Buy and Sell — Week 2
September 13, 2017 | Scott Cedar
There’s no harder time to play fantasy football than between Week 1 and Week 2.
Some of what we saw in Week 1 was real. Some of it was a mirage. Figuring out which is which is like walking through a minefield. On the one hand, we shouldn’t just throw out everything we believed before the season started (i.e., just one week ago). At the same time, after months of speculation we’ve just been hit with a wealth of new information about every team and player, and we really don’t have time to ignore it while we see how things plays out.
It’s a delicate balancing act between overreaction and underreaction. Walk the tightrope successfully and your team can profit immensely. With that in mind, let’s get to the Week 2 buy lows/sell highs.
I have zero concerns about John Brown’s talent. The only question with him is health, and in Week 1, he was not on the injury report, played 84% of the Cardinals’ snaps, and handled a heavy workload (9 targets, 1 carry). This is sneakily a carryover from last season where he had 27 targets in the two games he was healthy. Granted, he didn’t do much with those 9 targets (4 catches, 32 yards), but that is ridiculous volume that you can get on the cheap. Expect things to turn around quickly. The Cardinals face the Colts on Sunday, who just allowed Jared Freaking Goff to throw for over 300 yards. Brown has all kinds of upside in this offense; he’s their explosive playmaker now that David Johnson is out.
Chris Hogan/Rex Burkhead
Right up until opening night, we thought Chris Hogan was a WR3 with upside in the wake of Julian Edelman’s ACL tear, and we thought Rex Burkhead had a good shot at leading the Patriots’ backfield after a stellar preseason. That didn’t happen in Week 1, but I wouldn’t scrap either notion after just one game.
Hogan didn’t produce against the Chiefs, but there was reason to be encouraged. Hogan barely left the field, and in addition to 5 targets, the Patriots dialed up 3 runs for him. That tells us they want the ball in his hands. It was also encouraging to see Tom Brady going deep more often than usual, including 4 deep targets to Hogan. That’s where he thrived in 2016. Bonus points for Danny Amendola already getting hurt and Malcom Mitchell being placed on IR. It’s possible Sunday’s game against New Orleans is a Brandin Cooks revenge narrative game. It’s possible Belichick leans on the ground game to keep the ball away from Drew Brees. But it’s possible the projected shootout with the Saints includes is a big game for Hogan. I’d try to act now.
As for Burkhead, he got the start against Kansas City but only played 10 snaps, and clearly sits behind Mike Gillislee and James White. For now. He’s a better pass-catcher than the former and better runner than the latter, making him the Patriots’ best bet if they want a do-it-all back. We’ve seen the Patriots change things up drastically from game to game, so I wouldn’t assume the Week 1 usage is the usage going forward. The Patriots gave Burkhead a relatively big contract while many other RBs sat around in free agency, so clearly they like him. He’s at least worth a bench spot for another week.
One of the fantasy community’s favorite Rip Van Winkles, this is Ebron’s 3rd straight year as a hyped sleeper candidate who thus far has stayed asleep. I think that changes on Monday Night Football.
Ebron didn’t do much last week (3 targets, 2 receptions, 9 yards), but the Cardinals were death to tight ends last season (3.4 points allowed, lowest in the league). You can’t judge Ebron’s 2017 prospects based on what he did in Week 1. I think it’ll be a short buy low window, closing Monday night when Detroit travels to New York. Despite having a strong defense overall, the Giants allowed 89 receptions and 1,052 receiving yards to opposing tight ends last season (5th and 4th most in the league). It appears nothing has changed in 2017: Jason Witten just hit them up for 7 catches, 59 yards, and a touchdown in Week 1.
The Lions still have no running game to speak of, meaning they’ll once again be throwing a bunch to move the ball. Ebron could be the primary beneficiary, at which point the breakout season is back on.
(Plus, admit it… you like having a guy going Monday Night Football.)
Lost amid the Panthers’ 24-3 drubbing of the 49ers is that Cam Newton played pretty, pretty poorly. He was just 14/25 for 171 yards, and missed multiple wide open receivers badly. On top of all that, he had just 3 carries for 6 yards. That’s troubling coming off 2016, where he set career lows in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns. Newton’s never been a good enough to start in fantasy (or real life) based solely on his passing—34% of his career fantasy points have been from rushing—so if this is the new normal that’s a major problem. Also a problem: the shoulder he had surgery on last spring still doesn’t look quite right.
Newton put up only 13.14 points in Week 1 against one of the worst defenses in the league (albeit on the road). Quarterbacks are already hard to trade in most leagues. If he doesn’t light it up in Week 2, you may be stuck with him.
Like Newton, Gurley was a disappointment in 2016 and a disappointment in Week 1. And like Newton, it’s kind of flying under the radar due to his team’s beatdown of the Colts.
Gurley’s struggles have been well-chronicled. He slowed down dramatically after a hot start to his rookie year, then managed a paltry 3.2 YPC in 2016 (3rd worst in the NFL). Some were quick to blame a dismal situation—coach, quarterback, offensive line—and assume 2017 would be better. As we saw on Sunday… not really. Gurley managed just 40 rushing yards on 19 carries, a dismal 2.1 YPC against one of the most hapless defenses in the league. He made up for it by finding the end zone and tacking on 56 passing yards, but mostly he looked like the same back who has underachieved throughout his career.
In this case we’re not overreacting to one bad game, were reacting to a 30 game sample of subpar performance. Sell now while the new-look Rams narrative is still viable.
After an offseason where every Rotoworld blurb about Blount was more negative than the last (including a report he was on the roster bubble), this wasn’t an encouraging start to his 2nd post-Patriots tour. Blount rushed 14 times for just 46 yards, but saved his day with the 2nd receiving touchdown of his career. He also played only 34% of Philadelphia’s snaps, just 8 more than Wendell Smallwood.
That’s critical because, unlike Blount, the preseason buzz on Smallwood was overwhelmingly positive. We still haven’t seen much of Smallwood, but he produced in the limited opportunities he received last year, averaging 4.6 YPC in the 3 games he hit double-digit attempts. I feel pretty strongly Smallwood will assume lead back duties at some point this season, and have been trying to find space for him on the end of my roster. As for Blount, he’s currently the lead back behind Pro Football Focus’s top offensive line and he has touchdown to his name. You can sell that to an RB-needy team.
As always, you can hit me up with any questions on Twitter, @scedar015.