If I was convinced of anything, it was that Green Bay wasn’t going to let the 2022 NFL trade deadline pass without making a move at wide receiver. Reeling as a team, the Packers ha lost four consecutive games to slip to 3-5. Trailing Minnesota by 3 ½ games, it’s fair to say that their playoff chances were slipping away. They had to do something.
But then the deadline passed Tuesday evening, and Green Bay did nothing – much to the chagrin of their fans. The silence was deafening on a record-breaking trade deadline day that saw teams across the league agree to a total of 10 trades. In the NFC North, the Vikings acquired tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Lions, while the Bears got WR Chase Claypool.
The Packers could have used either of those players. It seems they are in greater need of help at the receiver position. Allen Lazard missed last week’s game against Buffalo with a shoulder injury and is questionable this week. Randall Cobb is on IR, and Romeo Doubs, Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson have been inconsistent when on the field.
Meanwhile, the Bears, who are tied for second in the NFC North with Green Bay, swapped a second-round pick for Claypool. The former Steelers wide receiver was one of several wideouts linked to the Packers in various trade rumors swirling around in the days before the deadline. Brandin Cooks and Jerry Jeudy were also believed to be of interest.
The Vikings, 6-1, running away with the NFC North, made a big addition with Hockenson. The Bears, 3-5, now have Claypool to start across the field from Darnell Mooney. The Packers, 3-5, with the window slamming shut on Aaron Rodgers’ window of opportunity to win a second Super Bowl, didn’t make a move as the NFL trade deadline came and went.
After the offseason trade of Davante Adams, it was a given that the offense was going to be a work in progress. But the progress has been minimal. Imperceptible. Through eight games, the Packers are 26th in scoring, 26th in passing yards per play, 22nd on third down and 32nd on fourth down. Rodgers is next-to-last in air yards per completion.
It’s really puzzling to me that Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst were reluctant to give up a second-round pick for Claypool. I wonder what they weren’t willing to give up to land Cooks, or Jeudy? Okay, let’s look at five of the biggest trades and the ramifications of these from a fantasy perspective.
T.J. HOCKENSON TO MINNESOTA VIKINGS
With all of the trade rumors out there, this one caught me by surprise. There was little to no buzz about Hockenson being on the block. Not only did the Lions deal him, but they dealt him within the division. There was once an unwritten rule that you don’t trade within your division, but that’s apparently out the window now with this deal.
The Vikings, who just lost Irv Smith to a significant ankle injury, made a bold move. They get an A-plus for landing one of the best tight ends in football. Minnesota receives Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick. In return, Detroit receives a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
The move probably does little to change Hockenson’s fantasy value. He has averaged 6.1 targets a game this season in Detroit. Smith has averaged 4.7 targets a game for the Vikings this year. Hockenson is the better player, so it’s unlikely he’ll see fewer targets with his new team, but it’s also improbable that he’ll get a significant boost in target volume.
The trade shouldn’t alter the fantasy value of Vikings WRs Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen or K.J. Osborn in any significant way either. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins gets a value bump because Hockenson is a clear upgrade over Smith. I have Cousins rostered on one of my teams, and I may try and trade him on the perception that he’s now a top-five QB.
The biggest winners in Detroit are probably the Lions’ wideouts and backs. Tight end Brock Wright may get a slight bump but the rest of Hockenson’s vacated 6.1 targets per game should be divided up between Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, Josh Reynolds and others. It won’t be a huge target windfall, but there will at least be residual fantasy benefits.
CHASE CLAYPOOL TO CHICAGO BEARS
Bears GM Ryan Poles made an aggressive move to provide Justin Fields with another pass catcher across the field from Darnell Mooney. Claypool is still playing on his rookie deal, so the Bears have him signed through 2023. To acquire Claypool, the Bears sacrificed the second-round pick they got from the Ravens for LB Roquan Smith.
This trade may be a slight boost to Claypool’s fantasy value. He goes from sharing targets with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris to being a No. 2 receiver in Chicago — or perhaps a co-No. 1 with Darnell Mooney. But keep in mind the Bears have passed on only 40.1% of their offensive snaps, the lowest in the league.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers have passed on 62.5% of their offensive snaps, the 11th-highest rate in the league. The departure of Claypool means more opportunities for all of the pass-catchers since Claypool had been targeted on 50 throws in eight games. There is no reason to think that the Steelers will be passing any less in the second half of the season.
The big gainer in Pittsburgh could be Pickens, a second-round rookie who’s looked like a future star at times this season. Pickens, who has 43 targets this season, may be in line to get most of Claypool’s vacated targets. He could become an every-week fantasy starter — and potentially a very valuable one – if targeted more by QB Kenny Pickett.
JEFF WILSON JR. TO MIAMI DOLPHINS
I seem to believe that this trade was a bigger deal than most analysts. Wilson had been the primary backup to opening day starter Elijah Mitchell and had ascended to a lead role after Mitchell went down with a knee injury. But then the 49ers swung the blockbuster deal for Christian McCaffrey and Wilson was dropped in many leagues.
I claimed Wilson in a 12-team league because I believe his fantasy value got a bump. He was going to be third in line behind McCaffrey and Mitchell in San Francisco. In Miami, he is almost certain to be the primary backup to injury-prone Raheem Mostert. Miami’s willingness to give up a fifth-rounder for Wilson isn’t a vote of confidence in Myles Gaskin.
The Miami Dolphins did some RB shuffling, sending Chase Edmonds to the Broncos as part of the deal to acquire edge rusher Bradley Chubb. Edmonds opened the season as Miami’s starting RB but was quickly supplanted by Raheem Mostert. He joins a crowded backfield in Denver that includes Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray and the injured Mike Boone.
It’s worth noting that Wilson and Mostert have reunited with Mike McDaniel. Before becoming the Dolphins’ head coach this year, Mike McDaniel was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2021 and the team’s run game coordinator from 2017-2020. In other words, McDaniel was directly coaching Wilson for much of his early career beginning in 2018.
NYHEIM HINES TO BUFFALO BILLS
The Bills, Super Bowl favorites, proved they’re in it to win it by acquiring Nyheim Hines from the Colts in exchange for RB Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2023. This was a good deal for Buffalo as Hines will immediately slot in as the Bills’ passing-down back. The deal boosts Hines’ value simply because the Bills have such a potent offense.
Josh Allen is arguably the best quarterback in the league. On a far superior offense, Hines should score more touchdowns and more fantasy points. Buffalo RBs have accounted for 21.2% of team targets this season, the 13th-highest percentage in the league. Hines has RB3 value in full-point PPR leagues and is at least a flex, or good bye-week replacement.
The trade could pump a small bit of life into the fantasy value of Moss in Indianapolis. He had fallen out of favor in Buffalo in the past year. Moss and Deon Jackson are now backups to Jonathan Taylor, who’s been dealing with an ankle problem. If Taylor were to miss time, Moss would likely get a healthy share of early-down work for the Colts.
There could be some residual value gainers in Indianapolis. Deon Jackson could get more passing-down snaps with Hines out of the picture. Some of Hines’ vacated targets will go elsewhere, and short-area WR Parris Campbell might be the biggest beneficiary. But that’s probably the wishful thinking of someone who has Campbell rostered.
KADARIUS TONEY TO KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Okay, this one happened last week after I had posted my column about the McCaffrey trade. But it’s significant in that the Chiefs’ paid up to acquire the second-year WR who has spent more time injured than not. The New York Giants traded the speedy wide receiver to Kansas City in exchange for a 2023 third-round compensatory pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.
It was more than a year ago when Toney exploded on the scene with a 6-78-0 game vs. the Saints and 10-189-0 game vs. the Cowboys. In those two games, he flashing athleticism and after-the-catch explosiveness. Those qualities were evident at the University of Florida, prompting the Giants to take him with the 20th overall pick in last year’s draft.
But then all of the injuries started, and Toney’s fantasy value plummeted with his football fortunes. Still, the Chiefs must believe Toney can still turn his special athleticism into consistent NFL production. Toney, who’s been sidelined all season with hamstring injuries, currently is scheduled to play in Sunday night’s game against the Titans.
How much Toney plays remains to be seen. JuJu Smith-Schuster is entrenched as the Chiefs’ primary slot receiver, and Toney is not likely to take snaps from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in the offseason. If Toney stays healthy, Mecole Hardman might be squeezed out as the No. 3 receiver for Patrick Mahomes.
Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.