15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 3
Week 2 was the ultimate "process over results" week.
I can guarantee DeAngelo Williams, Matt Jones and Dion Lewis won't round out the top three in fantasy running back scoring again this year. I'd be surprised if we end up seeing Colin Kaepernick, Derek Carr, and Tyrod Taylor as high-end QB1 options during the same week again in 2015. And even though I love me some Crockett Gillmore, are we really going to bank on another top tight end game from him this season?
The Ravens lost to the Raiders, the Dolphins lost to the Jaguars, the Redskins are close to being a 2-0 team and the Seahawks have yet to win a game since their epic Super Bowl loss.
Our process is telling us that so many things will change. The results are showing some wacky stuff.
But it's only Week 2, and while we need to react, let's continue to respect the process.
Add Matt Jones
This is the third straight week I've blurbed about a Redskins' running back. Prior to Week 1, my dude Matt Jones made this column as a bench flier. Last week seemed like a perfect opportunity to sell high on Alfred Morris. This week, we're back to Jones, who lit up the Rams -- a team with a really strong defensive line -- for 123 yards and a pair of scores on 19 carries.
I'll reiterate what was said prior to Week 1: Alfred Morris has seen a drop in numbers in each season he's played in the NFL. In 2012, he had a 0.03 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush average, which was a high mark for a back with a lot of volume. That dropped to -0.02 (an average score, since rushing is less efficient than passing) in 2013, and fell to -0.04 last year.
Meanwhile, his Success Rate -- the percentage of rushes that contribute positively towards NEP -- has gone from 46.13% in 2012 to 44.93% and 40.00% in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
So while Morris is still seeing volume, he needs to be more efficient with it. In Week 2, that wasn't the case, as his per-rush NEP of -0.20 was far worse than Jones' 0.23. It was night and day.
All of this is to say that Jones needs to be added. Washington looks like a team that wants to beat you with their improved defense and by running the ball -- which makes sense given their personnel -- and Jones should contribute to this gameplan.
Sell Giovani Bernard
One of the odd results of Week 2 was Jeremy Hill's end-of-day stat line. He finished with just 10 carries for 39 yards in a game where the Bengals were favorites, meaning you'd expect him to see a larger role than he saw.
Unfortunately, fumbles forced him out of the game, and Giovani Bernard stepped up. Bernard performed admirably, capturing 2.65 Rushing Net Expected Points and finishing the day as the 14th-best running back according to numberFire Live.
I'm not buying into this as anything more than some single-game punishment for Hill. Now, don't get me wrong, Bernard will still have a role in the Bengals offense. But this doesn't change anything for me. Last season, Hill led all 100-plus attempt running backs -- 43 of them -- in Success Rate, while Bernard finished 33rd. Hill was the more efficient runner (0.09 Rushing NEP per rush versus -0.04) as well.
Bernard's a big-play back (which is also seen through his low Success Rate but only slightly below-average Rushing NEP per rush) who will have a spot within the Bengals' offense. But to believe one game where Jeremy Hill put the ball on the ground twice is all of a sudden going to be the start to Giovani Bernard's redemption story doesn't make a whole lot of sense, especially considering Hill has far outperformed Bernard since entering the league.
I'll take a multiple game sample over one against the Chargers.
Buy Ameer Abdullah
I'm an Ameer Abdullah owner, so I feel your pain.
In Week 2, Theo Riddick finished with the most snaps (34) in the Lions' backfield (according to FantasyData.com), followed by Ameer Abdullah (30) and Joique Bell (19). Week 1 had Riddick and Abdullah each at 28, and Bell at 19. Both games saw a pass-happy script for Detroit, for what it's worth, which could be a reason why Bell's numbers were lower.
It's good to see a rookie in Abdullah seeing just as many snaps as other backs in the team's backfield. It's not good to see that the other backs are Theo Riddick, who played wide receiver in college, and Joique Bell, who's coming off knee and leg injuries.
So why buy? Well, the Lions are now 0-2 and are in need of offensive help. Clearly what they're doing isn't working. And it makes a ton of sense that a prized rookie would slowly start to see more work in that backfield, because that's what good rookies do. They see more work.
If there's an owner out there who's down after a not-so-great Week 2 performance from Abdullah, make a trade offer.
Add Willie Snead
In Week 2, things shifted a bit. Snead actually out-snapped the aging Colston 43 to 40, while Coleman saw 48 and Cooks 66. Snead, as a result, saw six targets, which was one fewer than Cooks, the same as Coleman, and one more than Colston.
The Saints' passing game is generally a mess because there's a pass-catching rotation, Drew Brees likes to spread it around, and he also likes to use his running backs in the passing game more than any other quarterback in the league. But with an increased role, Snead's definitely worth a look in deeper leagues.
Sell or Hold Dion Lewis
Note: Since this article was written, my feelings have changed on Dion Lewis. Here's an explanation.
I feel as though I need to be fragile with this recommendation, because Lewis has been a waiver wire darling (and a preseason 15 Transactions callout) for many teams so far this year. And it's not as though I don't think he'll have season-long value this year. Not at all. It's just that there's a chance he's been a good option thanks to favorable game planning.
We've seen this story many times with Bill Belichick. No, not the whole "he's the worst when it comes to fantasy running backs" thing, but rather the idea that he plays the more elusive back against tougher rush defenses and the grinder back in games that call for a run-first script.
Guys, Tom Brady had 59 attempts against the Bills last week. Patriot running backs ran the ball a combined 10 times. This screams Dion Lewis, who's more of a pass-catching back at 5'8'', 195 pounds.
It's no surprise that Shane Vereen saw his highest single-game target totals last season against the Broncos, Lions and Jets. According to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points metric, Denver and Detroit were top-10 teams at stopping the run, while the Jets, when the game happened, were a top run-stopping unit as well. Buffalo ranked ninth a season ago, which could have a lot -- if not all -- to do with Dion Lewis seeing 85 percent of the team's snaps on Sunday.
Now, again, I don't want to make this seem like you should dump Lewis no matter what. I'm merely making the point that Lewis could be a roller coaster back this season. In Week 3, for instance, I'd expect a heavier dose of LeGarrette Blount against Jacksonville. And if you can get a great return for Lewis given his performance thus far -- especially his performance in PPR leagues -- I'm not against it.
Add Leonard Hankerson
Hankerson's performance in Week 2 could have a lot to do with matchup -- he played in the slot and was able to exploit the Giants' weakness at linebacker and safety.
But we also have to recognize that Roddy White will be 34 years old in November and has had his fair share of injuries over the last year. White also caught zero passes in a plus matchup on Sunday, which is just a tad worse than Hankerson's 11-target, 6-catch, 1-touchdown day.
I wouldn't be spending a ton of free agent auction budget to get Hankerson because it feels like a situation where inconsistency could be king. It's certainly a situation to monitor, though, especially in a pass-friendly offense.
Buy David Johnson
David Johnson is physically gifted. And if you compare him to Andre Ellington, he's bigger (20 more pounds, 4 more inches) and faster (4.5 40-yard dash versus 4.61). In just two NFL games, Johnson's caught a touchdown pass, returned a kick and scored on the ground.
He's a raw talent, no doubt, but he also has a ton of opportunity given Ellington's injury and Chris Johnson's ineffectiveness (-0.07 Rushing NEP per rush against the Bears). Add on the fact that Ellington was the least effective runner in our database among 200-plus attempt backs last year, and things are looking awesome for David Johnson right now.
Add Ty Montgomery
Ty Montgomery didn't play a boatload of snaps in Week 2, but his 25 was far more than the single snap he saw in Week 1. He ended the game with four targets -- one more than James Jones -- and 37 yards.
There's some reason for optimism in that Davante Adams hasn't really stepped up to be a clear number-two option for Aaron Rodgers, and Montgomery's just a rookie. Gradual increases in production is what you're looking for, and when that player is associated with the best quarterback in the game, he has to be on your radar.
Hold DeMarco Murray
The most common question I got on Twitter this weekend was related to DeMarco Murray and what to do with him. Here's my short answer: I have no idea.
Let's look at the bad with DeMarco Murray first. The Eagles have 36 fewer yards as a team than Dexter McCluster does as a player through two games, and Murray has a grand total of 11 yards rushing on 21 carries. Sam Bradford has only looked decent for one half of play, and all of this has come against two defenses that entered the year looking pretty trashy.
On the plus side, though, Murray has Chip Kelly on his side. We hate what's happening right now, I know, but the Eagles ran the seventh most rushing plays in the league last year, and the fourth most the year prior to that. Volume matters in fantasy football. We know this.
And even with negative game scripts for the Eagles in each of the first two games, Murray's still seeing 55.9% of the Eagles' offensive snaps. Last season, lead back LeSean McCoy saw 65.9% of his team's snaps, and that's not skewed by poor game flow where Philly's more inclined to use Darren Sproles, like Murray's current snap percentage has seen.
The obvious fear here is that the Eagles offensive line can't get it together, Bradford isn't even close to the quarterback the Eagles thought they had, and Murray is unable to run efficiently as a result. And upcoming games against the Jets and Redskins aren't getting me excited about Murray's short-term future. But if you own him, you can't sell him given his probable perceived cost. If you don't own him, you're taking on a lot of risk by trying to buy low. It's a boring answer to a complicated question, but it's the smart play to just hold tight before we know and see more.
Sell Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton's the seventh best fantasy quarterback through two weeks, and with so many owners needing quarterbacks given the injuries throughout the league, he would seem like a viable waiver wire option.
The problem is that Dalton has had two straight favorable matchups. He thrives as a favorite (has averaged over four points more per game as a favorite versus as an underdog over the last two seasons), and has big splits when facing softer secondaries (averaging nine more points per game against bottom half defenses than top half ones over the last two seasons).
Dalton struggles against his division rivals. This was documented last year. As shown in the splits above, he's also not very good against top half defenses. Over the next four weeks, the Bengals get Baltimore, Kansas City, Seattle and Buffalo. No thanks.
Buy or Add Devin Funchess
Jerricho Cotchery suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday, which left Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown and Devin Funchess at wide receiver for the Panthers. The speeders Ginn and Brown played as starters, while Funchess was on the field for 38 snaps.
This is all about having hope that Funchess can grow into a role that's completely wide open. Ginn and Brown make up the worst two starting wide receivers in the NFL (try to dispute that), so leapfrogging one of the two shouldn't be hard as Funchess gains experience. He's certainly worth an add to stash on your bench -- he's available in over half of ESPN.com leagues.
Add Lorenzo Taliaferro
I did a study back in August that looked at regression from an efficiency standpoint at the running back position. The results showed that there was reason to be a little worried about Justin Forsett in 2015 -- his Rushing NEP per rush rate was really high, but his Success Rate (the percentage of rushes that contribute positively towards a player's NEP) was low. In other words, long, impactful runs were making his averages look better than they actually were.
I won't say we're currently seeing this in action already here in 2015 (sample size alert), but we are seeing an interesting snap split in the Ravens' backfield. Forsett played just 51.2% of snaps against the Raiders in Week 2, while Lorenzo Taliaferro saw 41.5%. A season ago, Forsett was on the field for over 65% of the team's snaps.
Forsett saw 15 carries and 4 targets, but Taliaferro still ran the ball 7 times and was targeted 3 times out of the backfield. Given this split and the fact that Forsett could regress in a big way in 2015, Taliaferro's worth a look to throw on your bench.
Add Nick Foles
Foles is owned in fewer than 20 percent of ESPN.com leagues, which makes him a viable streaming option for Week 3. A matchup versus the Steelers makes him a perfect streaming option in Week 3.
Tom Brady lit up the Steelers in Week 1, throwing four touchdown passes. That's somewhat excusable though, because he's Tom Brady. On Sunday, however, Colin Kaepernick scored 26.5 fantasy points, the fourth most in the league. He topped that just twice last season.
The reason the Steelers are such a good target to stream against is because they'll force a negative game script with their high-powered offense, but to make things even better, the team's secondary is putrid. Foles should be able to post high-end QB1 numbers as a result.
Sell DeAngelo Williams
I've been blown away by the number of folks asking if DeAngelo Williams holds significant value moving forward in fantasy football. I suppose I understand the logic -- he's the top running back in fantasy football (I can't believe I just typed that), and the Steelers' offense is looking great.
But that Pittsburgh attack is also getting back arguably the best running back in football this week in Le'Veon Bell. A season ago, Bell hit 10 or more carries in all but one contest, while LeGarrette Blount, the team's backup for most of the year, saw just 65 rushing attempts all season long.
While Williams may have a larger role than Blount did, he's not going to have predictable production. And in most leagues, holding onto a handcuff is a losing strategy.
Add the Browns' Defense
According to our numbers, the Browns have the 12th best defense in football. So while you may be a little nervous to use them this week, at least remember that.
The real reason you'll want to take a look at them as a streaming defense, though, is because they're four-point favorites at home against the Raiders this week. Yes, Oakland looked strong offensively against the Ravens, but they haven't done that consistently. And trusting Vegas is a good way to go when looking for a defense off the waiver wire. Well, trust Vegas outside of Week 2's debacle, that is.