15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 5
Fantasy football isn't just about predicting which players are talented. It's also a game of forecasting behavior. Specifically, coaching behavior.
And sometimes that's really, really hard. What seems to be rational based on loads of evidence -- like using Kerryon Johnson over bleeping LeGarrette Blount -- isn't always sensible to coaches. As a result, we, as fantasy managers, are sort of like Jim Halpert in The Office, stuck in this world where everything around us appears unpredictable and confusing. It could be so simple -- selling paper and managing people in an office environment isn't rocket science -- but it's never so simple.
Embracing chaos is the only way to get by. That's what Jim Halpert did at Dunder Mifflin, and that's what you've got to do in fantasy football.
You've got to cuddle up next to variance, not push it away.
Sell Alex Collins
Maybe you think it's unfair that the Ravens have pulled Alex Collins in favor of an inferior runner, Javorius Allen, at times this year. Maybe you think it's irrational. But it's real. It's happening. And after a fumble at the goal line against Pittsburgh on Sunday night, it's becoming frightening for Collins owners.
Collins' issues holding onto the football are well documented. In an NFL.com prospect profile, one of Collins' noted weaknesses entering the NFL was his 17 collegiate fumbles. In October of 2017, the Baltimore Sun wrote a column on the importance of Collins fixing his fumbling issues. And now, here in 2018, Collins has coughed it up twice in four games, with the one happening on Sunday night being the most significant.
Before fumbling the ball against the Steelers, Collins had been out-carrying Allen five to zero, and he had the only target between the two players. After the fumble -- and remember, the Ravens were in a positive game script for much of the game -- Allen out-attempted Collins nine to six, and he saw two targets to Collins' zero. There was a pretty clear, obvious shift in usage.
So far this season, the Ravens have run 12 goal-line plays, with 8 of those being rushes. Allen has four of those rushes, while Collins has three. After Sunday night, there's very little reason to assume Collins will see an uptick in goal-line share.
Now, many have noted that Collins doesn't need goal-line work to be viable in fantasy football. While I don't fully disagree, we still have to think about sustainability. Collins is not the team's primary pass-catching back (Allen has 19 targets to Collins' 10), and there's a good chance he won't be grabbing hold of goal-line duties, either. That means the two most important aspects for running backs in fantasy football -- seeing volume through the air and scoring touchdowns -- aren't exactly siding with Collins.
To be truthful, he can and probably will still finish as an RB2 in fantasy football. But that tells us more about the landscape of the position rather than the player himself. If you can flip him for a more stable asset -- even a wide receiver -- it's not a bad idea. Because that's what the team's coaching behavior is telling us.
Hold Kenyan Drake
If you were wondering, I don't think this is a "buy-low" moment for Kenyan Drake. Coming into Week 4, the biggest hope for Drake owners was to see him on the field in a negative game flow situation. Up until that point -- through three weeks -- Drake had seen 12 targets, but it equated to a 16% target share given how few plays the Dolphins had run. That type of target share on a team throwing more passes would, hypothetically, lead to interesting volume as a receiver.
Nope. Not in Adam Gase's world. On Sunday, Drake was out-snapped by Frank Gore in a game that got away from Miami early. He finished the day with just three carries and two targets.
If there's one thing to be optimistic about, it would be that Miami may have been saving Drake given the blowout status of the game. Frank Gore did dominate end-of-game touches, carrying the ball six times when Brock Osweiler was under center. That still doesn't do us much good in predicting when Drake could be usable in fantasy football, though.
So if you've got Drake, you can't really sell him because no one wants to buy him. But don't go asking Drake owners for a trade, either. You want to invest in good offenses, not offenses that rank fourth-worst in yards per drive and dead last in plays per drive.
Add Keke Coutee
Keke Coutee made his NFL debut on Sunday, and he had a crazy-good outing, leading the Texans with 11 catches while tallying over 100 yards receiving. His 15 targets accounted for almost 36% of Deshaun Watson's passes. Those are very good numbers for a player stepping onto an NFL field for the first time. With Bruce Ellington on IR and Will Fuller dealing with a hamstring injury, Coutee could and should continue to see work in the Houston offense in the coming weeks. He's definitely worth an add off the wire this week.
Buy Corey Davis
The Tennessee Titans' offense hadn't been very kind to its pass-catchers prior to Week 4. Really, it wasn't nice to anyone.
That changed against the Philadelphia Eagles. The game went into overtime, so we saw more plays than usual, but Marcus Mariota threw it 43 times, and no one benefited more than Corey Davis, who hauled in 9 passes for 161 yards and a game-winning score.
The problem for Davis in 2018 up until this point had been quarterback play to go along with a run-heavy offense. He's seen a mix of Blaine Gabbert and a banged-up Mariota, and prior to Sunday's game, Tennessee had the lowest pass-to-rush attempt ratio in the NFL both in general and in neutral game script situations. That combination meant Davis' 30% target share wasn't very meaningful.
Now, post-Week 4, Davis ranks in the top-15 in air yards, he's averaging 1.5 red-zone targets per game, and he's got a 31.5% target share. Those numbers are elite.
If Tennessee's passing attack continues to be handcuffed by poor quarterback play, then Davis will probably act more as a higher-end WR3 this year. They've also got a few tough matchups and a bye week upcoming.
If Mariota's healthy and looks more like his 2016 self than the 2017 version? The sky's the limit for the talented Davis.
Sell Calvin Ridley
Calvin Ridley now has six touchdowns this year, all coming over the last three games. (Julio Jones owners, cover your eyes: Julio has scored six times over his last 29 games.) He's scoring a touchdown on every 3.5 targets this year -- the NFL average for a wide receiver since 2011 has been a touchdown scored on every 21.6 targets. (For Julio, it's a touchdown on every 22.6 targets.)
Regression is coming for Ridley.
But you know this already. What you might not realize is that Ridley's been doing this on limited snaps. Over the last three weeks, Jones has played 156 snaps, teammate Mohamed Sanu has been on the field for 162, and Ridley's played just 115. Meanwhile, according to Pro Football Focus, Ridley's run 78 routes during this time, 19 fewer than Sanu and 22 fewer than Jones.
In a high-powered offense, his peripheral numbers would typically yield WR3-type production. Instead, he's been a plug-and-play fantasy football asset. And even though the Falcons get a plus matchup against Pittsburgh this week, and even though Atlanta would be wise to play Ridley more as the season goes on, this is still an opportunity to at least see what you can get for a player who's not going to maintain his current pace.
Add Ronald Jones
Am I a Ronald Jones believer? No, not really. There were receiving-related red flags attached Jones coming out of school and, prior to the season, Jones was struggling in pass protection and as a pass-catcher. It seemed -- and still does -- that Jones was having a hard time with the transition to the NFL level.
So why add him? Well, mostly as a high-upside stash. The Buccaneers have been a disaster on the ground to start the year, so they finally activated Jones last week after not playing him all season long. He did lead the Tampa Bay backfield in touches with 10, but he still played 11 fewer snaps than teammate Peyton Barber. The hope is that, as the season moves forward, the Bucs decide to utilize their second-round back more and more.
While I'm not a huge believer in his talent, I'm not right about everyone. I miss things. And, regardless, a first-year running back who's seeing touches is at least worth a roster spot.
Sell James White
The one bright spot in the Patriots' offense this year has been James White, who's currently a top-10 running back in aggregate fantasy points scored. Without Rex Burkhead in Week 4, White played over 49% of New England's snaps and scored twice while seeing 10 targets and 8 carries. And it all came in a game where New England played with the lead -- as a pass-catching back, White's better suited for negative or neutral game scripts, not super positive ones.
There's some reason to be hesitant with him moving forward, though. It's not that he can't or won't be a top-20 or -25 option at running back in PPR formats across the rest of the season, it's just that it may be difficult for him to keep up with the type of ceiling he showed in Week 4 -- for a couple of reasons.
First and most obvious, Julian Edelman is returning in Week 5. White currently has a 22.2% target share in the Patriots' offense, a number bound to dip a little with the highly-targeted slot wideout back in the lineup. To be honest, there was already going to be some natural regression in target share for White -- 22% target shares aren't common at all for running backs.
The second reason to sell is because White's not the goal-line back for New England. Sony Michel handled the goal-line work in Sunday's contest. That, of course, will limit any running back's upside.
So, again, it's not that White won't be usable from here on out. He's actually a great piece if you're looking for a nice floor in PPR formats week to week. But it'd be surprising -- shocking, even -- if White finishes the season as an RB1 given Edelman's return and Michel's use at the goal line.
Buy or Hold Jordan Howard
To be completely transparent, this is probably the riskiest transaction on this week's list. Because you saw it and I saw it: Tarik Cohen not only saw a big jump in workload during Week 4, but he looked good with the ball in his hands, too. He ended up carrying the ball two more times than Jordan Howard did, and Cohen also out-targeted him eight to one.
And voila! The Bears score 48 points.
That's the fear. The fear is that, since the Bears performed so well, things won't change offensively. Cohen will continue to see more work than Howard.
But it's important to note that Howard still played more snaps than Cohen in Sunday's contest, and he also saw the Bears lone goal-line rush. Chicago's unlikely to have that type of passing-touchdown-to-rushing-touchdown split again, which also favors Howard in future games.
And let's not forget that the Buccaneers are a team that's struggled mightily to stop the pass this season, which led to more of a pass-friendly game plan on Chicago's end. In turn, Cohen was more involved. This was rational coaching -- using Cohen in this matchup was totally rational.
Howard went into Week 4 ranked 7th in rushing share and 20th in target share at the running back position. One game against a funnel defense shouldn't drastically change how we view him. He's still the goal-line back, and he still played more snaps than Cohen on Sunday. Go see how the Howard owner is feeling in your league -- maybe you can get him for something cheap.
Add Nyheim Hines
Another 15 Transactions column in 2018, another "Add Nyheim Hines" recommendation.
Hines has been targeted 26 times this year, good for about a 14% target share in Indianapolis' offense. That's a higher-end number for a running back. His snap share over the last two weeks without Marlon Mack (who's still battling a hamstring injury) has been 72.9% and 68.9%, respectively, which are also strong numbers. Part of this has been due to the Colts being in negative game scripts, but Indianapolis is also a one-win team with lots of holes. They're going to lose games this year, benefitting the pass-catching Hines.
At the very least, Hines makes for a pretty good running back fill-in for Week 5. The Colts are playing the Patriots on Thursday night, so they'll have a short week for rest. That will decrease the likelihood that Mack can come back from his injury and play. And New England's a 10-point favorite -- hello, negative game script.
Add Jameis Winston
The Buccaneers have a bye in Week 5, and I'm usually not an advocate for holding onto replaceable assets through bye weeks in fantasy football. But I've got to mention Winston, who replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 4's contest against Chicago and will likely be the Tampa Bay starter moving forward. Once this bye week is over, Tampa Bay gets Atlanta on the road and then Cleveland at home, providing two games with decent-enough matchups for Winston. The Buccaneers' weapons are some of the best in football for a quarterback -- any plus matchup should allow Winston to thrive in fantasy football as a result.
Buy Jarvis Landry
Landry didn't have a monster day in Week 4, but he just missed a touchdown early on in the game, and he still saw 10 of a possible 41 Baker Mayfield targets. Landry's target share currently sits at 31.8%, which is one of the highest marks you'll find across the league. Combined with the seventh-most air yards in football, he should be an elite option across the rest of the season, especially as Mayfield gets more and more comfortable as the team's starter.
Add Taylor Gabriel
Even before Week 4, Taylor Gabriel had a handful of things going for him. And this isn't some hindsight take -- I talked through it on The Late-Round Podcast last week. He's only owned in 6% of Yahoo! leagues, but he's seen slightly more than 22% of Chicago's targets this season, and he's compiled as many air yards as Keenan Allen and the aforementioned Calvin Ridley. That's enough to warrant an add off the waiver wire, even if they've got a bye this week.
Buy Vance McDonald
Vance McDonald has mostly been splitting time with Jesse James from a snap-share standpoint since he returned to Pittsburgh's lineup in Week 2, but on Sunday night, he played 61.9% of the Steelers' snaps, the largest share seen by the two tight ends since McDonald's been active. Most importantly, McDonald ran 32 routes compared to James' 11 against Baltimore, while the routes run numbers were much closer to even in Weeks 2 and 3.
It's clear that McDonald is now Pittsburgh's primary pass-catching tight end, as he should be -- he has 174 receiving yards over the last two weeks. In an offense that's being forced to throw a lot, and at a position that's wide open, McDonald could legitimately finish as a lower-end TE1 this season.
Add Blake Bortles
Week 5 doesn't have a whole lot of obvious quarterback streamers. Blake Bortles is the one who jumps out, as he'll be facing a porous Kansas City secondary on the road. The game has a strong over/under that's north of 50, and Bortles has now provided QB1 (top-12) numbers in two of his four games this year. Jacksonville won't be able to play conservatively against the Chiefs, so Bortles should have an opportunity this week to provide fantasy points. He's always a risky play, but this is definitely the right matchup for him to thrive, as it has been for other quarterbacks this season.
Add the Tennessee Titans Defense
The Titans have been fine defensively so far this year, but this week's matchup is really what matters. They'll be on the road, but they'll be in Buffalo to face Josh Allen and the Bills. Allen's now thrown multiple picks in two of his three starts, and he's been sacked a total of 15 times across the three games. With a game total that's under 40 points, Tennessee has both a nice floor and ceiling this week as a defensive streaming option.