other related players will feel the effects even if they didn't have the quarterbacks on their roster.
For fantasy managers with impacted players, the question becomes whether to trade them now before their value deflates even more or hold on and avoid selling low. That holds for other injury situations across the league as well.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: In 2018, the Eagles responded to the early season absence of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery by leaning heavily on tight end Zach Ertz. As a result, Ertz finished the year second among all players in receptions (116) to the delight of those who have him on their fantasy roster. Flash forward to September 2019 and Jeffery as well as several other Eagles wideouts look likely to miss time. Expect Ertz has a fantastic opportunity to see his production boosted again.
Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens: After a breakthrough Week 1 performance (four receptions on five targets for 147 yards and two scores), Marquise Brown saw his workload explode. The Ravens targeted the rookie wideout 13 times against the Cardinals, most of any receiver in the game. But those figures only tell part of the story. Brown has only played 42 percent of his team's offensive snaps through two weeks. That figure will increase as the season progresses. When that happens, his already robust production should surge with it.
Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers:Keenan Allen remains the paragon of reliability. He has at least eight catches and 98 yards in each of the first two weeks of 2019, giving him one of the higher floors among top fantasy wide receivers. Obviously, Allen won't come cheap in a trade, but his upcoming stretch of games make him worth the effort. The Chargers play the Dolphins and Steelers in the coming weeks, each of which has struggled against No. 1 wide receivers (to put it kindly).
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Through two weeks, John Ross ranks No. 1 among wide receivers in standard scoring and No. 2 in PPR. His 20 total targets don't seem like a complete fluke given his role within new Bengals coach Zac Taylor's offense, but the production doesn't seem sustainable. Of his three touchdowns this year, one came off a flea flicker while another resulted from a missed interception. Those types of plays happen in the NFL, but not frequently enough to feel great about his sustainability, especially considering A.J. Green expects to return soon and eat into Ross' production.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: I typically advise against trading away fantasy stars when injury or situation deflate their value. James Conner is a rare exception. The Steelers lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) for the rest of the season and the passing game still hasn't adjusted to the offseason departure of wideout Antonio Brown. The environment has not proven hospitable to Conner, who has 110 total yards from scrimmage in two weeks and currently averages less than 3 yards per carry. Making matters worse, Conner has a knee injury that threatens to limit him for the foreseeable future. Given everything working against Connor, fantasy owners probably won't have many opportunities to move him for a reasonable price again.
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers: Despite the Steelers' myriad issues offensively, Vance McDonald has actually put together a solid start to the season on paper. Through two weeks, he ranks fifth among tight ends in both standard scoring and PPR. However, his two touchdowns inflate his point total, and McDonald has never finished with more than four scores in a season. Perhaps he puts up a career year, but the absence of Roethlisberger for the remainder of the season casts doubt on that possibility.
I wouldn't trade Michael Thomas, at least not right now. You don't want to sell low on a player with such a high ceiling, and fantasy managers likely won't give you a fair price given the recency of Brees' injury. Also, the wideout has a decent chance to stay effective during Brees' absence. Thomas does most of his damage on routes close to the line of scrimmage, making him an ideal safety blanket for Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill or whomever New Orleans lines up at quarterback in the upcoming weeks.
Also keep in mind that while Brees will miss an extended period of time, the Saints expect him to return for the backstretch of the season. That means the Brees-Thomas connection should return before the fantasy playoffs, and you'll want to have the wideout on your roster when that time comes.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has started 2019 slowly, and the loss of his quarterback doesn't help matters. Still, you're trading him at or near the nadir of his value for John Ross and Emmanuel Sanders at their zenith, neither of whom seem likely to sustain their production over the course of the year. At least for now, take your chances with Smith-Schuster or hold out for a better offer.
The Vikings' dedication to the ground game works for and against you here. On the one hand, they have attempted just 42 passes through two weeks and most of Adam Thielen's fantasy production came on one play. However, Minnesota's offensive approach makes Dalvin Cook an extremely valuable running back. He's already set a career-high in touchdowns and could realistically have as many rushing yards by mid-October as his previous two seasons combined.
But Cook's injury history suggests that he will miss time at some point this year. Conversely, DeAndre Hopkins has only missed one game in his entire career, and your roster needs the receiver help. Matt Breida won't replicate Cook's production, but he's an effective player when given the opportunity and teammate Tevin Coleman remains out with a high-ankle sprain. Given those factors, you can justify this deal.