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Fantasy Football Trade Analyzer: Examining the WR market

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By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Welcome to the Week 7 edition of Trader’s Alley for the 2021 fantasy football season. We’re approaching the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season, with many leagues already separating the contenders from the pretenders. With trade deadlines in some leagues just a few weeks away (Yahoo default is Nov. 20), there’s no better time to start thinking about your push towards the playoffs. If things are looking bleak for your squad, it might be time to make a big move to try and save your season.

Below is a look at the receiver market, with two trade targets and a wideout to deal going into Week 7. In addition to this article, don’t forget to use the 4for4 Trade Evaluator to try and mine even more value out of your moves. And remember, these recommendations are just the beginning of your fantasy trade considerations. Every league and every team is different. These are just some of the players — from a bigger list — who I’m interested in this week.

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Trade for Calvin Ridley

Ridley missed the Falcons' Week 5 game in London with a personal issue, and then had a bye week, but returned to practice this week and is expected to start in Atlanta's Week 7 contest versus the Dolphins. Ridley’s season has been one to forget so far, having topped 65 yards receiving just one time in his first four outings despite ranking eighth in the NFL in share of team targets, and third in share of team air yards. Ridley even has the seventh most red-zone targets in the NFL, despite not playing since Week 5, but still currently averages 14.6 PPR fantasy points per game, outside the top 24 receivers. And even more peculiar, Ridley’s underlying efficiency metrics don’t seem right — he’s outside the top-60 receivers in yards per target, QB rating when targeted, and yards per route run.

Still, with Atlanta primed to face plenty of negative game scripts due to their highly suspect defense, and quarterback Matt Ryan back to his pass-heavy ways — currently ranked second in the NFL in pass plays per game — Ridley is absolutely a fantasy buy candidate as it currently stands. Ridley has seen 10-plus targets in each of his last three contests, and has seen multiple red-zone looks in two out of his last three. And looking at 4for4's strength of schedule tool, the Falcons don’t play an above-average defense in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) until Week 16.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Calvin Ridley #18 of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball after the catch against Kendall Fuller #29 of the Washington Football Team in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Calvin Ridley has disappointed so far, but there's reason to think a rebound is coming. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Trade for Terry McLaurin

McLaurin didn’t miss Washington’s Week 6 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he clearly wasn’t 100 percent, having missed practice as late as Friday of last week with hamstring issues, finishing with just four receptions for 28 yards and his lowest fantasy output of the season. Still, McLaurin managed to earn eight targets and 152 air yards, which marked his third straight contest earning 150-plus air yards from quarterback Taylor Heineke. McLaurin ranks top-10 in the NFL in target share and air yards share, but he’s also top-three at his position in total deep targets and worse, total unrealized air yards. That indicates Heineke is taking plenty of shots to McLaurin, but they’re simply not connecting right now.

McLaurin’s catchable target rate currently sits a 71.9%, the 70th-highest rate among all wideouts. With that in mind, it seems McLaurin’s lack of production has as much to do with Heineke’s accuracy as anything else. If that improves even just slightly, fantasy gamers’ perception of McLaurin is going to change drastically, and very quickly, based on his top-tier opportunity. Luckily for Washington, its schedule of opposing pass defenses has already begun to lighten up. With the exception of facing Denver in Week 8, Washington doesn’t face an above-average defense until the fantasy playoffs.

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Trade Amari Cooper

Fantasy gamers who have rostered Cooper in the past know that he is a player with a reputation for being wildly volatile, and to an extent, that’s still true, but he's still one of the most valuable receivers within one of the NFL’s premier offenses. Cooper has scored 10-plus fantasy points in all but two contests, and 15-plus in half his games, which, on the surface, seems excellent. But Cooper has also been propped up by the players around him in a way that might not be fully sustainable going forward. Dak Prescott has been lights-out throwing to Cooper, with 88.6% of Cooper’s targets being graded as catchable by PlayerProfiler.com, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.

Cooper ranks seventh among receivers in red-zone targets and in total deep targets, but he ranks outside the top-60 wideouts in targets per route run, and in yards after the catch. He does, however, rank top-10 at his position in total touchdowns, which may come more often for the Cowboys than the average team, but is yet another indicator of Cooper’s likely future volatility. While the absolute best time to trade Cooper is right after a blow-up performance, he continues to be a valued contributor who carries a solid name-brand, all on an offense that ranks top-five in the NFL in efficiency, which should boost his fantasy value and allow you to get a player in his tier with more sustainable opportunity.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

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