College Football Pick’em
Buy Low, Sell High
Talking the business of sports
I try to project an air of calm through the early part of the season, because there’s nothing to be gained from freaking out. I’m trying to steer you through an unpredictable NFL season, and keeping a cool head is part of the job.
But, I don’t want to give off the sense that I think nothing we’ve seen through the first two weeks matters. Sure, I’m not ready to panic-sell Kyle Pitts or anything, but I about Derrick Henry, so clearly there’s some stuff we’ve seen here worth reacting to.
Today’s newsletter is about trying to figure out what matters so far, and how you should use that to continue the on-going process of trying to build a championship team. You’ll do that through waiver claims, sure, but especially this week, your team probably isn’t going to take some big step forward without swinging a trade. So, I’ve got with me to help you all make some trades — I’ve got my thoughts on a bunch of trades sent in by readers, listeners, and Twitter followers.
Plus, I’ve gone through five offenses I’m actually kind of worried about through the first couple of weeks of the season. Later tonight, of course, we’ll have Jamey Eisenberg’s Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em calls for you, with Dave Richard and Heath Cummings’ picks for Week 3 for you tomorrow. For now, here’s some trade advice and some offenses worth being worried about.
One team I didn’t write about here but almost did is the Patriots. The vibes around them have been pretty rotten going back to training camp when they played coy about which failed head coach with little-to-no play-calling experience would be calling plays for them — Matt Patricia, as it turns out.
But, I had to winnow the list down to five teams I’m worried about, and the Patriots didn’t make the cut for two reasons: For one, the stakes just aren’t that high, as they didn’t have a single player drafted inside of the top-80 in ADP this year; for another, they did at least show signs of life in Week 2 against a very good Steelers defense.
These five offenses? Things have been rotten pretty much to the core for all five of them, and there aren’t clear signs they’re going to get better. They might — they should — but here’s why I’m worried.
I thought the Seahawks would be a pretty bad offense coming into the season, and they’ve been that more or less — they rank 23rd in yards per attempt on passes and 29th in yards per carry, which is, indeed, pretty bad. But the reason I thought they might be the worst scoring offense in the NFL was because of the sloth’s pace they played at last season, and they’ve somehow managed to be even worse in the early going. While the average team has run 126.3 plays through the first two games, the Seahawks are sitting at 96, dead least in the NFL. They were last in the league in total offensive plays last season, too, but they’re actually behind even that pace — they averaged 56.1 per game in 2021, compared to just 48 so far.
What makes it worse is, for our purposes, at least, is the lack of anything like a clear hierarchy in either the running or passing game. Tyler Lockett leads the team with 15 targets, while DK Metcalf has 13, and I expect them to remain more like a 1a/1b tandem, which is going to make for a frustrating split. And it might be even worse in the backfield, as Kenneth Walker made his debut in Week 2 and was one of three backs to significant playing time — Walker played 24% of the snaps, Rashaad Penny played 41%, and Travis Homer was in on 45%, handling mostly passing downs.
A bad offense can still be useful for Fantasy, but this one just looks like a headache that won’t be worth the pain. I’m not viewing anyone here as a recommended starter at this point.
The Bears got a mulligan for Week 1, playing in brutal field conditions that made it impossible for either offense to do much. They don’t get one for Week 2, as they threw just 11 times in a game they trailed 24-7 at halftime. Through two games, they’ve thrown 28 passes; there have been more than 28 pass attempts in 52 of the 62 other games so far. It’s hard to take an offense willing to do that seriously in 2022.
It implies a shocking lack of faith in Justin Fields, one that I don’t think is entirely fair. If he’s really looked so bad in practice that you can only trust him to throw 11 times in a game where you’re trailing the whole way, then this season is already over and we can probably stop worrying about this offense. Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney aren’t going to get enough opportunities to matter, and David Montgomery is going to give you 85 rushing yards and nothing else on a good day.
I’m not ready to damn the Bears to that fate just yet, but this is a pretty dreadful start. I’m actually putting in claims for Kmet in a few spots where he was dropped, so I still think there’s a path to Fantasy legitimacy here, but it needs to start with the Bears giving themselves a chance.
I gave the Panthers a mulligan after Week 1, a weird game that saw them fail to execute basic things like snaps against a very tough Cleveland defense. It’s a lot harder to come up with any kind of excuse for Week 2 against the Giants, and it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that this is mostly a coaching issue. It’s like this coaching staff doesn’t actually know what their players are good at, and one stat I uncovered doing research Tuesday highlighted that: Between 2020 and 2021, Robbie Anderson had 48 yards on 18 targets on WR screens. D.J. Moore had 96 yards on 17 targets.
Another example: Christian McCaffrey‘s snap share rose from 81% to 91% in Week 2, but his route participation dropped from 75% to 67% — as Ben Gretch put it in his Stealing Signals newsletter, “They treated the best receiving RB of a generation, and in the discussion for best receiving RB of all time, as a guy to give a breather to on the all-important passing downs.”
Not to give Baker Mayfield (or Sam Darnold or Teddy Bridgewater) a pass, but maybe the issue here is that they’re doing things like drawing up plays for Shi Smith, who has 14 yards on nine targets, rather than giving the ball to McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. I can only assume they’ll stop trying to be so cute and feature their two studs, but it may not happen until Matt Rhule is already gone. There’s a good reason he has the best odds to be the first coach fired.
Here’s a reminder: It can always get worse. Or, rather, it doesn’t necessarily have to get better. We thought Mitchell Trubisky would be an upgrade over what Ben Roethlisberger has given the Steelers over the past couple of seasons, but that just hasn’t been the case so far — while it’s true that Trubisky has been more willing to take shots down the field than Roethlisberger was, he hasn’t been able to hit on them. In fact, his 20% bad-throw rate so far would be the highest of his career — a career that has not, you will recall, been defined by high-level performance as a passer.
I have the Steelers relatively low here only because they do at least have a potentially promising alternative at QB in rookie Kenny Picketts. There’s no doubting the pass-catching talent here, and if Trubisky continues to struggle, I’d prefer to see Picketts get a chance. It was worth seeing if Trubisky learned something playing behind Josh Allen, but he looks like the same guy he did in Chicago. If that doesn’t change soon, hopefully the Steelers won’t be afraid to pull the plug — and, for what it’s worth, they’ve got extra time to prep before a Week 4 home game after this Thursday’s game. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
Much was made last season about the re-emergence of the Cover-2 defense as a response to high-octane, downfield-oriented passing offenses, and no team has faced more two-safety looks through two games than the Bengals. That makes sense, given that their 12 pass plays of 50 or more yards in 2021 were the most in the league last season. It makes sense to try to take away what the Bengals were so good at last season, and the Cowboys were especially effective in that regard in Week 2 — the Bengals attempted just two passes 20-plus yards down the field, both of which fell incomplete.
That wouldn’t be such a big concern if it wasn’t for the fact that the Bengals rebuilt offensive line hasn’t looked capable of holding up yet, either. Joe Burrow has already been sacked 13 times despite the fact that they’ve faced a four-man rush on more plays than any other team in the league. Burrow has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long to try to make plays, and his pocket awareness remains a work in progress. When Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are getting open down the field, this can be an asset; when teams are taking away the over-the-top game, it could become a liability.
Now, it’s worth noting that there may not be many teams capable of generating pressure with only a four-man rush the way the J.J. Watt- and Micah Parsons-led Steelers and Cowboys can. It’s entirely possible the Bengals come out against the Jets and light it up and we forget all about this. But I had to include one actually (probably)-good offense here, and the first two weeks have shown a formula for how to slow this offense down. Let’s see if anyone else can repeat it.
We got an email from an FFT listener named Tyler that showed an impressive amount of self-reflection, and I’d like to share it with you:
“I have somehow squeaked out wins both weeks so far to be one of the only undefeated teams in the league. However, I am near the bottom when it comes to points scored and points against. I clearly deserve the wins because I got them, but I am curious to know how one should proceed in this sort of situation. Usually, I am not very aggressive in waivers or trading, and I think that is where my seasons usually falter.”
Knowing your weaknesses is a strength, Tyler. And acknowledging that, even a 2-0 team needs help is a good thing. The thing about getting wins you “don’t deserve,” is, you’ve banked those wins. They count, and they make it easier to make the playoffs in the long run. However, it’s also true that, if you’re just getting lucky with the schedule, eventually that’ll run out. Regardless of your record, you want a good team.
Tyler, you should be looking to make trades right now. Take advantage of your schedule-assisted edge to take some risks on “riskier” players — go out and buy low on Kyle Pitts or Derrick Henry if you don’t think the guys you have can get it done. Maybe Pitts or Henry won’t be able to either in the long run, but taking a flier on upside is better than standing pat with a team you don’t believe in.
Now, let’s get to the trade mailbag. Every Wednesday in this space, I’ll be answering your trade questions, giving you Dave Richard’s trade chart’s spin as well as how I would approach the deals. If you want your trade questions answered, send them over to [email protected] with the subject line “#AskFFT” and I’ll make sure they get answered next week:
@filpaik: Alvin Kamara for Leonard Fournette? Kamara for Austin Ekeler? Mike Williams for A.J. Brown or Ceedee Lamb? Kamara+M. Williams for Cooper Kupp? Kamara+DJ Moore for Justin Jefferson? Anyone else? PPR. Thank you! (I roster Kamara, M. Williams & Moore).
@chiliconsarnit: Looking to get Mike Evans for Terry McLaurin & Antonio Gibson. I could offer McLaurin & James Robinson instead, but not sure that’s good value for me.
@Jbusch55: Marquise Brown + Jeff Wilson for James Conner
@FFPlayer44: Michael Thomas for Leonard Fournette? The trade chart shows it as even, but is it a sell high on Thomas and Buy Low on Fournette?
@gamercow: My Ezekiel Elliot for J.K. Dobbins to stash for now? I have Chubb and Sanders as my starters.
© 2004-2022 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.
Images by Getty Images and US Presswire