15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 2
Running back production is largely driven by coaching. We all hope that the most talented running backs emerge and see work in a backfield, but talent is subjective. And even if there's a back who's objectively better than the rest, there are often undocumented reasons for that player getting less run than desired.
Take what's happening in Chicago and Philadelphia. You've got two running backs -- David Montgomery and Miles Sanders -- who look the part. But, in Week 1, they didn't get the part. And that's left fantasy football managers scrambling.
Hold David Montgomery and Miles Sanders
Maybe it's a cop out to simply list Montgomery and Sanders as holds, but it's genuinely where my brain's at.
Let's start with Montgomery, who somewhat surprisingly only played 38.4% of Chicago's snaps on Thursday night. He did out-carry backfield mate Mike Davis six to five, but the split is still worrisome.
Tarik Cohen, meanwhile, played as a slot receiver in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, 80% of Cohen's snaps came from the slot, where he saw 6 of his 10 targets. He played just four snaps from the backfield.
You could argue that this means Montgomery's only direct competition is Mike Davis, but Cohen also might have played a lot in the slot on Thursday because Anthony Miller, their projected slot receiver, is coming back from a sprained ankle. So if they start to use Miller in that role, all of a sudden, Cohen's competing with Montgomery once again.
And you've got to be concerned about Mike Davis' role on third down and as a pass-catcher. Montgomery can be a great receiver -- and it was on display during Thursday's game -- but Davis saw seven targets to Montgomery's one.
So, overall, even if you see Montgomery as the most talented back in the Bears backfield, it doesn't really matter right now. Cohen's not going away, and Mike Davis looks to be someone who's going to hurt Montgomery more than have standalone value himself. It's just tough to sell Montgomery right now given his performance, but I wouldn't advocate you buy him, either, because this backfield could be a nightmare all season.
Now, Miles Sanders is in a similar situation as a rookie, but it's one that could be sold as more favorable. He played 48% of Philly's snaps against Washington, and he led the backfield with 11 carries. He wasn't as effective with his touches as the other Eagles backs, but his snap share and usage was better than what we saw from Montgomery in Chicago.
What's probably more important here is that the Eagles are likely to have a more dynamic offense than Chicago this season. No, I'm not overreacting to the Bears' pathetic performance on Thursday night, but Philadelphia is essentially better across the entire offense, which should lead to higher-quality opportunities for Sanders.
With both players, you can't exactly sell them right now given your probable return. But I wouldn't go out of my way to get them on my team, either, because it could take time for either player to emerge, if they emerge at all.
Add Marquise Brown
Say what you want about Baltimore's competition on Sunday -- it's not like every team is going to post a 50-burger against Miami this year. And, to be honest, the Dolphins' secondary is probably the best part of the defense.
Marquise Brown used his speed and made them look like fools in Week 1, though. He saw 5 of a possible 26 targets (19.2% target share) while playing just 14 snaps. The snap count is low, but Brown's also a rookie who's dealt with a foot issue all offseason, so the Ravens were likely just easing him in. After his play on Sunday, there's no way they hold him back all season.
Brown should be one of your top priorities off the wire this week, especially since Baltimore gets Arizona in Week 2, a team with an inexperienced (and suspended) secondary.
Buy JuJu Smith-Schuster
It's over. Burn it all down.
I'm sure the "Can JuJu Smith-Schuster be a top receiver?" takes are flying on social media today, but let's calm ourselves. New England not only has one of the better secondaries in the NFL but, under Belichick, they've been known to take opposing top options out of games. Remember the AFC Championship, where Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored 31 points? Well, Tyreek Hill caught one pass in that contest. Or how about when DeAndre Hopkins had a comparable line to JuJu in Week 1 last year versus New England? Or when Davante Adams had just 40 yards receiving? Or when Keenan Allen caught just two passes against them in the playoffs?
Actually, there are some positives for Smith-Schuster from this game. He still had 78 yards receiving, and the Steelers, thanks to game script (a bad defense), threw the ball 47 times. If the team is even remotely close to as pass-heavy as they were last year, Smith-Schuster will walk into 160 targets this season.
And take a look at Pittsburgh's upcoming schedule. They get the Seahawks in Pittsburgh in Week 2, a team that just watched Andy Dalton throw for over 400 yards against them. And they'll follow that up with advantageous matchups against the 49ers and Bengals.
Expect the entire Steelers offense to rebound after an awful Week 1, and that includes Smith-Schuster.
Sell or Hold Ronald Jones
If you were to say that Ronald Jones was the most impressive Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back on Sunday, I wouldn't have any issues with that. And if you're a believer that he'll emerge as the best back for the Buccaneers this year, I wouldn't have an issue with that, either. Using one game to negate the red flags to his game and profile isn't good process, though.
The biggest problem is Jones as a receiver. He had a low final-season reception share in college, and he struggled with pass protection during camp and the preseason. As a result, on Sunday, we saw Dare Ogunbowale see five targets to Jones' one, and because the Buccaneers saw a negative game flow, Dare out-snapped Jones.
There are indeed Ronald Jones truthers out there. If you can flip him for a usable piece after his 88-yard performance on Sunday, I'm fine with that. Otherwise, just hold tight and hope he can see a larger chunk of the team's snaps, specifically if and when the Bucs are in a negative game script, which could be often. Without those snaps, he won't be a very start-worthy fantasy option this year.
Add Malcolm Brown
On Sunday, Malcolm Brown found the end zone twice, with both of his rushing scores coming at the goal line. This was the fear with drafting Todd Gurley this year -- not only was a split backfield possible, but Gurley had a chance to not see the high-leverage touches we've become used to him seeing.
That can all change in an instant, and Gurley looked pretty good against Carolina, all things considered. But, at the very least, Brown had a clear role carved out in the Rams offense on Sunday, carrying the ball 11 times and finding the field on over 27% of LA's snaps. For reference, Gurley had 14 carries and a 70.1% snap share. During the 2018 regular season, Gurley hit that low of a snap rate just twice, and he carried the ball 15 or more times in 10 of his 14 games played.
So, given this week's usage, it does appear the Rams will limit Gurley compared to last season, upping the value of Malcolm Brown.
Add Mecole Hardman
One of the biggest injuries of Week 1 was to Tyreek Hill, who could miss an extended period of time with a collarbone issue. That will -- and already did -- open things up for Sammy Watkins, but rookie Mecole Hardman should get more run as well. In Sunday's game against Jacksonville, Hardman played 78% of the Chiefs' snaps and ran 27 routes, trailing only Watkins in both statistics. Hardman saw just one target, but that usage should only get better with Hill sidelined.
Buy Brandin Cooks
The Rams' passing attack was pretty underwhelming in Week 1, but it creates a nice buying opportunity for the pieces in the offense. Specifically Cooks, who played just as much as his wide receiver teammates, but couldn't match their production.
Last season, when Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods played significant snaps together, Cooks led the team in targets. And if you look at LA's upcoming schedule, it's borderline amazing. They won't face a formidable defense until mid-November, when they face Chicago. In between, the Rams will be in potential shootouts against the Saints, Browns, Falcons, and Steelers.
Now's the time to buy the Rams' passing O.
Add Terry McLaurin
Admittedly, I wasn't a Terry McLaurin person when he was entering the draft. He had the speed and burst to be effective with the ball in his hands at the next level but, like a lot of Ohio State wide receivers, he had a far below average production profile. (Yes, I know, we should discount that for Ohio State receivers.)
Nevertheless, McLaurin balled out in his debut with Washington. He was second on the team in snaps played at wide receiver -- Trey Quinn had more -- and he ran just one fewer route than Quinn. And only Chris Thompson ended up seeing more targets on the team.
Considering McLaurin's 20-plus yard average depth of target on Sunday -- which was at least double the value of any other Washington pass-catcher -- he's the ceiling player you want in that offense.
Buy Mike Evans
Plenty of fantasy managers are going to be turned off by Jameis Winston's Week 1 performance, and it's understandable. But, for what it's worth, there's historically been no correlation between interceptions thrown and plays run by an offense. Since the name of the game is volume, that's good news for Mike Evans.
Evans was targeted just five times against the 49ers, but he finished the day with 114 air yards, per AirYards.com. That was a top-20 mark in the NFL through Sunday night's game. We know he's a productive wide receiver, and we know Winston has inconsistent play. It was a down game that had some under-the-radar promise, and it just happened to occur in Week 1.
Better days are ahead for Evans.
Add John Ross
Ross high-key had everything in Week 1. The Bengals threw the ball a lot, but his 12 targets still accounted for a near 25% target share. He found the end zone twice, he had over 150 yards receiving, and he played the second-most snaps on the team at wide receiver.
We shouldn't simply assume this is Ross' breakout year, but let's also not bury the guy after playing two injury-filled seasons in the league. Not only that, but there's a new coaching regime in town that appears to be competent. With a few easy matchups over his next four games, Ross could be plenty fantasy relevant until a potential A.J. Green return.
Hold Tyler Lockett, Add DK Metcalf
All offseason, fantasy managers were crossing their fingers and hoping that Brian Schottenheimer would unleash Russell Wilson, at least a little bit. Post-Week 1, Wilson has only 20 more pass attempts in 2019 than you and I have.
That low volume total naturally has a huge impact on the team's receivers. Tyler Lockett, who had about a 23% target share when Doug Baldwin was out last season, saw just two targets on Sunday. Fortunately, one of those targets went for a 44-yard score, but 44-yard touchdowns aren't going to happen on half of Lockett's targets this season. He's efficient, but he's not that efficient.
Rookie D.K. Metcalf is listed as an add here because he tallied 6 of a possible 19 targets in the offense. He may be rostered in your league but, as of Monday morning, he's on 64% of Yahoo! waiver wires. Considering that target share, he's a necessary add.
And, really, that target share pie should only get larger as the season moves on. I talked about this last week, but Seattle's upcoming schedule consists of games against the Steelers, Saints, Rams, Cardinals, and Browns. Each of those teams have offenses that could force the Seahawks to play catch up, particularly after seeing how average the Seattle defense looked against Andy Dalton on Sunday.
Sell Zach Ertz
Out of a possible 39 targets for Philadelphia in Week 1, Zach Ertz saw 7, good for an 18% target share. That's not a bad number, but it's lower than what he sustained throughout his 2018 season.
We should be expecting it in 2019, though.
This is a repeat transaction from last week, but you've still got a window to sell Ertz given his draft day cost. When Golden Tate was added to the mix last year, we watched Ertz's target share drop by roughly seven percentage points. The Eagles now have DeSean Jackson, a healthy Alshon Jeffery, and a more experienced Dallas Goedert, which is going to make it tough for Ertz to hit close to the target share he had last year.
Ertz won't sink your team, but if you can get a worthwhile running back or wide receiver piece for him, it's worth it.
Hold Dante Pettis
If you haven't heard, Dante Pettis only played two snaps for the 49ers on Sunday. Two. That's one less than three and one more than one.
For those of us who bought into Pettis when his average draft position dipped, this isn't exactly ideal. But the reason I wanted to give him a shout in today's column is because there's at least some reason for it.
After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan said, "He [Pettis] had health issues, so that’s why he missed a week of practice. He just got cleared to come back on Monday, so he was a little behind the eight-ball on that. He didn’t start the game, and we didn’t have a ton of long drives where we got into the substitutional flow. From everything I saw, he did a hell of a job out there. Hopefully, he continues to earn more time out there."
That health issue (a calf problem) was at least part of the reason for Pettis' lack of involvement on Sunday, so instead of just flat-out dropping your mid-round pick, give it a week or two and see how things evolve.
Add Josh Allen
The Bills are on the road this week, but they're two-point favorites against the Giants. New York is coming off a poor defensive performance against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, giving Josh Allen a nice plus matchup. Allen himself was decent in his Week 1, throwing for 254 yards and a score. But we all know where Allen's upside comes from, and that's with his legs. With his 38 rushing yards on Sunday, Allen's now rushed for 15-plus yards in each start with an average of roughly 54 rushing yards per game. That adds an extra passing touchdown to his fantasy total each week, providing a nice floor. He's this week's top streaming quarterback.
Add the Carolina Panthers Defense
The Panthers are only rostered in 6% of Yahoo! leagues thanks to their Week 1 contest against the Rams, but Week 2 features a Thursday night game at home versus the Bucs and Jameis Winston. Carolina's a 6.5-point favorite, so they should see a nice positive game script, and Winston has averaged 1.4 interceptions per game dating back to the start of last season.
Other players to add (no particular order): T.J. Hockenson (if available), Raheem Mostert, Carlos Hyde (if available), Preston Williams, A.J. Brown, Giovani Bernard, Jamison Crowder (if available), KeeSean Johnson, Deebo Samuel, Mike Davis, Adrian Peterson, Parris Campbell