Buy/Sell/Hold Report #2
BUY Breece Hall, RB, Jets
Hall’s takeover of the Jets backfield is nearly complete. Week 4 brought season highs in snap rate (66%), route rate (59%) and carries (17). He added 6 targets to register the 3rd most expected fantasy points among RBs on the week.
Hall delivered a just-ok fantasy line: 78 total yards and 1 TD. He finished 16th among RBs in PPR points in Week 4 and sits 16th at the position for the season.
So there might still be 1 last chance to buy an uber-talented back with the potential for RB1-level usage the rest of the way.
Also working in Hall’s favor: the Jets have the easiest remaining RB schedule in the league, according to our Strength of Schedule tool.
BUY Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
You might have heard that WR George Pickens saw a target spike in the 2nd half of Sunday’s loss to the Jets, after Kenny Pickett took over at QB. Does that mean the rookie is about to favor his fellow rookie? Are we getting a changing of the WR1 guard in Pittsburgh?
The fantasy community has desperately wanted that since Pickens’ buzzy summer. But what’s more likely here:
- That the QB switch dramatically alters the Steelers’ target distribution of the past season and a half, or
- That this was an exceedingly small sample and Johnson remains the WR1?
Johnson heads into Week 5 tied for 10th among WRs in total targets. He sits just 41st in total PPR points – thanks in large part to a total lack of TDs – but checks in 22nd in expected PPR points.
So Johnson should be a WR2 in fantasy right now, a position that would line right up with his ADP. And if the QB play improves with Pickett, then the wideout who ranked 3rd in the league in targets last year has a very good chance of reaching at least that level the rest of the way.
BUY Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys
Since a solid Week 1 (7 catches, 62 yards) Schultz has been a fantasy non-factor.
In Week 2, he suffered a PCL (knee) sprain that cost him Week 3. Upon returning in Week 4, he failed to catch any of his 3 targets.
Look under the hood, though, and you'll see that he ran a route on 23 of Cooper Rush’s 29 dropbacks. That’s a nearly 80% route rate — right at the benchmark we like to see for weekly fantasy starters. Our expectation is that number rises as he distances himself from the knee sprain.
Of course, the big draw here is the eventual return of Dak Prescott. He’s a long shot to return for Sunday’s matchup with the Rams. But a Week 6 or Week 7 return is within the range of outcomes.
Schultz finished as the PPR TE3 last year and carries similar upside whenever Dak’s healthy.
SELL Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
Yep, we included this guy last time. And yep, we watched the Sunday night game. And that’s why CEH shows up here again.
In our 1st B/S/H Report, the line was more “get rid of this guy before the fantasy points line up with the lackluster usage.” Since then, Edwdards-Helaire had another game where fantasy (RB14 in Week 3) didn’t line up with reality (7 carries, 0 yards; 5 catches, 39 yards). But he followed that with a game that delivered the usage and fantasy points: 19-92-1 rushing, plus a 2-yard TD catch.
So here’s the question: Did K.C. “fix” the usage problem in Week 4, or was that just what worked in that particular game?
Well, CEH’s playing time was way up on Sunday night vs. the previous 3 games. He played 18 more snaps than in any of the previous 3 games and jumped to 56% snap share vs. a previous high of 44%. He played more snaps than Jerick McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco combined, just a week after trailing McKinnon alone in playing time. Through 4 weeks, he has played just 4 more pass snaps than McKinnon and 6 fewer run snaps than the combined total for Pacheco and McKinnon.
Edwards-Helaire’s 19 carries against the Bucs marked the 4th highest total of his career. The 3 games ahead of that all came back in 2020. He had 1 game of more than 14 carries all last year and averaged 12.9 rushes across 8 healthy appearances. He opened this year with games of 7, 8 and 7 carries.
We’re still watching the development of this post-Tyreek Hill Chiefs offense. QB Patrick Mahomes said before the season that “it’s going to be a different player every week that has the ‘big game.’” He might have been specifically referring to the WR corps, but the 1st 4 weeks have pointed to that being the case for the offense on whole.
Knowing that a 19-carry game for CEH is at least possible moves him out of the “must-sell” category. But we’re still betting that he’s closer to the guy who ranks 20th in expected PPR points at the position than the dude who sits 4th in actual points.
SELL Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks
You should probably consider selling any RB coming off a 157-yard, 2-TD outing. You should definitely consider selling one with a lengthy injury history and a talented 2nd-round rookie behind him on the depth chart.
Penny’s Week 4 performance certainly earned him more time as Seattle’s lead back. But RB Ken Walker played a season-high 36% of the offensive snaps in that one and might continue to grow his role.
It’s also worth considering that Penny’s massive game came against Detroit’s 31st-ranked RB defense. In fact, the Seahawks have faced the easiest RB schedule in the league through 4 weeks. They have the 4th toughest schedule the rest of the way.
And, finally, Penny continues to be a near-zero in the passing game. He’s totaled just 5 targets through this year’s first 4 games. Even in his red-hot 5-game stretch to close last season, he totaled only 7 targets. That, of course, gives him a low floor when Seattle finds itself playing from behind.
Penny still looks like a volatile RB3 from here. You can probably get more than that for him in the trade market.
SELL Antonio Gibson, RB, Commanders
RB Brian Robinson was designated to return from IR on Monday. He’s expected to make his NFL debut within the next couple of weeks.
Following a strong offseason, the rookie appeared on track to play ahead of Gibson. So his return figures to take immediate shine off Gibson’s upside.
Due in part to a poor O-line, Gibson’s managed only 3.3 yards per carry as the backfield leader so far. But also note: Among 29 RBs with 40+ carries, he ranks just 23rd in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating, which measures “success and impact of a runner with the ball independently of the blocking.”
Plus, after totaling 12 targets over the first 2 weeks, he’s recorded only 4 over the past 2 — both double-digit losses.
Last week vs. Dallas, Gibson even lost 5 carries to journeyman Jonathan Williams. All 5 attempts came over the first 3 quarters with Washington facing a deficit of 5 or fewer points.
Gibson — and the Washington O — is simply trending in the wrong direction. And we’re not betting on a reversal with Carson Wentz under center.
HOLD Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
A blind look at the numbers would make Mixon an obvious buy. Here’s where he ranks among RBs in key usage stats:
Pass routes: 4th
Mixon easily leads all RBs in expected PPR, half-PPR and non-PPR points. But he ranks just 15th in actual PPR points, 17th in half-PPR points and 20th in non-PPR.
So why not go out and aggressively buy Mixon? Because he’s not playing well.
Pro Football Focus ranks him dead last among 49 qualifying RBs in rushing grade. Mixon sits 35th among 39 RBs in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. And his tackle-breaking and yards-after-contact-per-attempt numbers are way down from last year. Check it out:
Mixon turned 26 in July and is in his 6th NFL season. Our aging curves say we should still expect 95% of peak production from him. And we’re only talking about a 4-game sample so far this season.
We’ll see if Mixon can rebound going forward. If he does, he’s an easy RB1 with top-5 fantasy upside. Even if he doesn’t, his current level of usage would make it nearly impossible to not produce at least RB2 numbers.
The only real risk is that he continues to struggle and the Bengals scale back his work in favor of Samaje Perine and/or Chris Evans. That seems unlikely.
HOLD James Conner, RB, Cardinals
Only 4 RBs so far are scoring further under their expected fantasy points than Conner. Arizona’s lead back has controlled 66.7% of RB carries and 56% of RB targets over the 3 games he didn’t leave early. And that Week 3 contest he entered questionable off the ankle sprain might have even seen his playing time limited slightly.
What we got wrong with these Cardinals is the offense on whole. The unit ranks just 22nd in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA. Within that, at least, the rushing side rates 14th (passing 25th).
We knew the O-line wasn’t likely to be good, so there’s actually some good news on that front. Pro Football Focus ranks Arizona 21st in run-blocking grade, up from 31st a year ago. And Football Outsiders rates the Cards a solid 10th in adjusted line yards.
So all we really need is for this team to not be quite so bad overall, which would sustain more offensive drives and allow Conner to see more touches. He sits tied for just 25th in carries through the 2-2 start. (And the 1st of those wins found Arizona coming from way behind, as well as Conner leaving early.)
You’re not likely to get much value for Conner in trade right now anyway. So there’s little we can do but sit tight. This week’s clash with the Eagles might prove tough once again, but Week 6 holds a Seattle defense that has allowed the league’s 2nd most points and yards.
HOLD Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
Bateman suffered a mid-foot injury in the 2nd half of Sunday's loss to Buffalo, one that HC John Harbaugh believes is minor. Harbaugh called him “day to day.”
So even if you’re frustrated by Bateman’s early returns — he’s posted 2 poor lines, 2 useful lines — his trade value just isn’t attractive.
We’re really waiting on OC Greg Roman to elevate Bateman’s underwhelming role. Curiously, he’d only run a route on 74.7% of Lamar Jackson’s dropbacks entering an injury-shortened Week 4.
This despite the 2nd-year WR ranking 3rd league-wide in yards per route run (min. 15 targets), behind only Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill.
Bateman’s pedigree says that type of production isn’t an anomaly.Keep an eye on Shark Bites for updates on Bateman’s health. We still like his chances of returning at least WR3 value when healthy.