The league is in a bit of a lull following heavy free agent action and before the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. With most of the notable 2023 free agents under contract, teams are doing their last-minute preparation before adding a new class of rookies to their rosters. There is still a strong chance we see a big trade or two either prior to or during the draft, as we did last off-season. With this idea in mind, I have a wish list of where I’d like to see rumored players on the trade block play to boost their value for the 2023 fantasy football season.
NFL Trades That Would Improve 2023 Fantasy Football Value
Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets
Shocking, I know. Seriously, though, can this trade happen already? We’re approaching the three-week mark from when Aaron Rodgers made his intentions known, on “The Pat McAfee Show”, to play for the New York Jets in 2023. It seems this trade is a matter of “when” not “if” at this point.
Rodgers in a Jets uniform is fantastic news for fantasy football. First and foremost, he would reunite with offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, whom Rodgers won back-to-back MVP awards under in 2020 and 2021 in Green Bay. Secondly, he reunites with Allen Lazard, Rodgers’ top target last season who set career highs in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. A familiar face helps, especially with his size in the red zone.
In addition to Lazard, Rodgers would have Garrett Wilson, Mecole Hardman, and perhaps Odell Beckham Jr. signs in New York once this trade is official. Either way, it’s a strong group that’s collectively better than what he had in his most recent seasons with the Packers. There’s also the possibility of adding another pass catcher, likely at tight end, in the draft.
The Jets’ offense needs Rodgers as much as he needs a fresh start somewhere like New York. Rodgers was the QB26 on a points-per-game basis from the 2022 season after back-to-back QB6 finishes the two years prior. This trade would propel him back into the top-12 at the position on an offense with a good run game and a strong group of young pass-catchers.
Lamar Jackson to the Indianapolis Colts
A trade involving Lamar Jackson would send shockwaves through the fantasy football community. As far as his fantasy value is concerned, it really wouldn’t change too much. A healthy Lamar Jackson is going to compete for the most rush attempts among quarterbacks. I don’t think new head coach, Shane Steichen, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, will have a problem with that. The rushing upside then keeps him in consideration as a top-five pick at the position.
If Baltimore does trade Lamar, it’s more than likely to be a team with receivers better than anything he’s had as a Raven, which isn’t hard to do. Colts pass catchers Michael Pittman, Alec Pierce, and Jelani Woods are all 6’3″ or taller and weigh at least 210 pounds. None of them should have any issue getting open for the former MVP quarterback, especially with him or running back Jonathan Taylor and their talents running the ball.
In reference to the Lamar Jackson situation, Colts owner Jim Irsay is on record saying he “doesn’t believe in fully guaranteed contracts.” So, while some may rule out Lamar ending up in Indy, I say it’s possible, but he simply doesn’t get a fully guaranteed contract. The Colts currently own the fourth-overall pick in the 2023 Draft. If this deal goes down, they have some of the best capital to pull it off.
Dalvin Cook to the Miami Dolphins
Just days ago, reports surfaced that the Minnesota Vikings tried to sign former Bears running back David Montgomery as a free agent. They’re also bringing back Alexander Mattison on a two-year, $7 million deal with $6.35 million guaranteed. Both are indications that Cook could be on the move, most likely in a trade.
The key here is that the Vikings save nearly $8 million in cap space by trading Cook before June 1, or $11 million after, with just $6.2 million in dead money either way. While it’s not the most financially savvy move, a trade involving Cook to clear such cap space, while acquiring draft capital instead of just releasing him, makes sense. He’s a 28-year-old back who, prior to 2022, averaged three to four games missed per regular non-rookie season.
Even after re-signing Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Myles Gaskin, and Salvon Ahmed, they each count for less than 1% against the Dolphin’s 2023 cap. None of them are locks to make the roster, especially Gaskin and Ahmed.
In order to improve this offense, I still believe the Dolphins need a back like Dalvin Cook to lead the way with 250 carries and pass-catching ability out of the backfield. Miami ranks 24th in offensive plays, 25th in time of possession, and 31st in rush attempts, though 11th in points per game, from last season. Trading for a back like Cook boosts their numbers, better protects Tua Tagovailoa, and improves the efficiency of this offense.
Cook would likely see more scoring opportunities as a Dolphin than Viking, as well. A trade to Miami is likely for just the season, from a financial standpoint, so he would see plenty of volume, too. This trade firmly keeps him in the RB1 conversation for fantasy football.
DeAndre Hopkins to the Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback. Need I say more? Mahomes is the ultimate upgrade for any wide receiver, but especially Hopkins who, as of now, has to catch passes from Colt McCoy in Arizona until Kyler Murray returns from his season-ending ACL injury.
With the departure of Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency, there are 135 targets available on the Chiefs from last season. That’s 45% of Kansas City’s wide receiver targets and 22% of the team targets. DeAndre Hopkins has a career average of 9.43 targets per game. As a typical target hog, Hopkins has 1,183 yards or more in six of eight seasons in which he’s played more than 10 games.
Fresh off of a Super Bowl win, the Chiefs still have 10 draft picks, including two 4th, 6th, and 7th rounders in the 2023 NFL Draft. I’m sure the Cardinals are hoping for higher compensation, but as the draft approaches and even gets underway, there’s a high likelihood a deal gets done, especially in an out-of-conference trade.
Hopkins would easily see north of 100 targets in Kansas City and from one of the best playmakers in the business. This is one of the best landing spots to give him a legitimate shot at finishing as a WR1 in fantasy football.
Courtland Sutton to the Green Bay Packers
Drafting Javon Walker in 2002 is the last time Green Bay used a first-round pick on a wide receiver. To make matters worse, the Packers traded away Davante Adams last off-season following two back-to-back MVP seasons from Aaron Rodgers. So, to acquire a receiver like Courtland Sutton via trade after moving on from Rodgers makes my head spin a bit…but they should absolutely do it.
Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure, Jeff Cotton, and Bo Melton are the only wide receivers currently on Green Bay’s roster. If Rodgers is on the move, Jordan Love will need all of the help he can get in his first full year as a starting quarterback. The Packers also need to know what they have in Love as they prepare for the future. This group, as it stands, doesn’t exactly help accomplish those goals.
Courtland Sutton is a capable 1,000-yard receiver. His large frame and outside speed would be an asset to Love in the passing game. He’s also due no more than $14 million per year over the next three which isn’t an outrageous price in today’s receiver market.
Running back Aaron Jones was second in targets and just two receptions shy of leading the team last season. Robert Tonyan, who’s now a Chicago Bear, ranks third in both team stats respectively, as well. The Packers and Broncos passed at nearly an identical rate last season. Sutton would walk in as a veteran presence and the expected WR1. His 7.3 targets per game with the Denver Broncos tied for 29th in the league last season. Christian Watson will be a popular target in fantasy drafts which means Sutton could be a steal if this trade does come to fruition.