<
>

Love/Hate: All's fair in love and trades

"You did WHAT?!"

Reaction was quick, and it was furious.

Scott Clark, Coordinating Producer of "Fantasy Football Now" -- Sundays, 11 a.m. ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN, since I'm a company man -- had just sent a tweet. On Twitter as @all_biz, one of the things he does on there is act as the Adam Schefter of the ESPN War Room league, a 16-team PPR league composed of ESPN NFL talent and our most senior NFL producers. I may have mentioned the league once or twice.

Anyway, Scott reported the following:

Scott's tweet and my subsequent retweet brought forth many reactions. Many folks thought I won the trade. Others felt Trent Dilfer got the better end of it. But one thing they all agreed on?

No one could believe I, of all people, had bailed on Cordarrelle Patterson. My friend Greg emailed to say, "You gave up on your guy??????? 5 months I read about how much you loved him ..."

Seeing the reactions, the questions ("Do I bail on Patterson now?" "I was holding onto him because of you ... now what do I do?") and the concern, I tweeted this:

If I could have written more than 140 characters, I would have said: Hey, I do still believe in him. A vertical option who is a ridiculous physical threat, he is both fast and big. As Tim Hasselbeck and I discussed on Wednesday's podcast, once Teddy Bridgewater gets healthy, we expect the Vikings to use more zone read, which should open the field a little more and hopefully provide different ways to get him the ball.

I believe in his game-breaking ability, and I believe that ultimately Norv Turner will find different ways to use him. A threat to score any time he touches the ball, it will not shock me in the least if he goes off Thursday night. I also think the Vikings' offense is very different than what Norv thought he was getting when he took the job. When he was planning this summer, he assumed he'd have Adrian Peterson, that he'd have Kyle Rudolph, that he'd have Matt Cassel, and he could go to Bridgewater when he wanted, not when injury dictated he needed to. So there's a lot of adjustments happening on the fly here, and now they're dealing with trying to get Christian Ponder up to speed.

I love Patterson's upcoming schedule: Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Washington and, after a bye, Chicago in Weeks 7-11 are very fantasy-friendly, a term I just made up. And I'm telling the truth, I do still own Patterson in three other leagues.

But winning fantasy football is about being objective, and while I still love Patterson as a current WR3 with lots of upside, he's not Rob Gronkowski. Even at less than 100 percent health, even with Tom Brady playing terribly and a poor offensive line, even with reduced targets from last year -- he's still a touchdown machine. Three in four games so far this year, and Wednesday was the first time all year he didn't wind up on the injury report. And that's New England -- you know, the team that could have a guy out for the year with a broken leg and would still list him as questionable.

Trent needed a wide receiver and felt that he had the tight end depth to give up Gronk. For me, here's my team (again, 16-team PPR) prior to the trade:

QB Alex Smith
RB Rashad Jennings
RB Giovani Bernard
WR Calvin Johnson
WR Cordarrelle Patterson
TE Niles Paul
FL Eric Decker
D/ST Bengals
K Matt Bryant
BN Rueben Randle
BN Lamar Miller
BN Jordan Reed
BN Andre Williams
BN Malcom Floyd
BN Jake Locker

(In case you were wondering, I had the ninth pick and waited on QB. Had RG III, so Smith was my backup. Just grabbed Locker, as he plays Jacksonville in Week 6, Smith's bye week).

Anyway, clearly you play only two wide receivers, so obviously I'm always starting Calvin in one spot, and I expect Decker to continue as a legit No. 2 WR in a league this size. So I looked at it like this: You could make an argument that some weeks (like a week where Miller and Decker have good matchups), Patterson wouldn't even start for me, or he'd be borderline. Even with the production I'm getting from Paul, Gronk is an upgrade. So I improve a scarce position, and if Gronk gets hurt, I have a decent backup.

My fear is that when both Reed and Paul are healthy, they will eat into each other's value, as I can't see Paul going back to the bench now after all he's done. And while this hurts my WR depth, I do like Randle, and Floyd has been decent. Plus, it's easier to find a WR on the waiver wire than a tight end these days, especially in a league this size. My flex will be a matchup play every week between Randle, Miller and a Washington TE.

Now, Patterson is actually on the better offense these days, and he doesn't have the injury concerns Gronk does. Nor is he on a team whose quarterback literally just said on WEEI, "I don't think offensively we've played well all year. I don't think we've played well for a long time." Here's the other thing -- I like my team. I'm 2-2 because of some bad luck, but I'm second in points scored, and if these guys stay healthy all year, I'll be in the mix come playoff time. How much do I want to mess with that? And, I do, in fact, love Patterson.

But ultimately, like I do with every fantasy football decision, I boil it down to a very simple question: What's most likely to happen?

And every week, Gronkowski is more likely to score a touchdown than Patterson. He is. It's really that basic.

So I made the trade. Wasn't even really that close for me. Yes, I love Patterson, but I ranked Gronk ahead of him in every preseason ranking I did. It's the move that's best for my team. And it's something we all need to consider as we head into Week 5.

I'm sure you have guys you love, as well. And in some cases, you should hang tough. But in others -- it's no longer about whom you loved in the preseason, whom you drafted where, and frankly, that a player has a good name. I was dead wrong on my "love" Torrey Smith this year. Dead. Wrong.

There are others. The only thing Larry Fitzgerald has these days over Michael Floyd is a more famous name. This week I ranked DeAndre Hopkins over Andre Johnson. And Rashad Jennings over LeSean McCoy. It's no longer about the name, it's about what they have done on the field. What they can produce in the future. With 25 percent of the season done, we have enough of a sample size (such as it is in football) to make some judgments with just enough time left in the year for that information to make a difference.

It's also about shaping your roster for the future. In the Stern Show league (a 10-team league) where you play two running backs and a flex (standard scoring), I have Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, Andre Ellington, Ben Tate and Shane Vereen (along with James Starks). Today I dropped Vereen for Ka'Deem Carey because I just don't see a scenario where Vereen starts for me, whereas if something were to happen to Forte, I believe Carey would have a lot of value. We spoke about this on the podcast this morning; given how much Dallas runs the ball, its offensive line and DeMarco Murray's injury history, Joseph Randle should be owned in a lot more leagues. He'd split time with Lance Dunbar, but he'd get the goal-line stuff and would easily be a RB2 if Murray was out. And in case you're wondering how I Have Lacy and Forte on the same team, yes, I bought low on Lacy two weeks ago, sending Zac Stacy, Donald Brown and Victor Cruz for Lacy and Hopkins

So take a long, hard look at your roster. And realize that even if you love someone, sometimes it's best to say goodbye. Even if it means this:

Let's get to it.

Quarterbacks I love in Week 5

Russell Wilson, Seattle: Washington made Eli Manning look good. I repeat: It made Eli look good. I know what you're saying. "Hey, Berry, it actually made Eli look great." Throwing against one of the worst secondaries in football under a coach that's been known to run up the score? With two weeks to prepare? This won't be pretty. Unless you own Wilson. Then it'll be pretty. Pretty like a girl. But it's not just the matchup. Since last season, there are only four quarterbacks who have more 15-plus-point games in fantasy than Wilson: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford. Worth the price in daily games, this is a good week to consider him for Gridiron Challenge.

Jay Cutler, Chicago: There are only two quarterbacks who have thrown for multiple touchdowns in four games this season: Luck and ... Cutler. In the three games Carolina has played without Greg Hardy, they've given up an average of 271 passing yards and a total of six passing touchdowns. Brandon Marshall is healthy again and the Panthers are no longer the Panthers; currently tied for the fifth-most passing touchdowns allowed this season, they'll be in the top four after this weekend.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: Because, you know ... Jacksonville.

If you're desperate: Eli Manning was in this section last week and made me look good. Well, the Washington secondary made me look good. I'm not a fan of Washington's secondary, in case you missed it the first time. Anyway, the Falcons aren't much better: Only the Jaguars have allowed more passing yards than Atlanta this year. ... Whether it's Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton, I expect plenty of scoring against Denver, as only Philly has attempted more deep passes per game this year than Arizona, and Denver allows the fourth-most yards per game on deep passes in the NFL. ... I stand by the statement I made on my podcast this week: Rob Ryan is the most overrated defensive coordinator in the history of the NFL. Yes, I'm still bitter about starting the Saints' defense in a super-deep league in which I had no choice. Anyways, Mike Glennon gets New Orleans this week and I'm not the only one who thinks Glennon could put up solid fantasy numbers: Jaws is on board, too.Insider

Quarterbacks I hate in Week 5

Tom Brady, New England: So two weeks ago, after the Week 3 game between Washington and Philadelphia, I went on "SportsCenter" to talk Kirk Cousins. I also discussed Brady and how his fantasy stock had started to decline overall last year. I then doubled down with these tweets.

Well, after Cousins stunk up the joint against the Giants, people were quick to remind me of this advice. Certainly Cousins looked terrible against New York. But I stand by the Cousins-over-Brady call, now more than ever. (And for what it's worth, as bad as Cousins was against New York, he still outscored Brady by one point last week.) Listen, I've made plenty of bad calls in the past, I'll make plenty more in the future -- some as soon as three paragraphs from now! -- but I don't think this is one of them. There is nothing to support Brady these days. Zero 250-plus-yard passing games. Zero multi-TD games. Worst completion percentage on deep balls (15-plus yards) among starting QBs. A porous offensive line. Rob Gronkowski isn't 100 percent healthy. In an ESPN standard 10-team league, I don't think Brady should be owned right now. And he certainly should not be started against a Bengals defense that has allowed the lowest completion percentage and yards per attempt this season, is coming off a bye and goes up against an offensive line that is tied for the sixth-most sacks allowed.

Cam Newton, Carolina: Not once this season have the Panthers had Cam rush inside the opponents' 5-yard line. Not once. This, after averaging 6.5 rushes per season inside the opponents' 5 in his first two seasons (leading to eight total scores). Chicago has allowed only 13.3 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs not named Aaron Rodgers this season. And when it comes to throwing and the quality of his weapons, Cam is no Aaron Rodgers, so he winds up outside my top 10 again this week.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati: So far in his young career, Andy has not shown he is ready for prime time. He's played in five such national night games and has averaged only 11.8 fantasy points in them. After getting embarrassed on Monday night, back at home, I feel the Patriots' secondary steps up some and that Andy's just gonna hand off and let Giovani Bernard and Hill gash a run defense that is now 23rd in the NFL.

Running backs I love in Week 5

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants: Rashad Jennings in the top five? Yes, Rashad Jennings in the top five. I know, I know -- after the Giants put up 45 points against Washington and Jennings had only five points ... it's gotta drive you nuts. Certainly it did for me, as he and Megatron and the Saints' D helped me to a loss last week, but don't panic. Jennings is still the workhorse, leaving last week's game because it was a short week after he had a ton of work, and they were way up. Currently getting 63 percent of the Giants' red zone carries, including 83 percent inside the 10, Jennings will rock against a Falcons defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

Matt Asiata, Vikings: Since taking over as the Vikings' lead back in Week 2, Asiata leads all running backs in fantasy points. A three-touchdown game will do that for you at this point in the season. On the road, with Teddy Bridgewater banged up -- he's not expected to play at this time -- and Aaron Rodgers waiting on the other sideline, expect Minnesota to go run heavy against a Packers team that has allowed the most rushing yards in the league this season.

Andre Ellington, Arizona: So, the big issue with Ellington is the touchdowns. As in, he doesn't have any so far this year. But through the first three games, only Ellington and Jonathan Dwyer saw red zone carries for the Cardinals. Dwyer's no longer around, so Ellington's red zone role should expand. Stepfan Taylor will be in the mix, so I'm not saying Ellington will get all of the work, just that he'll get a good share. And I say it starts this week, as only the Falcons have allowed more rushing touchdowns per game than the Broncos this season.

Reggie Bush, Detroit: Conventional wisdom would have you sitting Bush this week as Buffalo is the third-best rushing defense on the year, but as my colleague Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast, my friend." I'm not expecting Joique Bell to play in this game, so there should be an increased workload for Bush. Plus, as you know, Bush is a big part of the pass game, ranking fourth among running backs in receptions this season. And that's where I believe Reggie will have success; the Bills have allowed the most receptions and receiving yards to opposing running backs this year.

If you're desperate: This Sunday is the coming-out party for Bishop Sankey. He got twice as many carries as Shonn Greene last week (yes, six to three, but still on the right side of the equation), and is clearly the better-looking running back skills-wise. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has said Sankey's workload will increase, the offense will improve with Locker under center and the Browns are giving up the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. ... Everything I wrote about Asiata also applies to Jerick McKinnon, who is a freak talent, but I don't see the Vikings having a lead like they did against Atlanta. That said, they wanna run, and McKinnon is ridiculous. True feast-or-famine flex play for Thursday night. ... Assuming Ben Tate is good to go for Sunday, I like him against a Titans team that has allowed six touchdowns to opposing running backs in the past three games. ... With Mark Ingram still out and Pierre Thomas on milk cartons, Khiry Robinson is clearly on the flex radar at home against Tampa Bay.

Running backs I hate in Week 5

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo: The usage is there, but not in close. Spiller is getting only 15 percent of the Bills' red zone rushes, and I prefer Fred Jackson for both potential touchdowns and to benefit from "Checkdown" Kyle Orton (24 targets for Jackson this season compared to 10 for Spiller). The Lions have the sixth-best rush defense and have given up an average of just 13.3 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.

Donald Brown, Chargers: Remember last week when I told you how much I loved Brown? Yeah, sorry 'bout that. Now that was fantasy stupidity. Just couldn't get anything going, blocking wasn't there and given how good the Jets are at run defense (they allow the fewest rushing yards per game this year) and how poor they are at pass defense (second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks), this is a Philip Rivers game. Brown may luck out and catch a score, but I'd hate to count on that. Not a top-20 play.

Steven Jackson, Atlanta: One of my favorite players in the NFL, but I'm not crazy about him this week. True to form, the Falcons have once again struggled on the road this year. I expect that to continue, especially for Jackson, who will be running behind a decimated offensive line with reduced touches against a team that is top-10 in fewest rushing yards allowed and fewest rushing yards after contact per game.

Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, New England: Think you know which will get the most touches? And if you're right, think he'll be successful against Cincy? How lucky do you feel, kid? How lucky do you feel?

I'm in a 10-team league where I had Vereen along with Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy (I bought low two weeks ago), Andre Ellington and Ben Tate. I just dropped Vereen for Ka'Deem Carey. I'd rather handcuff Forte, as I feel Carey will be successful in Chicago's offense should anything happen to Forte. Meanwhile, Vereen was my fourth- or fifth-best running back and would never start for me. Especially not this week against the Bengals. I prefer Vereen to Ridley long term, but either way, I've no issue dropping either in a 10-team league.

Wide receivers I love in Week 5

Calvin Johnson, Lions: The most obvious of obvious names, I'm putting him here because I was the only guy to rank him No. 1 this week. I know, last week was ugly. But I go back to last year. Johnson was a late scratch in Week 5, came back the next week and had a terrible game with three catches for 25 yards. Game after that? Nine for 155 and two scores. Going against the Bills, who are tied for the sixth-most touchdowns allowed to opposing wide receivers this season? I'm not worried.

Percy Harvin, Seattle: See Wilson, Russell. Prime-time game, and he's been quiet for a little too long. He saw a season-high nine targets in his last game, and his 88 percent reception rate leads all wide receivers (minimum 10 targets). Gut call says he has a monster game on a national stage.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston: Four straight games, he's been the better fantasy wide receiver than Andre Johnson. Three scores in four games, more yards than Johnson, higher yards per reception average and more yards after the catch. In fact, his 16.2 yards per reception is fifth among wide receivers with at least 25 targets. Only Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Victor Cruz and Calvin Johnson are higher. Despite what happened last week, I'm not ready to buy Dallas' defense just yet (giving up over 270 passing yards a game), so Hopkins, who also has more targets than Johnson in the past two games, is a top-20 play for me this week.

Brian Quick, St. Louis: Leads the Rams in both receptions and receiving yards this season, as well as tied for the team lead in targets. Austin Davis being named the starter is a good thing here and the Eagles are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, so I don't see Quick slowing down just yet.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina: A legit top-20 wideout inching his way toward top-10 status, Benjamin ranks in the top 10 in both receiving yards and touchdowns this season. No player has more deep touchdowns (15-plus yards) than the man with the crowd-pleasing two first names. Not for nothing, but the Bears have allowed the third-most deep receptions in the league.

If you're desperate: Rueben Randle has at least 80 yards or a score in two of the past three, has had his receptions increase every week, has only two fewer targets than team leader Victor Cruz and has a great matchup with a Falcons team that has allowed 17.8 yards per reception this season, more than 2 yards ahead of the next closest team. ... Been a minute, as the kids say, since we heard from Brandin Cooks in a big way. At home against the Bucs, I bet that changes this week. ... Eddie Royal is averaging the fifth-most yards after the catch per reception (among qualified WRs) and the Jets are allowing the fifth-most yards after the catch per reception in the league. ... Here's a trivia question for you: Name the five wide receivers with at least five receptions and 50 yards in each of their four games this season. Answer: Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Steve Smith and ... Golden Tate. Tate has a nice matchup with Buffalo. ... Speaking of Buffalo, I don't fear the beard but I do think Kyle Orton helps Sammy Watkins' value a good deal. Last chance to buy low. ... Finally, Markus Wheaton has at least four receptions in every game and, well, you know: Jacksonville.

Wide receivers I hate in Week 5

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona: Averaging only seven targets per game, which is on pace for his fewest since his rookie season in 2004. Averaging under 40 yards a game this season, no scores ... other than his name, what can make you feel good about starting him this week?

Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, Washington: There is junk-time potential in this game, but there was junk-time potential against the Giants, too. Unfortunately, Cousins seems to lock in on his tight ends so far, and even with his monster numbers against the Eagles, Garcon has averaged only 4.7 receptions and 59.3 yards per game with Cousins at quarterback. Now, Jackson has been banged up, but still. The numbers paint a similar picture: 2.3 receptions and 48.3 yards per game with Cousins. I believe these numbers will increase over the course of the year and both guys represent good buy-lows. After Monday night's game.

Justin Hunter, Titans: I know. I loved him as a sleeper this year. Unfortunately, he's just been asleep. He has yet to top three receptions in a game this season. His 33 percent reception rate is the lowest in the league and that's out of 156 qualified players. Don't see it changing against Cleveland; I feel this is a big Bishop Sankey/Delanie Walker game. Fun fact: The Browns are tied with the Seahawks for the fewest touchdowns allowed to wide receivers. Both have had their bye, so it helps, but still. Browns and Seahawks.

Tight ends I love in Week 5

Delanie Walker, Tennessee: The third-most-targeted tight end in the NFL and the third-most-targeted tight end in the red zone, Walker has scored in three of the past four games. Against Cleveland, I say he makes it four of the past five.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Over the past two weeks, no tight end has more receptions than Miller. Shoutout to my friend Evan Silva who was talking up Miller's role in this offense from the start of the season. Miller is seventh among tight ends in targets this year (one more than Gronk!) and, you know ... Jacksonville.

Jordan Reed or Niles Paul, Washington: As of this writing, both, one or neither may be active Monday night. Hopefully we get some clarity before then, but whoever gets the start, I like here. I'm betting it's Reed, but whoever it is, Cousins looks for the tight end a lot in this offense, and if there's one place you can attack Seattle a little, it's with the tight end; the Seahawks have given up five touchdowns to opposing tight ends in the past two games. Now, yardage- and reception-wise against tight ends they are pretty good, but just saying, if one of these two guys is healthy (and you know before Sunday morning) I wouldn't be scared to start them here.

If you're desperate: If it's Logan Paulsen who gets the start, he's not the worst throw of the dart you could make. ... Austin Seferian-Jenkins needs to get healthy (currently listed as questionable, missed Weeks 2-3) but his 17.5 yards per reception this season would lead all qualified tight ends. ... Garrett Graham is the only Texan not named Andre Johnson with a red zone target the past two weeks and no team has given up more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than Dallas. ... With Marcedes Lewis out with an injury and Blake Bortles at QB, Clay Harbor led the Jaguars in targets (eight), receptions (eight) and yards (70). The Steelers allow the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. ... Joe Flacco has targeted his tight ends 39 times this season, (third most in the league), including six to Owen Daniels in Week 4. The Colts are giving up the fourth-most fantasy points and a league-high 16.1 yards per reception to opposing tight ends.

Tight ends I hate in Week 5

Zach Ertz, Philadelphia: Not being used in the red zone as he should be, frankly. He's been targeted only once. This is a poor matchup for Ertz as no team has allowed fewer receptions to opposing tight ends than the Rams this season. Not a top-10 play.

Travis Kelce, Kansas City: I know, I love him, too. Especially after last week. But he's not a top-10 play this week as his average target is only 6.5 yards downfield, which ranks 24th among 36 qualified tight ends. You saw it Monday night: His appeal is the yards after the catch, a stat in which he leads all tight ends. Well, the 49ers have limited opponents to 3.3 yards after the catch per reception this season, fewest in the league, and they've allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Would not expect a repeat of Monday night. I have him outside my top 10.

Defenses I love in Week 5

Detroit Lions: Available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, the Lions are the third-highest-scoring fantasy defense, having posted at least seven fantasy points in three of four games this season. Numbers against the Bills are useless because they were all with EJ Manuel under center, but worth noting that since 2006 (when ESPN began video tracking), Kyle Orton has completed only 37 percent of his passes under pressure, 20th among 25 qualified quarterbacks during that span. The Lions record a sack on 7 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season, fourth best in the league. Welcome back to the NFL, Kyle.

San Diego Chargers: If you picked them up last week to stream against Jacksonville, you're in luck. Keep them. The Bolts are the only defense in the NFL with at least five fantasy points in all four games this season, and look who is traveling west? No player has committed more turnovers this year than ... the Jets' Geno Smith. That may have been mentioned on "SportsCenter" once or twice this week.

Cincinnati Bengals: I mean, did you see the Patriots' offensive line last week?

Philadelphia Eagles: Five total touchdowns on defense and special teams this season. No other team has more than two and, while Austin Davis has played well this year, he ain't Peyton Manning, you dig?

If you're desperate: The Green Bay Packers, in Lambeau Field, are either going to face an injured rookie in his second start ever or Christian Ponder on a short week. ... Have we mentioned how hurt the Falcons' offensive line is? Because the New York Giants are aware of it. ... Speaking of banged-up offensive lines, Philly has one, making the St. Louis Rams an interesting defense to stream off the bye.

Defenses I hate in Week 5

Carolina Panthers: Mentioned this earlier, but Greg Hardy's absence has been felt. Carolina fell from first in the league in sacks per game last season to tied for 13th this year, and considering they've put up back-to-back negative scores, I'm not risking it against the Bears.

Arizona Cardinals: In the last 10 games, no fantasy defense has topped six points against Peyton Manning. That simple.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is well aware that now that he's traded away Patterson, he's about to go off with his best game of the year. You're welcome. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. You may also have heard: He has written a book.