15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 8
No player is like Arian Foster in fantasy football.
From 2010 through 2014, LeSean McCoy was the most consistent running back in pretend pigskin. His 60 top-24 PPR performances at the position -- that's 12 per season -- bested Matt Forte by three and every other running back in the NFL by at least five.
During this time, McCoy missed just five games, something that seems impossible at the running back position in today's NFL. Health -- and I know it sounds crazy given what he's dealt with in 2015 -- has been his friend.
Arian Foster, though, has arguably been the better fantasy back. Because when Arian Foster plays, Arian Foster balls.
Despite playing eight fewer games, Foster had 55 top-24 performances between and during the 2010 and 2014 seasons. Of Foster's contests, 83.3% of them resulted in usable, top-24 numbers. That's the best rate in the entire NFL.
Sunday saw plenty of "Arian Foster can't stay healthy" tweets after the Texans' star running back tore his Achilles in garbage time against the Dolphins. And while that may be fair, don't forget how insanely good he was (and is) when healthy.
And how not good his backups are.
Add Alfred Blue
This isn't a Charcandrick West situation -- a top running back going down doesn't automatically make his backup worth well over half of your free agent auction budget. The reason West was so valuable a couple of weeks back is because there was a lack of competition in the Chiefs' backfield, and he looked like a poor man's Jamaal Charles. We had a good idea that he would be the passing-down back in an offense that loved to utilized players close to the line of scrimmage, all while seeing some early-down work.
Alfred Blue has had his Charcandrick West opportunity. And he's done nothing significant with it.
In the three games without Foster this season, Blue finished with 5.9, 2.0 and 19.9 PPR fantasy points. That last number doesn't look too shabby -- and it's not -- but he needed 31 rushing attempts to get there. That's not ideal.
According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, among the 43 running backs with 100 or more carries last year, Blue, on a per rush basis, was the fifth least efficient. He was a rookie, sure, but 2015 hasn't been any better, where Blue has a -0.05 Rushing NEP per rush, a number that's no better than teammate Chris Polk. (Polk, for the record, should be added as well, especially in PPR formats.)
A legitimate fear for Blue owners moving forward is also going to be his work on passing downs. He had a total of three targets over the first three weeks of the season without Foster, while Jonathan Grimes, their (sometimes) passing-down back, tallied 13. Blue could end up being a game script casualty often given the Texans keep trailing in contests, making Grimes the PPR play.
There's a lot not to like about Blue, but he does have potential volume on his side, which is why he's an add off the waiver wire. Just don't expect the world from him, because he's done little with this big opportunity in the past.
Add Stefon Diggs
To be honest, if Stefon Diggs is still on your waiver wire, I'd prioritize him over Blue, despite Blue playing the more valuable fantasy football position.
Though he didn't see work prior to Week 4, Diggs now owns three of the top four PPR performances among Vikings wide receivers this season. He now has nine targets in each of his last three contests and has played at least 80% of Minnesota's offensive snaps in each of the last two games -- over the last two weeks, no Vikings receiver has played more snaps.
Diggs is still available in well over half of all ESPN.com leagues. Snagging him should be a priority if he's out on the waiver wire in yours.
Buy Charcandrick West
I'm pretty bummed that I didn't make Charcandrick West a "buy" in last week's 15 Transactions column, because the logic was there -- despite underperforming from a fantasy standpoint, he saw a huge share of the team's workload while playing nearly 70% of the team's snaps.
Week 7 showed that West is absolutely "the guy" for Kansas City. Against a Steelers rush defense that entered the week with the top rank against the run according to our metrics, West ended the day with 5.25 Rushing Net Expected Points, making him one of the best runners of the week. He saw 22 rushes in the backfield -- no other back on the Chiefs saw more than two. Meanwhile, his 87.3% of snaps played tied him with Jamaal Charles for the most by a Kansas City running back this season.
A look at the Chiefs' upcoming schedule shouldn't scare fantasy owners. Yes, they do face a good Broncos defense in a couple of weeks, but nearly every other matchup is a plus one, including three games against the Chargers and Browns, the two worst rush defenses in the NFL according to our numbers.
He may not seem like a buy candidate given his Week 7 performance, but he really is in a good spot.
Sell Andrew Luck
This particular transaction matters more for Andrew Luck owners who are struggling, which could be the case given his early-round cost and how he's performed. Quite simply, if you need to win now, Luck may not be a guy you want on your roster. The Colts take on the Panthers next week and their second-ranked schedule-adjusted pass defense, and follow that up with a date against the Broncos, who have the best secondary in the NFL. After that, the Colts hit their bye. If you can find a return and are in need of a win, trading Luck isn't a bad idea, especially considering the number of usable quarterbacks in fantasy football this year.
Add Dexter McCluster or David Cobb
The leader in snaps in the Tennessee backfield this year is none other than Dexter McCluster. Whether it makes sense or not, it's what's happening. And fantasy owners need to recognize it.
McCluster saw a season high 72.2% of the team's snaps in Week 7 against Atlanta, catching 6 passes for 48 yards and rushing for 20 more. In a negative game script -- which should be often for this Tennessee squad -- McCluster is the guy getting passing down work.
I'm fine if you add him in PPR leagues as a result, but don't forget about rookie David Cobb, who's eligible to return from the IR in Week 9. Tennessee has been a wasteland for fantasy running backs this year given the ambiguity as to who's going to see touches each week, but one running back from the team has still produced a top-24 PPR performance every game this season, And there's the off chance Cobb becomes "the guy" for them, giving him fantasy value. He's a flier for now, and one that not a lot of fantasy owners are thinking about.
Buy Odell Beckham Jr.
Trading in fantasy football is less about your team needs and more about your trade partner's needs. This is important.
So when you go to buy Odell Beckham this week, don't ask yourself, "What can I give up for Beckham?" Look at the Beckham owner's roster, find holes, and offer up a trade to plug those holes.
I suppose we should look at why buying Beckham right now is a strong choice. Well, first off, he's coming off a 4-catch, 35-yard game, which is the third game of the season where he's been held under 45 receiving yards. Though owners probably aren't trying to get rid of him like a case of the chickenpox, his off-and-on performances should at least open the door for discussions.
Among the three games where he's been mediocre, the Giants faced the Cowboys twice and the Bills once. It could be that the Cowboys have simply gameplanned well against Beckham, while the Bills, prior to this week, have been pretty awesome against top wide receivers -- they held A.J. Green to a bad fantasy performance, too.
What's great about Beckham is the upcoming schedule. The Giants get the Saints and Buccaneers over their next two games, with their only bad matchup over their next six being against the Jets.
There is downside to this, and it's that Beckham faces Josh Norman and the Panthers in Week 15, the typical first or second round of the fantasy football playoffs. But if you're in a points only league or know you'll be able to sell Beckham after a decent stretch of matchups upcoming, try to buy him this week.
Add Darren McFadden
McFadden made this article prior to Week 6, but for a completely different reason. Then, his value was based solely on the fact that Lance Dunbar suffered a season-ending injury, and McFadden seemed to take over the passing down role in the Cowboys' offense. Now, he could be set up to be the lead back in the offense.
Because of McFadden's Week 7, he's now by far the most efficient running back in the Cowboys backfield, rushing to a 0.07 Rushing NEP per rush average. Randle, meanwhile, is stuck at -0.02. What's impressive is that McFadden's not accumulating his numbers on big plays, either -- he's been consistent with a near 47% Success Rate, which measures the percentage of positive plays made by a player. That actually ranks 14th of the 68 running backs with 20 or more carries on the season.
So not only is this an opportunity for McFadden, but it's one that he may end up running away with.
Add Davante Adams
We haven't seen Davante Adams since Week 3 thanks to an ankle injury, and because of said injury, fantasy owners have dropped him. He's actually available on over half of ESPN.com league waiver wires, which is why he's a simple add in the column this week.
Who knows if Adams is actually good at wide receiver -- last year, despite playing with the best quarterback in the NFL, Adams' Reception NEP per target average was just 0.58, which ranked 71st of the 104 wide receivers with at least 20 catches. He was also the least efficient wideout on the Packers.
What we do know, however, is that in his two completed games this year, Adams totaled 13 targets. As the second option in the Packers' offense, he was seeing volume, which is half the battle in fantasy football.
With rookie Ty Montgomery suffering from an ankle injury of his own and Randall Cobb not looking 100% with his shoulder issue, Adams isn't a bad add. I'm not totally against trading a low-upside bench player for him either to see what happens. After all, he's associated with the best passer in the game.
Buy Ameer Abdullah
The evidence backing Ameer Abdullah this season isn't very strong, so seeing him as a buy may be a little confusing.
First off, while he's been mostly ineffective this year, he does have the best Rushing Net Expected Point numbers among the relevant backs in the Lions' backfield. His 41.9% Success Rate is over eight percentage points higher than any other Detroit back, while his -0.11 Rushing NEP per rush -- which is bad on its own -- is best on the team.
The real intrigue right now is the fact that the Lions just fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi and the team's offensive line coaches. Jim Bob Cooter is taking over, and even though not much is known about what the offense will look like, there's the off chance things turn around in the running game.
Don't go trading starters for Abdullah -- that's not the point of this recommendation. But with this change and the fact that he's the best running back in that backfield, there's upside to be had.
Add Nate Washington
With Cecil Shorts sidelined, Nate Washington stepped up in a big way against the Dolphins, catching 9 passes for 127 yards and a pair of scores. Most of this was in garbage time, sure, but it's not as though the number-two wide receiver role in Houston this season has seen little volume -- Shorts has 45 targets in five games this year.
Should Shorts continue to sit out, Washington would be the guy to keep seeing targets opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. After all, in Week 7, Washington played 93.8% of the team's snaps, while Keith Mumphery and Jaelen Strong were on the field for 39.5% and 11.1% of snaps, respectively. Given Washington has been far more efficient with his work this season than Shorts (0.65 Reception NEP per target versus 0.38), he could end up providing some fantasy value.
Add Chris Conley
As the fantasy season goes on, you, the owner, have to take shots on fliers. One of the best ways to do this is with rookie wide receivers, as they'll gradually grow a role in their respective offenses as they learn the offense and grow at the NFL level.
I made a case for Dorial Green-Beckham last week (you're welcome for that Week 7 goose egg), but Chris Conley is an interesting case, too. Over the last four weeks, Conely's played 90.7, 84.5, 64.5 and 87.3 percent of Kansas City's offensive snaps. It only really resulted in fantasy points this past week against Pittsburgh where he caught 6 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown without Jeremy Maclin in the lineup, but volume has been there, as he's now seen 7 targets in three of his last four games.
I wouldn't make adding Conley a priority, but for deeper leagues, he's a decent stash.
Sell LeSean McCoy
Do LeSean McCoy owners get nervous every time he touches the ball? It just feels like he's about to get hurt, doesn't it?
McCoy's been fine this season, averaging -0.03 Rushing Net Expected Points per rush. That's slightly below average, but he's also a high-volume back, so slight inefficiency isn't uncommon.
The Bills' upcoming schedule is what's giving me trouble. The Bills have a bye this week, and then have to face the Jets, Patriots, Chiefs in three of their next four contests, squads that rank in the top nine in fantasy points against to running backs. (The Patriots may not be efficient against the run, but they've been successful in terms of fantasy points against because teams are playing catch up against them. Only six squads have higher pass-to-run ratios against than New England.)
If you're a McCoy owner and are a fringe playoff team, I'd look to deal him in order to make a stronger playoff push.
Add Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick continues to be a staple of this column, but there's a reason for it. Over the last two weeks, he's ranked fourth and eighth in quarterback scoring, totaling over 45 fantasy points. He's had plus fantasy matchups in those contests -- New England and Washington -- but upcoming for the Jets are the Raiders, Jaguars, Bills, Texans, and Dolphins. Each of those games would be considered a good matchup for a fantasy quarterback, meaning the bearded wonder is probably here to stay. Grab him if he's still out on your waiver wire.
Add Eric Ebron
Ebron hasn't been totally healthy this year, but in four of his five games played, he's finished 12th in tight end scoring or better in PPR formats. The only contest where he didn't do work was in Week 4 against the Seahawks, too, where he had to leave the game due to the injury that kept him sidelined in Week 6. So, in other words, the second-year tight end has been usable in every completed contest this season, which is pretty incredible for such a volatile position. He should be owned in far more leagues.
Add the Falcons' Defense
Ownership percentages fluctuate quite a bit when it comes to defenses, but the Falcons should be on most waiver wires this week, despite having a good matchup in Week 7.
They get the Bucs in Week 8, a team that's been pretty generous to opposing defenses this season. Though their last two games watched defenses score a combined zero fantasy points, Tampa Bay also faced Jacksonville and Washington, units that are playing worse than Atlanta. The Falcons are also at home, which should help.