Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Fantasy Football Today: Week 7 position previews plus trade targets of opportunity

Plenty of leagues have switched to having waivers run on Wednesday night, and weeks like this one make the logic behind that pretty easy to understand.

We went into the main waiver run of the week Tuesday night with little clarity about two of the most consequential situations in Fantasy: The 49ers and Rams running back situations. We got a report Tuesday that the 49ers haven’t necessarily ruled Christian McCaffrey (oblique) out for Week 7, and the fact that game is on Monday night this week could make it a stay-away situation unless you’ve got Elijah Mitchell and/or Jordan Mason backing him up. The problem there is, it’s not at all clear which back is likelier to be the lead back if McCaffrey is out, which means we might be flipping a coin for the last lineup lock of the week. That’s not ideal.

The Rams seem pretty certain that Kyren Williams is out, on the other hand. The problem? They added Royce Freeman and Myles Gaskin to the active roster Tuesday and signed Darrell Henderson to their practice squad. Freeman has been on the practice squad for weeks and presumably knows the system; Henderson spent the first few years of his career with the Rams, so ditto; and Gaskin was on the Vikings practice squad, and the Rams presumably targeted him due to similarities in the systems of Sean McVay and Kevin O’Connell that would allow him to get up to speed quickly.

Add it all up, and it doesn’t sound like a huge vote of confidence in rookie Zach Evans. If Evans gets the opportunity to be the lead back, he could be in line for a very nice day, but any one of the other three backs could get the nod here if McVay opts to prioritize a steady hand next to Matthew Stafford.

Hopefully, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday practices will provide some clarity on these situations, and we’ll put together as much of the news you need to know about right here throughout the rest of the week and into Sunday. But for now? We’re kind of flying blind. It’s less than ideal.

In the rest of today’s newsletter, we have Heath Cummings’ position previews, plus I’ve got some trade candidates for you to consider, whether you’re looking to buy low or sell high, or anything in between. Let’s get to it: 

My Week 7 Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE

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Week 7 Position Previews

Every Tuesday, Heath Cummings previews each position, providing injury insights, key stats to know, the best waiver-wire adds, DFS targets, and more for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Here’s a brief rundown of each position, along with some key details you need to know before you go read Heath’s full breakdowns:

QB Preview

“The story of Week 7, no matter what position you’re talking about, is a lack of good options. A combination of the first big bye week and a large number of Week 6 injuries make this week a complete mess. At quarterback that means no Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, or C.J. Stroud. We should plan on being without Justin Fields, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Daniel Jones as well. As of Tuesday afternoon, Trevor Lawrence is no sure thing.

“In two-QB leagues, this is catastrophic. Quite literally anyone who is starting for an NFL team is startable for your Fantasy team. In Superflex leagues, the best option for your superflex spot may not be a quarterback. But even in one-QB leagues, the pickings may be slim. You have a couple of options if you don’t love the waiver wire options below.”

  • On a bye: Joe Burrow, C.J. Stroud, Dak Prescott, Bryce Young, Zach Wilson and Ryan Tannehill
  • Injuries: Justin Fields (thumb), Trevor Lawrence (knee), Jimmy Garoppolo (back), Ryan Tannehill (ankle), Daniel Jones (neck), Deshaun Watson (shoulder) and Kyler Murray (knee)
  • Number to know: 17 — 17 of Kirk Cousins‘ pass attempts have been dropped. That’s five more than any other QB this season. 
  • Matchup that matters: Sam Howell @NYG (21st vs. QB)
  • Waiver add/streamer: Joshua Dobbs, Cardinals: “If Howell is not available, Joshua Dobbs is your next best bet as a Week 7 streamer. He has rushed for at least 40 yards in four of his past five games and has produced multiple touchdowns in three of his past five. Seattle has a very good defense, but it did allow the only mobile QB it has faced this season to rush for 66 yards. Dobbs may not get to 20 Fantasy points, but he will get you close.”
  • Stash: Kyler Murray, Cardinals: “Murray’s roster rate is ticking up as we get closer to his return. Once it is announced, it will probably be too late to add him for free. Expect Murray to be a borderline top-12 QB once he’s healthy.”  

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RB Preview

“After the Emari Demercado debacle of Week 6, I would understand if you were skeptical of Jordan MasonElijah Mitchell, and Zach Evans heading into Week 7. I can’t really say anything to make you feel better about them except as of right now you probably do not have a choice. Christian McCaffreyKyren WilliamsDe’Von Achane and David Montgomery are all hurt. Tony PollardDerrick Henry, and Breece Hall are all on bye. That’s six of the top 16 running backs unavailable. And there are plenty more missing if you go deeper in the season rankings.

“Instead of scoffing over the backup RBs this week, you’re going to be fighting over them. And a lot of you are going to lose that fight. If you’re one of those teams, you may have to consider No. 2s on their own team. My favorites this week are Tyler AllgeierLatavius Murray, and A.J. Dillon. I’m ranking both Ravens running backs as top-30 options. I would be thrilled with Jeff Wilson, or Salvon Ahmed if Wilson is out.”

WR Preview

“As of Tuesday evening, we are projecting both Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth to return from injury. That makes the Steelers one of the most fascinating teams to watch in terms of target share in Week 7.

“The most obvious conclusion would be that Allen Robinson and Calvin Austin should disappear from the scene. But in Week 1, with everyone healthy, Robinson led the team with a 17.8% target share and Austin out targeted Freiermuth.

“The far more interesting question is what happens with George Pickens. He also had more targets than Johnson in Week 1, but his production has spiked while Johnson has been on IR. Since Week 2 he is the No. 15 wide receiver in Fantasy on a per-game basis, producing week-winning results in Week 2 and Week 5.”

TE Preview

“There were people who said the 2023 rookie tight end class would be one for the ages. They told us to ignore the rookie tight end narrative. Excusing the fact that most of those people expected Dalton Kincaid to be a big part of the class’s success, they look more right every year.

Sam LaPorta has already established himself as a must-start tight end, earning a 21% target share in one of the best offenses in football. Luke Musgrave isn’t there yet, but he does have 15 total targets in his last two healthy games and he’s my favorite streaming option in Week 7. Michael Mayer joined the party in Week 6 and is close to a must-add this week, even if it is tough to trust him as a starter. Imagine how good this class would look if Dalton Kincaie was doing anything?”

  • On a bye: Jake Ferguson, Dalton Schultz, Tyler Conklin, Chigoziem Okonkwo, Hayden Hurts and Irv Smith Jr. 
  • Injuries: Dalton Kincaid (concussion), Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), Juwan Johnson (calf), Kylen Granson (concussion) and Greg Dulcich (hamstring)
  • Number to know: 2.01 Trey McBride has averaged 2.01 yards per route run this season to 1.02 for Zach Ertz. McBride just played a season-high 58% of the snaps, and hopefully that starts a trend.
  • Matchup that matters: Luke Musgrave @DEN (32nd vs. TE)
  • Streamer: Luke Musgrave, Packers: “Musgrave saw seven targets in his Week 5 return, and understandably was dropped because he was on his bye week. But he has a great matchup against a Falcons defense that has funneled targets to tight ends this season. It’s quite possible since Musgrave has already had his bye that once you pick him up you’re no longer streaming tight ends.”  

Week 7 Trade Targets

Before you make any trades, make sure you consult Dave Richard’s trade values chart. Here are some buys and sells to help get the conversation started: 

Three to buy-low

Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys

There’s been a lot of talk about how this play from Monday night is evidence that Pollard has lost a step, which explains why he’s been relatively underwhelming this season. I don’t think it’s necessarily unfair, though I will point out that he gets caught by Asante Samuel Jr., who starts the play a few yards to Pollard’s side, but not necessarily from behind – and Samuel, it’s worth noting, ran the 40-yard dash 0.06 seconds faster than Pollard at the combine. Which is to say, I’m not necessarily sure this play is evidence of much of anything except that Samuel is just faster than Pollard. Pollard has been underperforming his expected Fantasy points all season, after being a huge over-performer last season, and it’s fair to wonder if coming off ankle surgery that he’s lost a step. But we’re also talking about a guy who is averaging 15.3 points per game as a disappointment, which speaks to how high expectations were for Pollard. I’ll bet on better touchdown luck moving forward – Pollard has scored on just two of 17 carries inside the 10-yard line, while the average RB has scored on 24% of such carries – even if he has lost a step. Pollard is still a top-five RB for me, so I’ll take whatever discount you’re offering. 

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Seahawks

In Week 6, coming out of the bye, Smith-Njigba saw his route participation rate jump to 81%, a season high, and his average depth of target jumped to 7.6 yards, also a season high. It didn’t lead to a breakout game, but I’ll also note that Pete Carroll specifically called out one play where JSN could have had a 30-yard touchdown but Geno Smith just didn’t see him streaking wide open. If he hits that? We’re having a very different conversation about the rookie here. I’m just going to keep hammering this exceptionally talented rookie as a buy-low candidate. 

Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals

The case for buying low on Higgins is, I hope, pretty obvious: He was a borderline WR1 entering the season who has struggled to do much, first because of Joe Burrow’s calf injury and then because of his own rib issue. The bet here is on talent, and it’s on Higgins being more involved coming out of the bye after playing just 54% of the snaps in Week 6. Is this a guaranteed outcome? Of course not – Higgins’ rib injury could continue to linger, and he might be one bit hit from leaving any given game moving forward. But there’s been no doubts about Higgins as a must-start wide receiver the past two years, and I’m willing to bet on him getting back to that level coming out of the bye. 

One to buy-high

Michael Pittman, WR, Colts

Pittman has double-digit targets in four of six games so far this season, including three of four with Gardner Minshew playing the majority of the snaps. The Colts continue to play at a fast pace, and with Minshew expected to be the starter the rest of the season, there should be plenty of volume. The Colts have a sneaky-decent group of receivers around Pittman with Josh Downs’ emergence, and opposing defenses will continue to have to respect the run with Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. This could be setting up for the best season of Pittman’s career, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he was a WR1 the rest of the way. 

Three to sell-high

Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins

Expectations for Mostert have changed, and rightly so. But I do think the pendulum may have swung too far in the, “Yes, he is obviously a Fantasy superstar now.” He’s the lead back in the only offense in the NFL that isn’t having trouble moving the ball, seemingly, and that has led to an incredible 11 touchdowns in six games. But I think he’s pretty clearly a sell-high candidate if you can get someone to buy in on him as a top-five Fantasy option. On Tuesday, Adam Aizer posted a poll on Twitter asking who you would rather have: Mostert or Pollard. As of 8:30, Mostert holds a slim lead. I’ll take Pollard, who has been an explosive, efficient playmaker in this Dallas offense and is getting a ton more volume than Mostert – including near the goal line, where he has 18 green zone touches, compared to 15 for Mostert. Obviously, if you’re 3-3 or worse, you’d rather have Mostert because his bye week doesn’t come until Week 10. But if you are in good shape for Week 7, I’d move Mostert for Pollard, and that’s probably true of any other top-10 running backs. Let’s not forget, in addition to the regression potential, Mostert has very little track record of staying healthy, something that has maybe been forgotten but is still a relevant factor for a 31-year-old running back. 

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Patriots

I don’t know how “high” you can sell Stevenson, but he is coming off a top-10 finish in Week 6 but still carries significant red flags. The biggest of those? It might be that he just hasn’t looked much better, if at all, than Ezekiel Elliott, who everyone was ready to write off as washed up before the season – Stevenson actually ranks dead last in the NFL in rush yards over expected with -85, with even Elliott doing better than him. Even Stevenson’s relatively big Week 6 came with Elliott getting just three fewer carries, and Elliott still ran routes on 30% of dropbacks despite only having one target. Stevenson’s stuck in a miserable offense, and he doesn’t even have the backfield in that miserable offense to himself. A window to potentially sell just opened, and I’m trying to take it. 

Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos

Reports indicating that the Broncos are open to trading Jerry Jeudy may be helping prop up Sutton’s value, along with a stretch that has seen him cobble together viable Fantasy efforts almost entirely because of touchdowns. Over the past three games, Sutton has just 86 yards, but thanks to a pair of touchdowns, he’s still averaging 9.5 PPR points per game – which, to be clear, isn’t good. But it would be so much worse without those two touchdowns. For the season, he’s averaging just 45.8 yards per game on mediocre efficiency, so there’s basically nothing here except for the occasional volume-aided spike game and some good touchdown luck. Maybe he can keep that going and remain a viable Fantasy option, but this is still a bad offense, with little hope for things to turn around, and Sutton just hasn’t looked like a particularly good receiver since 2019, if we’re being honest. The other thing to keep in mind: Just because there are rumors about Jeudy being available doesn’t mean Sutton won’t be, and I have a hard time seeing myself feeling better about Sutton following a midseason team change. 

One to sell-low

Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans

Pierce was a decent Fantasy option in a bad offense last season, so the hope this season was he could be an even better Fantasy option if the Texans offense as a whole took a step forward. What’s interesting is, despite C.J. Stroud stepping on the field as a very good QB, the Texans are actually throwing a bit less often than they did a year ago – they had a 57% pass rate last season, compared to a 54.4% rate so far this season. Partially, that’s a function of them just being a whole lot more competitive, and thus being stuck in fewer trailing scripts. So Pierce is getting similar volume in the running game despite Devin Singletary being more involved than any backs last season. The problem is, Pierce just hasn’t been very good, which maybe shouldn’t be too surprising, seeing as he’s a Day 3 draft pick who had no track record of being a true lead back in college. He’s struggled with efficiency, has no carries of more than 15 yards, and has even seen his passing game usage reduced. There just isn’t much to be optimistic about with Pierce right now, and I’d be trying to shop him to see if there’s any name value still attached. 

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