Week 4 fantasy trade targets and ideas: Who is set to break out?
As always, we’ll kick the weekly trade-ideas column off by looking at last week’s advice. After a strong opening slate of advice, we kept the momentum going last week. Our main trade target to buy low on was T.Y. Hilton, who proceeded to break out. The numbers were there. Hilton had more than double the targets of Phillip Dorsett — the WR people worried about cutting into his timeshare. We also advised to trade for Jerick McKinnon, and although he doubled Matt Asiata in touches, there’s still time to trade for him before the breakout.
On the flip side, we advised to dump Josh Gordon off — this one is up for debate, but Terrelle Pryor’s breakout certainly helps our case. We also advised getting rid of any Jeremy Langford shares. We can’t predict injuries here and we don’t wish them on anyone, but even before Langford’s injury, he was splitting possessions with Jordan Howard. We wrapped up by advising to sell on Ryan Mathews — who showed all signs of being headed straight for an ugly four-man committee. That one didn’t take long to come to fruition.
Let’s see if we can duplicate our success from the first two weeks:
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
This obviously wasn’t the start Beckham owners were looking for. Entering 2016, Beckham had 25 touchdowns in 27 career games, yet this season he hasn’t scored once in three games. And while I have seen some reports claiming this, Beckham is not seeing less volume this season. He has the sixth-most targets of all wide receivers after finishing 2015 with the seventh-most targets.
The difference so far has been the Giants’ unwillingness to take deep shots down the field. Beckham finished with 32 deep targets (balls thrown 20-plus yards in the air), the sixth-most in the NFL in 2015. He has just the four this season — the 27th-most. The Giants’ offense has been methodical so far throughout the 2016 season and it’s by design. Defenses are playing two high safeties on almost every snap and daring the Giants to run the football or pass underneath.
Rather than target his playmakers in contested catch situations, Eli Manning is simply taking what’s there for him underneath. This simply won’t last all season. The Giants have been running the football much better in 2016, Victor Cruz looks close to what he was in 2011, and Sterling Shepard is the real deal. The offense will open up and the wide receivers will start getting more deep targets.
It’s up to Beckham to make the most of them. He’s already dropped one wide-open deep touchdown pass and another short touchdown in the red zone — both in the Giants’ Week 2 game against the Saints. Beckham doesn’t have a lot of career drops and missed opportunities on his resume, but he does have a lot of big plays. The Giants still have a very easy schedule going forward after Minnesota in Week 4 — they haven’t played the Browns, Bears or Lions yet and they get the Cowboys’ pass defense again. They also draw the Packers and Rams — Manning has been historically successful against Dom Capers’ Packers defense and Beckham torched the Rams in their last meeting.
Buy now if you can get a discounted price thanks to his slow start and his sideline outburst in Week 3.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
Miller was one of our top running backs heading into the season, but only one part of the Miller prophecy has come true so far — volume. Miller leads the NFL in total touches with 84. This was to be expected after considering the contract the Texans handed him, their past usage of Arian Foster, and Miller’s every-down skill set.
This is great news considering Miller averaged just 12.1 carries per game in 2015. The Texans believed in him to be a high-volume back and now fantasy owners can trust that he can handle the workload. It turns out Miller’s lack of usage over the course of his career with the Dolphins could be one factor that’s helping him deal with his new workload. What hasn’t been there is the efficiency.
Over the past two seasons, Miller has been one of the NFL’s elite running backs on a per-touch basis. In 2015, Miller averaged 4.5 yards per carry just one season after averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Over that two-year span, no running back with at least 400 attempts has averaged more yards per carry. And he did it behind a Miami Dolphins offensive line that consistently graded at or near the bottom of our rankings.
The big plays are going to come. Miller finished with 11 rushing attempts of 15-plus yards in 2015 despite seeing just 194 carries. He has 74 carries this season but only one rush of 15-plus yards. The Texans’ offensive line is getting healthier — borderline All-Pro Duane Brown will return in one or two more games. The schedule also gets a lot easier. With the Chiefs and Patriots out of the way, Miller gets the six games against the soft run defenses that make up the AFC South in addition to games vs. the Lions, Chiefs, and Raiders. There are only two games you have to worry about — the Broncos and Vikings — but Miller proved his floor is high after scoring 12.7 fantasy points (half-point PPR) as his entire offense collapsed around him against the Patriots.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Lacy is on the cusp of breaking out. The bruising back is forcing missed tackles and creating yards after contact again. Throwing it back to his 2014 days, Lacy has returned to the top five in our elusive rating. He has been our fourth-most elusive RB so far with 11 forced missed tackles on just 45 total touches and a ridiculous average of 3.10 yards per carry after contact. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us. In 2014, the last time he was in “football shape,” Lacy finished as the RB6 overall in standard scoring leagues and he ranked as our second-most elusive running back.
The issue for him this season has been volume. Prior to Week 3, Lacy had just 27 touches through the first two weeks of the 2016 season. The Packers made a concerted effort to get him the ball more often in Week 3 and it paid dividends for the entire offense. Lacy turned 18 total Week 3 touches into 105 total yards. He didn’t score, but that’s coming.
You have the opportunity to buy low on the Packers’ offense by trading for Lacy. And in return, you also get a running back who is producing at an elite level independent of his blocking. People love to make trades with players on an early bye week — and Lacy is on bye Week 4. After the matchup against the Giants in Week 5, Lacy goes on a five-game run that includes the Cowboys, Bears, Falcons, Colts and Titans’ defenses. You’ll want to be there for that.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
If you haven’t checked in on Ryan’s numbers through three weeks, now’s the time. He’s the only quarterback to finish as a QB1 all three weeks. I bet there are still some 1-QB leagues that just recently scooped him off the waiver wire prior to Week 3. If you’re in one of those leagues, and you scooped Ryan, sell now.
Ryan is averaging a ridiculously unsustainable 10.0 yards per pass attempt, he has completed 72.6 percent of his passes, and he has five touchdowns through three games. In his first season with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2015, Ryan finished with 7.5 yards per attempt and a 66.3 completion percentage. He also threw for just 21 touchdowns in 16 games. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to buy into the possibility that adding Mohamed Sanu to the mix completely revolutionized the Falcons’ passing game.
Rather, it seems more likely that the Falcons’ passing game is on the verge of coming back down to earth. It’s nice to play bottom-of-the-barrel passes defense like the Buccaneers, Raiders and Saints, but now Ryan gets to match up with a hungry Panthers defense followed by road matchups against the Broncos and Seahawks. His fantasy playoffs schedule includes the Panthers and Rams’ defenses. Sell now.
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
As a Forte bandwagoner in the preseason, while everyone was pumping up Bilal Powell, I think it’s time to officially test the trade market. Forte’s ridiculous workload from the first two weeks of the season included 59 total touches and three touchdowns. It also included just a 3.77 yards-per-carry average on 55 rushing attempts. In Week 3, when the Jets fell behind early and by a large margin, Forte touched the ball just 17 times. Powell — who had seen so few touches through the first two weeks that he might as well have been inactive — saw 10 total touches.
Forte has been a declining asset in all the advanced statistical measures for two seasons now. His elusive rating and breakaway percentage tumbled in his final two seasons with the Bears. It’s part of the reason why Chicago moved on from him. This doesn’t kill his fantasy value — Forte is still a savvy route-runner and he’s able to take what’s blocked for him in the running game. But it does cap his upside. Forte’s big fantasy game in Week 2 was actually just 109 total yards on 32 total touches disguised by the three touchdowns that came with it.
The Jets have a brutal schedule ahead and could find themselves in similar game-flow situations as they were in Week 3. The Seahawks, Steelers, Cardinals and the revamped Ravens defense are next up on the schedule. I’m not saying Forte is going to end up in a timeshare, but there’s a higher chance he loses work based on his upcoming opponents. You can find someone in your league who views him as a truly elite workhorse RB1. Get value from him.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Coleman has scored the sixth-most fantasy points of any non-QB (half-point PPR) and he’s the RB4 overall. He leads all running backs with four touchdowns. He also has just 110 yards rushing on 30 carries for 3.4 yards per carry. By contrast, teammate Devonta Freeman has scored just once, but he has totaled 265 rushing yards on 42 carries for 6.3 yards per carry. Coleman has a few more catches for a few more yards, but anyone who has watched the Falcons this year knowns that he had to work a lot less hard for them. He racked up an unguarded 47-yard gain in Week 3 that even the ghost of Joique Bell could’ve gained yards on.
Freeman has also outplayed Coleman by our advanced metrics. Coleman has forced just three missed tackles on 41 total touches this season, while Freeman has forced seven on 51. Freeman has also averaged 2.74 yards after contact per attempt compared to just 2.42 for Coleman.
When it comes to each player’s breakaway percentage, they’re on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Freeman leads the NFL in rushing attempts that went for 15 yards or more. He has racked up 139 yards rushing on five of these carries. Coleman has yet to take a single carry for 15 yards or more, on 31 attempts.
Coleman might be getting the red-zone work now and an equal share of everything else, but something has to give. Freeman is the Falcons’ best running back and both the traditional and advanced stats show that this isn’t even a debate. Freeman was also one of the most efficient red-zone backs in the NFL in 2015. Don’t wait for Coleman to falter. If you own him, sell high — and sell now.