Pre-Season Buys and Sells
Hello all. My name is Sam Kelly and I am a Data Analyst working in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To give you an idea of who I am, some of my hobbies include: Pittsburgh sports, particularly hockey (but football is a close second), outdoorsy/fitness things like biking, hiking, half-marathons, etc, comic books and the superhero genre (Dc>Marvel, go ahead and @me), and as you may have guessed, I love fantasy football.
I have been playing fantasy football since the 2007-08 NFL season. I pound the Zero RB strategy and love start-up drafts. My preference is dynasty, but the majority of my articles will focus on helping you in your redraft PPR leagues. My articles will be focused on players to Buy and Sell, primarily through working the trade market. They will debut weekly, by Friday before the main slate of NFL games. Each article, I will highlight a handful of players I think the fantasy football community is sleeping on, and some I think are being valued too highly. My goal is to help you get a jump on your league mates, so you’re not left playing catch-up. Below I compiled a list of some pre-season Buys and Sells, based on their average draft position*.
- Andrew Luck (Current ADP 98.6, QB10): I know what you’re thinking. A guy coming off of a shoulder procedure, and having not thrown a football in an NFL game since January 1st, 2017 is not exactly someone you want to depend on. But Luck’s last full season, he threw for 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions. He also added 341 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing. Those are dynamite fantasy football numbers. That would have been good for QB2 last year behind Russell Wilson. The Colts addressed the running game in the draft, but still, neither Mack nor Wilkins or Hines are serious threats to eat into the passing game’s usage. I’d take Luck as a later round QB with a top 3 or 4 finish upside.
- Eli Manning (Current ADP 158.6, QB22): You can’t spell elite without ELI right? As the 22nd QB off the board, this tells me Eli is not only considered not a good starter, but a lower echelon back-up in 12 team leagues. Consider this: Eli’s running back is Saquon Barkley, currently drafted as the RB6, Eli’s top receiver is Odell Beckham Jr., currently drafted as the WR3, and Eli’s tight end is Evan Engram, currently being drafted as the TE5. I have a hard time imagining a quarterback with 3 elite weapons, all valued in the top 6 of their positional group, will finish outside the top 15 Quarterbacks. If you’re like me and you like to wait to grab QBs, Eli is the perfect target.
- Deshaun Watson (Current ADP 45.8, QB2): Last year, as a rookie, Watson torched NFL defenses. In the 6 games he started, he led all QBs in scoring twice and finished in the top 3 two more times. But, what everyone is afraid to ask, is this. Have we already seen Watson’s ceiling? He has the weapons and all the physical tools to be a top 3 fantasy football quarterback in the league, but last year, there was no NFL tape for defenses to game plan against him. I’m not predicting an RGIII type crash and burn from Watson, but I am not willing to use a 4th round draft pick on him.
- Aaron Jones (Current ADP 112.4, RB40): I love buying guys who are coming off of suspensions. Due to breaking the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Aaron Jones will miss the first 2 games of the 2018 NFL season. Many are using that as an opportunity to proclaim Jamaal Williams (Current ADP 95.8 RB37) the starter, and the lead back for the year. But, when given the opportunity, Jones has shown more vision and explosiveness. While Williams outgained Jones in yards, 556 to 448, Jones’ yards per attempt crushes Williams’, 5.5 to 3.6. While neither are going to be world beaters, I expect Jones to wrestle control of the Green Bay backfield from Williams soon after he returns from suspension. I find it ludicrous that people are drafting Williams over a round ahead of Jones.
- C.J. Anderson(Current ADP 113, RB41): Landing right after Jones is the new Carolina running back, C.J. Anderson. I see C.J. as a better version of last year’s Jonathan Stewart. Already, we know his value is going to be capped by PPR stud Christian McCaffrey and the best goal-line running back, I mean quarterback, in the NFL, Cam Newton. But we know that CMC is terrible in short yardage situations and Carolina certainly wants to minimize Newton’s injury risks. Last year, Jonathan Stewart rushed for 680 yards and 6 touchdowns. I can see C.J. Anderson surpassing both of those totals.
- Matt Breida (Current ADP 167, RB55): The darling of the fantasy offseason was Jerrick McKinnon. Coming from Minnesota, entering a Kyle Shanahan offense, McKinnon has shot up everyone’s draft boards, all the way to RB13. Coming in with an ADP in the 14th round, Breida could be the steal of the draft, should McKinnon get hurt or start slow. Now, I’m not one to bank on injuries (unless you’re Tyler Eifert or Jordan Reed), but Breida has been performing extremely well in camp. 49ers beat writer Grant Cohn called Breida “the best running back on the team.” Camp praise is hardly enough to warrant urgency, but everywhere I own McKinnon, I am working hard to also scoop up Breida.
- Jerick McKinnon (Current ADP 24.4, RB13): First of all, see above in the Matt Breida paragraph. Secondly, Breida has over 1 full year of Kyle Shanahan tutelage, while McKinnon still needs to learn. It would not shock me if McKinnon and Breida end up in a 50-50 split for touches in year 1, which is not ideal for a RB being drafted at the bottom of the 2nd round in drafts.
- LeSean McCoy (Current ADP 28.4, RB16): First and foremost, Shady has some pending legal issues to deal with. That alone should scare most people away from taking him early in the 3rd round. But, let’s pretend his issues are resolved without any suspensions. What else does Buffalo have? They got rid of their underrated QB, Tyrod Taylor. Their receiving corp is headlined by Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin. And they traded their best offensive lineman to move up in the draft to select Josh Allen, a qb who projects to be a big project and relatively ineffective year 1. All Buffalo has is Shady and NFL defenses will know it. Shady will be facing stacked boxes all year. A roster bereft of talent and pending legal issues makes Shady someone I intend to avoid this year.
- Julio Jones (Current ADP 12.8, WR4): I realize having someone who is top 5 in their positional group as a “buy” seems a little out of place. But Jones’ potential is to be the WR1. Last year Jones was uncharacteristically unlucky in terms of touchdown catches. He had over 1400 receiving yards, but only 3 touchdowns. That’s a touchdown per game rate of .19 and touchdown per target rate of .02. Over his career, Julio has averaged .5 touchdowns per game and .05 touchdowns per target. After another year working with Steve Sarkisian, I expect Jones’ yardage total to stay high and his touchdown total to regress back to his mean. If enough people have soured on Julio after last year, I’d happily snag him late in the 1st round.
- Corey Davis (Current ADP 64.2, WR26): As a dynasty fantasy football player, one of my primary practices is to buy highly drafted 2nd-year players, after a down rookie season. Corey Davis fits that bill perfectly. Mariota and the rest of the passing game struggled to get going last year. Rather than incorporating their top draft pick more, Mariota and the Titans chose to rely on returning veterans like Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker. But as the year went on, and Davis got healthy, he saw more playing time, peaking in their playoff loss to the Patriots with a 5 catch, 68 yard, 2 touchdown performance. I expect Davis’ comfort level with Mariota to be much higher this year and for CD to have an 80+ catch, 1000+ yard, 5+ touchdown season.
- Mike Williams/Tyrell Williams (Current ADP 144.4 & 190.5, WR53 & WR71): The reason I grouped these two Chargers together, is because I expect both to receive a boost. My logic with Corey Davis applies to Mike Williams but that’s not all. With Hunter Henry’s unfortunate injury, and Antonio Gates’ retirement, that leaves 104 targets unaccounted for. Sure, it’s possible target-monster Keenan Allen gobbles up some of that, but I expect Rivers to incorporate both Williams’ into the offense more. I’m especially fond of Mike Williams because Rivers loves those big body, red-zone threats. Something he hasn’t had on the outside since Vincent Jackson. When I’m building my WR depth later in the draft, I’m targeting both of these guys.
- Tyreek Hill (Current ADP 29.2, WR11): Last year, Alex Smith took amazing strides as a deep ball passer. Tyreek Hill was the primary beneficiary from that, accruing almost 1200 receiving yards on only 75 catches. I see Hill having a Desean Jackson-like career. Great with the end of the year totals, but hard to rely on from a week to week basis. Last year, Hill had over 100 yards 4 times (130+ yards twice), but he also had under 45 yards 5 times (under 39 yards 3 times). Taking into account that inconsistency, with the arrival of Sammy Watkins, and the uncertainty at QB with Patrick Mahomes, there is no way I am drafting Hill in the first 3 rounds.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (Current ADP 43.2, WR18): Let me start out by saying, as a Steelers fan, I love JuJu. And if we are talking dynasty, I would not be selling him. But in terms of redraft, I worry about him, at this price. As a rookie, JuJu had 80 receptions for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s phenomenal rookie production. However, there are a few outliers in his play. Mainly, the injury to Antonio Brown. With the injury, JuJu was thrust into the WR1 role for the prolific Steeler offense. With Antonio Brown fully healthy, JuJu averaged 3.33 receptions per game and 49.2 yards per game. In the three games that AB wasn’t healthy, JuJu averaged 7 receptions and 110.67 yards per game. Big difference. I don’t expect JuJu to regress to those w/ AB numbers this year, with Brown healthy, but his ADP is leaning closer to his w/o AB numbers and I feel like that’s a mistake.
- Kyle Rudolph (Current ADP 78.4, TE8): Kyle Rudolph has always been a fairly underrated tight end, despite finishing as the #2 PPR tight end in 2016, and being top 10 the last two years. My biggest reason for targeting Rudolph is his quarterback change. Kirk Cousins pounded his tight ends with targets in Washington. In 2017, tight ends were targeted 126 times (23.3% of total targets went to tight ends). In Minnesota, Case Keenum only targeted tight ends 97 times (18.4% of total targets went to tight ends). With Cousins in town, I predict Rudolph to break into the top 5 of fantasy tight ends.
- Ben Watson (Current ADP 191, TE23): I don’t think Watson will set the world on fire in New Orleans, but I think he could end up top 12 or 15. Watson’s last year in New Orleans (2015), he caught 74 balls for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns. All career highs. His last two seasons, he’s had his highest and his 4th highest catch rate in his career. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him put up 50+ catches for 650+ yards. Why is his ADP so low? This season he will turn 38, but this isn’t dynasty. You don’t need him to fill your tight end spot for the next 4 years. If you’re like me, and you wait to draft tight ends, Watson is a perfect end of the draft flier to take a chance on.
- Evan Engram (Current ADP 61.4, TE5): Everyone in the fantasy football community, dynasty, and redraft alike, fell in love with Evan Engram last year. And rightfully so. Rookie tight ends rarely make fantasy impacts, let alone finish as TE5. However, Engram had a lot of opportunity due to injury. The biggest injury was OBJ missing most of the season, but Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall also missed chunks of time. With OBJ in the line-up, Engram averaged 3.75 receptions and 39 yards per game. Compared to OBJ out of the line-up, where Engram averaged 4.45 and 51.45 yards per game. Not only will Engram fall behind Beckham as Eli’s primary target, but maybe Shepard and/or Barkley as well. I love Engram going forward, but right now the TE5 draft position is a price I’m not willing to pay.
- Courtland Sutton: Remember what I said about buying second round players who were highly touted as rookies? Sutton is in a crowded WR corp in Denver. He’s stuck behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. While reports out of camp say he’s already a stud, I doubt he’ll have the opportunity to showcase that this year. I’d be looking to buy him as the year goes on, hoping his current owner has soured on him due to his lack of production.
- Kenny Golladay: Golladay is in a similar situation as Courtland Sutton, except with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones.
- Tevin Coleman: Coleman is already considered a decent RB in redraft PPR leagues, and for good reason. But if he has a down stretch, I’d go out and buy if you can. Coleman’s contract is up after this season, and I doubt Atlanta has either the funds or the desire to sign another RB to a big contract. I believe Coleman will be the Jerrick McKinnon of next off-season. If I had my pick, when Leveon Bell inevitably leaves the Steelers, Coleman could slot in and be almost as effective in that offense.
I hope you enjoyed my article and I hope some of these Buys and Sells help you out this year. What did you think? Did I miss one? If you feel like letting me know or just looking for free fantasy football advice, you can find me on Twitter @Sam_Wise730 or @tffgurus our company handle. Also, feel free to check out the new podcast page @trophytimepod and shoot us a follow. Stay tuned for my weekly Buy and Sell articles to further get that edge in your fantasy leagues. They will not be as lengthy but still chalk full of information designed to help you dominate the trade market and your fantasy league.
*-ADP is taken from www.fantasypros.com