Fantasy Football Stock Watch: Week 10
I avoid highlighting injured players in this column. You are smart enough to know that a torn ACL is bad for Deshaun Watson. If a shooting star crashes into the earth, you don’t need me to tell you its stock is down.
Instead, I try to make sense of the shockwaves, which are a little tougher to interpret. Watson down means volume up for Lamar Miller.
But what about his efficiency? DeAndre Hopkins had sixteen targets on Sunday — but only six receptions. What does that mean going forward?
Even beyond injuries, so many changes on a weekly basis in football. In real life, the Kansas City Chiefs were rolling and unstoppable. Suddenly they’ve lost three of four. In fantasy, Hunt was a wrecking ball just the same. Suddenly he looks like an early down plodder on a team that doesn’t run a lot. Fortunes can still shift dramatically over the course of a few games even without injuries to significant players (sorry, Chris Conley).
Like remember when the Broncos spanked the Cowboys in Dallas, and Denver was a Super Bowl contender? Or when Adrian Peterson was washed up, shot, with nothing left in the tank? Or what about New Orleans, who started 0-2?
It’s why we play the game. Everything changes and nothing is guaranteed. It’s on us to continually look for signs of change and adjust our valuations before it’s too late. Fantasy football is nothing more than a stock market where you must buy, sell, or hold assets for the right price, and at the right time (that is, before their value changes).
To that end, remember this, before all else: what happens next is infinitely more important than what has already come to pass. So don’t forget Hopkins’ time with Watson or Hunt’s first month of play. But do remember to take them for what they’re worth: not very much, at this point.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR – HOU)
At this time last week, Hopkins was the number one receiver in all of fantasy football. Hopkins is still the number one receiver in all of fantasy football.
Between then and now, some things happened. Deshaun Watson tore his ACL, the football world went into panic and mourning, and the fantasy community faded every Texans player. Hopkins would barely be a WR2. Just look at his stats last year with Osweiler.
All that was the stimulus, and the response. Then, on Sunday, when it mattered, Hopkins delivered — 86 yards and one touchdown, 14.6 standard fantasy points.
Now we’re here. Value is mostly based on appearances, and for now, Hopkins still appears to be a stud WR1. That’s a vast improvement from Sunday at 12:30 PM. Value lies in perception, and the perception is that Hopkins will be fine.
But what’s the reality? The reality is that the Indianapolis Colts had given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing WRs entering Sunday, and were missing most of their secondary. The reality is that Tom Savage is an awful NFL quarterback, and if he was ever going to throw his first-ever touchdown pass, it was going to be in that matchup. The reality is that those 14.6 standard points could very well be as good as it gets going forward and that Hopkins faces Pittsburgh and Jacksonville in Weeks 15 and 16.
My advice is this: sell. Sell now, and never look back. Sell, while DeAndre Hopkins is the number one receiver in fantasy football; while other owners still have reason to hope in his outlook rest of season (point out to them the target total and the final output); before other owners go and watch game tape of Tom Savage. Sell like you’ve never sold a fantasy asset before.
Hopkins’ value is likely as high as it’s going to be for the rest of the season. Don’t wait for it to fall. A terrible thing happened to his rest-of-season outlook, but we were gifted an out, like some karmic temporary restraining order against the fantasy gods. I wouldn’t let that opportunity go to waste.
T.Y. Hilton (WR – IND)
The textbook definition of a boom/bust receiver, Hilton has suddenly boomed his way up to overall WR4 in standard leagues. He has Pittsburgh, a bye, Jacksonville, Denver, and Baltimore between now and Week 16. Sell him while the getting’s somewhat good.
Kareem Hunt (RB – KC)
Like DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Hunt presents a complicated buy-or-sell decision. Hunt’s value is as low as it’s been since he fumbled his first touch of the season, but he still has lots of things going for him. He’s still the third highest scoring running back in standard fantasy leagues through nine weeks of play. He still leads the league in rushing.
Despite the nine-carry blip on Sunday, he is getting consistent volume in a good offense. Experts still rank him as a weekly top five RB play. In terms of trade value, some of that “Stud RB1” musk is still clinging to him, leftover from the first month of the season.
But that scent is going cold now in November. He’s coming off a mediocre month, capped with season-low fantasy points in consecutive weeks. His efficiency is down, and he’s had only nine rushing attempts in two of his last four games.
Now he’s going into his bye. With each passing week, Hunt’s value has fallen a bit more and more. It would have been wise to sell Hunt sky high after Week 4, sure. Hindsight is 20/20.
Where does Hunt stand now? I don’t think this is a rookie wall. He’s still breaking tackles and running hard. He just has such little space.
I put most of it on the coach, Andy Reid, whose maddening usage of his starting running back is no new development. It’s the same script we saw with Spencer Ware last year. After a hot start, Ware faded into a volume-dependent, early-down, between-the-tackles bruiser. Just like today, the offense ran through Smith and Kelce, especially in the red zone.
Running plays are still called in predictable situations, and are generally right up the gut. In the passing game, Hunt gets about one designed play a game (an RB screen or even a sideline fade), but then it’s just check downs. We aren’t seeing the wheel or slant routes that worked early in the year. The run seems used only to set up the pass, both between the 20s and in the red zone.
Charcandrick West is coming in on virtually all third downs and hurry up drills. I’d even put some blame on the offensive line — Mitch Morse and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have recently returned but have not regained their old form just yet. All this is to say that Hunt’s downturn looks to be more about the situation than talent, and this is coming from someone who’s watched every Kansas City snap this year.
What’s that mean going forward? I don’t know why, but my mind keeps going back to Le’Veon Bell’s breakout 2014 season. Or maybe it’s my heart. I distinctly remember feeling the same feelings now as I did then — I had a young running back who flashed early in the season, then went weeks and weeks without a rushing touchdown. No, Bell didn’t have great speed, and yes, he provided a nice yardage floor, but that week-winning upside from early in the year started looking like a mirage entering the back half of the year.
In Week 10, he had a mere 69 scoreless yards and 3.3 YPC against the New York Jets. It felt like the bottom. His bye was still coming up. Many were souring on and selling Bell at that point, myself included. Then, in Week 11, he thoroughly broke out with over 200 yards rushing and a score against the Tennessee Titans. He went on to eat the souls of all who dared to oppose him and was the centerpiece of countless championship rosters.
So, is 2017 Kareem Hunt closer to 2014 Le’Veon Bell, or 2016 Spencer Ware?
On the one hand, Kareem Hunt gets volume, and that’s the single greatest indicator of fantasy success. Even factoring in his nine carries against Pittsburgh and Dallas, Hunt is averaging 17 attempts per game through nine weeks, plus a few catches. Le’Veon Bell was getting volume, too. Furthermore, Hunt-17 and Bell-14 are immensely talented backs with three-down skillsets, who have experienced an anomalous touchdown drought.
On the other hand, Le’Veon Bell was not sharing third downs with anybody. Hunt was benched in favor of West with five minutes left to play against the Cowboys, as the offense went into hurry-up mode. Hunt appears to be game flow dependent.
On that same hand, if Hunt began to carve up a team like Bell did against Tennessee, you can bet your house that Andy Reid will start calling more passing plays. He is not committed to the run in the same way that the Steelers have always been. His reputation for “getting cute” and “thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room” is well earned.
I’d put Hunt closer to Ware than Bell if I had to guess. Several reminders, though:
- That’s just a guess
- Andy Reid is 16-2 in his career following a bye week.
- The Chiefs draw the checked-out New York Giants when they return in Week 11. Expect positive game flow, a revitalized attack, and as good a chance for a touchdown as you can hope for.
- Spencer Ware was a valuable fantasy asset last year, who gave consistent mid-to-high RB2 production when he played.
- Kareem Hunt is a better football player than Spencer Ware.
While I’m looking to sell Hopkins at his highest, I’m looking to buy Hunt at his lowest. There’s a good chance his value goes up after Week 11, and a negligible chance that his value gets any lower. If I can buy Hunt for high RB2 value, I’m in. If I can sell for high RB1 value, I’m out.
Based on his talent and situation, he’s likely a low-end RB1 moving forward. He comes with the bonus of week-winning upside. Hunt is still worth more than recent memory suggests.
Nick Zychowicz is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Nick, follow him @NJZychowicz.