15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 2
If your fantasy football squads struggled in Week 1, maybe this will help: Mike Gillislee scored the second-most fantasy points during the first week of the season a year ago. Trevor Siemian was the QB4. Kenny Golladay tallied more points than all but two receivers in standard-scoring leagues, and fantasy football's highest-scoring tight end was Jesse James.
What happens in Week 1 doesn't always stick through the rest of the season.
But -- But! -- we shouldn't underreact when we know we're dealing with small samples. Kareem Hunt broke out in a big way during Week 1 last year, and he finished the season as a top running back. Zach Ertz had a strong Week 1 outing against Washington, and his production continued throughout the season. Adam Thielen and Tyreek Hill were both top-four PPR wideouts this time last year, and they both proved to be huge fantasy football assets.
As I say each year: you shouldn't overreact, but you should definitely react.
So let's react.
Note: These transactions are in no particular order.
Hold Ben Roethlisberger
Was it a good Week 1 for Ben Roethlisberger? Of course not. When a quarterback throws three interceptions and makes multiple costly mistakes against a division rival on the road, that quarterback didn't have a good week. No matter the weather circumstances.
Can Big Ben right the ship? Yes. And he can as early as this week.
The Steelers are at home in Week 2, where Roethlisberger has historically seen better production. In fantasy football-relevant games (excludes Week 17) where Roethlisberger's thrown 20 or more passes over the last five years on the road, he's averaged 14.35 fantasy points scored per contest. In that same split at home, that number jumps to 22.05.
He'll also be facing the Chiefs, a team with a leaky secondary personnel-wise that just surrendered well over 400 yards and a handful of scores to Philip Rivers. And KC-Steelers game opened with the highest over-under (53.0) on next week's slate, with Pittsburgh as 5.0-point favorites.
On paper, the matchup is there. Don't give up yet.
Sell Adrian Peterson
If we've learned anything over the last year, it's that Adrian Peterson is capable of having monster games. But he's also capable of posting duds.
What happened in Arizona on Sunday was pretty similar to what happened in AP's debut with the Cardinals in 2017. There was a severe positive game flow for Peterson's team and, as a result, he saw a large percentage of his team's backfield carries (26 of a possible 34), leading to a nice fantasy performance.
The problem is that he's not -- and he's not going to be -- Washington's primary pass-catching back. That's not what he does, and Washington's already got one of the best running back pass-catchers in the NFL in Chris Thompson.
Thompson actually played a fairly high number of snaps on Sunday (41.8% of them) when you consider he hadn't played since last season, and Washington did hit a positive script. While AP saw 26 carries, he was only on the field for only 53% of Washington's snaps, a number that ranked outside the top-20 league-wide in Week 1.
Shopping Peterson is a good choice, although this week's home matchup with the Colts could play out similarly to the game against Arizona. But it's not a bad idea to at least see what kind of deal you could get for AP right now, and if the price is right, you can pull the trigger.
Add T.J. Yeldon
It feels like T.J. Yeldon makes this column at some point each season. This year, it's because Leonard Fournette left Week 1's game with a hamstring injury, and in his absence, Yeldon dominated the team's rushing share, with electric third-string back, Corey Grant, seeing just one carry on the ground. Quite simply, if Fournette misses time, you're going to want Yeldon, who can serve as a potential RB2.
Sell Derrick Henry
I wasn't so high on Derrick Henry entering the year, but I thought he had a great opportunity in Week 1 against a now Ndamukong Suh-less Miami Dolphins. What did he do? He ran the ball 10 times for 26 yards and a 20% Success Rate, which measures the percentage of positive expected points runs made by a back, per numberFire's Net Expected Points metric. Teammate Dion Lewis toted the rock 16 times for 75 yards and a score, hitting a Success Rate north of 46%. And Lewis out-targeted Henry 8 to 1, played 29 more snaps, out-snapped Henry 14 to 0 on third-down plays, and saw just as many goal-line rushes.
It's not like the Titans were playing far from behind all game, either. They trailed for a lot of the game, sure, but they ran 44 plays when the score was within 6 points, which was more than the average team in Week 1. And if Henry's usage is that sensitive to the score, that's not a positive.
Lewis is the guy you want in Tennessee, and my fear is that Henry's season doesn't get much better, aside from a handful of touchdown-dependent weeks.
Add Phillip Dorsett
Phillip Dorsett played 76% of New England's snaps in Week 1, which was the second-highest rate among the team's wideouts (Chris Hogan may have ruined your fantasy football day, but he was on the field for about 90% of their snaps). And he ended up catching all 7 of his targets for 66 yards and a score. He's seeing snaps, targets, and production in one of the best offenses in football. That's deserving of a waiver wire add.
Hold Jay Ajayi, Add Darren Sproles, Drop Corey Clement
A numbers-driven analyst like myself looks at Jay Ajayi's 40.3% snap rate in Week 1, pairs it with his two rushing scores, and thinks, man, he's an obvious sell candidate in fantasy football.
But there needs to be some context here. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that Ajayi's workload looked the way it did because the running back was coming off a foot injury. That's why we saw Ajayi with just three first-half carries against the Falcons on opening night. Ajayi, then, went on to carry the rock 12 times in the second half, which is where we saw him score his touchdowns.
So, no, if you've got Jay Ajayi, I don't think this is a time to sell. He handled the team's goal-line work (which was a single carry) and, at the very least, he'll see the most early-down work in one of the better situations in football. I wouldn't go after Ajayi just because he's coming off a two-score game, but selling him now also may be foolish.
All the while, you should be looking to add Darren Sproles, who played 16 more snaps than Corey Clement while seeing 5 carries and 7 targets. At this point, Clement is nothing more than a handcuff who may have a random spiked week, so he can be sent to free agency.
Add Quincy Enunwa
Rookie Sam Darnold looked strong in his debut on Monday night, and the wide receiver who benefited most from the performance was Quincy Enunwa. He saw 10 of a possible 21 New York Jet targets for an insane 47.62% target share, which isn't sustainable but at least tells us that he could be Darnold's go-to target this year.
Enunwa's average depth of target against Detroit was just six yards, which could be considered a bad thing -- you want your players to catch passes down the field because that creates more fantasy football scoring opportunities. But the Jets may look to keep things fairly conservative with Darnold, so he'll look for his safety net often. And that safety net looks to be a beefy 225-pound Quincy Enunwa.
Buy Devin Funchess
Funchess owners may be a little upset at his 3-catch, 41-yard line in Week 1, but there are some positives that came out of that game from a fantasy football standpoint. He saw 5 of 26 Cam Newton passes, good for a 19.23% target share. That's not as high as his 22.16% share from last year, but it's fine nonetheless.
More importantly for Funchess' fantasy stock -- and this is always awkward to write about because injuries are never a good thing -- Greg Olsen suffered an injury to the same foot that kept him sidelined last year. He may be out a good bit of time. And, last season, Funchess was a much better fantasy performer without Olsen (and Kelvin Benjamin) in the mix. When both Olsen and Benjamin were playing significant snaps, Funchess averaged 9.87 PPR points per contest last year. When they were out, he averaged a touch more than 18.
The sample size isn't massive here and the Panthers now have more pass-catchers to compete for targets. But the upside is there for Funchess, and it's likely his owner isn't super attached after a down Week 1 performance.
Add Nyheim Hines
My July love for Nyheim Hines looked horrific in the preseason -- he couldn't hold onto the football to save his life. But, rejoice, Hines truthers! He's alive and well.
In Week 1, the Colts threw Hines onto the field for 37 snaps, which equated to over 45% of their total snap count. He played just nine fewer snaps than starter Jordan Wilkins. And Hines, an able pass-catcher, fielded 9 targets (roughly a 17% target share), catching 7 of them for 33 receiving yards. He also carried the rock 5 times for 19 yards.
Fantastic production? No, not exactly. Encouraging? For sure. Hines is someone who can carve out a role in the Indy passing game even when Marlon Mack returns because he's more of a Swiss Army knife-type back. He's more of a Chris Thompson-like runner than an Adrian Peterson-type one. And Indianapolis has plenty of room for someone to step in and see work through the air. The Colts could also find themselves in negative game script situations a lot this year, which will help Hines' cause.
Sell Jacksonville Jaguar Receivers
The reason you're holding onto a Jacksonville wide receiver in fantasy football is because you're hoping one of them emerges and can grab hold of a large target share in the offense. I'm not optimistic that'll happen this year.
In Week 1, no Jags wideout played more than 75% of the team's snaps (Keelan Cole led the way), and Cole, Dede Westbrook, and Donte Moncrief saw 4, 6, and 5 targets. The Jags are a team that wants to run the football -- they ran 34 passing plays to 28 rushing plays when the game was within 6 points (neutral script) on Sunday even with Fournette missing a good chunk of the contest -- meaning passing opportunities will already be limited. Add in the target distribution, and you're looking at an unpredictable fantasy football mess. The only player I'd really consider keeping is Cole.
Buy George Kittle
Simply selling high and buying low in fantasy football won't get you very far. Sometimes those instances need to be stated -- there are plenty of buy-low and sell-high candidates in this column each week -- but there's more to playing the fantasy football market than doing the obvious.
So here's a buy-high stance: get you some George Kittle.
Kittle had a lot going for him entering the year, including a shallow 49ers pass-catching depth chart, strong efficiency during his rookie season, and higher-than-expected usage in the red zone. Kittle didn't see a high percentage of San Francisco's targets last year, but he still finished with the sixth-most targets within the opponent's 10-yard line at the tight end position.
In Week 1 against Minnesota -- a not-so-easy matchup -- Kittle ended up seeing 9 of a possible 33 Jimmy Garoppolo targets (27.27% target share), with 2 of those looks coming in the red zone. Marquise Goodwin was banged up and only played about 26% of the 49ers' snaps, which may have forced some looks towards the middle of the field, but Kittle clearly will be a significant part of the offense in 2018. He's somehow still on more than 60% of ESPN fantasy league waiver wires, but even if he's not available in your league, it's not a bad idea to shoot a trade offer to the Kittle owner because he could be a very legitimate tight end asset this year.
Add Phillip Lindsay, Drop Devontae Booker
There was a clear split backfield in Denver during Week 1, with Royce Freeman leading the way, playing a little over 39% of the team's snaps. But it wasn't Devontae Booker with the second-most snaps. It was undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay, who was on the field for just three fewer snaps than Freeman.
Lindsay also drew strong usage on the ground, running 15 times (same as Freeman) while seeing 3 more targets (Freeman didn't have any). That's a scary sight for Freeman owners, and anyone who was thinking Booker was a later-round value in their drafts can look to drop him. Booker, after all, saw only two carries.
Add Geronimo Allison
On Sunday night, Allison played 70% of the Packers' snaps, with Randall Cobb and Davante Adams playing about 87% and 98% of the snaps, respectively. Being on the field with Aaron Rodgers is certainly not a bad thing, and it already translated to fantasy production -- Allison caught 5 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Per AirYards.com, Allison also led all Packers receivers in air yards. This all makes him a strong add off the waiver wire this week.
Add Jared Cook
If you listened to The Late-Round Podcast last week (that's my podcast, give it a listen), then you heard me talk about Jared Cook as a sneaky play in Week 1. That's great and all -- hey, look, a fantasy football analyst predicted something right! -- but the expectation wasn't this. The expectation wasn't a 9-catch, 180-yard performance from Cook.
But I'll take it.
The Raiders really didn't want to attack the Rams' cornerbacks, with Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson combining for just 7 targets while Cook ended the game with 12. That likely won't continue, but that doesn't mean Cook won't be a piece for this offense in 2018. Oakland lacks reliable pass-catchers outside of their two wideouts, so that will naturally push some looks Jared Cook's way.
And as yours truly noted in early-season schedule analysis back in early July: Cook's start to the season is pretty amazing from a matchup standpoint. He just completed his game against a Rams team that may see a lot of targets funneled to the middle of the field this year, and now he'll get matchups against the Broncos, Dolphins, and Browns. Each of those teams either have personnel that may struggle against defending Cook or, like the Rams, they've got strong enough cornerbacks to force the ball towards the tight end.
If you drafted the now-injured Delanie Walker and need some tight end help, Cook is your man.
Add the Washington Defense
There really aren't a ton of clear defensive streamers in Week 2, but Washington isn't in the worst spot in the world. They're at home, they're pretty strong 5.5-point favorites, and they're facing the Colts, who allowed two sacks, nine quarterback hits, an interception, and a fumble recovery in Week 1 to Cincinnati. Washington's D was pretty impressive this past Sunday, too, limiting the Cardinals to six points in Arizona.