15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 3
Back when a lot of us watched MTV -- when Road Rules was a thing and Carson Daly didn't appeal to only a mom demographic -- the network had a show called MTV Diary, which documented celebrities going about their everyday lives. If you're familiar with the show, you probably know where I'm going with this.
"You think you know, but you have no idea."
Every intro to an episode had the spotlighted celeb saying that phrase. And it begged its viewers to ask questions like, "What don't I know about J-Lo? Why don't I have any idea about her life? What is my purpose?"
The phrase came rushing back to my mind this past weekend as I watched the NFL's Week 2. You stack the Giants-Saints in daily fantasy cash games? Did you think A.J. Green was going to go HAM against the Steeler secondary?
We thought we knew after Week 1. We thought we had the answers. But maybe we have no idea.
So let's attack this week carefully.
Sell or Drop Tyrod Taylor
I'm not a fan of "but if you take away his big plays, he wasn't very good" analysis, because some players are good at creating big plays. Take Adrian Peterson's career as an example.
With Tyrod Taylor, though, we can't ignore his journey to fantasy points. Because generating production through big plays means variance, and variance means unpredictability. That's not what we want from our fantasy starters.
In Week 2, Taylor had a nice end-of-game stat line: 18 of 30 for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns.
He also went threw for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 3 passes. Meaning, his non-scoring throws saw him with a 55.56% completion percentage and 124 passing yards.
It's true that I loved Taylor coming into the year as a high-upside, late-round quarterback option, but that came with plenty of caveats. The most important one being that he needed to be a more consistent passer -- last year, despite finishing in the top 10 within our per-pass Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, Taylor ranked 22nd in Success Rate. In other words, he was really efficient, but because his passing Success Rate -- or the percentage of positive throws made by a quarterback -- was so low, it was clear that he was stabilizing that high efficiency with big plays.
So far this season, Taylor has a 37.07% Success Rate, which is second-worst among relevant quarterbacks. The only passer who ranks worse is Case Keenum.
And not only are those big plays tough to predict, but they're also even more difficult to come by when a star wide receiver like Sammy Watkins isn't 100% healthy.
Considering Taylor plays a position that's entirely replaceable in most fantasy football formats, he's fine to sell off the big performance, or even dump completely. It doesn't help that he's got the Cardinals, Patriots, and Rams defenses upcoming, either.
And, look, if you're screaming at your computer because "my league isn't a normal league," then keep him around. Just understand it's more than likely going to be a roller coaster based on what we've seen these first two weeks.
Add Quincy Enunwa
If you watched the Thursday night game, you saw what I did: Quincy Enunwa with a heavy involvement within the Jets offense.
It's real, guys. Enunwa's presence is real.
So far this year, the team's number-three wideout has been on the field for 75% of the team's snaps, which includes when he missed part of Week 2's action due to a rib injury. In turn, Enunwa has 14 targets, barely trailing teammates Brandon Marshall (17) and Eric Decker (15).
Given the Jets don't have a reliable pass-catching tight end, there's plenty of volume to go around in what looks to be an above-average offense. And that offense may need to throw the ball more than it did last year (626 drop backs, 16th-most in the NFL) given the secondary has gotten off to a slow start this year versus where they ranked last year (they ranked 7th against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics in 2015).
No, he's not taking over for Marshall or Decker without an injury to one of those guys, but Quincy Enunwa can serve as a flex throughout the season, making him a worthwhile guy to snag off the waiver wire.
Add Dwayne Washington
There were a ton of running back injuries in Week 2, which means fantasy owners are about to blow their free agent auction budget load on a bunch of backup running backs entering Week 3. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker are two of them, as Jonathan Stewart is likely to miss time. And then there's Jay Ajayi or Kenyan Drake, who should see more action with an injured Arian Foster (surprise, surprise).
It looks like Ameer Abdullah has a foot sprain, which might sideline him. If that's the case, Theo Riddick will clearly see a bigger role, but Riddick's never been a big early-down guy. In fact, he had never topped seven attempts in an NFL game prior to this past weekend.
Enter Washington, who stands at 6'2'', 226 pounds. Washington already served as the goal line back this year, scoring next to the end zone in Week 1. With those duties going his way and the opening for more early-down work, he makes for an interesting snag off the waiver wire.
Sell Todd Gurley
Among the 49 backs with 10 or more carries so far this year, Todd Gurley's Success Rate (again, this is the percentage of positive plays -- in this case, runs) ranks sixth-worst. And his Rushing NEP per rush -- efficiency, measured by numberFire -- ranks second-worst.
That's frightening for a guy you probably selected early in your fantasy football drafts.
In this column last week, I mentioned that panicking early on in the season is fine because, well, sometimes situations don't get any better. That is, after all, what drove a "sell Adrian Peterson" recommendation.
We're in a similar situation here with Gurley. The offense is set up to be the worst one in football this year, and Gurley isn't even the primary pass-catching back within it. As a result, he's bound to play fewer snaps than someone in a superior role like David Johnson -- Gurley hasn't been a top-10 back in percentage of team snaps played so far through two weeks, despite being an easy top-10 back for many in fantasy football prior to the season.
And then you look at the schedule. Over the next two weeks, the Rams will face Tampa Bay and Arizona, two teams that can stop the run. He'll then face the Bills and Lions, which may not cause many issues. But then -- then -- Gurley will take on the Giants and Panthers, two squads who could easily end up in the top 10 at stopping the rush by season's end.
So not only has Gurley been worthless for fantasy owners thus far, but also four of his next six contests look tough. That's a difficult thing to stomach if you have him rostered right now.
Buy Le’Veon Bell, Sell DeAngelo Williams
My goal with this recommendation isn't to make you say, "duh." Because it's fairly obvious that having Le'Veon Bell on your squad is a good thing, let alone getting Bell in a trade just one week prior to his suspension being fully served.
But there are leagues with all sorts of people. Some of those people may think that, given the way DeAngelo Williams has run thus far, the Steelers won't completely give the job back to Bell. But last season when Bell was healthy, he never saw fewer than 88% of the team's snaps. And when D-Will took over, Williams never saw fewer than 89% of the team's snaps.
We know the top running back spot in Pittsburgh is an attractive one. It's one that has a ton of scoring opportunities, and it's one that's always on the field. A Bell owner may be winless so far and looking for a change, though, and serving up higher-end players for Bell can do the job. This is merely a reminder that Bell is about to come back from his suspension, and that Williams will become nothing more than a handcuff.
Add Dennis Pitta
Make no mistake: Dennis Pitta is the Ravens' top tight end. He's played 71% of the team's snaps so far and, in Week 2, he saw 12 targets from quarterback Joe Flacco. Through two weeks, no player on Baltimore's roster has more targets.
He may have the hip of an 81-year-old man, but guys, Dennis Pitta might finally be a thing again. That's great news for fantasy owners.
Buy Melvin Gordon
A week ago, I was all about selling Melvin Gordon. If Danny Woodhead was still around, the feelings would be the same. But no Woodhead -- he's out with a torn ACL -- means huge things for Gordon moving forward.
In Sunday's game against the Jaguars, Gordon played 75% of the team's snaps, and that was with Woodhead for a small portion of the game. Gordon ended the contest with 24 attempts on the ground and 3 targets through the air.
Perhaps Gordon would've seen 15 or 16 carries with a healthy Woodhead against Jacksonville thanks to the positive game script, but having the backfield to himself regardless of game script is huge. It shouldn't surprise anyone if Gordon ends the season as an RB1 in fantasy.
Add Shane Vereen
Trust me, I'm just as frustrated with Rashad Jennings as you are. Seeing 13 carries against the Saints defense and only tallying 27 rushing yards? Come on.
What sucks even more for Jennings owners -- aside from an ineffective start to the season on the ground -- is that the prime opportunities haven't been there. After two games, Jennings has zero carries within his opponents' 10-yard line.
Shane Vereen has four.
Vereen is coming off a game where he saw 14 carries, which ties the most he's ever seen in a game throughout his career. He also played 51% of the team's snaps on Sunday, more than Jennings' total. Perhaps some of this -- the snaps, goal-line touches -- has to do with a wrist injury sustained by Jennings during the game but, even still, that would make Vereen just as attractive of an add.
Vereen, too, has eight targets in the passing game, which is where he typically does his work. If he establishes himself as more of a ground-game option, he then will have strong flex appeal moving forward.
Hold Latavius Murray
This is one of the oddest situations to analyze, but when looking at Latavius Murray, there are certainly some warning signs about his 2016 outlook.
I'm not fully bought into completely selling Murray, mainly because he's been super efficient to start the year. In fact, according to our metrics, no back in the NFL has a higher Rushing NEP total or Success Rate. He's balling out.
The problem is that he's also seeing very little work. Within context, of course.
Against the Falcons in Week 2 -- granted, it was a negative game script for Oakland, and that'll hurt Murray -- Murray played just 48% of the team's snaps, seeing just one more carry than Jalen Richard and two more than DeAndre Washington. What makes things even worse is that Murray is touching the ball (attempts or target) on 37% of his snaps played, whereas that number was 47% last year.
The Oakland offensive line is improved, and Murray has looked the part to start the season. My only hesitation is his usage in negative game scripts, which could come more often than not given the way the Raiders' defense has played thus far.
The bottom line: if you own him, see if you can get a higher-end return. If you can't, it's fine to hold onto him given his high efficiency to start the year.
Add Jamison Crowder
One of the most undervalued wideouts in football might be Jamison Crowder, who ended his rookie season in 2015 with an impressive 59 catches for Washington.
This year, Crowder leads the Redskins in targets (18) while playing the second-highest snap count (behind only DeSean Jackson) at the wide receiver position. Considering Washington may end up being the most pass-friendly team in the NFL this season -- this tweet from Kevin Cole gives you a nice visual of the pass-friendliness -- Crowder could end up being a PPR machine. It also doesn't hurt that he's seen five red zone targets so far this year, which is tied for second in the entire NFL.
Add Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata
You're basically choosing between The Terminator and Paul Blart: Mall Cop with McKinnon and Asiata. One guy is a physical freak whose measurables compare closely to future Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson. The other runs about as fast as my dad.
The thing we always have to remember, though, is that physically-gifted players aren't always beloved by coaches. Asiata was the back who closed out the Sunday night game for Minnesota, seeing six attempts to McKinnon's two. But off waivers, I'm going to favor the guy who has tremendous upside, which is McKinnon. Just hope Mike Zimmer and company want to feature him, as they should.
Sell Kelvin Benjamin
I can take an L here, that's fine. I'll miss picks many, many more times throughout my career.
The recommendation here isn't to sell Benjamin for a bag of potato chips because I only stick to my preseason picks and don't adapt. That's silly. Instead, it's to show what he's doing right now, how he's more than likely playing a little over his head, and why you may be able to get a lot for him.
Through two games, Benjamin's target market share is over 29%. During his rookie year when his biggest competition for looks at wide receiver was Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery, his target market share was 25.75%. You'd naturally expect some regression coming there for Benjamin given the competition is stronger, even if it drops to his great 2014 levels.
When you have a chunk of the pie, the larger the pie, the larger the chunk. In 2014, the Panthers threw the ball more than they had since 2002 (545 attempts). So far in 2016, Carolina's averaging 36.5 attempts per game, which prorates to 584 attempts across the entire season. That beats the 2014 pace by quite a bit -- one that was already high -- and smashes last year's number, which was 501.
To put this another way, it's possible that the perfect storm has occurred for Kelvin Benjamin through two weeks. He's looked great, and he should be able to live up to his WR16 average draft position. But if you can snag a stud wideout for him now -- perhaps the guy who's next on the list -- I'm for it.
Buy Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson has had a rough start to the season. In Week 1, the Packers did what they could to take him out of the game, with Sam Shields covering A-Rob and keeping him to a 6-reception, 72-yard game on 15 targets. Sunday saw Jason Verrett on Robinson, and he held the star wideout to 3 receptions for 54 yards on 5 targets.
But mark my words: Allen Robinson is about to eat.
The Jaguars' schedule starts to open up a lot, starting in Week 3, where they face a Ravens team -- one that was getting torched by a healthy Josh McCown last week -- at home. Then they get Indianapolis (28th against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics), Chicago (15th), Oakland (32nd), Tennessee (14th), and Kansas City (16th).
Send offers for Robinson before it's too late.
Add Ryan Tannehill
Marcus Mariota is in a better spot as a quarterback streamer this week at home against Oakland, but his ownership percentage is a tad high to label him as an "add." So, let's look at the next best option: Ryan Tannehill.
The Dolphins host the Browns this week, and Vegas has Miami as 9.5-point favorites. With a game total of 41.5, that means the Dolphins have an implied team total of 25.5 points.
If the Dolphins score three touchdowns, it's hard to imagine Tannehill not having something to do with it. That's even truer when you consider Arian Foster's injury and Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco's performances against the Browns' secondary in Weeks 1 and 2.
Tannehill, right now, is the best low-owned streamer on Week 3's slate.
Add the Miami Dolphins Defense
This one was pretty much already laid out for you: the Dolphins are at home, they're 9.5-point favorites, and they're facing the Browns. But it's actually even better -- they're facing the Browns who are throwing rookie Cody Kessler under center. It could get ugly.