15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 2
Reacting to what happened in Week 1 isn't a bad thing. Especially during an NFL season where we had no preseason.
It's not time to act like everything we studied the last six months is meaningless after one set of games, either.
I know it's hard to believe in today's world, but it's OK to have a reasonable, logical, we-can-react-but-maybe-not-overreact take.
That's my hope for the 15 transactions this week. Some of the moves may seem bold, but I'm not here to generate headlines. I'm here to help you win a fantasy football championship.
I'm here to be rational.
Hold Austin Ekeler
Well, this is kind of a boring start, isn't it?
It's hard to sell Austin Ekeler's Week 1 outing as a positive. It was good that he carried the rock 19 times, a number he's never hit in his career. The problem is that targets are about twice as valuable as rushes in half PPR formats, and Ekeler only saw one target in Week 1. Even though we don't want to overreact to that information, it's hard to not react.
This was Ekeler's first game without Philip Rivers, a quarterback who targeted his backfield at a top-six rate in six of the last nine seasons. I mean, we watched Colts' running backs -- Philip Rivers' new weapons -- get 17 of 36 Indy receptions on Sunday. He clearly favors throwing the ball to the running back position.
We knew that Ekeler would likely not hit the kind of receiving numbers that he saw last year, not just because Rivers is now gone, but because of regression, too. He scored a third of LA's receiving touchdowns last year -- which is unheard of for a running back -- and his 9.2 yards per target was the second-highest from any 50-plus target back since 2011. He wasn't going to repeat that efficiency.
Now, was this one-target contest just a bad outing for Ekeler? That's possible, and it's why we shouldn't just assume Ekeler is doomed. But it's hard to ignore that this is the first time Ekeler's played without Rivers, and this was the result.
Going back to the plus side, Ekeler did see 57.6% of the team's running back rushes, a number he only hit last year when Melvin Gordon was inactive. The problem is that in his first-ever NFL game, rookie teammate Joshua Kelley appeared to be the goal-line guy. LA ran it twice at the goal-line against Cincinnati, and the bigger-bodied Kelley was the one who saw both of those touches, scoring once.
Let's wrap this up more concisely, shall we? Austin Ekeler saw a lot of rush attempts in a run-heavy Chargers' offense on Sunday. No one is saying that was bad. What's concerning is that he only had one target, the offense could only score once against a beatable Cincinnati D, and Ekeler ceded work -- specifically goal-line work -- to his backfield counterpart. In fantasy football, for running backs to hit a ceiling, they need touchdowns and targets. Period. Since 2011, of the 90 running backs to finish in the top-10 at the position in fantasy, 80% finished with fewer than 50 targets. Over 92% of them had 7 or more touchdowns.
This isn't to say that Ekeler won't hit 50 targets (an arbitrary number) this year. It's that things absolutely need to change moving forward. There's no chance he'll live up to his preseason average draft position if his target share stays under 10% (it was 3% on Sunday and almost 19% in 2019) while not seeing goal-line work. It's not going to happen without change.
Fortunately -- and this is a main reason he's a hold -- Ekeler's stock should rise back up over the next two weeks with the Chargers facing the Chiefs and Panthers. We watched David Johnson do work against Kansas City last Thursday night, and that's a continuation of what we saw teams do against the Chiefs last year. And then the Panthers may have the worst defense in football, at least on paper. That helped Josh Jacobs go nuts in Week 1 versus them.
No one is saying you have to overreact and get rid of Ekeler as soon as possible. It's important to recognize the concerns, though, and not just brush them off because it's "just Week 1."
Add Joshua Kelley
It seems logical to follow up a giant Ekeler blurb with some talk about the aforementioned Kelley. The rookie made the column last week as an add, and we saw why in Week 1: he ended up carrying the rock 12 times for 60 yards and a score. Considering this was the first game of his career, he'll have an opportunity to carve out an even bigger role as the season moves forward. A 36.4% running back rush share while seeing goal-line work (2 goal-line carries to Ekeler's 0) is a good start for the first-year back.
Buy DJ Moore
It was a disappointing Week 1 for D.J. Moore, who, in a plus matchup, ended with just 4 catches for 54 yards. On the plus side, Moore's usage was actually pretty good: he had 9 targets, and that translated to a 26.4% target share, highest on the team. He also ended the day with three targets that traveled 15 or more air yards. The Panthers defense confirmed what we anticipated before the season started by allowing 34 points to the Raiders on Sunday, and that could lead to a lot of pass attempts in the offense all season long. A 26% target share in an O that'll likely throw a lot is great for fantasy football. Don't let the down game scare you off of Moore.
Add Robby Anderson
A nice surprise in Week 1 was Moore's new teammate, Robby Anderson. Anderson finished the day with the second-highest snap share among all Panther wide receivers (played ahead of Curtis Samuel), and he ended with just one fewer target than Moore. He came through with a big 75-yard touchdown that boosted his fantasy numbers, but he was targeted deep twice. Panthers' quarterback Teddy Bridgewater actually threw it deep at one of the higher rates in the league in Week 1 -- 9 of his 34 attempts went 15 or more air yards. We've seen Anderson as a deep-ball, big-play specialist in the past, so the fit is there. Using the same logic with Moore, volume could be there in this offense, too, giving Anderson WR3 upside this season.
Sell Devin Singletary
This transaction was kind of implied last week when I noted to buy Zack Moss, and then we got a lot of information from Week 1 from the Bills. It was a split backfield, with Moss and Devin Singletary each seeing 50% of the running back rushes. Josh Allen carried the ball a whole lot, too, but in terms of running back rushes, the backfield was completely split in half.
Singletary did see seven targets, which is great, and you can use that when negotiating a trade. My issue is that it's very clear who the goal-line guy is, as Moss had all three running back attempts from within the 5-yard line on Sunday. Singletary can maintain RB2 status in PPR formats, but he's very unlikely to have a high ceiling without a Moss injury.
Add Nyheim Hines and Buy Jonathan Taylor
Remember earlier when I said that Philip Rivers targeted his running backs a lot in Week 1? Well, Hines was the biggest beneficiary, tallying 8 targets, and a 17.4% target share. He carried the ball four times and had a pair of targets in the red zone, too, which helped him score twice. Hines should be a high priority on the waiver wire this week in you're in a PPR format.
And then there's Taylor. Whew, boy. This is setting up perfectly for the fantasy managers who took a shot on him in their draft. He'll, at the very least, see the majority of early-down work for Indianapolis with Mack now sidelined -- after the injury, Taylor out-attempted Hines 10 to 3. Taylor also saw 6 targets to Hines' 7 when Mack was no longer on the field.
Yours truly was a big, big Jonathan Taylor fan during draft season. He's got the college production and insane athletic measurables to be a stud at the NFL level. Now that Mack isn't in the way workload-wise, Taylor could easily become a league-winner behind a solid offensive line. It may sound bold, but I'd be willing to treat Taylor as a low-end RB1 in trade discussions right now given his profile, his situation, and the small sample that we saw in Week 1.
Sometimes you have to buy high.
Add Benny Snell
James Conner injured his ankle during Monday night's game against the Giants after running the ball 6 times for 9 yards and a 0% -- yes, that's a zero -- Success Rate. That injury led to a big workload for Benny Snell, who carried the ball 19 times for 113 yards and a 37% Success Rate. Snell, who looked quicker than he did during his 2019 rookie campaign, was unequivocally the more effective rusher for Pittsburgh on Monday, sample size aside. If Conner misses any time, Snell could be plenty fantasy relevant.
Hold Hayden Hurst and Add Russell Gage
The Falcons offense continued its pass-heavy pace in Week 1 after surrendering a lead to the Seahawks, but newly-signed tight end Hayden Hurst finished with just 3 catches for 38 yards. He had just a 9.6% target share, while Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones, and Russell Gage each finished with a 23.1% target share. That's the reason you're looking to add Gage this week, for the record.
Despite this, it's not time to give up on Hurst. He led all tight ends in routes run in Week 1 according to Pro Football Focus, and he was on the field for about 79% of Atlanta's snaps. What Week 1 showed, is that we could see some frustrating back and forth weeks between Hurst and slot guy Russell Gage, but I'd fully expect Hurst to bounce back.
Add Malcolm Brown
If you're a Late-Round Podcast listener, then you were on the Malcolm Brown train last week. (If you're not a Late-Round Podcast listener, subscribe!) He finished Sunday night's game with a 60.3% snap share all while seeing two goal-line rushes, finding the end zone twice, and leading the Rams' backfield with 18 attempts and 4 targets.
Perhaps the nagging injury that Darrell Henderson's been dealing with forced the Rams to play more Malcolm Brown. And maybe we see -- I'd almost bet on it -- more Cam Akers as the season moves forward. But Brown looked good against the Cowboys -- he had a 66.7% Success Rate, which measures the percentage of positive expected point runs made by a running back, versus Akers' 14.3%. I'd expect him to be usable in the foreseeable future in all formats.
Buy Antonio Gibson
It wasn't the best debut in the world for Washington's rookie rusher. That also makes for a good buy-low opportunity.
The Football Team's backfield split was a mess in Week 1. Veteran Peyton Barber led the way with almost 59% of the team's running back rushes, and Barber saw a league-high 6 goal-line carries. Unlike Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who also saw six goal-line rushes, Barber was able to find the end zone twice.
Another issue for Gibson in Week 1 was that J.D. McKissic was the primary pass-catcher in the offense, handling over 16% of the team's targets. Gibson's target share was just 6%.
Now for the good news: neither running back was all that effective. Barber had a Success Rate of just 23.5%, and McKissic caught just 1 of his 5 targets for a single yard. Gibson caught both of his targets.
Be patient. Gibson's a raw talent, having played a lot of wide receiver in college, but there's plenty potential for him in an easy-to-ascend backfield.
Add Parris Campbell
One of the most encouraging games from Sunday came from Parris Campbell. After a deflating rookie season, Campbell came out and saw almost 20% of Indianapolis' targets, catching 6 of 9 (nice) passes for 71 yards. Per Pro Football Focus, he played 95% of his snaps from the slot, which is going to allow him to face soft matchups all year long. He'll be someone to give you a nice baseline each week, and if he's on your waiver wire -- he's on 78% of them over on Yahoo! -- you should snatch him this week.
Sell Raheem Mostert
This is the one transaction of the week that could come back to haunt me, but it would be tough to ignore the things that were working in Raheem Mostert's favor in Week 1.
The 49ers pass-catchers are most definitely not healthy. Deebo Samuel is on IR and is set to miss the first three games of the season, and rookie Brandon Aiyuk was unable to play on Sunday, too. Then, mid-game, George Kittle hurt his knee and wasn't targeted in the second half. That perfect storm forced Jimmy Garoppolo to target the San Francisco backfield on nearly 44% of his throws, the highest team running back target share of the week.
Mostert benefited. He had a 15.6% target share when he hit a double-digit percentage target share just twice last year. He was able to take one of those targets to the house on a 76-yard touchdown.
Tevin Coleman was iffy on playing this week due to his sickle cell trait and the poor air quality in California, and that may have forced lower-than-expected usage on his end. That, too, helped Mostert capture a larger portion of the team's backfield touches.
It's not that I'm a believer that Mostert won't be usable in fantasy football: he will be. He's a good running back who fits the 49ers' scheme well. And the 49ers' schedule is pretty attractive over the next month. It's just that if you can sell him as an RB1 to someone after this Week 1 performance, it's not a bad idea at all to do it. It was a great environment for him to thrive.
Add Corey Davis
The Titans were forced to throw it a little more than usual on Monday night against the Broncos, but even still, Corey Davis had himself a day. He caught 7 of 8 targets for 101 yards, and most importantly, his target share in the contest reached 20%. That was higher than any other Titan, including second-year stud A.J. Brown.
Will this be able to continue? I'm not totally optimistic, but we know Davis has the talent given his pedigree. And we're one year removed from seeing a similar breakout story in DeVante Parker, so it's possible Davis puts it together this year. The downside is that Tennessee wants to be a balanced, run-friendly team, and that should limit opportunities. He's worth an add this week to see if things can continue, though.
Add Logan Thomas
Is Logan Thomas happening? I think Logan Thomas might be happening.
It was exactly what us (I'm including you in this) Thomas truthers wanted to see in Week 1. Thomas saw almost 26% of Washington's targets while finishing as a top-10 fantasy tight end, and he was top-10 across the league in tight end routes run. Everything points to Thomas being a highly-involved pass-catcher in the Washington offense.
He was in last week's column, but it needs to be repeated: add Logan Thomas.
Add the Cleveland Browns Defense
The Browns are rostered in just 9% of Yahoo! leagues, which is honestly 8.9% higher than I thought it'd be considering they faced the Ravens in Week 1. Nevertheless, they're not a bad streaming option in Week 2 against Cincinnati. The Bengals allowed a top-half sack rate in Week 1 with Joe Burrow falling behind the line of scrimmage three times. The Browns didn't do a whole lot to contain Lamar Jackson this past Sunday, but they did rank in the middle of the pack in pressure rate. As 5.5-point favorites in a game with a relatively low 44.5-point over/under, the Browns are a good streaming choice.