Fantasy Football Stock Market
You can’t always pick tops and bottoms in the stock market, but successful traders know how to use available information to make informed decisions about whether to buy or sell. Similarly, a good fantasy football trader can identify players poised to rebound and those that are destined to come back to earth. Here are my favorite Buy-Low and Sell-High options heading into the fourth week of the NFL season.
QB – San Francisco 49ers
It’s hard to believe that someone who started the season with a 412-yard, three-touchdown performance could be considered a buy-low option, but a combined 277 yards and zero scores in his last two games puts Colin Kaepernick firmly into this space. Fantasy owners were willing to forgive the debacle in Seattle, given how tough the Seahawks are at home, but after his poor performance in Week 3 against the Colts, panic might be setting in. However, Kaepernick was without Vernon Davis on Sunday and Indianapolis is better against the pass than a lot of people realize. While the 49ers still have to play a number of solid pass defenses in the coming weeks, the second half of the season includes matchups with Washington, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Arizona. Davis’ impending return and the ongoing development of chemistry between Kaepernick and his other receivers should help to get the young signal caller back on track. We have him projected as the eighth best fantasy quarterback for Week 4.
Robert Griffin III
QB – Washington Redskins
RGIII has thrown for better than 300 yards in each game this season and has five touchdowns, but fantasy owners seem to be generally disappointed. Given the poor state of Washington’s defense, however, Griffin should continue to have a high volume of pass attempts, and his rushing stats – which are the primary concern for his fantasy owners – should improve as the season progresses. While he likely won’t run as often or with as much success as he did a year ago, Griffin should be utilized more in the rushing attack as he gains confidence in his surgically-repaired knee. His college coach, Art Briles, said last week that it took Griffin 4-5 games to get back to normal after his last knee reconstruction, and even the immortal Adrian Peterson had a slow start to the 2012 season as he came back from an ACL tear. If Griffin owners have shifted him to the bench in favor of someone like Michael Vick, kick the tires on a deal to stash him away for later in the year.
RB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not all buy-lows have to be guys that are truly struggling. Doug Martin is second in the NFL in rushing after three weeks and he leads the league in carries. But when fantasy owners invested a top 3-5 pick on Martin, they were likely envisioning more than the single touchdown that he has scored to date. I’m still treating Martin like a top-5 fantasy back and we have him rated as such in our Week 4 projections. If his asking price reflects a lesser value, I recommend you take advantage. He is actually well ahead of his production through the first three games of 2012, and he didn’t score his second touchdown until Week 7 of last year. Tampa Bay’s offense is a mess right now, but Martin is definitively the focal point, and a potential quarterback change might light a fire under Greg Schiano’s boys.
RB – Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson is another guy that is performing well, but probably isn’t living up to his draft position. Only five players have more rushing yards in the NFL over the season’s first three weeks, but Johnson has yet to score a touchdown and he has seen limited involvement in the Titans passing game. Still, the artist formerly known as CJ2K has as many carries as Adrian Peterson thus far – they are tied for second, behind only the aforementioned Doug Martin – and Tennessee’s offensive line has looked decidedly better in 2013 than it did last year. Johnson may never recapture the magic of his 2009 season, but he is a viable RB2 this year that might be treated more like a RB3 in trade talks this week.
WR – Dallas Cowboys
I appreciate that 17 catches for 201 yards and two touchdowns is hardly a slow start, but I still believe Dez Bryant has the potential to be the best wide receiver in the fantasy game, and his numbers to date have him rated closer to the 20-25 range. I don’t expect that a Bryant owner is going to treat him as a WR2 in trade negotiations, but I would be willing to give up any receiver not named Megatron to acquire Bryant right now. His numbers this year are considerably better than the first three games of 2012, when he managed just 13 catches for 164 yards and zero touchdowns, and we all remember how that turned out (92-1382-12). Plus, the Cowboys have a lot of passer-friendly teams left on the schedule, including San Diego this week (32nd against the pass), two games against Washington (31st), two with Philadelphia (29th), a game against the Vikings (28th), and one with the Packers (27th). Check out our statistical breakdowns for more information on favorable matchups.
Previously-Mentioned Players that I’m Still Buying:
Roddy White, Stevan Ridley, and David Wilson (although the asking price has to justify the risk)
QB – Philadelphia Eagles
I spent most of the preseason talking about my quarterback strategy of waiting for one of the guys ranked in the 8-12 range and then quickly backing them up with Michael Vick. And that play has worked out perfectly. However, Vick is still a guy that hasn’t played 16 games in a season since 2006 and he’s already taking a lot of big hits this year. It’s just a matter of time before he finds his way to the injury report. If you can package Vick in a deal that lands you one of the elite fantasy quarterbacks (Rodgers, Brees, or Peyton Manning) or helps you to address another area of need, you should cash out on the Philly QB while you still can.
RB – Dallas Cowboys
Demarco Murray is fourth in the NFL in rushing this season, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. So, what’s not to like? For one thing, Murray is another player with a history of injury problems, having never played more than 13 games in a season as a pro. He’s also coming off a huge game against the Rams that disguises the fact that he was having a very ordinary start to the season, averaging less than 3.5 yards per attempt. This follows a lackluster 2012 season in which Murray averaged just 4.1 yards per carry over 10 games with the Cowboys. In addition to masking a ho-hum start to the season, the 175-yard effort on Sunday may have inflated Murray’s trade value. Strike while the iron is hot… and before the iron inevitably gets broken.
RB – Cincinnati Bengals
It hurts me to include Giovanni Bernard on this list, because I really like him as a player and I have been high on him this season for fantasy purposes. But Bernard is currently performing like a top-10 fantasy back, scoring three touchdowns in the Bengals last two games despite the fact that he has touched the ball just 28 times to start the year, and I don’t think that is sustainable. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still a big part of Cincinnati’s running game – he has 46 carries and 48 total touches through three games – and that’s not likely to change absent an injury to the veteran. Bernard should wrestle away a larger portion of the carries as the season progresses and he is the running back of choice in the passing game, but his value on the trading block might never be as high as it is right now.
WR – Pittsburgh Steelers
Here is another situation where a player is coming off a huge Week 3 performance, potentially inflating his trade value in a way that likely won’t be sustained. Antonio Brown is fresh off of a 9-catch, 196-yard, and two-touchdown outing against the Chicago Bears in primetime. Despite the fact that he had just 11 grabs for 128 yards and zero scores in the Steelers’ first two games, Brown now finds himself in the top five among fantasy wide outs. If you can get anywhere close to that value in a trade, jump on it fast. Pittsburgh’s offensive line continues to be a sieve and Ben Roethlisberger is taking a beating. Big Ben typically misses a few games a year anyway – he’s only played 16 games once in his nine NFL seasons – but the chance for injury is even greater as he plays behind a makeshift line that lost center Maurkice Pouncey in Week 1. With last week’s game looking like an anomaly and his quarterback presenting a major injury risk, Antonio Brown is an excellent sell-high candidate.
WR – New England Patriots
The last sell-high option of the week is particularly noteworthy in PPR leagues. Julian Edelman has an amazing 27 catches on 34 targets through the first three games of the season, as Tom Brady continues to look for a reliable option in his depleted receiving corp. But while Edelman has as many catches as anyone in the NFL right now, he’s outside of the top 30 in terms of receiving yards and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Throw in the fact that the Patriots’ rookie receivers are showing signs of improvement, Rob Gronkowski could be back on the field as early as this week, and Danny Amendola should return at some point, and Edelman’s run as a starting fantasy receiver might already be winding down. If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to see what you might be able to get for Edelman in the trade market.
Self-described fantasy degenerate that has been participating in fantasy sports leagues since the spiral notebook scoring era. If you can make a fantasy league out of it, I’m in.