If you haven’t been active on the waiver wire in your fantasy league, it’s time to start paying a little more attention. Bye weeks are here.
You may have gotten away with plugging and playing your drafted team through the first three weeks of the season, and if you’re fortunate enough, your squad’s sitting with a pretty 3-0 record. (By the way, if that's the case, your league mates hate you.) Don’t get cocky though – it’s a long season, and deep fantasy teams are going to thrive with multiple NFL teams resting each week.
It's now time to ask yourself: Is Jonathan Baldwin sitting on your bench “just because”? Are you still holding out hope for Isaac Redman? Do you really see Jake Locker making a weekly fantasy impact? It’s time to lose your emotional attachment with some players who clearly aren't going to be necessary stashes, and get rid of them like a main character in an episode of Hoarders. It's bye week time, and it's time to purchase some new fantasy toys.
Add Jay Cutler
Cutler is currently just the 19th-best fantasy quarterback, but he’s also faced Cincinnati (they held Aaron Rodgers to just over 12 standard points last week) and Pittsburgh (they rank fifth in the league in quarterback fantasy points allowed).
The upcoming schedule for Cutler over the next six weeks gets much better, facing the Lions, Saints, Giants, Redskins, Packers and Lions again. Though Detroit’s been fine against fantasy signal-callers to this point, keep in mind they’ve faced Christian Ponder and a Larry Fitzgerald-less Carson Palmer. Cutler’s a great add this week, as you’re getting a potential six week quarterback streaming option.
Buy C.J. Spiller
As I wrote yesterday, C.J. Spiller is a great buy low candidate. If you missed the article, peep it here.
Need more fuel for a Spiller transaction? A healthy C.J. will see far more touches than he did in 2012. If he had continued deep into the second half of last week’s game, Spiller would have touched the ball around 20 times (10 carries in the first half). Assuming this, that would put him at 17.6 attempts per game. Last season, Spiller averaged fewer than 13 totes per contest. There’s plenty of opportunity for a healthy Spiller to turn things around.
Add Isaiah Pead
Darly Richardson was sidelined with a foot injury against the Cowboys, allowing Isaiah Pead to see a bigger role within the Rams offense. Though Richardson claims he’ll be good to go on Thurday night against the 49ers, it’s not time to be optimistic about his long-term fantasy ability.
Pead has a rushing net expected points (NEP) total of 1.50 on his seven attempts this season. (He carried the ball six times against Dallas in Week 3.) This tells us that he’s been better than a replacement-level player in a similar situation; Pead has helped the Rams positively thus far. Richardson, on the other hand, has a negative rushing NEP.
And in the receiving game, where Richardson has 10 receptions to Pead’s nine, Isaiah has captured a better efficiency score.
This isn’t to say that Pead is in store for 20-plus touches a game, but it’s a small glimpse in showing that Pead may play a bigger role in the offense even with a healthy Richardson. Pead is worth an add off your waiver wire if you have room, and D-Rich is a flex play – at best – over the rest of the season.
Add Ryan Broyles
If you haven’t heard, Nate Burleson broke his arm in a car accident early in the morning while reaching for pizza that had fallen off the seat next to him. I can't even make this up. It’s sad news, but news that can give Ryan Broyles the opportunity he needs to live up to his 2013 sleeper potential. If Broyles can stay healthy, he could benefit from the pass-happy Lions offense, making him a decent WR3 option over the course of the season. If he’s available off the wire, snag him and see if his upside is met.
Hold Willis McGahee
After being picked up off the street, Willis McGahee led all Browns rushers with eight carries in Week 3. It’s impossible to take much away from his nine yards, but it’s clear the Browns are going to use him more than Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey in the ground game. Don’t trade for him, don’t drop him – just hold onto him and hope the Browns and McGahee can get something going.
Add Justin Blackmon
Blackmon’s owned in just 10.5 percent of ESPN.com fantasy leagues, so he’ll more than likely be available off your waiver wire. He’ll end his suspension after the Jaguars Week 4 matchup, which should add a little bit of goodness to the miserable Jacksonville passing game. It’s not to say Blackmon will pick up right where he left things off last season, but he’s worth a flier at this point in the season.
As a side note, Cecil Shorts currently leads the NFL in targets and percentage of team targets. Over the last couple of weeks, volume has been the reason for Cecil’s fantasy boom. Shorts should see fewer targets with Blackmon, I’m sure, but he’ll also see easier coverage, allowing for better efficiency. Don’t let Blackmon influence your feelings about Shorts, our 29th-ranked receiver through the end of the season.
Buy Tom Brady
Brady’s struggled in terms of posting great fantasy numbers, but have no fear: Gronkowski “could be” here.
Gronk’s made a lot of progress over the last week (or so I’ve read), and he could return to the Pats lineup this week. He’d be a massive asset to Brady, who’s throwing under 60 percent for the first time in his career. Brady’s also been pretty inefficient according to the numbers, ranking 20th in our passing net expected points metric.
If a frustrated owner is willing to sell him for a small price, go for it. Brady ranks as our sixth-best fantasy quarterback from here on out.
Drop Carson Palmer
Palmer struggled against the Saints last week, and now has just three passing touchdowns to four interceptions on the season. He's listed ahead of only five starting NFL quarterbacks in passing NEP, posting over 11 points below expectation at quarterback. Though his matchup this week against Tampa Bay could be a lot worse, he follows it up with games against an improved Panthers defense, the 49ers and the Seahawks. With a plethora of signal-callers out there, there are better options, including the aforementioned Jay Cutler.
Sell Rams Wide Receivers
Through three weeks, the highest targeted Rams receiver is Austin Pettis, who’s seeing 15.7 percent of team targets. That percentage ranks 65th among wide receivers. In other words, Sam Bradford is spreading the ball around like butter on toast, and we’re seeing little in terms of fantasy value from his wide receivers.
You’re going to see weeks where a Rams wideout will rank as a startable play, but trying to guess which one will become a nightmare. Just to show you how bad this could get, our highest ranked Rams receiver through the end of the season is Tavon Austin, who comes in as the 49th-best option.
Hold Stevan Ridley
So far this season, Ridley’s carried the ball 36 times for 121 yards and no scores. None. It's unbelievable considering last year Ridley made a living off getting into the end zone, rushing for 12 touchdowns.
What are you going to do though if you’re a Ridley owner? Trade him? For what? A meatball sandwich?
Your only choice right now is to hold, unless there’s an owner out there willing to give something decent in return. We have Ridley valued as the 27th-best running back through the end of the year, so it’s not as though we’re incredibly optimistic either. However, consider him a player with upside, as we know what he is capable of doing. Sunday night will be a big one for Ridley against the Falcons. He needs to show us something.
Add Brandon Bolden
Though Ridley struggled against the Bucs on Sunday, teammate Brandon Bolden did not. It appears as though Bolden will play the Shane Vereen role while the Pats injured running back heals up, which means Bolden has an opportunity to be a legitimate PPR start each week. He secured five catches in the Pats win, and ran the ball three times for 51 yards.
Of all the waiver wire options this week, Bolden seems like the best add.
Hold Josh Gordon
Did you start Josh Gordon against the Vikings? Probably not, and today you’re beating yourself up after losing your fantasy matchup by just a handful of points. But look, it’s tough to predict something like that. Few expected Brian Hoyer to throw for over 300 and three scores, and just as many thought Gordon would catch 10 balls for 146 yards and a touchdown, too.
The Browns ability on offense could have just been a result of a good matchup, as the Vikings pass defense has been suspect throughout this short season. In Week 1, they allowed 357 yards and two scores against Stafford and the Lions, and the next week, they surrendered 292 and three touchdowns against Jay Cutler.
What’s keeping the Vikings defense alive is their ability to create turnovers, as shown by Hoyer’s three picks on Sunday. But in fantasy, turnovers don’t mean nearly as much as yardage and touchdown passes, allowing quarterbacks to post reasonable pretend pigskin scores against the NFC North's worst team.
The Browns get the Bengals this week in what will be a very difficult matchup. You don’t necessarily want to sell Josh Gordon because he’s capable of being a full-blown WR1 for a fantasy team, but you do want to temper your expectations. See how Gordon performs against a legitimate defense before dubbing him the best wide receiver since Jerry Rice.
Add Terrelle Pryor
If Pryor is available in your league (owned in just 17.6 percent of ESPN leagues), you’ve got to snatch him up. He’s been blasted in the past for being a poor passer, but so far this season, Pryor ranks between Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson in passing NEP. He’s helped the Raiders add 22.25 points through the air this season, which is good for 8th-best in the NFL.
If Pryor can suit up this weekend after his concussion sustained on Monday night, he’s a must start against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Washington allowed over 25 standard fantasy points to Michael Vick in Week 1, almost 35 to Rodgers in Week 2 and just gave up over 21 to Matthew Stafford in Week 3. Pryor’s bound to have a good game if he plays.
Buy Torrey Smith
There seems to be some frustrated Torrey Smith owners out there, as Smith’s hauled in the same number of touchdowns as you and I have this year. However, there’s plenty of reason for optimism. Smith ranks 13th in the NFL in wide receiver targets (30) and has seen over 25 percent of his team’s total targets. In addition, the Ravens speedy pass catcher has accumulated the 15th-best reception NEP, better than Andre Johnson, Dez Bryant and Reggie Wayne.
His fantasy limitations have come due to lack of scores, but those should come as the Ravens approach Week 4. Baltimore gets Buffalo this week and the Packers in Week 6. Smith should get a score in there.
Add the Indianapolis Defense
The Colts defense played well against a weaponless San Francisco offense last week, and fortunately for them, they’ll probably continue their dominance against the worst offense in the NFL. The Jaguars – the Colts’ Week 4 opponent – rank dead last in the league in terms net expected points, scoring 48.18 less points than an average NFL team. The next worst is the Steelers, who are 30.20 points below expectation.
Keep in mind, however, that the Colts own one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. If Maurice Jones-Drew can man up and have a 2011 MJD-like day, the Colts could see themselves struggling a bit on defense. However, Blaine Gabbert will be starting for the Jags, so expect the turnovers to be plentiful. The Colts are a great defense to stream in Week 4.