Fantasy Football Roster Moves for Week 1

Donte Moncrief Indianapolis Colts

Via our friends at numberFire.

Hans Zimmer is my best friend when I write.

Seriously, lyric-less music is all I can listen to when I’m trying to string together thoughtful sentences for a column. That means my go-to song choices when putting an article together are movie scores.

And, look, I’ve written a lot of pieces, so I’ve also listened to a lot of movie scores. None of them are better than Hans “the GOAT” Zimmer’s Time, which is the top score for the movie Inception.

Time takes you on a journey. It starts soft and slow, and despite the same melody repeating over and over again throughout the song, when peak Time hits, it makes you want to get out of your seat and conquer something right away. (No, really, I once listened to Time and was able to chug a beer in under three seconds immediately after.)

Now, everyone, go listen to it. And while you do, think back to all we just went through from February until now with the National Football League.

The Broncos won the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning retired. Calvin Johnson did, too. Hue Jackson took a head coaching gig in Cleveland. Josh Norman left Charlotte for DC. The Cowboys spent a fourth-overall pick on a running back. Eddie Lacy did P90X. Deflategate sort of finally ended. Ryan Fitzpatrick got a new contract. Tony Romo hurt himself again. Teddy Bridgewater tore up his knee. The Vikings then traded for Sam Bradford.

Are you still listening? Hopefully you just got to the epic part. Because that’s where we’re at now.

We did it. We made it. The regular season is here. And that means two things: you’re back to managing your fantasy football squad, and I’m back writing 15 Transactions. While listening to Hans Zimmer, of course.

Despite the fact that zero meaningful games have been played, there are some ways to improve your roster before the season begins. So, as is the case with every 15 Transactions column, let’s dive into who you should add, drop, sell, and buy in fantasy football.

Sell Carlos Hyde

I’m more inspired by Rebecca Black’s Friday than I am Blaine Gabbert, Torrey Smith, Quinton PattonJeremy Kerley, Rod Streater, and Vance McDonald.

Despite the fact that volume will be friendly in this Chip Kelly-led 49ers’ offense, the efficiency is frightening to think about. And the lack of efficiency and top-tier play on defense means San Francisco is bound to see a crap ton of negative game scripts.

That’s awful news for Carlos Hyde, who has a grand total of 23 receptions in 21 career NFL games.

The dude who should benefit from being behind in contests could be Shaun Draughn, not Hyde. That’s the first ding on the 49ers’ starting running back.

The other piece that hurts is the 49ers’ strength of schedule to start the year. They get St. Louis in Week 1 (projected to be 2nd against the rush this season according to our numbers), then Carolina (12th), Seattle (6th), Dallas (27th), and Arizona (3rd). Any of those teams — aside from Dallas — could finish in the top five at stopping the run this year and no one would flinch.

Given the probable abomination that is the 49ers offense and that the early-season schedule doesn’t set up well for Hyde, he’s firmly in “sell” territory.

Buy or Add Derek Carr

You don’t have to be a big Derek Carr fan to be into what’s about to happen during the first portion of the 2016 NFL season. Take a look at the Raiders’ schedule to start the year: New Orleans (32nd against the pass according to our projections), Atlanta (19th), Tennessee (26th), Baltimore (17th), and San Diego (20th). Not only are those secondaries below average (or way below average), but given the opponents, they also could provide high game totals. And as we know, games with high projected totals are great for fantasy quarterbacks. That means Carr could be in store for another hot start.

Add Terrance West

Reading between the lines of this Justin Forsett saga — he was cut and re-signed over the last few days — shows (to me, at least) that he’s lower down on the running back totem pole than many would’ve believed entering the season. At the very least, he’s obviously not the top dog that’ll be lined up behind Joe Flacco.

This is legitimately a guessing game, but judging by the preseason, Terrance West is the most intriguing option to get playing time right now. Kenneth Dixon is sidelined with an injury — he’s worth a stash, by the way, if your league has an IR spot — while Javorius Allen played with third and fourth stringers during the preseason. And, as I already said, Forsett was released and then re-signed this past week.

That leaves West as the potential primary ball-carrier. He’s owned in fewer than half of ESPN.com fantasy leagues — if he’s on your waiver wire, snatch him up. If he doesn’t see volume, you can send him right back.

Buy Donte Moncrief

There’s a legitimate chance Donte Moncrief out-receptions and out-scores teammate T.Y. Hilton in fantasy football this year.

With Andrew Luck healthy a season ago, Moncrief averaged more receptions per game than Hilton, and was on pace to be a top-20 fantasy wideout.

With Luck in 2015 Targets/G Rec/G Yards/G TD/G FP/G
Moncrief 7.71 4.57 50.14 0.71 13.87
Hilton 9.29 4.43 78.29 0.43 14.83

The Colts’ offensive line issues may hurt Hilton more than Moncrief, too, as Hilton’s the downfield threat in the offense. Hilton’s the one who needs time for plays to develop.

And speaking of the offense, it’s one that’s bound to throw lots of passes this year — Luck had 627, 570, and 616 attempts in his three full seasons played and last year, he was on pace to toss nearly 670. That would’ve ranked first in the NFL.

There’s a good chance the owner in your league drafted Moncrief because, you know, he or she wantedMoncrief. But there’s also a chance that this is the lowest Moncrief’s value will be all year.

Add Jared Cook

Save your jokes for when Jared Cook inevitably flops. For now, let’s take a look at the upside.

Cook has seen 70 or more targets in five of his seven NFL seasons (I feel old). He’s yet to score more than five touchdowns in a single campaign, and he’s never finished as a top-10 tight end in PPR formats.

But Cook also has had Austin Davis, old Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, and Kellen Clemens throwing him the rock. He’s never had any sort of reliable passer under center, which is going to change this year with Aaron Rodgers.

Last year, Richard Rodgers — a man who ran a 4.87 40-yard dash at the Combine and profiles physically to a log — finished as the 11th-best fantasy football tight end. Because the tight end position is so replaceable, that’s not all that usable, but it was also Richard freaking Rodgers. His spider chart on MockDraftable.com is atrocious.

If we’re being real, Cook is the first athletic tight end Aaron Rodgers has had since Jermichael Finley. And when Finley was a Packer, he was able to muster together an eight-touchdown campaign. People also didn’t mock you for drafting him, either.

Cook has upside, and that’s all you need out of a tight end off the waiver wire. If he doesn’t pan out, does it really matter?

Sell Markus Wheaton

The Steelers want Sammie Coates to be a thing. His physical measurables are the closest thing the team has to the suspended Martavis Bryant, and report after report talked up Coates as the preseason started.

Then he laid a couple of stinkers in the Steelers’ first two preseason games, which then led to his not playing with the first-team offense in the all-important third preseason game.

Here’s the deal, though: there’s absolutely, positively no doubt that Coates has more upside than Markus Wheaton, who’s starting on the outside for this Pittsburgh Steelers’ team in Week 1.

But what’s so great about Markus Wheaton? He’s shown flashes — remember that Seattle game last year? — but he’s also been below the league average efficiency-wise according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric in two of his three NFL seasons. And he lacks the size to be a real threat on the outside.

If Coates steps up, Wheaton will be pushed to the slot, which is a more natural fit for him. The problem is that Eli Rogers is emerging as a nice option there, which could limit Wheaton’s upside even further.

I’d expect Wheaton to post WR4 or so numbers, especially to start the year. But if and when things start to unfold at the position in Pittsburgh, Wheaton could be left with very little volume.

Buy Rashad Jennings

Last year, among the 44 running backs with 100 or more carries, Rashad Jennings ranked first — that’s number one — in Success Rate. What this means is that he was gaining positive plays (per NEP) on a more consistent basis than any other back in the NFL.

So why wasn’t he better in fantasy football last year?

Well, one problem was that Jennings was never consistently being used — he played 50 percent or more of the team’s snaps in just two games last year. That resulted in just two contests with 15 or more carries and zero RB1, top-12 fantasy performances at the position.

Another reason Jennings didn’t have upside last year, though, was because of touchdowns. Or, I should say, a lack of touchdowns. He scored just three times on the ground across the entire season — considering the number of yards he rushed for, a quick regression analysis says that number should’ve been closer to six.

Continue reading at numberFire.com… (@numberfire)


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