Tactical Transactions: Moves to Make Before Week 12

Eric Hardter

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains,
Within the sound of silence

-Simon & Garfunkel (The Sound of Silence)

After a one-week respite where I felt mirthful enough to skewer a fictitious, subpar player in a football movie (fun fact: Alan Bosley was one of only a couple players ‘invented’ for the Remember the Titans movie), we’re back into the suck. But unfortunately, unlike as it was described by Simon & Garfunkel this is not a dream (or rather, a nightmare) – this week we lost both Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and Ravens tight end Mark Andrews for the season.

You don’t need me to tell you this isn’t trifling. Though Burrow is merely the QB18 on the season, he was coming on as of late with nearly 1,500 passing yards and 12 scores over the five games prior to the most recent iteration of Thursday Night Football. Meanwhile, Andrews is still the TE4 on the year, and possibly and perhaps even likely would have been the TE2 had he been able to finish out the contest.

These are voids that owners are going to struggle to fill, pending trades for similarly producing assets. Regarding the players themselves, any rebuilding team (or team in general) should be trying to acquire Burrow for 2024 and beyond. I believe the same about Andrews, though in his case it should at least be noted a cliff could be nearer given his age (28 years old) and rugged style of play. Still, for teams thinking in terms of a three-year window, I’d be more likely to bank on Andrews following the Travis Kelce path of aging gracefully versus the alternative.

Disclaimer! As you’re well aware by the fact you’ve come to a website entitled dynastyleaguefootball.com, we’re still taking a long view into account in addition to each player’s weekly (and year-to-date) output. Guidance will continue to take into account a player’s current stature in tools such as DLF’s ADP and rankings, in addition to how he’s performed.

One last note, as I’m referencing DLF ADP and rankings, advice herein is for a 12-team, non-superflex setting with full PPR scoring. Divergent league settings (both for starting positions and scoring) hopefully shouldn’t render this advice as not actionable, but it’s an important disclaimer nonetheless.

With that preamble in hand, here are the tactical transactions you should consider before week 12:

Buy (All Teams/Middle-of-the-Road and Rebuilding Slants)Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, WR CIN

Week 11 Lines: Chase – 2-12-1 (7 targets); Higgins did not play

When Jake Browning is forced to attempt 14 passes, a “2-12-1” line isn’t surprising. And while I won’t rule out a “week 11 Tommy DeVito” story arc for Browning and also acknowledge a favorable rest-of-season schedule, I’m not bullish on the prospects of the Bengals passing offense moving forward. It’s also not as if there are serviceable options available, with the recent signing of “Drew Plitt” to the team’s practice squad seemingly an indication of the real-life waiver wire quality.

So even though Chase saved his day with a score, 10.2 PPR points in a game where teammate Higgins didn’t play put a hole in the lineups of his owners. It would likely be prudent to at least wait a week to see what the new normal looks like, but I also won’t blame owners chasing playoff byes if they choose to trade the superstar pass catcher in an attempt to replace his points.

This is where I believe the middle-of-the-road teams come in. To be clear, everyone should be trying to buy Chase at all times. But in this particular circumstance, it is unlikely true rebuilding teams will possess players of interest for contenders. And while I acknowledge anything can happen come fantasy playoff time, you don’t want to be a team limping in, as a first-round exit puts you in the middle of your 2024 draft order. I’d rather sell an older player like Stefon Diggs (and likely another piece) to purposefully worsen my 2023 lineup and exit the race, so to speak – in absence of that, even leveling up by using guys like Jaylen Waddle or Chris Olave could be a smart roster reconfiguration.

The story is a bit different for Higgins, who is having a miserable year as the PPR WR60, with only seven games played. Still, it’s not as if he suddenly became bad in his age-25 season, after averaging 1,000+ yards per season in his first three years in the league. This has left him as an already strong buy, given his ADP has fallen half a round since August. A Browning/Plitt combination may lead to weary owners heading to the exit, with lesser-valued assets (e.g., Michael Pittman) potentially being able to get a trade done.

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Buy (Contenders) – Miles Sanders, RB CAR

Week 11 Line: 11-50-0, 1-2-0 (1 target)

Pairing “contenders” with Sanders probably seems borderline certifiable, but hear me out. No, it hasn’t been the season we’ve hoped for concerning either playing time or efficiency for the veteran, and his detractors have had their say in dropping him to the RB44 per the November ADP. Quite frankly, his in-season demotion was well-deserved following poor play in the early stretch of the year.

But in dynasty football, the goal is to be ahead of the trend where possible. If you don’t believe Sanders is going to bounce back, I won’t argue the point and it wouldn’t be sensible to try to add him to your roster. However, if nothing else, he’s clearly becoming more and more reintegrated into the offense.

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Snap data courtesy of 4for4.com.

As shown over the past month of games, Sanders has seen his fortunes improve incrementally, going from a near fourfold deficit to Chuba Hubbard in week eight snaps to a near-draw in week 11. It has begun to show up on the stat sheets as well, with each player earning 12 opportunities against the Cowboys. It didn’t lead to a win, but given the current state of quarterback Bryce Young’s game, it makes sense to take the ball out of his hands as much as possible.

Continuing, though he has been better than Sanders to date, Hubbard hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire as a bell cow. While he played well against Dallas, he had only topped 4.0 YPC once over the preceding six games, to go with just one score. And though he’s corralled a higher proportion of his targets, Sanders still leads him on the year in targets, with an average of an additional 0.6 YPR.

Perhaps this winds up being the high ground for the former Eagle. But even if so, his fortunes may yet improve to flex-worthy numbers if he can get into the end zone here and there, along with returning to his early-season target numbers. This would make him a worthwhile investment, particularly for contending teams who may be looking to paper over any remaining holes, or seeking insurance.

Sell (Rebuilding Teams) – Isaiah Likely, TE BAL

Week 11 Line: 0-0-0 (2 targets)

It’s nothing against Likely, who as a 2022 rookie fourth-round pick far outplayed his former draft status in commanding 60 targets, resulting in a fine 36-373-3 line at a position that typically takes younger players time to get used to. With Andrews healthy, 2023 has been a bit quieter with an aggregate 9-89-0 line (12 targets), but that can be reasonably expected to change with his season-ending ankle injury. So why does that make Likely a prime sell candidate, considering tight end remains the most challenging position to get consistent production?

Quite simply, I just don’t see him doing enough that you would feel comfortable starting him on a weekly basis. He’s already well behind the receiver triumvirate of Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham and Rashod Bateman, and even Nelson Agholor has more than doubled his targets. Despite off-season prognostications, the Ravens are in the bottom five in the league in terms of passing attempts, a number which falls to dead last in comparison to teams that have played 11 games already. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has been efficient at 8.1 YPA and 69.5% completion, but with only 13 total passing scores there have been a mere 49.2 PPR points available weekly to Baltimore’s pass catchers.

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The above is the only post-TNF example of a trade where Likely is the key piece, though I would expect DLF’s Trade Finder to accumulate additional data in the near future. Even acknowledging this is a 2TE league, and noting I don’t know where the 2024 second-rounder falls, I’m taking the pick all day. Andrews will be back in 2024, and as noted above I don’t view Likely as much of a band-aid. If I’m holding him on a rebuilding team, I’d be looking to cash out for the going rate.

Buy (All Teams) – Jaylen Warren, RB PIT

Week 11 Line: 9-129-1, 3-16-0 (3 targets)

Though being declared the “starter” by coach Mike Tomlin, Warren actually played fewer snaps in week 11 than backfield compatriot Najee Harris. However, given his efficiency on the year and usage in the passing game, he’s a weekly play regardless of the overall snap and touch split.

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Snap data courtesy of 4for4.com.

Despite playing roughly a game’s worth of snaps fewer and being out-carried by 48 attempts, Warren is only six yards behind the more ballyhooed Harris. On the year he has actually outgained Harris by 112 total yards, and sits as the PPR RB20 compared to Harris’ RB29. At current he’s the better and more explosive running back, and the uptick in opportunities is warranted.

I expect Warren to improve upon his current standing as the RB28 per the November ADP. So while prospective buyers wouldn’t be getting out in front of a full-scale rankings adjustment similar to my hopes for Sanders as described above, they may be doing so before Warren’s value increases yet again with a continued strong showing. As always, buying high beats buying higher.

Priority Waiver Add (All Teams) – Tre Tucker, WR LV

Week 11 Line: 2-36-0 (7 targets)

I recognize this is a long shot, as Tucker was accounted for in each of the mock drafts comprising the November ADP. Still, he was very near to the end in a couple, so there remains a non-negligible chance he’s available. If so, he’s this week’s priority.

The counting stats won’t impress you, but the usage should – despite playing only 39% of the snaps in week 11 (per 4for4), Tucker was actually second on the team with seven targets, beating out Michael Mayer, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow (five apiece). This represents both an uptick and something of a continuing trend that saw the 2023 third-round pick start the year off barely seeing any looks, only to incrementally increase as the season went on.

Perhaps the most important part of the above is the bit about Tucker being a third-round pick, as he never seemed to get the benefit of the doubt received by similarly drafted players. In fact, this month represents the first time Tucker has graced the ADP dating back to the summer.

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To be clear, you’re not adding Tucker for his 2023 viability. Rather, there remains a chance star receiver Davante Adams could be moved in the off-season, and veteran Renfrow has seemingly fallen out of favor with the current regime. While we don’t know what Vegas will do in either the draft or free agency, that would leave Tucker potentially as the WR2 behind Meyers. If given a chance to continue to grow alongside fellow rookie Aidan O’Connell, Tucker could provide return upon investment.

Priority Drop (All Teams) – Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, TEN

Week 11 line: 1-7-0 (1 target)

I refer to this section as “Priority Drops” not because these are players you must rid yourself of, but rather as something of a reminder to constantly be pruning branches at the end of your bench. The goal is to maximize your roster’s upside, and despite the fact Westbrook-Ikhine is playing the second most receiver snaps on the Titans, he simply doesn’t check that box. To wit, during Will Levis’ four starts, Westbrook-Ikhine has only managed eight targets, which he’s turned into 72 yards and a score.

Contenders should be looking for players who may be an injury away from relevance. Rebuilding squads should be maximizing potential value with players like Tucker above. Westbrook-Ikhine doesn’t satisfy either of those criteria, meaning owners should seek out players who do.

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.

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