What a trade deadline this year’s was.
In a completely unexpected move filed minutes before Tuesday’s deadline, the Carolina Panthers traded Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for 2018 third- and seventh-round picks. It’s a head-scratching move on the Panthers’ part, but does beef up what was a precariously thin set of receivers in Buffalo.
Benjamin’s fantasy value gets a boost as a result of the move, but that’s not because his performance in Carolina was necessarily poor. After all, through eight weeks, he was the No. 24 fantasy wide receiver using either PPR or non-PPR scoring, averaging 11.4 points per game in the former and 7.4 in the latter. Shifting him from the Panthers to the Bills, though, thrusts him into a more clear-cut No. 1 role for his new squad, where the Bills had struggled to find a logical replacement following August’s trade of Sammy Watkins. In Carolina, Devin Funchess‘ target share was actually larger than Benjamin’s, 21.8 to 19.5 percent, and that’s despite their having played six games with Greg Olsen injured. Last season, Benjamin’s target share was 21.3 percent.
What Benjamin provides the Bills, and specifically Tyrod Taylor, is a monstrous target in the receiving game, as he’s one of the position’s more sizable at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. It could mean a small increase upon the 0.88 red-zone targets per game that Benjamin has averaged since the beginning of last season, resulting in a similarly small increase in touchdown potential. He was more of a low-end WR2 with the Panthers to this point, but is now a locked-in WR2.
Taylor’s fantasy value probably increases more than Benjamin’s, as with a larger target to throw to he should see an uptick in his completion percentage and yards per attempt, perhaps vaulting him into the back end of the QB1 class.
Incidentally, while Benjamin might have a difficult time joining his new team and getting up to full speed in time for the Bills’ early Week 9 game on Thursday, if he does manage to suit up he’ll enjoy a rare prospect of a 17-game season, something few players in history have enjoyed. He’d effectively skip his bye week. The Bills’ schedule as well is extremely favorable for passing-game production, which represents more good news for Taylor and Benjamin: @NYJ, NO, @LAC, @KC, NE, IND, MIA, @NE and @MIA are their nine remaining games.
Back in Carolina, Funchess’ WR3 value is strengthened by Benjamin’s departure, as he’s now the clear go-to option for Cam Newton. Funchess gets a small bump, perhaps to the back end of the WR2 tier, in PPR leagues. Still, the Panthers probably wouldn’t make this move if they didn’t have a favorable opinion and larger plans for Curtis Samuel and Russell Shepard, with Samuel becoming more intriguing in dynasty leagues. Keep an eye on Shepard’s and Samuel’s roles in the next week or two, as either could be in line to fare well with the Panthers’ immensely favorable Weeks 12-17 schedule (@NYJ, @NO, MIN, GB, TB, @ATL) with expanded opportunity.