We’re in the heart of the fantasy season. For many, it’s make or break time, as teams are jockeying for playoff position. Between all of the injuries to studs last week and the fact that this is the heaviest bye week of the year, lots of owners will be forced to trot out less-than-optimal lineups this week. But let’s take a look ahead, now that we are officially halfway through the NFL season and try to forecast what will happen in the second half of the year, with a game of buy or sell.
Buy or Sell…
Russell Wilson finishes season as top-15 QB? – Sell.
At this point, there is very little to be excited about in Seattle’s offense. People understand that Seattle is staying above water because of its defense, but I don’t know that people realize just how porous the offense has been. To put things in perspective, only the 49ers are averaging fewer offensive TDs per game. Marshawn Lynch was missing for a few of those games, but as we saw last week against the Cowboys (when the Seahawks scored 13 points), the Seahawks have struggled to score the ball regardless of who has played. Through the first half of the year, Wilson has thrown for over 250 yards only twice – one of those times was week 1, when he threw for 251 yards. He has had only one multi-TD game so far – in week 2, he threw for 2 TDs. Everyone knows it’s not Wilson’s arm that makes him a good fantasy QB though. It’s his rushing ability, of course. But his rushing totals have taken a hit as well. Last season, he rushed for 849 yards and 6 TDs. This year, he’s on pace to finish with just over 600 yards. And he has yet to rush for a TD yet. Lastly, Wilson is on pace to throw for the most interceptions in his career. He has 6 INTs through 8 games. Last year he finished with 7 INTs. QB is deep this year, and depending on how deep your league is, there may be better streaming options some weeks, rather than starting Wilson every week.
Adrian Peterson finishes the season as a top-5 RB? – Sell.
It’s no secret that AP is having a relatively disappointing season. He has four games this year with 10 fantasy points or fewer (standard scoring). He has not scored since the first weekend of October. Through the first half of the year, he hasn’t justified his top two or three selection in most fantasy drafts. That is not to say owners should panic with AP. Owners love, above all else, dependability and reliability. Owners can rest easy every week that Peterson will get at least 20 touches, as he is the clear focal point of the offense.
Look ahead to the second half of the year though, and things only get harder. Peterson faces a brutal slate from here on out. Aside from his last two games of the year, against the Bears and Giants, there are no easy games. He faces the Rams (7th in rushing yards against), Raiders (2nd in rushing yards against), Atlanta (5th in rushing yards against), and the Seahawks and Cardinals, both of whom own among the best defenses in the league. Also in there, is a game against the Packers, where it is likely that the Vikings will be down and having to throw the ball. The emergence of Stefon Diggs could open up some more running lanes for AP, but that doesn’t change how hard the remaining schedule is. If you can swing a deal to someone off AP’s extraordinarily high name value, now is the time to consider it. The argument against trading him is that RB is already painfully thin, so how could you possible trade away Adrian Peterson? Easy. On most trade markets, he still holds lots of value, he’s underperforming this year, and his struggles should continue in the second of the year. And, if you’re wondering 5 RBs I’d take over him? Gurley, Freeman, Doug Martin (easy schedule), Mark Ingram, and Lamar Miller. You may laugh at the latter three guys, but each of them have significantly softer schedules.
Gary Barnidge will finish as the 2nd best TE? – Buy.
There should be no skepticism with Barnidge anymore. He has six straight double digit fantasy games and he has 6 TDs in his last 6 games. Will he score every week? No, of course not. But he doesn’t need to score every week for his production to continue. He is second among TEs, behind Rob Gronkowski, in both yards and targets. He is tied with Gronk and Travis Kelce for most receptions among TEs. He can regress a little bit in the second half of the year and still be the second best TE in fantasy. The Browns have no run game, and they are going to be trailing almost every week.
Currently WR18 in standard leagues, Demaryius Thomas will finish as a top-7 WR? – Buy.
Some people may think this is obvious, since despite his current standing, Demaryius Thomas is consistently ranked by experts as a top-5 WR every week. While, other people might think this is crazy, considering how poorly Peyton Manning has played all year. Here’s the point: Despite Denver’s offense being a dumpster fire for the first eight games of the year, Thomas ranks 4th in targets, 4th in receptions, and 5th in yards. Holding him back is the fact that he has scored only once this year. Now, the rebuttal is that it’s no coincidence Thomas has only one TD. I mean, the the Broncos’ offense is one of the worst this year – they’ve scored the 5th fewest offensive TDs this year! But consider a few things. Even if Denver’s offense continues to struggle, Thomas will regress at least a little bit. He will score more than one TD in the next 8 games, guaranteed. His upcoming schedule is ridiculously soft. Here’s his remaining schedule:
- Week 9: Colts – 24th vs WRs
- Week 10: Chiefs – 32nd vs WRs
- Week 11: Bears – 27th vs WRs
- Week 12: Patriots – 25th vs WRs
- Week 13: Chargers – 7th vs WRs
- Week 14: Raiders – 12th vs WRs
- Week 15: Steelers – 14th vs WRs
- Week 16: Bengals – 10 vs WRs
As you see, the next month is very generous. The last month of the season is more difficult, but none of those matchups is too worrisome. One way to play it if you have Thomas, depending on when your trade deadline is – if you even have one – is to ride him out for some of his cupcake matchups, and then sell him when his value is at its peak, if you’re worried about those last couple games.
As the trade deadline approaches in the next couple of weeks, it’s important not to be tricked into only looking at names. Fantasy owners frequently see a superstar who is underperforming and automatically label him as a “buy low” and then see a lesser name producing and label him a “sell high.” It’s foolish and flawed to think players will always regress to whatever their name value is, though. New players break out every year, and lots of big names underperform every year. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some interesting and maybe surprising cases.
Player A: 138 completions, 204 attempts, 1,568 passing yards, 15 TDs, 2 INTs
Player B: 150 completions, 229 attempts, 1,793 yards, 15 TDs, 3 INTs
Player C: 153 completions, 231 attempts, 1,992 yards, 15 TDs, 4 INTs
Player A is Aaron Rodgers, Player B is Derek Carr, Player C is Andy Dalton. Granted, throwing for 77 yards and no TDs against Denver will skew things, but then again, Carr plays Denver twice this year. Earlier this year, he posted 249 yards, 1 TD, and two turnovers (one INT and one fumble). We knew Dalton was having a career year, but Carr is right there too.
Player A: 5 games, 24 catches, 386 yards, 1 TD, 8.6 fantasy points per game
Player B: 5 games, 26 catches, 411 yards, 3 TDs, 11.4 fantasy points per game
Player A is Mike Evans and Player B is Nate Washington. Everyone realizes that Evans is struggling, and that Nate Washington will get lots of chances on a bad, now one-dimensional Texans team. By the way, in standard scoring, over half of Evans’ fantasy points come from week 7 alone. It would be surprising if Washington finishes the year with more points than Evans, but still interesting.
Player A: 64 targets, 42 catches, 466 yards, 4 TDs, 4 catches of 20+ yards, 76 fantasy points
Player B: 47 targets, 33 catches, 500 yards, 4 TDs, 7 catches of 20+ yards, 71 fantasy points
Player A is Jarvis Landry and Player B is Rishard Matthews. Landry is arguably the focal point of the Dolphins offense, while Matthews has quietly earned trust among fantasy owners. The Dolphins clearly make a concerted effort to get Landry the ball, but Matthews’ production is nearly identical to Landry’s. And you can probably get Matthews for 75% of what you’d pay for Landry.
Player A: 48 catches, 659 yards, 3 TDs, 8 catches of 20+ yards
Player B: 50 catches, 654 yards, 7 TDs, 7 catches of 20+ yards
Player A is Calvin Johnson and Player B is Odell Beckham Jr. Megatron is currently WR14 in standard scoring, while Beckham is WR4. The difference here, as you can see, is the TD production. The narrative surrounding Calvin earlier was that he was done. But really, if new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter can improve the offense during the bye week, and Calvin finds the endzone just a little bit more, he can be close to a top 5 WR for the rest of the year.
Rapid Fire…. let’s take a quick look at some interesting numbers
- Through just 4 games, Stefon Diggs has 10 catches of 20+ yards. For perspective, that’s as many as DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas. Only 6 WRs/TEs have more plays of that distance.
- Joe Flacco has the second most pass attempts and red zone pass attempts this year. Losing Steve Smith is a huge blow to Baltimore’s offense, but Flacco’s insanely high volume makes him a decent injury or bye week replacement.
- In five games, Todd Gurley leads all RBs with rushes of 40+ yards. He’s either 1A or 1B to Devonta Freeman for the rest of the year.
- Devonta Freeman is the only RB with more total yards (1062) than Mark Ingram (804).
Note: This can also be found at a new website I will be writing for called The Waiver Boss that will cover all things fantasy football. The post can be found here: https://york-henderson-fl84.squarespace.com/config#/|/weekly/