15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 4
Quarterbacks can change everything in fantasy football.
Take Carlos Hyde, a sell candidate in this column last week. He'd been overperforming in the touchdown column, and he wasn't being utilized as a receiver in the Cleveland offense. That's why he was a "sell." But with Baker Mayfield under center now, that changes. The Browns should be more efficient offensively, allowing for strong fantasy production from their lead early-down back.
Or how about David Johnson? We know he's one of the most talented running backs in football, but Sam Bradford's 3.3 adjusted net yards per attempt just isn't going to cut it. Arizona's inept offense has forced an elite running back to become rather ordinary in fantasy football.
And quarterback changes will obviously hurt wide receivers, too. Now that Jimmy Garoppolo has a torn ACL, you can kiss Marquise Goodwin's upside goodbye. Even C.J. Beathard's mom knows that he won't be able to support Goodwin statistically quite like Jimmy G could.
Usually, if a team has a top-notch passer, you can expect the team's wide receivers and running backs to greatly benefit.
Sell Kareem Hunt
You can look at Kareem Hunt's current fantasy football situation in two ways. On one hand, he's part of the best offense in football. On the other, Keith Smith -- a fullback -- has out-targeted him this year.
Let's first look at the positives. The Chiefs have now scored 15 offensive touchdowns so far this year, the most in the league. They're one of the top teams in yards per drive, and they're scoring points on an NFL high 58.6% of their drives.
Patrick Mahomes is legit, and Kansas City's offense is, too.
Even if we assume this Chiefs offense will end up as the best one of all-time, there will still be some regression with how they're scoring touchdowns. In their three games, they've posted 13 passing touchdowns to just a pair of rushing scores. That's a 6.5 passing-to-rushing touchdown ratio. Over the past seven years, only seven teams have finished a season with that type of touchdown-scoring ratio. Of those seven teams, the average touchdowns scored offensively was 35.9, and none of them scored more than 5 rushing touchdowns.
In other words, the reason their ratios were so large was the result of overall poor offensive play and variance. The fewer the touchdowns scored, the more likely we see weird splits in how those touchdowns are scored.
That's not Kansas City. The Chiefs aren't some ordinary, below-average offense. If they maintain this rate, then they'll not only be making serious history with the sheer number of touchdowns being scored, but they'll also be an outlier in how those touchdowns are being scored. That's not something to bank on.
This is all a good thing for Kareem Hunt. If Kansas City maintains even 80% of what they're doing offensively as we move forward, Hunt should see opportunity at the goal line.
So why should you sell him, then? Usage.
As I said, Hunt currently has three targets, good (bad) for a 3.2% target share. Running back teammate Spencer Ware has seen six looks through the air, while Damien Williams also has three. Hunt, meanwhile, played just 61.8% of Kansas City's snaps in Week 3, a season low.
Hunt has seen 65.0% of Kansas City's rushes, but that type of rushing share combined with such a low target share isn't anything to write home about for a perceived mid-range RB1. Considering targets are two to three times as valuable as attempts in PPR formats at the position, this isn't what you want to see. In standard formats, Hunt is more of a hold, but it may be worth seeing if any leaguemates will pay up for him since his weekly floor is worrisome in that format, as well.
What this means is that Hunt is looking to be a fairly touchdown-dependent asset in fantasy football, as long as this keeps up. And why wouldn't it keep up? Why wouldn't the Chiefs continue to operate as they have, considering they've been the best offense in football?
He'll still be valuable, but perhaps not as valuable as the consensus believes moving forward.
Add Tyler Boyd, Drop John Ross
I mentioned Tyler Boyd in last week's column, but he's deserving of another shoutout after his 132-yard performance against Carolina. Boyd's now played over 80% of Cincinnati's snaps this season (the most of any wide receiver on the Bengals) and, somewhat surprisingly, he leads the team in deep-ball targets with 8 (A.J. Green has 5, while John Ross has 4). Without a ton of scary matchups on the schedule, Boyd should continue to produce. Maybe not at this level, but he's a viable WR3 option moving forward.
As for John Ross, well, a 57.1% snap rate and a 6.0% target share isn't going to get it done. He may help the Bengals stretch out defenses, but he can safely be placed on your waiver wire if you're still holding him, which 10% of Yahoo! players are.
Add Andy Dalton
I teased the schedule component for the Bengals above, but it's pretty legit for this passing attack in the short term. And that means Andy Dalton could be a good, low-key option for fantasy purposes.
This week, the Bengals will visit a banged-up Falcons defense in a game with the second-highest over/under on the slate. Then they'll face Miami at home, Pittsburgh at home, Kansas City on the road, Tampa Bay at home, and New Orleans at home. The only secondary among this group that's looked good to start the year has been the Dolphins, and while they do have some strong pieces, they've also faced the Titans, Jets, and Raiders offenses so far this year.
Dalton himself has been fine in fantasy football to start the year, too, throwing multiple touchdowns in each game he's played. And, actually, dating back to when Bill Lazor became the team's offensive coordinator last year, Dalton's thrown multiple touchdown passes in over 70% of his starts. Let's not pretend he's not capable, especially with the weapons at his disposal.
Don't overlook Dalton on the waiver wire this week. He could end up as a plug-and-play option for a long stretch of weeks for quarterback-needy teams.
Buy Odell Beckham
The Odell Beckham owner in your league probably isn't panicking about his start, but maybe they're not as high as they should be. Because while OBJ hasn't scored yet this year, he's been great. He's seen 34 targets, which equates to a 30.9% target share in the Giants' offense. And he's been targeted deep on 8 of those 34 looks, one of the higher numbers in football.
Touchdowns should come. He's seen only three red-zone targets, but the G-Men rank in the bottom half of the league in red-zone plays run. And he's got 271 receiving yards -- over the last half decade, a player with that many receiving yards would have typically scored about 1.6 touchdowns by now.
Drop Kelvin Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin is still owned in 35% of Yahoo! leagues, when that number should be far lower. He's actually been out-snapped by Zay Jones this year, and with 15 targets, he's seeing a little over 17% of Buffalo's targets. In a top offense, that would be totally fine. In one that may have some growing pains throughout the 2018 season, there's just not a lot of upside with Benjamin.
Sell Adrian Peterson
It may seem like I've got some sort of personal vendetta against Adrian Peterson -- this is the second time I've mentioned him as a "sell" this season -- but I promise you that's not the case. There's just a process that I run through with running backs, and he's being spit back at me consistently as someone to sell.
Here's the short answer as to why, and it's something that's consistent throughout this week's column: he's game-flow dependent. When Washington beat down on the Cardinals in Week 1, AP played 53.2% of his team's snaps. In Week 2, that snap share dropped to 33.8%, as Washington lost to Indianapolis. Then, this past week, it rose to 52.5% in a win over Green Bay.
In Washington's two wins, Peterson has seen 22.5 carries and 1.5 targets per game. In their only loss, he had 11 carries and 3 targets.
Now, there's nothing wrong with that type of workload. Peterson can absolutely be an RB2 this season in cumulative points scored. But he also may be a headache -- predicting which games will be "Adrian Peterson" games may be difficult. And over the next two weeks, they'll be at New Orleans and at home against Carolina. The Saints game could call for more Chris Thompson, while the Panthers game is just somewhat of a difficult matchup.
So, overall, this isn't a transaction that's an absolute must -- Peterson should be fine this year because Washington isn't a complete dumpster fire. But you may be in store for some hard-to-predict weeks.
Add Antonio Callaway
With Baker Mayfield starting for Cleveland, the whole offense should get a boost. That definitely includes rookie Antonio Callaway, who's now played 80.6% and 89.6% of the Browns' offensive snaps over his last two games. His 4-catch, 20-yard line from Week 3 may turn you off, but he saw 10 targets in the contest (27.0% target share), and he led the team with 185 air yards, per AirYards.com. He's clearly the team's number-two wideout, and he's got big-play capability.
Sell Royce Freeman
On Sunday, Royce Freeman played 42.6% of Denver's offensive snaps, which was a season-high for any Broncos running back. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly because of his effective play. In the second quarter against Baltimore, fellow rookie back Phillip Lindsay was ejected for throwing punches in a pile of players, leaving the Denver backfield to just Freeman and Devontae Booker.
Now, Freeman did score a touchdown early in the contest, but like Adrian Peterson and Kareem Hunt above, he hasn't been heavily involved in the passing game (he has two targets in three games), and he runs the risk of being game scripted out of contests. Thanks to the Lindsay ejection and a pair of scores over the last couple of weeks, he seems like a perfect sell candidate entering Week 4. And it's unfortunate because, in my humble and often wrong opinion, he's a super talented back.
Buy Julian Edelman
So many of you thirsty readers hit my mentions on Monday asking about Chris Hogan. Because, in case you missed it, Hogan's been awful in fantasy football to start the year.
Well, I hate to break it to you guys, but so has the entire New England Patriots' offense. In two of three games this season, they've done very little for your fantasy football teams, maybe James White aside.
A big reason you (and I) drafted pieces to this Patriots offense last month is efficiency. A wide receiver or a running back typically doesn't have to see as much work on the Patriots in order to produce because the Patriots are so effective at scoring. Or they have been, at least.
That's not happening this year. New England ranks in the bottom-10 in yards per drive, and they're scoring a touchdown on 18.2% of their drives, down from 2017's 29.7% rate. That's hurt everyone in the offense.
The hope for the Patriots is that things change with additional weapons in the offense. They traded for Josh Gordon last week, and we know he can stretch the field. And then Julian Edelman will return to the lineup in Week 5, providing an additional pass-catcher in the slot. They're both huge boosts for an offense that had just three wide receivers active on Sunday night, often using their running backs as wideouts.
Given how things have progressed, Edelman could be fed his usual allotment of targets right away. The last time he was active, he captured a near 29% target share in the Patriots' offense. Buying that upside isn't a bad idea when Edelman's owner could be nervous about the entirety of the New England offense.
Buy Kerryon Johnson
Admittedly, I don't fully trust the Lions coaching staff to utilize Kerryon Johnson in a fantasy-friendly way. Detroit hasn't called a goal-line rush this year, so we haven't seen LeGarrette Blount rumble into the end zone. But Blount has four red-zone carries versus Johnson's one, and he's seen two carries within the opponent's 10-yard line, while Johnson's one red-zone carry was also within that area of the field.
As it stands -- today -- we can probably assume Blount is the goal-line guy.
And then there's Theo Riddick. The Lions have been really pass-friendly this season, but Riddick's 22 targets still represents a 15.6% target share. He's capping Johnson's receiving upside, especially in negative game scripts.
Johnson's sort of been the do-it-all guy for them this year, which was to be expected. He's seen a little over 8% of Detroit's targets and about 44% of the team's carries, and he's been playing around 45% of Detroit's snaps over the last two weeks. That's good, but not great.
So why buy Johnson now?
He's been the best back in the Detroit backfield this season, that's why. According to numberFire's expected points model, he has a 51.7% Success Rate (the percentage of positive expected point runs made by a back), which is far superior to Blount's 25.0% rate. Logically, it just doesn't make a ton of sense for the Lions to keep rolling Blount out there. And considering Johnson's still being utilized a bit in the passing game -- an 8% target share isn't horrendous for a running back -- there's upside for him to be a legitimate RB2 this season.
The problem -- and this is usually the case for running backs -- is that his talent may only take him so far. If Detroit coaches don't want him on the field more, then he won't become anything more from a fantasy perspective. If they're smart about it, though, this could be the start of Johnson's rise.
I'd shoot off some trade offers this week in an attempt to get rid of some depth for Johnson.
Buy David Njoku
As I noted with Antonio Callaway, Baker Mayfield being named starter for Cleveland is big news for the team's passing attack. He targeted David Njoku only twice in Cleveland's big win last Thursday but, according to Pro Football Focus, only four tight ends have run more routes than Njoku this season. His sub-15% target share is a little worrisome, but you've got to think things stabilize a bit when you consider the number of routes he's run as well as his talent. At an unproductive position, he offers plenty of upside.
Hold Matt Breida
After hearing the Jimmy Garoppolo news, your instinct may be to sell off San Francisco running backs. Matt Breida may still be worthwhile, though. C.J. Beathard -- who's now the team's starter -- ended up targeting running backs on 36.4% of his throws last year. While Beathard was under center, Carlos Hyde, the team's starting running back last season, saw 50 of his 88 season-long targets. Hyde averaged 8.3 targets per game with Beathard and 3.8 without him. With Breida -- alongside Kyle Juszczyk, who you could consider as an add -- playing as the primary pass-catching back in the team's offense, he still holds plenty of PPR value with Jimmy G sidelined.
Add Nyheim Hines
Marlon Mack can't seem to stay healthy, and it's giving the Colts' rookie running backs an opportunity in the offense. In Week 1 without Mack, Jordan Wilkins handled 14 of a possible 21 running backs carries, while Nyheim Hines saw 5 attempts and 9 targets. In that game, Wilkins played 56.1% of Indy's snaps, while Hines was at a 45.1% rate.
Fast forward to Sunday, and things were a bit different. Hines ended up seeing the field on almost 73% of the Colts' offensive plays, while Wilkins' snap share was just 28.8%. Hines ran the ball one fewer time than Wilkins (five to six), but he saw five targets to Wilkins' two.
We know Hines is a capable pass-catcher, but on the season, he's added 0.04 more expected points than Wilkins on the ground per rush, and his Success Rate is 2.5% better. He's been the most effective runner in that backfield. Maybe the Colts are seeing this as well, hence the increase in snap rate despite the game seeing somewhat of a similar script as what the team saw in Week 1. At the very least, they're going to be utilizing Hines in negative game script situations, and those may come frequently.
Add Baker Mayfield
If I'm going to be targeting Mayfield's pass-catchers throughout this week's column, I've got to be targeting Mayfield himself, too, right?
At a minimum, Mayfield is a solid streamer for Week 4. Oakland's defense has been beatable this year, surrendering a touch more than 19 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers. And that's while facing Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill. We've got a limited sample of Mayfield, but his 50% Success Rate from Week 3 is really encouraging. He's got good weapons, he's in a plus matchup, and he's a talented prospect. You can stream him this week, and you may be able to use him longer-term, too.
Add the Green Bay Packers' Defense
The Packers defense is available in over 70% of Yahoo! leagues, and they'll be at home in Week 4 to face the Bills. The matchup this past week didn't work out well for the Vikings, but they were also dealt an awful hand by the offense, as Buffalo's average drive started on their own 40-yard line. Green Bay's a 10-point favorite against a rookie quarterback -- albeit one that looks better than yours truly thought -- who's got some of the worst weapons in football. Just because Minnesota couldn't take advantage doesn't mean the Packers won't.