BUY SELL HOLD – Pre-Week 1
by The Football Fix
The 2021 NFL season is about to kickoff which means just about all of us should have our fantasy rosters assembled by now. There’s a lot of value shifting that happens in training camp and the preseason. Whether it’s unexpected injuries, beat reports, preseason usage, or something else, it’s important to be able to differentiate the good information from the bad.
The average fantasy gamer has gotten much sharper over the years, but the crowds are still susceptible to pricing inefficiencies based on irrelevant news, faulty stats, and so on. If you have an eye for what matters, you can find some good value in the offseason even before the first snap of the regular season happens.
That’s what this article is for. To help you capitalize on players who might be improperly valued, block out the noise, and build a better fantasy team.
BUY - RB D’Andre Swift, Lions
We all know that the Lions are in a full rebuild mode right now and their offense doesn’t look that good on paper. However, that doesn’t mean D’Andre Swift can’t greatly outperform his current mid-4th Round ADP.
Swift is a very versatile back who can contribute on all downs. The most appealing part of his potential opportunity this season is in the receiving game. As a rookie, Swift was top-11 amongst all backs in Targets/Game, Target Rate, Receptions/Game, and Catch Rate. With Detroit having one of the weakest wide receiver corps in the league, you could easily see Jared Goff looking for Swift in the passing game often this year. I expect him to catch anywhere between 60-70 passes in 2021, which would make him a super valuable PPR asset.
It’s also important to understand the power that Game Script has on deciding play calling. Dan Campbell is bringing this tough, almost caveman-like mentality to the Lions that often translates to a ground-and-pound offense. A lot of that work in the trenches could go to Jamaal Williams this season. But it doesn’t matter how many kneecaps the Lions try to bite off if they’re constantly losing games. The data clearly shows that when teams are losing, they’re forced to pass. As one of the least talented teams in the league, the Lions should be losing a lot. That means more passing and less inefficient running. More Swift and less Williams.
Swift looks like an absolute smash at his current ADP. With all the noise surrounding this underwhelming Lions offense and Swift’s role, he’s a screaming buy in all PPR leagues.
HOLD - RB Darrell Henderson, Rams
After losing second-year RB Cam Akers to an Achilles’ injury, the Rams spent a little over a month with a backfield of Darrell Henderson, UDFA Xavier Jones, and seventh-rounder Jake Funk.
It wasn’t until Henderson dinged up his finger that the Rams decided to trade a 4th Round pick to the Patriots for Sony Michel. Before the Michel acquisition, Henderson’s ADP was in the mid-4th round of drafts. After the Michel acquisition, Henderson has fallen all the way to the end of the 5th Round in a lot of leagues.
Many believe that the mere presence of Michel now spells the end of Henderson’s 2021 boom potential, but I’m not quite ready to jump ship. Michel was a pretty efficient runner for the Patriots in 2020, but by late November, he was pretty much the third-string back on that depth chart. We also know that Michel is rumored to have a degenerative knee issue, which has been a key factor in his stalled career to this point.
Michel could very well take some touches away from Henderson, but he could also just be in L.A. for depth. We know it’s unlikely that Michel’s body will be able to withstand a full rushing workload over the course of an entire season, so worst-case scenario, Henderson is splitting touches with him.
Best case scenario (assuming health), Henderson is still the starter commanding a majority of the valuable opportunity with Michel there to just take a bit of the load off. One of HC Sean McVay’s main concerns about Henderson was keeping him fresh after losing Akers, so Michel simply being a breather back makes some sense.
In the end, we don’t know for sure how the touches are going to be distributed in this backfield. We can only infer based on the moves the Rams have made, the timing of those moves, and the players involved. Of course, Henderson’s value has to take a hit with Michel now in the picture, but that doesn’t mean he should already be deemed a bust in seasonal leagues. That’s why Henderson is a hold.
SELL - QB Jalen Hurts, Eagles
Let’s first talk about Jalen Hurts as a prospect. Coming out of school he was widely accepted as a dual-threat guy who might be limited as a passer at the next level. Fans of Hurts will tell you that MVPs like Cam Newton and Lamar Jackson are proof that you can still be a menace in this league without being a well-refined thrower of the football as long as you have elite rushing ability. However, Hurts doesn’t have that to the extent that many believe.
At 6’1” 222 lbs, Hurts runs a 4.59 40-yard dash. Lamar is a similar size and ran an adjusted 4.44 timed 40-yard dash at his pro day. Cam Newton is 4 inches and 25 lbs heavier than Hurts, yet ran the same exact 4.59 40-time at the combine. So Hurts doesn’t have the speed of Lamar nor the size of Newton. Hurts is still an effective runner, but not an elite one by any means.
Now let’s look at his rookie year performance when he started in Weeks 14-17. Of course, this is a small sample size and he was sort of thrown into the fire. With that being said, he didn’t play well enough to ease any of my prior concerns about his limitations as a prospect. Amongst all quarterbacks who played at least 150 snaps in his span of starts, Hurts ranked 17th out of 19 qualified players in EPA+CPOE composite score. In other words, he wasn’t very good.
On top of all this, some of Philly’s offseason behavior suggests to me that they aren’t fully bought in to him being their quarterback of the future. New Eagles HC Nick Sirriani spent the better part of a month being very wishy-washy about Hurts and indicating that there was very much an offseason quarterback competition in Philly. Then the team went out and traded for Gardner Minshew, which doesn’t signal good things for Hurts in my opinion.
If the Eagles don’t trust Hurts, I have a hard time trusting him. Couple that with some of the limitations on his prospect profile, and I’m just out on Hurts in fantasy this season. He’s being billed as the next Konami-code.