On Target: Players to Buy High On
By Davis Mattek
Most of what we are taught about fantasy football centers on this mythic idea of “value,” always adding value, losing value, gaining value and so on and so forth. I think value is a really interesting concept and should always be factored into decision making, but when we click submit on our lineups, what we are really trying to do is simply have more points than anyone else. That’s the whole point of fantasy football. To do that, sometimes you have to make trades that aren’t a great “value” but do get you more total projected points on your roster. Today’s column focuses on three players I would make significant efforts to trade for, even if it seemed like I was losing the trade on the surface.
To begin, here are the top-30 most targeted players in football through six weeks (click columns to sort):
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
Folks, this is legit. Jeremy Maclin is an elite WR the rest of the way and there is nothing any of us can do about it. Chip Kelly has engineered a system where a majority of the players are interchangeable and their roles can perform different tasks on offense throughout the course of a game, but Maclin’s role is stationary. He is fourth in the NFL in targets, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t continue. His opposite starting WR, Riley Cooper, plays just as he does but isn’t capable of consistently getting open. We normally assume a WR1/WR2/TE/RB pass distribution in terms of market share, but when the WR2 can’t get open that often and the pass-catching TE doesn’t play 75 percent of the team’s snaps, more of the passes are going to head to the primary WR. Maclin likely was a mid-round draft pick, and his owners probably think selling him for an Eddie Lacy or a Drew Brees would be profitable. However, given that Maclin doesn’t really have the week-to-week volatility of most WR and given Philadelphia’s tremendous offensive volume, it’s not really possible to overpay for him. Drew Brees for Maclin sounds like treachery, but when you look at all of the information, it’s a good deal.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
Saaayy what? Yeah, Dez Bryant. As spectacular as he has been, there is a little room to move in on him. There is a chance that the Dez owner in your league, just looking at ADP, ended up with Eddie Lacy/Keenan Allen/Zac Stacy/Doug Martin and might be in pretty desperate straits. Dez has obviously been amazing this year, but he has yet to have the 220-yard, two-TD game that Jordy Nelson and Demaryius Thomas have had, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that his owners don’t view him as untouchable. If you do in fact find that the Dez owner in your league is willing trade him, there’s basically no player I wouldn’t trade him for. He’s the primary goal-line option for his team, sees 30 percent of his team’s target and is completely unstoppable in the open field. If you have Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham … really, any of these players who are valued highly by the market but haven’t returned league-winning points, I would leverage them to get Bryant.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
This is less about what Gronkowski has done on the field (he’s been very good) and more about the general concern surrounding his health. I’ve always been of the mind that health is generally unpredictable; now, Gronkowski has certainly been hurt enough throughout his collegiate and professional career that we do have some reason to believe that he is at risk of getting injured more often than the average player. That said, that’s not stopping me from acquiring Gronk in a bunch of leagues. He’s playing more than 50 percent of the snaps for the Patriots two weeks in a row. He’s not a bit player, he’s the most important player in their entire offense. Without Gronk, Brady is “toast.” When Gronk is out there wreaking havoc and doing Gronk things, the entire offense works better. For further proof: Tom Brady has an AY/A over 11 when throwing to Gronk. The next closest WR to that number with Brady is future Hall of Famer Randy Moss with less than 9.5 AY/A. With Graham now suffering from a injury, Gronkowski is the No. 1 tight end in fantasy football regardless of future injury concerns. Everytime Gronk gets tackled, his owners hold their breath until he gets back up, so there is definitely room to trade for him way below his actual value. I don’t want to go too far out on a limb, but if I had any tight end other than Julius Thomas, I’d be doing whatever it took to get Gronk on my rosters.