Fantasy Football Intelligence: Reality Clashes with Assumption

The music theme went over pretty well last week, so here we go again. Winning fantasy football requires regularly re-examining your assumptions in the wake of new facts. The art is knowing when you have enough data to react. Move too soon and you give away a valuable asset; wait too long and the opportunity on the waiver wire or in a trade is missed. While last week was about taking a breath and letting things play out a bit, this week is about moving decisively to address hard facts like injuries and figuring out which preseason assumptions regarding teams and performance need to be questioned.

This week is a recurring feature called REACTION or INACTION, and here’s the theme song…

 

REACTION (a/k/a Holy crap, I need to do something!!!)

Drew Brees is going to miss 6+ weeks.

If your league has an IR slot or a roster big enough to stash him, you can ride this out. If you already have a good backup, you’ll be okay. If not, there is enough talent at QB in the NFL that you might find Garoppolo or Brissett on the wire. You might consider Teddy Bridgewater. Avoid the owner/vulture calling to offer you a $5 for two $10’s. A manager who drafted Lamar Jackson, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott or possibly Kyler Murray as a backup will want to trade him to you for a top RB or WR. Don’t create another weakness to patch your existing weakness when QB is such a deep position. On the other hand, if you have a surplus at another skill position and another owner has a QB you like, make an offer that is fair to both teams. Hurry up, the Roethlisberger and Cam Newton owners are considering the same thing. All Saints values take a hit, with Kamara, Thomas and Lutz remaining must start, but with lower ceilings. Watch what Sean Payton does to adjust the offense to Bridgewater’s skill set.

Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season.

Two weeks in, the Steelers are at a crossroads. Move on from Roethlisberger with your backup or one of the many options at QB. Right now, Garoppolo, Winston, Brissett, Dalton, Stafford, Bridgewater and Trubisky can be streamed based on matchups. Darnold probably joins the list once he recovers from his bout with mono. If I am holding Steelers skill players, I am a bit heartened that Rudolph did not look overmatched, but the value of JuJu and Conner take a meaningful hit. Adding injury to injury James Conner left the game as well though he is saying the knee injury is not serious. He missed three games with a sprained ankle last year. Don’t panic; remember, the Steelers have a good offensive line and it is possible that they may try and lean more on the ground game. This would change Conner’s usage profile, but maybe help maintain his value. Further, the Steelers just traded a first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick which means a) they like Mason Rudolph and b) they are not giving up on this season.

The Ravens look very good.

Mea culpa. I may have underestimated the Ravens offense. Other than ranking Justin Tucker as K1 (ADP K3), and complimenting Mark Andrews, I was bearish on the Ravens. They are well coached and they are off to a terrific start. Jackson, Ingram, Andrews and Brown are start-worthy until further notice. They have only played Miami and Arizona, but they have a string of mostly plus matchups leading up to their bye in week 8. The Patriots come to town in week 9 and the Ravens visit the Rams in week 12, but with Pittsburgh taking a step back, all of a sudden their schedule looks damn friendly. Get on board.

The Cowboys offense is now dynamic.

Kellen Moore has made a big difference as the new OC. More play-action, more motion, the team of the 90’s has finally moved into the 21st century. Dak Prescott has the quality and quantity to be a starter. He and WR Michael Gallup have exceeded expectations, though Gallup will miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury. The first two opponents have been the putrid Giants and Redskins, and this week brings Miami. The schedule gets tougher and there will be weeks when they ride Zeke, but there may be more fantasy players here than first thought and they may challenge the Eagles for the division. The defense hasn’t impressed yet, but they have some pieces there too.

Kyler Murray is throwing a ton and Arizona is running more plays than anyone else by a wide margin.

I still believe Kyler is a risky play, but Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald are seeing a lot of targets. If you can get one for free or cheap, you should. David Johnson has been bailed out by a couple of TDs, but his opportunity share has not been as expected so far.

The Bills are 2-0 with two road wins.

Yes, they had the good fortune of playing the Giants this week, but the Bills mounted a nice comeback against the Jets after a disastrous first half. I’m not placing the Bills among the elite, but they offer some assets to consider. Josh Allen may not be trustworthy against a top defense, but between his legs and strong arm, he should be serviceable for at least five or six games against the mid and bottom tier, including two tilts with Miami. Similarly, Frank Gore and Devin Singletary will have at least sporadic value if not more. The passing game is too inconsistent and infrequent to make a weekly investment, but if desperate and if he is healthy, John Brown knows how to get open deep.

Quick HIts

The Patriots are locked in and the defense is as good as it has been in a while. If you have not already grabbed Brady it is probably too late. AB will be productive as long as he plays and Sony Michel is the RB to have, but the rest of the receivers will be hit or miss. The defense does not have a matchup that concerns me until Cleveland in week 8, and that might even be fine.

The dumpster fire in Miami is moving north toward Jacksonville. Jalen Ramsey has demanded a trade which is never a good sign. With Foles already out, temper your expectations for Fournette, Westbrook and the defense.The team lost focus last year and it could be going the wrong way again.

The Jets lost another QB on Monday night. They will be a good streaming target for defenses until Darnold returns, though they have the Patriots next week and then a bye. They visit the Eagles in week 5 and Dallas comes to town in week six.

INACTION (a/k/a “I’m not pulling the trigger yet, but I”ll be watching you Focker.”)

Cam Newton has yet to throw for or score a TD and he is missing a lot of throws.

Newton was FFI’s QB11 so we had him a bit lower than most, but he started in 57% of Yahoo leagues this week. That number should go down and if you have a backup with a good matchup I can see sitting him at Arizona in week 3, though that is not a bad matchup. He had surgery, very little preseason play and a foot injury so we are not yet seeing his best. After two home losses, one as a favorite, their season is already on the line this week. I’d have him on a short leash, but unless I had an option I really liked, I’d roll with him one more week while getting a backup plan in place. He still has useful weapons with McCaffrey, Moore, Samuel and Olsen. The warning signs are there, but he probably merits at least another week. UPDATE: Reports indicate Newton has re-aggravated his foot injury and is not certain to play this week. Monitor carefully, but this is as close to a must win game in week three as there is, and if Cam doesn’t play, not only does it bode poorly for the Panthers’ season, but I would not start any Panther not named McCaffrey.

Aaron Rodgers is off to a slow start (for him).

With only three total TDs in two games and a little over 200 yards/game, he’s not living up to expectations. Once again, no pre-season. A new offense, a new head coach and games against two top defenses. The guy is still the best thrower of the ball this side of Patrick Mahomes. I’ll continue to R-E-L-A-X for a while.

_________ is off to a slow start.

We all have really good players that have not yet put up big stats. Remember, the best RBs and WRs don’t score every week and it has only been two weeks. If you own any of these players, come in off the ledge, it will be fine.

  • Alvin Kamara
  • Davante Adams
  • George Kittle (Had two TDs called back by penalty)
  • Jared Goff, Robert Woods (The Rams did not play starters in the preseason.)

These are players for whom the jury is out in terms of their fantasy value relative to where they were drafted:

  • James Conner
  • Le’Veon Bell
  • David Johnson
  • Joe Mixon (injured)
  • Kerryon Johnson
  • JuJu Smith Schuster
  • Adam Thielen
  • Tyler Lockett

Congratulations to those of you off to a 2-0 start, keep doing what you are doing. If you are 0-2, it is not the end of the world, but it is time to start re-examining assumptions like these in order to make prudent moves, not foolish ones. Need some help? Always happy to offer an opinion at [email protected]