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Talkin’ Trades Week 4: The Un-Suspended

Welcome back to Talkin’ Trades, a weekly column that will highlight players to target today before their prices change tomorrow.

Maybe the injury bug has hit you hard, and the production you were counting on from Doug Baldwin or Marquise Goodwin has left you in a hole. Maybe you were aggressive about risky early season candidates like Mark Ingram and Le’Veon Bell, and are now seriously behind the eight ball. Maybe you were so hyped on Michael Thomas and JuJu Smith-Schuster, that you built your home league team around them, even though it’s standard scoring.

Maybe, just maybe, you did all three things and are in dead last, like me. Three weeks in, some rosters are already praying for the cavalry to show up in the worst way. This week we’re taking a closer look at the cavalry.

Here are some of the best buys and sells at each position.

QUARTERBACK

BUY

JAMEIS WINSTON – Many teams are scuffling at QB right now, and Winston may be the cheapest option with the highest upside. Anyone holding on this long may be tempted to keep holding, but the latest news that Ryan Fitzpatrick is still getting most of the first-team reps in practice may have them ready to cut bait (especially with a bye coming up in Week 5). This situation is not all that different from the Chiefs, where there was some trepidation that the offense could falter without Alex Smith. I believe much of the Chiefs’ and Bucs’ success so far this season is driven by league-best receiving groups. When we see a journeyman putting up career numbers in an offense, we need to be open to the possibility that his successor will be even better.

SELL

MATT RYAN – The Weekly Explorer shows us a QB trending up, but in just a three game sample this reveals a perhaps forgotten awful Week 1 against the Eagles hiding behind a solid Week 2 bolstered by a pair of rushing TDs, and a shootout-fueled Week 3 against a struggling Saints defense. In redraft leagues, it’s often difficult to find QB buyers, but injuries and early rookie takeovers are creating a rare market right now. Many drafters got Ryan cheap as a backup and should be looking to flip him for a useful piece at another position.

2018 Week 4 - Matt Ryan trends

RUNNING BACK

BUY

MARK INGRAMAlvin Kamara has been so dominant it’s difficult not to mentally grant him 100% of the backfield, even though we expected him to perform at this level until Ingram returned. The risks are real that Ingram is seriously marginalized upon his return, but the price should be cheap, and the Saints offense is voluminous enough to accommodate an Alex Collins type role for Ingram alongside Kamara, where he eats up some easy yards between the 20s, while still carving out a useful number of targets and goal line looks. Don’t forget that Ingram caught 58 passes last season. Kamara already hit the injury report this week with a minor knee injury–this Saints team is by no means looking past the regular season to the playoffs, but they do want to keep Kamara healthy for the whole year.

LE’VEON BELL – Both desperate 0-3 teams and teams that have had success without Bell may be considering getting what they can before the bottom potentially drops out. Opportunities to buy players with the potential to tilt a matchup like Bell are few and far between. Not every team is in a position to absorb this kind of risk, but for likely playoff bound rosters, adding Bell could be a league-winning move, with the added benefit that his holdout is keeping him healthy for the high-leverage weeks down the stretch. There are absolutely reasons to worry that James Conner’s emergence, a new offensive coordinator, and possibly lingering animosity over his holdout, could change Bell’s usage when and if he returns to the field–that’s why he is available in the first place. But a key thing to remember is that the player you give up for Bell is not risk-free–there is no guarantee that player is healthy for your playoff run either.

SELL

KERRYON JOHNSON –  To be clear, Johnson looked great against the Patriots, and the arrow is pointing up on his season. He is positively a buy if your leaguemates are valuing him as an RB3 in the Jamaal Williams, Derrick Henry range. His production profile, with four targets per game, and hopefully fifty percent or more snaps going forward, is absolutely something to covet.

2018 Week 4 - Kerryon Johnson production profile

It’s a Mark Ingram type profile that I’ve been desperate for the Lions to employ for years.1 If you think about Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount as a kind of Voltron version of Alvin Kamara, it might help to stop worrying about how those guys are used on their snaps so long as Johnson is getting high-value touches on his.

That said, rookie-derangement syndrome is real, and for many Zero RB practitioners, Johnson has been viewed all summer as an elite target ready for takeoff. The countdown is still happening, so take advantage of owners who are already celebrating the launch. The Lions offensive line looked much improved, but against a Patriots defensive line that has been among the worst in the league. We are also dealing with an offensive coordinator whose playcalling and running back usage has long been suspect. If you could net a package like Mark Ingram plus Geronimo Allison for a rising rookie star, then it’s something to strongly consider depending on your team’s needs.

WIDE RECEIVER

BUY

DOUG BALDWIN – Of all the slow starters, Baldwin may be the player whose ongoing risk is most priced in. He wasn’t one hundred percent healthy before the season, he immediately got hurt, and so even though his return is nearing, there is zero doubt that he will continue to be a fantasy landmine. The negativity around the Seattle offense is so intense right now, it’s an opportunity to lean into the risk. In a sense, this is the same crappy offense that Baldwin and Russell Wilson have always, to everyone’s consternation, produced in. Brian Schottenheimer may be the worst offensive coordinator Baldwin has had to deal with–that is new–but we are also talking about an offense that has mostly been playing without most of its best weapons from a year ago. Baldwin’s return, even at 85 percent, will undoubtedly improve Seattle’s production, while the perception of the offense couldn’t be lower. Swapping a high floor player like Michael Crabtree or Jordan Reed could be worth the gamble if you need a shot at Baldwin’s upside.

GERONIMO ALLISON – I suggested Allison as a target above, so I wanted to address a few things going on with his opportunity. First of all, Allison had a big Week 1 driven largely by a long touchdown play. Since then his target share has gone down every week.

2018 Week 4 - Geronimo Allison target share

The Packers also have an unappealing short term schedule, according to the Weekly Explorer.2

2018 Week 4 - Packers WR SOS

And Aaron Rodgers’ MCL continues to loom over the entire offense. But as long as the Allison owner is aware of these negative trends, and is trying to maybe sell high on the Week 3 touchdown despite low targets, then it’s a buying opportunity, because Randall Cobb is already banged up again. Cobb is questionable after injuring his hamstring in practice Thursday. While this may open the door for one of the Packers rookies to emerge, it is also a chance for some very high upside for Allison, despite a number of negative trends.

SELL

ALBERT WILSONDeVante Parker has become a punchline after being a healthy scratch in Week 2. His 75 percent snap share in Week 3 is less amusing for Wilson owners. Wilson played 10 snaps on Sunday, but caught a TD and threw for another, on a 52-yard reverse toss to Jakeem Grant. Parker has popped up on the injury report again with a quad, so you may have a small window to sell Wilson to the resident truther (or Parker hater) in your league.

TIGHT END

BUY

JARED COOK – Cook has slowed down considerably since his Week 1 explosion, making him a possible buy target again. His target share is holding strong3 and, despite no scores on the year, Cook easily leads the Raiders with six red zone targets.

 2018 Week 4 - Oakland RZ targets

SELL

VANCE MCDONALD – After a slow start to the year, many fantasy analysts who noted the buzz around McDonald in Steelers camp this summer have been very eager to declare victory after basically a single big play against the Bucs. I don’t doubt that there are more big plays ahead for McDonald while he stays healthy, but Jesse James still outsnapped him by one snap. I suspect TE1 target volume will not be available for a Steelers TE, particularly if Pittsburgh maintains anything close to a balanced split.

  1. their early-down RB used as a threat in the passing game, combined with solid red zone usage on an upper tier offense  (back)
  2. ranked 30th over the next three weeks  (back)
  3. 18% in Week 3 after a dip to 12% in Week 2  (back)
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