Buy/Sell/Hold Report #1
We can’t overreact to 2 games. That’s a tiny sample size.
But 2 games is also 15% of most fantasy leagues’ regular seasons. So we need to react, or risk getting left in the dust.
Here are 5 guys to consider trading for, 2 to possibly trade away and 2 more to hang onto for now.
BUY Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
Let’s say you nabbed a shiny, new RB somewhere between the middle of Round 1 and the middle of Round 2 in your fantasy football draft. Now imagine that this guy – who has taken over a new backfield after struggling to find consistent carries at his old haunt – ranks 2nd in the league in rushing attempts through 2 weeks. You’d be pretty satisfied, right?
Well, turns out there’s room for Miller owners to be disappointed just 2 weeks into the season. Despite 28 carries in Week 1 and 25 in Week 2 – plus 6 total receptions on 6 targets, all for a team that has started 2-0 – Miller sits just 19th among fantasy backs across formats.
The problem? Well, there are 2, really.
First, he has yet to score a TD. Chalk that up primarily to bad luck. According to Pro Football Reference, Miller has already garnered 7 red-zone rushing attempts, including 2 from the 10-yard line and in. Both of those numbers put him on pace for career highs. Miller scored 13 total TDs from the 10 and in over the past 2 years in Miami, and Houston doesn’t appear anxious to replace him with anyone in that area. As long as the workload remains, the scoring will come.
Second, Miller’s efficiency has lagged, which is a bit more worrisome. After he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and then 4.5 YPC behind a weak Dolphins O-line the past 2 years, Miller has managed only 3.6 YPC as a Texan so far.
We’ll keep an eye on that aspect, but it’s early. Houston has played without LT Duane Brown (knee) to this point but expects him back soon. The Texans lost C Nick Martin for the season to a mid-August ankle injury. It’s fair to expect the line to need a little time to jell.
So we’ll hope that Miller’s rushing efficiency will improve, but it also doesn’t need to bounce back to its Miami levels. Among last year’s top 20 PPR backs, 8 ran for 4.1 yards per carry or less. That included 6 at less than 4.0.
Overall, only 11 RBs league wide caught 48+ passes, which is the pace Miller’s currently on.
If the condensed week because of Houston’s Thursday night kickoff keeps you from pursuing Miller this week, then just try to get him before a Week 4 home date with Tennessee. Miller’s 2nd half also includes attractive matchups with Oakland, San Diego and Indy – as well as home contests in the final 2 weeks of most fantasy seasons.
BUY Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
Ingram was THE most reliable RB in fantasy football last year, ranking as a top 24 PPR RB in 11 of his 12 games. Through 2 games this season? Finishes of RB29 and RB32.
The problem has been volume. Ingram has seen 14 and 13 touches in the first 2 contests, an average of 13.5. That’s down significantly from his 17.9 touches per game last year. Ingram failed to tally 15 touches in just 2 of his 12 games.
This BUY order is a bet on HC Sean Payton, 1 of the smartest offensive minds in the game, realizing that Ingram needs more touches. New Orleans is sitting at 0-2, so something needs to change. It’s worth noting — without getting into the “do carries lead to wins, or do wins lead to carries?” debate — that Ingram averaged 16.8 carries per game in Saints wins last year vs. 12.4 in losses.
Ingram has looked just fine when he’s gotten the ball, by the way. He’s averaged 4.2 yards per carry, has caught all 6 of his targets and averaged 7.7 yards per catch. Ingram is sitting 15th among 42 RBs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
BUY Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
Hill has followed a disappointing 2015 with a disappointing start to 2016. He’s carried 20 times for 53 yards (2.7 YPC) and 1 TD through 2 games, tacking on another 37 yards on 3 catches. Hill ranked 28th and 33rd, respectively, among RBs in non-PPR points the first 2 weeks; 32nd and 29th in PPR.
But consider the spots Hill has been put in. For starters, he’s opened against the Jets and Steelers. Those defenses ranked 2nd and 3rd in fantasy points allowed to RBs last year and 1st and 5th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA. Few, if any, RBs have faced a tougher slate to open the season.
Hill has also been hurt by game script. The Bengals had the ball with the lead for just 3 minutes in the opener vs. the Jets. They never led vs. the Steelers in Week 2. That favors Gio Bernard, who is Cincinnati’s playing-from-behind, pass-catching RB.
Hill gets another tough draw vs. Denver this coming week. So, ideally, you’d trade for him next week. The schedule opens up after that with games against the Dolphins, Cowboys, Patriots, Browns and Redskins. Those are not only lesser run defenses than Hill has faced so far, they’re also games Cincinnati will be favored in — besides New England. That sets up well for Hill, who remains the team’s lead ball-carrier and goal-line guy.
BUY Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
This might be your only chance this year to pry Robinson from his owner’s roster. Last year’s breakout WR has disappointed so far, posting lines of 6-72 and 3-54. He’s sitting 46th among WRs in PPR points and 54th in non-PPR.
The smart bet is that this is a 2-game blip rather than the start of a trend. Robinson saw a league-high 15 targets in the opener but uncharacteristically caught just 6 against a talented Packers secondary. This past week, he was held in check by Chargers CB Jason Verrett, who’s emerged as 1 of the top cover guys in the league (and who contained the next guy on this list in Week 1).
Robinson didn’t suddenly lose the ability that propelled him to a top-6 fantasy finish as a 22-year-old last season. He’s seeing plenty of volume, ranking 12th among WRs with 20 targets so far. And Jacksonville remains a productive, pass-heavy offense, sitting 1st in attempts and 5th in yards.
Nothing has changed with Robinson’s outlook over the past 2 weeks. He remains a good bet to post top-8 numbers over his final 14 games.
BUY Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
Maclin is off to a slowish start, with 11 catches for 131 yards and a score. He’s sitting 23rd among WRs in PPR points and 26th in non-PPR.
But those numbers look stronger when you consider the tough matchups he’s faced so far against the Chargers and Texans. San Diego has 1 of the best CBs in the league in Jason Verrett, and Houston has a pair of strong outside CBs in Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. According to Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett, 61.9% of Maclin’s targets have come against PFF's top-5 graded CBs.
The sledding gets easier going forward, starting this coming week with the Ghost of Darrelle Revis. After that: the Steelers, Raiders, Saints, Colts and Jaguars — a who’s who of poor pass defenses.
Volume isn’t a concern for Maclin, either. His 22 targets rank 5th league-wide.
SELL Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
Efficiency isn’t the issue here. With 2 weeks in the books, Murray’s sitting on 5.3 yards per carry (22 attempts). He’s found the end zone in both games.
Cool, right? Sure. But note that Murray’s faced 2 favorable run defenses: New Orleans and Atlanta. He also hasn’t been the workhorse HC Jack Del Rio indicated he’d be entering the season. After seeing a league-high 72% of his team’s RB carries in 2015, that number sits at 43% for 2016.
Here’s the early breakdown on Oakland RB production.
Murray: 22 carries, 116 yards, 2 TDs … 7 catches, 57 yards
DeAndre Washington: 12 carries, 60 yards, 0 TDs … 2 catches, 16 yards
Jalen Richard: 9 carries, 101 yards, 1 TD … 3 catches, 21 yards
Jamize Olawale: 2 carries, 13 yards, 1 TD … 2 catches, 28 yards
Olawale vultured a goal line TD from Murray in Week 1. And overall, this committee approach limited the starter to 62% of the snaps in Week 1 and 48% in Week 2.
A bulldozing O-line might lead to still-efficient totals in the weeks ahead. But Murray’s a good bet to regress from his 5.3 YPC. If you can find an owner who buys him as a long-term RB1, we wouldn’t hesitate to deal him.
SELL Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
You drafted Jones among the top 3 players this summer because he was 1 of the safest guys on the board – both in terms of full-season production and week-to-week floor. But what if he loses some of that safety?
Our biggest concern is Jones’ durability. He came away from his final preseason action – in the team’s 3rd game – with a sprained ankle. The joint has been well enough to let Jones play in both regular-season games so far, but his snap counts would have ranked among Jones’ lowest shares if compared with last year’s rates. His 74.4% share at Oakland would have ranked 3rd smallest among all 2015 games.
Jones came away from that contest with a calf strain. The team’s acting like it’s not a big deal, but that makes joint and muscle issues within the span of a month – all in a guy with a history of foot trouble.
Beyond that, Jones hasn’t yet been the target hog he was last year. He has totaled 13 looks through 2 games, a number he reached in 8 single games last season. Jones finished just 2 outings with fewer than 10 targets in 2015. He has already matched that this year. Altogether, he has seen just 17.8% of the team targets so far in 2016 (compared with 32.7% last year).
It is, of course, way too early to call that a trend. And we don’t want you to hustle out and just sell off Jones for the best offer you can get. He’s an elite wideout who figures to show up near the top of our WR rankings every week for as long as he’s healthy.
But Jones’ elite status is exactly why you should consider shopping him. His numbers have been fine so far, including a TD in each game. That plus his name value should bring a huge return. If it doesn’t, then just hang on to him. You also might want to wait until after Monday night’s high-ceiling matchup with the Saints to make any Jones move.
His other shot at New Orleans’ perennially weak defense, by the way, won’t come until Week 17.
HOLD Matt Forte, RB, Jets
That’s how many carries Forte is on pace for right now. It’d match Larry Johnson’s NFL record set in 2006.
A 30-year-old RB with a history of knee problems would have almost zero chance of making it through the season with that many carries. Our friends at Sports Injury Predictor found that current-season workload is highly correlated to injury probability. So too are recent soft-tissue injuries. Forte missed most of August with a bum hamstring.
So right now, he looks like 1 of the biggest injury-risks in fantasy football. But we’re only 2 games in. Let’s at least ride it out a bit longer and soak up the high-end RB1 production Forte is providing.
At the same time, monitor his workload. It’s certainly possible that the Jets wise up and cut back his volume into the 20-touch-per-game range. In that case, he’d be a better bet to make it through the season. If Forte is still averaging 25+ touches per game when Halloween rolls around, that’ll be a good time to cash in your chips.
HOLD Will Fuller, WR, Texans
So far, so good for this rookie. Through 2 games, Fuller owns 9 grabs, 211 yards and 1 score. The only other WR in league history to begin his career with consecutive 100-yard outings is DeSean Jackson.
Fuller’s also seen just 1 fewer target than DeAndre Hopkins. And even though his catch rate (50%, 1 drop) looks rough, he’s not exactly seeing high-percentage throws from promising passer Brock Osweiler. He leads all WRs with 10 targets traveling 20+ yards downfield.
No surprise there, as Fuller came out of college as a noted burner. But it’s the volume — and the Texans’ concentrated offense — that should provide relatively consistent production moving forward. Behind Hopkins (19 targets) and Fuller (18 targets), the next closest pass catchers have garnered only 6 targets (Lamar Miller, Braxton Miller, Stephen Anderson).
Perhaps you can get an overwhelming haul from an eager league-mate. Locked into a big role, though — he’s played 72% and 90% of the snaps thus far — Fuller isn’t someone you must unload.