Fantasy Focus: Hot & Not
Ok, look. Everybody knows who should be on the “Hot” list every week. Let’s concede that Devonta Freeman has regularly been the “hottest” asset in fantasy. But this column has already featured him and is trying to take a look at other players who have helped their owners this week. In addition, there were also at least a handful of players who sorely disappointed their owners this week with some un-Freeman-like performances. As usual, we shine a light on a few cases of both with this week’s “Hot and Not.”
Fantasy Focus: Week 6 Injuries
The running back position may be the most frustrating position to fill for a fantasy owner. Injuries, trades, and changes to the backfield all affect the outcome of a game. This week the injury report will cover the injuries of both starting RBs and breakout backups that have changed the fantasy landscape for the RB position.
Fantasy Focus: Hot & Not
It has been a season full of ups and downs thus far in the NFL, as the football gods have been fickle with performances. This week's hot list features a few unlikely names and a few players with breakout performances. Meanwhile, the "not" list includes a few players who went quite early in drafts and probably disappointed their owners this week. Time to take a look at who over-performed and who underperformed with this week's Hot and Not list.
Should I make this trade? It’s the fundamental question that has been frustrating fantasy owners since the dawn of time and due to the complex variables (league size, scoring, and roster construction) that accompany each trade proposal, it’s an impossible question to answer at times. You’ve seen it on Twitter, the accounts of prominent industry analysts are flooded with 140-character “is this a fair trade” questions, which you would be lucky to get a response at all, much less a well-thought out one which takes into account all of the complexities of your league and situation.
Thanks to Advanced Sports Logic’s revolutionary “Trade Judge” those days of uncertainty and relying on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game show style “ask the audience” feature on Twitter are over. Trade Judge is an invaluable feature for fantasy owners, and it’s something that I’ve used personally on a number of occasions to evaluate potential deals this season. Basically, Trade Judge enables you to plug in the potential deal and it then goes to work, using an algorithm to compare the players projected future performance, according to the projections at three sites (Pro Football Focus, FantasySharks and Fantasy Football Metrics), to determine whether or not the trade will benefit your team. It takes the guesswork out of trading, which is important because not every transaction is easy to evaluate. How do you determine the value of an injured player like Dez Bryant or just how much a surprise stud like Devonta Freeman or Dion Lewis is worth compared to established veterans like Le’Veon Bell or Matt Forte? This is where Advanced Sports Logic’s “Trade Judge” is worth it’s weight in gold.
It’s fair to disagree with the projections or the verdict handed down by Trade Judge, but what it offers is a starting point to evaluate a complex trade and whether or not it’s in the best interest of your team. I’ve talked a lot about the evaluation process once a deal has been proposed, but let’s take a step back and focus on a key element of trade strategy that fantasy owners should keep in mind as they dip their feet into the trade market over the next few days and weeks.
“Buying low” and “selling high” are outdated mantras that just don’t work anymore for the average fantasy league. Let’s face the reality here for a second. Due to the widespread availability of information and strategy articles, there isn’t a player slipping through the cracks that nobody knows about and the rest of your league isn’t clueless. A decade ago, it was fair to assume that you could gain an edge over the rest of your league by knowing more about the available player pool, but those days are over now that even the guy who doesn’t pay attention can whip out his smartphone, enter a player into Google (or Bing), and learn everything they need to know within thirty seconds. Trading is the one are where you can gain a significant edge if you know what you’re doing and the best way to do that is to think outside of the box.
One of the first things you notice about the Trade Judge feature is that it doesn’t care what a player has done so far. It does to some degree, because it’s factored into the projections, but overall it only puts weight on what a player can be reasonably projected to produce going forward. If you want to win, you need to put aside the sentimental attachment you may have to someone like Steve Smith, who helped you to a win with a monster game a few weeks ago, and be willing to move anyone at anytime if the price is right. Another key strategic element to be aware of at this juncture of the season is to not sit around if you’re team is metaphorically on fire (in a bad way, just to clarify).
The blanket statement that accompanies any early season trade strategy column is to “not panic” if your studs are off to slow starts and not to “overreact” to small sample sizes. All fair and logical points, but if you’ve ever heard of the phrase “sunk cost” you’re aware that sometimes the best strategy is to simply admit that a player isn’t going to live up to the level of performance you expected when you drafted them and that its time to move on as quickly as possible, instead of holding out hope that they will turn it around.
A few prominent examples of potential sunk costs in terms of where their value was just a month ago compared to today would be: Andrew Luck, Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Lamar Miller, C.J. Anderson, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams, just to name a few. To be clear, I’m not saying that these players have no value or that there is zero prospect of them rebounding over the remainder of the season, but it’s likely that if you made a significant investment to acquire them on draft day, it hasn’t worked out so far and it’s time to explore trading them for an asset that can help your team going forward, if possible.
Where you can really get into trouble and risk falling out of contention is if you do nothing. Using the Trade Judge feature, I ran a few potential deals through using someone like Murray (a popular fantasy focus for owners) to find an example of a deal in which you could sell him for an assortment of players that might improve your roster overall. The one I came up with that I liked the most was Murray for Danny Woodhead, Stevie Johnson and James Jones. Trade Judge determined that the owner receiving Murray would benefit more according to the projections at FantasySharks and Pro Football Focus, but Fantasy Football Metrics liked the deal in favor of the team receiving quantity over quality.
As painful as it may be to sell Murray for so little a month after burning a first or second round pick on him, it’s reasonable to expect that he will improve over the remainder of the season (which should help you sell him) and while you may not be able to get a stud in return, you will be able to add some depth and potentially improve at several spots if you get lucky. At the end of the day, it’s your roster, but I know for me personally, if I feel like my roster isn’t good enough to win a title right now, I’m willing to make a risky deal because you have almost nothing to lose.
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Fantasy Focus: Week 5 Injuries
The Buffalo Bills were dealt another blow at the running back position when Karlos Williams was diagnosed with a concussion following Sunday’s game against the New York Giants. Though he is listed as questionable, it is unlikely that Williams will play against the Tennessee Titans for their Week 5 matchup. Williams currently leads the Bills in rushing with 226 yards and 3 TDs on 42 attempts.
New information regarding LeSean McCoy’s hamstring injury surfaced over the weekend. Now expected to miss anywhere between 3-4 weeks, McCoy will continue to be sidelined due to a new tear in his hamstring. McCoy has had an underwhelming start (146 yards and 0 TDs over three games), when he comes back from the injury, he might take a backseat to Williams for the starting position.
With two of Buffalo’s starting RBs sidelined, expect Boobie Dixon and Cierre Wood to take over. Even though Dixon and Wood will earn playing time, there are other RB candidates to play for Week 5 fantasy games. See some other fantasy uodates below.
Lance Dunbar was added to the list of injured Cowboys this past Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Dunbar is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL. Dunbar played a central role to the Cowboy offense as a receiving back and is ranked second in overall targets and receptions on the team. Darren McFadden will likely take over the role as receiving back, boosting his fantasy value. However, Joseph Randle will continue to have the bulk of the early down workload.
Eric Ebron left during Monday’s game against the Seahawks with a knee injury. Though the specifics of the injury have yet to be released, his status for Week 5 is questionable. Ebron is third in receiving for the Lions with 15 catches for 179 yards and 2 TDs. A favorite red-zone target for the struggling Matthew Stafford, Ebron will hopefully be available for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Check for updates during the week to see if there are any changes in Ebron’s injury classification.
Brandon Pettigrew has been out since Week 1 with a hamstring injury. However, he is expected to play against the Cardinals during Week 5. If Ebron is out for this game, Pettigrew’s fantasy value will go up. However, I would opt for other fantasy TE options. Last season Pettigrew only caught 10 passes for 70 yards.
Joique Bell was once a solid RB option who often appeared in the fantasy news. This season he is owned in only about half of all fantasy leagues. Competing with rookie Ameer Abdullah, along with countless nagging injuries, Bell has demoted to an RB2 designation on the Detroit roster. Bell is still listed as out with a continued ankle injury. I would advise fantasy owners to drop Bell, there are better RB2 and FLEX options to pick up.
The Colts are in a QB dilemma. Matt Hasselbeck and Andrew Luck are both listed as questionable for Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans. Hasselbeck missed Tuesday’s practice due to illness, resulting in Luck taking snaps during practice. However, is Luck’s shoulder ready for action? Though Luck believes that he is ready to start, Head Coach Chuck Pagano stated that Luck will likely be a game day decision. ASL's sporting news will have the latest on Luck, so stay tuned.
Jordan Reed suffered his fifth concussion in Sunday’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Listed as questionable, Reed continues the pattern of having really good games followed up by injuries. Reed currently leads the Redskins in receiving with 24 catches for 278 yards and 1 TD. If Reed does not play, expect Derek Carrier to start at TE.
The Redskins might have another blow to their offense, as Pierre Garcon is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Garcon is second leading receiver on the team with 24 receptions for 216 yards and 2 TDs. With DeSean Jackson slowly recovering from his hamstring injury, Garcon continues to hold value as a WR2 and FLEX player in fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Focus: Week 5 Busts
QB Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Lions – “The Machine” projection: 21.8
After starting 3-0, the Arizona Cardinals fell at home to the St. Louis Rams, 24-22. Despite the loss, Cardinals’ quarterback, Carson Palmer, managed to throw for more than 350 yards. The Cardinals travel to Detroit to play a Lions team that was stripped of a win in week four. What should worry you about the matchup is Detroit’s ability to get to the quarterback. Led by Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions have sacked the quarterback a total of ten times in 2015. This including six sacks against the Seahawks. Palmer should be fine if the Cardinals are able to establish their run game, otherwise watch out.
QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks at Bengals – “The Machine” projection: 21.2
The Seattle Seahawks haven’t been the same team this year. They started 0-2 and should have lost in week four at home against a 0-3 Lions team. A big problem for the Seahawks has been the inconsistent play of the offensive line. The Lions were able to sack Russell Wilson a total of six times. This doesn’t count the number of plays Wilson escaped the pocket and made a nice play downfield. This coming Sunday, Wilson and the Seahawks will travel to Cincinnati to take on the 4-0, Bengals, who have already accumulated 11.0 sacks this season. Unless the Seahawks’ offensive line shapes up, it could be another marathon for Russell Wilson.
RB Devonta Freeman, Redskins at Falcons – “The Machine” projection: 14.1
Falcons’ running back, Devonta Freeman, is without a doubt the hottest running back in fantasy news in the league. In the last two weeks, collectively, Freeman rushed for 209 yards and scored six touchdowns. He also hauled in more than 50 yards receiving in both contests. Week five will be a tad more difficult for Freeman. He’ll face a Redskins’ defense that’s allowed just one touchdown on the ground and ranks 2nd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game at 78.0. What makes Freeman unique, however, is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. If you’re expecting him to score in week five, look for it through the air as the Falcons may not be able to establish a solid run game.
RB Latavius Murray, Broncos at Raiders –“The Machine” projection: 15.2
After appearing in fantasy updates and showing much promise last season, Raiders’ running back, Latavius Murray, has rushed for more than 100 yards in just one of the first four games this season. Week five won’t be any easier, as the 4-0, Denver Broncos, make their way to the Coliseum. Through the first four weeks, the Broncos have emerged as one of the league’s top defenses, allowing just 17.3 points per game. Also, the Broncos are giving up just 90.3 rushing yards per game. The Raiders must keep the game close in order to keep Murray and the rushing attack relevant. If not, don’t expect Murray to be a big factor.
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Fantasy Focus: Week 4 Hot & Not
Week 4 saw an abundance of “middle of the road” performances. Stars tended to put up acceptable, if not great performances, and relatively few players put up phenomenal point totals. Still, let’s take a look at some of the hottest fantasy players of the week and some of the players who were really not this week.
Fantasy Focus: Week 4 Injuries
Week 3 was another crushing week for quarterback injuries. With Drew Brees sidelined and Ben Roethlisberger downed, fantasy owners are searching for Week 4 QB solutions. However, Week 4 also serves for the questionable return for elite running backs Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, and Arian Foster. The Week 4 Injury Roundup will give suggestions for temporary replacements for players who are listed as “out” or “questionable” for their upcoming match ups.