By Eric McClung, Player Profiler
Special to Yahoo Sports
It’s that time of year. Time to perform a much-needed fantasy football team diagnostic. Rosters featuring Alvin Kamara or Todd Gurley are likely coasting atop the standings, but most are not so fortunate. With five NFL weeks in the books, it is time to talk trades with league mates and put every player (other than Todd Gurley) on the table…even LeSean McCoy.
Buy Low: LeSean McCoy
After losing pending free agent running back Jay Ajayi to a torn ACL, the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly checked with the Buffalo Bills for the asking price to re-acquire LeSean McCoy, who spent his first six seasons in Philadelphia. The Eagles have done recent business with Buffalo, trading slot receiver Jordan Matthews and a draft pick for cornerback Ronald Darby last season. Then at last year’s trade deadline, team architect Howie Roseman traded a draft pick to the Miami Dolphins for Jay Ajayi. While the salary cap ramifications of adding McCoy to the roster are far more significant, many NFL contracts are signed in what amounts to invisible ink.
Even if he doesn’t end up back in Philadelphia, McCoy could end up elsewhere. For argument’s sake, let’s say he ends up staying with Buffalo. McCoy can be a volume-driven flex play sort of like what everyone thought Lamar Miller would be this year. Rookie Josh Allen is the worst quarterback in the league by a wide margin but is also McCoy’s biggest threat to take away rushing touchdowns. However, Allen has been near the bottom in average pass attempt distance in the majority of his starts despite mixing in the occasional deep ball attempt. All those short passes suggest that McCoy should get more involved as a receiver going forward. Buffalo’s defense has played extremely well and given that the offense has had the fourth-best average starting field position thus far, a couple of touchdowns should be on the horizon as well.
According to RotoUnderworld’s game charting, McCoy recorded an impressive nine Evaded Tackles with 41 Yards Created while totaling over 100 yards of scrimmage last week against the Tennessee Titans. Now at age 30, McCoy still has the moves that earned him an 11.00 (90th percentile) Agility Score nearly a decade ago. Coming into Week 5, McCoy had only seen a total of 21 carries through three games and missed one contest with a rib contusion. After just rushing for 85 yards on 24 carries, his fantasy owners could very well looking to be selling high. However, this is actually a buy-low opportunity for you.
Buy Low: Corey Davis
Just take a quick glance at the Corey Davis profile and you’ll know that it is wise to stay the course. However, anyone rostering Davis right now might be on tilt. After three weeks of averaging just 4.3 receptions for 50.3 yards and failing to score a touchdown, fantasy managers could have missed out on the Week 4 explosion of nine receptions, 161 yards and a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Eagles. Even though he came from a small school like Western Michigan, the Tennessee Titans must have liked Davis’ 18.7 (95th percentile) Breakout Age and 51.6-percent (96th percentile) College Dominator Rating on PlayerProfiler when the team selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in last year’s draft. A preseason hamstring injury was a precursor to a down rookie season, however. The issue in Year 2 — despite Davis seeing a large influx in opportunity — has been quarterback Marcus Mariota’s elbow injury, which is slowing improving. After sparking optimism in the victory against Philadelphia, Mariota saw his struggles resurface last week on the road against the Bills.
So now that Davis is coming off another pedestrian outing (four receptions for 49 yards) fantasy managers might be frustrated and looking to move on, especially with the Baltimore Ravens now on the docket. After all, another underwhelming outing by Davis could erase the value he gained from the Week 4 breakout. However, beyond this intimidating matchup the Titans will see five opposing pass defenses (LAC, DAL, NE, TEX, NYG) currently in the bottom half of defensive pass efficiency over their next eight games.
Despite playing on a low-volume offense evidenced by the Titans 31.8 pass plays per game (No. 30 among NFL offenses), Davis’ 45 targets rank No. 13 among qualified wide receivers, powered by an incredible 30.6 percent Target Share (No. 3 in the NFL). Davis also pops off the page by ranking 11th in yards per pass route and 17th in total target distance. Even if the fantasy manager with Davis on their roster is a savvy one, there’s plenty of potential here for you to raise your offer. If a deal can’t made now, keep in mind that if Davis indeed struggles against the Ravens, this buying window will remain open.
Sell High: Calvin Ridley
After failing to catch either of his two targets in Week 1, Calvin Ridley became a powder keg of fantasy production. Over the next three games, the rookie scored six touchdowns on only 15 catches. Not only is that kind of touchdown rate unsustainable, but Ridley was doing this all as the clear No. 3 wide receiver in Atlanta by snap rate. In Week 5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ridley saw five targets — he’s now averaging 5.2 per game — and matched a season-high 28 routes run. Ridley also pulled in four receptions for the fourth time this season to bring his average to 3.8 per game. And that Week 3 outburst of seven receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns came on only eight targets. If you want to call the Week 1 air-ball an outlier, let’s counterbalance the scales with that outrageous New Orleans game.
Suddenly, last week’s four receptions for 38 yards is very much in line with Ridley’s four receptions for 64 yards in Week 2 and four receptions for 54 yards in Week 4. Yes, Ridley scored in those games but we also know touchdowns are far from predictable. Even if Ridley grows a little beyond his 14.1-percent Target Share (No. 70), more productive weeks are going to require touchdowns. Not only did we see the new floor for Ridley in Week 5, but tight end Austin Hooper set season highs across the board last week. Ridley has been a sell candidate for multiple weeks, but this matchup against Tampa Bay could be last call. Week 7 against the New York Giants is a good matchup before the Week 8 bye, however. From there, there are two upcoming attractive match-ups against Dallas and New Orleans, but those land between five pass defenses (WAS, CLE, BAL, GB, ARI) that are currently No. 11 or better in defensive pass efficiency; three are in the top-five.
Sell High: Eric Ebron
“It’s happening!” Just like Michael Scott yelling at his staff to stay calm during a fire drill, fantasy gamers just don’t know what to do with Eric Ebron. Thanks to a whopping nine end zone targets, he leads all tight ends with five touchdowns. Ebron is also one of only four players at the position to see more than 40 targets. Even Rob Gronkowski — who’s a buy low at the moment — has only been targeted 31 times thus far. Ebron has seen double-digit targets in each of the last three games, but was only targeted a total of nine times in the first two games of the season with Jack Doyle in the lineup.
Doyle has now missed three games with a hip injury, and a fourth could be on the way. While updates have been limited, Ebron’s 18.5 Target Share will surely decline once Doyle returns. Given the current state of the tight end position, many owners will gladly take whatever Ebron does in a playing time crunch over the scraps on the waiver wire. Get Ebron on the block now before Doyle gets back on the field.