15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 6
I was leaving Starbucks over the weekend when I saw a woman from behind exiting the shop right after me. Because I'm a gentleman -- and because this person was carrying what seemed like 69 coffees -- I held the door open for her. She gave me a head nod, said thanks, and then peaced out.
Just as I was about to let go of the door, I saw an elderly couple walking towards the store. I can't walk away now, I said to myself, as if holding the door was some heroic thing to do. So I stood there for a moment, waited for them to arrive, and pushed the door open for them like a boss.
As that was happening, someone else was leaving. And I couldn't shut the door on them, so I hung out and let them through, too.
This particular Starbucks was lit with traffic on Saturday morning. And I was stuck in door-holding purgatory.
I couldn't just leave because someone kept popping up, but I also couldn't stay there forever because my arm was on the verge of falling off. And, let's be real -- I didn't want to be the clown who didn't hold the door open for someone.
So I had to be strategic. I had to be alert. The instant there was an opening, I knew I had to bolt.
And that's what I did, basically sprinting (dad running) away from the door when the coast was clear.
The 45 seconds spent holding the door open at my local Starbucks and not knowing what to do felt pretty similar to what being an Amari Cooper owner's been like in 2017. Selling him too early means you may look like an idiot. But if you hold on forever, you may miss your window to run the hell away.
Buy Amari Cooper
Even Cooper's biggest haters are shocked by what's happening this season. There's no way anyone was predicting a 42-catch, 378-yard, 3-touchdown season, which is what he's pacing towards right now. He has 23 freaking yards over his last three games. That doesn't even make sense.
Is it just a slump? Perhaps. Over his last two contests, Cooper's faced two of the better secondaries in football in Denver and Baltimore. We know the Broncos are strong at stopping the pass (and opposing wide receivers), but the Ravens have now held number-one wide receivers A.J. Green (WR28 in Week 1) and Antonio Brown (WR61 in Week 4) to down games to go along with Cooper's hilariously bad 1-catch, 8-yard statline from Sunday.
Cooper's seen fewer than 17% of the Raiders' targets over the last three weeks, but one piece of upside is that he's actually totaled 42.86% of the team's red zone targets over this time, which is the highest share in all of football. If the offense get things moving a bit when Carr returns from his injury, maybe those will translate. Maybe. (Probably not.)
Now, guys, don't get me wrong. This isn't meant to be a blurb of excuses for Cooper, because he's been mostly worthless in fantasy football to start the year. But part of analyzing a player's performance is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And that bigger picture for Cooper does show signs that circumstances haven't been great.
While we shouldn't put a ton of stock into our preseason evaluations, we should still recognize that there's a reason Cooper was a second- or third-round pick in fantasy football this year. It's his third year in the league, and in his only two seasons as an NFLer -- at the ages of 21 and 22 -- Cooper hadn't put up fewer than 72 catches, 1,070 yards, and 5 touchdowns in a single campaign.
Fantasy football is a game of probability. If Cooper is really finished -- if Cooper really won't be a usable asset in fantasy football -- then he's beating probability. Because he's one of seven players in NFL history to start his career off with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. And players in that group include Odell Beckham, Marques Colston, Mike Evans, A.J. Green, and Randy Moss.
Busting means Cooper is going against what probability tells us.
Fantasy football is also a game of buying and selling players at the right time. And, currently, my mentions have people calling Amari Cooper a glorified Marquise Goodwin. A glorified Marquise Goodwin!
What does that tell us? It tells us that it doesn't even matter at this point if there's a chance Amari Cooper keeps playing like he's skipped leg day for a year. If you can sell bench pieces for the potential of Amari Cooper -- for what we know he could be -- why not take the chance? It's not like you've got to throw him in your starting lineup.
It's worth talking to the Cooper owner in your league. Not only is the Cooper owner's team probably doing poorly, but they may be ready to get rid of him.
Sell Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey isn't a bad running back to own in fantasy football. He's played 70% of Carolina's snaps, which is a top-10 number for a running back in the entire league. He's seen 23.84% of the team's targets, which is the second-best share among all NFL running backs. And he's yet to rank worse than RB35 in weekly PPR scoring at the running back position.
The fear with CMC continues to be his touchdown production and, in turn, his true upside. He finally got his first score in Week 5, but he still hasn't seen a goal-line touch this year while teammate Jonathan Stewart has seen five. And quarterback Cam Newton has a pair of his own, too.
The reason he's a sell is because this type of production can often be replaceable in fantasy football, especially in standard formats. McCaffrey has more natural upside than someone like, say, Andre Ellington (who's seen more targets this year) because we know a player like Ellington won't be a team's featured back. That's still potentially there for McCaffrey. But the Panthers aren't using him that way, and as long as the offense is clicking (which it now is), and as long as the team is winning (they're 4-1), we shouldn't assume that's going to change.
Add Elijah McGuire
If you're wondering why Elijah McGuire saw 11 of 13 running back attempts in the Jets Week 5 tilt, it's because Bilal Powell left the game at the end of the first half with a calf injury. Powell did return to the sideline in the second half, but he didn't see the field, leading to 35 snaps versus Powell's 18. Powell may be back next week, but with that to go along with Matt Forte's turf toe injury, McGuire has a chance to be the lead back in a plus matchup against New England in Week 6.
Add Roger Lewis, Buy Evan Engram
The entire Giants starting receiving group went down with injuries on Sunday, with Odell Beckham's being the most impactful. Beckham is out for the year, Brandon Marshall's got a sprained ankle, and Sterling Shepard is week to week with an ankle injury of his own. Even Dwayne Harris was injured, and he's going to be sidelined for the season.
That will leave Roger Lewis as a starting wideout for the G-Men for at least a couple of weeks because he's the only healthy wide receiver on the roster. That is, if you don't count rookie Evan Engram. Though Engram failed to catch a pass on Sunday, he's now run more routes than any other tight end in football, according to Pro Football Focus, mostly because the Giants treat him as a wideout. With few pass-catchers available, he should see a bump in volume, making him an attractive buy for tight end-needy teams.
Buy Demaryius Thomas
According to Demaryius Thomas' Net Expected Points profile (or NEP, which you can read more about in our glossary), he should have 1.38 touchdowns this season when he's got a big fat goose egg in the scoring column. That difference (1.38 touchdowns) heading into Week 5 was the third-largest gap at wideout in all of football. (The other wideouts with a larger difference were Julio Jones and Pierre Garcon.)
Now, teammate Emmanuel Sanders has out-targeted Thomas six to two in the red zone this year, but what this tells us -- what charting actual production (NEP) with touchdowns scored tells us -- is that positive regression should likely hit Thomas. He's got fairly consistent production with good volume, but things haven't come together in the touchdown column. And as an added bonus, he's now gotten through his bye week.
Add Ricardo Louis
Ricardo Louis has led the Browns in snaps played at wide receiver in three consecutive weeks, and over this time, he's seen 18.70% of Cleveland's targets, resulting in 6, 9, and 8 targets in Weeks 3, 4, and 5, respectively. With Kenny Britt dealing with a knee and groin injury, that type of volume could continue in the Browns' offense. That'll be interesting against a banged-up Texans defense in Week 6, followed by a Titans secondary that's allowed more top-20 wide receiver performances than any other team in football to start the year.
Sell LeGarrette Blount
On 30 carries over the last two weeks -- weeks without Darren Sproles in the Philadelphia backfield -- LeGarrette Blount has 210 rushing yards. Only Leonard Fournette has more over this time. Blount owners may be thinking they hit the jackpot given this is all happening without Sproles in the lineup, but his snap rates are still really low, as this is a completely shared backfield. Even without Wendell Smallwood in the lineup this past week, Blount was only on the field for 39% of the team's snaps. And in Week 4 with Smallwood, that number 33%. Given his role in the passing game (he has one target over the last two weeks and just three targets on the season), he's more than likely going to give you unpredictable output week in and week out given his playing time.
Buy the Falcons’ Passing Attack
Entering 2017, the fantasy football world shared the thought that Matt Ryan was going to regress. And that's happened, but it's gotten to the point where Ryan's actually become a progression candidate in the Falcons' offense.
Part of the reason Ryan was so beastly last season was because of a fairly unsustainable 7.1% touchdown rate. Meaning, 7.1% of his pass attempts went for a score. Prior to 2016, Ryan's highest single-season touchdown rate was 5.2%, and his career rate hovered the 4.5% mark.
This season, Ryan's touchdown rate is just 3.7%.
Things should naturally bounce back to a normal state for Ryan. Devonta Freeman is overperforming in the touchdown department given his usage and yardage totals, as his five rushing touchdowns should be closer to two. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Atlanta's got the fourth-lowest pass-to-run ratio in the league with a starting field position within the opponent's five-yard line.
That may not change -- the Falcons may continue to pound the rock with Freeman close to the end zone -- but their red zone play-calling has ranked right about at the league average from a pass-to-run ratio standpoint.
Things should turn around over the next three weeks given the Falcons' opponents, too. They'll get Miami this week, then New England, and then New York (Jets). Each of those teams have a bottom half pass defense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Sending out offers for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones -- who hasn't scored despite tallying almost 300 yards in just over three games (he was injured in one) -- isn't a bad idea at all.
Add Marlon Mack
Rookie Marlon Mack returned to action on Sunday after missing a pair of games due to a shoulder injury, and he looked great, carrying the ball 9 times for 91 yards and a score. He only played 22% of the team's snaps, but Mack's now got a Success Rate (percentage of positive expected point runs made) that's nearly 10% better than teammate Frank Gore's (32% versus 22%), and he's been much, much more effective in terms of overall efficiency (-0.02 Rushing NEP per rush versus -0.26).
You may not feel confident starting Mack right away, but as the season goes on, he could -- and probably should -- see a larger workload. You'll have to add him this week in order to potentially reap those benefits.
Buy LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy now has 87 attempts for 279 rushing yards. When you take the last six years worth of running back data and do a quick regression analysis, McCoy's attempt aggregate tells us he should have scored 2.46 rushing touchdowns this year, while his yardage total dictates a touchdown total of 1.88. Regardless of which way you slice it, he should have more than the zero touchdowns he currently has.
Now the Bills are heading into their bye, so the McCoy owner may be a little more lenient in giving him up. That, and Buffalo is without reliable pass-catchers, which could lead to McCoy's 24.04% target market share to be somewhat -- and I stress the world "somewhat" -- sustainable. For reference, Matt Forte's 21.35% target market share from 2014 is the highest we've seen from a running back over the last six seasons.
With the potential workload, the touchdowns that should come, and the fact that Buffalo's got their bye, McCoy makes for a good purchase this week.
Add Matt Breida
On Sunday, Carlos Hyde played 46% of San Francisco's snaps, which was easily his lowest rate of the season (his previous low was a nice 69%). Initially, the thought was that Hyde's low count had to do with his hip injury, but head coach Kyle Shanahan said that wasn't the case, leaving us all dumbfounded.
Nevertheless, Matt Breida was the one who benefitted most, playing 2 more snaps than Hyde while carrying the ball 10 times and seeing 5 targets through the air. Moving forward, Breida may have some flex appeal as a bye-week fill-in, but he also serves as a handcuff to Hyde. And if Shanahan isn't completely telling the truth, or if the 49ers did what they did because they're trying to not overwork Hyde, then Breida may have even more of an impact.
Drop Jeremy Hill
Jeremy Hill is still owned in 17% of Yahoo! leagues, and that number should be much lower. He's yet to play more than 23% of Cincinnati's snaps this year, he has fewer than 100 yards on 28 carries, and teammate Joe Mixon has the lone two goal-line touches on the team this season. There's no reason to hold onto Hill unless you're in a massively deep league.
Add Jacoby Brissett
The quarterback streaming selections aren't fantastic this week, but there are definitely a handful who could post useful days. Jacoby Brissett is one of them, as he'll be going up against a Tennessee secondary that's allowed the third-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks despite holding Jay Cutler to fewer than 100 yards this past Sunday. The fear with Brissett is that Marcus Mariota won't be under center, though, which could keep the game a little more conservative and lower scoring. But if Mariota ends up playing for Tennessee, or if he's expected to go, Brissett would have some opportunity to exploit our 29th-ranked secondary.
Add George Kittle
George Kittle sort of had a coming out party this week, as he saw 9 targets and caught 7 of them for 83 yards and a touchdown. Prior to the Week 5 matchup, Kittle was averaging a modest 3.5 targets per contest.
But context clues were there. He's now played 73% of San Francisco's snaps, which is a top-15 number at the tight end position. And, according to Pro Football Focus, he's been running plenty of routes, ranking eighth in routes run.
Kittle may begin to have some use week in and week out, but he's got, at the very least an intriguing matchup in Week 6 against Washington. The Redskins have allowed a top-11 tight end performance in each game played, with two of those contests being against Jared Cook and Gerald Everett. Teams have been targeting opponent wide receivers against Washington at a sub-50% rate this year, which is one of the lower marks in the league, and that's led to nice volume for opposing tight ends. In what could be a negative game script for the 49ers on the road, Kittle makes for a strong tight end option off your waiver wire this week.
Add the Falcons Defense
The Falcons are at home this week against Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. Vegas currently has the Falcons as heavy 11-point favorites, which would mean Cutler -- who's thrown a pick in each of his last three games while tossing the ball for fewer than 100 yards this past Sunday -- will almost definitely be seeing a negative game script. Interceptions and sacks should be there for the Falcons' D.