There’s been a nearly overwhelming amount of developing injury news throughout this week. My general advice for the teams with questionable quarterbacking is downgrade everyone on those teams that isn’t a clear cut No. 1 option. But in the midst of so much uncertainty, let’s focus on buying the under-reaction and selling the over-reaction through two weeks.
With so many teams scrambling to replace starting QBs this week, teams with multiple QBs have plenty of trading opportunities. The basic rules apply–if you can trade a QB in a 1-QB league for anything good, do it. The most shocking QB stat of the young season, though, is that Kyler Murray is just 16th among QBs in rushing yards. That’s not going to last forever.
Buy Kyler Murray
Arizona has 16 plays inside the 10 yard line this year, and Murray has passed or kept it himself on 13 of them. These haven’t been very successful so far, and Kliff Kingsbury’s insanely conservative decision-making to kick field goals on fourth and short near the goal line is scary, but this usage profile for a QB is incredible. I have no doubt that Kingsbury will try to get David Johnson more involved, but this enormous willingness out of the gate to put the fate of the offense in Murray’s hands near the end zone is great. There will be TDs. There will be rushing TDs. Buy Murray.
Buy Damien Williams
Williams is out this week with a knee injury, so he’s an interesting trade target if the Williams manager in your league is hitting the panic button, or is desperate for a Week 3 starter. Obviously there is a huge risk that LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson permanently take work away from Williams (or even Darrel Williams, or an outside addition to the roster). But that risk is why Williams may be available. If I have a hot starter at TE or WR, or a player like Kyler Murray sitting on my bench, I’m checking in to see if the Williams manager is thinking of pulling the plug. A lot of naysayers are trying to take victory laps on Williams start to the season, but there is a solid chance that he returns to the field soon and picks up where he left off. All you really need to know is that Williams usage was pacing a 176-carry, 72-reception season, on the team likely to lead the NFL in touchdowns. That is extremely safe, low-end RB1 territory, and the upside continues to be massive.
Sell Ty Johnson
If you have been waiting patiently for Johnson to get more opportunities in Detroit, the CJ Anderson cut is Christmas come early. Still, the Lions added Paul Perkins, and have been happily keeping four RBs active on game day.1 I loved Johnson as a free waiver pickup in many leagues this week, but if you can capitalize on the excitement to upgrade your starting roster somewhere, Johnson’s situation makes him a great trade chip to facilitate a larger deal. These throw-in chips are crucial in redraft leagues where you don’t have draft picks to smooth out deals.
I’m running away and not looking back at basically all the teams with replacement QBs right now. A lot of people are excited about D.J. Chark and Diontae Johnson, but I’m very skeptical that the Steelers will support receivers beyond JuJu Smith-Schuster, or that Jacksonville will continue to eat teams up with deep passes. One exception is Carolina.
HOLD D.J. Moore
Obviously if Cam Newton misses a lot of time with his foot injury (or even returns and is limited like we saw last week), that is a net negative for all Panthers players. I’m not panicking on Moore, however, because his receiving profile looks more sustainable than players like Chark and Terry McLaurin who have dominated deep. Using the rePCTDEEP variable in the RotoViz Screener, we can see that even though Moore is third among WRs in targets with 24, only eight percent of his targets have qualified as deep targets (compared to 44 percent for McLaurin and 33 percent for Chark). The Stat Explorer also helps us see that his target distribution is a heavy diet of short passes.
Whether it’s Kyle Allen or Will Grier stepping in to replace Cam, I’m much more confident in the backups being able to hit Moore close to the line of scrimmage for YAC opportunities, than teams letting unproven QBs drop 40-yard bombs with any regularity.
BUY Keenan Allen
In Allen’s best season, 2017, he was third among WRs with 1,393 yards. But he finished just 22nd in team share of air yards, with 31 percent. This year 33 percent of Allen’s targets have qualified as deep targets, according to the RotoViz Screener, and he leads the league with a massive 329 air yards, good for a 55 percent share of team air yards. For reference, finishing the season in the mid 40s will put you among the top league leaders every year. If I’m targeting an elite WR right now, it’s Allen, who has been great, but not spectacular, and will likely be more attainable than Odell Beckham Jr. or Julio Jones, but has overall WR1 potential if the Chargers continue to let him run deep.
The panic is already setting in on the early elite tight ends. Zach Ertz and George Kittle have zero TDs, while Jason Witten has two in two games. Even though we know TDs are unpredictable, the noisiness of the TD signal is hard for people to ignore early in the year when the have-nots seem to have fallen so far behind. This might be the only window of the season to trade for a scarce position that people paid second-round value for, so test the market even if you feel comfortable with your starter at TE.
BUY Zach Ertz
Ertz may be a tough acquisition, because the injuries to DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery are plainly going to cede him even more short-term opportunity. Test the market anyway, because Ertz has been one of the least efficient performers in the league, which can be even more frustrating for managers than not getting opportunity. We’re always fading small sample inefficiency and buying opportunity, and the disparity is massive for Ertz, who is 1st in targets and 76th in fantasy points over expectation per game. Be a little careful interpreting these charts from the Stat Explorer, because a 10th place ranking among TEs looks impressive on this bar chart, but generally speaking when we see a wall of red, but with terrible RACR and FPOE/GM,2 that’s our signal to buy.
Ertz has already garnered 27 percent of Eagles targets, which is elite WR1 territory (and currently ties him with early-season magnets Larry Fitzgerald, Davante Adams, and Kenny Golladay). It’s borderline impossible to attain WR1 opportunity from the TE spot, and he’s about to be an even bigger focus of the offense. If you can offer a Josh Jacobs or Mark Ingram, or something like Darren Waller plus Chark, other teams may have to listen.
BUY George Kittle
Unlike Ertz, the problem in San Francisco has been overall volume. Kittle has caught 11 of 13 targets, so if anything, his efficiency could regress. The important stat for Kittle is that he leads all TEs with a 31 percent share of team air yards. Of course we can be concerned with the 49ers not throwing downfield enough, but after 14- and 24-point victories so far, we can reasonably expect more favorable passing gamescripts for Kittle. The fact that the 49ers have already dropped 72 points in two weeks is great news for a team that averaged just over 21 points per game last season. I’ve already seen a number of questions this week from managers asking “I also have Darren Waller/Delanie Walker/Greg Olsen, should I trade Kittle for X?” If you can get full second-round value for Kittle, then of course you can move him for roster management reasons, but this is buy window, not a time to sell low.