Week 11 buy-low/sell-high options in the fantasy stock market
It’s hard at this point in the season to trade for players, even in leagues that haven’t yet reached the trading deadline. Why? Well because everyone knows who is who, which players are the breakout performers, and which players are the ones who are busts (I’m looking at you Brandon Marshall, though I know it’s not your fault). So unless you play in a league with others who don’t have the internet, we need to look for other opportunities.
The biggest thing you can look at now is strength of schedule. While a lot of people look at it before the season (which isn’t the best thing to do, considering we don’t know how the defenses will perform — who would’ve thought you would target the Panthers secondary with wide receivers, or target the Broncos with running backs?), now is the time where it will be of use. You don’t want to trade for a player who will be playing against the Cardinals twice in the fantasy playoffs.
So let’s take a look at a few players who may be hidden gems, based on their remaining schedule, as well as their opportunity. Oh, and we’ll also look at a few players you should try to sell before others realize what their schedule and opportunity is.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
He was a name that was atop the list when looking at strength of remaining schedule, as he has one of the softest down-the-stretch schedules among running backs. He’s also coming off a game in which he totaled just 83 scoreless yards, which may make his current owner feel like he’s a boring option on a bad team. While he is on a bad team (at least for fantasy), he’s not a boring option. The reason his production was limited in Week 10 was due to an ankle injury that essentially removed him from much of the game. He did return, so the ankle injury isn’t anything that should cause him to miss time. There was a time to buy Miller at the start of the season, where he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry over his first three games while missing Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown for much of that time. Since the start of Week 4, Miller has looked like the back the Texans thought they were getting, as he’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry since that time, and has now scored three touchdowns over his last four games. It should have been four, but he got caught from behind on a long run at the 1-yard line in Week 10, allowing someone else to get the touchdown while he went to the sidelines for a breather. Looking at his upcoming schedule, he’ll play the Raiders, Chargers, Packers, Colts, Jaguars and Bengals. Just one of those teams ranks in the top half of the league in run defense — the Packers, who have been trending in the wrong direction, allowing 4.8 yards per carry over their last five games, including five touchdowns to running backs in their last three games.
Perceived stock value: RB2 who is a boring, low-upside option.
Actual stock value: Mid-tier RB1 who has one of the best remaining schedules in all of football.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
There needs to be a disclaimer with this one. You’re only trading for Gurley if you are already in the position of making the playoffs in your league. I say that because he’s not in the position to succeed every single week, and if you need wins now, you may want to look elsewhere. But when looking at his upcoming schedule, it’s tough not to think he’ll have a strong finish to the season. Among his remaining six games that matter to us (the fantasy season), he’ll play against the Dolphins (allowing the seventh-most yards per carry), Saints (allowing the second-most points to RBs), Patriots (this is the not-so-good game), Falcons (who have allowed nine running backs to score double-digit fantasy points), Seahawks (who have allowed two 100-yard rushers in their last four games), and 49ers (a historically bad run defense). Gurley was a player who broke 16 of his 229 carries for 15 or more yards last year (his rookie season), and had PFF’s highest breakaway percentage. In 2016, he has just four such runs on 167 carries. While the competency of his offense is a problem, there is reason for optimism. Strictly by volume, running backs will have value, but on top of that, he’s now caught 23 passes over his last six games. They are making him essentially game-proof, and because of that, as he has scored at least 15 fantasy points in five of his last seven games. The only games he didn’t were against two of the best run defenses in the league, the Jets and the Panthers. Am I saying that you should trade valuable pieces off your team to acquire him? No, but at this point you should be able to get him for next to nothing, because his owner likely needs wins now.
Perceived stock value: RB3 at this point, who failed to live up to expectations.
Actual stock value: If you forget his draft position, he’s a rock solid RB2 in PPR formats.
Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears
Of those who are savvy, it may take more than you hope to acquire Miller. With the news breaking Monday that Alshon Jeffery will miss Weeks 11-14 due to the substance abuse policy, it should have triggered something in your mind to think, “Which Bears players is going to benefit from this the most?” While Cameron Meredith is going to see a significant increase in targets (he’s seen just five combined over the last three weeks), Miller is the one player who has a history of succeeding in this offense. Over the last two seasons, there have been 12 games in which Miller has received five or more targets, and here are his stats in those games.
|5 or more targets||12||5.2||60.3||0.5||14.2|
|4 or fewer targets||8||1.5||13.6||0.25||4.4|
As you can see, he produces when given opportunity, and he has already been playing a significant role in this offense, seeing an 18.3 percent target share. He also happens to have a top-five schedule over the next five weeks, playing against the Giants, Titans, 49ers, Lions, Packers and Redskins. Unless you think Meredith and Eddie Royal are going to see an increase of 8-10 targets per game, Miller is in for an uptick, though he was already a top-eight tight end in PPR leagues.
Perceived stock value: A streaming option, borderline TE1.
Actual stock value: An every-week TE1 option for the remainder of the season.
C.J. Prosise/Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks
This one is odd, because you’re striking while the iron is hot. Unfortunately, the uncertainty carries the day here. It’s not as if any of these guys are Marshawn Lynch, so we’re unsure if any of them will receive a huge portion of carries going forward. If you were to go back to the one week they were all active, Christine Michael had 17 touches, Rawls had 15 and Prosise had two. Then in Week 2, it was just Rawls and Michael, where again, Michael led the way with 13 touches to 10 touches for Rawls. While yes, there was a changing of the guard in Week 10 against the Patriots where Prosise was the workhorse with 24 touches to Michael’s six, it’s a one-game sample. What is going to happen when all three of them are healthy and on the field? It’s likely going to be a messy timeshare that’ll limit your upside on any given week. Not to mention their schedule, which is the worst in football. Their remaining games are against the Eagles, Bucs, Panthers, Packers, Rams and then the Cardinals in fantasy championship week. As of right now, Arizona is allowing just 3.25 yards per carry. I haven’t even mentioned Seattle’s offensive line, which we have graded as the worst in football, and it’s really not even close. Make these guys someone else’s headache for the remainder of the season.
Perceived stock value: Both are RB2s according to most.
Actual stock value: One will have solid value, but if anyone tells you they know which one, they’re lying.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts
There comes a point when you need to admit you were wrong on a player, and I think I’m there on Moncrief. It’s not that he’s a bad player — he’s not. He just isn’t seeing the targets that are necessary in order to live up to the WR2 expectations that I’d set for him at the beginning of the season. But here’s the thing – most people think that he’s back in that conversation because he’s scored at least 14 fantasy points in three of his four games. The problem is that he’s averaging just 5.85 targets per game. Of the 105 wide receivers who have seen at least 20 targets this season, he ranks 55th in targets per game. While his targets may be more valuable coming from Andrew Luck, it’s not enough to make up that difference. As a matter of fact, among those same 105 receivers, Moncrief actually ranks 70th in yards per game. It comes down to this with Moncrief: If he doesn’t score, he won’t offer you much of anything. The remaining schedule for them is not ideal, either, as they’ll have to play the Steelers (allow the fourth-fewest points to WRs), Texans (third-fewest points to WRs), and Vikings (second-fewest points to WRs) in three of their next five games.
Perceived stock value: WR2 in a high-powered offense.
Actual stock value: Boom-or-bust WR3 who needs a touchdown in order to justify starting him.
Robert Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins
It’s difficult to find running backs who will see 15-plus touches nowadays, and it appears that Kelley is suited to that role in the Redskins offense, now totaling 44 touches in his last two games. Heck, he’s even broken 13 tackles over that span, which gives him an elusive rating of 93.4, second among all running backs over the last three weeks. But in order for him to live up to his RB1/2 expectations that many are setting for him, he’d have to be involved in the passing game, and he isn’t. Over the last two games, he’s seen just three targets, catching just one of them for negative yardage. It wouldn’t be a problem if he played on the Patriots, where they score four touchdowns per game, but the Redskins have scored just five rushing touchdowns all season, and that number isn’t likely to rise in the coming weeks. They play the Packers, Cowboys, Cardinals, Eagles, Panthers and Bears over the remaining six weeks, and every single one of those teams ranks inside of the bottom 10 for fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs, including five of them within the bottom six. Considering how tough those matchups are, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him struggle, and we all know how fast Jay Gruden pulled the plug on Matt Jones, who by the way, averaged 4.6 yards per carry this year. Over the last two weeks as the starter, Kelley has averaged 4.3 yards per carry against the Bengals and the Vikings, who both allow over 4.15 yards per carry this year.
Perceived stock value: Borderline RB1, at worst an RB2.
Actual stock value: A low-end RB2 who has the worst remaining schedule among running backs.