15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 2
We’ve got four months of this?
Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season certainly didn’t disappoint, with a brand new set of characters entering fantasy relevancy. Allen Hurns, Larry Donnell, Isaiah Crowell, Justin Forsett – the list of usable out-of-nowhere fantasy players is always interesting after the first week of the NFL season.
But we have to remember, like every other season, not to overreact. There was months of preparation for the fantasy football season, and letting one week wipe that away isn’t intelligent process.
So let’s take a look at which player performances were flukes, which ones weren’t, and which guys you should buy and sell in fantasy football heading into Week 2.
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Add Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro
After a Bernard Pierce fumble, the Ravens opted to give the ball to Justin Forsett on Sunday against the Bengals. The game itself was a little odd from a play-calling perspective, as Joe Flacco dropped back and threw the ball 62 times, while Pierce and Forsett combined for 17 carries.
There’s talk that Forsett is going to start against the Steelers on Thursday, and according to our metrics, that’s smart. Bernard Pierce has been incredibly inefficient in terms of Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) throughout his two-plus year career, and only secured 14 yards on 6 carries on Sunday. Forsett was flat-out better.
But it’s tough to be completely solid on a running back (Forsett) who’s never carried the ball more than 118 times in a single season after entering the league in 2008.
While he may be a decent short-term fix, it wouldn’t surprise me to see rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro steal some carries from this backfield as the season moves forward. As noted yesterday, his top READ comparable is Matt Forte, who was the fourth-best fantasy football running back during his rookie year. Taliaferro led the preseason in running back rushing attempts, and probably has the most upside – not immediate, however – of all three Ravens running backs.
You want to be a step ahead in fantasy football, and adding Taliaferro could be a move that helps you out in the long run.
Sell Vernon Davis
With Michael Crabtree in the 49ers lineup since 2011, Vernon Davis has averaged 0.43 touchdowns per game. Without him, his touchdown total jumps to 0.82. That’s a difference of about six across an entire season.
On Sunday, Davis started his 2014 campaign with a pair of scores on just six targets. I say “just” because, with the second-best tight end score in fantasy football, you’d think he saw more action. Not the case.
If you can unload on VD and get something valuable in return, it’s not a bad idea. He’ll be inconsistent week to week with Michael Crabtree healthy – and keep in mind Crabtree was a game-time decision this week – and could bring a nice return given his solid Week 1. Though he’s done it twice in his career, it’d be surprising to see him get close to that 13 touchdown mark this season.
Add Terrance West
Ben Tate left his Week 1 game against the Steelers early, and in his place came Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. West saw 16 carries and rushed for 100 yards, while Crowell had five for 32, scoring twice.
The Steelers rush defense is weak, which is why the Browns were able to run all over them on Sunday. I’d look at add West in fantasy if he’s out there, not only because Ben Tate could be out, but because head coach Mike Pettine made it clear that Terrance West was part of the team’s Week 1 game plan, while Crowell wasn’t. Tate’s historically had injury troubles, and West could take advantage of that already here in Week 2.
Drop Robert Griffin III
Perhaps this is an overreaction, but I’m fine with you dropping Robert Griffin III, especially in shallower leagues. It’s not even because he started his season with a-7.21 Passing Net Expected Points performance, the seventh-worst in the NFL. It’s because that wasn’t an out-of-nowhere performance, having played poorly in the preseason.
The other reason you can safely drop RGIII is because the quarterback position is insanely replaceable in fantasy football. Trusting Griffin each week in your quarterback spot isn’t an optimal way to play the game, and this will force you to make smarter decisions rather than holding on to a headache.
You can yell at me via Twitter when he rushes for 68 yards and two scores next weekend.
Sell Steve Smith
Smith ended the day with 10.43 Reception Net Expected Points, which measures the number of points a player adds on catches only. That was fifth in the league among all wide receivers.
Why sell him? Well, he’s a name that people know, so you have that going for you. But the Ravens also threw the ball 62 times on Sunday, something they won’t do again this year. Torrey Smith was mostly uninvolved, too, which you’d only expect to change.
Smith has more value than people would think, but if you can turn him for something decent, go for it.
Add Ahmad Bradshaw
Trent Richardson was the worst non-Baltimore Ravens running back last season according to our metrics, while now-Charger Donald Brown was one of the most effective rushers in the league as a Colt. Of course, Indianapolis kept T-Rich as their starter into 2014, but that’s opened things up for veteran Ahmad Bradshaw.
In their Week 1 loss, Bradshaw caught five passes for 70 yards, and now ranks as the most effective running back in terms of Reception NEP outside of Matt Forte. He not only has standalone value as a flex option in deeper leagues – especially PPR ones – but any uselessness from Trent Richardson could make Bradshaw a more viable option in the team’s ground attack.
Add Brian Quick
As much of a dumpster fire the Rams offense was on Sunday, there was one positive sign: Brian Quick looked good.
The third-year wideout caught seven balls for 99 yards and saw 25 percent of his team’s targets against the Vikings. The Rams spread it out a bit, but Quick could still end up being a higher-volume wideout in the offense this year.
Clearly the quarterback situation is iffy at best, and you shouldn’t necessarily expect an every-week stud given the ineptness on offense in St. Louis. But Quick is the best receiver on this team, as profiled by our own Joe Redemann this offseason.
Drop Kenny Britt
Another year, another disappointment. I’m fine with teams dropping Kenny Britt because of the aforementioned Brian Quick and the fact that he caught zero passes on three targets. Even if he has a big game in Week 2, you’re looking at a wideout who’s bound for week-to-week inconsistency, and isn’t worth a roster spot in any normal league.
Add Allen Hurns
Hurns got the NFL season started off right, scoring two first half touchdowns against the Eagles. The rookie wideout got an opportunity to start with Cecil Shorts’ sidelined, totaling four catches for 110 yards and a Reception NEP that was third best on the week.
While it’s not a bad idea to add him off your waiver wire, I think I’d be a little cautious when it comes to slotting him into my lineup. The Jaguars passing offense with Chad Henne isn’t going to give you consistent production at wide receiver, and the Eagles secondary isn’t all that strong – they ranked 24th in Defensive NEP when adjusted for strength of schedule last year. Let’s not pretend he did this against Seattle.
There are better adds this week, but Hurns is still worth a look.
Buy Torrey Smith
I spoke about Steve Smith earlier, and now it’s time to talk about his teammate who disappointed fantasy owners in Week 1.
Again, Joe Flacco threw 62 passes, and only looked Torrey Smith’s way seven times. Bengals’ cornerback Leon Hall surely played a part in that, and Smith hasn’t fared well against Cincinnati over his last five games against them, catching no more than five passes and going for no more than 57 yards.
Patience is key in fantasy football after Week 1 of the NFL season. Torrey Smith had 137 targets last season, and Gary Kubiak – man, I’m now realizing that this is essentially becoming a Ravens column – isn’t afraid to use his number one wideout in heavy doses (Andre Johnson, anyone?). Smith, too, hasn't played well against Cincinnati over his last five contests. If Torrey’s owner is worried, snag him off them for something cheap.
Add Jake Locker
In the offseason, I noted that Jake Locker could be an underrated fantasy football asset. No, I’m not referencing that to pat myself on the back after his solid 20-point Week 1. Rather, it’s to show that his opening week performance wasn’t necessarily unlikely.
The Titans offense was underrated last year according to our metrics, ranking 12th when adjusted for strength of schedule. Though Locker wasn’t under center for a lot of the season, when he did play, he performed at the same level as Jay Cutler on a per drop back basis. Not bad.
His weapons are young and talented, and he’s got a matchup this week against the Cowboys, who won’t be able to stop a thing this season given their injuries and lack of depth. Locker’s the perfect streaming quarterback for Week 2, and he may have more season-long value than folks think.
Buy Justin Hunter
If you missed out on drafting Justin Hunter this offseason, this week may be the last where you’ll get him for a reasonable price.
In Week 1, Hunter led all Tennessee wideouts in targets, despite catching just three balls for a solid 63 yards. This week he gets the aforementioned Dallas defense, and could have an opportunity to go bonkers. He’s a big-play threat who ranked fifth in terms of Reception NEP per target among wide receivers a season ago, and his touchdown upside (four touchdowns on 18 catches in 2013) make him attractive in fantasy. Get him now before he goes off.
Add the Packers Defense
Geno Smith looked fine against the Raiders, and finished with a Passing NEP of 2.12, good for 15th in the league. And while the Packers defense isn’t tremendously strong, it’s better than an Oakland one that still was able to force a couple of turnovers against the Jets.
One thing to look out for here is the fact that the Packers rush defense looked porous against the Seahawks in Week 1. The Jets ran the ball better than all but seven teams in Week 1, and that could be a matchup to exploit. Even still, Green Bay at home coming off an opening week loss? Yes, please.
Add Andy Dalton
Alright, I lied. The perfect streaming option this week isn’t Jake Locker. It’s Andy Dalton.
The problem is that he’s only available in one-quarter of ESPN.com leagues, so he's not exactly a quarterback streamer. But if you’re in a shallow league and are, say, an RGIII owner, you should look Dalton’s way in Week 2.
The Bengals will host the Falcons in Cincinnati – a Falcons team that ranked dead last against the pass last year according to our metrics. Andy Dalton’s splits against bottom half defenses are borderline ridiculous, as he scored about 10 points more versus bad secondaries last year as opposed to good ones.
The over-under for this game is currently set at 48, and the Bengals are five-point favorites. It all makes Andy Dalton a great option.
Buy Travis Kelce
Everything was set up for a Travis Kelce breakout last week, but the Chiefs offense looked like it didn't even belong on the field. Kelce ended the game with three catches for 49 yards – not a bad debut – but the tight end touchdown came from teammate Anthony Fasano, just after Kelce was targeted in the red zone.
The biggest positive with Kelce is that he finished the week as the fourth-best tight end in terms of Target NEP, or the number of points added by a player on all targets. He was reliable when his quarterback needed him. It’s not time to let Week 1 make you think Kelce won’t be involved in this offense, especially considering it was the first game he’s ever played in his NFL career. Give it some time.