Week 9 fantasy trade targets and ideas
As usual, we’ll kick off our buy/sell trade advice column with a look back at last week’s advice. We hit big on our top buy and sell candidates, advising to get in on Alshon Jeffery prior to the return of Jay Cutler and to sell on Cam Meredith as a result of his arrival. We also advised to buy on Randall Cobb and Steve Smith — you can probably get them even cheaper now and the same reasoning from last week still applies. Hopefully you rolled with our advice to sell Mark Ingram — no, I can’t predict the next lead back who will be benched like he was after one series. And finally, wrapping up with Christine Michael, his window continues to get closer to closing as Thomas Rawls nears a return.
After fielding a lot of questions on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL about trades ideas and proposals, I’ve decided to throw in this reminder that you can follow me and tweet me any questions you have about trades. I will answer them ASAP and don’t plan to miss responding to any questions. Let’s jump right into this week’s slate of players.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
I really hope we’re not just one week too late on this one — he just missed the cut in last week’s column. Henry is a rare athlete and really doesn’t project like any running back we’ve ever seen enter the NFL. Sure, the Brandon Jacobs comparison makes some sense, but Jacobs couldn’t catch passes like Henry can. And more importantly, Jacobs didn’t have the kind of lateral agility to make defenders miss that Henry possesses.
At nearly 240 pounds, Henry has the rare ability to force missed tackles and create yards after contact. This is what makes him stand out from the rest of the NFL. Luckily, at PFF, we have a statistic that breaks down a runner’s success independent of his blocking — our elusive rating factors in forced missed tackles plus yards after contact per attempt. Through the first eight weeks, Henry has the third-best elusive rating among active running backs with at least 25 percent of their team’s carries. Only Jay Ajayi and Jordan Howard have a better elusive rating. Henry has forced 18 missed tackles on just 62 total touches with 2.43 yards after contact per attempt. There are 27 backs with a higher Yco/Att, which goes to show you how elite Henry is in the open field when it comes to making defenders miss.
Henry may not be the starter yet, but DeMarco Murray has a lengthy injury history that dates back to his college days at Oklahoma. Murray is currently dealing with a toe injury that seemed to sap him of some explosion after he tried to play through it in Week 8. If Murray aggravates the injury, or even if the Titans decide to play it safe, Henry’s role will increase. All he needs is an opportunity and he will be 2016’s league-winning back down the stretch. You can’t find this kind of upside with players like Matt Jones, Darren Sproles, Terrance West and even some of the brand-name starters who don’t have the talent and situation around them.
Henry’s price tag is still very cheap and you won’t have to spend much to get him on your roster. These swing for the fences type players at the running back position are exactly what you should be targeting at this stage of the season.
Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions
Riddick is never going to be an every-down back at just 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, but he doesn’t have to be in this Lions offense. He is everything they envisioned when they spent an early draft pick on Ameer Abdullah minus a little bit of explosion. Unlike other NFL running backs, Riddick has a trump card and that’s what makes him an asset for the Lions and for your fantasy football team. Riddick stands out in his ability to run routes and get open — we saw this on his touchdown reception in Week 8 and this is not uncommon from him throughout his tenure in the NFL.
In 2015, Riddick finished with the highest YPPR of any RB to see 100 or more snaps in route. On 303 snaps in route, Riddick turned 94 targets into 697 yards for a 2.30 YPPR. In 2016, he once again finds himself near the top of this stat categories with the fourth-highest YPPR.
What makes me so bullish on Riddick now is that he has really taken his game to the next level as a runner and receiver independent of his blocking. Although he hasn’t create many yards after contact, Riddick has worked himself into the top-20 of our elusive rating category by forcing 19 missed tackles on 95 total touches.
With everyone back in the lineup, Riddick still finished with 19-of-23 total touches for Lions running backs in Week 8. It’s clear that they think he’s the answer at running back and he’s a major asset in the passing game. A little over five months ago, I wrote that with a little touchdown luck, Riddick can finish as a borderline RB1 in PPR. He was the RB18 in PPR scoring and he’s seeing a much higher share of touches than he did in 2015. The time to buy Riddick is now before he pops on to the radar as more than just a back-end RB2.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
What a time to be alive — fantasy football owners are starting to ask me on Twitter about different trade offers they’ve received for Beckham and whether or not they should pull the trigger. The answer is a resounding no. Beckham has a chance to tilt the rest of your fantasy season in your direction if you don’t make the mistake of selling him for used parts.
Beckham is currently just the WR12 overall in fantasy points. Meanwhile, eight of the 11 wide receivers who have outscored him this season have not had their bye week yet. The only thing really missing from his 2016 campaign and the only reason he’s yet that elite WR1 you drafted him to be is his touchdown total. After entering the season with 25 touchdowns in 27 career games, Beckham has just three in seven games. That’s a great thing when it comes to his value and projection going forward. His career arc tells us that he is due for regression in the touchdown department. It also helps to know that Eli Manning is due for the same regression — he has just eight touchdown passes after throwing for 65 in his past 32 games heading into 2016.
Beckham is still near the top of the NFL in total targets, with the 14th-most in the NFL. Again, eight of the 13 wide receivers with more targets than him have not had their bye week yet. His efficiency isn’t quite where we want it, but he’s still seeing enough action in the deep passing game — with the 13th-most total targets that traveled at least 20 yards in the air.
The Giants’ schedule is about to open up. After a tough game in Week 9 vs. a stingy Eagles defense, they draw the Bengals, Bears, Browns, Cowboys and Lions pass defenses in five of their next six games. Beckham is about to go on a tear and you want to get ahead of it.
Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants
The Jennings narrative heading into 2016 hinged on his impressive run to finish the 2015 season. Over the final four games of the 2015 season and the first game of 2016, Jennings lead all running backs in rushing yards and runs of 10-plus yards. That was a five-game sample size and projecting it going forward didn’t account for the drop off from the Giants’ offensive line in the run-blocking department. Center Weston Richburg has taken a step back after finishing as one of our elite centers in 2015 and replacement right tackle Bobby Hart has been one of the worst run-blocking tackles in the NFL. Also adding Larry Donnell to the lineup has been subtraction by addition in the run game. Jennings dominated once the Giants’ season was already out of hand in 2015, but he hasn’t quite been the same runner in 2016.
Jennings was one of the best running backs in the NFL when it came to creating yards after contact last season. Only Todd Gurley, Doug Martin and Mark Ingram averaged more yards after contact per attempt in 2015. In 2016, Jennings is averaging just 1.68 yards after contact — the 44th-most out of 45 running backs who have seen at least 25 percent of their team’s carries. Jennings has never been great at making defenders miss, and combined with his low Yco/Att, he comes at just 44th-best in elusive rating as well.
The most talented running back on the Giants’ roster is rookie Paul Perkins. He’s also the best fit behind a struggling offensive line because he’s the most elusive back on the roster. He can make defenders miss. Perkins finished with CFF’s top elusive rating in the class, forcing 85 missed tackles on just 265 total touches with a 3.58 Yco/Att. Perkins was contacted behind the line of scrimmage on over 25 percent of his runs, but he still managed a 3.5 yards after contact average on 61 of those runs.
Get out ahead of things and trade Jennings while he is still being labeled as the Giants’ starting running back.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Jones was a fantastic story to start the season back when he was off the radar, but he’s no longer the WR1 we once thought he might be. If you just look at his raw fantasy point totals and point to a recent touchdown he scored, you can certainly sell fantasy’s ninth-highest-scoring WR as a bonafide WR1 to your leaguemates. But let’s face it — no wide receiver can sustain WR1 status while receiving single-digit targets on a weekly basis.
Jones has eclipsed the double-digit mark in targets in just two games this season and he hasn’t done it since Week 2. The Lions’ offense has changed around Jones due to the emergence of Eric Ebron and the continued success of Riddick. Even when those two were sidelined by injuries, Jones didn’t see his target share go up — those targets instead went to Tate.
Jones was a fun fantasy story in the first three weeks when he was riding high as the go-to guy in the Lions’ offense, but it was a mirage. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter built this offense to get rid of the football fast and spread it around. That’s exactly what Stafford has done for the most part. Jones is the trade piece that you can use to land you a mega-deal before the deadline.
Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Gore made this column on the opposite side in the buy section way back in the first few weeks. The idea was to target him then for his easy weeks — including early-season games against the Chargers, Jaguars and Bears. Gore predictably scored in two of those three games. Gore’s fantasy success this season has been carried by volume and touchdowns. He is currently the ninth-highest-scoring fantasy RB, and although you might not be able to sell him as that, you can certainly turn a nice profit by trading him. There are some major warning signs about Gore going forward.
Gore’s efficiency has been a lot more leveled out than you might expect over the past few seasons. He has been a lot more efficient independent of his blockers than given credit for — until now at least. Gore’s elusive rating is at a career low in 2016. He has forced just 11 missed tackles on 148 total touches. Our buy candidate, Derrick Henry, has forced 18 on just 62 total touches.
Most importantly, we can expect Gore’s touchdown total to regress in the second half. He trades the defenses listed above for a slate of games that includes the Packers, Titans, Steelers, Jets, Texans and Vikings over the next six games. All but the Steelers and Texans rank in our top-12 in run defense this season. It’s time to shop Gore to the highest bidder who is looking for some consistency at running back.