In honor of my birthday yesterday, I’ve created an official birthday gift power rankings:
5th place: a trampoline (2000)
4th place: Halo 3 (2007)
3rd place: a puppy (1996)
2nd place: Gameboy (1989)
1st place: Julio Jones’ first TD of the season (2018)
Yes, as you’re probably already aware, we got our first Julio TD of the season. Hallelujah. It came on a quick screen pass that he took to the house (not even a red zone target). I realize that beggars can’t be choosers, but just once I’d love to see a jump ball or fade to Julio. I’ll put it on the Christmas wish list, I guess.
OK, back to business. We’re now entering Week 10, and at this point, we pretty much know “who” each player is. Therefore, it’s getting a little tougher to say, “Trade for player X since he’s coming off a quiet week.” We can still look at touchdown regression, but as the weeks go by, we can concentrate more and more on strength of schedule since we have a larger sample size. I’ll warn you, this week’s buy/sell recommendations are very schedule-based.
There’s also only four weeks left in the fantasy regular season, and so when we think about trades, we have to specify whether we’re talking about fantasy teams trying to make the playoffs who should be more concerned about players’ schedules from Weeks 10 through 13 with an eye on Week 14 and fantasy teams that are playoff-bound (with at least seven wins) who should start peeking ahead to Weeks 14 through 16.
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John Brown, WR, Ravens: Brown might require a bit of a leap of faith at this point, as he’s been quiet in four of the past five weeks. That should make him cheap to acquire, possibly even as a “throw-in” to a larger trade, especially since the Ravens are about to go on bye. His remaining schedule is as appetizing as it gets, so it’s reasonable to expect more big weeks than duds down the stretch. After the Week 10 bye, the Ravens face the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons to round out the fantasy regular season. Then for the fantasy playoffs in Weeks 14 through 16, they get the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Chargers. Brown looks like an upside trade target for fantasy teams that maybe have five or six wins so far that need to continue to fight for a playoff spot but are also eyeing Weeks 14 and 15.
Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys: It’s possible that Cooper, who was just traded to the Cowboys, becomes even more inconsistent and difficult to predict from week to week than he was on the Raiders. It’s also possible he simply needed a change of scenery to thrive. Even though that’s very narrative-driven, the variance of the unknown in this situation excites me somewhat, and Cooper should have very little target competition in the Cowboys’ lackluster receiving group. What’s even more intriguing is the Cowboys’ upcoming passing game schedule: after the Titans on Monday night, they face the Eagles, Falcons, Redskins, Saints, Eagles again, Colts and then the Buccaneers in fantasy championship Week 16. Like John Brown above, Cooper is an upside trade target, and his price to acquire will probably depend on how big of a game he has on Monday night against the Titans. I think the arguments here apply either way though, and if he has a big game, we’ll have more confidence in his role moving forward, and if he has a quiet game, it’s understandable given that it’s going to be his first game with his new team. The upcoming schedule also makes Dak Prescott a good pickup or cheap trade target for QB-needy fantasy teams.
“Buys” for playoff-bound teams only
Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings: Cook showed well this week in his first game back after a five week absence, going 10 for 89 on the ground (although most of that came on an impressive 70 yard carry) and catching four passes for 20 yards. And while he didn’t draw the start, he out-snapped, out-carried and out-gained Latavius Murray. The Vikings are on bye in Week 10, which should allow Cook to get even healthier. It’s tough to tell exactly what the playing time split between Cook and Murray will be moving forward, but I think it’s fair to assume Cook should get more and more of the work moving forward, while Murray changes the pace as a game-finisher and goal line back. Cook owners will also have to cross their fingers that his health cooperates. However, in Weeks 15 and 16, the Vikings play the Dolphins and Lions, both teams that have been trampled by the run. Even if Cook ends up splitting time fairly evenly with Murray, he could have big games in those matchups.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals: If you didn’t follow the advice in my column heading into Week 5 (#nothumblebrag), Mixon is probably living happily ever after on your opponent’s roster. He’s obviously going to be more expensive to acquire now, but for strong fantasy teams that are playoff bound and even possibly eyeing a Week 14 bye, the Bengals get the Raiders and Browns in Weeks 15 and 16. Mixon should smash in those spots.
Colts passing game: The Colts’ upcoming schedule of defenses is tough, as they’ll face the Jaguars, Titans, Dolphins, Jaguars again, Texans and Cowboys. Andrew Luck has been crushing it lately, throwing for three or more touchdowns in five straight games, but those upcoming defenses are all top 10 in preventing fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Also, those are mostly all teams with struggling offenses, putting less pressure on the Colts' passing game to keep up. Luck should be fine, and an improved offensive line seems to have stabilized the offense, but it’s fair to expect an upcoming dip in production. The passing game weapons - T.Y. Hilton, Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron - could see a dip in production as well. Five of those six upcoming opponents are top 10 in preventing fantasy points to opposing wideouts (entering Week 9), and Hilton will have to do battle with Jalen Ramsey twice in the next four weeks. Four of those teams are also tough tight end matchups.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys: While the Cowboys have a very favorable passing game schedule as mentioned in the “buy” section, the opposite is true for the running game. Again, their next five opponents after Monday night’s game are the Eagles, Falcons, Redskins, Saints and Eagles again. In that group, only the Falcons have been generous in allowing fantasy points to opposing running backs, but that game is in Atlanta, so game script could be a concern. It’s difficult to pitch the idea of selling one of the league’s few bell cow RBs, but I’m trying to be a little bold, and if you’re going to buy good players, you’ll need to sell good ones. If you’re trying to make a push for a playoff spot and looking to buy elite players, Elliott is an elite player that you can think to dangle - just make sure you get a LOT in return. I could have also listed Elliott as a “buy for playoff-bound teams” since he gets the Colts and Buccaneers in weeks 15 and 16, so definitely hold on if you have a good winning record.
“Sell” for playoff-bound teams only
Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: Like with Elliott above, I’m not saying to “get rid of Evans.” This “sell” is specifically for teams with strong winning records that look likely to get a Week 14 bye. Those fantasy owners that also have Evans should note that the Buccaneers are at Baltimore and at Dallas in Weeks 15 and 16. Those are two of the tougher matchups for bigger boundary receivers.