David Johnson owners, I feel your pain. Mainly because, I, too, am a Johnson owner — in the league I most want to win.
The worst thing about his two- to three-month absence, for me, I actually had Bell as my No. 1 overall player until late in training camp, when the Steeler’s lengthy holdout finally nudged me toward Johnson. In other words, I took Johnson with a pick that didn’t reflect the 2016 standings, over a player I had ranked higher from May through mid-August, and here we are. Good times.
But enough complaining — finally, I know — the question is: What can we Johnson owners do about what appears to be a lengthy absence by our top player?
One thing to do, of course, is hit the waiver wires. But depending on your league settings, you may not have the waiver priority to land someone like Tarik Cohen, or you could be outbid for his services (unless you took my advice, as dispensed on last week’s Fantasy Football Beat podcast, and picked Cohen up ahead of Week 1). Arizona’s own RB situation looks like it’ll be a committee, with Kerwynn Williams splitting the work with Andre Ellington and others, while, say, Buck Allen doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of excitement.
Fortunately, there is another avenue for player acquisition, and I just happen to be someone charged with writing a weekly article about fantasy football trades. So without any further ado, here are some backs not likely to be available on waivers but who could possibly be acquired at a reasonable price.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
This is a trade target I would suggest for anyone, given that Mixon’s value will likely never be this low again, following his eight-carry, nine-yard performance (plus three catches for 15 yards) in Week 1. Worries that Cincinnati’s second-round pick would lack work in a committee with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard proved to be well-founded, with that pair combining for 15 touches for 103 yards, most of that yardage coming from two big Bernard plays in a desultory, 20-0 loss to the Ravens.
There are causes for optimism, though, stemming from, among other things, the fact Mixon received 22 snaps to Hill’s 10, indicating that the latter really is a starter in name only. Bernard got the most snaps, 29, but that’s not a major surprise in a game in which the Bengals were shut out and thus playing from behind almost the whole way. Speaking of getting shut out, Baltimore’s defense is no joke — the Ravens might just be that good, and the Bengals should find the sledding a bit easier against a Texans squad that just got worked over by Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars, and will now have to travel to Cincinnati to play Thursday night.
It’s gamble, but Johnson owners probably don’t have a lot of great options, short of praying he makes a miraculously quick recovery. Mixon, who looked better than Hill in the offseason and training-camp practices, is widely expected to eventually emerge as the Bengals’ top back, but that process could move more quickly than Sunday’s results may indicate.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons
Coleman did not have a great day in Chicago (eight carries for 16 yards, four catches for 42 yards), but no one not named Austin Hooper did for Atlanta, which was dealing with an outdoor game, on grass, against a tough Bears front seven. What Coleman did have was a solid share of the RB snaps (24 to Devonta Freeman’s 36) and a near-even share of the touches (12 to Freeman’s 14). In fact, given Coleman’s six passing targets to Freeman’s two, the former was allotted an equal amount of opportunities in Chicago.
That kind of workload split could portend very nicely for Coleman, an explosive player who scored 11 touchdowns in 13 games last season. The Falcons came into the season pretty much a lock to regress from last season’s remarkable levels of offensive efficiency, but they should be able to move the ball better most weeks than they did Sunday.
Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
A decent day as a pass catcher (six receptions for 32 yards) helped salvage Hyde’s opening week, but his rushing line (45 yards on nine carries) could have his owners fearing the worst from a San Francisco offense that mustered just 217 net yards in a 23-3 loss to Carolina. As with the Ravens, though, the Panthers could have a better defense than some may realize, at least to a degree.
Unfortunately for the Niners, the slate continues to be very difficult, with Weeks 2 through 4 spent facing the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals (ah, life in the NFC West). That, however, could also be a salient fact to raise with the Hyde owner, in an effort to shake him free. The fourth-year back has the talent to pull off big games, and he is the clear top RB for his team, with Matt Breida no more than a low-upside handcuff.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
Sure, it’s a mess in Seattle, but again, as a Johnson owner, are you in a position to quibble? This could possibly be the last chance to obtain, at a cheap price, the Seahawks’ lead back.
It’s fairly evident that’s not going to be Eddie Lacy, who got a pitiful total of seven snaps Sunday, even in Rawls’s absence. The team appears to be too spooked by C.J. Prosise’s penchant for injury to give him a big role, at least for the time being, which leaves seventh-round rookie Chris Carson as the biggest threat to Rawls’s immediate supremacy.
Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said Rawls will play this week, and he has a great chance against a porous 49ers defense to cement his place atop the depth chart. The hard-charging Central Michigan product led all RBs with a 5.6 yards-per-carry average in 2015, and while the Seahawks’ lousy offensive line is at least as much of a concern as Carson, Rawls could be well worth a low-priced roll of the dice.
Other players to trade for
Russell Wilson, QB, and Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks
It was an awful outing, all around, for the Seahawks’ offense at Green Bay, but better times should lie ahead for this talented duo. This could be premature advice as Wilson has a habit of starting seasons slowly, meaning his owners might be more willing to part with him in a few weeks.
As mentioned, though, Seattle gets San Francisco this week, which should do wonders for the ability of Wilson, who looked terrific in preseason play, to connect with his receivers. Graham, meanwhile, managed just eight yards on three catches against the Packers, but he did tie for the team lead with seven targets, and he is an obvious buy-low play.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Old, inaccurate and struggling to survive a collapsing pocket is no way to go through life, and is there any doubt that Brady will go back to living that envy-of-everyone life we’ve come to expect? Just in case there is some doubt, it’s worth seeing how shaken Brady owners are by his 16-for-36, 267-yard, zero-touchdown outing Thursday. Bill Belichick will get this figured out, likely by the time the Patriots take the field against the Saints this week.
Players to trade away
Mike Gillislee, RB, Patriots
In a relatively low-scoring Sunday, there weren’t that many eye-popping, presumably fluky performances of which to take advantage, so let’s go back to Thursday and suggest trying to deal Gillislee for someone more likely to produce consistent, RB1/2 scoring. Sure, he appears to have the lucrative short-yardage job that bestowed 18 TDs on LeGarrette Blount last year, but Gillislee is not going to go off for three scores most weeks, and that job means he will often come up, you know, short in the yardage department.
In reality, it’s still way too early to assume that any New England RB has a locked-in role, and as Belichick wants versatility and unpredictability from his backs, we could well see him try to cross up defenses by using the likes of Rex Burkhead, James White and even Dion Lewis in goal-line packages. If I felt good about some of my other RBs, I’d see about getting a king’s ransom for Gillislee from the David Johnson owner.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions
This rookie burst onto the fantasy radar early in the preseason, lost much of his luster by the time draft days rolled around and now is back as a fake-football darling. Four catches for 69 yards and two TDs in an NFL debut will do that for a guy, but chances are Golladay will be fairly touchdown-dependent this year. While that could work out for solid WR3 value, if someone in your league is seeing him as a lot more than that, you’d be well-advised to sell high.
Jesse James, TE, Steelers
I’m not sure why James would be on your roster to begin with, but some leagues do encourage, if not mandate, multiple TEs, so assuming that’s the scenario, he’s someone to get rid of while the getting’s good. The third-year player is already two-thirds of the way to his 2016 TD total, and he may not even be the starter for long, as Pittsburgh traded for another talented TE, Vance McDonald, shortly before the season began.