Second Half Strategies
We have reached the midpoint of the 2017 fantasy season, so it's a good time to discuss how to plan for the stretch run and fantasy playoffs. There are several different strategies to discuss, so let's jump right in.
Trading Depth for Starters
Bye weeks wrap up in Week 12, so fantasy owners who have good players sitting on the bench should think about trading them away for an upgrade at another position. For example, let's say you have Steve L Smith sitting on your bench behind Brandon Marshall and Antonio Brown. Both Marshall and Brown are past their byes, so Smith is expendable. Now let's say you have Eddie Lacy locking down one RB spot, but in the other you have Stevan Ridley and would like to upgrade. Ideally, you would trade Ridley and Smith for a solid, low-end RB1 like Alfred Morris or Reggie Bush.
At this point in the season, it's almost always a good strategy to trade two-for-one, especially if you have depth that you can leverage.
Acquiring Potentially Valuable Handcuffs
After pulling off one or two of these two-for one trades, you'll have a couple of open bench slots. One strategy that can pay off in a big way is to acquire potentially valuable handcuff RBs.
At this point in the season, owners who have relatively healthy players like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Alfred Morris on their teams have been lulled into a false sense of security with regard to the durability (or invincibility) of their stud RB. All it takes is one multi-week injury to Peterson and suddenly the very capable Toby Gerhart is a solid fantasy RB2. (Just look at what happened with Doug Martin and Mike James.) Not only do you give yourself a chance to see a starter appear on your bench, but you'll be keeping that starter out of your opponent's lineup.
Going a step further, it can be especially dastardly to target handcuffs for stud RBs owned by the best teams in your league. For example, let's say the top two teams in your league have Matt Forte and Frank Gore. Go ahead and pick up Michael Bush and Kendall Hunter, two players who have been relatively quiet this year, but who could easily put up RB2-type numbers if Forte or Gore (two RBs with significant injury histories, by the way) were to go down.
It doesn't matter if you won't start them -- your opponent won't be able to, either.
Here is a list of players that could/should be owned down the stretch: Bryce Brown, Roy Helu, Michael Bush, Joique Bell, Donald Brown, Jacquizz Rodgers, Toby Gerhart, Knile Davis, Kendall Hunter, Shonn Greene, James Starks, Bernard Pierce, Daniel Thomas and Joseph Randle.
Targeting Players with Favorable ROS or Playoff Schedules
Looking at our positional Hot Spots reports, it's fairly easy to see which players have the most favorable rest-of-season and/or playoff schedules. For example, Robert Griffin III (18.3) has the most favorable rest-of-season schedule, while Andrew Luck (14.4) checks in with the worst. It wouldn't be a bad idea to swap Luck for Griffin given this information, especially if you need to string together a few wins to make the playoffs.
Conversely, if you are sitting pretty in first place, you can target players who have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. The PO2 and PO3 columns in the Hot Spots tables provide the average SOS for playoff schedules that take place in Weeks 15-16 and Weeks 14-16, respectively. Looking at running backs, LeSean McCoy (18.1) has the most favorable schedule in a three-week playoff, while Adrian Peterson (13.3) and Reggie Bush (13.3) have the most difficult playoff schedules.
Going a step further, the table below shows each team and each position, and how their ROS and PO3 schedules compare to the schedules they have played year to date. Sticking with the McCoy example, his rest-of-season SOS is 11% better than his schedule through Week 8 and his three-week playoff schedule (DET, MIN and CHI) projects to be 31% better. Provided he stays healthy, we can safely expect his PPG to increase down the stretch.
Remember, assuming his situation remains the same (and his matchups don't get significantly better or worse as the season wears on), a positive percentage means that a player should see an increase in his production due to schedule, while a negative percentage would indicate a probable decrease.
|Tm||QB ROS||QB PO3||RB ROS||RB PO3||WR ROS||WR PO3||TE ROS||TE PO3|
At QB, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler, E.J. Manuel (when he returns), Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers will see their schedules ease up the most, while the schedules of Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Nick Foles/Michael Vick, Chad Henne and Eli Manning are getting harder.
At RB, the New England RBs, Doug Martin/Mike James, Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore should see their schedules get easier. On the flip side, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush, the Giants RBs, Trent Richardson and Matt Forte will find that fantasy points are harder to come by.
At WR, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery, Greg Jennings, Nate Washington/Kendall Wright and Jordy Nelson/James Jones/Jarrett Boykin will enjoy an easier schedule, while the New England receivers, Justin Blackmon/Cecil Shorts, T.Y. Hilton/Darrius Heyward-Bey, Dez Bryant/Terrance Williams and A.J. Green will find the going tougher.
Finally, at TE, Garrett Graham/Owen Daniels, Delanie Walker, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates will find their schedules will be easier in the second half of the season. Julius Thomas, Tim Wright, Tony Gonzalez, Vernon Davis and Heath Miller may have a tougher time producing down the stretch.
Teams That Could Rest Starters
Just about every season, the subject of “rest” comes up for at least one team that is projected to be in a situation where they won't have to play their starters in Week 16.
Right now, the top contenders for a potential rest week are Kansas City (9-0) and Denver (7-1) in the AFC, and Seattle (8-1) and New Orleans (6-2) in the NFC. However, since there are two candidates in each conference, it's likely that these teams will be battling for home field advantage until the bitter end. We aren't too worried about rest this season.
Opportunity on the IR
Owners who are sitting in a good spot heading into the second half of the season are able to potentially take advantage of injury situations around the league. Shane Vereen (wrist) had an outstanding Week 1 and should be back in the fold in Week 11. Andre Brown (leg) has been practicing with the team and should return to action this week. Percy Harvin (hip) is probably not on your waiver wire, but he's going to return soon and should be startable almost immediately. Michael Crabtree (Achilles) should return in a few weeks, so he may be of help during the fantasy playoffs. Dennis Pitta (hip) may be able to help a TE-needy team late in the season.
Just because we're heading into the second half of the season, it's not a reason to drastically shake up a winning roster, but fantasy owners should be aware of which of their players have difficult rest-of-season or playoff schedules. Perhaps the opportunity will present itself to trade depth along with a player with a scary schedule to shore up a weakness somewhere on the roster.