FIVE PLAYERS TO ADD
1. RB ZACK MOSS, BUFFALO BILLS
Moss was a late-round flier in fantasy drafts this past August. Things looked promising after two games, with the rookie back playing 43% of snaps and seeing a very healthy portion of the goal-line work, but fantasy managers let him go after he got hurt. He returned to a limited role last week, seeing the field on 25% of snaps, but this week he returned to where he was to begin the season at 47% of snaps.
There are a few reasons to be optimistic about Moss in the second half of the season. Firstly, he played 90% of goal-line snaps over his first four games, meaning he is most likely scoring the rushing touchdowns for Buffalo. Secondly, he has flat-out outplayed Devin Singletary over the last two weeks, recording a higher PFF rushing grade, averaging more yards after contact per carry and forcing more missed tackles per attempt. To cap it off, Moss has also generated more receiving yards on a per-route basis.
The Bills don’t have a clear early-down back and third-down back like many teams, so the Bills could easily decide to give Moss more snaps than Singletary. Most running backs have a limit on how many snaps they could get, but there isn’t a limit for Moss if the Bills decide that he is their guy.
2. RB LA’MICAL PERINE, NEW YORK JETS
Perine made this list last week, but his role increased again, so it’s worth repeating. Perine played 46% of the early-down snaps and 84% of the third-down snaps in Week 6. This past week he was up to 67% of the early snaps and 89% of the third downs. Any running back who is seeing over two-thirds of snaps needs to be on rosters — they will be on the field and getting the ball, regardless of the game script.
The Jets also have the best schedule for running backs over the rest of the season and have a plus matchup next week against the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that just allowed 159 rushing yards and one touchdown to halfbacks. The Jets will then follow that up with a home game against New England, who just allowed 168 yards and three touchdowns to the position. Perine can be an RB2 in these matchups.
3. WR RASHARD HIGGINS, CLEVELAND BROWNS
Oct 25, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins (82) makes the circus catch over Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips (23) late in the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Higgins spent time as Cleveland's third wide receiver over the last three seasons, but he struggled for playing time in 2020, barely seeing the field until he fully took over as the team's third wide receiver again in Week 5. He maintained that role in Week 6 and found the end zone in each of those games.
Higgins was elevated to an every-down role in the wake of Odell Beckham Jr.‘s season-ending injury, and he led the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards at six, six and 110, respectively.
Higgins should remain an every-down starter with Beckham out of the picture. According to our strength of schedule tool, the Browns have the third-best schedule for wide receivers for the rest of the season — six of their next eight games are against teams in the top half of the league for most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, and none of those eight teams reside in the top 10 when it comes to preventing points to wide receivers. This is good news for the Cleveland Browns' receiving corps.
4. WR BRANDON AIYUK, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Aiyuk became an every-down receiver for San Francisco in Week 2, though he surpassed 21 receiving yards just twice over his first five games. While his box score numbers were relatively uninspiring, his fantasy value was helped by his rushing ability and his three touchdowns — one receiving, two rushing — since Week 3.
Aiyuk didn’t score a touchdown against the Patriots, but he did have his best receiving day, with six catches on seven targets for 115 yards. What makes it even more impressive is that he was facing the Patriots, and their strength on defense is their cornerbacks.
Next week Aiyuk has the Seattle Seahawks, who have given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. There are some matchups where you’ll want him on the bench, but there will be others when he can be started.
5. WR STERLING SHEPARD, NEW YORK GIANTS
Shepard played the first two weeks of the season and was relatively underwhelming, catching eight passes for 76 yards across those games. He missed the following four weeks with an injury but returned with a bang for Thursday Night Football, putting on his best performance of the season.
Shepard caught six of the eight passes thrown his way for 59 yards and a touchdown. He either led his teammates or tied for the lead in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He should be among the top three in targets every game he is healthy for, and New York will need to be passing a lot in most games. Shepard might not be the “highest upside” wide receiver, but his floor is pretty high with the number of targets he consistently sees.
FIVE PLAYERS TO CUT
1. RB ADRIAN PETERSON, DETROIT LIONS
Peterson was at his peak in Detroit in Week 3 when he played 60% of the Lions' offensive snaps, but his playing time has decreased every week since. D’Andre Swift saw the field for one more snap than Peterson did on first and second downs in Week 6, and this past week Swift had a nine-snap lead over Peterson on early downs.
If anything, the Lions will continue to give the ball to their highly drafted young backs more as the season progresses. Swift has also played 80% of the snaps when Detroit has been within 10 yards of scoring. With limited touchdown opportunities and limited playing time, it would take an injury before Peterson could be trusted to start.
2. RB JAMES WHITE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
White played in three games before Week 7. In those three games, not only was he the Patriots' clear third-down back, but he also played more first- and second-down snaps than any other Patriots back in that time.
He ended up playing just four of a possible 46 first and second downs this past Sunday, though he did maintain his third-down role. It’s unclear why he saw such reduced playing time. Part of it could be his quality of play, as he’s been the lowest-graded Patriots running back this season. While his receiving grade has been good (86.3), he's managed a pass-blocking grade of just 16.9 to go along with a rushing grade of 58.0. With the Patriots not playing as well as they have in past years, White isn’t getting as many opportunities in the red zone, which is why his TD column still bears a zero. Receiving specialists out of the backfield should typically be avoided in fantasy, but White has been an exception due to early-down work and touchdown potential. Without either of those, it’s hard to trust starting him anymore.
Edelman’s role in the New England offense has decreased as the season has gone on. He was the most targeted Patriots wide receiver over the first two games, and his worst game was this past week. He now hasn’t had more than 35 receiving yards in a game since Week 2.
Edelman has been a staple in New England's two-wide receiver sets in the past, but he hasn’t been this year. N’Keal Harry left the game last Sunday with an injury, and instead of Edelman seeing an expanded role, Jakobi Meyers took his place — and Meyers ended up being the Patriots' leading receiver.
Edelman also doesn’t have a touchdown this year, and because Edelman’s playing time evidently isn’t going to increase, the only way his fantasy value will get better is if he and the offense improve. At the moment, that doesn't look possible, and 34-year-old wideouts typically don’t see big improvements in their play. I wouldn’t be inclined to start Edelman; even if he has a good matchup, I would rather have a higher upside player on my bench in case that player works out later in the season.
4. WR TRE’QUAN SMITH, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints were without two of their top three wide receivers this past week. This should have added up to a big game out of Smith, but instead, he was targeted on only four of 36 passes. He caught all four for 54 yards, but he was overshadowed by Marquez Callaway, who caught eight passes for 75 yards.
The Saints' other wide receivers should be back soon, too, which will take away some of Smith’s snaps, and Callaway could start seeing more playing time in the future, given how well he played. The Saints have a below-average schedule for wide receivers over the rest of the season, which hurts the value of all the New Orleans wide receivers a little bit, and with three straight games of four or fewer targets, it seems like Smith's fantasy value is downhill from here.
5. TE DARREN FELLS, HOUSTON TEXANS
Oct 18, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Houston Texans tight end Darren Fells (87) catches a touchdown pass in front of coverage from Tennessee Titans free safety Kevin Byard (31) during the second halfat Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The Texans have been without tight end Jordan Akins (concussion) recently, but when both Fells and Akins are healthy, they each see significant playing time, with Akins playing more in pass situations and Fells playing more as a run-blocker.
With Akins out, Fells has also been the Texans' receiving tight end. This worked great in Week 6, as Fells caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown, leading to some speculation about Fells keeping some of the receiving role even when Akins came back. He was then held without a target this past week, despite seeing the same role in the offense. Houston has its bye week next week, and Akins should then be ready to return to the lineup, removing all of Fells' fantasy value.
FIVE PLAYERS TO BUY LOW
Fournette’s usage was very promising on Sunday. He took over as the Buccaneers' third-down back while also seeing significant time on early downs. What made his performance even more encouraging is that he saw 75% of the goal-line work.
Ronald Jones looked relatively close to Fournette from a points perspective because Jones was the one with a rushing touchdown, but in the coming weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising if Fournette is the one scoring. The former Jaguars back is probably harder to trade for now than he has been the last few weeks, but his role is more prominent now. If, at some point, Jones falls out of favor with the Buccaneers coaching staff, we could see Fournette have a similar role to what he had in Jacksonville, only with better players around him.
2. RB LE’VEON BELL, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Oct 25, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell (26) carries the ball in the first half against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The numbers from Bell's first game as a Kansas City Chief may not have looked great, with 39 yards on six carries, but there is plenty of reason to think his numbers can look better with time.
Thanks in part to a defensive and special teams touchdown, Kansas City had a big lead and didn’t need much offense in Week 8 — they only ran 41 plays with their starters, so no one on the Kansas City offense had much in the way of opportunity. The Chiefs running back rotation was by drive, with Clyde Edwards-Helaire getting the first drive, Bell getting the second, and sometimes a running back getting two drives in a row if their initial drive only lasted a few plays. Edwards-Helaire ended up with more snaps just because he played the last drive with the starters, which ended up being a longer drive. Bell graded out better than Edwards-Helaire (66.2 to 57.0), so it’s possible that Bell may see the majority of snaps at some point. This game looked like the floor of what Bell can produce in this offense.
Claypool has been the breakout star of the season. The Steelers were fully healthy at wide receiver this week, but that didn’t stop the Titans from putting their top cornerback across from Claypool anytime he lined up to the outside. Pittsburgh responded to this by targeting their other wide receivers and finding success there instead.
James Washington was the favored pass-catcher in this offense through the early part of the season, but this week Claypool ran over three times more routes than Washington — a promising development if he's on your roster. Fantasy managers might be worried about his one-target performance, but this was a function of the Titans defense attempting to take him out of the game. Going forward, Claypool should be closer to the player he was over the past five games when he went off for 17 catches for 335 yards, 146 yards after the catch and four scores.
4. WR JAMISON CROWDER, NEW YORK JETS
Crowder missed this past week with a groin injury. There are reports that his absence was mostly out of caution, so he should be back in the near future. Crowder has seen double-digit targets in every game he’s played so far, and he's been WR3 when healthy enough to take the field.
The Jets are welcoming more of their pass-catchers back from injury now, but that won’t impact Crowder’s playing time. It might slightly impact his targets some weeks, but not significantly. What’s even better is when the fantasy playoffs hit, the Jets have the Rams and Browns — both teams should force the Jets into a pass-heavy game script, and both defenses are easier to attack from the slot compared to the outside. Crowder will be a league-winner for several fantasy managers. Trading for him while he’s hurt is a good play to make.
5. TE JONNU SMITH, TENNESSEE TITANS
Smith remains the TE4 on the season, despite already having the bye week and two straight weeks with just one catch. Part of the reason for the performances is his health. He missed part of the previous game with an injury and was limited in practice earlier in the week. Another reason is the return of A.J. Brown, who has been a star in the Titans offense.
Tennessee has a better schedule for tight ends than wide receivers for the rest of the season. Smith might still have some bad games because Tennessee is a run-first offense, and his value comes from touchdowns and big plays, but other weeks he should be a high TE1.
FIVE PLAYERS TO SELL HIGH
The logic to trade away Edwards-Helaire is pretty much the same as the logic behind trading for Le’Veon Bell. The snaps and fantasy points show Edwards-Helaire was still the clear lead back for Kansas City, but the two were basically even in how they were used. If anything, the Chiefs will use Bell more and Edwards-Helaire less than they did in this game because Bell might still be learning the offense, and Bell graded better. Barring an injury to Bell, we’ve probably seen the best fantasy performances from Edwards-Helaire for the season.
2. RB TODD GURLEY II, ATLANTA FALCONS
Oct 25, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II (21) attempts to prevent a tackle by Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
From a fantasy perspective, Gurley is coming off his best game as a Falcon. He had two touchdowns and 63 yards across 23 carries. One concern is his ineffectiveness on such a high volume, as he’s fallen under 3 yards per carry in each of the last two weeks. Another concern is the rest of the schedule, which gets considerably more difficult after the Panthers game next week.
Four of the following six games are against teams in the top eight in fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs. The combination of the schedule and unsustainable amount of carries means either now, or this time next week, will be the peak value for Gurley. It’s probably better to trade a player one week too early than having him have a bad game against Carolina and not have nearly as much value a week from now.
3. RB FRANK GORE, NEW YORK JETS
Gore’s playing time has been decreasing. The only reason he might have some value now is that his yards per carry average has been on the rise, leading him to gain 60 rushing yards this past week. That is probably the peak of what Gore can do, given how much they’ve taken to Perine in the backfield. The only situation where he should be started during the rest of the season is if Perine gets hurt. It would be better to trade him for a little something now than cut him for nothing later.
4. WR TYLER LOCKETT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Lockett is here simply because anytime someone has an out-of-this-world performance, it’s worth seeing if someone overreacts and is willing to overpay for him. Lockett may have had the best wide receiver performance of the season, with 15 catches, 200 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday night.
Lockett was recently a buy-low candidate in this series due to his performances with fewer targets. Over the rest of the season, there should be games where D.K. Metcalf does well, some where Lockett does well and others where both can. As usual, only trade him if you can get good value for him. Since he’s WR2 on the season, you should be able to get a lot for him.
5. WR COLE BEASLEY, BUFFALO BILLS
Beasley is coming off of the best fantasy performance of his season, with 11 catches for 112 yards. A lot of things ended up going right for Beasley to see such a high target share. Buffalo was without John Brown, which moved rookie Gabriel Davis from his usual slot position to the outside. This left Beasley with all of the slot snaps.
The Bills were also without several of their tight ends due to COVID-19 concerns. Beasley should see fewer snaps in the coming weeks as players return to the lineup, and this should also mean that he goes back to a smaller target share. The three weeks prior, he had less than 55 receiving yards each week and an average of five targets per game.