15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 1
Not all states require you to parallel park your car when you take a driving test, but Pennsylvania did. Which meant I -- a 16-year-old living in the Pittsburgh suburbs -- had to learn how to park a car between two giant barrels.
So I practiced. I learned where to position the car and when to turn the wheel in order to fit the car perfectly in the parking spot. And I did it over and over again until parallel parking was a piece of cake.
Parallel parking was just the start to the test, though. It wasn't like I could master that relatively unimportant aspect of driving and still pass. Because, after parking, there was an on-the-road assessment where you had to show that you were a competent driver. If you missed a stop sign or went over the speed limit, you failed.
That's where we're at in the fantasy football season. We've gotten passed the parallel parking portion of our season-long exam. You're all done drafting after doing weeks -- or months -- of research. Now, we're driving on the road.
It's time to actually manage our teams.
That's sometimes easier said than done. But that's why 15 Transactions exists. Each week, I'll help you through your fantasy football season with add, drop, buy, and sell recommendations. Not everything will always be right, but the advice will be right enough to get you past the finish line.
Let me help you pass your test.
Buy Lamar Jackson
If you've listened to The Late-Round Podcast over the offseason (if not, get on that), then you know where this is going.
Lamar Jackson was the best quarterback value in fantasy drafts this year. When he took over as Baltimore's starter in Week 11, he failed to score fewer than 15.7 fantasy points in a single contest while averaging 18.6 points per game. That rate was the seventh-highest mark from Week 11 onward.
As we know, Jackson did this mostly with his legs. A solid 11.4 points per contest came from rushing, as he tallied 17 rush attempts per contest. He was essentially seeing the rushing volume of a top-tier running back.
That rush attempts number is likely to decline this year, but it won't come close to disappearing. In his seven games started last season, Jackson rushed for 557 yards. That put him on pace for 1,273 rushing yards across an entire season. Again, the probability of him getting that much ground production is slim, but what about 900 yards? 800?
How about 700? If you see that as feasible, then you should be bullish on Jackson, too. Because since 2000, of the eight quarterbacks who've rushed for 700 or more yards in a single season, seven ended the year as top-five fantasy options at the position.
"But Lamar Jackson can't throw!" says the pessimist. Well, first off, why are we not giving him the benefit of the doubt for having only started seven (or eight, if you count the playoffs) games? Second, don't ignore the impact Greg Roman can have, who's now Baltimore's offensive coordinator.
Roman's coached both Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor, two dual-threat quarterbacks. Under Roman, Kaepernick's yards per attempt rate was 7.54. That dropped to 6.71 without Roman. For Taylor, we saw almost a full yard difference in yards per attempt with and without him.
The Ravens' schedule is also really, really nice. They kick off the season against Miami, and then they'll face Arizona and Kansas City, two defenses who shouldn't be scary this year. Honestly, the entire season's schedule is pretty favorable for Jackson and the offense.
Add in his new toys at pass-catcher, and this all could come together nicely for Jackson.
Add or Buy Justice Hill
Looking at ownership percentages on Yahoo! and ESPN, it appears as though Justice Hill isn't rostered on enough teams. Yahoo!'s percent rostered is at just 26%, while ESPN's got him at 14%.
That number should be closer to 75%.
As I just mentioned with Lamar Jackson, Baltimore's schedule is a cakewalk to start the season. Their first two games are against teams with two of the lowest win total over/unders over on Online Sportsbook. That means we're looking at probable positive game scripts for the Ravens, which should result in a lot of rushing.
During Lamar Jackson's time under center in the regular season last year, Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie, was fourth in the NFL in rush attempts. This year, a ton of the team's rushing volume will go to veteran Mark Ingram, but Hill is an explosive (4.40 40-yard dash, 82nd percentile speed score, 95th percentile burst score) back who has a chance to steal some of those looks.
It wouldn't be the first time the smaller-framed speedster saw more work than bigger-bodied teammates, either. Back in college at Oklahoma State, as a freshman, Hill played in front of this guy named Chris Carson. Ever hear of him?
With the soft early-season schedule and the potential to have a role in the offense right away, Hill is a perfect player to stash on your bench to start the season. Or, in deeper leagues, you could even throw him into your flex spot right away.
Sell Derrius Guice
Chances are, if you drafted Derrius Guice, you like Derrius Guice. You know the potential that's there.
My issue with Guice is two-fold. It's certainly not talent-related -- he was my second-favorite back from last year's draft class.
It is situation-based, though. Washington's odds of being a top-half offense in the league this year is pretty slim, and that impacts the running backs on that team. Since 2011, of the 90th percentile running back seasons that we've seen in fantasy football, just 5% of them have come from offenses that ranked 25th or worse in numberFire's schedule-adjusted expected points model. A good 77% of them were in top-half offenses.
And then there's the schedule. If you really like Guice and want him on your team, try to be patient. Because Washington starts their season against Philadelphia, and then they get Dallas and Chicago. According to Pro Football Focus, those are the 8th-, 13th-, and 1st-ranked rush defenses, respectively.
Things open up a bit after Week 3, but for now, it's just tough to have faith that Washington can get the job done for Guice across the first portion of the season.
Buy Tyler Lockett
Tyler Lockett could have a huge year. Make no mistake, touchdown regression is coming. Lockett scored on every 7.1 targets last season, which was the fourth-most efficient mark we've seen among receivers with 50 or more targets since 2011. Among the 32 higher-volume wide receiver seasons where the player had a targets-per-touchdown rate at or below 10, only one -- James Jones -- is a duplicate.
It's really freaking hard to maintain that kind of scoring pace.
The good news is, Lockett no longer has Doug Baldwin to worry about in the Seattle offense. In three games without Baldwin last year, a solid 23.2% of Seattle's pass attempts went Lockett's way. During fantasy-relevant games (through Week 16), when Baldwin was in the lineup, that share was significantly lower at 15.4%.
Now, as we know, Lockett's going to need to see a high target share in order to accumulative volume. The Seahawks were the most run-heavy team in football last season, so the overall passing pie in Seattle is smaller than what we see for most teams. It'll be tough for them to run the ball like they did last year, sure, but, philosophically, we know that's what they want to do.
Their front-half schedule sets up for potential shootouts, though. Week 1 against a weak Cincinnati team could see a more conservative approach, but Seattle will then face Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Arizona, Los Angeles (Rams), and Cleveland through Week 6. And even after a tough matchup against the Ravens in Week 7, you're looking at three more intriguing matchups versus Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco.
With little competition in the way for Lockett, he could get off to a hot start in 2019.
Add Dare Ogunbowale
Fantasy managers have been wanting the Buccaneers to do something more significant at running back all offseason, but Tampa Bay will enter the year with just Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, and Dare Ogunbowale as their backfield.
Process of elimination tells us that Ogunbowale is at least worth a bench stash. On 234 rushes last season, Barber was only able to post 871 rushing yards, finishing the year as nothing more than a random flex play throughout the season. Jones struggled as a rookie, carrying the ball 23 times for just 44 yards.
The thing is, both backs were bad through the air, too, and that's more important for Ogunbowale. Barber saw just 29 targets despite playing over 55% of Tampa Bay's snaps, and Jones had just 9. Jones may look like a pass-catching back, but being a natural receiver has always been an issue for him. He had a well below average reception share during his final collegiate season, and reports have surfaced throughout the summer about his lack of skill as a receiver.
That's where Ogunbowale comes in. He had an 85th percentile target share in college, catching 60 passes over his final two seasons at Wisconsin. For all intents and purposes, he's the primary pass-catching back on Tampa Bay's roster. And for a team that could be trailing and throwing a lot this season, that makes him worthy of an add, at least in deeper leagues.
Sell Zach Ertz
Admittedly, because of a falling average draft position, buying into Zach Ertz became a lot easier towards the end of August. But most leagues still have managers who think he belongs in the George Kittle tier, when that may be a mistake.
Kittle has Travis Kelce-like upside, whereas Ertz has proven to be more of a volume-driven tight end throughout his career. There's nothing wrong with that -- Zach Ertz is good. It does bring some uneasiness, though, with a different offensive situation for Philadelphia in 2019.
The Eagles signed DeSean Jackson this offseason. They drafted Miles Sanders. Dallas Goedert's no longer a rookie, and Alshon Jeffery is healthy heading into the season. Ertz spent a good portion of last year alongside a banged-up Jeffery, a rookie tight end, and no Jackson-like receiver. The Eagles did get Golden Tate halfway through the year, but when Tate got there, we watched Ertz's target share drop by about seven percentage points. We saw a clear example of competition affecting his volume.
That's the fear. What happens to Ertz's target share with additional competition? It's not that Ertz will end up being some fringe starter, it's that his season projects to be closer to his 2017 rather than his 2018. And that type of production isn't third-round worthy.
Hold or Buy the Arizona Cardinals Offense
Don't let the preseason fool you: what we saw during Arizona's four meaningless games isn't what we're going to see during the regular season.
The main reason to invest in the offense this year for fantasy purposes is pace of play. It's volume. During Kliff Kingsbury's time as head coach at Texas Tech, his teams never finished outside the top-10 among all FBS schools in pass-to-rush attempt ratio. They played at a fast pace, too, ending the year outside the top-10 in plays run per game just once.
We didn't see that fast-paced air raid offense in the preseason. We didn't even see a ton of four- and five-wide sets, which is something the team ran consistently in camp.
So, no, it's not time to panic. It's time to either buy the dip and invest, or just hold onto the Arizona pieces that you have. And the reason to not go all-in right away is because over the first three weeks of the season, the team has some tough matchups, namely against Baltimore and Carolina.
Add Albert Wilson
You don't want to invest in bad offenses in fantasy football. And we can say with confidence that Miami's going to be bad this year. Thankfully, with Albert Wilson, your investment is a simple roster spot since he's available in 95% of Yahoo! leagues.
We've now got a five-ish year NFL sample of Albert Wilson, but just so it's out there, his college production profile was elite. He had one of the highest college dominator ratings that you'll find. Clearly, we shouldn't weigh that more than what he's done as a pro, but it at least tells us that there's some baseline there of him being a good player.
Last year was Wilson's first away from Kansas City, and he was only able to play in seven games, so we've got somewhat of a limited sample. But he led the NFL in yards per route run, per Pro Football Focus, and he had a pair of top-10 performances.
That was with more competition and arguably weaker quarterback play than what he'll see this year. With Kenny Stills out of Miami, the Dolphins wide receiver depth chart is probably the worst in football. And when you consider the skillsets of the pass-catchers on the team, it's easy to put Wilson in the slot, where he'll find more advantageous matchups. When he was healthy last year, about a third of his snaps came from that area of the field, and that was with slot receiver Danny Amendola on the roster.
Maybe there won't be that much of a difference between Wilson and someone like Trey Quinn -- they could both just be volume-heavy slot guys on bad teams. Wilson at least has the better resume and experience to take his production to the next level.
Sell Devin Singletary
A lot changed in fantasy football over the weekend when the Bills parted ways with LeSean McCoy. Not only did things get muddied in Kansas City, McCoy's new football home, but it opened up the Buffalo backfield quite a bit. Specifically for rookie Devin Singletary.
With this being the first 15 Transactions column of the year, this is a good reminder to not just read the headlines within the article. It's not as though I think Singletary is horrible, or that I'm failing to recognize his opportunity. This recommendation could easily go south. We're playing probability here, though, and the market seems to be high on the first-year back after the McCoy move.
Sometimes you have to just play the market.
Because this situation for Singletary isn't just butterflies and rainbows. Prospect-wise, Singletary is undersized for a workhorse back, and he didn't do a whole lot at the combine to make up for his smaller 5'7'', 203-pound frame. His college production profile looked great on the rushing end but, each season, he ended up losing work as a receiver. Singletary actually only caught six passes during his final year at Florida Atlantic.
There's not a whole lot of receiving upside in the Bills offense, either. Houston was the only team with fewer running back receptions last season, and when Josh Allen started last year, Buffalo backs averaged four fewer receptions per game.
It also sounds like the Bills won't feature Singletary right away -- we'll see a committee in Buffalo. So, at the very least, you're potentially looking at a little bit of time before Singletary really becomes a plug-and-play starter. If that's the case, the time to want him would be later in the season as he develops and (hopefully) becomes a better receiver rather than right now.
If you've got Singletary, then your team gained value with the McCoy move. That's great. Just don't go nuts overrating the player and situation. At least not yet.
Buy Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and OJ Howard
It's not hard to envision a scenario where Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard see 70% of Tampa Bay's targets this year. Behind them on the pass-catching depth chart sits Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, and Cameron Brate. Why wouldn't you get it into their hands?
Some are turned off by the fact that all three players had top-five round average draft positions this summer, but it made sense. And for Evans and Godwin specifically, we've seen plenty of instances where wide receiver teammates finished as WR1s (top-12 wideouts) in the same season. It happened twice in 2018 (Steelers and Vikings), and it's occurred, on average, 1.7 times per season over the last seven years.
Meanwhile, Howard might just be special. Since 2011, there've been five seasons where a tight end had 30 or more targets and a yards per target rate at or above 11 yards. Howard owns two of those instances, when he's only been in the league for two seasons.
Maybe you're having trouble trusting Jameis Winston, and I get that to a degree. But this is a game about volume, and the trio in Tampa Bay not only are talented, but they won't have trouble seeing a lot of looks from their quarterback this year.
Drop Kareem Hunt
If we were guaranteed Kareem Hunt would be a lead back when he returned from his eight-game suspension, then drafting and stashing him in fantasy football would make a lot more sense.
Nick Chubb is in his way, though. When Hunt's back and ready to play, do we expect him to supplant Chubb? Is the expectation that he'll see a heavier workload than the second-year stud?
You can certainly make the argument that Hunt's a better running back given what he was able to do in Kansas City, but without an injury to Chubb, the chance that he'll be the lead back in Cleveland is pretty slim. Holding onto him for 10 weeks just doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless you're playing in a deep format. To be honest, the fact that he's rostered in 54% of Yahoo! leagues is sort of baffling. Go ahead and drop him if you're in a typical 10- or 12-team league.
Sell Tarik Cohen
The only thing that doesn't scare me about Tarik Cohen's 2019 outlook is his talent, but that only means so much at running back in fantasy football.
Cohen's pass-catching helped fantasy managers last year, especially in PPR formats. Only five running backs had a higher target share in their offense, and only Christian McCaffrey and James White finished the year with more receiving yards at the position.
Things are a lot different in Chicago this year, though. Allen Robinson is healthy and not coming off of a torn ACL, Anthony Miller's got a year under his belt, and, of course, the Bears added two running backs in Mike Davis and David Montgomery.
The competition for backfield touches is much stronger than anything Cohen had to deal with last year. Jordan Howard, his backfield teammate in 2018, is a notoriously weak receiver, whereas Montgomery had a top-10 final collegiate season reception share among backs in this year's class. Howard was never a huge threat for targets, but Montgomery is.
Cohen also saw 74% of his fantasy points come as a receiver last year. As Sharp Football Analysis' Rich Hribar pointed out over the summer, the last back to finish in the top-24 in fantasy points per game in back-to-back seasons while having more than 70% of his fantasy production come from receiving was Darren Sproles. And that happened all the way back in 2011 and 2012.
To top it all off, earlier this month, head coach Matt Nagy said, "We moved [Cohen] around a lot last year, and I do feel like there was a time — probably later in the season — where we probably gave him a little bit too much."
There's a lot going against Cohen here in 2019.
Add Deebo Samuel
The 49ers will have seven wide receivers rostered as we enter the regular season, and as it stands, there's no clear-cut number-one guy. Dante Pettis' drop in average draft position made it easy to buy him -- he's a second-year player who flashed last year -- but Deebo Samuel is an interesting bench stash as we wait to see how things unfold.
Samuel had average production at South Carolina, but he also had a hard time staying healthy. He checks the box of being a college kick returner, though, and his combine measurables placed him as a well above-average athlete. Factor in the second-round draft capital spent to get him, and he really is a well-rounded prospect analytically.
So with the ambiguity at pass-catcher for San Francisco -- outside of George Kittle, of course -- Samuel makes a lot of sense as someone to just hold onto and hope for some playing time. He should see the field right away, even if it's not in a full-time capacity.
Sell Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers should be better this year than last. There's a new regime in Green Bay, his pass-catchers have a little more experience, and positive touchdown regression is on his side. Last season, Rodgers' touchdown rate (touchdowns divided by attempts) was just 4.2% when his career average is 6.2%.
Then why should you sell him? Well, it really has to do with philosophy more than anything else. Quarterback is replaceable in fantasy football, allowing you to extract value through matchups. You can stream the position in a worst-case scenario.
So, Aaron Rodgers is just kind of inherently overvalued. If you can get anything significant for a quarterback in fantasy football, go ahead and make a move.
The other piece to this is that the Packers start their season off against Chicago and Minnesota, two tough divisional matchups. After that, they'll face Denver, Philadelphia, and Dallas. Those games won't be easy, either.
Yes, Rodgers is a candidate to be a top-three fantasy quarterback this year. But, given the cost to obtain him in drafts, he could underperform to start the season. That's not how you want your quest for a fantasy championship to start.
Add the New York Jets Defense
When you draft your team defense, hopefully you're doing so while looking at the team's early-season schedule. Dallas, for instance, is an ideal defense to have rostered right now, because they start the year off against New York (Giants), Washington, and Miami. You can plug them into your lineup and not have to worry about finding a waiver wire defense for almost a month.
Given ownership percentages on Yahoo!, the best streaming defense for Week 1 looks like the Jets. Their game against Buffalo is in New York, and Online Sportsbook has the contest with just a 40.5-point over/under. We know Josh Allen should be improved as a passer -- especially with new weapons -- but we also know there's potential for turnovers and sacks. He averaged 2.3 sacks against while throwing an interception per game last year.
The Jets aren't the best defensive option, but they're serviceable for teams who may have drafted their defense without looking at the Week 1 schedule.