Fantasy football NFL trade deadline: Claypool, Hockenson


It may have been the busiest NFL trade deadline day ever. At times, it felt like the frenzy of free agency. So, what are the biggest fantasy football takeaways from the day?

We asked our ESPN Fantasy staff for their thoughts on the following questions:

Which trade has you contemplating moves on tonight’s waiver wire?

Matt Bowen: I might take a flier on Nyheim Hines (rostered in just 45.8% of ESPN leagues) in a PPR league of 12 teams or more. He has the skill set to create matchups as a receiving threat from the backfield or flexed alignments. Even with Devin Singletary and rookie James Cook in the mix, Buffalo’s high-scoring (and often pass-heavy) offense provides some intrigue here.

Liz Loza: I’m 100% with Matt on this one. Hines has managed a target share above 11% (RB20) in back-to-back seasons. His addition to the Bills silences James Cook‘s 2022 drumbeat. Cook, who is still rostered in more than a quarter of ESPN fantasy leagues, can be dropped in redraft formats.

Eric Karabell: Not to sound ungrateful for all the fun trades, but … none of them? T.J. Hockenson is universally rostered. Chase Claypool is at 71%. It’s hard to trust Raheem Mostert to stay healthy, so perhaps take a chance on Jeff Wilson Jr. Really, watch new 49ers backup Tyrion Davis-Price on the chance Christian McCaffrey gets hurt.

Tristan H. Cockcroft: Eric’s right, this was a fun day, but there’s nothing seismic as far as fantasy values changing. But one thing that does strike me: Justin Fields, who was already trending up, now has a massive, high-upside target in Claypool, and Fields is available in nearly 75% of leagues. I’m adding him as a QB2 wherever I can.

Kyle Soppe: I’m more willing to cut ties with either of the incumbent backs in Denver than I was this morning. Melvin Gordon III is rostered in 70% of leagues, but he has more first names than he has 20-yard runs over the past 13 months. So no, there aren’t really impact adds in the majority of leagues, but Gordon is a possible cut.

Eric Moody: The player who immediately comes to mind is Wilson, who is rostered in only 45.6% of ESPN leagues. He will be reunited with Mike McDaniel and Raheem Mostert. Because of his familiarity with the system, he can play right away as a complement to Mostert. Wilson is on the flex radar with upside for much more if Mostert were ever to miss time. According to Mike Clay’s strength of schedule matrix, the Dolphins have one of the easiest remaining schedules.



Jeff Wilson Jr. is a worthwhile insurance policy for new teammate Raheem Mostert in Miami.

Based on today’s movement, which players would you target in trade talks?

Karabell: Hockenson is the No. 4 scorer at tight end, but with only one strong fantasy game. Now he gets a QB that throws a ton and will utilize him everywhere on the field. Frankly, something’s wrong if Hockenson doesn’t finish as the No. 3 TE. Also, the Claypool trade helps Darnell Mooney, too! I still take Mooney over Claypool.

Bowen: I’m with Karabell on Hockenson. Maybe we now see the entire skill set on display for the former Iowa Hawkeye. Hockenson can work all three levels of the route tree, with the rugged ability to produce after the catch. He’s a fluid mover, too. And playing in Minnesota is a scheme upgrade for the veteran tight end.

Soppe: I think it’s got to be the 6’4″ Claypool. Fields’ growth over the past month has been all sorts of encouraging and the fact that he ranks fourth in average depth of pass this season is enough for me to look at Claypool as a potential asset down the stretch this season. He won’t be a consistent producer, but there will be some big plays … oh, and he plays at Detroit in Week 17.

Moody: I’m with Soppe regarding Claypool. As a rookie in 2020, he caught nine touchdown passes and appeared to be poised to take over as the Steelers’ No. 1 receiver. As a starter in 2021, he averaged 14.6 yards per reception. He has had just one big game this season, mostly due to the quarterback situation in Pittsburgh. With the Bears giving up a second-round pick in the trade, it implies they have big plans for Claypool and a supplanting of Mooney as the team’s No. 1 is not impossible.



Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down T.J. Hockenson’s fantasy outlook with his new team in Minnesota and why his inconsistency could persist.

Which players are you looking to trade away?

Cockcroft: I’d seriously consider shopping Mostert, but perhaps that doesn’t have to do singularly with Wilson’s arrival. Mostert isn’t the most durable back out there, and reuniting him with Wilson identifies a clear fill-in in the event of any missed time. I think Wilson would be just about as capable of keeping that starting role if the opportunity presented itself.

Karabell: Yeah, that trade is a sure sign the Dolphins aren’t confident in Mostert, or his role may change to being mostly a receiver. By the way, if you can convince someone – anyone – to trade for a Denver running back, then you’ve got some real trading skills. Avoid that situation.

Soppe: To complete a trade and potentially alter the course of your season, you have to be willing to roll the dice, so here goes. I’m moving Brandon Aiyuk. Why? The Wilson deal signals that the 49ers are (correctly) all-in on McCaffrey. During the peak CMC days in Carolina, the Panthers ranked 29th in percentage of passes going to the slot. I don’t think that’s an accident and you get the added boost of trading Aiyuk off of three straight top-20 weeks. Play chess, not checkers.



Chase Edmonds’ fresh start in Denver could lead to fantasy relevance down the stretch.

Which player might have some sneaky, long-term value and is worth watching?

Karabell: Good for Trevor Lawrence! Calvin Ridley can’t help him this season, but it’s good to see how the Jaguars realize they need better receivers long term. Ridley may return to a WR2 level next season and I’m already expecting Lawrence to be a QB1 by then. He may get there this season!

Cockcroft: Another good call there by EK. I was immensely frustrated in my super-deep dynasty league in August when Ridley went for $1 at a time I didn’t have the salary cap space to go $2, and I think there might be similar leagues in which he’s still out there. At the time, I’d have gone $6-7, and I like him better in Jacksonville than I did in Atlanta.

Soppe: I’ll take the Lawrence love one step further and go with Christian Kirk as a sneaky winner. Part of his success early this season was the ability to dominate from the slot, a role that becomes much easier if the Ridley that returns from suspension is the one we saw in 2020. Kirk is making a cool $15.5 million next season, so that’s reasonable motivation, too.

Loza: Given the numerous circus catches he’s made in primetime, George Pickens is definitely not flying under anyone’s radar. However, I think he’s the biggest beneficiary of the Claypool trade. Pickens and Kenny Pickett demonstrated immediate chemistry, which the team appears motivated to build on. The fact that he’s coming off of a donut game doesn’t seem to be an issue. The Steelers now have a bye week to gameplan for the rookie. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Pickens’ target share jump by at least 10%.

Bowen: Let’s put Fields into this discussion. He is currently sitting at QB11 in fantasy scoring this season, and that’s with a pass game that is limited in terms of explosive-play ability. Claypool has the physical profile and speed to emerge as a boundary or isolation target for Fields opposite of Mooney. With a boost in passing volume and production, paired with the dual-threat running ability of Fields, the arrow should be pointing up on the Bears quarterback in both dynasty and redraft leagues.

Moody: I’m with Bowen. Fields has now scored at least 17 fantasy points in four consecutive games, including 23-plus in his last two contests. With upcoming matchups against the Dolphins, Lions, Falcons, Jets and Packers before the Bears’ bye week, he’s becoming a player most people will feel comfortable inserting into their lineups whether they are participating in redraft, dynasty or keeper leagues.

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