15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 8
Things can change so quickly in fantasy football.
Each year, Apex Fantasy Leagues puts together a writers league where 12 of us nerdy analysts compete with one another. This is our fifth year (your boy's got one championship win), and the league is pretty competitive -- there's no clear-cut favorite.
A couple of weeks ago, my team was sitting pretty.
Today, it's dead.
A team that was trending up can so quickly move in the opposite direction. And it can make you hate the living you know what out of fantasy football.
But try to stay positive. There are plenty of moves you can make to improve your team and get it to a place where you're competing week in and week out.
Here are 15 of them.
Add Kenjon Barner
James White -- who, of course, was a sell in this column last week for anyone thinking he would be a locked-in RB1 through the rest of the season -- benefited most from Michel's absence. He ended up playing 70.3% of New England's snaps, and he led the team with 11 rushes. It was just the second time he's hit double-digit careers in his 54-game career.
If Michel misses some time and the Patriots don't do a whole lot to add to their backfield, White is an RB1 in fantasy football. But Kenjon Barner would also see an uptick in work without the rookie, as he carried the ball 10 times on Sunday with a 27% snap share.
Watch and see what the Patriots do this week to beef up the running back group. One obvious free agent name that popped into my head was Mike Gillislee -- he knows the system after playing for the Pats last season. Orleans Darkwa is still a free agent as well, and he was low-key one of the more effective runners in football last year.
For now, though, you've got to add Barner.
Sell Kerryon Johnson
Talking about selling talented players in fantasy football is always awkward. Because that's what Kerryon Johnson is -- he's a talented player.
Everything came together nicely for Johnson in Week 7. Theo Riddick was out, helping Johnson to the highest snap share he's seen all season long (59.4%). He saw three targets, which may seem insignificant, but Matthew Stafford threw the ball just 22 times, so Johnson ended the day with a solid 14% target share.
And then there's the matchup. Heading into Week 7, Miami had allowed a top-12, RB1 performance to a running back in every game they've played. Shifty pass-catching backs Tarik Cohen, James White, Dion Lewis, and Bilal Powell all accomplished the feat.
So the matchup was there, and the lack of Theo Riddick helped, too. And the thing that's really hurting Johnson's longer-term value is goal-line work. He did see three carries within the Dolphins' 10-yard line on Sunday to LeGarrette Blount's one, but Blount stole another short-yardage touchdown while Johnson gained zero yards on those three attempts. As long as Blount's more effective -- even if our sample is small -- you have to be afraid that coaches will still want to utilize him in that role.
Johnson should provide a decent weekly floor, and that's something that's not easy to find at running back, but there are still concerns about his usage moving forward.
Add Tre’Quan Smith
With Ted Ginn on injured reserve, Tre'Quan Smith stepped up for the Saints in Week 7, playing 73.2% of the team's snaps. That was the second-highest rate on the Saints, and it really wasn't close. According to Pro Football Focus, he was second on the team in routes run at wide receiver as well.
It makes sense for the guy who can stretch the field to take on Ginn's role. He saw six targets on Sunday, and while we may see some inconsistency in volume week to week, there's still plenty of upside given the offense he's in. He won't need a ton of volume to be viable in fantasy anyway -- so far this year, he's got a really strong 14.1 yard average depth of target. You'll want to add him this week if he's still on your waiver wire.
Hold David Johnson
No player has been featured in this column more this season than David Johnson. Historically a sell candidate, with the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, this week Johnson's a hold.
No, I don't think he's a slam-dunk buy.
There's no doubt that a change in offensive coordinator should help Johnson. If you look at his run chart from Week 7, you can see how completely uncreative Mike McCoy was in getting Johnson in space and allowing him to showcase his athleticism. That chart also looks identical to the ones you'd see from any other week this season.
The main issue with Johnson is two-fold. First, touchdown regression is still going to hit. He didn't find the end zone this past week, but based on his 335 rushing yards, he should have closer to two or three touchdowns rather than the five that he has. That's at least based off of how running backs have scored since 2011.
But are we so sure Johnson is going to see the passing game usage he needs to see in order to be a true RB1 in fantasy football? We know the Cardinals offense has struggled, and even with a new offensive coordinator, there's no guarantee they'll become a top-half offense in the league. So if that doesn't happen, Johnson needs to be fed even more than a normal RB1 in a good offense would in order to make up for the lack of efficiency.
And that volume hasn't exactly been there. With Sam Bradford under center this year, Johnson saw 15 of a possible 80 targets. That was good for a pretty strong 18.8% target share. With Josh Rosen, things have changed. He has 15 targets when Rosen's been quarterbacking, but the rookie has thrown 129 passes, lowering Johnson's target share to just 11.6%.
There's some worry there. Can we just assume that his receiving work will dramatically increase with a new offensive coordinator? Do we even know if that new offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich, will be successful? Are we so sure that Arizona will do a complete 180 and become reliable from a fantasy football perspective?
It's reasonable to feel optimistic -- I'm optimistic, too. But optimism doesn't score fantasy points. Actual production does.
Add Courtland Sutton
Sutton has actually had a pretty decent snap share this year in Denver, having played only 26 fewer snaps than teammate Demaryius Thomas. He hasn't been all that relevant in fantasy football, but that could change given the rumors floating around that the Broncos are looking to trade Thomas. If that happens, Sutton immediately becomes Denver's number-two target, which should boost him into more of an every-week role on your fantasy football squad.
Will a trade happen? Who knows. I have zero inside information. But it's worth it to stash Sutton and see if something goes down. He even has the chance to breakout without a deal getting done -- his air yards profile isn't far off from Thomas' and Emmanuel Sanders', but he hasn't converted like they have.
Buy Doug Baldwin
Last week's 15 Transactions column had Tyler Lockett as a sell candidate. And that still holds true -- Lockett's scored a touchdown for every 72 yards receiving this year, when the league average at wide receiver over the last seven years has been a touchdown scored on every 167 receiving yards. If someone is valuing him as a player who can maintain that pace, then send him away.
Doug Baldwin's not in the same boat. The last time we saw Seattle, Baldwin saw 8 of a possible 23 Russell Wilson targets, good for a 34.7% target share. He's been banged up this year, but he's also coming off a bye week where he was able to rest up. And while being in a run-first offense isn't very attractive, Seattle's upcoming schedule could dictate a more pass-happy approach. They get the Lionsthis week in Detroit, then they'll face the Chargers, Rams, and Packers. If Baldwin continues to see a high target share like we saw in Week 6 -- or close to the one that we saw in Week 6 -- then he should benefit from more overall volume.
Add Doug Martin and Jalen Richard
The Raiders are likely to be without Marshawn Lynch for some time, so backups Doug Martin and Jalen Richard should get more run in the offense. Both players need to be added -- they're rostered in just 17% of ESPN.com leagues right now -- but the question is, which one should be prioritized?
If you follow me on Twitter (it's fine if you don't, I just like you a little less), then you probably saw some of my thoughts on the Oakland backfield already. In short, if you're playing in a PPR league, my choice off the wire would be Richard. And the reason for that is because he's sort of been a receiving machine this year. Entering Week 7, only nine running backs had seen a higher target share than Richard this season. Anytime the Raiders have been in negative game scripts, Richard has been there man.
Now, take Marshawn Lynch out of the equation. Does Doug Martin step in and take 100% of what Lynch was handling? That's certainly a possibility. But for every bit that Martin doesn't take from Lynch, that's an opportunity for Jalen Richard. It's an opportunity for Richard to see more early-down work all while having the late-game, hurry-up role.
It makes sense if you would prefer Martin in a standard format. He's probably going to see goal-line work, and I'd be shocked if he doesn't see the majority of the early-down work in the offense. Don't overlook Richard, though, especially if you're getting points for receptions.
Buy the Rams' Passing Attack
If you're feeling down about Los Angeles' passing attack after a mediocre performance in a plus matchup against the 49ers...chill. Things will get better. In three of the team's next four games, they'll face the Packers, Saints, and Chiefs. In other words, we're going to see three games with incredibly high over/unders. Points will be scored. So whether it's Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, or maybe even Jared Goff, you should be buying this passing offense.
Add Ronald Jones
There's some vagueness surrounding an injury that occurred to Peyton Barber on Sunday, and the question marks were reinforced when head coach Dirk Koetter confirmed that there was an injury. We just don't know how serious it is. Nevertheless, don't wait -- be aggressive. Add the rookie Ronald Jones, who possesses big-play upside despite his pass-catching and pass-protection flaws as a prospect. If Barber misses time, Jones should get a shot to prove himself.
Buy Josh Gordon
The peripherals are all there for Josh Gordon. Over the last two weeks, only Julian Edelman has played more snaps at wide receiver for the Patriots, and he's played just 10 more than Gordon. During this time, Gordon's second on the team with 16 targets (James White has 17), he leads the Pats with a 34% air yards share, and his 11.6 average depth of target is first on the team as well. Everything is pointing up for Gordon -- touchdowns will naturally come.
Hold Andy Dalton
Trust me, I was hurt by Andy Dalton-on-primetime this past week, too. In fantasy football, sometimes you've got to push the mediocre performances aside and realize that bad outings happen. Variance exists. Don't give up on Dalton just yet. Over the next two weeks, the Bengals will be at home against the Buccaneers and Saints. Throughout the 2018 season, Tampa Bay's allowed the most points to opposing passers, while the Saints ranked third-worst. He should bounce back.
Sell Amari Cooper
If you didn't hear or see, the Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper on Monday. They did need a true number-one wideout, but this is a move that has more opportunity to help in real football than in fantasy football. Not only will it take time for Cooper to get acclimated to his new team, but Dallas isn't exactly a great place for fantasy wideouts to thrive. They're averaging the fourth-fewest pass attempts per game, they're 29th in pace, and they're 21st in situation-neutral pace. The offense is slow and run-heavy. It's the complete opposite of what you want your fantasy football wide receivers to be in.
Add Malcolm Brown, Spencer Ware, and Other Handcuffs
I'll only draft handcuffs in deeper formats because they don't pan out at as high of a rate as most people think. We're also not great at predicting who backup running backs will be at the beginning of the season.
With that being said, this is the time of year to start snagging the higher-end ones off the waiver wire, even if you're not rostering the handcuffed back. If something were to happen to Todd Gurley (please, please don't come true), Malcolm Brown (possibly John Kelly) would become a very reasonable fantasy starter. If Kareem Hunt goes down (again, let's cross our fingers and hope this doesn't happen), then Spencer Ware is instantly a starter in fantasy football. The two backs -- Brown and Ware -- have little to no value outside of an injury, but they're good insurance for first- or second-place teams. And they also serve as some of the best fliers out there. (You could also consider Rod Smith and Wayne Gallman.)
Add Derek Carr
Quarterback streaming is rough this week. So rough, that Derek Carr may be the top traditional option. He's now without the aforementioned Amari Cooper, but the Raiders are at home this week taking on the Colts in a game with a 50.5-point over/under. Indianapolis has been pretty average against the pass on a per-play basis this year, but prior to their Week 7 game against a third-string quarterback, they had allowed seven total touchdown passes and an average of 332 passing yards per game from Weeks 4 through 6. If you're forced to play Carr, it won't be pretty, but with so few options, he's one of the top streamers this week.
Add the Pittsburgh Steelers' Defense
There are a ton of good defensive plays this week, but a lot of them are rostered in a number of leagues. You'll want to play New England against Buffalo, Arizona's D isn't a bad play versus San Francisco, and Houston's a great play as well.
The Steelers are owned in only 13% of ESPN.com leagues, though, and they've got a pretty nice matchup against the Browns. Only Baltimore is averaging more sacks per game than Pittsburgh is, and no squad in football has surrendered more sacks than Cleveland has. With the Browns playing in Pittsburgh as big underdogs, the Steelers are a strong streaming play.