Editor's note: Promotional consideration, including the disclosure of NFL jersey sales, is paid for by Dick's Sporting Goods in the following fantasy analysis.
There's a funny thing that happens in a lot of fantasy leagues around the trade deadline. In "real" sports, you get a flurry of deals taking place as teams realize it's their last, best chance to try to improve their rosters for the rest of the season. That's why you'll see the likes of Jay Ajayi, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kelvin Benjamin all sporting different jerseys going forward than the ones they wore in September.
Although in fantasyland the trade deadline is also the final opportunity for fantasy managers to wheel and deal, I've found it actually gets a lot harder -- not easier -- to complete any swaps. One primary reason is that of disinterest. I'm in one league where, with three weeks left in the regular season, three out of 12 teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention. We'll be lucky if they even bother to set a lineup going forward, let alone respond to any trade offers.
The second, and perhaps more impactful, reason deals have difficulty getting done is distrust. Let's say one of these eliminated teams does decide to make a trade with one of the teams still in the playoff hunt. Sure, it could be a lopsided dump deal that has every right to be vetoed, but even if it's a perfectly on-the-level, fair exchange of players, you're still likely to get a lot of pushback from the rest of your league.
But let's not assume the worst. We'll hope for the best and that you're in a league with a group of motivated managers who will root for a Week 13 spoiler win just as hard as they did in Week 1. You still have to figure out which players you're going to want to target in these last-minute trades and in that effort, no information should be dismissed out of hand. That's where taking a look at jersey sales from the past week, as reported by Dick's Sporting Goods, can potentially help.
Let's see if we can identify NFL fan bases that may have "given up" on 2017 already, by seeing where there's a disconnect between their side's records and the desire to sport their colors. For example, the Eagles are a league-best 8-1 on the field. Not surprisingly, Philadelphia's jersey sales are also at the top of the list. On the flip side, the Browns and 49ers, teams with a combined one win this season, are currently ranked 30th and 32nd in jersey sales during the past week, respectively. No need to alert the media there, either.
However, there are some interesting takeaways in the team sales numbers. The biggest drops over the past 30 days? Houston dropped out of the top 10, not surprisingly coinciding with Deshaun Watson's injury and a three-game losing streak. Clearly, the perception is that this team is done for 2017, and in terms of a playoff spot in the NFL, they probably are indeed, shall we say, Texas toast? However, that only makes Lamar Miller and the Texans D/ST -- both currently in the top 20 at their respective positions in terms of fantasy scoring -- more likely able to be pried away from their fantasy managers.
Other "down teams" include the Packers, who have dropped eight spots in a post-Aaron Rodgers injury environment. Still, Davante Adams is No. 11 among all WR options and has scored 32.3 fantasy points in the past two weeks. He can likely be had on the cheap, thanks to perception. Similarly, Minnesota has fallen six spots, even as the team has won five straight games. With Sam Bradford on the IR and confidence in Case Keenum still sketchy at best, you can probably capitalize on the general sense that trading while value is the highest might be the best course of action to pry away guys like Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Jerick McKinnon.
On the flip side, both Los Angeles squads have seen a recent surge in sales, with the Chargers up six spots and the Rams nine. Fantasy managers should read the tea leaves here and see if they can't get a huge package in return for the likes of Melvin Gordon (three of six games with single-digit fantasy points since Week 4) or Robert Woods (sure, four touchdowns in two weeks is stellar, but that won't continue and the defensive matchups are only going to get tougher going forward).
Perhaps counterintuitively, the two biggest movers in the positive direction over the past week have been the 4-5 Cardinals and the 3-6 Bengals, both up 10 spots and into the overall top 10. However, both of these cases are probably outliers. Cincinnati is about to play its fourth road game in the past five, and then return home for three in a row. Take A.J. Green out of the mix, and there's probably not a lot of other names on the backs of those Bengals jerseys.
As for Arizona, Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald are the only active players driving the surge. The Cardinals also a week away from a three-week stay at home, but the stands will likely host many more new David Johnson (No. 47 overall over the past week) and Carson Palmer (No. 69) jerseys than those with the names of players who will actually suit up.