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Buy/Sell/Hold Report #5

By Alex Korff | Updated on Tue, 23 May 2023 . 1:27 PM EDT

BUY Titans passing game

Tennessee’s passing game has hit the skids over the past month. Check out QB Ryan Tannehill’s numbers:

The dip in volume has certainly been part of the problem. But the efficiency drop off looks like the bigger concern.

Blame the schedule for that. Three of Tannehill’s last 4 games have come against top 7 QB defenses (Pittsburgh, Chicago and Indianapolis).

Tannehill and Co. have 2 more tough matchups on the docket: at Baltimore and a rematch at Indianapolis. So if your team is battling for a playoff spot and in must-win mode, you probably don’t want to swing a deal for Titans pieces right now.

But if you’re sitting pretty at 9-1 or 8-2 and looking ahead to the playoffs, the Titans could help push you to a title. In Weeks 13 through 16, they get the Browns, Jaguars, Lions and Packers. Those teams rank 20th, 31st, 23rd and 16th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA.

So Tannehill should heat back up down the stretch. TE Jonnu Smith is likely dirt cheap right now and could re-emerge as a top-8 TE over the final month. Maybe you could even pry away A.J. Brown from his owner after his 1-catch dud last Thursday night.

BUY Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles

It was a frustrating return for Sanders, who watched Boston Scott and Corey Clement vulture TDs last week. But you’re a smart fantasy owner. You know not to over-react to TD variance.

Sanders’ usage remained strong in Week 10. He played 72% of Philly’s offensive snaps and ran a route on 51% of QB Carson Wentz’s drop backs. Sanders handled 15 of 19 RB carries and 5 of 6 RB targets.

In 5 healthy games this season, Sanders is averaging 15.4 carries and 5.6 targets. Only 10 other RBs are averaging 20+ opportunities.

So the usage has been there for Sanders. And he’s been playing very well. He’s averaging a huge 6.0 yards per carry and ranks 7th in Pro Football Focus’ Elusive Rating among 31 RBs with 50+ carries. He ranks 11th in PFF’s rushing grades and 5th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

Sanders probably won’t be cheap to acquire. But we’d be aggressive in pursuing a guy who we like to produce as a top 5 fantasy RB the rest of the way.

BUY Duke Johnson, RB, Texans

Johnson was a massive disappointment in the box score last week, mustering just 54 yards on 14 carries and failing to catch his only target.

Houston’s offense was neutered by high winds in Cleveland, though. And the Browns played keep away, limiting the Texans to just 57 snaps — their 2nd fewest of the season.

Johnson's underlying usage was strong. He played 94% of the offensive snaps and ran a route on 74% of QB Deshaun Watson’s drop backs. Johnson handled all 14 RB carries and 1 of 2 RB targets.

That points to much better fantasy production in more favorable game environments. Johnson should get those the next 2 weeks vs. the Patriots and Lions, who rank 20th and 32nd in adjusted fantasy points allowed to RBs. We like Johnson to at least return RB2 numbers — with RB1 upside — in those matchups.

David Johnson is eligible to come off IR in Week 13, and the schedule is tough the rest of the way. So Duke is more of a short-term buy for fantasy teams battling to get into the playoffs.

BUY Michael Thomas, WR, Saints

Thomas’ value hasn’t dipped this low since his rookie season.

Since returning from a high-ankle sprain and hamstring strain, he’s tallied lines of 5-51 (at Tampa Bay) and 2-27 (vs. San Francisco). His 7 targets against the 49ers did represent a 30.4% share.

Of course, the Drew Brees injury adds a layer of uncertainty. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the long-time Saint is expected to miss 2+ weeks. So even if the Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill experience flops, Brees will likely return for the stretch run.

Of course, the fill-ins aren’t nearly as accurate as Brees. You know about Thomas’ incredible efficiency; he caught 80.5% of his 185 targets last year. That number stood at 85.0% in 2018.

That’s not realistic going forward. But on some level, a ‘buy’ order here comes down to a belief in Thomas’ talent. After all, the guy’s been a stud since he entered the league. Coming into September, Thomas had caught 77 more passes than the next closest receiver over that span.

He’ll remain a go-to target for whoever’s chucking him the rock. And the schedule should help him rebound with 2 matchups against Atlanta over the next 3 weeks.

BUY Evan Engram, TE, Giants

The usage has been there for Engram all season. No TE has run more pass routes. Only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller have seen more targets. Engram ranks 3rd at the position in catches and 12th in receiving yards.

He sits just 12th among TEs in PPR points, though. He’s left some production on the field with drops, and QB Daniel Jones has remained inconsistent. Engram has also been a bit unlucky to score on just 1 of his 38 catches.

But we’re betting on that usage turning into more fantasy points the rest of the way. He’ll benefit from a favorable quartet of matchups after the Week 11 bye: at Cincinnati, at Seattle, vs. Arizona and vs. Cleveland. The Bengals and Browns are bottom-8 TE defenses. And the Seahawks are just plain bad against the pass.

SELL Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington

Over the past 5 weeks, only 6 RBs have scored more PPR points than Gibson. Just 8 have beaten the Washington rookie in non-PPR points over that span. And with 3 straight double-digit fantasy outings -- as well as 7 among his past 8 -- Gibson seems to be delivering like an RB1 for you.

But Gibson ranks just 17th among RBs in touches over that span. He sits 17th in carries, just 24th in targets. Gibson doesn’t even lead the RBs on his own team in targets in that time. (J.D. McKissic leads all RBs in that category.)

Bottom line: Gibson has gotten fortunate on the TD front. His 2 rushing scores at Detroit last week masked a lackluster 13-45 rushing line. A TD run against the Giants the week before covered up a worse 6-20 rushing day.

Gibson has finished 5 of his past 6 outings at 3.5 yards per carry or less. He has exceeded 55 rushing yards in a game just once all season. That came against Dallas in Week 7, also the only time Gibson has topped 13 rushing attempts in a game.

Gibson faces upside scoring matchups for his offense the next 2 weeks -- Cincinnati and Dallas -- but he stands on shaky ground. So if you’re trying to decide which RB to flip for either a safer bet at the position or help elsewhere, he’s a good option.

SELL Ronald Jones, RB, Bucs

Jones was awesome in Sunday’s win over Carolina. However…

* He posted 51% of his yards on one 98-yard run.

* The Panthers entered sitting bottom-3 in fantasy points allowed to RBs.

* Tampa Bay cruised to a 46-23 win, affording extra rush attempts. (Jones tied a season-high with 23.)

* Jones saw only 2 targets on 39 Tom Brady pass attempts. He’s seen fewer than 3 targets in 3 of his past 5 games. Over that stretch, Leonard Fournette has run 92 routes (9th among RBs) to Jones’ 60 (29th among RBs).

With Antonio Brown’s role on the rise, there’s just not much ceiling to Jones’ receiving production.

Also worth noting: Jones has lost 2 fumbles over his past 3 games. Another one could help solidify Fournette’s rushing role. Consider that the former Jag just out-carried Jones in Week 8 (15 to 8).

Finally, Jones still has a Week 13 bye to navigate. Plus, his Week 11 opponent — the Rams — will likely stop any hope of a budding hot streak. They’ve allowed just 4.0 yards per carry to enemy RBs and haven’t allowed an 80-yard rusher since Week 2.

HOLD Houston passing game

According to our strength-of-schedule page, no QB faces a worse upcoming schedule than Deshaun Watson. At WR, things trend a bit more neutral. Seems like a situation to unload, especially given some recent volatility.

You can feel free to consider moves that include Watson, Will Fuller and/or Brandin Cooks. But we wouldn’t go into fire-sale mode on them. Let’s start by looking more closely at the individual matchups.

First up is New England in Week 11. The Patriots have sunk to 30th in pass-defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. They’re simply not a tough defense anymore. The fantasy-matchup numbers continue to live off some earlier performances, such as limiting Josh Allen to his season-worst point total in Week 8. The following week found them allowing 24.1 fantasy points to Joe Flacco.

Week 12 holds the Lions, the #23 defense in passing DVOA and #25 defense in overall DVOA. You’re more likely to target Houston passing-game pieces than avoid them for that matchup, which turns up as slightly negative for both QB and WR on the strength-of-schedule pages.

Then come 3 legitimately tough weeks. The Colts (twice) and Bears have allowed the fewest and 2nd-fewest QB points per game this season. Indy has also yielded the 6th-fewest PPR points per game to WRs; Chicago the 3rd-fewest.

But we saw cracks from the Bears on Monday night, when Justin Jefferson went 8-135 and Adam Thielen caught a pair of TD passes. Football Outsiders rates the Colts 16th in coverage vs. #1 WRs, 1st against #2 WRs and 23rd vs. “other” WRs. Matthew Stafford threw for 336 yards and 3 TDs on them in Week 8.

Again, both defenses are tough. But they’re not impenetrable.

That 3-game span makes it OK to consider moving Watson, Fuller or Cooks in a sensible trade. But we wouldn’t go trying to escape that talented trio for less than any of them is worth.

Alex Korff Author Image
Alex Korff, Product Manager
Alex is an engineer by trade and focuses a lot on the game theory and the “value” of players. He spends most of his time in spreadsheets and building new fantasy football tools.
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