15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 15
The idea of always starting your studs in fantasy football is a little silly to me. Sure, there are some players -- Antonio Brown comes to mind, because he's facing a Broncos' secondary this weekend -- who can't be benched. You have to start them, because not only are they almost always providing a high floor and ceiling, but you're also going to beat yourself up for benching Antonio Brown after he puts up 156 yards and a pair of scores.
But you have to consume as much information as possible when making a start-sit choice -- or even an add-drop one.
If there's a pizza joint you always go to, but you find out there was a giant rat infestation at the restaurant over the weekend, are you going to still order from there? Are you going to tell your husband or wife that you have to get a pizza from there because you never don't get a pizza from there?
Always start your studs, though!
In what world should we make blind choices based on things that happened in somewhat irrelevant history?
Ask yourself that when you look at the first transaction for this week.
Drop Dez Bryant
Let's face it, guys -- if a wide receiver on your fantasy team was averaging 7.8 targets, 3.2 receptions, 46.4 yards and 0.20 touchdowns per game, you'd probably consider sending him to the waiver wire. I mean, that type of production is what we've seen from Nate Washington this season in PPR leagues. And Washington is the 48th-best wideout in fantasy football.
The other problem? The Cowboys face the Jets and Darrelle Revis this weekend, making Dez an even less appealing option.
So that means you've got a WR48-equivalent facing off against one of the better corners in the league during the fantasy football playoffs. In almost any normal 12-team league, you can find a matchup and player at wide receiver in a better spot than Bryant. Can he produce? Sure, of course he can. But you're working on making the best decisions, and it's most likely that he doesn't.
As uncomfortable as it will be, send him to the waiver wire.
Add DuJuan Harris and Bryce Brown
'Tis the season to handcuff your handcuff.
Thomas Rawls became a potential league-winning waiver wire add a few weeks back, but on Sunday, he suffered a broken ankle and is now out for the year. DuJuan Harris -- yes, the guy who used to play for the Packers -- could be the next man up, as he saw 18 carries in the Seahawks' victory over the Ravens yesterday.
We certainly shouldn't expect the same type of effectiveness from Harris as we saw from Rawls, especially considering Harris had a -6.61 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) total in Week 14. That was mostly because of a costly fumble, but Harris also was successful -- made a positive run, per NEP -- on just 5 of his 18 runs. That's really bad, as anything below 40% would be considered below average.
Considering Harris' ineffectiveness on Sunday, don't automatically assume he gets the gig.
Whoever does get the nod would be a fringe RB1 in Week 15 because Seattle gets Cleveland, who ranked 31st against the run according to our schedule-adjusted metrics entering the week.
(By the way, if you don't get Harris or Brown, try adding Fred Jackson, who should see a little more work and play passing downs.)
Add Brandon Bolden and James White
Speaking of running back injuries, LeGarrette Blount left Sunday night's game against the Texans with a hip injury. Already hurting at the position, the Patriots turned to Brandon Bolden and James White. Bolden ended up carrying the ball 16 times, taking Blount's role almost more directly, while White carried the ball just once while also catching four passes.
If Blount misses time, it would seem reasonable to think Bolden would get more of the work on the ground, while White continues to play the pass-catching role. And given New England is a 14-point favorite over Tennessee this week -- meaning a positive, run-heavy game script -- Bolden could be the one who benefits most.
Drop Philip Rivers
At this point in the season -- with so many usable quarterback options out there -- there's little reason to trust someone like Philip Rivers. After all, his last four contests resulted in 5.92, 28.90, 6.08 and 8.92 fantasy points scored. Granted, he faced Kansas City twice and Denver once (his strong game was against the Jags), but those numbers are still well below the average given up by those defenses.
Since Keenan Allen's injury, Rivers has thrown zero touchdown passes in three of five games and just one touchdown pass in one of those contests.
There are two relatively decent matchups ahead for Rivers (Miami and Oakland), but given the injuries all over the Chargers' offense and the running game's lack of push, he's impossible to trust.
Add Tim Hightower
It's not easy to find a handcuff who can be efficient -- Thomas Rawls doesn't grow on trees. So while Tim Hightower, who's somehow just 29 years old, may not average over four yards per carry from here on out, that may still be OK. Because the dude saw a ton of volume against Tampa Bay on Sunday, rushing 28 times and playing over 70% of the team's snaps.
Despite the team's remaining schedule being fairly average (Detroit and Jacksonville), the Saints' offense should be able to provide scoring opportunities for Hightower. And if you recall, Mark Ingram, who Hightower replaced, did a ton of damage close to the goal line for this offense.
Add Eric Ebron
Though Austin Seferian-Jenkins really laid an egg against the Saints' secondary on Sunday, the fact still remains that tight ends have crushed them this season -- in 13 games, 10 tight ends have posted top-10 PPR performances. Eric Ebron, who saw his highest percentage of team snaps total since Week 8 against the Rams in Week 14, should benefit when Detroit faces New Orleans in Week 15.
Add Denard Robinson
Rookie T.J. Yeldon hurt his knee on Sunday, and on Monday, head coach Gus Bradley declined to give an update on his status. That angers fantasy owners, of course, but it's also a sign in the wrong direction. If Yeldon was fine, we'd assume Bradley would say he's fine. Right?
Now it's Denard Robinson's turn, who's been the lead back for Jacksonville in the past, and actually done quite well. Over his three-year career, Robinson's played in eight games where he's seen 10 or more carries. In those contests, he's averaged 13.65 PPR fantasy points. And in the six games where he attempted 14 or more runs, he's averaged 16.3 PPR points per contests.
Cherry picking stats or not, Robinson has been a fairly reliable option when he sees volume. And in Week 15, Jacksonville gets Atlanta, a team that ranks as average against the run according to our metrics, having surrendered the third most points to the position this year.
If Yeldon is out, Robinson becomes a must add.
Add the Bills' Defense
As I did in last week's column, I want to look ahead -- I want to look at Week 16, or championship week.
The Bills' defense is still out on about 35% of ESPN league waiver wires, and they face Matt Cassel and the Cowboys in two weeks. With Cassel under center, opposing defenses have yet to rank outside the top 20 in weekly scoring, while four of Cassel's seven starts resulted in a top-7 fantasy performance. That's a lot of upside.
Sell Isaiah Crowell
I shouldn't have to say this, but Isaiah Crowell shouldn't be trusted in your fantasy lineup.
Entering Week 14, only four running backs had accumulated a worse Rushing NEP total than Crowell this season. He did have a great outing against the 49ers -- he actually was a top-three performer at the position in Week 14 -- but his performance marked the first time he ranked in the top 20 in weekly scoring since Week 5. Against Seattle this week? No way.
(If Duke Johnson is on your waiver wire, though, he could be in store for a heavy receiving workload against the Seahawks.)
Add Fozzy Whittaker
This column is becoming a little depressing, but yes, here's another backup running back who could see more playing time in the immediate future thanks to an injury.
Regardless of what happens, you should be prepared. Adding Whittaker makes sense, as he saw eight carries in relief against the Falcons on Sunday with Cameron Artis-Payne inactive for the contest. The fear would be that Mike Tolbert steals goal line touches, but with the amount of running back injuries, it's not exactly time to be picky.
I wouldn't prioritize Whittaker over some of the other backs in this column given the entire situation is more ambiguous, but that doesn't make him a bad player to add.
Add the Lions' Defense
Again, this is a "looking ahead" move, mostly because I recommended a defense about that's owned in the majority of ESPN.com leagues. That wasn't very nice of me.
The Lions are still out there on a majority of waiver wires, despite their nice matchup in Week 14 against the Rams. In Week 16, they'll be at home against a 49ers offense that ranks 31st according to our metrics. That makes them a decent streaming option.
Add Alex Smith
The Chiefs have had a great stretch against average to bad defenses, and the fantasy season will end that way for them, too. In Week 15, Alex Smith and his offense will face Baltimore, a team that's allowed the fourth most fantasy points to the quarterback position this season. Then, during championship week, the Chiefs face Cleveland, a squad that's surrendered the eighth most points to the position. Though the ceiling may not be there given both the Browns and Ravens have had trouble moving the ball with their backup quarterbacks, Smith should provide a nice floor in these matchups.
Drop Denver Running Backs
In Week 15, Denver faces Pittsburgh, who's allowed the third fewest fantasy points to the running back position while ranking first against the run according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. Week 16 has the Broncos facing off against the Bengals, a team that's surrendered the 12th fewest points to the position. That's anything but ideal.
And then you have the headache of pretending to know which running back is going to come out with the better performance. Anderson, who's the better pass-catcher, didn't play a snap against Oakland on Sunday thanks to an injury. That allowed Hillman to catch seven passes. But if and when he's back? Things are a mess.
It's much safer -- and smarter -- to secure backups who are seeing 20-plus carries (I'm looking at you, Tim Hightower) as opposed to trotting fringe starters who are in inefficient timeshares. And in Denver, you have the latter.
Add Kirk Cousins
The waiver wire pool for quarterback streamers is rough this week, and it's going to be even more difficult to get a starter given more teams will be looking for them after more injuries to the position. Alex Smith, mentioned above, is the safest choice, but I'm also intrigued by Kirk Cousins.
Cousins has been a completely different quarterback at home versus on the road this season. He's played seven games at home this year, and four of those contests have resulted in a top-10 weekly fantasy performance. Three of them, actually, were top five, while two were the absolute best.
Meanwhile, Week 14 marked the first time Cousins ranked higher than 19th in weekly quarterback fantasy scoring on the road this year.
Washington's matchup isn't great, as they'll be hosting the Bills (15th in fantasy points against) in a game with a 44-point over/under with no team as the favorite.
But the concern with Cousins, as always, is his floor -- his splits can be pretty severe. Fortunately, the Bills have allowed a double-digit quarterback performance to every passer they've faced this year, meaning the floor should be decent for Cousins.
It's a risky move -- and hopefully you've got a quarterback locked up already -- but you could do worse than using Cousins this week.
Add the Jaguars' Defense
It's amazing considering where they were to start the year, but Atlanta's offense has become one to target when streaming defenses in fantasy football.
Since Week 4, seven of the nine defenses to face Atlanta have ranked in the top 13 (fringe DEF1) in weekly scoring. And that's because Matt Ryan keeps turning the ball over, averaging 1.33 interceptions per game over this period.
Jacksonville is beatable, sure, but they're also at home as 3.5-point favorites. The matchup and setting makes them a pretty solid streaming option.