I traded stocks as a financial advisor for more than 30 years. I kept statistics on various companies, while evaluating them for myself and my clients. I would look at a stock’s price-to-book (P/B) ratio, price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price-to-earnings growth (PEG) ratio, and dividend yield. I would look at technical trading trends. I did my analysis as I asked whether I wanted to buy, sell, or hold that stock.
As a fantasy manager, you should be evaluating your players and asking the same question each week. Do I want to buy this player (trade for him), sell this player (trade him away), or hold the player – at least for another week. After two weeks, it’s time to take stock and see if a trade might improve your team. This is true, if you are 2-0, 0-2, or 1-1. Never stop looking for a way to make your team better.
Trading is not the only way to make your team better. A timely waiver-wire claim – especially in the early weeks – can make a huge difference in the outcome of your season. In 2017, I added Alvin Kamara to my team in the fourth week of the season. But that kind of situation doesn’t come along very often. Waiver additions are generally not as impactful as trades in improving a team.
So, let’s look at four players who were all drafted in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts.
ALVIN KAMARA (FIRST ROUND)
The long-awaited showdown between Kamara and Christian McCaffrey never materialized as the New Orleans offense looked terrible Sunday. McCaffrey carried the ball 24 times, gaining 72 yards and scoring a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 65 yards on his way to 24.7 fantasy points (FP). Kamara rushed for five yards on eight attempts and caught four balls for 25 yards. He totaled only 7.0 FP.
When you drafted Kamara No. 3 overall, this is not what you signed up for. The Drew Brees era is over, and Jameis Winston looked bad in week 2. The concern for fantasy managers, particularly in PPR leagues, is that Kamara won’t be the same player in this new regime. After all, his elite fantasy value is due to his ability as a pass catcher, hauling in 81+ receptions in each of his first four NFL seasons.
Kamara has caught only seven passes in the first two weeks. He is only on pace for 60 receptions in the 17-game 2021 season. He’s averaging 12.6 points per game (PPG) after two weeks. He is RB19 in PPR and RB26 in standard leagues. And things don’t get easier for Kamara and the Saints for week 3, on the road in New England. Is it time to trade Kamara before his value plummets?
Before you offer to trade him for Austin Ekeler, Joe Mixon, or D’Andre Swift, tap the breaks and consider this. After only four seasons, Kamara is already the franchise’s all-time leader for receiving yards by a running back with 2,824. He is just two catches shy of passing Pierre Thomas as the Saints all-time leader in receptions by a running back. He’s running just as many routes as ever.
Kamara has shown that he can take on the load as the team’s primary runner. He is also the best receiver on the team. He is a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. He’s more than just a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, Kamara can split out wide or come out of the slot and run any route as efficiently as most wideouts. You do not want to trade Kamara away.
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT (FIRST ROUND)
There has been a lot of talk this week in the fantasy community about Tony Pollard being a more explosive running back than Elliott, but I’ll remind you that I’ve been saying this for a year. In my running back preview in July, I told you to fade Elliott in the first round of the draft, adding that “he’s simply not running with the same intensity as he did in his early years.”
Elliott opened the season at Tampa Bay, rushing for 33 yards on 11 carries. He had two receptions for another six yards and a total of 5.9 points. That’s not what you’re looking for from your RB1. He did bounce back in week 2, with 71 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. He caught two passes for 26 yards on the Cowboys’ final drive of the game and finished with 17.7 points.
However, Pollard also saw 16 touches and outproduced Elliott by a wide margin. Consider that Pollard rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, busting through the line and breaking tackles. He also caught three passes for 31 yards on his way to 23 points. This timeshare is a concerning development for fantasy managers who used a first-round pick on Elliott.
Elliott has been the Cowboys’ clear-cut starter at running back since being drafted in 2016, but he suddenly has to compete for touches. And Pollard has gone from fantasy handcuff to possibly a lot more. Could he replace Elliott as the lead back? If you picked up Pollard from the waiver wire based on this kind of speculation, I think you are going to be disappointed.
Elliott has played more than 75% of the team’s snaps so far and remains the RB1. The main reason is his exceptional pass blocking. Elliott takes on blitzing linebackers and defensive backs to give Dak Prescott the time he needs to find one of his talented receivers. With that said, if you can trade him for Nick Chubb, or Ekeler, make that deal as soon as possible.
Verdict: Trade Elliott if you can get a decent return for him.
SAQUON BARKLEY (FIRST ROUND OR SECOND ROUND)
If you think Kamara and Elliott are off to a rough start, consider Barkley is RB46 in PPR leagues after two weeks, averaging 6.3 FPG. If you drafted Barkley, like I did on one of my teams, you’re not feeling too good right now. Honestly, I got Barkley on autopick after timing out on a pick late in the first round of a public league draft. I had no intention of taking Barkley at that point.
Being thin at the running back position in this league, I left Barkley in my starting lineup and was got 3.7 points from him in week 1. Damien Harris, who got 11.7 points that week, was on my bench. He had 100 rushing yards on 23 carries, caught two passes but didn’t find his way into the end zone. I started Harris last week against the Jets, and he put up 13.4 points with a touchdown.
After week 1, I was trying to decide whether Barkley was a buy low or a sell high. I could see both sides. He was a buy low if I believed he still had top-five upside and you could trade a player who was drafted outside of the top 30 (like David Montgomery). He was a sell high if I thought he would finish the season outside the top 20. I decided to hold Barkley and not try to acquire him elsewhere.
It was an easy decision to bench Barkley on Thursday night against Washington. He actually did better than I thought he would, scoring 8.9 points. In a short week, he carried the ball 13 times for 52 yards and brought in two of his three targets for 12 yards. The highlight of the night was a 41-yard run that looked like vintage Barkley and made me think his knee is close to 100 percent.
If I didn’t own any shares of Barkley, I would consider buying low on him this week because his value may have bottomed out. But I don’t know if I could pull the trigger. There is no guarantee Barkley is 100 percent after multiple ligament tears in his knees suffered a year ago. But even if he is fully healthy, his main obstacle is a substandard offensive Giants offensive line in front of him.
Verdict: Hold Barkley but don’t try to acquire him elsewhere.
NAJEE HARRIS (SECOND ROUND)
I developed a severe case of buyer’s remorse after seeing Harris put up 5.9 points in his NFL debut in week 1. The good news was that he played 100 percent of the snaps in the Pittsburgh backfield. The bad news was that he only managed 45 yards on 16 carries and couldn’t find the end zone. He was targeted three times by Ben Roethlisberger but only caught one ball for four yards.
No one likes to sell low, but I was ready to trade Harris after week 1 to cut my losses. I offered to trade him straight up for Montgomery in my home league. My son laughed at me, which was no way to treat his father. I held Harris for another week, and I was rewarded for my patience. He more than tripled his production, with 19.1 points in week 2. My response was to try again to trade him.
If that surprises you, consider that he rushed 10 times for 38 yards. He did have five receptions and scored a touchdown. Harris ran roughshod in the SEC when he was at Alabama, but that certainly hasn’t been the case in two NFL games. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Steelers offensive line is really bad, and I’ve never seen an NFL running back have great success running behind a bad offensive line.
I currently have two trade offers open on Harris. I offered him straight up for Antonio Gibson on Monday, but the manager doesn’t appear interested. I made a second offer the next day to another manager for Darrell Henderson and Tyler Higbee (a buy-low opportunity). I threw in Jared Cook, who has less trade value than Higbee. Henderson was injured Sunday but appears to be okay.
The reason the fantasy analysts fell in love with this rookie running back before he ever played a down of professional football is simple. Volume. I was enticed to take him in the second round in spite of my reservations. I am considering a class-action suit against the analysts because of entrapment and mental anguish. There is no way that I count on Harris delivering RB2 numbers this season.
Verdict: Trade Harris if you can get a decent return for him.
One footnote I want to add about trading. If you’re going to offer a trade to another manager in your league, don’t insult him or her. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have received insulting trade offers from other managers. When I offer a trade, I look at what they need and offer them something that might be appealing. I would suggest that you do the same thing.
Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.