A sign the 2011 fantasy football apocalypse is upon us: I seriously considered a trade offer of Darren Sproles for Rashard Mendenhall. Straight up. No lie.
And the sad thing is, I may have been smart to accept the offer. It is a points per reception league, and Sproles is looking like PPR gold at the moment. But the whole situation feels so much like moving an ultimate buy-low option for a sell-high. That isn’t always a bad thing to do, depending on the situation, but does go against the fantasy fundamental of selling high and buying low.
What is obviously clear is that fantasy football 2011 is unlike anything we’ve seen before in terms of value reversals and changing roles due to injuries, poor play, etc.
With all that in mind, here are a few of my personal buy-low options heading into Week 5 of the NFL season.
Torrey Smith, WR, BAL
Yes, this is the same rookie receiver that snatched just one ball for one yard last week against the Jets. However, he is also the same receiver who had five catches for 152 yards and three TDs the week before.
People will likely forget about that last part, especially with Torrey entering his bye and with Lee Evans allegedly due to return in Week 6.
Except, Smith showed us just how explosive he’ll be with that Week 3 breakout. Last week, Smith was covered close by Darrelle Revis and company all game. Through the first four weeks, quarterbacks throwing at Revis (actually more at the receiver he’s covering) have managed a passer rating of just 3.6. Revis has allowed just three receptions in four games.
Plus, Torrey was targeted six times total by Flacco, second highest on the team after tight end Ed Dickson. In fact, in watching part of the game, there were at least two throws that Torrey would have turned into easy TDs if Flacco hadn’t horrifically overthrown him.
Smith is a speed demon, and like DeSean Jackson (another receiver that relies on speed above all else), Smith will have games where he disappears. I think we can forgive him if the one game he disappears is against Revis in a contest where Flacco is erratic at best.
His current fantasy owners likely won’t be so forgiving.
Dustin Keller, TE, NYJ
Similar to Torrey Smith, Keller had a horrific Week 4 output after showing some promise earlier this season. His 2-for-12 output was just unacceptable for those who grew accustomed to his PPR prowess through the first three weeks.
However, I see this as more of a fluke game than anything else. He was shadowed by Ray Lewis numerous times, and despite his two catches, he was targeted eight times and remains a favorite target for Mark Sanchez.
Last year, Keller was hot out of the gate, but petered out over the course of the season, which is something to remember when making your bids for him. There is a chance Keller collapses again, but smart money suggests that Keller will continue being the safety valve for a young and erratic, at times, Mark Sanchez. Expect him to post bigger numbers as early as this week against a Patriots team missing Jared Mayo.
Marques Colston, WR, NO
One catch for eight yards isn’t something to celebrate if you are a Colston owner—except that it was his first game back from collarbone woes and he played without pain or setback.
The Saints are known for easing their players back in after injuries, and Colston is no exception to the rule. He is an injury concern at his age and considering his history, but considering how cheaply you can buy him right now, he’s worth the risk.
Remember, his QB is still Drew Brees, and the offense goes through Brees, not the ground game. Colston will have some good games moving forward.
James Starks, RB, GB
After posting nice numbers as a true starter last week, Starks will likely have Ryan Grant to contend with again in the backfield as Grant is healthy once again. The thing is, we don’t know how long he’ll stay healthy.
The Packers running game isn’t a fantasy force regardless of who lines up as the starting tailback. It is Aaron Rodgers’ team now, and the game plan goes through the passing game. Still, there are ample opportunities for a running back for a team that runs the score up early and often in most cases.
Starks is the most dynamic runner in Green Bay’s backfield at the moment, and it will only be a matter of time before he is consistently the lead back. Make a play for him now while his owners fret over Grant’s imminent return.
Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
It may be a little harder to secure Chris Johnson via trade now that he has his first 100-yard game of 2011 under his belt. However, the lack of touchdowns and overall solid scoring from a fantasy perspective has a number of Johnson owners worried still.
But Johnson has numerous great running back matchups still on his 2011 slate, and the Titans offense has been potent enough through the air to open up lanes for CJ. He’s a guy to target while you can, before he starts churning out 20-plus point games on a weekly basis again.
Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
Tenth among all quarterbacks in yards passing so far this season, Ryan has disappointed in terms of overall fantasy scoring to date, due mostly to his measly six passing TDs to date.
However, look closely at the Falcons schedule so far. Most games in 2011 thus far have been ones where the running game can run rampant, and it has. Michael Turner has very good stats to this point thanks to matchups against the Seahawks, among others.
Ryan hasn’t been in too many situations so far in which he had to air it out. He did notch four TDs against the Eagles in Week 2, but the team has gotten by via its running game.
This week against the Packers, and in a number of other upcoming matchups, Ryan will need to take matters into his own hands more often, and considering how solid Julio Jones looked this past week (11 catches, 127 yards) and the reliability of Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, Ryan will have plenty more opportunities for a true breakout.
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