Selling High on Early Fantasy Football Stars
Selling High After Week Two
Drafting the best team before the season starts is one thing, but (as is the case in “real” football) it is the adjustments you make along the way that ultimately determine your fate. This is where you need to take the emotion out of decision making, as it is very easy to become attached with a player who is performing at a level that is unattainable simply because he has carried you to some early season success. Big time numbers are great, but if there are trends pointing in a downward direction, you’ll be remembering these days of great value with great nostalgia.
That’s not to say the following five players won’t produce some solid fantasy days from this point forward. In fact, I like two of these players to have a productive week three, but their value at this very moment in time is as high as it is going to get this year. Below my reasoning for why each player should be sold at their peak value are a handful of players that I believe will score more fantasy points from this point forward.
As important as it is to not get sucked by these mirages, it is equally important to take advantage of your opponent’s overreaction. Winning fantasy leagues is about constantly seeking to improve your squad, putting yourself in the best possible spot to win every single week. Whoever said “you dance with the girl that brought you” certainly wasn’t a savvy fantasy football owner, as this is a game of getting to the dance and adjusting dance partners on a song by song basis.
Selling High on Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III has completed 56 passes for 629 yards and five touchdowns through two weeks this season, allowing his fantasy owners to justify calling him fully recovered from a shredded knee. I would caution against such a rush judgment as the Washington Redskins appear to be protecting their franchise’s centerpiece with a “safe” game plan. He’s rushed nine times for 25 yards this season, 12 months removed from averaging eight carries for 54.3 yards per game. But the dip in rushing statistics is nothing given his strong passing production, right?
Well, not exactly. In the first half of games this season (the only time the Redskins have been reasonably competitive for an extended period of time), Griffin has completed just 11 of his 24 pass attempts for 160 yards and zero touchdowns. In contrast, he has racked up 25 completions for 287 yards and four passing scores in the fourth quarter of games this season. As you can see, the vast majority of Griffin’s fantasy points have come in garbage time, and while that production counts the same in the fantasy world as any it serves as a red flag down the road.
If Griffin is going to run considerably less and only succeed through the air when defenses retreat to prevent, I’m not buying his status as a top ten quarterback. The Redskins lack of offensive firepower in close games is a big time concern, especially because it has come against two well below average pass defenses. His star power is great, but his fantasy value is going to sink in a hurry if he cannot rectify these struggles.
Players I prefer moving forward that currently rank behind Griffin: Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton
Selling High on Philip Rivers
No team has come out with a more surprising offensive juggernaut than the San Diego Chargers this season, and the resurgent Philip Rivers has been pulling the strings. But how are the Chargers going to stop defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage?
Rivers has an aDOT (average Depth Of Target) that ranks outside of the top ten this season despite his remarkable start, indicating that he is killing defenses by getting the ball quickly to his play makers and letting them do the damage. My concern with that trend is his lack of play-makers and inability to punish future defenses from playing very physical with his wide receivers.
Malcom Floyd (neck) is likely to miss at least one game due to being folded up like an accordion last week, and with the aging Antonio Gates no longer the elite athlete he once was, defenses are going to begin to jump the short passing routes. Eddie Royal has been able to turn those short passes into six points, but can you count on that to continue from a player who had ten career touchdowns entering this season?
We are entering an age of big physical CBs, something that will surely pour water on the Chargers' early season fire. Rivers is a top five quarterback right now, and if you can get anywhere near that value in a trade, I’d advise pulling the trigger as fast as possible.
Players I prefer moving forward that currently rank behind Rivers: Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees
Selling High on Ben Tate
Is Ben Tate going to have an increased role in the Houston Texans' backfield? Sure, but is his touch count ever going to get higher than it is right now? On top of that, is he going to continue to average over eight yards per rush?
Probably not. With Arian Foster missing the majority of training camp, it is reasonable to expect him to round into form as the season progresses, and while Tate is a capable change of pace option, Foster is an elite NFL running back that will demand 20-plus touches. The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins should increase the Texans volume of pass attempts, thus lowering the opportunities Tate will have when spelling Foster.
If I’m going to start a non-featured running back, I’m looking for strong touchdown upside, something Tate simply does not possess. He has scored a mere six times in his career (287 touches), thus making him a very risky play on a week to week basis. I’m buying Tate as a great handcuff and top 15 RB should Foster miss time, but with Foster healthy, Tate’s statistical output is due to decline
Players I prefer moving forward that currently rank behind Tate: Frank Gore, Chris Johnson, and Lamar Miller
Selling High on Eddie Royal
Did I mention I’m not at all buying the San Diego Chargers as a good, let alone elite, passing offense? Half of Eddie Royal’s catches this season have resulted in an end zone dance, a ratio that obviously has no chance at continuing. He scored five touchdowns from December of 2008 through the conclusion of last season (166 catches), making a decline in touchdown rate to be expected.
Given Royal’s hot start and Malcom Floyd’s neck injury, teams are going to be able to focus on the sixth year veteran, a role he has never assumed before. At 5-foot-10, I forecast Royal having some issues with the increasing size of cornerbacks, and without Philip Rivers able to stretch the field in an effective manner, finding room to operate is going to get more difficult as the season progresses. Hopefully you started the Chargers' top receiver last week and benefited from this touchdown explosion, but if you can find an owner willing to pay a WR1 price (or even a WR2 price), I’d take the deal in a heartbeat.
Selling High on Owen Daniels
As is the case with most injury prone players, Owen Daniels can be an enticing option when fully healthy. The problem with that? NFL players are “fully healthy” for the first month, five weeks max. Daniels has now scored three touchdowns in the first five weeks of three consecutive seasons, yet he’s failed to deliver high end tight end production when all is said and done at the end of the season.
The Houston Texans are going to continue to run the ball more often than not, putting Daniels at a decided disadvantage when comparing him to tight ends in pass happy offenses. When they do take to the air, Daniels is the third option at best, and is probably the fifth place the Texans look in the red zone.
We’ve seen this story before and you’re not going to like how it ends. The schedule tightens up starting this week in Baltimore, making now the perfect time to sell high on the oft-injured tight end.
Players I prefer moving forward that currently rank behind Daniels: Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, and Greg Olsen
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