Prey

These are players who appear to be playing below their true value. As their stocks are down, you should consider buying them on the cheap.

Quarterback

Carson Palmer – Many fantasy players own Palmer right now, and most who do likely picked him up as a streamer at some point and haven’t yet found a good way to dispose of him. If so, such a fantasy player may be satisfied with Palmer’s recent production, but either still views him as a streamer and/or already owns another QB that he would prefer to start weekly. As such, Palmer probably won’t cost a whole lot to acquire, even now. Currently the 8th best fantasy QB on the season, Palmer has chucked up a fair amount of yardage all year, but until Sunday, he had only recorded one multi-TD game in 2017; but it is possible that things are set to change for the 37-year-old former Heisman winner. It may be an oversimplification, but an obvious variable change from the first five weeks of the season and Sunday’s drubbing of Tampa Bay is the presence of a competent running game. Only 2 overly challenging defenses remain on Palmer’s schedule going forward, so it might be a decent plan to hold onto him and see where this goes for now. At some point offensive linemen Alex Boone and Mike Iupati will be on the field as well, so help is on the way.

Trade for him as: a streamer

But he really is: a low-end QB1 or a high-end QB2

 

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch – Call this one a hunch, but I think we’ll see a lot more of Lynch in the coming weeks. Lynch is notably slower than he used to be and he doesn’t cut hard anymore, and that means we simply cannot expect the type of high-level performance we once got from him, even if he continues to be just about the strongest guy in the room on every play. Averaging just 12 carries per game since arriving on the scene in Oakland, Lynch has averaged just 3.7 YPC and scored only 2 times. It’s justifiable and flat-out understandable that the Raiders would want to keep Lynch from taking on humongous workloads right out of the gate, because he’s an older back coming back from retirement. But enough, as they say, is enough. The Raiders, once thought a legitimate Super Bowl contender, are now 2-4 and fighting for their playoff lives in one of the toughest divisions in football. While it hasn’t performed quite as well as its reputation this season, the Raiders’ vaunted o-line is still very good, and Lynch regularly has a fair amount of room to roam. What has been tried already this season hasn't worked, so the coaches are going to need to try something new to save their gigs. That’s where my hunch comes into play. Other than that, there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by Lynch going forward. The passing game has been anemic since week 3 – Carr has been battling a back injury, Amari Cooper has been famously struggling to catch passes, and the o-line hasn’t lived up to the billing; but all of that sets up for positive regression. There are larger sample sizes of these entities all performing much better, and it’s logical to estimate that they will again. If so, that will give Lynch more room to run and more shots inside the red zone. Also, the Raiders’ defense has looked far better than previously expected, trumpeting the possibility of more positive game scripts in the future. Looking ahead, there are more positive defensive matchups for an RB than there are negative ones. Also, a year ago, while Latavius Murray was playing Lynch’s role, the Raiders started to use him more as the team got closer to the end of the regular season; so it’s possible this coaching staff has already had preserving its strengths for the long haul in mind all along.

Trade for him as: a low-end RB2

But he really is: a low-end RB1 or a high-end RB2

 

Marshawn Lynch.jpg

After retiring following the 2015 season, Marshawn Lynch returned in 2017 to play for the Raiders in Oakland, the city where he was raised.

 

Rob Kelley – At 45% owned according to Yahoo, there’s a decent enough chance that Kelley is not even rostered in your league, in which case you should simply pick him up out of the free agent pool. But if you’re trading for him here, you’re trying to shill out a few peanuts for a guy who likely profiles as a bruising two-down back – a poor man’s Jordan Howard – or even a poor man’s (gulp) LeGarrette Blount. There’s nothing sexy about plopping “Fat Rob” (his nickname, not mine) into one of your bench spots, but he could help you through the lean bye week days of November, because he profiles as a high floor RB3. That means if you’re forced to sit a player or two on your roster, Fat Rob could be the best of what’s lying around and give you just enough to float you on through. He hasn’t scored a ton in any game so far this season – in fact, he’s averaging just 4.37 half-PPR points in the three games in which he’s played all year – but it’s also likely better than it looks. Kelley struggled against Philly in week 1, but that’s become a weekly tradition for RBs facing the Eagles. Then Kelley began his week 2 affair by regularly gashing the Rams’ Aaron Donald-less right defensive front for long chunk plays; but after crumbling beneath an Ethan Westbrooks tackle and jamming his ribs into the knee of one of his own offensive linemen, he sustained a rib cartilage injury early in the 2nd quarter that knocked him out of the game and kept him out of week 3. In week 4, Kelley returned, although banged up, and he rambled for 7 quick carries, but he left midway through the 1st quarter with a rolled ankle. Week 5 was a bye, and week 6, he was held out again to heal up. That leads us to the present, and the chances seem fair for Kelley to once again materialize this week. While he’s a legit yeoman – a hard working big body with no wiggle – a guy who often has an idea but can’t get his body to interpret it for him – he does have a quality offensive line and a fair passing game around him. While he left both week 2 and week 4 early, his usage in each game was encouraging, as he had 19 carries and a target in essentially 2 quarters of play. And while he’s been away, rookie Samaje Perine has done nothing to cut into his workload and, in fact, driven the Washington coaches to do something they didn’t want to do – feature Chris Thompson, which they did in week 6. But Thompson is too small, and Washington needs a back like Kelley to do the heavy lifting. He’ll do it, and he’ll give his fantasy owners a safe floor along the way.

Trade for him as: a rotational bench player or a streamer

But he really is: an RB3

 

Wide Receiver

Julio Jones – This week’s first record skip is Jones, who was someone I was adamant about adding a week ago. If you didn’t, no worries. He had a good but not great performance; and his owner is probably still growing steadily more frustrated about him being used like Golden Tate. But there is a crystal clear oasis ahead in the form of the New England Patriots, who haven’t stopped anyone’s passing attack to date – no, not even Tampa Bay, who stopped themselves with some of the most uncreative and nonsensical play-calling of the year (And even then Jameis Winston threw for over 300 yards, and DeSean Jackson went for over 100 through the air). The Patriots are awful on the defensive side of the ball. Awful. Also, there have been a lot of critics that have come out of the woodwork disparaging the use of Jones both on the season as well as in his week 6 game against a beatable Miami secondary, particularly in the game’s final drive when Matt Ryan seemed to intentionally look away from Jones on almost every pass play. In a presser earlier this week, HC Dan Quinn made mention of it, saying the Falcons need to make a better effort to get him the ball. And they do. Jones is an incredible talent – maybe the best WR on pure talent in the whole league – and the Falcons have treated him like a little scatty slot receiver. This has to stop. The only thing that changed for the Falcons’ offense this summer was OC, as Kyle Shanahan took the San Francisco HC job and Steve Sarkisian slid in to take the play calling duties. That’s of some concern, but he hasn’t really called the games or utilized his personnel all that differently. That seems to suggest the issue with Jones is probably on the shoulders of QB Matt Ryan or Jones himself; or it’s an extended case of negative regression from last year. Either way, look for the issue to be corrected soon enough and Jones to be one of the elite WRs in the NFL once again.

Trade for him as: a high-end WR2

But he really is: a high-end WR1

 

Martavis Bryant – If you’re feeling gutsy, go after Bryant. He can be had for almost anything right now – the Ravens’ defense or Will Lutz or a basket of essential oils. His owner won’t admit it, but he has already scrolled his cursor over the drop button at least twice this week, but he took a deep breath and wiped away the beads of sweat and maintained composure (and if he didn’t, go grab Bryant as a stash). To catch you up to speed in case you’ve missed it, JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers’ 2nd-round pick in April, was playing exclusively out of the slot to start the year, but he’s starting to play in more sets than Bryant. In 4 straight weeks, Smith-Schuster has out-snapped Bryant; and since week 2, Smith-Schuster has drawn 23 targets for 15-192-2, while during that same span, Bryant has seen 28 targets and gone for 15-217-1. After Sunday’s game, it leaked to the media that Bryant was unhappy and was requesting a trade only for that claim to be withdrawn formally (which almost assuredly means it was true). There are essentially three ways this can go now. Possibility one is that he can be traded by the October 31st deadline, which probably won’t happen, nor will it help him a whole lot. If he can be traded, which is a big if, especially since he has off-the-field issues and has ostensibly been kind of a pain to work with, he would have to learn a new playbook. That means any value he may have would more than likely come later in the year and would likely be capped. Possibility 2 is that he is completely surpassed by Smith-Schuster on the depth chart, at which point he can either learn his role as a tertiary option, or he can be shipped off to the Matt Jones Academy of Weekly Inactiveness and become a dead option. Either way, it’s bad from a fantasy standpoint. But then there’s Possibility 3, which is that he gets his act together and outplays Smith-Schuster going forward. It’s not even a longshot, as Bryant is more inherently skilled with a height and speed combo that is almost unseen in the NFL. But in order for this to happen, stubborn minds will have to learn to yield a little – both Bryant, who will need to learn a little bit of humility; and HC Mike Tomlin, who will have to forgive Bryant for his public outbursts and learn to trust him again. Not only so, but struggling QB Ben Roethlisberger, who has been criticized by Bryant as well, will have to involve him – something he’s already shown a willingness to do. The point is this: From an outside perspective, it is easy to see the Steelers’ offensive struggles and see Bryant as one of the main ingredients for a resurgence. But internally, there is a lot going on in Pittsburgh. Bryant is a total stash, and you almost can’t play him until he shows you something. But the upside is so great, he may be worth keeping around on the end of your bench. If you’re in a position to take on such a risk, you go trying to pry him away from his owner only to find you never needed a crowbar at all – just a smiley face emoji at the end of a well-worded question and the last guy on your bench in return.

Trade for him as: a rotational bench player or a streamer

But he really is: a rotational bench player with WR2 upside

 

Martavis Bryant.jpg

After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2015 season Martavis Bryant (right) went on an incredible run, putting up 50-76-6 in 11 games.

 

Devin Funchess – Funchess was supposed to do much better in week 6 against a putrid Philly secondary, but QB Cam Newton seemed to only have eyes for Kelvin Benjamin all night. Not only so, but an inconvenient number of Newton’s worst throws seemed to be lofted Funchess’ way. Still with 9 targets a game for 4 weeks (no more than 10 and no less than 8), which directly coincide with the absence of Greg Olsen, who broke his foot in week 2, Funchess is an incredibly attractive option on volume alone. His schedule is nothing but plus matchups all year long; and as long as Olsen is gone, Funchess has to be in the mix for the WR2-WR3 conversation. Even so, his owner is still working up the trust for Funchess after probably acquiring him as a tepid dip of the toe and wondering if there’s any hope it holds up. If he’s looking at Funchess’ most recent stat line, 3-36-0, he’s feasibly recoiling back into his little turtle shell of disbelief over it. Maybe if you’ve already been won over by some of the most consistent volume in the league and a bevy of plus matchups to come, you can get a slight discount here.

Trade for him as: a low-end WR3 or a high-end WR4

But he really is: a low-end WR2 or a high-end WR3

 

Tight End

Hunter Henry – Henry has been slowly creeping his way back into our hearts lately. After posting two goose-eggs in the first three weeks, Henry has since seen target shares of 3, 8, and 7 and recorded a healthy 10-148-2 during that time. Meanwhile, future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates has seen his production take the direct inverse with target shares of 5, 3 and 1 and a stat line of 6-57-0 during that same span. In week 1 of this season, Antonio Gates took 27% more snaps than Henry; then, for the 3 subsequent weeks, their shares were split almost down the middle before, in weeks 5 and 6, Henry recorded 24% more snaps than Gates. By now, Henry has been on the field for 21 more snaps than Gates, and has played remarkably better than Gates in all facets of the game according to Pro Football Focus. It has become increasingly easy to presume that Henry has now established himself as the TE to own in Los Angeles. As one of the premier talents at the position, and now in what appears to be a larger role, it is very easy to see Henry jumping into the upper echelon and becoming one of fantasy’s elite TE1s. Buy high.

Trade for him as: a low-end TE1 to a high-end TE2

But he really is: a high-end to mid-level TE1

 

Jordan Reed – After a nightmarish sequence of unfortunate injuries – admittedly par for the course with Reed – he appears to be mostly on the mend and ready to take on an enviable slate of matchups on an upcoming schedule that pits him against only one more top-third fantasy defense against the TE for the duration of 2017. When healthy, Reed is just about as good as it gets; but by now, most people have probably forgotten. Some have held onto Reed despite acquiring and plugging in options like Hunter Henry or Evan Engram, so there are plenty of rosters where he’s languishing around doing nothing for an owner who doesn’t really know what to make of him anymore. Meanwhile, Vernon Davis continues to be a thing for Washington, which probably doesn’t do anything to make collar on a Reed owner’s shirt seem any less tight. But if you can get someone to go for it, and you’re in position to take on a long-term stash, Reed may be worth it. Don’t give up the farm here though. Just see what the owner is willing to take for him. It may be less than you would have thought; and it could pay big dividends by season’s end.

Trade for him as: a mid-level TE2

But he really is: a low-end TE1 or a high-end TE2

 

Bait

These are players who are playing above their true value. As their stocks are sky-high, you should consider flipping them for something better long-term.

Quarterback

Matthew Stafford – There are actually a few reasons you could put Stafford on a list of trade targets; and the arguments that frame that stance are the ones you would use to puff him up to a potential trade partner: Greg Robinson has been a disaster at LT while Taylor Decker has been absent with an injury, but Decker will return soon enough; the schedule thus far has been borderline brutal with Atlanta, Minnesota, and Carolina on it; and in the one game Stafford had against a fairly weak opponent, Arizona in week 1, he put up good fantasy production. But there are also a lot of reasons to doubt he’s going to turn it around anytime soon. Coming back from the bye week this week, there are a lot of sharks still in the water, with Pittsburgh, Chicago (twice), Minnesota, Baltimore, and Cincinnati still on the docket – all of whom rank in the top-3rd in fantasy defense against QBs. The only weak defenses left for the whole season are Cleveland and Tampa Bay, especially as Green Bay’s games figure to be lower scoring going forward without Aaron Rodgers. Also, Stafford’s most reliable receiver, Golden Tate, has suddenly come down with a shoulder injury, which should sideline him for multiple weeks. With Eric Ebron unable to take a step forward (in fact, taking a huge step back it appears), there is no one to dominate the middle of the field for Detroit, which means there is no true security blanket. Dump downs to Theo Riddick aren’t going to produce a ton of production for any QB. Rookie Kenny Golladay returns, but he’s an outside receiver like Marvin Jones, and he won’t fix the absence of Tate. Maybe T.J. Jones can step it up, but if he doesn’t, first downs may be hard to come by in Motown. Maybe his big name could be attractive to the Rodgers owner if he doesn’t have an adequate back-up plan, but see if you can get just about anything of use for him, even if you don’t carry a backup signal caller. You’ll probably do better streaming the QB position for the rest of the season anyway.

Trade him as: a low-end QB1

But he really is: a streamer

 

Matthew Stafford.jpg

After signing a $135 million extension in the off-season, Matthew Stafford is currently the highest paid player in NFL history.

 

Running Back

Kareem Hunt – There is one league I’m in where I ended up with Le’Veon Bell in the 1st round, Todd Gurley in the 2nd, Ezekiel Elliott in the 3rd, and Hunt in the middle rounds. In another, I got Bell, Melvin Gordon, and Hunt. These kinds of combinations are actually not that uncommon, because many of you may have snuck out in the middle to even late rounds of your draft with Hunt, who profiled in that range before Spencer Ware got hurt. As such, you may be wondering which of your needs you could bolster with a trade; and if you’ve gotten that far in your thinking, you may be wondering which of your assets is most expendable. In my mind, it’s probably Hunt. Fantasy football players have a very evident bias towards players that do well in national stages; and they have a similar bias towards players who did well in the first two weeks of the season – these have been proven with calculable data by people much smarter than me. With Hunt, he didn’t just meet these requirements; he had the greatest 1st game by a rookie RB in the history of fantasy football against the defending world champs on a nationally televised game that, to date, has had the 5th highest national Nielsen rating on the 2017 season. Needless to say, people are super high on Hunt; and for good reason. Hunt still rates as the highest scoring fantasy RB in 2017 so far, and he has looked great doing it. He is used in the passing game. There is no competition for his workload – only 3rd and longs, which are helmed by Charcandrick West, who is now injured. And Hunt has provided owners with nothing less than 100 total yards from scrimmage in every game, giving his owners a remarkably safe floor. But let’s just dig a little deeper as an exercise. For starters, Hunt’s biggest game came against a Patriots’ defense that was, at the time, thought of as elite; but by now, we can certainly attest to the fact that this is simply not the case. In fact, the Patriots have been the worst defense in fantasy this season. Period. Of course, Hunt’s 43.10 fantasy points against them would seem to skew this data; but the Pats have surrendered 20 to New Orleans, 33 to Houston, and 33 to Carolina. In the past 3 weeks, Hunt has been held increasingly in check, scoring an average of only 13.6 fantasy PPG in half-point scoring systems. In each of those three games, he hasn’t scored a TD, and has seen his YPC dip down to 3.88 during that same span. None of this is to try and make the argument that Hunt is bad – not in the least! But maybe he’s not really on the Le’Veon Bell tier. Maybe he’s a notch below. And since people won’t see it that way, maybe you could get a little bit more than Hunt is worth right now. Don’t sacrifice him for peanuts here. What you get back has to improve your starting lineup, or it’s not worth it. Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Mike Evans are a good place to start; but even then, you should ask for a backup RB to be kicked in.

Trade him as: a high-end RB1

But he really is: a high-end to mid-level RB1

 

Alfred Morris / Darren McFadden – When the news broke Tuesday night, it put a little chink in this plan, but maybe you could still get away from Morris and McFadden and get something in return, especially if you don’t own Zeke. Look, one of these two RBs could be an RB1 while Zeke is away – that is, if Zeke is ever away. But I’m here to argue that neither one will. First of all, we still don’t know who the starter is, or who will handle pass catching or goal line duty. We don’t know if either will be a bell cow, so the usage could be chopped up into two or even three pieces (don’t forget about Rod Smith in all this). That isn’t good for fantasy in itself. Also, people still assume that the Cowboys’ o-line is elite. We saw McFadden go for over 1,000 yards in 2015, and that was without Tony Romo for most of the year. The bottom line is, most people think that whoever straps on a helmet and gets behind that line can put up elite fantasy production. But, while that may have been true two years ago, it may not be such a certainty now. Ron Leary, who played LG for Dallas for the better part of 5 seasons, left in free agency and is now the best lineman the Denver Broncos have. Doug Free, a 10 year veteran of the Cowboys, retired after the 2016 season. In their place, La’el Collins, Jonathan Cooper, and Chaz Green have formed a triangle of ineptitude. Meanwhile, all-everything LT Tyron Smith, a 26-year-old 4-time Pro Bowler – often considered the best LT in the game – has struggled this season after dealing with back issues all summer long, and one has to wonder if he’s himself. And while Zach Martin and Travis Frederick, the anchors of the interior line, have played decently, they are far from their standard as arguably the best at their respective positions in the league as well. Something is amiss in Dallas with this running game. Even with Elliott, who is supremely talented and can create a ton on his own, there have been only 2 90-yard games, 3.74 YPC, and 2 rushing TDs in 5 games – well below what we saw in 2016, where he was held under 90 yards only 4 times total, ran for 5.07 YPC, and piled on a sweet 15 rushing scores on the season. Morris and McFadden are both serviceable RBS, and with a proper portion even behind this more depleted version of the Cowboys’ super-line, should be able to put up usable fantasy production. But they aren’t as talented as Elliott, and neither one is a guarantee for RB1 production, even if given the full workload. If it’s RBBC, there’s absolutely no chance for that. Sell while you can. You’ll do better to pick up Rob Kelley or Alex Collins from the free agent pool.

Trade them as: low-end RB1s or high-end RB2s

But they really are: low-end RB2s to rotational bench players

 

Wide Receiver

Larry Fitzgerald – Fitz is just awesome. I just love this guy. The future Hall of Famer is ageless, consistent, seemingly impervious to injury, dedicated to winning, brilliant, charming, and so so talented. Larry Fitzgerald is an American treasure. But while we’re playing this game we call fantasy football, we have to get our wits about us and remember the economics-based strategies we can employ to maximize our roster throughout the season. Right now, while Fitz is still amazing, it is highly unlikely that he’s really pretty much the best receiver in football. He’s a role player at this point in his career – the quintessential big slot; and he’s the best at that there is (and all apologies to Marques Colston and Eric Decker, but he’s the best there has ever been either). While he can maintain safe volume and likewise a safe weekly floor, he isn’t likely to parlay that into such huge yardage (465) and TD (3) totals all year long. That pace would put Fitzgerald’s totals at 1,488 yards and 9 TDs on the season – well ahead of any kind of predictive model for the dreaded one at this point in his career. While it’s not impossible for him to end up in this range (in 2015 he caught 109-1,215-9), it just isn’t likely. Regression is probably coming. If you’re not comfortable with that assessment, fine. I get you. Roll with him. I hope you’re rewarded for it. But if you’re playing strictly on probability here, the odds are against him putting up the single greatest season by a post-35-year-old WR in NFL history (move over Irving Fryar and Terrell Owens). If you want to play the odds, don’t sell Fitzgerald for just anything, but see if you can upgrade your overall roster by including him in the deal.

Trade him as: a low-end WR1

But he really is: a high-end to mid-level WR2

  

Larry Fitzgerald.jpg

Larry Fitzgerald has been involved in football his whole life, even starting out as a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings when he was a kid.

 

Will Fuller – Déjà vu. While I wrote about Fuller a week ago as a sell-high, he appears in this column again, because he just keeps on putting up impossible TD rates. Flash has 8 catches on the season, and he has now converted 5 of them into TDs. That TD rate comes out to 62.5%! That is absurd! No one can sustain that pace – no one – and if Fuller could, he would rewrite the record book in spray paint. He would just fart on it. He would just… it would be with such disregard; it would be so obscene; it would just make the record book a paperweight. Rather than betting on Will Fuller to be better than any other two WRs in NFL history merged together into one skinny body, I’m going to go ahead and bet that Fuller has some regression ahead. Call me crazy, I know. Now, here’s the thing about this plan. The Texans could see the rates and the near misses (a WR screen outside the left hash this weekend that almost went for another score, for example), and they may be compelled to get him more involved. If Fuller’s usage goes up, his value goes up with it. If you want to hold off and see where this goes, it’s not a bad play either. But if the usage stays where it is, there is no way that Fuller is ever any more valuable than he is right now.

Trade him as: a high-end to mid-level WR2

But he really is: a low-end WR3 to a low-end WR4

 

Tight End

Cameron Brate – Last week I opted to skip out on TEs as sell candidates altogether. They usually don’t yield much in a trade unless they are putting up crazy big numbers or they have a big name. Well, here’s the thing about Brate. He’s been putting up crazy big numbers. In his past 4 games, Brate has been targeted 27 times, and he’s produced a 19-257-4 stat line in that duration. On the season, Brate is now 4th in the NFL in TE fantasy scoring. And not to be a party-pooper, but Brate has also seen one of the easiest schedules for TEs in the whole NFL. This week Buffalo will give him his first stern test; but the real problem for Brate comes at the end of the season, when his 6 final games all come against defenses that are in the top 17 in fantasy defense against the TE, including 3 that are in the top 10. Add to that the fact that O.J. Howard, the Bucs’ 1st pick in this spring’s NFL draft, is only getting better all the time and could see his role in the passing game increase, and the rest of season outlook for Brate begins to look a little bleaker. In the meantime, while Jameis Winston thinks he’ll play this weekend with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, it still remains to be seen. And if Winston doesn’t play, it can only be worse for Brate as the Bucs’ will no doubt produce less offense under the leadership of Ryan Fitz-magic, who put up some lofty fantasy numbers in garbage time against a bad fantasy defense against QBs a week ago, but isn’t bound to repeat that this weekend against a scrappy Buffalo defense.

Trade him as: a high-end TE1

But he really is:  a mid-level to low-end TE1