Buy Sell Hold - Week 3
by The Football Fix
With only two weeks of football under our belts, it’s still a bit too early to make major, season-long judgments about players. Some guys are running hot when many didn’t expect them to, and other guys who we expected to come sprinting out of the gates are moving at more of a jogger’s pace.
Opportunity is king in seasonal fantasy leagues. You can’t produce consistently without consistent usage in the offense. Some players are getting really good usage but have failed to produce because of inefficient play. Other guys are playing very efficiently after two weeks, to the point where it’s unsustainable over the course of an entire 17-game season.
The perfect recipe for fantasy production is opportunity PLUS efficiency, working in tandem. The thing that separates the great players from the good ones is efficiency in the face of huge volume. If we know a player is talented, we can assume that their efficiency numbers will come in due time, which leads right into my first buy candidate:
BUY - WR A.J. Brown, Titans
Brown has caught just 7 of 17 targets for 92 yards and 1 touchdown in his first two weeks this season. That’s good for the WR47 ranking on the year, which is far from the WR7 ADP we were drafting him at. However, his usage has been solid and you’d expect his efficiency to eventually revert positively back toward the mean.
Brown leads the Titans in Air Yards Share at 38.9%, which is 11.4% higher than what Julio Jones has seen through two weeks. Brown is also averaging 8.5 targets/game this season, which is more than the 7.6 targets/game he saw last season when he finished as the WR6 in weekly scoring.
How did Brown achieve those great production numbers in 2020 despite ranking 23rd in targets/game? High levels of efficiency. We know Brown has a ton of talent and we’ve seen him be an efficient NFL player in the past. It just hasn’t clicked for him yet this year. His 41.2% Catch Rate through two weeks is much lower than his 66% rate last season. That’s just one example of an efficiency measure that’s due to increase over the next few weeks.
Did A.J. Brown get all the talent sucked out of him, or did he just have an underwhelming pair of games to open the season? I’ll go ahead and bet on the latter. Brown is still seeing good usage in this offense and once that efficiency comes back, so will his weekly WR1 production. Now is a great time to buy A.J. Brown.
Honorable Mentions: WR D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks | RB Antonio Gibson, Washington
HOLD - RB Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Taylor is another player who hasn’t had that production pop yet this season but has good enough usage to make me think that a boom is on the horizon. Through two weeks, Taylor ranks as the RB24 in overall PPR scoring.
Let’s ignore the production for a second and examine the usage. He’s seen 32 total carries in the first two weeks. He also caught six of seven targets in Week 1, which indicates that he has some receiving upside even with Nyheim Hines in the mix. Most importantly though, he leads the league in touches inside the ten-yard line. That includes six touches inside the five, but he’s yet to score a touchdown.
Touchdowns obviously play a big part in fueling fantasy production. However, they’re generally difficult to predict because there’s a lot of variance involved in who ultimately carries the ball over the line. The only thing you can bank on is trying to predict touchdowns relative to opportunity. Taylor is seeing a lot of high-value touches in the ten-zone but just hasn’t converted them.
As long as he continues to see that type of usage, a simple reversion back toward the TD mean should give him weekly RB1 scoring again. The only reason Taylor isn’t a BUY recommendation is because of Carson Wentz’s questionable injury status right now.
Honorable Mentions: WR Courtland Sutton, Broncos | TE Tyler Higbee, Rams
SELL - QB Tom Brady, Buccaneers
Even at the ripe age of 44, Tom Brady is tearing up defenses and is arguably the leading candidate to win MVP this season. He’s been great for fantasy purposes through two weeks and has one the best-supporting casts in football. With all that being said, there are unsustainable features of Brady’s production that indicate he won’t be able to keep pace with his current fantasy point totals.
As someone who doesn’t run the ball consistently, the main source of Brady’s fantasy value will need to come through the air. The current top-5 quarterbacks through Week 2 are Kyler Murray, Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Daniel Jones. Brady has just one carry for six yards in two games. However, the other four quarterbacks all have, to varying degrees, the ability to generate fantasy points on the ground. In other words, Brady is the odd-man-out in that regard.
Brady’s fantasy production has been heavily fueled by his TD%, which is 10.47% through 2 weeks. For context, that’s almost double his career TD%. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll have the highest single-season TD% of all time and finish 16 games with 72 TDs, smashing Peyton Manning’s current single-season record of 55. I think you can see how this is unsustainable.
Brady’s inordinately high TD% should regress back towards the mean, which means fewer overall fantasy points. Since he doesn’t have any rushing production to lean back on, this could cause a pretty significant dip in his weekly fantasy output.
Similar concerns go for Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski, two players who heavily rely on Brady’s TD% to produce good fantasy weeks themselves. You should explore selling all of them for the right price, but I’d make it an even bigger priority to move Brady.