How Recent NFL Trades Can Affect Fantasy Football Leagues

For the most part, fantasy football remains happily walled off from the real world. After all, unless you’re a Patriots fan, real-life football is generally devoid of championships. Inventing some other form of football entertainment is crucial.

One of the most appealing aspects of fantasy is that — true to its name — it provides an escape for football fans to maintain interest and passion long after their favorite NFL team has been eliminated.

Even if your fantasy team is also lackluster, there remains the rivalry among friends, or the desperate drama to avoid coming in last and incurring whatever punishment your league decides. In any scenario, fans pour themselves into their teams because of the fantasy aspect of the format.

Of course, the connection between fantasy and real is never far away. Like a football version of “The Upside Down” from “Stranger Things,” fantasy football is a bizarre mirror of the NFL. Real-life actions, decisions, and (unfortunately) injuries drive every aspect of fantasy.

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And yet the very nature of the fantasy format allows for different outcomes to flourish. Sure, the real Falcons are bad. But as a result, Atlanta receiver Julio Jones has once again been great in fantasy because his team has been chasing games and therefore throwing more often (to the benefit of Jones’s individual numbers).

NFL trades are a fascinating example of real-world events causing sweeping change in a fantasy season.

A year ago, for example, the seemingly forgettable news in October that the Browns traded running back Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars ended up turning entire fantasy leagues on their heads.

Rookie running back Nick Chubb went from an afterthought in Cleveland’s backfield (playing less than 10 percent of offensive snaps) to a starter, compiling more than 800 rushing yards and six touchdowns over the remaining 10 games.

Chubb helped fantasy players win their leagues, and it all stemmed from an otherwise unremarkable trade between two non-playoff NFL teams.

With that in mind, here are a few fantasy takeaways from some recent NFL deals:

Jalen Ramsey to the Rams — True, Ramsey doesn’t play a position that factors directly into fantasy, but his presence on the Rams’ defense clearly has relevance. The Rams had the No. 2 overall defense in fantasy a year ago, but had fallen a few spots in 2019.

With Ramsey, who forced a fumble in limited snaps during his debut against the Falcons a week ago, the Rams’ defense could move back into the elite class. The knock-on effect is also that the Rams’ offense could profit off better field position, and also that Ramsey’s former team (the Jaguars) will be that much less viable of a fantasy option.

Mohamed Sanu to the Patriots — This is the recent trade with probably the most difficult outcome to predict. Acclimating to the Patriots’ offense — and gaining Tom Brady’s trust — has historically proven to be a challenge for more than a few wide receivers.

Still, the other news from New England this week was Josh Gordon being placed on injured reserve. That escalates the necessity for Sanu to be involved in the offense. Consider also that the Patriots have games coming up against teams such as the Ravens, Cowboys, Texans, and Chiefs, all of whom could require bigger nights from Brady and the passing game. Sanu might not get off to a fast start in New England, but he’ll likely grow into a solid role.

Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers — Even before he was traded, Sanders was a perfectly playable wide receiver in fantasy. Despite being 32 and coming off a season-ending Achilles’ rupture in 2018, he had shown more than a few flashes of his old talent.

Putting him in Kyle Shanahan’s creative offense with the 49ers — catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo — should be great news. Added to that is the lack of other options the 49ers have at wide receiver. Prior to Sanders’s arrival, the highest-ranked San Francisco player among fantasy wide receivers was rookie Deebo Samuel, who places at a distant 78th overall. Sanders will likely receive ample targets as Shanahan gives him every opportunity to contribute