QBs matter to WRs

If you are a reader of this column on a regular basis, you know that I don’t value quarterbacks. The reason is because the position has been traditionally deep enough to wait until the late rounds to draft one. The opportunity cost of selecting Josh Allen in the third round, or Patrick Mahomes in the fourth round is too high.

Mahomes might change my mind with his 29 touchdown passes and 3585 passing yards through 11 games. But Mahomes is not the focus of this column. The point I want to make is that quarterbacks matter to wide receivers. Consider Michael Pittman, who was taken in the third round of many fantasy drafts.

Things started out peachy for Pittman in the Colts’ first game. Quarterback Matt Ryan peppered him with 13 targets, and Pittman caught nine of them for 121 yards and a touchdown. That added up to 27.1 PPR points. He was averaging almost 16 PPG until former head coach Frank Reich benched Ryan in late October.

Reich named Sam Ehlinger as the starter for the remainder of the season. Indianapolis was 3-3-1 at the time, and Reich believed the second-year quarterback could give the Colts a boost. Suffice it to say that the Ehlinger experiment did not go well. After a mediocre game against Washington, Ehlinger was a bust against New England.

Ehlinger wasn’t the only one who was awful in the 26-3 loss in Foxboro. Pittman had his worst game of the season, managing to catch only 3-of-6 targets for 22 yards. His 5.2 fantasy points had many of his managers on a suicide watch heading into Week 10. After all, Reich had named Ryan quarterback for life in Indianapolis, and the future was bleak.

The future brightened a bit the next day when Reich was fired, and it got even brighter when interim head coach Jeff Saturday named Ryan the starter against Las Vegas. As soon as that news broke, I proposed a trade to a manager in one of my leagues. I offered him Nick Chubb for Miles Sanders and Pittman. He quickly accepted the trade.

Pittman underwhelmed in the game against the Raiders, although he was targeted nine times.  He caught seven for 53 yards and 12.3 FP. The next week, in a tougher matchup against Philadelphia, Pittman caught 6-of-7 targets for 75 yards but still hadn’t gotten into the end zone since Week 1. Then, on Monday night one of seven catches was for a touchdown.

It should come as no surprise that I’m pretty happy with the trade I made. Sanders, who scored 29.5 FP in my half-point PPR league last week, was the bigger piece. However, Pittman had his best game since Week 6. He was targeted 11 times in the Monday night game against Pittsburgh, and I’m hoping he’s due for more positive touchdown regression.

Pittman is just one of several wide receivers that are either being boosted, or hurt by the performance of their quarterback. D.J. Moore and Garrett Wilson are riding high right now after a quarterback change, but other talented wide receivers have been dragged down by poor quarterback play. Let’s take a look at seven more to see what happened.    


The Moore doubters were crawling out of the woodwork as recently as last week after Carolina’s No. 1 receiver put up his third straight single-digit clunker. The fact that Sam Darnold made Moore look elite on Sunday speaks more to how bad Baker Mayfield is than how good Darnold is. Moore is a must-start WR as long as Mayfield stays on the bench.   


Speaking of a must start, Wilson is just that now that Mike White has replaced Zach Wilson. No doubt, Garrett Wilson was on many fantasy manager benches on Sunday after being limited to just two receptions for 12 yards in Week 11. Wilson showed immediate chemistry with White on his way to five receptions, 95 yards and two touchdowns. Fire him up!


Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, may have come of age in Sunday’s comeback win over Baltimore on Sunday. That bodes well for Zay Jones, who has been targeted 24 times by Lawrence in the past two weeks. Jones had 27.5 FP without getting into the end zone, so check your waiver wire and see if he’s available.


An injured Jameis Winston passed for 353 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. In that game, Olave was targeted 13 times, catching nine for 147 yards. The rookie sensation is 18th in target share (25.8%), 12th in target per route run rate (28.3%), and fourth in air yard share (40.2%). But the play of Saints QB Andy Dalton continues to drag him down.


With Kyle Pitts sidelined, London should have gone off Sunday. Instead, he caught 2-of-4 targets for 29 yards in a loss to Washington. The reason why the Falcons are a run-first offense is because Marcus Mariota can’t hit the broad side of a barn. London ranks 13th in target share (27.1%) and 11th in target per route run rate (11th). It doesn’t matter.


Another talented wideout hurt by poor quarterback play, Johnson has seen his aDOT and target share drop with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett at the helm. Over the last two games without Chase Claypool, Johnson has seen his target share dip to 15.6%, with an average of only 1.05 yards per route run. Johnson still doesn’t have a touchdown this season.


Like Johnson, Cooks was being drafted in the fifth round but has been a bust. He hasn’t finished as a WR3 or better since Week 4. A quarterback change on Sunday helped only slightly, with Cooks catching all five of his targets for 59 yards. Cooks has a 22.1% target share, 28.8% air yard share but only three red zone targets over his last seven games.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Spoiler alert: Team is bust

My hopes were high when I drafted my home league team on September 5, 2022. Drafting ninth in a ten-team league, I took Joe Mixon in the first round. Seventy-five days later, Mixon and fifth-round pick Mike Williams are the only drafted players still on my roster.

The old adage in fantasy football is that you can’t win your league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it. Extend that to the first five rounds, and it’s a lock that your team is going to be circling the drain by the trade deadline. That was certainly the case with mine.

Mixon, Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts, James Conner and Williams were my first five picks. I can declare them all busts, except for Mixon who is currently RB8 in PPR leagues. Of course, Harris started showing signs of life after I traded him, but he’s still only RB22.

Pitts, one of the Big Three tight ends, is TE12 but is averaging less than five points per game. I traded him a month ago in a deal to acquire Jeff Wilson Jr. Of course, I dropped Wilson after the Christian McCaffrey trade and before he was shipped off to Miami.

Conner, a player who was notorious for not being able to stay healthy, had two double-digit fantasy games in his first five before getting injured. When he had 23.6 points in Week 10, I traded him as part of a deal that included Lamar Jackson.

I must confess that I was excited about getting Jackson, the QB5, coming off his bye to play Carolina on Sunday. In the past, and quarterback has been a deep position and I could afford to wait late in the draft to acquire one. But not this year.

Jackson, just like everyone else, proved to be a disappointment. He managed only 15.46 points. What happened to the Jackson that scored 42.62 and 39.42 points in back-to-back weeks earlier in the season. That was the Jackson I traded for.

Another player I was excited about in Week 11 was Williams. Returning after a three-week absence, he had a dream matchup with the Chiefs on Sunday night. He managed one catch and reinjured his ankle on that play early in the first half. Injury bust.

My sixth-round pick on draft day was Diontae Johnson. When I traded him for Eno Benjamin, he was averaging 11.6 points per game. After Week 11, he’s averaging less than 10 points per game and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass. What a bust.

Another player I was high on was Brandin Cooks. Things started out well with my seventh-round pick garnering 22 targets in the first two games. But he hasn’t been targeted more than seven times since then, and he has only four double-digit games. Bust.

My eight-round pick was Marquise Brown, and he was returning tremendous value, averaging more than 20 points per game, until he fractured his foot in Week 6. With a lengthy absence, I finally had to drop him to hold Williams to my only IR spot.

Rounding out my other draft picks, I traded ninth-round pick Antonio Gibson early in the season, dropped Elijah Moore, dropped Matthew Stafford, dropped Drake London and dropped Darrel Williams. I seldom hold on to defenses, or kickers.    

I had my share of bad luck with this team, but I also made some bad draft picks and trades. When things go wrong, you can always blame fate. However, the fantasy managers who takes responsibility for his mistakes can learn from them.

This is my seventh year playing fantasy football, and I’ve never had a losing season. But after Week 11, I’m 3-8 and guaranteed a losing record with this team. I hate losing. I hate missing the playoffs. But I’m not going to quit trying to win.

If you’re wondering why anyone would continue to do their best after they’re eliminated from the playoffs, you have a character flaw. You lack integrity. Other teams in your league are fighting for the playoffs, and you owe them your best.  

So, Doubting Thomas has a new name – at least in this league. My new name is Spoiler Thomas. My job is to beat each of my last three opponents and hurt their playoff chances. That includes my own flesh and blood, Nathan, in the final matchup.

Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that I have two other teams. One is 5-6 and still has a shot at making the playoffs. The other team is 7-4 and currently in third place. I hope to win at least one league championship before it’s all over.  

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Rookies make impact

Rookies are making an impact in the NFL and in fantasy football this year, and that impact is being felt the most at the wide receiver position. This is actually the continuation of a trend. Over the last decade, 33 rookie receivers (including 15 in the last three seasons) have finished in the top 40 at the position. No other position in fantasy has this kind of an impact by rookies.

After the record-setting rookie seasons of Justin Jefferson and JaMarr Chase the past two seasons, we entered the 2022 season wondering who would be the next wideout to burst on the scene. Entering Week 10, no one had broken out. And then on a cold November night at Lambeau Field, with the temperatures dropping below freezing, Christian Watson happened.

As the sun set around 4:30 p.m., even the hearty Green Bay Packers began to shiver under their winter coats as the cold wind whistling through the stadium. But the rookie wide receiver looked like he was frolicking on a summer day. I guess playing college football in Fargo, North Dakota, had prepared him for the Frozen Tundra games at one of the most famous NFL venues.

In the previous weeks, the Packers faithful had seen their hopes fade with the continued struggles of Aaron Rodgers. Patience was running thin as Green Bay had slipped to 3-6. Fantasy managers had turned on Rodgers. He continued to struggle, his receiving corps wasn’t getting better and they were always hurt. Managers were retreating from the Packers’ passing game.

Then came the Great Christian Watson Emergence. Watson has been banged up much of the season — nursing various injuries and missing three games. There was no signal foretelling of the Great Emergence. Watson had managed six single-digit fantasy games, and his roster percentage in fantasy leagues had dropped to single digits to match his dismal PPG average.

Then in one scorching game on a chilly night in Green Bay, Watson emerged. As the Packer faithful cheered, fantasy managers took note. But, wait. As the coaches would say, “let’s review the film.” Watson had three touchdowns (and 32.7 PPR points). He had 107 receiving yards. That’s outstanding, but he did it on just four catches. We all know this TD rate is unsustainable.

 Watson’s four catches on eight targets is a 50 percent catch rate, which isn’t great. It makes you wonder if Watson is a one-week wonder instead of the 2022 breakout. Well, not so fast. Though it is important to acknowledge these troubling points, please consider that he got eight targets from the future Hall of Famer. That is twice as much as he had in any game this year.

Whether Watson a flash in the pan or breakout remains to be seen. But I can tell you that I am heading to the waiver wire tonight, prepared to spend up to $25 of FAAB on Watson. Unless you’re in a shallow league or loaded at WR, I’d recommend you do the same because there won’t be many players with this kind of upside in the last weeks of the regular fantasy season.

If you don’t have enough FAAB money available and miss out on Watson, there are other rookie wide receivers that you might obtain. Some of these you will need to trade for, and you should be aware of the approaching trade deadline in your leagues. Others, will be available on the waiver wire and could be obtained for little or no FAAB dollars. Here are five names to consider.  


When Michael Thomas went down with a toe injury in Week 3, Olave stepped up to be the Saints’ No. 1 receiver. I picked him up with a few FAAB dollars after he was targeted 13 times in Week 2 by quarterback Jameis Winston. He only caught five of those targets, but his average depth of target (aDOT) was off the charts. ADOT is a representation of his air yards per target.

 Olave led the league in this category until Winston lost the starting job to Andy Dalton.  He posted seven straight double-digit games, averaging 14.6 fantasy PPG in his first eight games. Olave was WR16 in fantasy with a 27.0% target share (15th) and 41.4% air yard share (fourth) through Sunday. He’s been held back by Dalton, and might be acquired in a trade on the cheap.


Wilson was selected by the New York Jets No. 10 overall pick right ahead of Olave. Like his former Buckeyes teammate, he’s also been held back by inferior quarterback play.  Wilson did catch a career-high eight passes from Zach Wilson in Week 9 and has growing chemistry with him as the pair as hooked up for 14 catches on 16 targets for 207 yards the past two weeks.

The fact that Wilson still has not connected on a touchdown with his quarterback puts him in line for positive regression. He has not scored since his two-touchdown performance in Week 2 with Joe Flacco under center. Wilson has become the only viable fantasy option in the Jets’ receiving corps and is certainly worth acquiring. If you could trade Ezekiel Elliott for him, do it.


How about a third quarterback held back by a lousy quarterback? London, drafted No. 8 overall by a Falcons team totally bereft of wide receiver talent, seemed to be a lock for stardom. But Marcus Mariota is so bad that even Thursday Night Football analyst Richard Sherman called for Mariota to get benched after the atrocious showcase against Carolina last Thursday night.   

While teammate Kyle Pitts was getting the worst that Mariota had to offer, London was running numerous shallow routes. He caught five balls for 38 yards and only a touchdown saved him from his seventh straight single-digit game in a row. Rostered in 75 percent of ESPN leagues and 62 percent of Yahoo leagues, and I wouldn’t trade for him but would pick him up off waivers. 


When Pickens scored a rushing touchdown on Sunday, he saved the day for fantasy managers who started him. Pittsburgh has had a good track record drafting wide receivers, so hopes were high for Pickens heading into his rookie season. After a slow start he was targeted eight times in Week 4, catching six balls for 102 yards. That was good for 16.2 FP without even scoring a TD.

Pickens followed the Week 4 game with an even more impressive performance against at Buffalo. Again, he caught six of eight balls for 83 yards against an elite defense. By that time, he was widely owned across all leagues. But then there was the Philadelphia game where he had no catches on only three targets. Pickens has talent, but the Steeler offense isn’t trustworthy.


Another first-round draft pick, Burks was taken No. 18 overall by Tennessee with the pick the Titans obtained when they traded away A.J. Brown. Some analysts expected Burks to step into Brown’s shoes as his 6-foot-2, 225-pound physique reminded them of the superstar wideout. But the rookie receiver had just 16 targets through the first four games before getting injured.

Suiting up for the first time since a Week 4 injury, Burks caught 3-of-six targets for 24 yards against a tough Denver defense on Sunday. He only had 3.9 FP but had a 16.6% target share and 75% route participation. The Titans’ passing offense has struggled and could rely on Burks’ big-play capabilities with his return. Consider adding this high-ceiling wideout from waivers.     

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Not so offensive lines

The rapid decline of the Super Champion Los Angeles Rams has taken fantasy football managers by surprise. After their bye week, the Rams suffered their fifth loss at Tampa Bay Sunday to fall to 3-5. Wasn’t it just nine months ago that this team was on the top of the world after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Inglewood?

The fall of the Rams has precipitated the fall from grace of the entire backfield, with Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. reduced to fantasy irrelevancy. Akers, drafted in the fourth round in most drafts, made his first appearance in Sunday’s game since Week 5 and produced 0.3 fantasy points. He has only one double-digit game in six outings.

The running backs aren’t the only Rams players impacted. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was averaging only 11.9 fantasy points per game heading into the Sunday’s game and got 10.5. Allen Robinson, a popular mid-round draft pick, is averaging 8. Cooper Kupp is the lone player who has risen above the chaos as an elite fantasy receiver.

If you want to know what/s wrong with the Rams, you need look no further than the beleaguered offensive line.  They have battled a significant number of injuries. With the seemingly endless rotational changes up front, Stafford is the third-most sacked quarterback in the NFL with 28. Justin Fields has been sacked 31 times and Joe Burrow 30.  

With the difficulties in pass protection plus ranking 31st in rushing offense, the Rams have looked like a shell of their old selves. The offensive line is the heartbeat of an offense. If your line is good, your offense is good. A good line opens up holes for running backs and gives the quarterback the time he needs to find open receivers downfield.

As bad as the Rams have been, they aren’t the worst, ranking 29th, in offensive line efficiency. The Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins are the bottom three. Undoubtedly, the weak lines have had the most impact on the effectiveness of running backs on all of these team, especially No. 1 overall fantasy draft pick Jonathan Taylor.

Fantasy managers who drafted Taylor got 27.5 fantasy points in the opening game. Since then, Taylor has only averaged 8.8 PPG in the five games he played. I traded for Taylor in one of my leagues last week, hoping to buy low. However, he was on the sidelines Sunday with an ankle injury, watching the Colts humiliated 26-3 by the New England Patriots.

After Matt Ryan ran for his life for seven games, he was benched for Sam Ehlinger, who fared no better in losses to the Commanders and the Patriots. Poor Sam was sacked nine times in Foxboro on Sunday. A day after that debacle, the Colts fired head coach Frank Reich. The firing followed on the heels of the firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady.    

In Chicago, the emergence of Fields as one of the top running quarterbacks in the league has mitigated some of the harm done by the Bears weak offensive line. Fields ran for 178 yards on 15 carries in Sunday’s loss to Miami and scored 42.7 FP. But Fields is still getting pressured on 50% of his drop backs. That’s the most in the NFL among quarterbacks.

David Montgomery, drafted in the fourth round in many drafts, has disappointed his managers with only three double-digit fantasy games this season. He is averaging less than 10 PPG. Khalil Herbert, one of the most powerful runners in the game, has fared somewhat better but managed only 23 yards in seven carries against Miami on Sunday.

Miami, betting that Tua Tagovailoa is their franchise quarterback for the next decade or more, gave Tyreek Hill a record contract and sent a bunch of draft picks to Kansas City. Hill and Jaylen Waddle have produced for fantasy managers, but Tagovailoa has suffered a couple of highly publicized concussions behind the Dolphins weak line.

The Dolphins had also signed Chase Edmonds to a two-year contract, believing he would be the lead running back. But a week ago, they traded the ineffective Edmonds to Denver. Raheem Mostert, a superior runner, has produced three single-digit clunkers in his last four games. Jeff Wilson, acquired at the trade deadline, performed well on Sunday.  

If you’re stuck with a back behind these four offensive lines, good luck. If you can trade someone like Taylor, Montgomery, or Mostert and get something good in return, you should do it. But who should you be trading for? Let’s look at the five best offensive lines in the NFL and see who might be worth acquiring before your fantasy trade deadline.


The Eagles’ offensive line is the gold standard in professional football. Philadelphia has built a dominating unit over the years through the draft, combining high-value assets early in the draft with project players the team has developed into some of the best in the NFL. Is it any wonder that Philadelphia is the only undefeated team in the NFL?  

The best way to buy into this offensive line is to acquire Miles Sanders. Sanders doesn’t catch very many passes, so he’s more valuable in a standard league than a PPR league. I traded recently for Sanders, offering his manager Nick Chubb, who also doesn’t catch passes. In addition to Sanders, I am getting Michael Pittman in this deal.


While the Dolphins only gave lip service to protecting their franchise quarterback, the Chiefs put their money where their mouth was following a Super Bowl LV loss. They spent free agency dollars on left guard Joe Thuney, traded draft picks to acquire left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., then selected center Creed Humphrey and right guard Trey Smith in the 2021 draft.

Figuring out how to cash in on this great OL is tricky. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was expected to be the lead back on perhaps the most potent offense in the league, but he’s now in a committee with Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon. The latter, the only one to score double-digit points Sunday night, was targeted eight times and caught six from the Chiefs backfield.  


Rarely does a team without an elite quarterback hover near the top of all the offensive efficiency rankings. But the Lions have done just that. Investments with first-round picks at both tackle positions (LT Taylor Decker and RT Penei Sewell) and at center (Frank Ragnow) has paid off. The offensive line continues to open up huge rushing lanes for Lions backs.

D’Andre Swift was drafted as an RB1 and performed at that level until he was injured in the third week. He returned in Week 8 but still played second fiddle to Jamaal Williams. I’m kicking myself for trading away Williams after picking him up from the waiver wire several weeks ago. If you can trade Ezekiel Elliott or James Conner for him, do so.


It’s no surprise the Browns are on this list. They’ve had a top-five offensive line for years. Once again, investment in the unit alongside one of the best offensive line coaches in the game equals continued success, even with injuries at center and right tackle. The Browns have excellent guards in Wyatt Teller and Joe Bitonio, anchor this solid unit.

Nick Chubb is averaging more than 20 FP points per game behind this offensive line. If you play in a standard league, this guy is worth a king’s ransom. Even in a PPR league, he’s extremely valuable and you’re not going to get him without paying a high price. I chose to trade him away for Sanders and Pittman, and we’ll see how that turns out.   


Dallas has overcome the loss of Tyron Smith, as rookie left tackle Tyler Smith has proven to be an excellent run blocker. Right tackle Terence Steele has also played very well. Center Tyler Biadasz has demonstrated the ability to move defenders off the ball in the run game. And then there’s right guard Zack Martin, who is the best player at that position. 

We saw what Tony Pollard could do in Week 8, with Ezekiel Elliott out. Pollard rushed for 131 yards on 14 carries, scoring three touchdowns. However, Elliott is expected to return this week, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still calls Elliott the lead back. My advice would be to make a low-ball trade offer for Pollard, hoping the Cowboys come to their senses.     

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Trading day fallout

If I was convinced of anything, it was that Green Bay wasn’t going to let the 2022 NFL trade deadline pass without making a move at wide receiver. Reeling as a team, the Packers ha lost four consecutive games to slip to 3-5. Trailing Minnesota by 3 ½ games, it’s fair to say that their playoff chances were slipping away. They had to do something.

But then the deadline passed Tuesday evening, and Green Bay did nothing – much to the chagrin of their fans. The silence was deafening on a record-breaking trade deadline day that saw teams across the league agree to a total of 10 trades. In the NFC North, the Vikings acquired tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Lions, while the Bears got WR Chase Claypool. 

The Packers could have used either of those players. It seems they are in greater need of help at the receiver position. Allen Lazard missed last week’s game against Buffalo with a shoulder injury and is questionable this week. Randall Cobb is on IR, and Romeo Doubs, Sammy Watkins and Christian Watson have been inconsistent when on the field.

Meanwhile, the Bears, who are tied for second in the NFC North with Green Bay, swapped a second-round pick for Claypool. The former Steelers wide receiver was one of several wideouts linked to the Packers in various trade rumors swirling around in the days before the deadline. Brandin Cooks and Jerry Jeudy were also believed to be of interest. 

The Vikings, 6-1, running away with the NFC North, made a big addition with Hockenson. The Bears, 3-5, now have Claypool to start across the field from Darnell Mooney. The Packers, 3-5, with the window slamming shut on Aaron Rodgers’ window of opportunity to win a second Super Bowl, didn’t make a move as the NFL trade deadline came and went.

After the offseason trade of Davante Adams, it was a given that the offense was going to be a work in progress. But the progress has been minimal. Imperceptible. Through eight games, the Packers are 26th in scoring, 26th in passing yards per play, 22nd on third down and 32nd on fourth down. Rodgers is next-to-last in air yards per completion.

It’s really puzzling to me that Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur and General Manager Brian Gutekunst were reluctant to give up a second-round pick for Claypool. I wonder what they weren’t willing to give up to land Cooks, or Jeudy? Okay, let’s look at five of the biggest trades and the ramifications of these from a fantasy perspective.


With all of the trade rumors out there, this one caught me by surprise. There was little to no buzz about Hockenson being on the block. Not only did the Lions deal him, but they dealt him within the division. There was once an unwritten rule that you don’t trade within your division, but that’s apparently out the window now with this deal.

The Vikings, who just lost Irv Smith to a significant ankle injury, made a bold move. They get an A-plus for landing one of the best tight ends in football. Minnesota receives Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick. In return, Detroit receives a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.

The move probably does little to change Hockenson’s fantasy value. He has averaged 6.1 targets a game this season in Detroit. Smith has averaged 4.7 targets a game for the Vikings this year. Hockenson is the better player, so it’s unlikely he’ll see fewer targets with his new team, but it’s also improbable that he’ll get a significant boost in target volume.

The trade shouldn’t alter the fantasy value of Vikings WRs Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen or K.J. Osborn in any significant way either. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins gets a value bump because Hockenson is a clear upgrade over Smith. I have Cousins rostered on one of my teams, and I may try and trade him on the perception that he’s now a top-five QB.

The biggest winners in Detroit are probably the Lions’ wideouts and backs. Tight end Brock Wright may get a slight bump but the rest of Hockenson’s vacated 6.1 targets per game should be divided up between Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, Josh Reynolds and others. It won’t be a huge target windfall, but there will at least be residual fantasy benefits.


Bears GM Ryan Poles made an aggressive move to provide Justin Fields with another pass catcher across the field from Darnell Mooney. Claypool is still playing on his rookie deal, so the Bears have him signed through 2023. To acquire Claypool, the Bears sacrificed the second-round pick they got from the Ravens for LB Roquan Smith.

This trade may be a slight boost to Claypool’s fantasy value. He goes from sharing targets with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris to being a No. 2 receiver in Chicago — or perhaps a co-No. 1 with Darnell Mooney. But keep in mind the Bears have passed on only 40.1% of their offensive snaps, the lowest in the league.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers have passed on 62.5% of their offensive snaps, the 11th-highest rate in the league. The departure of Claypool means more opportunities for all of the pass-catchers since Claypool had been targeted on 50 throws in eight games. There is no reason to think that the Steelers will be passing any less in the second half of the season.

The big gainer in Pittsburgh could be Pickens, a second-round rookie who’s looked like a future star at times this season. Pickens, who has 43 targets this season, may be in line to get most of Claypool’s vacated targets. He could become an every-week fantasy starter — and potentially a very valuable one – if targeted more by QB Kenny Pickett.


I seem to believe that this trade was a bigger deal than most analysts. Wilson had been the primary backup to opening day starter Elijah Mitchell and had ascended to a lead role after Mitchell went down with a knee injury. But then the 49ers swung the blockbuster deal for Christian McCaffrey and Wilson was dropped in many leagues.

I claimed Wilson in a 12-team league because I believe his fantasy value got a bump. He was going to be third in line behind McCaffrey and Mitchell in San Francisco. In Miami, he is almost certain to be the primary backup to injury-prone Raheem Mostert. Miami’s willingness to give up a fifth-rounder for Wilson isn’t a vote of confidence in Myles Gaskin.

The Miami Dolphins did some RB shuffling, sending Chase Edmonds to the Broncos as part of the deal to acquire edge rusher Bradley Chubb. Edmonds opened the season as Miami’s starting RB but was quickly supplanted by Raheem Mostert. He joins a crowded backfield in Denver that includes Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray and the injured Mike Boone.

It’s worth noting that Wilson and Mostert have reunited with Mike McDaniel. Before becoming the Dolphins’ head coach this year, Mike McDaniel was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in 2021 and the team’s run game coordinator from 2017-2020. In other words, McDaniel was directly coaching Wilson for much of his early career beginning in 2018.


The Bills, Super Bowl favorites, proved they’re in it to win it by acquiring Nyheim Hines from the Colts in exchange for RB Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2023. This was a good deal for Buffalo as Hines will immediately slot in as the Bills’ passing-down back. The deal boosts Hines’ value simply because the Bills have such a potent offense.

Josh Allen is arguably the best quarterback in the league. On a far superior offense, Hines should score more touchdowns and more fantasy points. Buffalo RBs have accounted for 21.2% of team targets this season, the 13th-highest percentage in the league. Hines has RB3 value in full-point PPR leagues and is at least a flex, or good bye-week replacement.

The trade could pump a small bit of life into the fantasy value of Moss in Indianapolis. He had fallen out of favor in Buffalo in the past year. Moss and Deon Jackson are now backups to Jonathan Taylor, who’s been dealing with an ankle problem. If Taylor were to miss time, Moss would likely get a healthy share of early-down work for the Colts.

There could be some residual value gainers in Indianapolis. Deon Jackson could get more passing-down snaps with Hines out of the picture. Some of Hines’ vacated targets will go elsewhere, and short-area WR Parris Campbell might be the biggest beneficiary. But that’s probably the wishful thinking of someone who has Campbell rostered. 


Okay, this one happened last week after I had posted my column about the McCaffrey trade. But it’s significant in that the Chiefs’ paid up to acquire the second-year WR who has spent more time injured than not. The New York Giants traded the speedy wide receiver to Kansas City in exchange for a 2023 third-round compensatory pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.

It was more than a year ago when Toney exploded on the scene with a 6-78-0 game vs. the Saints and 10-189-0 game vs. the Cowboys. In those two games, he flashing athleticism and after-the-catch explosiveness. Those qualities were evident at the University of Florida, prompting the Giants to take him with the 20th overall pick in last year’s draft.

But then all of the injuries started, and Toney’s fantasy value plummeted with his football fortunes. Still, the Chiefs must believe Toney can still turn his special athleticism into consistent NFL production. Toney, who’s been sidelined all season with hamstring injuries, currently is scheduled to play in Sunday night’s game against the Titans. 

How much Toney plays remains to be seen. JuJu Smith-Schuster is entrenched as the Chiefs’ primary slot receiver, and Toney is not likely to take snaps from Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who signed a three-year, $30 million deal in the offseason. If Toney stays healthy, Mecole Hardman might be squeezed out as the No. 3 receiver for Patrick Mahomes.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Sell high on McCaffrey

I was having a good night, watching two of my fantasy starters rack up 40 points on Thursday Night Football, when the news broke about the Christian McCaffrey trade. It wasn’t a complete surprise, with rumors swirling around Carolina’s All-Pro running back for the past several weeks. But the timing wasn’t good for me with a trade for Jeff Wilson pending.

Suffice it to say that the McCaffrey trade changed the landscape of the NFL and fantasy football. It catapulted San Francisco into the role of a true Super Bowl contender (+1600), although the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1200), Kansas City Chiefs (+700), Philadelphia Eagles (+550) and Buffalo Bills (+290) are presently still ahead of the 49ers – as of four days ago.

If you drafted or traded for McCaffrey (CMC) on your fantasy team, last week’s trade may not prove to be a boon to your title chances. Don’t hold it against CMC that he only scored 8.2 PPR fantasy points in his debut. Keep in mind that he flew across country on Friday and didn’t log a single practice rep with his new team before taking the field against Kansas City.

There’s no doubt that the 49ers offense is a much better than the Panthers, which means that CMC will score more touchdowns (he had just three in the first six games). But San Francisco probably isn’t going to make him the focal point of their offense in quite the same way the Panthers historically have. If you have CMC rostered, consider good trade offers. 

Before you lock me up in a loony bin, hear me out on this. CMC has entered a much more crowded passing game, with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk combining for target shares over 65% between them. That doesn’t necessarily leave room for McCaffrey to be in the 20% range where he’s spent most of the time in the past few years.

McCaffrey’s a great runner, but it’s his pass-catching ability that had made him the best player in fantasy when healthy. Kyle Shanahan will surely use him as a pass-catcher more than he’s used other running backs in the passing game in the past – they have just 13 targets to running backs this season. But CMC doesn’t have the same 90-catch upside in this 49er offense.

So, what would a good trade offer be for CMC? You need to walk away with two starters for it to be good enough. For instance, Dameon Piece and Mike Evans would work for me. Or, Leonard Fournette and A.J. Brown would be enough to trade CMC away. If someone was willing to trade Josh Jacobs, I’d take him and CeeDee Lamb for CMC. Do you get my gist? 

Back on the East Coast, the Panthers were putting a butt whipping on Tom Brady’s Bucs, which came as quite a surprise for those of us who thought McCaffrey was escaping a sinking ship in Charlotte. I had added D’Onta Foreman off the waiver wire late Thursday when the news broke, and he had 15 rushes for 118 yards and caught two passes for 16.5 fantasy points.

At the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season, let’s take a look at what this trade might mean for players on both the 49ers and Panthers. The above-mentioned Wilson is now a drop in all leagues. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a crystal ball before I traded Kyle Pitts for Wilson a day earlier, although giving up Pitts doesn’t appear to be a big loss.

Foreman’s performance against a lackluster Tampa Bay team could be misleading, and I am not advocating that you empty your FAAB account to acquire him this week. Chuba Hubbard was named as the Carolina starter ahead of kickoff. Although Foreman looked explosive, his numbers were inflated by Hubard’s early departure with what was called a minor injury.

One of the apparent fantasy winners on the Panthers is D.J. Moore, who was targeted 10 times against the Bucs. Moore’s seven receptions and 69 total yards didn’t knock my socks off, but both were season highs. He also had his second touchdown grab of the season. With the Falcons on the schedule next week and again two weeks later, I’d buy low on Moore.   

On the San Francisco side, it’s hard to see any of their existing fantasy stars benefitting from the addition of CMC. Except for Wilson, the one hurt most is probably Deebo Samuel. Deebo has already seen his rushing game role diminish over the past month or so. He’s had seven carries over the past four weeks, and he only had one carry for two yards on Sunday.

The 49ers’ pie hasn’t been quite big enough for Samuel, Kittle, and Aiyuk to feast every week already, and now they’ve got another big mouth to share with. A CMC-led 49ers squad is going to be a nightmare to play defense against, but they also might be a nightmare for fantasy. Kittle is still a WR1, but Samuel is probably now no better than a WR2.

The one who seems to be hurt the least, though, is Aiyuk. He stayed hot for a second straight week with another 11-target, 80-plus yard game. The numbers on Sunday against Kansas City were almost identical to the previous week, with the absence of the two touchdown receptions he caught against Atlanta. Aiyuk is still a WR3/flex going forward.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Champ tells all

On October 5, 2022, Michael Richards was a relatively unknown fantasy baseball analyst, writing prospect and dynasty articles for Fantrax. On October 6, 2022, he was an overnight celebrity. Richards had won The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, besting 464 of the best managers in fantasy baseball.

The young man who resides outside of Seattle has spent the past 12 days being interviewed on podcasts and for various articles and publications. Richards is my friend, and I had easy access to him before he won TGFBI. But I had to wait in line for my turn after the final results were posted and he was crowned.

Only a handful of people qualified to compete in TGFBI have ever won the overall title. Even more impressive, Richards won it on only his second attempt. He held off Jeffrey Zimmerman of RotoWire, a three-time FSWA award winner, who managed to close to within five points but never took the lead.

The clincher came when Aaron Civale picked up a win against the Kansas City Royals 9-2, pitching six innings as the Guardians built a comfortable lead and coasting to a victory in their last regular season game. Civale was just one of the unsung fantasy heroes who propelled Richards to a championship.

Civale, 5-6, finished the season with a 4.92 ERA but was an important contributor for Richards and other managers in deep leagues like TGBFBI. Another pitcher that came up huge for Richards was Brady Singer of the Royals. The Royals veteran surprised everyone by going 10-5, with a 3.23 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

While Singer and Civale were helpful, Richards credited the acquisition of Tony Gonsolin late in the draft as a critical part of his championship run. Gonsolin, who has struggled to stay healthy, had potential but his injury history scared many managers from taking him – even in the late rounds. But not Richards.

TGFBI’s new champion was not wrong about the Dodgers starter. Gonsolin was tied for sixth in the majors with 16 wins in 24 starts. He was second with a 2.14 ERA, second with a 0.87 WHIP, although his 130 innings was below the MLB threshold to count. The batting average against Gonsolin was only .172.

Richards said he had him on his draft board after hours of research that he invested before TGFBI’s draft began on February 28th. “I studied all aspects of fantasy for months,” he said, adding that the research continued through the season. “I listened to podcasts, read the articles, and scoured the draft boards.

“There are many factors that I can point to, but the main reason for my success was putting in the time and effort to improve. I also remained engaged with FAAB throughout the season. The learning never stopped. I was improving as the season unfolded and walked away with lessons to help next season.”

Dylan Cease was the first starting pitcher selected by Richards in the draft. Cease had taken a step forward in 2021, going from an out-of-control, high-velocity disaster to a breakout star. But Richards believed he could get better in 2022, and he did in spite of a disappointing White Sox supporting cast.

Richards didn’t draft Cease until the fifth round, choosing instead to take hitters in the first three rounds. With the all-important first pick, Richards took Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. after Ronald Acuna was taken. The Blue Jays slugger hit .274, with 32 home runs, 97 RBI and 90 runs. He also stole eight bases.  

The champ’s second-round pick was even better as he took Manny Machado. The Padres third baseman was a key part of his team’s deep playoff run, and he was also critical to Richards’ success. Rumors of Machado’s decline at 29 were wrong as he joined the elite 100/100 club, with 32 bombs and a .298 BA.

Less you believe that TGBBI’s 2022 winner didn’t have any misses, consider that he took Trevor Story in the third round. Story, a big offseason acquisition for the Red Sox, was a bust. He only played in 94 games because of injuries and was subpar when he was in the lineup. His slash line was a career low.   

After drafting the trio of position players, Richards’ fourth-round pick was Emmanuel Clase, who proved to be classy. The Cleveland relief pitcher led the league with 42 saves, while compiling a 1.36 ERA and 0.73 WHIP across 72.2 innings. Opposing batters managed to hit only .167 against the game’s best.   

Richards attributes his ability to focus as a key to his success. While many professional fantasy managers are managing a dozen or more teams, he chose to manage only four during the 2022 season. Of course, he also had his daily and weekly writing assignments for Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy podcasts.

“I found it very difficult to keep up with content while trying to compete at a high level. Writing articles takes a great deal of research and time,” Richards explains. “And preparing for podcasts is not as easy as it may appear. It’s really challenging when it does not directly relate to the leagues I am playing in.”

Being a prospects expert also involved a lot of time as Richards patiently answered every question and tweet he received from people in the industry wanting to know about prospects. That included me, as I pumped him for information on every new prospect when I found out they were being called up.

“Long story short, I had to cut back on content (for Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy to have the energy to get over the finish line,” Richards explained. “There were many late nights and more stress than I care to admit. This is an aspect of the experience I need to reevaluate and adjust heading into next year.”

Being a dynasty guru may have given, Richards an edge but he refused to overweigh rookies. “The biggest mistake I made last year was relying too much on unproven, young players who were not guaranteed playing time or success. I built a roster full of boring veterans who just put up numbers.”

Richards said his goal heading into the season was achieving a proper balance between high floor and high ceiling players. “Securing everyday players and depth at each position was essential. My improvement in the draft strategy, roster construction, and FAAB were all areas of focus for me.”

A modest Richards refused to swayed by the many accolades thrown his way since winning TGFBI. He doesn’t believe he possesses a special talent, adding that anyone “with a burning desires, strong work ethic and a stubborn refusal to quit can achieve their dream.” although he admitted a little luck helped. 

“Winning TGFBI is a culmination of a life-long pursuit,” Richards explained. “It is validation that hard work, dedication, and commitment to a single cause are still a blueprint for success. The countless hours spent chasing an impossible dream paid off. It vindicates my decision to pursue something I love.”

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. He represented CreativeSports in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

TGFBI Cinderella story

I “met” Michael Richards in April 2020 – just weeks after the pandemic began and the country was locked down. Those were crazy days when we all stayed indoors, hoping and praying we could survive the COVID-19 breakout. The baseball season was still up in the air, and neither Michael nor I knew whether we would be starting our new jobs, writing about fantasy baseball for CreativeSports.

In the 21st century, it has become the new norm to meet people virtually, and this was the case with my introduction to Richards. Todd Zola provided the virtual introduction as we received the virtual tour of CreativeSports. Todd told us we needed to sign up for Twitter to build our brand. Richards was able to attract several hundred followers in the next few months. Then the season began in July.

In the last two years, Richards has moved on to another fantasy baseball outfit, but we’ve stayed friends. We talk on the phone, exchange text messages and emails. When I was invited to participate in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI) last February, I immediately contacted Richards. He told me he had participated in TGFBI the previous year and would return for his sophomore season.

Michael and I spoke on the phone several times, texted, emailed and tweeted each other. During one of our draft prep conversations, I asked what his goal was this year. He said he had finished in the top third of the field the previous year and would like to do better. I asked him how much better, but he had no answer. I didn’t know what to make of a guy who didn’t have a goal for everything. 

Michael invited me to join him in a mock draft a week before TGFBI’s draft. It took five days. The draft was a 30-round slow draft with a similar format as the real draft. Michael and I texted back and forth. There were many questions that needed answers, and he was kind to answer each question. One of the things he believed was that 5-category players were worth investing in. He loved Ozzie Albies.   

Michael didn’t get very many of the players that he mentioned to me in the draft. I remember checking his team roster after the draft ended and thought he had a decent team. Not great, but decent. I’m sure I spent as much or more time researching players before the draft the draft. I liked my team better than his – on paper. But Michael had an advantage. He’s a much better player than I am.

He build a formidable pitching staff that included Emmanuel Clase, Dylan Cease, Luis Garcia and rookie George Kirby. Richards had the wisdom to draft Manny Machado when many were fading him. He went “all in” on Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. He caught lightning in a bottle with catcher Daulton Varsho, who delivered a career year. He knew what he was doing.   

Okay, I buried the lead. Michael Richards won TGFBI. The prestigious fantasy baseball event ended Wednesday night, and my friend beat 464 of the best fantasy managers in the world. Richards dug deep to hold off Jeffrey Zimmerman of RotoWire in the final hours. Zimmerman is a three-time FSWA award winner, the 2017 Tout Wars Mixed Auction champion and 2016 Tout Wars Head-to-Head champion.

If you’ve played a season of fantasy baseball, putting every ounce of effort you can into your draft preparation and research, daily lineups, FAAB bids, waiver wire moves for seven solid months, you know what is involved in managing a team. Consider what was required from Richards to beat the best and finish on top of the standings in a tournament like TGFBI. 

In one day, Richards went from an obscure fantasy writer at Fantrax and Triple Play Fantasy to a celebrity. But I’m proud to say that I knew him before he gained worldwide acclaim. Richards  was interviewed by Justin Mason, TGFBI’s head honcho, on utube Thursday. On Friday, he was on Rotowire with Zola. I’m sure he will be a popular guest on many fantasy baseball podcasts. 

“It’s been an incredibly stressful month,” Richards told me on the final day as he watched the scoreboard. “I haven’t been writing for Fantrax during the final days. My full attention has been on trying to close it out.” And close it out he did, finishing with 4,166.5 overall points – just 16.5 better than Zimmerman. At one point, just hours before the final MLB game ended, they were five points apart.

“I think I did it!” Richards said in a tweet moments after the MLB regular season ended, which also ended the fantasy baseball season. He admitted that he was exhausted. “I’m just trying to soak up this feeling while it’s here. I really can’t believe it happened.  It’s been very difficult. I don’t want to do it alone again. I’d like to co-manage with someone else. Ideally, someone better than me.”

That’s easier said than done, now that you’re the King, Michael. Now that Richards is a celebrity, I am waiting in line to complete my interview. Hopefully, he’ll give you some helpful hints at how to become great In this game we love. Check back with me for a complete interview with TGFBI’s champion in a future installment of Doubting Thomas.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Parity and opportunity

The NFL has finally achieved its stated goal of league parity. Heading into Week 4 of the 2022 season, there are only two undefeated teams – the Miami Dolphins in the AFC and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC. The Buffalo Bills, the current favorite to win Super Bowl, aren’t even winning their division after losing a thriller in Miami on Sunday. The Bills’ odds are +400, followed by the Chiefs at +650, Buccaneers at +700, and Eagles at +1100. The Dolphins are +2000.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are 2-1, after finishing last season 3-14. Jacksonville not only snapped an 18-game road losing streak on Sunday, but they made a statement by dominating the Los Angeles Chargers in a game they won by four touchdowns. The 28-point win was Jacksonville’s largest on the road since a 33-3 rout of Minnesota more than 20 years ago. Do you think Philadelphia took notice? The Eagles host the Jags Sunday in a game people will actually care about.

Suffice it to say that fantasy managers weren’t loading up on Jacksonville players in any of my preseason drafts. Travis Etienne Jr. was the first Jaguar player off the board in my home league draft. He was the 39th overall pick. Christian Kirk was next at No. 99, and Trevor Lawrence was No. 135. James Robinson wasn’t even drafted, although my brother-in-law was smart enough to pick him up off waivers two weeks ago. Etienne has been the least productive of the four.

A dozen teams are currently 2-1, but the worst has to be the Chicago Bears. They appeared headed for a loss against the Houston Texans after David Montgomery left Sunday’s game early with a knee/ankle injury. If you’ve seen the Bears play, you know Justin Fields can’t hit the broadside of a barn with a football. He’s thrown only 45 passes in three games, completing slightly more than half of them. His quarterback rating was 28th best heading into this game.

When all seemed lost for the Bears faithful, it was Khalil Herbert to the rescue. Herbert rushed for 157 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He added two catches for 12 yards, and most importantly, put up 30.9 PPR fantasy points. If Montgomery misses time, Herbert will be a must-start back Sunday when the Bears take on the Giants. His rostership percentage was 49% in Yahoo Leagues and only 25.2% in ESPN leagues heading into this week’s waiver wire run.

Keeping things positive, I was pleasantly surprised to see Derrick Henry targeted on 40% of his routes Sunday as the Tennessee Titans held off the Las Vegas Raiders for their first win of the season. He was targeted six times, catching five balls for 58 yards. Maybe head coach Mike Vrabel finally figured out that dumping the balls off in the flat to one of the best running backs in the league is a good strategy. Henry scored 25.3 fantasy points after two straight single-digit games.

Henry wasn’t out there running complex routes. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill only threw 27 passes, and Henry was the second-leading receiver. Robert Woods was No. 1, catching four passes for 85 yards and putting up his highest fantasy point total of the season – 12.5. The arrow is pointing up for Woods, the No. 1 receiver on this team. He had only two targets in opening week, five last week but nine this week. He’s available in about a third of leagues, so check your waiver wire.

Okay, now I’m going to get negative. Fantasy managers that drafted Justin Jefferson early in the first round looked like geniuses after the first week. Nine receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns equated to 39.4 fantasy points. But the last two weeks have cast a serious doubt on that. Jefferson only caught six of 12 targets for 48 yards and no touchdowns in Week 2, but that was against Philadelphia. Everyone knew he would go off against Detroit on Sunday.

Talk about a disappointment. Jefferson only caught three balls for 14 yards and 4.4 fantasy points. Holy Cow, Batman! What’s going on, here? Jefferson has a 25.7% target share on the season with an average of 8.9 air yards per target. He’s not been getting much work downfield the last two weeks but the layups aren’t there either. There’s clearly more volatility to his role than we might have expected. But he’s still a great receiver, so buy low on Jefferson if you can right now.

Speaking of frustration, D.J. Moore has been all that for fantasy managers, having been targeted only six times in each game and catching a total of seven passes for 88 yards. Moore has had only one double-digit game, which isn’t good for a player who was being drafted in the third or fourth round of most draft. Hopes of a Baker Mayfield revival in Carolina have dimmed into darkness, but Moore did play 60 snaps on Sunday, so don’t drop him or trade him away.

But there’s another wide receiver named Moore who’s done even worse than D.J. That’s Elijah Moore, who hasn’t had a double-digit game yet in spite of all of the preseason hype. This is another player you should hold on except in the shallow leagues because better days are coming. How do I know this? Consider the fact that Moore was in for 76 snaps, ran 56 routes and was targeted 10 times by Joe Flacco. Unfortunately, he caught only four of them. But activity leads to productivity.  

While we’re being negative, let’s consider Joe Mixon who got out-produced by Samaje Perine in the Bengals backfield. Mixon seemed primed for a big game against the Jets, but things got ugly early as he ceded a passing touchdown to Perine in the first quarter, and then ended up getting rested late in the game with a sore ankle. Perine’s 47 yards from scrimmage nearly doubled Mixon’s 24 yards on 12 carries. Mixon limped off the field on his last play, but the injury is reportedly minor.

Another running back who seemed primed for a big game was Alvin Kamara. The Saints were supposed to roll over the Panthers, with Kamara projected to score close to 20 fantasy points. He managed only 7.3, with 15 rushes for 61 yards and no touchdowns in a 22-14 loss. Even worse, Kamara only caught two balls for 12 yards. Jameis Winston has shown less interest in checking down to Kamara, compared to previous Saints quarterbacks, and that does not bode well for Kamara.

I know there’s a lot of bad news out there for fantasy managers right now, but try and keep things in perspective. There have been only three games, and the worst you can be is 0-3. I started 0-4 in my home league in 2017 and won the league championship. If you’re 0-3, keep working the waiver wire and look for a trade that might turn things around. But don’t trade away your studs when they are not performing. Like I said last week, sell high and buy low. Good luck.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.

Out on a Lamb

My home league fantasy team was projected to score 132 points but managed to score only 93.6 in Week 1. The shortfall was a result of three dud performances from tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Mike Williams and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Those geniuses at Yahoo projected the trio to score 47.83 fantasy points. The trio would up producing a combined 14.7 points.

Strangely, I found consolation in the fact that if they had achieved their projected totals, I would have still lost my matchup with my sister-in-law by 25 points. I was not in a panic, but I’m always looking for a deal. The only fantasy manager to score less points than me was my sister-in-law’s husband. I looked at Jack’s roster and noticed he needed a running back he could start. I was loaded with them.

One of my running backs was Antonio Gibson, who was fresh off a 20 PPR point performance on a day where he rushed 14 times for 58 yards and had seven receptions for an additional 72 yards. Of course, those points didn’t count because he was on my bench. Gibson was my RB4, behind Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and James Conner. I had also picked up another running back, Jeff Wilson, on waivers.    

I had decided to trade Gibson before I even decided who I wanted in exchange. To me, Gibson was a classic “sell high” player because I don’t think he’s going to repeat that Week 1 performance. But who could I buy low on?  Jack’s WR1 was Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. I began to salivate. Lamb is someone I loved on draft day, but I didn’t love the price. His ADP was 17.

Before you think that the public was valuing Lamb too highly, keep in mind that his ADP during draft season at the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) site was 14. That’s where the high stakes fantasy football competitions are held. These are the best fantasy football players in the world, and you can bet that they do their research on players being taken in the first two rounds.

Since Lamb has never finished in the Top 12 fantasy receivers, drafting him in the second round means buying into the likelihood of a third-year breakout. In other words, the best players believe he is going to ascend to the ranks of the elite WR1s. Of course, there was good reason for this. The three pillars to fantasy football success are talent, opportunity and situation, and Lamb checked all the boxes.

When the Cowboys drafted Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they already had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. But they knew Lamb’s talent.  But with Cooper moving on and Gallup still making his way back from an ACL tear, the opportunity was there. The experts also believed the situation in Dallas with quarterback Dak Prescott was also conducive to a breakout.

Then the situation changed in Week 1 when Prescott fractured his hand in the Cowboys’ loss to the Buccaneers. Initial reports were that the Cowboys signal caller would be out six to eight weeks. I saw the “buy low” window opening on Lamb, and I climbed through with a trade offer for Jack. I offered Gibson for Lamb. If he agreed, I would have a starting wide receiver in exchange for a bench piece.

It didn’t hurt my cause that Lamb was fresh off a 4.9 FP game. At first blush, my brother-in-law would see me offering a player who scored 20 FP for one who scored less than five. The fact that I drafted Gibson in the 9th round didn’t matter because he looked like an RB breaking out. Don’t get me wrong. Anything is possible. Remember that Gibson had an ADP of 16 just a year ago.

Was I worried about the fact that Prescott would be out and that Cooper Rush was starting for the Cowboys? I didn’t expected the Central Michigan product, who been on the Dallas bench for the past five years, to set the world on fire. But Prescott hasn’t set the world on fire either. In the season opener, Prescott was 14 for 29 (48.3) percent for 134 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Before he left the game with an injury, Prescott targeted Lamb 11 times but only connected twice for 19 yards. He could have had a good first game if he could have caught more of those targets. I made the trade offer realizing Lamb wouldn’t have the same ceiling as he would have in a better ecosystem with Prescott at the helm, but maybe Rush wasn’t the huge step down all of the analysts predicted.

My brother-in-law accepted the trade offer, and the rest is history. Lamb had 11 targets again, but this time he caught seven. He dominated Dallas’ air yards in Week 2 with a 56.7% share. The beleaguered Rush actually looked like a quarterback who can keep the ship afloat in Dallas until the captain returns. Rush has now won both of his starts with Dallas. And Lamb had 15.1 FP to Gibson’s 12.1

After the Cowboys’ victory over the Bengals, there was even some good news on Prescott. He had surgery and the break proved “cleaner” than anticipated. Follow-up reports now have Prescott’s return possible as early as Week 4. I knew this was a possibility when I made the trade because owner Jerry Jones had announced that they weren’t putting Prescott on the IR.

Out of the entire Dallas offense, Lamb was probably the fantasy asset that was under the microscope the most in Rush’s first game as the starting quarterback. With this pressure, the former Oklahoma Sooner delivered a solid fantasy performance while leading the team in targets. With a connection developing between Rush and Lamb, the wideout is a solid start in Week 3.

Lamb is now entering his third NFL season. In the modern NFL, many wide receivers break out in their third year. Lamb averaged 13.6 PPR fantasy points per game in 2020 and 14.6 in 2021. His production didn’t skyrocket, but it steadily improved. I look for a continuation of this trend if Lamb gets at least 25 percent of the target share – the amount a WR1 needs in fantasy. 

The point of this story is not to brag. I really can’t brag because I’m 0-2 in my home league after another miserable performance by my tight end Pitts and an injury to Conner. The point of my story is to educate you about what it really means to “sell high, buy low.” You have to identify a player with a proven track record to buy and trade away one that doesn’t have that track record.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, writes about football and baseball for CreativeSports. Be sure to follow Thomas on Twitter@ThomasLSeltzer1.