As a Rangers fan, writing this during the Rays-Rangers game Monday night, I have to start this off with:
Stocks I'm selling
And now I will make a sad face.
Anyway, football. Your fantasy team is your portfolio. You are investing, you are diversifying, you are doing other -ings that have to do with money management. (What? I'm a non-finance-educated 20-something with a marginal income. Most of my money lies in sunglasses and bourbon.)
Okay, maybe I'm not the best person to draw out a lengthy stock-market analogy. But I think "your fantasy team is your portfolio" makes sense, yeah? I think it does. I stand by it.
That out of the way, this is The Ticker for Week 5, looking ahead at possible waiver-wire moves and sneaky finds. If you've followed along for the past few weeks, you know how it works, but here: There are stocks I'm buying and not buying, stocks I'm selling and not selling. There are guys in the Futures Market I think might have value soon enough, even if they don't quite yet. And there are Hedges, potential injury replacements and handcuffs who deserve a little more of a look. All the guys I'm buying or in some other way recommending are 50 percent owned or lower in Yahoo! leagues as of Monday morning.
Stocks I'm buying
A year ago, Jeffery was a popular deep sleeper pick, based on the "Jay Cutler has to throw to someone besides Brandon Marshall, right?" argument. He never topped seven targets or five catches in a game, only went for 367 yards receiving on the season, and missed time with injury. This year, those who were in on him a year ago feel vindicated to an extent, as Jeffery has been targeted at least eight times in three out of four games so far (and two rushes for 30 yards in his one five-target game). Sunday was a huge game for him, with 107 yards on five receptions and a touchdown, plus a 27-yard rush. Marshall is still getting his, and so are Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte. But the Bears are averaging more than 31 points a game; there are touches to go around. Jeffery won't eclipse Marshall, of course, but he certainly needs to be owned.
Kendall Wright leads the Titans in receptions. Washington, one behind Wright, leads in yards and targets and is tied for the lead in touchdowns. Kenny Britt leads in worthlessness. Oh, and Britt also leads in ownership percentage, at 34 (Wright is 24-percent owned). I guess Britt still has theoretical upside, but at this point it is theoretical at best. I see no reason why Britt is owned in anything but AFC South-only leagues with deep rosters. Wright and Washington are the only Tennessee wide receivers you want, and Washington is the one I'd go with first. He's just better.
This is just hilarious. Two weeks ago, I wrote in my weekly defense rankings that a horrible Minnesota Vikings defense was under consideration for my No. 1 overall defense, just by virtue of facing the Hoyer-led, sans-Trend Richardson Browns. I mean, it didn't work out, but the thought process was there. And Hoyer had an up-and-down Browns debut, throwing for 321 yards and three touchdowns but also three picks and 24 incompletions. But that was a few days into a starting job with essentially no viable NFL running back. A week later, against a stout Bengals defense, Hoyer - now with at-least-not-embarrassing Willis McGahee having a week's practice under his belt - saw his yardage dip to 269, but had two touchdowns and no picks, and his completion percentage climb more than ten percent. Maybe I'm crazy, but I'm believing in the Hoyer, especially with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon catching passes. Going forward, I'd rather have Hoyer on my fantasy roster than higher-owned guys like Josh Freeman (obviously), Jake Locker (even if healthy), the Buffalo and New York rookies, Alex Smith, and Andy Dalton, and you could talk me into some others.
Stocks I'm not buying
I mean, this might be obvious. It probably is. I don't know. But after Pettigrew had his best game in his last seven Sunday (seven catches for 54 yards), I could see some optimistic fantasy owner - maybe some guy who had Zach Sudfeld earlier or has Kyle Rudolph on a Week 5 bye - seeing Pettigrew's modest performance Sunday and buying back in on him. Don't. For the love of all that is good and true, don't. Brandon Pettigrew will make you sad. He's done it to me over and over, and I've finally saved myself. Save yourself too.
Fleener has had two plus games this year - four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 2; five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown Sunday - and two duds - one catch for seven yards in Week 1; two catches for 13 yards in Week 3. This after a rookie season in 2012 when he had only one game with more than 42 yards. The Colts adding Trent Richardson and going to more of a power-run option might help Fleener - ESPN's Matthew Berry thinks so, and there are reasons that could be true - but until he shows he can display any kind of consistency, I'm very reluctant to buy in.
With Miles Austin out for the Cowboys, Williams lined up opposite Dez Bryant Sunday, and caught seven of his eight targets for 71 yards. But he also had a crushing drop, fumbling the ball on an ill-advised reach for the end zone as Dallas was trying to make a game of it late. Between that, the fact that Austin will get healthy, and Dwayne Harris hanging around in Dallas being probably better than Williams, I hope he enjoyed his 71 yards; he might not get that much the rest of the year total.
Stocks I'm selling
Are you ready for a bombshell? Peyton Manning...can't keep this pace up. I know, I know, predicting a quarterback to go under 5,880 yards and 64 touchdowns is a bold call. Okay, I'll stop being silly. If I'm redrafting today, Manning, who I had as probably my fourth quarterback to start the season, would be my third quarterback. Yeah, he's jumped over Tom Brady. But I would still take Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees over Manning from this point forward. So he'll still be great, yeah. But I don't think he's a top-five, top-ten overall option, so if you can find someone who does think that, maybe you get crazy value back in a trade. It's an idea.
It's not that Johnson won't have decent days again. He will. After 45 total yards in Weeks 1-3 last year, he had 141 in Week 4. But then he fell to 24 in Week 5. He had 122 yards in Week 15 followed by 28 in Week 16. So yeah, he'll have his big days. But you won't know when they're coming, and you won't know whether they'll be prolonged. And with Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle getting touches in Tennessee, there's not much reason to hope for top value out of Johnson. On top of that, the Titans' next three games come against strong defenses Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco.
In one of my leagues, I had to choose two running-back keepers from a roster of Chris Johnson, Jones-Drew, and David Wilson. I guess I chose right by taking Johnson and Jones-Drew, but whatever, man. Anyway, Jones-Drew has led the Jaguars in rushing yards all four games so far, and yet has 138 yards total. He's not as healthy as he used to be, he's got an awful team around him, and he's on the worst team in an AFC South that has been surprisingly better than advertised, further limiting what he might be able to accomplish. He's not a droppable player, but he's not an RB1 or RB2 right now. I'm not even sure he's a flex.
Stocks I'm not selling
I've chronicled before in this space why I'm not convinced Bernard Pierce is the heir apparent some have made him out to be. And, while I saw Rice on Sunday and don't think he needed to be out there, he's still a stud running back in the long run. He'll get back to at or near the first-round value he was on draft day, especially with upcoming outings against Green Bay (in two weeks) and Pittsburgh (in three). With a passing attack that is struggling on both ends (Joe Flacco with five interceptions Sunday; no pass-catcher behind Torrey Smith doing much to emulate the dearly departed Anquan Boldin), the Ravens are going to lean on their best offensive player more and more, once he's healthy enough to carry them.
Without his third-quarter touchdown reception Thursday, Davis would have had his second straight nearly worthless fantasy outing (sandwiched around an equally worthless missed Week 3). He had two receptions on only four targets for 18 yards against the Rams. The 49ers tight end gushed about Colin Kaepernick after the young quarterback's first start last year against the Bears, when Davis caught six balls for 83 yards and a touchdown, Davis has only had one good regular-season outing since, catching six balls for 98 yards and two touchdowns in their season-opening win against Green Bay this year. All that is something of an indictment of Davis. But (a) he also had two 100-yard playoff games last year; (b) he did catch that touchdown pass Thursday, so it wasn't worthless; and (c) as confusing as his career has been so far, Vernon Davis is still one of the most talented handful of tight ends in the game, and he's still one of only two very viable 49ers pass-catchers. Maybe he and Kaepernick haven't totally gelled; I don't know. But I also don't care. If the 49ers are going anywhere, Davis is going to get yards.
It's not really been Darrius Heyward-Bey taking Hilton's touches, which was the worry entering the season. Rather, he just hasn't seemed to be much of a part of the Colts' gameplans, save his 124 yards on six caches in Week 2. Last season, Hilton had five different 100-yard games, and seven touchdowns. As unpredictable as I mentioned Chris Johnson is a few entries ago, Hilton is the same - none of his career 100-yard games has been immediately preceded or followed by any more than 50 yards. But that sin is much less in a WR3 than in a RB1 or RB2. If you've got Hilton, you probably don't need him to carry the lion's share of the workload. But he'll have his games where he goes nuts, and that makes him worth a low-end start every time.
Rashard Mendenhall is terrible.
What, you need more than that? Sigh. So needy. Okay, so after one touch in Week 1, Ellington got six total touches in Weeks 2 and 3 and seven in Week 4. Those are slight increases, but they are increases. They're giving him more work. He's averaged more than six yards a rush through 11 attempts so far; Mendenhall is averaged less than 3.5, and fumbled twice on Sunday. Whether it was overuse or injury or merely overrated-ness that has rendered Mendenhall incapable of repeating his 1,000-yard seasons, that running back no longer exists. Ellington might not be a stud, but he's significantly better than Mendenhall. And Beanie Wells managed to have big games on this team a season ago; if he can do it, surely, Ellington can.
Emmanuel Sanders was taken in the late 30s among wide receivers in most drafts, in the early 100s overall. With Mike Wallace gone from Pittsburgh, it was thought to be Sanders and Antonio Brown, with Jerricho Cotchery and Wheaton available to fall back on. Well, the time has come to do some fall-backin', as Sanders has only 231 yards through four games, despite the Steelers being completely unable to develop any kind of running game before Sunday's big outing from Le'Veon Bell. If Sanders can't find any separation, he's no good to a Steelers team that already has something of a possession receiver in Brown. Cotchery, meanwhile, hasn't been a good NFL player since at least 2009, and maybe earlier, depending on how charitable your nature is. He's ten years into a middling NFL career - that's impressive, sure, but a team that is 0-4 is looking to the future, and that future isn't Jerricho Cotchery. That future might be Wheaton, a third-round pick in this year's draft. In addition to football at Oregon State, Wheaton also competed in track and field. Simply put, he could be the separation guy. It might take some time for him to get fully integrated (especially after Cotchery's "oh, he's still alive" decent game Sunday), but dollars to doughnuts Wheaton is the No. 2 receiving option in Pittsburgh by season's end.
Goodson is eligible to return from his four-game suspension for violation of the league's PED policy this week. There was also a run-in with police in May that led to a host of charges. He seems like he might be a tool. But on the football field, there could be value there. He's started only three games in his career so far, all with the Panthers in 2010, but two of those were 100-yard games, showing what he might be able to do with more touches. With Chris Ivory out for the time being with a hamstring injury, Goodson and Alex Green are the viable backup options to suddenly not-bad Bilal Powell. We know Green doesn't have much to offer. Goodson might. For owners who have had to resort to starting Bobby Rainey, Jacquizz Rodgers, and an obviously injured Ray Rice in recent weeks (*cough*me*cough*), Goodson might be a desperation play.
In the last season-plus, there have been 11 occasions in which the same player was his team's outright leader in rushing and receiving yards in the same game. The worst non-Raider of that list is Fred Jackson, and the rest of them were taken somewhere between the first and fourth rounds of this year's fantasy draft. LeSean McCoy. Marshawn Lynch. Doug Martin. Frank Gore. Matt Forte. Reggie Bush. And then there's the Raiders, who have had Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece both turn the trick before Jennings joined the crew in Sunday's game, with 67 rushing yards and 41 receiving. Now, much of that is a quirk of statistics, achieved because on Raider had much in the receiving game this weekend. But any player who does that has value, because the ability to be a strong contributor in both sides of an offense is valuable. And now, with both McFadden and Reece banged up, Jennings, who had a couple big games as Maurice Jones-Drew's handcuff in Jacksonville, could be the beneficiary.
C.J. Spiller is hurt and might not play Thursday. Fred Jackson is hurt and might not play Thursday. On a short week, a team's top two running backs might miss the game. If one or both plays, there's no chance they're at full health. Choice, even if he had a starting job, would not be an upper-tier running back. But he's had his moments in his career, including averaging 5.26 yards a carry across 32 games in 2008-09, the first two years of his career. He's been used more sparingly in the years since, but he's still a 28-year-old with a career average of 4.3 yards a carry and ten touchdowns. If Spiller or Jackson is out, Choice is a low-end flex option against Cleveland. If both of them somehow miss the game, Choice is a fantasy starter.
This is the longest of long shots. But if Doug Martin were to get hurt, there is basically no reason for the Buccaneers to "see what they have" in Brian Leonard, a career second- or third-string running back who has only 646 rushing yards in seven seasons. Demps, the former Olympic sprinter-turned-running back, has at least theoretical value. The Buccaneers, it seems, would agree with this, as Demps already has the second-most rushing yards among running backs on the team, and that's on only one rush (and 14 yards). Look, this team is going nowhere, and it's going ever nowhere-r if anything happens to Martin. But we already know Demps has crazy speed. He might have decent football ability too. I'm not counting on anything out of him. But I'm not taking my eye off him, either.