Trader's Alley: Week 4 Buy Low, Sell High, and Hold
Welcome to the Week 4 edition of Trader’s Alley. We’re nearing the end of the first quarter of the fantasy season, and we finally have a decent enough sample size to begin making some assumptions about players, and their roles within their offenses. For some players, their situations seem much more fruitful from a fantasy perspective than we expected a few short weeks ago, and for others, it’s already clear that it’s time to move on, and accept a deal at the player’s current value.
Below is my Buy Low, Sell High, and Hold recommendations heading into Week 4. In addition to this article, don’t forget to use the 4for4 Trade Evaluator to try and mine even more value out of your moves. And remember, these recommendations are just the beginning of your fantasy trade considerations. Every league and every team is different. These are just some of the players who I’m interested in this week.
Trade for Odell Beckham
With Jarvis Landry out for the foreseeable future, even the run-oriented Browns are desperate for a playmaker on the outside, and Odell Beckham seemed up for the task in his first game back from an ACL tear. Beckham stated after the game that his shoulder “popped out and popped back in,” which limited his playing time, but he logged an encouraging 68% snap share, and more importantly, an 85% route participation rate, indicating Cleveland was simply holding him out of run plays. Best of all, Beckham ranked first on the team with nine targets on Baker Mayfield’s 31 passes against the Bears, resulting in an extremely encouraging 26% targets per route run.
The veteran's production didn’t match his sky-high usage, especially for the Cleveland offense’s standards. Beckham may not be the same player he was early in his career, but he has a history of monster performances and looks like he’ll be fed like a number-one receiver. Make a deal for Beckham before the blow-up game happens and ride OBJ on the backs of Cleveland’s relatively light rest-of-season schedule, where the toughest remaining defenses (particularly Pittsburgh and Baltimore) have disappointed relatively preseason expectations.
Trade Saquon Barkley
Barkley, the greatest running back prospect in a decade, is in the process of having his rookie contract completely squandered by an inept New York Giants front office and coaching staff that seems determined to play inefficient, uninspired football. And now the Giants are dealing with multiple injuries at receiver, which at first might seem like a positive for Barkley’s prospects in the near future simply based on easily projectable volume, but without the ability to move the ball, which the Giants proved they were unable to do against Atlanta in Week 3, Barkley will need to be incredibly efficiency on a per-touch basis in order to remain consistently productive in fantasy football.
Barkley bailed out fantasy gamers with a touchdown in Week 3, but his underlying usage numbers are fairly alarming. Barkley ranks outside the top-35 skill position players in expected fantasy points per game, and is currently averaging over four PPR points below expectation. Without a solid backbone of either elite workload or an efficient offense, Barkley becomes a player who will receive decently high usage from week-to-week, but of mostly low-value touches. Trade Barkley for a haul if someone sees an easy pass to a turnaround. While it’s certainly possible for a talent like Barkley, it’s far from a sure thing, at least for 2021.
Trade Antonio Gibson
Gibson is one of the most physically gifted players at his position, and flashed his brilliance with a fantastic 70-plus yard touchdown catch-and-run in Week 3. But the increase in volume that many hyped up in the preseason, particularly in the passing game, has yet to play out on the field. Gibson ranks 20th among all running backs in expected fantasy points per game, and ranks even lower than that in PFF’s expected receptions metric. Teammate J.D. McKissic continues to take away snaps and valuable receiving work, having earned a total of eight targets, tied for 26th in the NFL. Gibson is a highly skilled back, and based on his 2020 efficiency metrics, is absolutely still a buy in any kind of dynasty or keeper format, but with the Washington Football Team struggling offensively, and too much certainty regarding his week-to-week usage, it’s time to unload Gibson to a league-mate who values him close to his preseason ADP. Gibson will have the occasional RB1 performance, but without a floor of built-in receiving work, his down-weeks are going to sting.
Trade for Stefon Diggs
While Diggs has disappointed relative to his ADP, his role within the Buffalo offense hasn’t changed at all. Diggs still leads all Buffalo receivers in air yards share and in target share, and ranks second behind slot-specialist Cole Beasley in receptions. Moreover, the Bills are one of the most prolific offenses in the league from a fantasy perspective, with four skill position players averaging over 10 PPR points per game. While the offense has been quite as concentrated as expected, Diggs and teammates Emmanuel Sanders and the aforementioned Beasley are still commanding well over 70% of the team’s weighted opportunity rating (WOPR). In terms of expected fantasy points, Diggs ranks 10th among all receivers (Beasley ranks 13th), and based on the increased production of the Buffalo offense, the blow-up performance for Diggs is almost certainly coming soon. The Bills get the Texans and Chiefs - two defenses that are extremely susceptible to big plays in the secondary - in the next two weeks.
Hold Mike Williams (and Keenan Allen)
It might seem like the perfect time to sell high on Williams, who has seen more volume, and been more efficient on that volume than we have ever seen before, but we’re recommending you stand pat for the foreseeable future with both Chargers receivers. While Williams has been incredibly impressive to begin the season, the reason you’re going to want to hang onto Williams is his quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert, last season’s rookie of the year and now under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, has followed up his spectacular rookie campaign with a red-hot start to 2021, including a QB3 overall finish in Week 3, and that fantastic start for Herbert has translated for more high-quality opportunities for the entire Chargers’ offense.
Allen, who was projected to have the largest role in this offense, ranks 11th among all players in expected fantasy points, and Williams ranks eighth (fourth among all wide receivers), and leads the league in expected touchdowns. There’s plenty of fantasy points to go around in this passing attack, and there are bound to be multiple ceiling performances in both players’ futures.
Hold Adam Thielen
Thielen has been incredible through three weeks, tied for eighth in the NFL in receptions and tied for second in the NFL in touchdowns. He’s currently averaging nearly six fantasy points over expected per game, which makes him one of the most obvious regression candidates at his position. But I’m done betting against Thielen, and I’m ready to call him one of the best players in the game. His mind-meld with Kirk Cousins is a thing of beauty, and he’s receiving more than enough volume to be a WR1 in fantasy, as long as he remains efficient. While he won’t score every week, and teammate Justin Jefferson continues to see a larger share of the team’s weighted opportunity rating (WOPR), Thielen's consistent usage near the goal line is unignorable, as he ranks seventh among all players in expected receiving touchdowns. For those that were lucky enough to snag him in the mid-rounds of fantasy drafts, enjoy the ride to another unlikely top-12 wide receiver season.
Other Players to Consider:
- Cooper Kupp has scored a league-high five touchdowns, but, at least in the red zone, isn’t performing wildly above expectation, having already earned 2.9 expected receiving touchdowns, the second-highest in the NFL. Kupp could easily finish the season as the WR1 overall, a rank he currently holds after three weeks.
- Ja’Marr Chase looks as talented as any receiver we’ve seen this year, but he’s averaging over nine fantasy points above expected this season, and has scored three more times than expected, making him a prime sell-high candidate. Don’t give him up too easily though, as he should continue to see a healthy workload, regardless of a likely regression in efficiency.
- Calvin Ridley has been one of the biggest disappointments of the 2021 season, ranking just inside the top-50 FLEX players in PPR points per game. His underlying usage metrics look a bit better, however, as his 19.9 expected fantasy points per game ranks 10th among all skill position players, and fifth at his position. Ridley is the only player in the Atlanta offense worth betting on at this point.