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2023's Top Trade Deadline Targets for Championship Contenders

Are you sitting comfortably at 7-3 or better (or at least in a spot where you essentially have a playoff berth locked up)? Yes? Now's your chance to fine-tune some spots on your roster.



It's one-and-done in the playoffs and there are two things to do to increase your odds:

1. Shorten your bench - having a deep bench over elite starters won't help you come playoff time.

2. Play the matchups when you can - it's easier to get big games against bad defenses.


Now by no means am I saying matchups are everything (actually the contrary), but positioning yourself to have your RB1 draw Carolina or Denver in the playoffs immediately increases your odds from an RB playing Philly or Cleveland.


With that said, use some common sense - you shouldn't be trading Christian McCaffrey for Bijan Robinson, just because the Falcons have an easier playoff schedule. You should still be coming out on top (or at least close to even) in your trades as you try to position yourself for a championship run. If you don't know what the value of your players is, head over to our Trade Charts!


Here are my top playoff-specific trade targets at each position:



Quarterbacks

  1. Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia Eagles) - The playoff schedule is amazing, facing the 4th-easiest SOS, and getting an elite QB1 (2nd in points, 1st in PPG) who plays three above-average matchups in the playoffs, including Arizona in the championship, is never a bad option. Hurts is my favorite candidate to be the MVP of the fantasy playoffs.

  2. Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) - Even despite his worst season since 2019, Allen still somehow stands among the fantasy elites, ranking as the QB1 in points and the QB2 in PPG through the first ten weeks of the season. He still has his bye week to go (Week 13), so if you're already in a locked-up playoff spot, you can use that as additional trade leverage. With the schedule of Dallas, Los Angeles (Chargers), and New England (13th-easiest SOS), and Buffalo likely fighting for their playoff spot, Allen is my 2nd priority (if going for an elite QB) if I miss on Hurts.

  3. Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals) - After missing the end of 2022 and the start of 2023, Murray returned last week and looked like his usual self (17.26 points). Arizona likely won't have much to play for but Murray will be playing for his job the rest of the season. With a friendly playoff schedule, after an ugly Week 15 vs San Francisco, facing Chicago and Philadelphia (11th-easiest SOS), Murray will likely sit as a mid-QB1 for the playoffs.

  4. Jared Goff (Detroit Lions) - It's a little bit of a gamble given Goff's inconsistencies this year, but if you're looking for quality production during the playoffs without spending big for one of the elites, Goff may be your guy. Drawing Denver, Minnesota, and Dallas (14th-easiest SOS) while Detroit jockeys for playoff positioning, Goff looks like a favorable mid-to-low QB1.

  5. Russell Wilson (Denver Broncos) - Wilson has been pretty serviceable this season for fantasy, especially when a favorable matchup has presented itself, posting 17+ points in 5 of his last 8 games. The schedule only gets better for him, having faced the 5th-hardest SOS so far this season, and now drawing the single-easiest schedule for the fantasy playoffs, including two top-12 matchups against Detroit and a championship game against the Chargers (2nd-most PPG to QBs). Wilson is one of those fringe QB1s who could push you to the finish line without breaking the bank.

 

Running Backs

  1. Bijan Robinson (Atlanta Falcons) - After a rough slump, Bijan got back on track in Week 10, controlling the workload in the Falcons' backfield (65% of backfield carries, 61% of backfield touches) and seeing a new redzone role. The reports of an increased role in the second half of the season seem to be coming true for Bijan and it's just in time for a potentially league-winning playoff run. The Falcons draw the 2nd-easiest playoff schedule with each matchup ranking inside the top-10 (CAR, IND, CHI).

  2. Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) - New year, same story: Derrick Henry at the end of the season should be extremely productive. Historically speaking, Henry not only plays his best football at the end of the season but also produces at a 21% higher rate once the calendar hits December. He draws the 6th easiest playoff schedule among RBs, including a matchup against Seattle (6th-most PPG to RBs) and TWO games against Houston, who Henry has historically shredded for 20.8% more PPG than opponents.

  3. Jahmyr Gibbs (Detroit Lions) - Gibbs has gotten hot lately as he's received more work, going for 26+ points in three straight games and now receiving a good share of the touches in the Lions' backfield as well as multiple goal-line TDs last week. Even with the slow start and injury to open up the year, Gibbs ranks as the RB13 in points and the RB8 in PPG. He very well may be a league-winner with the 9th-easiest playoff SOS including the Broncos (most PPG to RBs) and two statistically unappealing, but favorable game-script matchups against Minnesota and Dallas.

  4. Isiah Pacheco (Kansas City Chiefs) - After five straight games of 13+ points, Pacheco has gone for back-to-back single-digit performances, but still been efficient and has seen a healthy majority of the work in the Chiefs' backfield. Few RBs offer his type of role and security relative to the price tag, and none realistically offer a comparable playoff schedule (10th-easiest; NE, LV, CIN). If you're looking for a solid RB2/FLEX for a playoff run, look no further than Pacheco.

  5. Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts) - Like Gibbs, Taylor is really heating up in terms of workload, returning to his more traditional role as the workhorse in Indianapolis with four straight games of 13+ touches and 10+ points with 21+ touches coming in three of those games. He draws a middle-of-the-pack playoff schedule (15th) on paper, but one that should see him with a workhorse role and favorable game scripts against the likes of Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Las Vegas.

 

Wide Receivers

  1. Marquise Brown (Arizona Cardinals) - The second half of the Murray/Brown connection that was lethal last year and saw Brown rank as the WR5 in fantasy as the Cardinals' lead WR with Murray at QB. It wasn't an ideal performance last week in Murray's return for Brown, drawing just 1 catch on 4 targets as he was shadowed by A.J. Terrell and the Falcons' 7th-fewest PPG to WRs. The good news is that discounts his price ahead of an amazing playoff opportunity with the 2nd-easiest playoff schedule, featuring all above-average matchups, two top-8 matchups, and a championship game against the Eagles defense that allows the most (47.5) PPG to opposing WRs. Brown is the ideal WR2/FLEX to have heading into the playoffs.

  2. Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints) - Olave has been good, but not great, so far in 2023, posting 9+ points in all but one game but also finally hitting the 17-point threshold for the first time since Week 3. Michael Thomas (knee) is likely to miss some time and the gun-slinger Jameis Winston may be taking over at QB (at least for the short-term, maybe longer based on play) so Olave's prospects are on the rise as the playoffs approach. Even better is the fact that he draws the 5th-easiest playoff schedule, which includes two top-4 matchups against the Giants (3rd) and Buccaneers (4th).

  3. D.K. Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks) - It's been a rough season so far for Metcalf, who ranks as the WR38 in points and the WR32 in PPG. However, he has been consistent with 11+ points in all but one game and very little reliance on TDs for production (2 TDs this year, 11.7% TD Dependency). Those TD numbers will eventually return to more traditional levels and the playoffs look like a favorable time for that to happen as Metcalf faces the single-easiest schedule among WRs. He gets THREE top-7 matchups in the playoffs against Philadelphia (1st), Tennessee (7th), and Pittsburgh (5th). He's a potential league winner at a relative discount.

  4. Tee Higgins (Cincinnati Bengals) - 2023 has not been kind to Tee Higgins, opening the year off with QB issues from Joe Burrow's lingering injury, then transitioning into injuries forcing him to miss multiple games, and now facing a hamstring injury that cost him last week and likely will keep him out of the lineup again in Week 11. He may not be 100% until the fantasy playoffs, but it appears favorable that he'll once again be extremely productive when on the field. That will likely be aided by the 9th-best playoff SOS, facing the likes of Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City with a solid blend of statistically-favorable and script-favorable opportunities.

  5. Brandon Aiyuk (San Francisco 49ers) - He's been the pinnacle of consistency from a WR2, posting 10+ points in every game he was healthy (exited Week 2 to injury). That's the perfect WR2 option as he approaches the 12th-best playoff schedule, including two above-average matchups, another game-script-friendly matchup against Baltimore, and a championship matchup against Washington (2nd-most PPG to WRs).

 

Tight Ends

  1. Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) - It's Travis Kelce. He has an above-average playoff schedule (14th) and a top-6 matchup in the championship game (Cincinnati, 6th). I really don't need to spend much time explaining this one... If you have the means, get Kelce as the positional advantage he brings immediately puts you in a favorable spot for a championship run. It also removes the potential for a poor TE performance to near-single-handedly end your season.

  2. Sam LaPorta (Detroit Lions) - He's a discount Travis Kelce. The volume is there, the efficiency is there, and the role within the offense is there. LaPorta sits 4th in points and will likely remain around that mark as he draws the 4th-easiest schedule among TEs in the playoffs with all above-average matchups against Denver (2nd-most PPG to TEs), Minnesota, and Dallas. He's a potential league winner.

  3. T.J. Hockenson (Minnesota Vikings) - Hockenson leads all TEs in fantasy points so far and just got a QB (Joshua Dobbs) who has historically force-fed the TE position. With a shocking turn of events now leaving Minnesota in the playoff hunt, Hockenson could be in line to capitalize off of the 8th-best playoff SOS, including two top-10 matchups to open the playoffs against Cincinnati and Detroit.

  4. Trey McBride (Arizona Cardinals) - Similar story to Marquise Brown with Kyler Murray returning and seemingly playing to justify his role on the team for next year, McBride was his go-to target in his first game back, drawing 8 catches (131 yards) and a 28.2% target share. That likely won't stick and, while the volume has been incredible for McBride and the playoff schedule is favorable (12th-easiest), my concern is with a potential Zach Ertz return. I like McBride more as a short-term option but he's still a potential 'home run' low-TE1 for the playoffs.

  5. David Njoku (Cleveland Browns) - Njoku draws the 2nd-easiest playoff schedule among TEs, including TWO top-4 matchups (Chicago, Houston) in that 3-game stretch. Typically that would be enough to warrant a must-buy at any other position, but with matchup difficulty impacting TEs the least, I'd still prioritize the top 3 here above him. Don't read into that as me avoiding Njoku by any means; he's coming off four straight 10+ point games (five 10+ point games in his last 6). Njoku could easily be a deciding factor in playoff runs with his schedule, especially in a position with such limited consistency beyond the top options.


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