15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 3
You don't have transparency to this, but each week, there are more than 15 transactions that compete with one another to make the final cut for this column. It's sort of like the show Survivor, except the transactions aren't people. They're words. And instead of being on an island, they're on my computer. And they don't actually vote for one another to stay. I make the final decision.
So it's actually nothing like Survivor.
Whittling these actions down to 15 each week can be tough, though. Especially early in the season. So if you're reading and don't see a particular move on here, don't assume it means I'm not into said move. Don't assume I'm not into that player. It just means there was an intentional focus on the others.
It's not like everyone who's voted off the island on Survivor is completely hated, right?
Buy Le’Veon Bell
Two games, two mediocre performances. That's not exactly what you want out of your top-two overall fantasy football selection.
Have no fear, Bell owners. Week 1 was a bit of an anomaly as Bell was coming back from his holdout, having played zero of the preseason. He ended up securing just 72% of Pittsburgh's snaps, which is fine for most running backs, but not for Bell -- he played at least 87% of the Steelers' snaps in every game he was active for last year.
Then Week 2 hit. If you remove the actual production, everything was perfect for Bell. He was on the field for 92% of the team's snaps, he had 27 of the 29 running back carries in the offense, and he caught 4 passes on 4 targets.
So back to the production part. Where's it been the first two weeks of the season? Well, as I said, Week 1 was odd usage for Bell. Not only did he play fewer snaps than usual, but he carried the ball just 10 times. That only happened once in 2016. And then the matchup against Minnesota in Week 2 was a tough one. The Vikings allowed the seventh-fewest points per game to running backs last year, and the team features a good front-seven.
A touchdown from Bell would've forced him off this list too, if we're being honest. But those will come. So far on the year, the Steelers have run three plays within their opponent's five-yard line, but each play has been a pass. Last year, over 41% of those plays were rushes. Positive regression will hit Bell eventually, especially in a better matchup.
It can't hurt to send out some trade offers to the Bell owner in your league. Perhaps they're overly frustrated with his slow start, even though his slow start is easily explained.
Sell Terrance West, Add Buck Allen
If this is the third time you're reading this column on the year, then this is the third time you've seen Buck Allen's name listed. And, my goodness, his situation has gotten better and better each time.
Prior to Week 1, my love for Allen was more flier-related. Terrance West, according to some analysis, was one of the lower-tiered starters in the league, so Allen wouldn't have much to overcome in order to get some sort of role.
And he came through. Allen ended up out-attempting West 14 to 8 against the Browns this past Sunday, seeing 6 targets to West's 2. Most importantly -- and this won't show up in the box score -- Allen played 62% of Baltimore's snaps while West was on the field for 22% of them.
This could've been due to a slight injury West is dealing with, but that's still huge. You'd generally expect West to be on the field more in a positive game script like Baltimore saw, as his skillset is that of an early-down back. He's not the team's primary pass-catcher. With Woodhead out, that's now Allen's job. Hence the six targets on Sunday.
But Allen seeing this much early-down work on top of his receiving volume means he could be incredibly fantasy relevant this season. So add him if he's for whatever reason still on your waiver wire -- ESPN leagues actually show him available on 92.2% of waiver wires, which is crazy. (For the record, that number is much lower in Yahoo! leagues.)
The other piece to this Ravens backfield is that Marshal Yanda is now done for the year, which is a big blow to the line. That's going to hurt both Allen and West, but as a player with a receiving skill-set, it'll ding Buck Allen far less.
Given all of this, West is an easy sell this week. And you better get Allen if he's on your waiver wire. I don't want to have to write about him for a fourth time next week.
Add Chris Carson
Speaking of reiteration, freaking please add Chris Carson already. He, too, has questionable ownership on ESPN (7.9% ownership), but he's still available in 60% of Yahoo! leagues as well.
Week 2 was Carson's true coming out party, rushing 20 times out of a possible 25 running back carries (Thomas Rawls saw 5 touches) for 93 yards in Seattle's win over San Francisco. Carson saw 61% of the team's snaps, with Rawls getting 20% and pass-catching back C.J. Prosise at 21%.
This looks to now be Chris Carson's backfield. And even though Seattle has offensive line issues, any running back seeing this type of work is more than worth owning.
Buy A.J. Green
A.J. Green owners can't be all that pleased with his production over the first two weeks of the season, but there are some positives here. The most obvious is that Cincinnati just fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, promoting Bill Lazor to the position. Lazor was the offensive coordinator in Miami in 2014 and 2015, where the Dolphins had a 1.49 pass-to-rush attempt ratio (9th-highest in football) during his first year followed by a 1.71 (tied for 3rd) one in his second. Those have been the only two seasons in quarterback Ryan Tannehill's career where he's thrown for more than 4,000 passing yards.
The move should, in theory, help Green and the offense. It's kind of hard for it not to.
Green's fantasy totals -- his counting stats -- haven't looked amazingly strong to start the year, but his peripheral numbers are still pretty nice. He's averaging nine targets per contest, and per AirYards.com, only six wide receivers have more air yards on their targets. He also ranks 12th in air yards market share, another sign that good things can eventually come.
The Bengals are also coming off games against Baltimore and Houston. The Ravens have one of the more talented secondaries in the NFL, and the Texans' defensive line matched up well against Cincinnati's weak offensive line in Week 2.
Things open up for Cincy a good bit moving forward. They'll face Green Bay in Week 3, who could get pressure on Andy Dalton, but it's at least a plus matchup for Green. Then the Bengals will square off against the Browns, Bills, Steelers, and Colts.
The usage is there, and we've got a large sample of A.J. Green being a monster on a football field. If you own him, hold him. If you don't, buy him.
Add Samaje Perine, Sell Chris Thompson
After failing to play a snap in Week 1, Samaje Perine had his work cut out for him in Week 2 when the dad-running Rob Kelley left the game with a rib injury. In fairness, Kelley was running much better than he did during his first game of the season, but there are now reports that his rib may be fractured. If that's the case, he'll miss time, allowing Perine to see a lot of work as the team's early-down back.
Perine played 37% of the team's snaps (Kelley was at 23%), running the ball on 81% of the snaps that he played. That's not a very sustainable number, but he was, without question, the team's early-down bruiser, running it 21 times during Sunday's game.
Welcome to the NFL.
All the while, the electric Chris Thompson has now scored three times this year and sits as a top-five running back in fantasy football through two weeks. As much as I love Thompson as a runner, though, his production points to him being a sell candidate. He only carried the ball three times in Week 2, and he's been on the field for 44% of Washington's snaps this year, which is actually lower than his 2016 total (46%).
Will that increase with Kelley potentially sidelined? Sure, maybe -- I actually think Thompson is a useful flex option in fantasy. But plenty of folks out there may overstate what this Kelley injury does for Thompson, especially after his first two weeks of production. The truth is, they play two very different roles in the Washington offense.
Thompson's a talented player who plays the pass-catching role in Washington better than almost any other back in football. It's just that he's generated tough-to-repeat performances in each of the first two games, at least from a fantasy perspective, and some owners may not fully realize it.
Sell Jacquizz Rodgers
It's tough to put a ton of stock into something like snap rate for Jacquizz Rodgers in Week 2 because the Buccaneers game against the Bears got out of hand quickly. The Bucs did run Rodgers 19 times, and he tallied 67 yards and a score. But they also fed Peyton Barber 10 times on the ground, more than likely because of the blowout.
One thing we shouldn't ignore, though, is that Charles Sims played 30% of Tampa Bay's snaps against the Bears as their primary pass-catching back. When Rodgers was fantasy relevant for four games last year (excludes Week 17) -- you know, those four games where he averaged nearly 23 carries per contest -- Sims was only active for one of them. In that game, Rodgers saw his lowest snap rate (61%). At his peak -- a Week 5 game against Carolina -- Rodgers was on the field for 93% of Tampa Bay's snaps.
Essentially, Rodgers' Doug Martin-less workload could be slightly limited this season due to the additional body in the backfield. That's certainly true if the Bucs see more of a negative game script, which would force Sims on the field more than Rodgers. That could happen over the next two weeks -- the two games before Martin returns -- as the Buccaneers face the Vikings in Minnesota and the Giants in Tampa Bay. Even if those negative scripts don't come to fruition, those are two well above-average rush defenses for Rodgers to pound the rock against.
Add Jermaine Kearse
Never did I think Jermaine Kearse would be a top-10 wide receiver after two weeks of the regular season, but here we are. Jermaine Kearse, WR1 in fantasy football.
What a world.
I know you read this column to get hard-hitting analytical explanations about what's going on in the fantasy football world. Here's my explanation for Jermaine Kearse: he's in a bad offense with bad receivers and, in turn, he's seeing a decent amount volume (14 targets).
There doesn't seem to be a reason to blow a lot of your free agent auction budget on him, though. Having a pair of touchdowns on 123 receiving yards with Josh McCown as your quarterback isn't a realistic pace, and his air yards profile -- he has 150 air yards on all targets -- isn't anything special to this point. He's just a fill-in on your roster.
Add Chris Johnson
To be honest, I'm as shocked that I'm writing up Chris Johnson as a Week 2 add in 2017 as I am Jermaine Kearse. But this past week's game against the Colts showed us that he's probably the best early-down back the team has. That's without David Johnson, of course.
Johnson (Chris) saw 11 rushes on Sunday, which led the team. He was also the more effective back when compared to Kerwynn Williams, but it wasn't pretty: Williams had a successful run (positive expected points run according to our Net Expected Points metric) on 0 of his 9 carries, while Johnson was successful on 2 of his 11.
In Johnson's defense, he was just signed off the street, so maybe he comes to form a bit. But he's worth a look off the wire because, as we know, volume is (almost) everything at the running back position in fantasy football.
Buy Joe Mixon
You know who's not seeing volume? Joe Mixon.
Through two weeks, Carson Wentz has 16 more rushing yards than Mixon does. I'm sure that's not the start Mixon and his fantasy owners wanted coming into the year.
But similar to his teammate, A.J. Green, above, Mixon's seen two tough matchups to start the year against two very strong front-sevens. Unlike Green, Mixon's usage isn't encouraging -- he's carried 17 of Cincinnati's 46 total rushing attempts for a sub-37% rushing attempt market share, and he's only seen 4 targets through the air.
So why buy him? Honestly, this is just a situation where you're playing the market. His owners have to be frustrated beyond belief, but among Cincinnati backs, Mixon's been the most effective, rushing to a 35.29% Success Rate versus Jeremy Hill's 25.00% rate and Giovani Bernard's 16.67% mark. And I'm intrigued by new offensive coordinator's Lamar Miller usage as a receiver back in 2014 and 2015 with Miami. During those two years, Miller tallied 109 targets and averaged a 9.22% target market share in the Dolphins' offense.
A big reason Mixon hasn't been relevant at all is because of coaching decisions. But that coach is now gone. Why not try and trade some bench depth for someone with an attractive ceiling?
Add Devin Funchess
With Greg Olsen out six to eight weeks, someone has to step up in the Carolina Panthers offense. That may be Devin Funchess, who's now played 76% of the Panthers' snaps through the first two weeks (the most of any Panthers' wideout), catching 6 of 9 (nice) targets for 88 yards. He saw seven of those targets in Week 2, which is, obviously, when the Olsen injury happened. The Panthers get the Saints this week, too, so if you need a one-week fill-in, Funchess could help you out there as well.
Sell DeMarco Murray
DeMarco Murray's nursing a hamstring injury, which could explain why Derrick Henry out-attempted him 14 to 9 in Sunday's win over the Jags. But even if that's a valid excuse, it doesn't really matter -- the hamstring injury exists, and we've got to react as a result.
Henry far outperformed Murray against Jacksonville by the eye test, but our analytics showed it, too -- Henry's Success Rate was around 71% on his 14 carries while Murray's hovered 11%. That's a drastic difference. And Murray saw the field on 54% of the team's snaps this week, down from the 73% rate he saw in Week 1.
There's a chance this is the start of movement to get Henry the ball more. That would definitely make sense given Murray's injury. So selling Murray right now could end up being a smart move, even after a bad game -- there's a chance his value continues to fall.
In situations like this, you don't want to be a week late.
Add JJ Nelson
Most fantasy owners will have their eyes on J.J. Nelson this week off the waiver wire, as he's been the Cardinals' top scoring wide receiver so far this year. So, sure, add him if he's on your waiver wire. As long as John Brown is sidelined -- and he's expected to miss Week 3 -- Nelson has a shot to be relevant.
Add Jaron Brown
But don't sleep on Jaron Brown in the Arizona offense, either. Nelson's out-targeted him by two thus far, but Brown's seen a 41% air yards market share, which is a top-10 number in football. It's also significantly higher than Nelson's 31% share. And it's not like Nelson is the clear-cut number-two wideout in Arizona -- Brown was on the field for one more snap than Nelson in Week 2, and he played 25 more in Week 1.
Both Nelson and Brown are fine adds off the wire, but one will be far easier to obtain. And he may be just as impactful for your fantasy squad.
Add DeShone Kizer
There's a chance Vontae Davis returns to the Colts' lineup this week (he was limited in practice last Friday), which would change this recommendation completely. But if Davis is out again for the Colts, then fire up the DeShone Kizer quarterback streaming machine, because the matchup would be perfect.
On the year, only four teams have seen more deep balls (passes that travel 15 or more yards down the field) than the Colts. Carson Palmer was just 1 for 6 for 24 yards and an interception in Week 1 against the Lions on those types of throws, but he was able to go 5 for 10 for 166 yards and a touchdown on deep ball tosses against the Colts in Week 2. And that came after Jared Goff tore up the Colts' D for a perfect quarterback rating on six deep attempts the previous week.
Kizer hasn't even played a full two games, but he's attempted the third-most 15-plus air yard throws in the league heading into Week 3. Those haven't connected as well against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, but they certainly could against this Indy secondary. (Again, as long as Davis is out.)
We know Kizer can have a decent floor because of what he does with his legs, but in a plus matchup through the air, his ceiling is pretty enticing this week, too.
Add the Packers Defense
Though I've talked up a couple of dudes in the Cincinnati offense, the fact still remains that the offensive line is a big issue for the entire group. They've now allowed eight sacks, which is tied for the third-most in the NFL, and they'll be traveling to Green Bay this weekend to face a Packers D that obliterated a weak Seattle offensive line back in Week 1. Green Bay currently sits as 9.5-point favorites, meaning they'll more than likely have the positive game script that helps generate turnovers and sacks. Basically, if Cincinnati plays like they have to start the year here in Week 3, Green Bay should go nuts defensively.