By Matt Citak
The 2017 NFL season has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. We have seen several elite players lost for significant time (David Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr.), while we have also watched the emergence of numerous new fantasy football studs (Kareem Hunt, Alex Smith). We are entering the period where fantasy owners start to give up on certain players that may have had disappointing starts to the season. Now is the time to pounce on those players before their stock once again rises.
Here are CBS Local Sports’ Fantasy Football Buy-Low Trade Targets.
QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston got off to a slow start this season, but has picked it up over the last three games. Over that span, the third-year quarterback has thrown for over 325 yards in each game, while tossing six touchdown passes and three interceptions (with all three coming in Tampa Bay’s Week 3 loss to the Minnesota Vikings). But things are looking up for the young quarterback. The Buccaneers waited too long to truly open up the passing game against the Patriots last week, and it cost them a game that they could have won. Dirk Koetter is going to have to let Winston air it out at some point if the Bucs want to be a playoff contender, and with options in the passing game like Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, Cameron Brate Adam Humphries, and O.J. Howard, there is a lot to be excited about in Tampa. The Buccaneers have a second-half schedule that consists of matchups against the Saints, Jets, Dolphins, Falcons, Packers, and Lions, none of which have daunting pass defenses. Jameis was a popular pick to have a breakout season in 2017, and if Koetter finally decides to put his trust in his quarterback’s hands, we could begin to see that.
RB Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
After running for 122 yards in the Dolphins’ season opener, Ajayi has struggled to find any running room in the last three games. On the year, the 24-year-old running back has 76 carries for only 261 yards (3.4 yards per carry), and has failed to reach the end zone. While these are hardly the stats you want to see from a guy drafted as an RB1 a quarter of the way through the season, it’s hard to put all the blame on Ajayi. The young back is still producing as one of the top running backs when it comes to elusive rating (a measure that combines forced missed tackles and yards after contact per carry). The biggest knock on Ajayi has been the play around him in the Miami offense. The Dolphins offensive line is currently ranked 21st overall by Pro Football Focus, but the unit has struggled even more with its run-blocking. Add in the fact that Jay Cutler has looked awful, and you start to see why Ajayi hasn’t looked that great in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, he may not live up to his original draft slot. But the chances he can turn things around, given the amount of snaps he receives along with his individual efficiency ratings thus far, outweigh the price he is currently going for on the trade market.
WR DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson hasn’t burst onto the scene in Tampa like some thought he would. Through the first four games of the season, the speedster has caught only 14 passes for 249 yards and one touchdown. But it’s his role in the Buccaneers offense over the last two weeks that makes him an intriguing trade target. Over the past two games, it seems like Winston has come to the realization that he cannot throw to Mike Evans on every play, and that he needs to rely on Jackson more in an offense that’s built for vertical passes. In that span, Jackson has received only one fewer target than Evans with more receiving yards. Jackson is also creating more yards after the catch than his teammate. With the Bucs’ passing game looking like it’s about to open the flood gates, get Jackson on your team before his stock skyrockets.
WR Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins
Many people believed Pryor signing in Washington would lead to stellar campaigns from both him and Kirk Cousins. While that has not been the case yet, the Redskins’ most recent game showed that there are reasons to be optimistic. Pryor entered Week 4 with just 10 receptions for 116 yards and no touchdowns, and it seemed clear that there was some sort of disconnect between Cousins and his No. 1 wide receiver. But the two seemed to (at least temporarily) fix that issue as Pryor snagged three receptions for 70 yards and his first touchdown in Washington’s 29-20 loss to the Chiefs. Hopefully the bye week allowed Pryor and Cousins to further work out some of the kinks. Don’t forget, it was only a year ago that Pryor caught 77 receptions for just over 1,000 yards from the plethora of quarterbacks the Browns put on the field last season. Cousins is a lot more talented than all of those quarterbacks combined. Once these two get going, the sky is the limit for Pryor.
TE Evan Engram, New York Giants
Unfortunately, due to the insane number of injuries suffered by Giants wide receivers last week, the ship may have sailed on buying-low on Engram. It was clear from Week 1 that the rookie pass-catcher was going to play a big role in New York’s offense, as the talented, hybrid tight end seemed to be one of Eli Manning’s favorite targets. Then the Giants lost Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris for the season during their Week 5 loss to the Chargers, while second-year WR Sterling Shepard is set to miss some time as well. For those keeping count, New York lost its top four receivers last week. Enter Engram, who’s ability to line up as a receiver now makes him an even more vital part of the Giants’ passing game. New York faces Denver and Seattle before the team’s bye week in Week 8. Those two matchups are hardly a walk in the park. But once the Giants return from the bye, their schedule eases up significantly. By then, Shepard should be back on the field, with him and Engram serving as the top two weapons for Manning to target. The Giants may already be out of the playoff race, but with Manning under center, you better believe they will still be going out there trying to win every game. Engram and Shepard could end putting your team over the edge once your league’s playoffs come around.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.