Staff Playbook: Which Players to Buy and Sell after Week 1

Welcome to the QB List Staff Playbook Series. Every week throughout both the summer and season, we will conduct a staff survey, asking multiple fantasy analysts to share their insights on some of fantasy football’s most pressing questions. Essentially, we’re sharing our “playbook” with you, revealing the hard choices and strategic moves we would make to stay ahead of the competition.

This week, the QB List Staff was asked which DST has the best chance to finish number one overall? Let’s open the playbook:

 

Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): BUY – Amari Cooper / SELL – Devonta Freeman

Amari Cooper’s career has been defined by inconsistency, and that includes his stint in Dallas after a midseason trade from Oakland last year. However, we should keep in mind that Cooper was learning a new offense on the fly and trying to develop chemistry with a new quarterback as well as acclimating himself to a new team. For all the talk of Cooper “disappearing” for stretches between huge games, he has 59 receptions for 831 yards and 7 TDs ten games into his tenure in Dallas. That pace puts him comfortably inside the top 5-10 receivers in fantasy. In Week 1, Cooper dominated a listless Giants’ secondary to the tune of 106 yards on six receptions and a score.

New OC Kellen Moore emphasized more pre-snap movement and play-action from 11 personnel (three wide receivers with one tight end and running back) to create mismatches and exploit holes in New York’s defense. If the Cowboys are going to scheme the ball Cooper’s way through play design and feature more shotgun, then the mercurial wideout should finally establish himself among the game’s elite at the position.

Cooper’s owner probably drafted him as a WR2, in which case highs and lows were expected. While it would be more advantageous to wait for Cooper to put up a dud before making an offer, the reality is that improved play calling may finally lead to the consistency that has evaded Cooper thus far in his young career. After all, despite his reputation for drops, much of Cooper’s inconsistency can be attributed to the change in quarterback play.

Acquiring Cooper now means buying high, but it also means buying at the lowest his price could be all season. If his owner needs a running back and you have some depth there, consider offering a rusher drafted in the same range as Cooper (see: Freeman, Devonta) and reap the rewards.

Since I mentioned Devonta Freeman, it’s important to note that this isn’t a Week 1 overreaction. Freeman hasn’t been good (or healthy) since 2017. Many (myself included) were suckered into the idea that he’d recapture his elite form now that Tevin Coleman had left Atlanta and he had an entire offseason to heal, but the offensive line was ranked among the backend units in the league by PFF after the pre-season, and they did nothing to assuage those concerns in Week 1. It may have just become worse, in fact.

Back to Freeman’s health – it’s true he remained intact through the offseason, but much of his perceived value came from the speculation that he’d get the majority of touches and passing down work in Dirk Koetter’s offense. However, Freeman played 39 snaps against Minnesota… the exact same number of snaps as Ito Smith. The two backs may be mired in a 50/50 timeshare, and there’s a non-zero chance that continues given Freeman’s health woes in recent seasons.

Atlanta may figure that it is better off working Smith in more to preserve the wear and tear on Freeman’s body. If so, then Freeman becomes more of an RB3 flex play than an RB2 with RB1 upside. Now, it’s entirely possible that Freeman is still shaking off the rust after missing so much time. He also fumbled in his first game back, so the coaching staff may have decided to pump the breaks on his usage some. Either way, it’s worth looking into acquiring an upside play like Amari Cooper for Freeman if you can swing it given the red flags we’re already seeing here.

 

Caio Miari (@caiomiari): BUY – Sammy Watkins / SELL – John Ross

I already had high expectations for Sammy Watkins going into the 2019 season. Here’s why: In a great-quarterback-led offense, it won’t be just one player who will shine. It might not be only two either. Remember when the 2013 Denver Broncos had four receivers with 10+ touchdowns? I’m not expecting that exact same thing for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019, but more players will have to step up in the passing game for the franchise this year. Especially considering that guys like Kareem Hunt and Chris Conley, who combined for 12 receiving TDs last season, are not on the roster anymore. In this case, I put my money on a talented veteran like Sammy Watkins rather than, for instance, rookie Mecole Hardman. Watkins had the second-highest yards-per-target average of his career (9.4) last season, being targeted 55 times in ten games, and his Week 1 performance in 2019 showed how explosive of a player he can be. Not to mention, Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs’ No. 1 WR, is now out for at least a month with an injury.

A hard sell for me would be John Ross. Ross’ performance in Week 1 was quite impressive: 12 targets, seven catches, 158 yards, and two touchdowns. But let’s be honest and recognize that Ross’ 55-yard TD wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for horrible timing by safety Tedric Thompson with less than ten seconds left in the first half.

Not to mention, we have to consider the usual drops still follow Ross. Keep in mind, too, that Tyler Boyd is the clear WR1 for the Cincinnati Bengals today, A. J. Green may be back within a few weeks, and the running game couldn’t have been worse in the first game of the season with 14 carries for 34 yards. Ross’ first two seasons in the NFL have been marked by nothing but inconsistency. That’s why I’m selling his recent hype after a suspect game over the Seahawks.

 

Mike Miklius (@sirl0inofbeef): BUY – Raheem Mostert / SELL – Marquise Brown

When I look to sell players, I always try to sell at the high point. Hit the market when they are at their absolute peak value. This leads me towards the Ravens. I almost chose Lamar Jackson, but that seems too easy. Plus, another great matchup awaits this week to possibly further increase his price tag. I might wait to sell for just one more week. Marquise Brown, however, is gone if I get the right offer. Brown had an amazing debut against a lackluster defense. In only 12 snaps played, he managed 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. I don’t see how it can hold up given the severely limited playing time, so I’ll sell.

On the other hand, Raheem Mostert is a definite add for me right now. Tevin Coleman and Matt Brieda are both already banged up, and people will likely be hot to get Brieda this week as Coleman sits. Per PFF, Mostert broke four tackles and averaged 4.22 yards after contact/avg after Coleman was forced from the game in Week 1 against Tampa Bay. Last year, once injuries decimated the 49ers running back stable and Mostert was given some snaps in the backfield, he averaged 7.7 yards per attempt on 34 carries and looked like a league winner off the wire.

The sample size, while small, is notable enough when coupled with what he’s been able to do every time he gets an opportunity in HC Kyle Shanahan’s running back-friendly scheme.  Zig where others zag and get the guy behind Brieda: Mostert. You could be looking at the long term starter and he is basically free right now.

 

Josh Kurzer (@jkurzer52): BUY – Larry Fitzgerald / SELL – Vance McDonald

Christian Kirk was a breakout candidate prior to the start of the season, and you should not give up on him after one week, but it looks like the seasoned veteran, Larry Fitzgerald, may end up becoming Kyler Murray’s favorite receiver in Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid gives receivers a lot of freedom and flexibility in their routes, and Fitzgerald is one of the savviest receivers to ever play the sport, so it makes sense that he would excel in this style of offense. Arizona is going to be Opportunity City for fantasy owners this year, as both Kirk and Fitzgerald finished top 10 in targets on Sunday with 13 and 12 respectively. Fitzgerald was featured heavily down the stretch and caught 8 of his 12 targets to finish with 113 yards and a score, while Kirk managed a measly 4 catches for 32 yards.

A player you should be looking to sell is Vance McDonald, and the sooner the better. McDonald had 4 targets on Sunday night and all of them came under two minutes left in the game. If McDonald isn’t getting opportunities when the Steelers are chasing multiple possessions for an entire game, there is no reason to believe he can provide production on a week-to-week basis. In other seasons, I would advise patience, but this looks like it could be the year of the tight end, and with the emergence of options like T.J. Hockenson, Darren Waller, and Mark Andrews there is no need to hold out hope for McDonald.

 

Tom Schweitzer (@QBLTom): BUY – LeSean McCoy / SELL – Mike Evans

When LeSean McCoy was signed by the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago, the biggest question about the 31-year-old running back was “What does he have left?” McCoy answered the bell with 81 yards on 10 carries and, more importantly, looked rejuvenated. McCoy has a relationship with Andy Reid and an understanding of his offense going back to their days in Philadelphia. I’d say it’s borderline obvious at this point that Reid doesn’t have the same type of trust with incumbent starter Damien Williams, given that Reid briefly benched him for Carlos Hyde in preseason practices and then signed McCoy as soon as he was available. I think it might be a matter of time before McCoy becomes the lead back in this offense with Williams likely taking the 3rd down back role.

Additionally, I’m selling Mike Evans if I can get WR1 value in return. The newly-installed Bruce Arians offense is going to be limited all year by Jameis Winston and anyone else who ends up under center.

Evans will likely have some nice weeks, but the emergence of Chris Godwin is going to eat into his targets and make their weekly stats difficult to predict. I see Evans as a WR1 name in a WR2 situation, and I’d like to sell that before its too late.

 

(Photo by Kevin French/Icon Sportswire)

 

Paul Ghiglieri

Avid 49er fan from the Bay who now lives in LA and has way too much fun watching the No Fun League. A bit jealous the Seahawks have Pearl Jam. Screenwriter and Educator who loves to moonlight as a fantasy analyst. Broke into the league in '94 with Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Kurt Warner. Drafted as a fantasy armchair quarterback. Been playing ever since.

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