To the chagrin of fantasy managers, a handful of superstar players have gotten off to slow starts to the 2019 season. Some have simply fallen victim to temporary circumstances while others seem more likely to continue underperforming for one reason or another. Correctly identifying which player falls into which category is critical when it comes to the trade market.
This week's edition of Trade Calls focuses heavily on underperforming superstar players.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans: In most fantasy drafts, DeAndre Hopkins went first among wide receivers, and for good reason. The Texans wideout finished 2018 with double-digit touchdowns for the second consecutive season and a career-best 115 receptions and 1,572 yards. Hopkins produced with and without quarterback Deshaun Watson, making him seem like one of the safer options at his position. The 2019 season hasn't played out as expected, with Hopkins ranking outside the top 10 at his position in all formats despite the fantasy success of the Houston offense. Still, Hopkins remains one of the most talented receivers in the game and should see his numbers (touchdowns specifically) improve over the course of the season. If the Hopkins owner in your league has grown frustrated, take advantage.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: Though the Bengals look well on their way to a bottom-five finish, Tyler Boyd has gotten off to a strong start to 2019. The fourth-year wideout ranks 11th in fantasy points in NFL.com standard scoring and the Bengals have enticing matchups with the Ravens (twice) and Rams over their next four games. The prospect of A.J. Green's return will damper enthusiasm for Boyd's future scoring, but Cincinnati hasn't closed the door on dealing the former All-Pro. Even if Green remains in town, Boyd should still produce.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns: As with Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr. has fallen well short of expectations in 2019. With 23 catches for 335 yards and touchdown, Beckham not only ranks outside the top 30 for wideouts, he trails teammate Jarvis Landry in NFL.com scoring. However, Beckham has only finished with less than 10 touchdowns once in a season with at least 12 games played, and though the Browns have looked putrid on offense, they almost have to improve to some degree given the talented players involved. Fantasy managers looking to add talent on the cheap should inquire as to Beckham's availability in their leagues, especially after the All-Pro wideout's poor showing against the 49ers Monday.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos: Though Phillip Lindsay will see more touches at his current pace than a year ago, the Broncos offense hasn't produced as many opportunities for him and the rest of the skill-position players as it did in 2018. Lindsay has reached the end zone three times over the last three weeks and those scores have padded his fantasy output. Given Denver's offensive struggles, he'll have a hard time repeating that success the rest of the way.
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Redskins: Washington fired head coach Jay Gruden earlier this week, promoting offensive line coach Bill Callahan into the interim role. Callahan has already stated his plans to shift the offense toward the ground game, a change that will have an impact on Terry McLaurin's production. Between the new offensive game plan and the revolving door at quarterback, McLaurin will probably see his output decline through no fault of his own.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets: Obviously, Le'Veon Bell's first season in New York hasn't gone as well as he or the team had hoped. In four games, Bell has only amassed 372 yards from scrimmage and 3.8 yards per touch, reaching the end zone just once. In terms of fantasy output, he barely ranks inside the top 20 at his position. Still, the situation could grow worse with the Patriots and their No. 1 ranked defense coming into town.
I understand the desire to go after DJ Chark. The second-year wideout looks like a rising star and has built a rapport with quarterback Gardner Minshew, and Chark's stats reflect that connection. Still, Chark only has one game this season without a touchdown and likely can't keep up that pace. You don't want to buy at the top the market, and giving up a top tight end for a receiver who likely has produced his best stretch already doesn't seem ideal. Unless your team desperately needs help at wideout, you should probably pass.
As stated earlier, I have no problem selling high on Chark and I like Hopkins as a buy-low target. Still, Nick Chubb looks like a No. 1 running back every week (even when Kareem Hunt returns) while the Cowboys' and Chargers' offenses look lost the last few weeks. Ultimately, your existing depth at receiver diminishes the appeal of the second wideout in the offer, and that's why I would pass.
Even though Saquon Barkley won't return in time for Thursday Night Football, his upside over the remainder of the season exceeds that of Josh Jacobs, who just played his best game of the year and will likely come back down to earth after the Raiders' bye week. Take the deal and end up with the better player at the same position.
Don't do it. Mike Evans' inconsistency feels maddening for fantasy managers, but his upside in a high-volume passing offense remains high. Meanwhile, Le'Veon Bell has to battle through a bad offense against a less-than-ideal schedule with limited talent around him. If you need help at running back and want to move Evans, you can probably find a better option.