15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 3
In fantasy football, sometimes it's easier to stomach an injury to a first-round pick than actually watch that pick underperform. With the former, you're just experiencing bad luck. With that latter, to be blunt, you forecasted poorly. You had a chance to avoid the situation, but you didn't.
And that's annoying. That can be a tough pill to swallow.
Through two weeks of the 2018 NFL season, David Johnson is that dude. He's the first-round pick that's just not performing. And, as a result, fantasy football owners have no idea what to do.
So let's start there.
Sell or Hold David Johnson
No, I'm not buying David Johnson. How could you? In two games, the Arizona Cardinals have run 94 plays, which is 13 fewer than the 31st-ranked Dallas Cowboys. They're averaging just 3.72 yards per play, the lowest in the league. And they've seen fewer than 17 yards per drive, coming in ahead of only Buffalo.
Offensive situation matters a lot for running backs in fantasy football. Over the last five years, the average NFL offense has scored about 37 touchdowns per season. Among the top-50 running backs over this time -- so roughly the top-10 each season -- only two came from offenses that scored fewer than 30 times. Meanwhile, the average number of touchdowns scored in those top-50 runners' respective offenses has been just over 42, well above the league's average.
The lack of plays run is a big deal, too. In 2016 -- the season Johnson went bonkers in fantasy football -- Johnson handled 73.4% of the team's carries and saw 18.6% of Arizona's targets. This year, those numbers are actually pretty similar (70% and 18%, respectively), but because the Cardinals are running so few plays, the overall volume isn't there.
But Johnson's also not being deployed the same way as a pass-catcher. Two years ago, Johnson compiled 558 air yards and a 4.7 average depth of target, per AirYards.com. That air yards total was far more than double what the second-ranked Duke Johnson saw among running backs. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson ran 31.8 routes per game that season -- he ran a route on about 75% of their drop backs.
This season, Johnson's average depth of target is down to 0.8, and he's running a route on approximately 52% of Arizona's drop backs. He's not being utilized the same way that he was under the previous regime. And while that won't have the same impact as the overall offensive circumstances will, it's still something that could impact his weekly floor.
So the question is, what exactly do you do if you've got David Johnson?
Well, let's first recognize that things can change quickly in the NFL. There was already talk out of Arizona on Monday surrounding Johnson's overall usage, and head coach Steve Wilks noted that they want to utilize DJ more in the slot. That's encouraging.
There's also a chance that we eventually see a quarterback change. That's not guaranteed to help Johnson, but it could also end up being a big boost to his production. And it's hard to imagine things being much worse than they are now.
On the flip side, we haven't seen any of this actually happen. The fact that we're in this position in the first place is troublesome. How can we really trust that a team that's looked so awful offensively can all of a sudden help their star running back become more productive?
You can hold on tight and cross your fingers, or you can sell him now and not have to worry about it anymore. It really depends on the type of offer you receive. I know one thing, though: this doesn't feel like the time to buy low on David Johnson.
Add John Brown
John Brown should see some negative regression in the touchdown column after scoring twice in consecutive weeks, but that doesn't mean he's not going to be a good fantasy asset for you this year. He's currently ninth in the NFL in air yards, and he's seen roughly 15% of Baltimore's targets this season. That target share number isn't that good, but deep threats like Brown don't need an obscene amount of volume to work out. Out there in over 75% of ESPN.com leagues, Brown's the perfect bench player who can play as a fill-in or potential flex. But there's some upside there, too.
Buy Aaron Jones
Chances are, the person who drafted Aaron Jones in your league is probably more excited than you are about his return this week after being suspended for Weeks 1 and 2. But I think I'm more excited than that person.
Through two games, Jamaal Williams has played 61.3% of Green Bay's snaps and has seen 73.8% of the team's rushes. There's nothing wrong with that at all. The issue is his effectiveness -- on his 31 carries, he's had just a 38.7% Success Rate, a measurement of the percentage of positive expected point runs made by a running back. And that's determined through numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. The league average usually hovers around 40%, so Williams is roughly there, but he's done nothing extraordinary. That's emphasized further by the fact that he's forced zero missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus.
Regardless of matchups, this isn't a good sign.
Williams is strong in pass protection, so the worry for Jones owners is that Green Bay keeps him on the field even if he's just a plodder. But Jones has an opportunity here as the superior running back talent. Last year, Jones became just the 17th running back since the turn of the century to finish a season with at least a 0.15 Rushing Net Expected Points per rush rate to go along with a 50% Success Rate. Other names on that list include Priest Holmes, Michael Turner, Marshall Faulk, and Larry Johnson -- all very successful fantasy football running backs. And among all backs with 50 or more carries last year, Jones saw the largest discrepancy in his yards per carry average versus his running back teammates' average, out-pacing them by 1.91 yards per attempt.
Again, it's tough to say exactly how the Packers are going to deploy their running backs now that Jones is set to return. They may favor the average runner who can pass protect well, especially given Aaron Rodgers' injury. Jones does have a chance here, though, and as a talent, he's got the highest ceiling in Green Bay.
Drop Jared Goff
Quarterback is a replaceable position in fantasy football. That means you don't have to feel tied to a particular guy unless that player is truly in an elite tier. You know, someone like Patrick Mahomes.
With Jared Goff, he's been totally fine for the Rams, but his fantasy football production hasn't been anything special, even in plus matchups. And upcoming for LA is a game against a pretty good Chargers' secondary followed by a matchup against the Vikings. Streaming may give you a better chance than playing Goff through those outings.
Add Gio Bernard
"Not in my league!"
OK, person. I get it. Giovani Bernard isn't available in your league. He is available in plenty of them, though. Over on ESPN, 60% of fantasy leagues list Bernard as a free agent, making him worthy enough to call out in this week's column. Because if I didn't write him up, people would be even more upset.
So, yes, if Bernard is available, he's deserving of a top claim this week with Joe Mixon sidelined with a knee injury. In a pair of games last year without Mixon, Bernard carried the ball 25 times and saw 13 targets, which translated to a 75.8% rushing share and 20.0% target share. That's the kind of usage you generally see from top-flight fantasy football running backs, making him a plug-and-play starter while Mixon's sidelined.
Buy Jack Doyle
Eric Ebron scored again in Week 2, and he now has over 11 more fantasy points scored than tight end teammate Jack Doyle so far this year. But when you peel things back a bit, you start to see that Doyle's still the tight end you want to own in Indianapolis this year.
Let's start with their snap counts. There's a correlation between fantasy points scored and snaps played because, obviously, players need to be on the field in order to score points. Through two games, Ebron's played 54 snaps (37.8%) while Doyle's played 136 (95.1%).
Hypothetically, tight ends can be asked to block a lot, lowering their receiving performance. Doyle, though, has run 81 routes so far in 2018, while Ebron has run 34.
You can even look at straight-up volume and see the difference between the two tight ends: Doyle has 15 targets through the Colts' first two games, while Ebron has 9.
Ebron can have standalone value this year, and his role may increase as things move forward. But Doyle is the one that you want on your fantasy football roster, and there's a potential buy opportunity entering Week 3 given Ebron's performance.
Add Antonio Callaway
With Josh Gordon no longer in the picture for Cleveland, someone had to step up. That someone was rookie Antonio Callaway, as he played 80.6% of the Browns' snaps against the Saints, hauling in 3 of 4 targets for 81 yards and a score. He played more snaps than wideout Rashard Higgins, which is somewhat significant considering Higgins was on the field more during Week 1. Of the two -- between Callaway and Higgins -- Callaway easily has more upside because of his raw ability, making him worth an add off the wire after what we saw in New Orleans.
Sell Carlos Hyde
Carlos Hyde has seen 38 rushes through Cleveland's two games, giving him one of the highest rushing attempt totals in football thus far. The problem is he's seen only three targets, and Duke Johnson is digging into his snaps -- Hyde's been on the field for about 53% of Cleveland's offensive plays, while Johnson's at 46%.
Touchdowns have really helped Carlos Hyde in fantasy football, but those are bound to regress in the wrong way. He's totaled 105 rushing yards, and according to running back data over the past half decade, a standard back seeing that many rushing yards would be expected to score 0.70 touchdowns on the ground. That means Hyde's scored 1.3 more touchdowns than he should have so far this year.
So due to his lack of receiving volume, the fact that he's not playing a ton of snaps, and this negative touchdown regression that's coming, he makes for a pretty obvious sell candidate.
Add Tyler Boyd
Boyd's served as Cincinnati's slot guy, but he's also been on the field more than the aforementioned Ross this year, out-snapping him 106 to 81. And Boyd's been productive so far this season, having seen 14 targets for 9 receptions, 117 yards, and a touchdown. Those 14 targets translate to a strong 20.0% target share.
Really, there's not a scary matchup for Boyd on the Bengals' schedule until December -- he really could serve as a WR3 or WR4 in fantasy football this year.
Buy Will Fuller
Last season, all we -- I -- talked about was how Will Fuller was bound to see regression in the touchdown column. In four games with Deshaun Watson last year, Fuller scored seven times. With 279 receiving yards during this span, we should've expected him to score closer to or or two in a normal situation.
Then, in Fuller's first game of the season on Sunday, he went out and scored. Again.
But it's not an obvious "sell" situation, at least not like last year. We're already starting to see Deshaun Watson post non-ridiculous numbers, but one thing that hasn't changed with Watson is his propensity to chuck it deep. In just two games, Watson has thrown 19 passes that have traveled 15 or more yards through the air. That means nearly 29% of his passes have gone deep, which is an even higher rate than what we saw from him last year when he ranked first within the statistic.
Fuller's a deep-ball player who's bound to see the second-most looks on that team. He won't score at the rate that he did last year, but he really is the perfect match for Deshaun Watson. And he should have a higher-than-expected floor each week just thanks to the lack of reliable weapons in the Houston offense.
Add Buck Allen
A concern for Alex Collins heading into the 2018 season was that he wasn't the clear-cut goal-line back for Baltimore. And, no, this isn't some annoyingly random hindsight take -- I wrote about it in Week 1's The Report before things kicked off.
Since, the Ravens have run six plays within the opponent's five-yard line, with four of those being rushes. And Javorius Allen has two of those carries, while Collins has one.
Is it time for Collins owners to panic? No, not necessarily. It just means that Allen may get in the way of Collins' ceiling in the offense, limiting his upside. But for those of you that see Buck Allen sitting on your waiver wire, it'd be a good idea to snag him this week. Not only is he getting work at the goal line, but he's continued to be a receiving threat for the Ravens' O with 13 targets across the first 2 games of the season. Seeing looks at the goal line and through the air is perfect for a fantasy football running back -- touchdowns are everything, and targets are more valuable than rushing attempts at the position. And keep in mind, in Allen's two full seasons in the league, he's had 60 or more targets. It's not like this usage is coming out of nowhere.
Sell Kyle Rudolph
At best, Kyle Rudolph is the number-three option in the Minnesota Vikings passing attack. (Unless there's an injury, of course.) It was that way last year, with Rudolph tallying 15.4% of Minnesota's targets. But this year, that number's actually dropped to just shy of 12%, with Laquon Treadwell seeing more looks in the offense. Rudolph is coming off a flukey Week 1 fantasy performance where he caught one of his two targets for a touchdown and, in Week 2, Minnesota threw the ball 48 times in a game that went to overtime, helping Rudolph get to 8 targets. It's not that he's a horrific option, it's just that the market may view Rudolph as better than he is. That's why you can try to sell him.
Add James Washington
Despite hauling in just one reception in Pittsburgh's Week 2 loss, there's reason to add rookie wideout James Washington now instead of waiting. He was on the field for over 80% of the Steelers' snaps against Kansas City, making it clear that he was the team's number-three wide receiver. He ran just six fewer routes than Antonio Brown and five fewer than JuJu Smith-Schuster. On a team that can put up points and could also be throwing a lot this year, he should have your attention.
Add Ryan Fitzpatrick
At some point, Ryan Fitzpatrick will slow down. I don't want to live in a world where he's not fantasy football's top quarterback, but it'll happen eventually.
That may not happen this week, though. Fitzpatrick will be at home against Pittsburgh in a game that has, predictably, one of the highest over/unders of the week. Pittsburgh's defense has been mediocre thus far in 2018, and they've been beat deep, too. Only Kansas City has seen more deep balls thrown against them to start the year than Pittsburgh, and just four quarterbacks have heaved it deep more often than Fitzpatrick, who's averaging the highest yards per attempt rate on those passes. Yes, we're dealing with small samples here and, yes, Fitzpatrick can't keep this up. But the matchup is most definitely there for him to continue his hot streak.
Add the Cleveland Browns Defense
The Cleveland defense is more legit than most probably think, and they've got a juicy matchup at home in Week 2. Their game against the Jets has just a 39-point over/under, with the Browns as three-point home favorites. In Sam Darnold's first two NFL starts, he's been picked off three times while taking five sacks. Dare I say, the Browns may be the best streaming defense of the week.