We’re just about halfway through the season and at this point, you know what kind of roster you’ve got.
Maybe it’s a dominant buzz saw that hit on your sleepers. Rosters littered with full-bloom studs like Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Lamar Jackson.
But if you’re like me, you’re grinding right now. Hovering around .500 like the bulk of your league. But here’s the thing with fantasy: The difference between dominant and out of the playoffs is razor-thin.
I have various teams that are essentially the same but performing wildly different because of just one or two positions. In one I have Dak Prescott instead of Jared Goff, in another Mark Andrews instead of Jared Cook. Those moves helped to swing my record by a couple of games. And in a 13- or 14-week regular season??? That’s huge!
So when I say one or two moves could literally win you the league, it’s not exaggeration or hyperbole — it’s real. The margins can sometimes be that thin.
So what are some sneaky, under-the-radar moves that could save your season or perhaps solidify your dominance at the top? Well, let’s go.
Pick up Diontae Johnson
I just don’t understand the rostership percentage. Coming off of an 84-yard, 1 touchdown performance, I don’t get why Diontae at the time of this writing is less than 15% rostered.
I get that Mason Rudolph has all the trappings of a 12-year backup guy but we’re not picking up Rudolph, we’re picking up Diontae. And the rookie out of Toledo is clearly talented and clearly the apple of Rudolph’s eye.
Fantasy is first and foremost a volume game and we measure volume largely with targets and air yards. Well, in those terms, Johnson is an absolute must-add.
In the four games that Mason Rudolph has started, Johnson leads the team in air yards and is tied with JuJu Smith-Schuster for the team lead in targets. The rookie is averaging nearly 70 air yards and 6.75 targets per contest while also scoring three touchdowns in those four games.
There is obvious chemistry between Rudolph and Diontae and the volume stats put him squarely in the WR2/flex mix in 12 teamers. Bottom line: There is absolutely no reason he should be languishing on your waiver wire.
Add Alexander Mattison
Well, while we’re here on the waiver wire, Feel free to add Alexander Mattison to your bench. I’ve seen enough from the rookie out of Boise State to know this kid can play. He’s got burst and power and is thriving on all these outside runs the Vikings are launching at opposing defenses.
In limited touches, Mattison is averaging 4.9 ypc and has caught all three of his targets as well.
Look, I get it, Dalvin Cook running in this Kubiak-designed run scheme is one of the best backs in football. But, and this is a Sir Mix-A-Lot-sized but, Cook has struggled to stay healthy throughout his college and professional career. He played just four games his rookie year and then 11 games last year. Remember, he’s had multiple shoulder surgeries as well.
If Cook were to miss multiple games, Mattison immediately becomes a top-10 running back.
If Mattison is gone and you have the bench space, other high-upside handcuffs include Reggie Bonnafon, Tony Pollard, Darrell Henderson, and Ryquell Armstead.
Trade away your Rams (except Kupp)
A statement like this would have been sacrilege last year but this year is just different. The Rams have come back down to mere mortal status when it comes to their offense. They’re 8th in both total yards and points per game.
Their run game, in particular, has fallen off a cliff. They’re 21st in rush yards per game and Todd Gurley and company collectively average 3.9 yards per carry, good for 20th in the NFL.
Gurley’s barely hanging on as an RB2 right now. His per-game scoring in full-point PPR is between Derrick Henry and Le’Veon Bell and much of that scoring has come via touchdowns. He’s scored seven times in seven games played. The way this offense looks, I would be shocked if Gurley could maintain that 1:1 ratio of scores to games played.
And you could argue that all of their offensive numbers are inflated somewhat as they have taken on the Bucs, Falcons, and Bengals with all three having glaring holes defensively.
Speaking of, the schedule gets tough from here on out and even their second of two games against the Cardinals come in WK17 when most of you will be done with fantasy.
The offense has been good as of late because of buttery soft matchups and as a result, guys like Goff, Gurley and to a degree Robert Woods, still carry solid trade value. Shop them around and see what you can get in return. Their value might not be any higher than it is right now.
Trade for Bengals
Is Cincy’s offense hot garbage right now — why, yes, it is. But this is the polar opposite thinking from what I just wrote about the Rams.
Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon could not possibly have lower value right now and I see brighter days ahead.
With a new quarterback and reinforcements coming in A.J. Green and LT Cordy Glenn, Mixon and Boyd will soon be participating in what should be at least a semi-functional NFL offense once again.
And remember that head coach Zac Taylor is pumping in volume. The Bengals, despite being one of the worst offenses in the NFL, are still averaging the 12th-most offensive plays per game. That number should rise once Green and Glenn come back and Cincy has a semblance of a professional offense. That means volume for guys like Green, Boyd, and Mixon.
If you could get them on the cheap, a turnaround in production could vault you toward a strong finish.
Trade for Jets
Sam Darnold is seeing ghosts and all that but man, his schedule has been brutal thus far with games against Buffalo, Dallas, New England, and Jacksonville.
But it will all even out because the Jets schedule from here on out is littered with cakewalks. The calendar for Darnold, Le’Veon Bell, and Robby Anderson will include the Dolphins twice, the Giants, Redskins, Raiders and the aforementioned Bengals. Those are a TON of favorable matchups.
And again, that trio of Jets should have relatively depressed value right now after getting shut down and embarrassed in a primetime game against the Patriots. Acquiring their services for below market value makes a lot of sense given their talent level and of course, their upcoming slate of games.
James Koh is a fantasy football analyst and an award-winning journalist. He’s probably wrong, but you never know. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh.