I was having a good night, watching two of my fantasy starters rack up 40 points on Thursday Night Football, when the news broke about the Christian McCaffrey trade. It wasn’t a complete surprise, with rumors swirling around Carolina’s All-Pro running back for the past several weeks. But the timing wasn’t good for me with a trade for Jeff Wilson pending.
Suffice it to say that the McCaffrey trade changed the landscape of the NFL and fantasy football. It catapulted San Francisco into the role of a true Super Bowl contender (+1600), although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1200), Kansas City Chiefs (+700), Philadelphia Eagles (+550) and Buffalo Bills (+290) are presently still ahead of the 49ers – as of four days ago.
If you drafted or traded for McCaffrey (CMC) on your fantasy team, last week’s trade may not prove to be a boon to your title chances. Don’t hold it against CMC that he only scored 8.2 PPR fantasy points in his debut. Keep in mind that he flew across country on Friday and didn’t log a single practice rep with his new team before taking the field against Kansas City.
There’s no doubt that the 49ers offense is a much better than the Panthers, which means that CMC will score more touchdowns (he had just three in the first six games). But San Francisco probably isn’t going to make him the focal point of their offense in quite the same way the Panthers historically have. If you have CMC rostered, consider good trade offers.
Before you lock me up in a loony bin, hear me out on this. CMC has entered a much more crowded passing game, with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk combining for target shares over 65% between them. That doesn’t necessarily leave room for McCaffrey to be in the 20% range where he’s spent most of the time in the past few years.
McCaffrey’s a great runner, but it’s his pass-catching ability that had made him the best player in fantasy when healthy. Kyle Shanahan will surely use him as a pass-catcher more than he’s used other running backs in the passing game in the past – they have just 13 targets to running backs this season. But CMC doesn’t have the same 90-catch upside in this 49er offense.
So, what would a good trade offer be for CMC? You need to walk away with two starters for it to be good enough. For instance, Dameon Piece and Mike Evans would work for me. Or, Leonard Fournette and A.J. Brown would be enough to trade CMC away. If someone was willing to trade Josh Jacobs, I’d take him and CeeDee Lamb for CMC. Do you get my gist?
Back on the East Coast, the Panthers were putting a butt whipping on Tom Brady’s Bucs, which came as quite a surprise for those of us who thought McCaffrey was escaping a sinking ship in Charlotte. I had added D’Onta Foreman off the waiver wire late Thursday when the news broke, and he had 15 rushes for 118 yards and caught two passes for 16.5 fantasy points.
At the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season, let’s take a look at what this trade might mean for players on both the 49ers and Panthers. The above-mentioned Wilson is now a drop in all leagues. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a crystal ball before I traded Kyle Pitts for Wilson a day earlier, although giving up Pitts doesn’t appear to be a big loss.
Foreman’s performance against a lackluster Tampa Bay team could be misleading, and I am not advocating that you empty your FAAB account to acquire him this week. Chuba Hubbard was named as the Carolina starter ahead of kickoff. Although Foreman looked explosive, his numbers were inflated by Hubard’s early departure with what was called a minor injury.
One of the apparent fantasy winners on the Panthers is D.J. Moore, who was targeted 10 times against the Bucs. Moore’s seven receptions and 69 total yards didn’t knock my socks off, but both were season highs. He also had his second touchdown grab of the season. With the Falcons on the schedule next week and again two weeks later, I’d buy low on Moore.
On the San Francisco side, it’s hard to see any of their existing fantasy stars benefitting from the addition of CMC. Except for Wilson, the one hurt most is probably Deebo Samuel. Deebo has already seen his rushing game role diminish over the past month or so. He’s had seven carries over the past four weeks, and he only had one carry for two yards on Sunday.
The 49ers’ pie hasn’t been quite big enough for Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk to feast every week already, and now they’ve got another big mouth to share with. A CMC-led 49ers squad is going to be a nightmare to play defense against, but they also might be a nightmare for fantasy. Kittle is still a WR1, but Samuel is probably now no better than a WR2.
The one who seems to be hurt the least, though, is Aiyuk. He stayed hot for a second straight week with another 11-target, 80-plus yard game. The numbers on Sunday against Kansas City were almost identical to the previous week, with the absence of the two touchdown receptions he caught against Atlanta. Aiyuk is still a WR3/flex going forward.
Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.