15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 8
The reason the quarterback position matters so much in football is because passers touch the ball on every play. And in this era where it's easier and smarter to throw the ball more, that's all just reinforced: teams generally need good quarterback play to be successful in the NFL.
Because quarterbacks have the ball in their hands so much, they're a little easier to predict each week in fantasy football. We know each signal-caller will be throwing the ball 30, 35, or even 40 times, which gives us a large sample size to work off of. For math geeks, the bigger the sample size, the better.
We can't say the same about pass-catchers. Not only are they reliant on quarterbacks getting them the ball, but they need those all-important targets to be catchable. Without that, even the most elite wide receivers in the world can become irrelevant in fantasy.
Sound familiar, Allen Robinson owners?
Hold Allen Robinson
This was the week. This was the week Robinson was finally going to get off the schneid and become the top wideout fantasy owners drafted in August. After all, it was the Raiders -- a Raiders secondary that had allowed six 100-yard wide receiver performances coming into the week.
Eight targets. Two catches. Nine yards.
We knew touchdown regression was going to hit both Blake Bortles (here's some math behind Bortles' regression) and A-Rob (ditto for Robinson), but the situation is still pretty weird. Take a look at the Jaguars' pass attempts per game and the target market share that Robinson has seen so far this year compared to last.
|Pass Attempts Per Game||Target Market Share|
Like I said, it's a little weird.
So why isn't A-Rob performing? Well, it's not so much volume-related as it is usage-related. Last year, it seemed like Robinson was catching prayers -- 50/50 balls -- from Bortles each and every week. By the end of the year, A-Rob had a 13.53 yards at the catch per catch rate. In other words, before yards after the catch, Robinson was gaining 13.53 yards per reception last season. That was second-highest in the league among relevant wide receivers, behind only deep-threat Sammy Watkins.
In 2016, Robinson's yards at the point of the catch per reception is down to 9.69. Among pass-catchers with 15 or more receptions this season, that ranks 41st, behind players like Jeremy Maclin and Stefon Diggs, who play in conservative offenses.
This lack of DGAF deep-ball throwing and catching combined with Bortles' poor efficiency (he ranks eighth-worst in Passing Net Expected Points, or NEP, so far this year) and natural touchdown regression (which, for the record, Robinson is still pacing for eight touchdowns this year) is why A-Rob is underperforming in fantasy.
Whether this turns around or not is up in the air (pun intended), but it does seem like the demise of Allen Robinson is a tad exaggerated. His market share and target numbers are good, and he's still seeing red zone looks (he's actually averaging more red zone targets per game this year than last). Bortles just needs to get him the ball downfield more and, really, can the quarterback play get much worse?
All of this means he's a hold for now if you own him. I wouldn't be trying to target him in a trade because, after all, this could just be what it is. The schedule also isn't all that attractive. But there are some reasons for optimism, at least.
Sell Jeremy Hill
Is this cheating? Is writing Jeremy Hill as a sell after a monster week cheating? I feel like it's cheating.
Nevertheless, it needs to be said. Hill went bonkers in Week 7, but it was the flukey kind of bonkers that makes him an easy sell candidate. Despite rushing for 168 yards, Hill still saw just 9 carries while playing only 34% of the team's snaps. He did get injured during the game and missed some of the fourth quarter (he was listed as probable to return, the game was just out of hand), but this type of snap rate isn't abnormal for him -- on the year, he's played 39% of the team's snaps, and he actually played 31% in Week 6.
Giovani Bernard is being used more and more, as evidenced by his out-snapping (54% versus 34%) and out-attempting (17 versus 9) of Jeremy Hill on Sunday. He's the back you want in this backfield, not Hill.
Buy Brandon Marshall
There are 32 wide receivers with a higher standard fantasy points per game average than Brandon Marshall right now. He's got a quarterback problem. He's only scored twice.
Why would you want him?
I mentioned it last week in this column, but I'll reiterate: there are still plenty of good things happening for Marshall in his offense. He has a 27.20% target market share, which is a top-10 number in the league. The schedule is also nice with the Jets facing the Browns, Dolphins, and Rams -- three squads who rank in the top-13 in giving fantasy points up to wide receivers -- over their next three games.
Most importantly, that touchdown number should rise as we progress through the season. Marshall has 472 yards, which is 16th-best in football, meaning he should probably be ranked higher than he is in fantasy points scored. He hasn't, though, because he's not finding the end zone, despite being second in the league in red zone targets. But when we compare yardage to touchdown totals over the last five years and do a little regression, he should have closer to 3.5 touchdowns rather than the 2 that he actually has. That's 1.3 more standard fantasy points per game, which places him around the top-20 at the position rather than a full-blown WR3.
He shouldn't be all that difficult to trade for given the quarterback situation, so now's the time to buy.
Add Paul Perkins
This is more speculative than anything else but, in deeper leagues, adding Paul Perkins isn't a terrible idea. The Giants' rushing offense has been apocalyptic this season, with the team averaging 3.3 yards per carry while ranking in the bottom 10, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. Perkins also saw a season-high 27% of the team's snaps against the Rams this week, carrying the ball 4 times, which was also the best he's seen this year. He's still just a flier for fantasy purposes, but the rookie has the most upside in the pitiful Giants' backfield.
Add JJ Nelson
The original transaction here was going to be to add Donte Moncrief, but that's lame because he's a higher-profile guy who'll be coming off his injury -- hopefully -- soon. It's a little obvious. So I pivoted to J.J. Nelson not because he has an elite first name, but because injuries in the Cardinals' offense should allow him to see a decent chunk of playing time.
Jaron Brown has a torn ACL and is out for the year, while John Brown is battling hamstring issues due to his sickle cell trait. Brown (of the John variety) should be back next week, according to coach Bruce Arians, but even if he is, Nelson could have a role. After all, he played 84% of Arizona's snaps on Sunday night, which was more than teammate Michael Floyd (81%). He also saw the same number of targets (7) as Floyd.
Buy Stefon Diggs
These are the perfect "buy" scenarios. You've got a player who missed time with an injury after doing good work for fantasy owners, and his first game back is a complete dud. The owners who held onto him are now incredibly upset and potentially irrational. (Hooray for taking advantage of leaguemates!)
Here's the deal with Diggs, though. He only saw five targets in Minnesota's Week 7 loss to Philadelphia, but he had seen at least seven in each of the four games he played this year previously. His target market share before his injury sat at a very strong 26.56%, which is along the same lines of Julio Jones -- it's a fringe top-10 number.
The five targets this past weekend may be annoying, but he was just returning from his injury, and the Eagles' defensive unit is no pushover.
The reason to buy is because his price should be relatively favorable right now, and the Vikings' upcoming short-term schedule is great -- they get Chicago this week (have given up the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year) and then Detroit (10th-most). Given his potential role in the Vikings' offense, he's worth a look.
Add Ka’Deem Carey
In somewhat of a surprise this past Thursday night, the Bears opted to get Ka'Deem Carey involved quite a bit in the offense. He ended up playing 54% of the team's snaps, which was actually more than starter (or is he?) Jordan Howard. Carey ended up seeing 10 carries to Howard's 7, making this appear like a full-blown committee once again.
Or, at the very least, this backfield is much more unpredictable than we originally thought not long ago. In hindsight, it wasn't all that shocking to see what Howard did a few weeks back. When he finally saw touches in the offense after the Jeremy Langford injury, Carey was banged up, so the backfield was his. And from Weeks 4 through 6, Howard faced Detroit, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville, three teams that rank in the bottom 10 against the run, per our numbers.
It's a muddied situation in Chicago, but because Carey's a breathing running back who's seeing some volume, he's worth an add off the waiver wire.
Buy Jay Ajayi
We're in this phase of "Is this for real?" with Jay Ajayi right now, which means you can do one of two things. You can buy into what he's doing and think or assume his usage and production will look great for the rest of the season, or you can sit back and say, "Is this the same guy who the coaching staff seemed to want to replace 45 times over the offseason with different veteran running backs?"
I'm siding with the former.
Going into Week 7, I tweeted some of our metrics showing just how crazy-good Ajayi has been this year. Of the backs with 50 or more carries this season, Ajayi is easily the best within our Success Rate metric, which measures the percentage of positive plays a player sees with each touch. Rather than looking at yards per carry or Rushing NEP per rush, Success Rate allows us to look at things in a more binary way, so big plays can't skew things.
Essentially, Ajayi is adding points for his team more consistently than any running back in football.
As I talked about last week, this boost in production from Ajayi is aligning perfectly with him seeing the bulk of the workload as well as the Dolphins' offensive line getting healthy. Matchups have played a role as well, sure, but at least there's some reason as to why this is all happening.
Will he keep up this pace? Of course not. He and the Dolphins have a bye this week, and then they face the Jets, a team that ranks fourth against the run, per our metrics. It'll be tough to keep doing what he's doing (especially when he's not playing).
This is where a little game theory comes into play. If your team is balling out and the Ajayi owner's squad has been struggling, this is a great time to buy. You explain the bye week and the Jets matchup to your leaguemate, and you offer him something that should help in the interim. There's a chance, too, that the Ajayi owner sees these two games as Jonas Gray-like, where he's rushing for 200 yards but won't sniff the production again this season.
What this comes down to is that you've got to treat Ajayi on a league-by-league basis. I and our numbers think he's for real, but some people won't. He's not a must buy for those who are in agreement, but it's definitely worth feeling out a trade to see if you can get a potential season-changer at running back.
Add Davante Adams, Buy Ty Montgomery
Davante Adams broke our database with his badness last season, but as our own Jim Sannes wrote last week, Adams has become Green Bay's best wide receiver here in 2016. Though things have been a little unpredictable overall, Adams now has seven or more targets in four of his six games (he left one of the non-seven-target games with a concussion), and he's seen 75% of the team's snaps in each of his last two full games played. With Green Bay likely to implement a pass-heavy offense now that Eddie Lacy is sidelined, Adams should be relevant in fantasy, as weird as that is to say.
The schedule -- which is also why I'm including Ty Montgomery here, who should be a trade target on sites where he's running back eligible (like ESPN) -- is also really nice for Green Bay over the next three weeks, as they face Atlanta (24th against the pass, according to our schedule-adjusted numbers), Indianapolis (31st), and Tennessee (26th). Perhaps the offense finally starts to play like the one we've grown to love in fantasy.
Add Peyton Barber
Peyton Barber saw garbage time work against the 49ers in Week 7, and this recommendation isn't here because I'm box score watching. Instead, Barber's intriguing because of the way Tampa Bay has been using third-string running back -- because that's technically what he is -- Jacquizz Rodgers, who's now seen 56 carries over his last two games.
Though Rodgers hasn't been a workhorse at the pro level until now, he did see 250-plus carries in each of his three college seasons. That's certainly a plus, and another reason to believe that he's easily the guy to own in this backfield with Doug Martin sidelined. But because Rodgers doesn't have that meaningful of a professional resume, Barber at least has deep league potential as someone who could jump in and steal some looks.
Like Perkins above, Barber isn't some must add right now off the waiver wire. However, in deeper formats, you can snag him and see how long this Quizz train ride lasts.
Buy DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is coming off a 5-catch, 36-yard game where his quarterback looked like a college passer. And owners are frustrated -- they spent a first-round pick on the guy, and he's now finished as a top-15 weekly passer just one time.
This could be a lot worse, though, guys. Hopkins -- and this is partially because of a Will Fuller injury -- has seen his market share rise to 25.94%, which is now the seventh-highest share in football. He's had three really bad performances, but two of them are sort of excusable, as the Texans faced New England (a team that generally takes away top options in opposing offenses) and Denver (a team that generally takes away all options in opposing offenses). The only true egg Hopkins has laid came against Tennessee in Week 4.
I mentioned that owners are annoyed, and that's what makes this a perfect time to buy. The volume is there, and the Texans are about to face the Lions (10th-most fantasy points allowed to the wide receiver position), Jaguars (8th), Raiders (6th), Chargers (20th, but they've seen injuries in the secondary), and Packers (12th). Really, you could make the argument that Hopkins doesn't face a super tough matchup through the end of the year when you peep that Texans' schedule.
So, Hopkins owners, relax. Things should be fine -- maybe not top-five-wide-receiver-in-the-league fine, but fine. And for those of you without Hopkins, now is the time to buy.
Sell the Lions’ Offense
The goal isn't to just repeat things I've said in previous 15 Transactions columns, but sometimes things need to be said again, especially after certain performances.
A week ago, I was all about selling Marvin Jones and Matthew Stafford. And, to be honest, that was looking pretty decent prior to Josh Norman's late-game concussion. The fact hasn't changed, though: this Lions' team has played a little over their heads fantasy-wise (Stafford, given his yardage totals, for instance, should be closer to 12 touchdowns rather than the 15 he has), and they've got a brutal four-game stretch upcoming where they'll face Houston once and Minnesota twice. They've got a bye in between there, too.
If you can afford to keep some of the offensive pieces past this month-long series of games, you'll be rewarded with games against the Saints and Bears. If that's enough to keep you on the Lions, then fine, I get that. Teams struggling, though, should look to deal members of Detroit.
Add Cameron Brate
When Tampa Bay sees a positive game script, Cameron Brate isn't as involved. We saw that in Week 5 against Carolina when Tampa Bay won one of the most boring games of the season, and then, this past week, the Bucs saw and kept the lead against San Francisco, leading to crazy ground attack.
Brate's seen two top-12, TE1 performances in PPR leagues since Austin Seferian-Jenkins finished his time up in Tampa, though, and they both came in contests -- against the Rams and Broncos -- that were either high scoring (Rams) or completely out of hand in the wrong direction for the Bucs (Broncos).
If you take a look at the Buccaneers' next two contests, they'll face Oakland and Atlanta, two teams that can keep up the pace on offense, and two teams that win games. That could lead to big days for Brate.
Add Ryan Fitzpatrick
Six teams are on bye this week, so the pickings are slim for a decent quarterback streamer. Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be an awful play as he'll be on the road in Cleveland to face a Browns defense that ranks 27th against the pass, according to NEP, while giving up at least two passing scores in every game this season. The only passer to rank worse than the weekly QB13 versus Cleveland has been Joe Flacco, and Flacco's averaged the 27th-most fantasy points per game at quarterback among relevant starters this year. It's a good matchup for Fitzpatrick. Just ignore the fact that he's Ryan Fitzpatrick and has five more interceptions than touchdowns this year.
Add the Titans’ Defense
The Titans are at home on Thursday night against Jacksonville, a team that's giving the ball up an average of two times per game. The Jags also rank in the bottom 10 in sacks allowed per game, while Tennessee is only one sack off of the league lead. This should -- albeit, it's a Thursday night game, so who the hell knows -- lead to fantasy production.