15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 5
Entering the season, if you opted to go running back at the front end of your fantasy draft, you're probably not feeling great right now. Jamaal Charles has been hurt, Adrian Peterson has been dismissed, LeSean McCoy has been generally ineffective and Eddie Lacy has been Trent Richardson.
I'll cover some of these backs this week, because folks seem to be full of buy or sell questions surrounding them. Let's begin with Eddie Lacy, who, despite a good matchup in Week 4, looked like a cement truck with two flat tires carrying the football.
Sell Eddie Lacy
Giving Eddie Lacy a pass after a terrible first three weeks of the season seemed reasonable. After all, the Packers faced the Seahawks, Jets, and Lions to start the year, three of the top run-stuffing units in the entire NFL.
Last season, the Bears were historically bad at stopping the run, and that's generally continued into 2014. Yet, Eddie Lacy could only muster a 2.80 yards per carry average, and still sits dead last in terms of Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) in the entire NFL.
Consider Week 4 Eddie Lacy's test. Folks may look at his grade and see that he scored a C+ thanks to a touchdown, but really, Lacy failed miserably. If you can sell him at a respectable price, go for it. I'm not ready to roster Trent Richardson 2.0.
Hold LeSean McCoy
The situation surrounding LeSean McCoy isn't as straightforward as Lacy's, mostly because we have a large sample size of McCoy being a very effective runner.
Why is McCoy ranked 28th among the 31 running backs with 40-plus carries in Rushing NEP to start the year? Well, I'm not sure we can blame his opponents, as Jacksonville and Indianapolis - the teams Philly played in Weeks 1 and 2 - rank 18th and 27th against the run, respectively, so far this year.
Perhaps it's McCoy's turf toe injury combined with a poor, depleted offensive line. That would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it?
And that's precisely the problem. If the situation with Shady was opponent-based, I'd feel better about buying him at such a low cost. But it may not be - we have a pair of games where he was average-at-best against two teams who have generally struggled against the run this year.
The Eagles upcoming schedule sees six bottom half defenses against the run over the next seven contests, so things could get better for McCoy. If you own him, you keep him. If you don't, you let the McCoy owner go through the current fantasy roller coaster, unless said owner is willing to give him up for a bag of potato chips.
Add Jerick McKinnon
As exciting as it was to see Jerick McKinnon light it up on Sunday, we have to remember that he was facing one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. That's not subjective, either - our metrics peg the Falcons as the second worst rush defense in the league through four weeks.
It's very clear that he's the superior talent when compared to teammate Matt Asiata - he's just very raw. He's worth an add if he's out there on your waiver wire simply because there's time and room for improvement, but despite his big Week 4 performance, I wouldn't expect him to be anything more than a change-of-pace back in the short term. He is, however, a nice stash.
Sell Kirk Cousins
Perhaps "sell" isn't the right word to use when it comes to Kirk Cousins, as a four-interception game is going to do nothing but scare fantasy owners away. But if you can get rid of him - even if it's dropping him - I'm fine with your decision.
Let me explain why. Kirk Cousins isn't a great starting quarterback. Week 3 was the perfect storm against the Eagles, and he faced Jacksonville after entering for Robert Griffin III in Week 2.
The truth is, our metrics hate Kirk Cousins. With each drop back last year, Cousins lost 0.25 points for the Redskins. That was almost as bad as Josh Freeman's -0.27 Passing NEP per drop back average.
Moreover, only 36.25% of Cousins' passes last year were deemed successful. Again, only Freeman had a Success Rate that low among 100-plus attempt passers.
Entering Week 4, Cousins' metrics looked fantastic. Amazing, actually. His Success Rate was up to nearly 55%, while his per drop back Passing NEP was tops in the league. Clearly that's not the case anymore, and because of his 2013 sample, I'm fine with owners getting rid of the Washington passer. This is especially true considering the Redskins get the Seahawks and Cardinals next, and RGIII could eventually take back the starting gig.
Drop Bernard Pierce
I've been mean to Bernard Pierce in this column in the past, but it's because he's been the least effective running back in football for over a year now. And finally - finally - it looks like the Ravens see that.
The Ravens are now saying that this was a precautionary move, but I'm not sure it's smart to buy that. Not only is he not producing when he's actually in the game, but Taliaferro and Forsett have played above expectation according to our metrics. And Forsett has actually been the most effective running back in the entire NFL thus far.
Even if Pierce starts to see volume, he won't be effective. There's no reason to hold him on your fantasy team.
Add Marvin Jones
Jones would see snaps opposite of AJ Green, which is obviously a plus. So far this year, Mohamed Sanu has played that role, seeing 180 snaps at wide receiver in three games (much of that high number has to do with Green exiting in Week 2) and 17 targets.
Jones is a superior wideout, as he was one of the most efficient in the game last year versus Sanu being one of the least effective. If he's healthy, Jones will be the number-two guy in Cincy.
Owned in 0.2% of ESPN.com leagues, Jones could end up being a nice WR3 this year if he's 100 percent.
Add Allen Robinson
Rookie Allen Robinson continues to look like the guy to own in Jacksonville, hauling in 16 catches over his last three contests. During this stretch, Robinson has 23 targets, including 17 over the last two weeks. With Cecil Shorts and his fragile body already expected to miss Week 5, Robinson will become rookie Blake Bortles favorite target once again. And it's nice that they'll face one of the worst defenses in the league this week against Pittsburgh.
Sell Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson hasn't been a bad fantasy running back this year, as only 18 running backs have scored more points. But the Colts and Trent Richardson have had a relatively favorable schedule against backs to start the season, and his Rushing NEP is still fourth-worst among all running backs with 40-plus carries.
If, for whatever reason, you can find an owner willing to buy Richardson - one with running back troubles - feel free to pull the trigger. The Colts will get Baltimore, Houston and Cincinnati over their next three contests, and each team is ranked 13th or better in the league defensively. This type of run-heavy game flow won't continue for the Colts.
Add Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer hasn't seen the field since a Week 1 performance against San Diego that saw him score about 21 fantasy points, good for an 8.09 Passing NEP total. Because of his injury, Palmer's ownership percentage has dropped to under seven percent on ESPN.com, meaning he's probably out there on the waiver wire in your league.
Not only is he set to return in Week 5, but Palmer has a nice matchup against the Broncos in a game that should be fairly high scoring. And so far this year, the Broncos secondary ranks in the bottom 10 against the pass when adjusted for strength of opponent.
Given the team's weapons, Palmer is a decent start each week. When the matchup is favorable, he's a perfect streaming option.
Sell Chris Johnson
A quick glance at the Jets backfield this past weekend shows you what you need to know about Chris Johnson. Teammate Chris Ivory saw 11 more carries, and despite just 10 career receptions entering the game, Ivory out-targeted Johnson 6 to 2. On the season, our advanced metrics see Ivory as the far superior running back.
Johnson did score a touchdown on a 35-yard run, saving his day and giving owners an additional week of potentially selling him. Get rid of him while (if) you can.
Add Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater's starting debut went well, ending with a 16.88 Passing NEP and a Total NEP, due to his running abilities, of 22.47. Granted, it was against a Falcons defense that's been torched over the last year-plus, but it was good to see how relevant he could be.
Adding him is a no-brainer for quarterback-needy teams, despite his ankle injury. The Vikings' schedule is pretty stellar moving forward, too, facing bottom half pass defenses in six of their next seven games.
Add the Lions Defense
The Lions defense isn't on as many waiver wires this week as last, but if they're out there, snag them. Not only have they started the year as our number five overall defense, but they'll face Kyle Orton in his first start with Buffalo, and they'll be at home. It could get ugly.
Add Andre Williams
Rookie Andre Williams saw some work in the Giants blowout win last Thursday night, and turned it into 66 yards and a touchdown. We shouldn't expect him to get 15 carries each week moving forward, but a matchup against the league's second-worst rush defense, Atlanta, makes him an interesting sleeper in Week 5.
He's still out there in about 70% of ESPN.com leagues, and if you need a running back this week due to injury or bye weeks, he's not a bad option. After all, we saw both the Bengals and Vikings produce two very fantasy relevant running backs when they faced Atlanta this year.
Add Darrin Reaves
The entire Carolina backfield is banged up, leaving Darrin Reaves as the man to handle the load in Week 5. Who? Exactly.
When there's a starting back on the waiver wire, you have to add him. Reaves had 12 carries for 26 yards last week against Baltimore, good (bad) for a Rushing NEP of -3.90. He'll need to be more effective in Week 5, but a matchup against Chicago could be worse.
And who knows, maybe he'll be a long-term answer for an offense that needs some sort of spark.
Buy the Giants Offense
Last week, I wrote about how our perception of the G-Men may be a little off due to a terrible 2013 campaign and a Week 1 matchup against the now fifth-ranked Detroit Lions defense. Perhaps we just haven't given the Giants a chance.
Over the last three weeks, New York has moved from one of the worst offensive teams in the league to the 18th-best one, doing so with a quarterback who's played far above expectation. Eli Manning has a 14.68 Passing NEP on the year now, better than Nick Foles and Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler doesn't care though.
Not only is the Giants offense trending up, but their upcoming schedule includes contests against Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas and Indianapolis. Not a bad stretch at all.