Running Backs and Wide Receivers to Sell for the Fantasy Football Playoffs
As the season goes on, we are beginning to know what the playoff picture in our leagues is shaping up like. If you drafted well (and made the right moves since then) you are buying to improve your chances for playoff success. Even if you are near the top of your league, you might be looking to sell players with bad playoff schedules to improve your outlook.
In order for the trades to workout best for everyone, extra detail needs to be focused on the Week 14 through Week 16 schedule of all players. When drafting, the goal is get the best player available instead of worrying about every player's complete schedule.
Looking ahead, we need to prepare correctly, so let's examine potential sell candidates as the playoffs approach.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
If you have Julio Jones, you are starting him, and by no means are you looking to sell him just to sell him. Just because Stevie Johnson is a buy candidate does not mean you are trading Jones straight up for him.
Jones is second to Antonio Brown with 1,029 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns on 80 receptions. Based on our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, he has the 4th highest Reception NEP (79.93) and the 54th ranked Reception NEP per target (0.67) as Matt Ryan continues to force targets his way.
While Jones has a matchup against the Jaguars, who rank 29th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, soon, he has two matchups with the Panthers, who rank 2nd, sandwiched around it. Josh Norman is playing the best football of his life, and Norman Island is resembling what used to be Revis Island.
Norman previously has shut down DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, Brandin Cooks, and Mike Evans among others this year. Because we have not seen Jones battle Norman this year, we do not know how this matchup will play out, but Jones' owners should feel apprehensive about it, and selling Jones at the right cost is a move worth exploring. Odell Beckham is the other receiver who will battle with Norman in the fantasy playoffs.
Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns
Travis Benjamin burst onto the scene this year from out of nowhere. While he is better with Johnny Manziel running the offense, the best part of his season might just be in his rear view mirror. Although he has 48 receptions for 736 yards and 4 touchdowns, the production has dipped more recently for Benjamin.
While he is 22nd in Reception NEP (55.39), his 52nd ranked Reception NEP per target (0.67) falls right in line with the heavily-targeted Jones. Although these numbers bode well for Benjamin, Manziel still is a young quarterback going through his ups and downs, so this production is not guaranteed to sustain itself for the rest of the year.
The Browns face the 49ers, Seahawks, and Chiefs in the fantasy playoffs, and the final two teams are both in the top-10 for Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP. With tough matchups, and Manziel at quarterback, Benjamin is not a lock for strong production during the fantasy playoffs.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Like Jones, you do not just trade A.J. Green for simply anyone. This is a WR1 in a prolific offense; however, more than ever the Bengals are spreading the ball around. Green has rather quietly produced 55 receptions for 769 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Green is ranked 11th in Reception NEP (64.33) with the 18th ranked Reception NEP per target (0.80) as he has only seen 80 targets this year. Although Green's production is as great as expected, his volatility this year is very high, as he has only three games with touchdowns and two games with over 100 yards.
Going forward, Green has matchups with the Steelers, 49ers, and Broncos. While the 49ers are 27th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, the Steelers (12th) and Broncos (1st) present tougher matchups. Even though Green posted 11 for 118 and a touchdown earlier this year against the Steelers, the Bengals are better against uncommon opponents, which only the 49ers are down the stretch schedule.
Do not trade Green just for the sake of it, but explore options that present a comparable player with a better schedule.
Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Forsett has failed to live up to his draft cost, as he is currently the RB20 in standard scoring leagues. The Ravens' offense is not as prolific as people hoped it would be under Marc Trestman, and while Forsett was supposed to be a benefactor of that, his output has instead suffered.
Forsett has rushed for 615 yards and 2 touchdowns on 147 carries and caught 31 passes for 153 yards. Among 58 running backs with at least 40 carries, Forsett ranks 27th in Rushing NEP (-2.08) and 23rd in Rushing NEP per play (-0.014). In a far more limited opportunity, Javorius Allen has the 19th Rushing NEP (1.27) and 13th Rushing NEP per play (0.03).
Forsett through the metrics looks terrible in the pass game, ranking 56th out of 57 backs with at least 15 carries in Reception NEP (-0.20), and 56th in Reception NEP per target (-0.005). Forsett finishes his season against the Steelers, Chiefs, and Seahawks (all are top-10 for Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP), and he should be traded as soon as possible because his efficiency and schedule both foreshadow negative outcomes.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Right now, Ingram ranks 8th in Rushing NEP (8.74) and 11th in Rushing NEP per play (0.06), as he is playing some of his best professional football. He's even getting plenty of passing game action (46 targets) whereas their heralded passing back C.J. Spiller only has 31 targets. Based on metrics though, Spiller has a better Reception NEP (10.10) than Ingram (1.42). That has less to do with Spiller and more with Ingram, who owned the worst Reception NEP among running backs last year.
While Ingram is clearly a focal point in this offense, his schedule is of concern moving forward. To finish the year, he faces the Bucs (3rd), Lions (20th), and Jaguars (7th); while none of those teams seem scary, all have solid Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP values. With these matchups, it is safe to proceed with caution on Ingram and test the waters to see what his trade market is, and it should be a good one.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers
DeAngelo Williams is saving the day in Pittsburgh after Le'Veon Bell had his season end early due to injury. Williams has filled in admirably to the tune of 107 carries for 534 yards and 5 touchdowns alongside 13 receptions for 137 yards.
Williams has the fourth highest Rushing NEP (13.20) standing beside his super efficient fifth ranked Rushing NEP per play (0.12). While these numbers are promising, Williams is 32 and has tread on his tires (1,539 career carries), meaning a late season breakdown is possible.
If you do not worry about Williams' age and carries, then you should look to his end of season schedule to formulate an opinion on him going forward. He finishes the year against the Bengals (18th), Broncos (8th), and Ravens (13th), all of whom are fairing well against the run based on Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP. While none are the scariest teams, there are certainly better matchups to be found.
If you have put yourself in position to make the playoffs, finding a good return on investment for these potential sell options could lead to better playoff results.
Again, by no means, should you toss out a big name option in Jones or Green for the sake of it, but selling at the right time could be crucial.
Swing the right move, and you can find yourself on the path to a championship season.