NFL

15 Fantasy Football Transactions for Week 3

It's difficult to play and analyze fantasy football without emotion.

When a player isn't producing, but his usage is there, it's not easy to just say to yourself, "It's all going to be just fine."

And the opposite is true, too. When a player on your roster is going nuts to an unsustainable degree, moving on from him -- selling high on him -- is an extremely tough thing to do.

What if he's actually just that good? What if he's just going to be an outlier? What if he's going to post a historically good season?

That may be the case for Tom Brady. But I can't let emotion get in the way of math and logic.

Note: The transactions each week are not in order of importance.

Sell Tom Brady

No one should be surprised by Tom Brady's start to the season.

On an episode of The Late-Round Podcast from early August, I called out the Buccaneers' passing attack as one with an attractive early-season schedule. It didn't take a lot of effort to draw that conclusion -- this is no victory lap -- since they were facing Pro Football Focus' bottom two secondaries entering the season in Weeks 1 and 2.

The greatest quarterback of all time predictably tore them apart. Brady's now got nine touchdowns in just two games, and the only passers in fantasy football who've posted more fantasy points through two weeks are Kyler Murray and Patrick Mahomes.

Both of those quarterbacks have done work on the ground, though, whereas Brady hasn't. And that, my friends, is the problem.

For a quarterback to thrive in today's fantasy football game, he either needs to be an anomaly as a passer, or he needs to add fantasy points with his legs. We know Tom Brady isn't anything but a dad runner, which means for him to be a true difference-maker, we'll need crazy, crazy passing numbers.

You may be saying to yourself, "Well, JJ, isn't he already showing us that he can do that?"

Yes and no.

The fact that Brady isn't the clear-cut QB1 in fantasy football after throwing nine touchdowns in two games is telling. The fact that he's only scored six more points than Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts despite having four more passing touchdowns than those two quarterbacks combined... that's telling.

Tom Brady threw 40 touchdowns last year and was the QB10 in points per game scoring. He was the QB11 if you include Dak Prescott.

Because he doesn't run the ball.

Brady's bound to post better-than-average efficiency numbers because he's a great quarterback and he has great weapons. But what he's doing right now is likely not sustainable.

Through two weeks, Brady's thrown a touchdown pass on 10.5% of his attempts. Brady's career average touchdown rate is 5.5% (it was 6.6% last year), and the NFL record for touchdown rate in a single season is 9.9%. In other words, through two weeks, Brady's far outpacing anything he's done in his career in the touchdown column all while blowing the league touchdown rate record out of the water.

The Buccaneers have scored nine offensive touchdowns in their two games, which is tied for the most in football. They've rushed for zero of them. To assume all Tampa Bay touchdowns will end up as passing touchdowns by the end of the season would obviously not be wise. From 2011 to 2020, the average pass-to-rush touchdown ratio across the league has been 1.9. Even if we bump that to something like 3.5 for the Bucs -- a ratio hit by only 13% of teams over this timeframe -- then you're immediately looking at two fewer passing touchdowns this year for Brady. That may seem insignificant, but it would place him in the QB8 or QB9 range.

No one should be expecting Brady to disappear. In fact, I think it's even reasonable to expect Brady, given his weapons and how they've managed the goal line to start the year, to break his personal touchdown rate record.

We just shouldn't lose sight of the schedule, the unsustainable production, and what matters for quarterback scoring in fantasy football. As a result, if you can sell high -- and I'm talking like, sell Brady as if he's going to be a top-two or -three quarterback this year -- you should.

Add Rondale Moore

The target leader for the Arizona Cardinals after two weeks isn't DeAndre Hopkins.

It's Rondale Moore.

The rookie has turned his 13 targets into 11 catches for 182 yards and a score. And while we should expect Hopkins to end the year with the most targets for the Cardinals, we can't discount Moore given Arizona is using him exactly as they should be. According to Next Gen Stats, among the 60-plus wide receivers with 10 or more targets this year, Moore is third to last in average air yards per target. They're keeping him close to the line of scrimmage and allowing him to make plays with his athleticism, which is exactly what allowed him to thrive at Purdue.

He's still out there in two-third of Yahoo! leagues, and he should be a priority off the wire this week.

Buy A.J. Brown

Tennessee got a big win on Sunday, but A.J. Brown didn't have his best game.

He ended up catching just 3 of his 9 targets for 43 yards, and per Next Gen Stats, his expected catch rate was almost 20 percentage points higher than his actual catch rate.

Not great, Bob!

Thankfully, there's plenty of reason for optimism. Brown's seen target shares of 22.9% and 23.1% in the Titans' two games this season, and those target shares are now within an offense that's featuring more volume. Because of game script and the Tennessee defense playing like hot trash at times, the Titans have a pass-to-rush attempt ratio of 1.21 to start the year. They haven't had a season with a ratio that high since 2015.

More passing touchdowns should come, too. So far, only one of Tennessee's five touchdowns have come via the arm of Ryan Tannehill, giving them a 0.25 pass-to-rush touchdown ratio. Since Tannehill took over, the Titans have averaged a 1.33 pass-to-rush touchdown ratio per season. That 0.25 number is bound to regress favorably for the passing game.

Better days are ahead for Brown.

Add Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders has now seen 18% of Buffalo's targets this season to go along with, per Pro Football Focus, an average depth of target of 19.7. The Bills are using him as a deep threat -- prior to the Monday night game, he was top-10 in the league in air yards.

Those deep balls just haven't connected. Josh Allen has now thrown it 15 or more air yards 17 times this year. He's connected on just four of those tosses, good (bad) for a 23.5% completion rate, the worst in the league among players with 10 or more of those passes. Last season, Allen connected on 48.5% of those types of throws.

Things will get better for the passing attack, and when they do, Sanders stands to benefit.

Add Cordarrelle Patterson

Are we really doing this? Is this really happening?

Are we...adding Cordarrelle Patterson off the waiver wire this week?

Yes, we are. We at least should try.

In Week 1, Patterson was out-snapped by backfield teammate Mike Davis 75.0% to 33.3%. Davis saw roughly double the number of carries and three times the number of targets in that game compared to Patterson.

This past week, things were a little different. Patterson saw a slightly more favorable snap share split to Davis (62.3% versus 34.8%), but the way Atlanta divvied up their backfield touches was better for Patterson. Davis saw 9 carries to Patterson's 7, and Davis barely edged Patterson 7 to 6 in targets.

The Falcons showed a little more life offensively in Week 2, and their next three games are against the Giants, Football Team, and Jets. They could face more neutral and positive game scripts, benefitting their backfield.

Buy Austin Ekeler

On last week's Late-Round Podcast "10 Trends" episode, Austin Ekeler was mentioned as a buy candidate after seeing his Week 1 usage. In Los Angeles' game against Washington, Ekeler wasn't targeted -- a rarity for him -- but he saw the team's goal-line work. The biggest knock on Ekeler since he's become a thing has been the lack of touches near the opponent's end zone.

In Week 2, we had a more vintage Austin Ekeler performance. He tallied a 22.5% target share while managing about 64% of the Chargers' running back rushes.

This may seem like a "buy high-ish" moment for Ekeler considering he scored 22.5 PPR points in Week 2, but we really haven't seen Ekeler's single-game ceiling yet. The Chargers didn't have any official goal-line plays in Week 2, but they did run Ekeler on a two-point try, which he converted. That now gives us a sample size of three goal-line rushes, with Ekeler seeing all three.

If that continues all while seeing one of the best target shares in the league at the position, then Ekeler could have an insane season.

Add Henry Ruggs

We shouldn't fool ourselves: the usage hasn't been mind-blowing for Henry Ruggs so far this year. In Week 1, his target share was just 9.6%. In Week 2, it was 18.9%. Neither number is elite or anything.

Sometimes big games can lead to bigger and better things. On Sunday, Ruggs took that 19% target share and turned it into 5 catches for 113 yards and a score against the Steelers. Now, on the season, he ranks in the top-40 in air yards among all pass-catchers. With Derek Carr playing well, Ruggs is worth a flier.

Hold James Robinson

James Robinson's now scored fewer than 10 PPR points in back to back weeks when he never scored in the single digits last season.

Should we panic?

I mean, yes, to some degree. It seems like expectations have shifted with Robinson since the season started, though, given what we saw in Week 1 with how Carlos Hyde was digging into his workload.

Fortunately, Week 2 looked much, much better for Robinson. His running back rush share went from 31.3% in Week 1 to 68.8% in Week 2, while his target share was still solid enough at 9.1%. He's now been targeted on 9 of the 14 running back targets for Jacksonville this year.

If you've got Robinson in a PPR format, he should be fine enough from here on out. If it's a standard league, I'd be a little more concerned. This transaction is mostly to point out that things got better, and Robinson managers can breathe a little easier.

Buy Kenny Golladay

Well, here we are.

When Golladay was a sell candidate back in Week 1, I wrote the following:

Golladay could get off to a slow start. There's a chance that we'll shift to buying him after Week 2 is over, but for now, he's not someone I'd want to rely on to kick off my fantasy football season.

As I said...here we are.

Golladay's peripherals through two games could be worse. Sterling Shepard's stolen the highest target share in the offense at about 28%, but Golladay's still seen a 20% share. All the while, Golladay ranks in the top-20 in air yards. He's got more air yards through two games than Mike Williams, Mike Evans, and Calvin Ridley, to name a few.

The reason Golladay was a sell in the first place was because of matchups against Denver and Washington to go along with the fact that he was coming back from an injury and hadn't gotten in many reps with quarterback Daniel Jones. Now, with decent-enough peripherals, I'd send a low-ball offer. Golladay is talented and will face Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas over the next three weeks.

Don't break the bank on Golladay, but see if you can get him at a low point.

Sell Devin Singletary

In Week 1 against the Steelers, Zack Moss was inactive for Buffalo. Devin Singletary was the obvious lead back, and he carried over 73% of Bills' running back rushes to go along with a 10.2% target share and 75.3% snap share.

This past week, Moss was active. Singletary's saw his running back rush share dip by about 12 percentage points, while his snap share fell by about 9. His target share was almost identical.

The difference in production from Week 1 to Week 2 for Singletary was a 46-yard touchdown -- he was a top-15 back in PPR formats this past weekend, but he scored 62% of his points on that one play.

Those rushing touchdowns will probably be tough to come by this year, too. We know Josh Allen will take looks away from his running backs close to the goal line, but we also saw Moss get utilized as the goal-line back in Week 2, seeing the only Buffalo rush from within the 5-yard line and two of the three from within the 10.

It's tough to see a real path to consistent upside for Singletary.

Add Van Jefferson

We haven't had any sort of blow-up game from Van Jefferson so far this year, and maybe it'll never come. His secondary numbers just don't look all that bad, so he should be on your waiver wire radar.

Through two games, Jefferson's seen just a 10.9% target share, but he's clearly been the number-three wide receiver for the Rams. Cooper Kupp has balled out and played 106 offensive snaps, while Robert Woods has been at 96 and Jefferson 89. Jefferson's actually run six more routes than Woods, too.

If you can stash him, it's not a bad idea. He's rostered in just 7% of Yahoo! leagues, and not only could he eventually be flex-viable, but he'd see a boost with an injury to one of LA's top receivers.

Buy Devonta Smith

Only nine wide receivers have seen target shares of 25% or better in each of the first two weeks of the season. One of those nine is rookie DeVonta Smith.

Smith had a down game in Week 2 after catching just 2 of 7 targets for 16 yards, but this represents a buy-low moment. As I talked about in the first 15 Transactions column of the year, Philadelphia's passing game schedule is pretty favorable through the front half of the season. Now that San Francisco is out of the way, Philly will face a handful of games in a row where they're either going up against a beatable secondary, or the game could end up being pass-heavy by script. Or, sometimes, both.

Next week for the Eagles is a game against the Cowboys. Then it's the Chiefs, Panthers, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Lions.

With Smith's 27.3% target share through two games, sign me up.

Add Daniel Jones

After two weeks of professional football, Daniel Jones is a top-five quarterback in standard-scoring fantasy football leagues.

No, that's not a typo.

He's done this with just two passing touchdowns, once again shedding light to the importance of quarterback rushing. Only Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts have more rushing yards than Jones has after two games at quarterback, and Jones is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns at the position.

It's unlikely he'll be able to keep all that up, but the passing matchups should get a little better, as I alluded to earlier with Kenny Golladay. And that starts this week against Atlanta, a team that entered the season with one of the weakest secondaries in the league and have done nothing to change our minds after giving up two top-five performances to Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady in Weeks 1 and 2.

Add Justin Fields

I try my best to not include players on these 15 Transactions lists that are rostered in a good number of leagues, but Justin Fields is an exception. After all, if I didn't include him, there would be questions. Lots and lots of questions.

But here's the breakdown: with Andy Dalton banged up, you want Justin Fields on your fantasy football roster. I've spent time talking through the importance of quarterback rushing throughout this week's column -- I podcasted about it this past offseason, too -- and Fields is the quintessential example of a quarterback who may struggle in real life but likely won't in fantasy.

On Sunday, Fields threw the ball 13 times and ran it 10 times. He didn't even play close to a full game, yet he now has one of five quarterback performances in the NFL this year with double-digit rush attempts.

You may think he can't get by strictly with his rushing, but I'd disagree. Last season's Jalen Hurts is a great rebuttal. Hurts had some of the worst clean-pocket numbers in the league, but he was a mid-range QB1 during his four starts because of his rushing.

It may be tough to trust him against a good front in the Browns this week, but you'll want Fields long-term.

Add the Las Vegas Raiders Defense

There aren't many obvious streaming options out there for Week 3, but the Raiders work. According to FanDuel Sportsbook, Vegas is a home 4.5-point favorite against Miami in Week 3, where the game has a 45.5-point over/under. Tua Tagovailoa is banged up, which could help a Vegas defense that's been surprisingly OK over the first two weeks, totaling 5 sacks and 3 takeaways.