15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 10
Fantasy football 2015: where you can't have nice things.
I generally hate the typical over-exaggeration from fans when something out of the ordinary happens in the NFL. They'll claim that "this is the craziest season ever!" when, as we all know, the small sample sizes we get with the NFL brings forth anomalies each and every season.
This year, though, is the craziest season ever.
At least in fantasy football, we've seen so many early-round picks -- at every position -- either drop in production or drop due to injury. More (and this is somewhat subjective) than any other season in recent memory.
The winners of your fantasy league aren't going to be the ones with the great draft this year. Because it was nearly impossible to have a great draft. Instead, the winners will be the owners who not only play the waiver wire well, but the ones who also know when to buy low and sell high.
While not flawless, this weekly column should help with that.
Add James White
Some fantasy owners have masked their draft day deficiencies this year through adding Dion Lewis off the waiver wire. Those same teams now probably have a big void to fill.
Lewis is out for the year with a torn ACL, meaning his seven-plus targets per contest are no longer useful. Someone, now, has to step in and at least be the passing-down back within the best offense in the NFL.
Is that player Brandon Bolden? Consensus seems to think so, especially considering he was the guy who stepped in for Lewis when he went down in Sunday's contest, playing 23 snaps. Bolden ended up catching 3 passes for 27 yards and a score through the air, which is very Lewis-like from a production standpoint.
But don't ignore James White of your waiver wire, either. After all, he wasn't active in this past week's contest, which could be the reason Bolden played as many snaps as he did when Lewis got hurt.
Many thought White would be the one to take Shane Vereen's pass-catching role entering 2015, but obviously that went to Lewis. But don't forget that, when Lewis missed a contest against the Jets earlier in the year, it was White who stepped in, playing 64.2% of the team's snaps while catching 3 passes on 5 targets.
Lewis' volume will surely be spread around in the offense, but if there's a New England back I'm targeting off the wire this week, it's White, not Bolden.
Add James Starks, Bench Eddie Lacy
Eddie Lacy's career is starting to disappear faster than Sisqo's, and it's creating quite the mess for fantasy owners.
One of the worst things that can happen to your fantasy team is when a presumed stud -- like Lacy -- ends up underperforming week in and week out. Because you feel this need to play him, but his numbers just aren't there.
Let me explain this to you simply: as it stands, you can't use Eddie Lacy in fantasy football. Not until he shows you otherwise, at least.
Lacy has ranked as a top-20 PPR back just twice this year, never hitting the top-10 mark. Those two contests, by the way, are the only two where he scored a touchdown.
Meanwhile, James Starks is not only out-voluming him, but out-snapping him as well -- Starks has played more snaps over the Packers' last three contests, while Lacy hasn't reached 60% of Green Bay's snaps in a single game since Week 1.
From an advanced metrics standpoint, this makes sense. Lacy's Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per rush average through Week 9 is -0.05, which ranks 34th of the 48 running backs with 50 or more carries. Starks, meanwhile, ranks 25th with a per rush rate of -0.02.
This all gives me hesitation with Lacy, and some optimism for Starks, who's always been an underrated back. Add Starks, who's been in this article in the past, off the wire, and hold off on starting Lacy until he proves we can trust him again.
Buy Davante Adams and Randall Cobb
Though I'm not fully into the Packer running back situation, I'm all over the passing game's outlook moving forward.
Green Bay's had it pretty tough this year, guys -- they've faced the Seahawks, Rams, Broncos and Panthers in four of their eight contests, which were all top-eight teams in wide receiver fantasy points against entering Week 9. That tells us there's somewhat of a good reason the passing game has underachieved.
Moving forward, Green Bay gets the Lions twice and the Bears and Raiders once. The toughest matchup they'll face is against Arizona in Week 16, and while the Vikings are no pushover, the remaining matchups for this entire passing attack are pretty strong.
Cobb is an easy buy given his historical performances, so let's focus on the other guy. Despite Adams' inefficiency during his rookie season (on a per-target basis, he was a below average NFL pass-catcher according to NEP with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball), he may be the better buy of the two given his price. In the four games he completed this year, he's played 96.7%, 78.9%, 96.2% and 97.4% of the Packers' snaps, which are top-20 numbers at the position. And if he's on the field, he'll obviously have a higher chance at volume. We saw that this past week, as Adams saw 11 targets.
Buy Demaryius Thomas
This transaction was in last week's column, but it feels necessary to reiterate this week. Let me pull in the information from last week:
Fantasy owners have been a little frustrated with Demaryius Thomas given Peyton Manning's play this year, and perhaps some of you reading are surprised that I see Thomas as a "buy" after posting an 8-reception, 169-yard game, which was easily the best one of his season.
The thing is, Thomas really hasn't been all that bad. He's just not scoring touchdowns. And that's because he's been targeted in the red zone just five times this year, which is the same number of red zone targets as Scott Chandler and Jermaine Kearse, just to give you some examples.
The difference is that Thomas has 11 or more targets in all but one contest this year, meaning the lack of red zone looks should regress. It doesn't hurt that upcoming for Denver is a cakewalk of a schedule for fantasy wideouts.
Week 9 was a down one, and he did things -- like not seeing high volume -- that we hadn't seen from him all season long. But an explanation for this is that DT was shadowed by cornerback Vontae Davis on a majority of his routes, leading to a less-than-ideal performance.
Given the upcoming schedule, which I referenced last week, I'd be looking to buy Thomas. It should only be easier to do so now that he had a bad week for fantasy owners.
Add Karlos Williams
Among relevant running backs this season, none have a higher Rushing NEP per rush average than Karlos Williams. And no player has produced more fantasy points per 100 snaps than him, too.
Owned in just 41.3% of ESPN leagues, Williams serves a couple of purposes off the waiver wire this week. First, LeSean McCoy is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, and considering the Bills play on Thursday, Williams could easily end up playing as the starter in Week 10.
Second, as you can probably tell by that statement, that means Williams is McCoy's handcuff -- if something happens to Shady, Williams is your guy. And at this point in the season, there's nothing better than to stash your bench with strong handcuffs.
Lastly, Williams still has some standalone value in deeper leagues even when McCoy is active. In five games this year, Williams has ranked as a top-20 PPR running back four times, which is actually more instances than McCoy himself. Pretty sensational for a guy in a backup role.
Add Dorial Green-Beckham
My man DGB has been featured in 15 Transactions before, and the reason this week is identical to what I've said in the past: his snap count keeps rising.
In Week 1, Green-Beckham's percentage of snaps played was a measly 15.3%. That rose to 16.2% in Week 2, then 17.2% in Week 3. Since then, we've seen a gradual increase: 26.1%, 42.0%, 66.7%, 61.0% and 67.7%. As I always say, you need to be on the field in order to produce in fantasy football.
Green-Beckham, under interim coach Mike Mularkey, was able to catch 5 passes for 77 yards this past week in a plus-matchup against the Saints, leading the Titans in targets. This came four days after Mularkey himself said that DGB needed to have a big game to increase his playing time, given Kendall Wright was sidelined.
To me, Green-Beckham is the perfect bench asset -- a physically gifted young receiver who's still growing as a rookie in an improving offense.
Drop Christine Michael
Christine Michael is not going to happen, guys. Despite a backfield that would love more depth, Michael saw zero snaps for Dallas on Sunday, while Rod Smith was on the field for 16. Meaning, even if you're looking to handcuff the now studly Darren McFadden, Michael probably isn't your guy -- Rod "not the Pro Bowl Denver wide receiver" Smith is, apparently. It's safe to drop Michael. (And because of this transaction, be prepared for DMC to get hurt this weekend.)
Buy T.J. Yeldon
Rookie T.J. Yeldon has been floating under the radar this season, but he's starting to become a pretty consistent asset in fantasy. He's hit 12.9 or more PPR points in each of his last four games, when three of those contests were against the Buccaneers (7th against the run according to our metrics), the Bills (26th), and the Jets (5th). Yeldon's got a huge share of the backfield as well, seeing double-digit carries in each game played this season. And he's hit at least 62.7% of the team's snaps in each contest.
So he's a decent buy simply because of his role and performance, but also because of his playoff schedule. In Week 14, Jacksonville gets Indy, a team allowing the 11th most fantasy points to the running back position this year. Week 15 is Atlanta, who rank eighth worst. And in Week 16, they get the Saints, who are also a bottom 10 team.
If Yeldon's touchdown scoring regresses a bit -- he has just one rushing touchdown despite all of the attempts -- he's got a great shot to be a stud down the stretch.
Add Kenny Stills
After the Dolphins' bye in Week 5, the team let it be known that they'd trot Stills out on the field more under interim head coach Dan Campbell. Though that contest didn't show us much, the last three have, as Stills has seen 76.2%, 82.5% and 63.8% of the Dolphins' snaps. He's also been targeted 12 times over Miami's last two games, posting reasonable numbers.
Part of this is certainly game script related, but at the same time, Miami's rest-of-season schedule sort of dictates a fast tempo, play-from-behind offense. They get the Eagles this week and still have the Colts and Chargers on their schedule as well, which come during the fantasy playoffs. Even if Stills' portion of the offense doesn't grow down the stretch, deeper leagues could find him valuable later on in higher-scoring games. Naturally, though, he's still a risky play each week given natural variance.
Buy Jordan Matthews
When I was first doing research for the column this week, my instant reaction for Jordan Matthews was to sell the performance he had on Sunday night against the Cowboys. After all, prior to it, he had gone five straight weeks without a top-40 weekly wide receiver performance in PPR leagues. That's horrible.
But the more I looked at his situation, the more I was into it. Matthews is seeing good volume, ranking 15th in the NFL in wide receiver targets while the Eagles have already served their bye. He's also playing nearly 80% of the Eagles' snaps, which is 27% more than any other wideout on the team.
While the Philadelphia offense dictates Sam Bradford to spread it around a bit, it's very obvious that Matthews is their number-one pass-catching option. No, he hasn't produced consistently in fantasy, but this is partially due to touchdown fortune -- Matthews has scored twice this season, but only 11 wide receivers have more red zone targets than he does.
Philly's upcoming schedule could provide more scoring opportunity for J-Matt, as all but one matchup from here on out are against teams ranking in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Could Matthews actually live up to his preseason cost? Time will tell, but things are setting up well for him moving forward.
Drop or Hold Jay Cutler
I host a podcast called Living the Stream, where, on the show, cohost Denny Carter and I give weekly streaming picks at quarterback, tight end and defense. The reason I bring this up is because we keep using and recommending Jay Cutler, and Jay Cutler keeps producing. Over his last five games -- contests since his injury healed -- Cutler's posted 17.24, 17.58, 19.32, 19.54, and 17.60 fantasy points, making him a fringe QB1 in each contest. That's pretty impressive consistency.
Unfortunately, Smokin' Jay and the Bears get back to back games against the two best pass defenses in the NFL now in the Rams and Broncos. Considering the replaceability of the quarterback position (this is why the podcast exists in the first place), there's little reason to hold onto him in most leagues. If you do have a deep bench, though, keep in mind that he'll face Green Bay, San Francisco and Washington over the three games after his two tough matchups. Those should all be plus ones for him.
Add Kirk Cousins
I'm not pretending like Kirk Cousins has been an easy-to-predict passer this season, but we shouldn't ignore his awesome matchup in Week 10. The Saints, his opponent, have now surrendered 17.62 fantasy points to every quarterback they've faced aside from Brandon Weeden this season. In other words, a decent floor is there. But the ceiling is insane, too -- on the season, the Saints have given up 24 or more fantasy points to a quarterback five times, meaning over half of the signal-callers who've faced New Orleans have ended up with top-five weekly quarterback numbers. Though it's a little scary, Cousins is a strong streaming option this week. (Keep in mind, if Blake Bortles is on your waiver wire, I'd prefer them to Cousins.)
Buy Frank Gore
Update: With Andrew Luck's injury, I'd be less inclined to trade for Gore given the information below.
If you believe an aged Frank Gore can continue to stay healthy from here on out, then stay with me. If not, feel free to move onto the next transaction.
Here's the deal: Gore has seen pretty consistent volume in the Colts' backfield this year, dipping below the 13-carry mark just twice. Though he hasn't been overly efficient (he's 31st among the 48 backs with 50 or more carries this year in Rushing NEP per rush), he's still hit 11 or more PPR fantasy points in all but two contests.
The reason I'm OK with him as a buy, though, is because the Colts' schedule opens up after their bye this week. And this is especially true in Week 14 through 16 -- the fantasy playoffs -- when they face Jacksonville, Houston and Miami. On the year, each of those defenses rank in the bottom nine in fantasy points against.
There's no reason to give up a ton of valuable assets for Gore given his overall effectiveness, but his playoff schedule is certainly intriguing. And if the Colts' offense plays like it did against Denver from here on out, there should be plenty of scoring opportunities for Gore.
(For the record, Charcandrick West is still one of my favorite buys at the running back position, but he's been featured a lot in this column over the last three weeks.)
Add Dontrelle Inman
Even though Malcom Floyd left Monday night's game fairly early, Dontrelle Inman still saw just five targets. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement, but if Floyd is out for an extended period of time, we should see more Inman, as he'd be the de facto number-two wide receiver on the Chargers. And that's not a bad thing if you're looking to add him off the wire -- so far this year, albeit without their bye, no team has dropped back to pass more than San Diego. Volume could end up being there, making Inman a worthwhile look during waivers this week.
Add the Ravens' Defense
If you stream defenses (which you should be doing), you may find this week to be difficult. And in all honesty, the Ravens -- a team that's completely average defensively according to our schedule-adjusted numbers -- are probably your top choice on the week.
They're hosting the Jaguars, a team that, while improved offensively, has still be friendly to fantasy defenses. Over the last four weeks, every defense facing Jacksonville has ranked in the top 10 in weekly scoring, with two of those teams being the Buccaneers and Texans, squads ranking in the bottom half of the league in overall defense per NEP. Baltimore, as pretty heavy favorites at home coming off a bye, aren't a bad look.