Week 3 fantasy trade ideas: Who to target? And who to deal away?
Last week we kicked off this trade column by looking into five players. We advised buying now on Corey Coleman and Isaiah Crowell — good job if you found a way to get those deals done, although the Josh McCown news certainly puts a damper in their outlook now. We also told you to grab Frank Gore before he started scoring touchdowns.
On the flip side, we hope you sold high on Carlos Hyde but didn’t find a taker for Melvin Gordon — who could have seen the Danny Woodhead injury coming? This week, we’ll feature a brand new group of players to consider. Let’s jump right in.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Hilton was a trendy breakout pick this offseason after nearly accruing WR1 numbers with Matt Hasselbeck in 2015. That buzz has now simmered and it’s a perfect time for you to pounce on him for multiple reasons. The first and most important reason is that Hilton has knocked out two of his toughest individual matchups of the 2016 season. In Week 1, he did battle with Lions lockdown cornerback Darius Slay for most of the afternoon. In Week 2, he saw a deadly Denver combination of Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.
Despite matching up against these titans of the position, Hilton has still tallied 120 yards on 10 receptions. Those are some impressive numbers considering the trio of cornerbacks he has faced. The Colts’ defense has forced the offense to play with a faster pace and open up the passing game.
Hilton has seen the sixth-most targets at WR (20) and he could become a target hog going forward if things break a certain way. Donte Moncrief — who was expected to compete with him to lead the Colts in targets — injured his shoulder in Week 2. His status is uncertain, but beat reporters have speculated that he will miss multiple games. Although the Colts have talented second-year receiver Phillip Dorsett behind Hilton, he doesn’t appear to have the same kind of rapport with Luck that Hilton has developed. Through two games, Hilton has been on the field for just 18 more snaps than Dorsett but has seen 11 more targets.
The Colts have the Chargers, Jaguars, Bears and Titans in four of their next five games — these are all pass defenses that we could be talking about in the bottom five at the end of the 2016 season. Although the Chargers have emerging shutdown cornerback Jason Verrett, Mike Clay explained why Hilton is likely to mostly avoid him this week.
Jason Verrett rarely covers the slot, so TY Hilton should avoid him at least ~60% of the time in Week 3.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 21, 2016
Now is the time to buy Hilton.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Fantasy football league winners are the ones who take chances on potential home-run players. Sure, we don’t know how long Adrian Peterson’s torn meniscus will keep him out. And sure, we don’t know what kind of role Matt Asiata will have in 2016. But we do know that the most explosive player left on the offense not named Stefon Diggs is staring at another opportunity similar to the one he faced in 2014 — only this time he’s not just a few months removed from playing football at Georgia Southern University.
Even as a raw rookie player forced into action, McKinnon flashed a unique ability to be a difference-maker. He forced 14 missed tackles in 113 carries and an additional nine on 27 receptions with a 2.62 yards after contact per attempt average during the 2014 season after Peterson was suspended. He was one of the most elusive backs in the NFL that season. He has only gotten better since — he averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2015 and broke off three runs of 15-plus yards on just 52 total carries.
McKinnon was already seeing work on passing downs before Peterson’s injury, and if he can replicate his 2014 success, he will add a new element to Norv Turner’s offense. Last season, he finished with 24 targets on just 77 snaps in route, and he turned them into 21 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown. Turner likes to get him involved in the passing game when he’s on the field.
I understand you might be worried about Asiata grinding out games and stealing some red-zone looks, and those are valid concerns, but McKinnon is going to score from longer distances. And if he truly does reach his ceiling given his new opportunity, the Vikings won’t take him off the field.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Last week we advised targeting Coleman based on the arrival of Josh McCown. Now that McCown is already injured — and it’s believed to be serious — it’s time to ring the alarm on the Browns’ offense going forward. Cody Kessler will be the starter for the foreseeable future unless the franchise turns to recently signed Charlie Whitehurst — that would be an even greater disaster. Head coach Hue Jackson may have handpicked Kessler, but that doesn’t mean he chose him to play for his team in 2016. Kessler is a raw prospect. He finished as one of the most accurate passers per CFF analysts but also one of the least successful deep passers.
The CFF team gave him a fourth-round grade and believe his arm strength will limit him at the next level. This is really bad news for a quarterback whose home games are in Cleveland. It’s even worse news for a wide receiver like Gordon who thrives on the deep passing game. Corey Coleman’s ability to create separation in the short to intermediate game seems like a much better fit for Kessler’s skill set.
Gordon is one of the rare assets whose stock might be higher since he hasn’t played. There’s still a lot of upside baked into his name alone and potential trade partners could feel like they’re getting a bargain since they got to skip two weeks of the suspension. Gordon’s 2013 season was a long time ago. A perfect storm of game script and lacking secondary options in the passing game that were present in 2013 are no longer the case now.
Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears
There’s still time to sell on Langford before this ship sinks — and believe that it’s going down. We’ve tried to warn you about Langford here at PFF Fantasy for a while. It all started with Mike Clay’s dismantling of every possible aspect of Langford’s 2015 season in his piece from seven months ago. It’s not too late to get out while another owner in your league still sees him as a three-down back with the red-zone opportunities entirely to himself. But it might be too late after Week 3.
It’s a new season now, and the Bears upgraded their offensive line with talented interior options like Josh Sitton and Cody Whitehair. Despite matching up against the Texans’ elite front and a much-improved Eagles front seven, the Bears have graded out as our fifth-best run-blocking team. So why does Langford have just 85 yards rushing on 28 carries (3.0 yards per carry)?
If you answered it’s because he can’t make anyone miss, can’t create yards after contact, can’t take advantage of open holes, and basically only gets what is blocked for him — you would be 100 percent correct. Okay, that’s not fair — let’s say that’s 90 percent of the reason he owns the fifth-lowest yards per carry among current lead backs (50 percent of carries) in the NFL.
I needed to start a new paragraph just to hammer out how inefficient Langford has been independent of his blockers. He is dead last in our elusive rating statistic among 42 running backs who have seen 25 percent of their team’s attempts. On 31 total touches, he hasn’t forced a single missed tackle. Zero. Zilch. He has also averaged just 1.79 yards after contact — fourth-worst in the NFL.
Langford didn’t see another touch in Week 2 after losing a fumble in the second half. Jordan Howard replaced him and looked spry. Howard excelled behind Indiana’s zone-blocking scheme in 2015 and the Bears ran inside zone on 47 percent of their run plays in 2015. It’s a matter of when and not if for when this backfield flips to Howard.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Doug Pederson the head coach is already proving himself to be much different than Doug Pederson the offensive coordinator. The Eagles are playing at a faster pace than anticipated (though still slower than under Chip Kelly), they are using Jordan Matthews in unique ways, and they are not leaning on one running back like we saw throughout Pederson’s tenure with the Chiefs.
Pederson’s running back usage has been unpredictable throughout the first two weeks and he seems to be one of the few head coaches willing to mix in four different backs. That’s never a good sign if you own the supposed lead back. Through the first two weeks, Mathews has just the 34th-most running back snaps. He doesn’t even have the most snaps on his team — Darren Sproles does.
The Eagles have barely trailed the first two weeks, yet Sproles has seen 16 more snaps. That statistic is even more troubling when you consider the Eagles have matched up against the Browns and Bears — two teams extremely likely to finish at the way bottom of our overall defensive rankings at the end of the season.
Mathews is the only Eagles RB with a positive PFF grade, but Pederson doesn’t seem to care. It’s situational football for him and Mathews is not even the leader of his four-man committee. Take advantage of the owner in your league who is staring at Mathews’ touchdown and fantasy points totals — you might be surprised at what you might get in return.