Buy Low, Sell High

It's trade season. So don't fumble away this critical moment for glory. Evaluate the market of available players by using reliable trends to make sure you come out on top. 


This section's previous column offered a lofty meditation on the nature of football before recommending that owners move on from A.J. Green .... who promptly posted 10 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns, leading all WR's in points in week three. Sorry about that. However, this is the suspect nature of evaluating players based on information from only two weeks worth of games. A week later, Green reentered the stratosphere with a pedestrian output, tallying 8 pts in standard leagues. A.J. Green's turbulent start to the season* highlights a fundamental aim of fantasy trading: to parlay short term outliers into long term consistency. That is why this point in the season is crucial for roster moves. Weeks 4 through 6 serve as a sweet spot between the guesswork of early season fantasy projections (tantamount to using a crystal ball) and the fixity of rosters in the second half of the football season, once the diamonds have been unearthed from the waiver wire rough and the contenders are distinguished from the pretenders. Now is the time to make a move. Further, from the chaos of weeks 1-4, two reliable tools have emerged that smart fantasy owners should use to their advantage. Trends in individual players performances and an established marketplace of players (i.e. who is available and who isn't). Players drafted with high draft picks and big money who have performed well are beloved by their owners and are not likely to move. Conversely, players who have underperformed will not return the value of their draft position in a trade, so owners will likely hold onto them, desperatley hoping that they will get better return on their initial investment by staying pat (cough, LeSean McCoy, cough*). So, a common pool of players is likely to be available in most leagues. The rest of the article will serve as a rapid fire evaluation of the buy low, sell high potential of the most frequently available fantasy players*, using key trends as the best way to determine who to trade for and who to trade away.


1. Calvin Johnson: BUY LOW, SELL HIGH
Johnson's frequent exchange is mostly likely due to owners inability to calibrate Johnson's all time monster seasons of the past with his current place in the league, thinking he will either return to top status or is completely washed. In reality, he is somewhere in between. Johnson is still a volume receiver (10, 8, 7 catches over the past 3 weeks) and was robbed of significant points in week four by a goal line fumble. Add the 8 points lost on one play, and Johnson has averaged 10.5 points per game over the past 3 weeks which is high end WR2 territory. If you can trade for Johnson at WR2 value or lower, do it. If you can trade Johnson away as a WR1, now might be the time.

2. C.J. Anderson: SELL HIGH (or as high as you can)
It might seem best to ride out Anderson's early season struggles, but this picture will only get more bleak. Kubiak realizes that the best running attack is a blend of Anderson's thunder* and Hillman's lightning, with the result that neither is a consistent fantasy play. Each of the past three weeks, Hillman's carries have come closer to Anderson's, equaling them at 11 this past week. And Hillman is the only one to have found the end zone.

Jones' frequent exchange is probably the result of owners hoping to sell high, citing Jones' low volume of catches and high volume of touchdowns as an inconsistent recipe. However, Jones really does seem to be a TD catching machine, so long as Aaron Rodgers is his QB. Jones averaged a touchdown on 18% of his catches in '12 and 21% in '13 and he is currently scoring on 23% of catches. Jones will likely receive a greater boost in production since the decimated packers receiving corps leave few yard churning alternatives. It may be best to hold on to your waiver wire gem for the duration.

4. Demarco Murray: SELL
High, Low, doesn't matter: sell. Demarco's shortcomings are already chronicled here.

5. Andrew Luck: BUY LOW
It seems unthinkable that Andrew Luck could fall from undisputed top 2 Fantasy QB/football iron man who never missed a game to injury-plagued and without the confidence of his coach. However, Luck situation is a perfect storm of poor offensive line play, unexpectedly high turnovers and, well, bad Luck*. The Colts offensive line was underperforming in pass blocking to start the season (16th according to football outsiders), but is already starting to bounce back to form (7th in '14). Luck has never been injured before, but has had high turnover games. The difference is that this year's struggles all came at once, a problem that should correct over the season.

6. Jeremy Hill: SELL HIGH
Don't over-think this one. A cursory look beyond Hill's high point per game average at any of his stats should set off alarm bells. Hill has been out-carried by Gio Bernard each of the past 3 weeks and is morphing into a redzone back whose numbers depend on scores. If you can move Hill based on his three touchdown performance (during which none of CIN's top 4 WR's scored, and Andy Dalton put out his lowest volume passing performance: first week below 25 pass attempts), go for it.

7. Donte Moncreif: BUY LOWish
Moncrief is not the star that the previous 6 entrants on this list are (or were thought to be). However, the fact that he is an unknown commodity should be to a smart trader's advantage. If you can pry away Moncrief for a lower tier rb/wr, after his Thursday night plummet (0 points) that culminated a consistent regression (18, 9, 7, 0 last four weeks respectively), it may be a steal. Why? Moncrief is a "go up and get it" receiver per his nfl combine bio, who excels in the vertical passing game. Matt Hasselbeck's average yards per completion is 6.5 vs. Andrew Luck's 7.8. It's no coincidence that Moncrief has averaged 12 ppg with Luck as QB vs. 3.5 with Hasselbeck.

8. Marshawn Lynch: SELL HIGH
No Comment. Just kidding. But in keeping with Beast Mode's manner let's keep this as to the point as possible. Marshawn is approaching 29 years old and just crossed the 2,000 carry mark. Emmitt Smith crossed the 2,000 carry mark at age 26 in the midst of his best statistical season totaling 17,000 yrds and 25 tds. Outside of Smith, the gold standard in longevity, backs like LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson crossed the 2,000 carry mark at 27 and 28 respectively. LT did so in the middle of a 31 td 18,000 yard season and Peterson, a season after gaining 2,000 yards. All three backs were unable to match their peak performances post 2,000 carries. While Lynch has just crossed this milestone, his advanced age relative to other backs when reaching 2,000 carries and his physical style of play might have exacerbated his decline. Couple this with Seattle's drop off in run blocking (from 4 in '14 to 17th this season*) and there is a new reason for depression in Seattle.

9. Carson Palmer: STAY PUT
Carson was flagged as a buy low candidate after week 2 and has definitely paid of for those who jumped on his bandwagon early. However, Palmer, currently sitting at 4th in fantasy QB output, is unlikely to perform better than he has and will almost certainly regress slightly (Palmer is averaging his highest yards per completion ever at age 35). This is not advice for owners to sell high unless they have a luxury of multiple top tier qbs, but simply not to over think this one. Enjoy a constant QB that won't lose you games and who is playing behind an offensive line that is quickly moving to the top of the league (4th in pass blocking, 2nd in run blocking).

10. Doug Martin: SELL
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Martin's surprising inclusion on this list is that owners are spending the mental space to concoct trades for him. Martin's peak in his rookie season was significantly inflated by one monster game (251 yrds, 4tds), without which, Martin would have averaged 4 ypc rather than 4.6 and scored only 7 tds rather than 11. It might be for this reason that Martin owners look to sell high the minute Martin posts a game like his 19 pt outing in week 4. Don't fall for a brief spike in hype and treat Martin as the continually frustrating flex play he is.

*Green's outlier 34 point week elevates his average fantasy output to 5th WR in the league about where you would want a WR of Green's draft position. However, remove the outlier and Green falls to 30th, tied with Pierre Garcon (an inditement in itself) and a serious disappointment. It is likely that Green has only significantly contributed to one fantasy win for owners who paid a high price.

* (fun fact: a new branch of clinical psychology has developed in order to treat chronic denial in owners of Shady)

*most often traded per CBS Sports Fantasy which has a cool transaction trend tracking feature here.

*Anderson underwent a Copernican revolution when he realized he likes to hit cornerbacks more than they like to hit him

*Conspiracy theory: Luck finally got a smart phone and the distraction has lowered his numbers while the time spent on mobile tinder, swiping right until someone looking for scraggly neck beard matches, is what hurt his shoulder.

*run blocking per football outsiders

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