Crisis & Opportunity: Week One

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy If our dearly departed Lord Petyr Baelish taught us anything, it’s that chaos is a ladder. A lack of constancy, he would argue, is life’s only true constant- and most fantasy football managers would agree when it comes to the game they love. If the NFL teaches us anything year-after-year, it’s that football is chaos. We analyze and we nitpick and we debate, but at the end of the day the fate of our fantasy teams is never truly in our control. Stability is an illusion in a league where players are both frequently injured and highly dependent on group cohesion to perform. This philosophy- the presumption of perpetual chaos- is what underlies classic Zero-RB drafting theory, and is also what informs my week-to-week moves in both redraft and dynasty leagues.

Littlefinger would have counseled (prior to his poetic execution) that a savvy owner use the chaos of the fantasy landscape to their advantage. Every starter that goes down could mean a backup ready to break out; every off-week from a stud could mean a reactionary owner willing to sell cheap; every midseason coaching switch could mean a change in target distribution. Recognizing how to profit from crisis is one of the easiest ways to improve your team in both redraft and dynasty, and that’s what this column is about. Every week I will be reviewing the tattered remains of the previous week’s expectations and determining how you can make the best of them, highlighting which players to trade for or pick up on the waiver wire. Let chaos be your ladder to fantasy domination. This is Crisis and Opportunity: Week One.

Crisis: David Johnson left the game in the third quarter with a wrist injury, looks to need surgery and will be out two to three months.

Redraft Opportunity: If your squad looks strong and deep after week one (maybe you drafted guys like Kareem Hunt and Adam Thielen) and you have assets to spare, it could be worth making an offer for DJ. His current prognosis is two to three months, which allows for a wide range of outcomes. On the one hand, Johnson is a borderline superhero and I wouldn’t put it past him to be back and dominating in seven weeks by sheer force of will. On the other hand, injuries heal at their own pace and if the Cardinals are out of contention by the time he’s ready, they could choose to sit him for the rest of the season. Moving for him is a calculated risk, but if you have the depth to gamble it could be the move that ends up winning you the championship.

Dynasty Opportunity: Moving for an injured DJ carries less risk in dynasty than in redraft (because the possibility of missing the whole season doesn’t make him worthless), but the discount on him is not likely to be as steep. That said, he’s still a very attractive target if you aren’t in win-now mode. If you’re in a complete rebuild buying low on DJ now and flipping him later could reap huge dividends, and if you think you’re only a year or so from contention then a healthy DJ could put you over the edge to a championship.

Crisis: The other elite-tier RB besides Johnson, LeVeon Bell, underwhelmed after his holdout with a measly forty-seven yards from scrimmage against Cleveland.

Redraft Opportunity: The idea that LeVeon is somehow declining at age twenty-five is a hard sell, but almost every league has a Taco and even Tacos know that Cleveland=bad. If you hear a Bell owner express even a hint of frustration, emphasize that the poor performance was against the Browns defense and see if he is available for any discount whatsoever. He’s obviously still every bit the top-two draft pick he was a week ago and getting him for anything less than that value is a win.

Dynasty Opportunity: Dynasty owners are less likely to take one game seriously, so a poor showing from LeVeon doesn’t provide all that much opportunity. That said, take note if a Bell owner also suffered a rash of injuries in week one, as if they are considering punting the season he could be for sale. While one game shouldn’t matter much in dynasty, most people can’t help but get nervous about performances as godawful as this one. LeVeon will probably never play that badly again in his life, so now would be the time to pull the trigger or apply the pressure in any deals you were considering to get him.

Crisis: After recording only one reception, Jaguars receiver and prized dynasty asset Allen Robinson lost the rest of his season to a torn ACL.

Redraft Opportunity: While Robinson himself has ceased to be relevant in redraft leagues, his absence raises the stock of Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Both Jaguars receivers went undrafted in most leagues this season, but both have shown flashes of talent in the past and one will presumably have to step up as the new WR1 in place of Robinson. The upside of both is limited by a run-first Jacksonville offense, but they could provide solid WR depth off of the wire for anyone looking for that.

Dynasty Opportunity: Lee and Hurns may or may not be available on the wire depending on the size of your rosters, and they are worth grabbing if possible, but the more interesting opportunity in dynasty is Robinson. When he returns in 2018 he will be three years removed from his only productive season and looking at a very uncertain future. Consequently, there are almost certain to be frustrated owners willing to cash out for cheap. If you’re in a full rebuild, he is the exact sort of player you want to go after- affordable price due to a lack of immediate value, sky-high upside.

Crisis: Consensus first-round pick Julio Jones recorded a pedestrian four receptions for sixty-six yards.

Redraft Opportunity: As I went through this season of fantasy drafts, mock and otherwise, I noticed a common but confusing theme- people who drafted Julio seemed strangely dissatisfied with their decision. He was the only player I heard multiple people say they “felt like they had to pick”, and when asked about their dissatisfaction the most common refrain was that Julio was too inconsistent. While not completely untrue, this also tends to get overblown and a subpar opening week is playing right into the insecurities of the people who never wanted to draft Julio in the first place. If his owner in your league seems reactionary enough to bite, target Jones aggressively. On top of being an absolute monster of a football player, he also plays against the atrocious New Orleans secondary twice in the fantasy playoffs this year. Grab him if you can and let him carry you to a championship.

Dynasty Opportunity: As I mentioned earlier, dynasty owners are less likely to read too much into a single game. However, if a Julio owner in dynasty was already sour on him (especially if it was due to frustration with the boom/bust factor) then this could represent an opening to acquire a top overall asset. Players with Julio’s talent and quarterback situation produce at an elite level into their early thirties, so acquiring him could make your team a contender for years.

Crisis: The Cincinnati Bengals offense failed to put up a single point against the Ravens on Sunday, with quarterback Andy Dalton having one of the worst outings in fantasy football history.

Redraft Opportunity: If you’re the owner of the Ravens defense and someone has expressed interest in trading for it, sell. Leagues with non-standard defensive scoring aside, individual defenses never provide consistent VOR (Value Over Replacement) and the Baltimore D/ST is pretty tempting trade bait right now. If you can get a startable WR2 or RB2 at a position of need, take the deal and run; streaming defenses is nearly always better anyway. On the other side of the ball, AJ Green is always worth targeting if perception of the Bengals’ offense has made him any cheaper, as he is a true stud and this game does nothing to lower his value for me. Joe Mixon could also be a good target if his owner is looking to move him for cheap; offensive units take time to gel and Mixon will be the Bengals’ centerpiece eventually, so he could be much more valuable come playoff time than he is right now.

Dynasty Opportunity: If you’re a believer in but not an owner of Joe Mixon, this unholy nightmare of a football game couldn’t have worked out better for you. Talented though he may be, it appears that it will take some time for his talent to manifest in the form of production. Luckily for prospective buyers, this means that he will see his value dip as hype fades and he will remain affordable until the Bengals hire an offensive line. AJ Green is also a great dynasty target after this offensive outing, as owners who mistakenly view him as “old” could be convinced that he’ll lose a step before the Bengals figure their offense out (like Julio Jones, AJ has at least three more years of prime left in his career). Lasty, the general malaise surrounding the Cincinnati offense coupled with his recent placement on IR means that ninth overall pick John Ross can probably be had for dirt cheap right now. If you’re rebuilding, he’s another perfect low-cost high-upside investment.