The trade deadline in just about every league is coming soon in
just about all leagues in the next week or two. As such, it makes
sense to use the next two weeks to see which stocks need to be bought,
sold or held.
Last week, I chose
to take the top 20 overall scorers at quarterback and top 30 at
running back and summarized what I would do if I had them on my
team. This week, I chose to give the same treatment to the top
30 overall scorers at wide receiver and top 15 players at tight
Following each player’s name, you will find his remaining
schedule and which matchups are positive (green), neutral (no
color) or negative (red), just as it appears on the FFToday
Strength of Schedule page. Just as the page states, the positive-neutral-negative
scores are generated from results over the last five weeks.
Perhaps I’m the only impressed by the following nuggets,
although I do believe they are noteworthy:
1) Only three of the top 15 tight ends don’t have at least
one wide receiver counterpart in the top 30 and
2) Eight teammates (i.e. 16 overall) find themselves among the
top 30 receivers.
Note: PPR scoring is assumed.
Brown (BAL, @NYJ, @TEN, bye, NO,
@CIN, @ATL, KC) – Hold. Brown has caught at least five
passes for 50 yards in a NFL-record 24 consecutive games, which
effectively guarantees his owners double-digit fantasy points.
The five-year veteran is almost impossible to cover for more than
three seconds, which makes him a great tag-team partner for Ben
Roethlisberger, who has long been one of the league’s best at
Thomas (@NE, @OAK, @STL, MIA, @KC, BUF, @SD, @CIN) –
Hold. Any Thomas owner serious about winning a title isn’t moving
him right now unless he/she is getting a top RB1 and top WR1 in
return. Pretty much everything I just said about Brown applies
here as well. The Broncos don’t have it particularly favorable
receiver schedule the rest of the way, but is there any other
receiver besides Dez Bryant or a healthy Calvin Johnson that can
produce regardless of the matchup?
Nelson (bye, CHI, PHI, @MIN, NE, ATL, @BUF, @TB) –
Hold (or buy from a panicky/desperate owner). I’m really still
trying to wrap my mind around how Aaron Rodgers could throw for
418 yards against the Saints in Week 8 and how his top receiver
accounted for six percent of that total. Perhaps his owner(s)
– likely heading into the Packers’ bye week with a loss in part
because of Nelson – is growing weary that his numbers are declining
due to Cobb, when the real reason(s) have more to do with game
flow (two blowouts over the last four games) and an injured Rodgers
for most of the second half of the game in New Orleans.
You should be shopping Randall Cobb (40
rec, 9 TDs).
Cobb (bye, CHI, PHI, @MIN, NE,
ATL, @BUF, @TB) – Sell. Since
I don’t want to diminish his accomplishments, I will say that
Cobb is tied for 13th amongst receivers with 40 catches and has
already surpassed his previous career high with nine touchdown
catches. Does anyone want to bet he can maintain that touchdown
pace? In this offense, it is possible. What is also possible is
that more of his red-zone touchdowns (seven of his scores are
from eight yards or fewer) will start going to Nelson, Davante
Adams or Eddie Lacy when the weather gets colder. It seems hard
to believe Cobb will finish with 18 touchdowns, which is the pace
he is on at the moment.
Tate (bye, MIA, @ARI, @NE, CHI, TB, MIN, @CHI) – Sell.
If owners can find someone in their league that believes Tate
will continue to catch 7-10 balls per game after Calvin Johnson
returns and is willing to pay that price, go ahead and make a
move. There’s no question at this point whether Tate is a capable
WR2, but look for Detroit to lean on Megatron, the running game
and its defense when all of its walking wounded finally get healthy.
Hilton (@NYG, bye, NE, JAC, WAS, @CLE, HOU, @DAL) –
Hold. Were it not for his fluky inability to consistently score
touchdowns (although he has scored his only two TDs of the season
over the last three weeks) despite his ability to get behind the
coverage, the argument could be made that Hilton is the next or
new Antonio Brown. The 183-pound speedster has been tearing it
up in PPR leagues over the last three weeks in particular. Despite
three red matchups, I don’t see a single opponent that has a defensive
back capable of keeping up with Hilton all game long on the Colts’
Jones (bye, @TB, @CAR, CLE, ARI, @GB, PIT, @NO) – Hold.
Jones isn’t just going to fall off the fantasy map, but since
receivers are tied to the well-being of their quarterbacks, it
shouldn’t come as a surprise that his numbers are probably going
to suffer behind Atlanta’s beat-up offensive line. On the plus
side, Atlanta has enough soft NFC South opponents remaining on
its schedule that Jones will likely mix in high-quality WR1 numbers
with WR2 efforts.
Maclin (@HOU, CAR, @GB, TEN, @DAL, SEA, DAL, @WAS) –
Sell. Maclin’s role and schedule are both very good, so what gives?
I don’t trust Nick Foles nor do I trust Maclin’s ability to stay
healthy, pure and simple. If his owners do, he is a good “hold”
and should be a potential low-end WR1 the rest of the season.
Bryant (ARI, @JAC, bye, @NYG, PHI, @CHI, @PHI, IND) –
Hold. Unless Bryant’s owners can work out a deal for Demaryius
Thomas, I don’t see much reason to deal away the Cowboys’ stud
receiver. Dallas has run the ball so well – and probably will
continue to even if DeMarco Murray gets hurt – that Bryant is
going to see his fair share of 1-on-1 battles with overmatched
cornerbacks. (And with the exception of Week 16, there figures
to be a lot of those.)
Sanders (@NE, @OAK, @STL, MIA, @KC, BUF, @SD, @CIN) –
Hold. Had this article been written before his Thursday Night
Football explosion against San Diego, he would have been among
the strongest buys on here. Owners need to remember that while
receivers playing in a Peyton Manning offense can get shortchanged
one week, he often makes it up to them over the next week or two.
Smith (@PIT, TEN, bye, @NO, SD, @MIA, JAC, @HOU) –
Sell. Owners are quick to panic whenever an older receiver has
a couple of poor fantasy efforts in a short amount of time, like
Smith has endured in Weeks 5 and 7. But how much do owners really
want to buy into a 35-year-old receiver tearing up the second
half of the season like he did the first half. The Ravens have
an easy enough slate ahead of them that Smith is probably a good
hold as a WR2, but in the off-chance another owner is willing
to trade any one of the other receivers listed in the top 13 for
him, I would do it.
Watkins (bye, KC, @MIA, NYJ, CLE, @DEN, GB, @OAK) –
Hold. It is easy to cherry-pick stats, but it is notable that
Watkins is a top 10 receiver in fantasy since Kyle Orton was named
the starting quarterback. Although the combination of a rookie
receiver and the Buffalo winter is a scary proposition when it
comes to counting on fantasy numbers, Watkins has quickly proven
he is not the usual first-year player. Even better, the Bills
do not have a negative matchup after Week 10.
Benjamin (NO, @PHI, ATL, bye, @MIN, @NO, TB, CLE) –
Hold. It seems unlikely that many of this rookie’s owners will
part with him for anything less than an established WR1 in return.
And while a handful of rookie receivers are enjoying solid production
halfway through this season, there isn’t a very good track record
to suggest they will remain there. With that said, the reason
he is a “hold” is because Carolina’s schedule suggests he could
be the exception to the rule.
Sanu (JAC, CLE, @NO, @HOU, @TB, PIT, @CLE, DEN) – Sell.
The eventual return of A.J. Green – even at less than 100 percent
– should allow Sanu to return to the fantasy production he enjoyed
with Green in the lineup. Unlike Golden Tate, Sanu shouldn’t consistently
be expected to be a lead receiver with his superstar sidekick
out of action. Perhaps there are some owners that will look at
Sanu’s point totals and think differently. The way I see it, Sanu’s
ability to maintain this lofty perch depends solely on whether
or not Green proves to be an effective decoy for however long
it takes for him to return to full health.
Jackson (@MIN, bye, TB, @SF, @IND, STL, @NYG, PHI) –
Sell. Jackson has returned to be the lovable boom-or-bust WR3
he was during most of his time in Philadelphia. In three of his
eight games, he has tallied no more than 7.9 points in PPR. In
his other five games, he has exceeded 19.6. It’s the kind of inconsistency
I don’t mind getting out of my flex spot, but I don’t want it
in my WR2 slot. The likely return of Robert Griffin III this week
probably means more production for Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed
Jeffery (bye, @GB, MIN, TB, @DET, DAL, NO, DET) – Buy.
Chicago’s aerial attack is going to be a bit of a rollercoaster
ride every so often simply because that is about how often it
seems like Jay Cutler implodes. The Bears face Detroit twice late
in the season – making Jeffery a possible low-end WR2 in those
contests – but should otherwise be a rock-solid WR2 against what
should be a mostly favorable slate.
Hopkins (PHI, bye, @CLE, CIN, TEN, @JAC, @IND, BAL) –
Buy. No matter how often we look, some players’ consistent production
seems to get lost in the wash; Hopkins is one of those players.
With the exception of one Thursday Night Football game, the second-year
wideout has scored at least 11.2 points in every other contest.
As far as I’m concerned, I feel good about winning my fantasy
matchups a lot of the time if I can just pencil in double-digit
points from each of my receivers every week.
Johnson (PHI, bye, @CLE, CIN, TEN, @JAC, @IND, BAL) –
Buy. The same thing that was just said about Hopkins can be repeated
here. Houston has a very favorable second-half schedule and, despite
the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t even an average starting
quarterback in the league, Johnson and Hopkins have only turned
in one single-digit fantasy performance apiece through eight games.
Edelman (DEN, bye, @IND, DET, @GB, @SD, MIA, @NYJ) –
Sell. Edelman’s stock was always going to hinge on how long Rob
Gronkowski could stay healthy and whether or not New England could
find some other viable receiving options. Brady has taken a liking
to Brandon LaFell in recent weeks and will have more snaps in
which to throw the ball to Shane Vereen as a result of Stevan
Ridley’s season-ending knee injury. Edelman remains a good bet
to finish with around 80 receptions (he’s at 45 through eight
games), but he isn’t going to score many touchdowns or do much
after the catch.
Cooks (@CAR, SF, CIN, BAL, @PIT, CAR, @CHI, ATL) –
Hold. Before last week’s explosion against the Packers, Cooks
would have been a strong “buy”. Although I hate to put much stock
into such things with such limited sample sizes, it is hard not
to notice this rookie is averaging 19.8 fantasy points in three
home games versus 6.7 in four road contests. Five of the Saints’
final eight games during the fantasy season are at home.
Williams (ARI, @JAC, bye, @NYG, PHI, @CHI, @PHI, IND) –
Sell. Every year, a select few receivers make the most of their
catches (i.e. possess a low catch-to-touchdown ratio). Williams
is averaging a score every 4.16 catches – a rate that is even
better than Jerricho Cotchery’s 4.6:1 ratio last year or Jordy
Nelson’s 4.53:1 ratio during his 68-catch, 15-TD campaign in 2011.
Perhaps he can keep it up with Dallas’ running game working so
well, but do owners really want to count on DeMarco Murray and
Tony Romo remaining healthy?
Wallace (SD, @DET, BUF, @DEN, @NYJ, BAL, @NE, MIN) –
Sell. Wallace has been a more-targeted version of the Cowboys’
Williams above and I tend to steer clear or trade away any receivers
that I believe are putting up unsustainable numbers (i.e. high
number of touchdowns with relatively small catch and yardage totals).
Ryan Tannehill is still struggling with the deep ball, which takes
away one of Wallace’s biggest strengths, and Wallace isn’t exactly
a size mismatch, which makes it unlikely he will continue his
first-half red-zone prowess.
Garcon (@MIN, bye, TB, @SF, @IND, STL, @NYG, PHI) –
Buy. There’s not much recent evidence to suggest he is still the
lead receiver in Washington, but Griffin has established a pretty
solid working relationship with him over two-plus years and is
expected back as soon as this week. DeSean Jackson isn’t going
away anytime soon and Jordan Reed may end up being the player
that benefits the most from RG3’s return, so keep expectations
around the low-end WR2/high-end WR3 level.
Marshall (bye, @GB, MIN, TB, @DET, DAL, NO, DET) –
Buy (reasonably). Marshall and Jeffery combined for a season-high
53 percent of the targets in the Bears’ offense last week after
averaging 55 percent last year, so there is reason for optimism.
It should come as no surprise that in a season where Matt Forte
is on pace to become only the third 1,000/1,000 (rushing and receiving)
player in league history and Martellus Bennett is on track to
catch 94 balls for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns that Marshall
and Jeffery are failing to meet expectations. However, it seems
unlikely that Marshall will continue to be shut out of the end
zone (no scores in four straight after scoring five times through
four weeks). Given his history with Cutler and somewhat soft second-half
schedule, there is reason to believe he’ll finish strong.
LaFell (DEN, bye, @IND, DET, @GB, @SD, MIA, @NYJ) –
Hold. A strong case could be made for a “buy” recommendation here,
although putting much weekly faith into any Patriot outside of
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski is usually followed by banging one’s
head against the wall. LaFell has traded extremely useful fantasy
totals with mostly disappointing totals over the last five weeks
against mostly plus-matchups. Now, New England faces three of
the tougher defenses on its schedule over the next four weeks,
which could make LaFell even more of an inconsistent fantasy play.
Still, the fact that he has caught 19 of his 22 targets over the
last three weeks makes it hard to believe he hasn’t earned Tom
Wright (bye, @BAL, PIT, @PHI, @HOU, NYG, NYJ, @JAC) –
Buy. One game and five targets with new starting QB Zach Mettenberger
is much too small of a sample size, but it is somewhat promising
that Wright came away from last week’s game with a 17.7 YPC in
his first regular-season action with the rookie. The third-year
wideout has succeeded as a possession receiver thus far in his
NFL career, but made his name as a deep threat at Baylor and should
see that part of his game blossom as Mettenberger becomes more
comfortable in the offense.
Robinson (@CIN, DAL, bye, @IND, NYG, HOU, @BAL, TEN) –
Hold. The Jaguars have been the kings of garbage time for over
a year, although Robinson has enough talent to hang in the neighborhood
he is currently occupying in these rankings. However, the reason
he is a “hold” is because most owners treat players on bad offenses
as bye-week replacements at best, at least until they generate
“name value”. In other words, it is unlikely he would bring all
that much back in a trade, so feel relatively comfortable that
he will deliver steady WR3 production over the second half of
Jones (@SEA, DEN, @SD, KC, @STL, SF, @KC, BUF) – Hold.
There are a few parallels between Jones and Allen Robinson (top
target thus far on a bad team, for example), but one gets the
feeling that Andre Holmes will eventually overtake the ex-Packer
for that title – if he hasn’t already. Still, Jones has 20 targets
over the last two weeks and already surpassed fantasy expectations
in a lot of ways. He can probably be counted on to maintain his
current level of WR3 production as the Raiders find themselves
in garbage time for a good part of the second half of the season.
Royal (@MIA, bye, OAK, STL, @BAL, NE, DEN, @SF) – Hold
(assuming he is even on a roster). By now, Royal has established
a reputation for falling back to earth quickly after multi-score
games. In fact, in my biggest money league, he is the only receiver
among the top 43 overall scorers at his position that is not owned.
White (bye, @TB, @CAR, CLE, ARI, @GB, PIT, @NO) – Hold.
I like White probably about as much as any receiver in the bottom
third of this group to finish in the top 20 (along with Brandon
Marshall), but there’s no doubt he comes with a fair amount of
risk due to Atlanta’s porous offensive line. Whereas the Falcons
can throw Julio Jones a few quick-hitting screen passes to help
keep his fantasy numbers from completely plummeting, White is
mostly used nowadays in the intermediate passing game. White’s
saving grace may be the remaining schedule, which doesn’t contain
many high-quality pass defenses.
Gronkowski (DEN, bye, @IND, DET, @GB, @SD, MIA, @NYJ) –
Hold. A pretty strong case could be made for “sell” here given
his injury history, but this season is shaping up as one of those
where very little is holding to form. Gronkowski has pretty much
been the tight end equivalent of Demaryius Thomas over the last
month, so if owners are inclined to believe he’ll last a full
season for the first time since 2011, they should enjoy the ride
for as long as it lasts.
Bennett (bye, @GB, MIN, TB, @DET, DAL, NO, DET) – Hold.
It appears Bennett has shed his “Mr. September” label, carrying
his early-season success into October for the first time in his
career. While owners should probably expect the Bears to find
a way to get their receivers more involved (and lessen their reliance
on Bennett and Forte in the passing game), the seven-year veteran
has at least seven targets in all but one game and is all but
assured of setting career highs across the board.
Gates (@MIA, bye, OAK, STL, @BAL, NE, DEN, @SF) – Sell.
In a year of oddities, Gates may be one of most unlikely success
stories. The 34-year-old is enjoying his best PPR season since
playing 10 games back in 2010. This after appeared to be in serious
decline during the second half of 2013. Remarkably, Gates is tied
with Julius Thomas, Arian Foster and Cobb for the league lead
in touchdowns with nine. Can he maintain that pace? Considering
his age, the likelihood that Keenan Allen and Royal to find the
end zone a little bit more over the second half of the season
and the return of Ryan Mathews, recent history suggests Gates
probably isn’t a good bet to score 4-5 more times.
Olsen (NO, @PHI, ATL, bye, @MIN, @NO, TB, CLE) – Buy.
With all the red matchups, this one needs a bit of explanation,
but it really boils down to the fact that New Orleans, Philadelphia,
Atlanta and Minnesota haven’t really faced many (any, in some
cases) top tight ends. Perhaps perspective owners can sell Olsen’s
current owners that his Week 8 one-catch performance was a sign
of things to come, although I’m not so naïve to believe that will
work in 99 percent of leagues. Regardless, not every team will
be able to use Richard Sherman to shadow Kelvin Benjamin and roll
the rest of its coverage over to Olsen like Seattle did. Carolina’s
remaining schedule is perhaps the least intimidating one in the
NFL, making Cam Newton, Benjamin and Olsen all likely to be significant
parts of many fantasy championship runs.
Thomas (@NE, @OAK, @STL, MIA, @KC, BUF, @SD, @CIN) –
Buy. There aren’t too many windows to acquire top-tier players
during the course of the fantasy season, although Thomas may be
giving his potential new owners one as we speak with consecutive
disappointing performances. At the very least, it is safe to say
he probably will not come this cheap the rest of the season as
he will at this moment (not that I expect him to come cheap now).
Unlike Gates, it doesn’t seem impossible that Thomas could approach
Walker (bye, @BAL, PIT, @PHI, @HOU, NYG, NYJ, @JAC) –
Sell. In terms of his current ranking, Walker is mostly living
off two big games in September. The case could be made that a
young quarterback like Zach Mettenberger will rely heavily on
his tight end, but the rookie has a big arm and shown an affinity
for Justin Hunter since the preseason.
Graham (@CAR, SF, CIN, BAL, @PIT, CAR, @CHI, ATL) –
Buy. As with any player that is still recovering from an injury,
caution needs to be exercised. Owners would be foolish to believe
his shoulder injury is a thing of the past after seeing him post
a 5-59-1 line last week as Graham made it clear he was still favoring
his right shoulder, from the way he blocked to the way he landed
when he was tackled. As long as owners are willing to deal with
a potential aggravation of the injury over the next 2-4 weeks,
he should be worth the risk if can avoid a setback.
Allen (@NYG, bye, NE, JAC, WAS, @CLE, HOU, @DAL) –
Hold. Unlike many of the other players in this article, it should
come as no surprise if Allen continues (or improves) on his 44-652-12
pace. The 2012 third-round pick is Andrew Luck’s clear go-to guy
in the red zone and is probably only a Coby Fleener injury away
from becoming a top-five player at his position. Even if that
doesn’t happen, it seems obvious that Allen’s usage in the passing
game will pick up, only because it would be a waste if it doesn’t.
Donnell (IND, @SEA, SF, DAL, @JAC, @TEN, WAS, @STL) –
Hold. Was Week 7’s seven-catch, 90-yard effort the beginning of
another run that took a nasty turn after this three-score explosion
in Week 4? Chances are his owners aren’t going to get what they
are looking for in return in a trade, but Eli Manning’s willingness
to keep his tight end involved over the years is reason enough
to keep starting him, especially considering what limited other
options his owners likely have available to them at the position.
Miller (BAL, @NYJ, @TEN, bye, NO, @CIN, @ATL, KC) –
Sell (if you can). Miller has enjoyed two huge fantasy performances
and posted a lot of duds in between. The Steelers’ offensive priorities
nowadays are getting Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell the ball in
between the 20s and things are quickly trending towards getting
Martavis Bryant the ball in the red zone. Take away the short
dump-off passes and red-zone usage that has been Miller’s bread-and-butter
over the years and his owners have the inconsistent fantasy tight
end he has proven to be this year.
Kelce (NYJ, @BUF, SEA, @OAK, DEN, @ARI, OAK, @PIT) –
Buy. Kelce paces the team with 28 catches and is tied for the
lead with 37 targets despite playing roughly half of his team’s
snaps, meaning two things are keeping him from exploding onto
the fantasy scene: 1) the recent success of the running game and
2) HC Andy Reid’s unwillingness to give him more snaps. Virtually
everyone that has more than a passing interest in football has
seen the talent, but Reid has only moderately bumped up his snaps
in the two weeks since the Chiefs’ bye. Keep the faith, as perhaps
his best remaining matchup takes place this weekend.
Witten (ARI, @JAC, bye, @NYG, PHI, @CHI, @PHI, IND) –
Sell (now if you can or next week at the latest). Despite perhaps
its best defensive effort of the season on Monday Night Football,
Washington has shown little ability to guard the middle of the
field or defend a capable tight end this year. In short, I wouldn’t
expect to see too many more 5-70-1 lines from Witten this year.
One such effort might come this week against Arizona, although
I wouldn’t bet too much on it either. Given the success of the
running game, Witten has settled into a low-end fantasy TE1 at
Paul (@MIN, bye, TB, @SF, @IND, STL, @NYG, PHI) – N/A.
A true testament to how few consistent performers there are at
the position, Paul really hasn’t scored more than 7.8 points in
PPR since Week 3. Jordan Reed is healthy (for now), so Paul can
be dropped in most leagues.
Daniels (@PIT, TEN, bye, @NO, SD, @MIA, JAC, @HOU) –
Hold. Daniels was reportedly back at practice on Wednesday, less
than a week after undergoing a knee scope, so “at practice” figures
to be the key words for the 32-year-old. Players usually need
at least 2-3 weeks to recover from such a procedure, so it is
unlikely he did much of anything. At any rate, he shouldn’t be
expected back before Week 10. As sad as it is, he’s probably a
top-10 option at the position when he does return, although he
gave us reason to believe with two double-digit efforts prior
to the scope.
Amaro (@KC, PIT, bye, @BUF, MIA, @MIN, @TEN, NE) –
Hold. Chances are not too many owners have to deal for Amaro,
not that he would bring much in return. The rookie has been a
bit of an every-other-week proposition for most of the season,
although he did see his snap count spike to 55 last week (previous
high was 36). Theoretically, the addition of Percy Harvin and
insertion of Michael Vick into the lineup at quarterback should
extend plays, buying more time for players like Harvin and Amaro
to get open. However, for that to work, Vick is going to need
to show the ability to come off his first read more than he did
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Doug Orth has written for FF Today
since 2006 and has been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football
Preview magazine since 2010. He has hosted USA Today’s hour-long,
pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday over the
past two seasons and appears as a guest analyst before and during
the season on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” as well
as 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). Doug is also a
member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.