Tilt Trading: Take Advantage of Week 1 Overreactions
Week 1 is the perfect opportunity for savvy fantasy football managers to take advantage of those who believe what happened in the first week of the NFL season will happen every week.
Last year, Travis Kelce recorded 1 catch in his season opener. He went on to be the number one tight end in fantasy football. In Ryan Fitzpatrick’s season opener, he was the #1 fantasy QB, throwing for over 400 yards and scoring 5 total touchdowns. He would eventually be benched multiple times throughout the course of the season. Week 1 tends to not be indicative of season-long performance for most players. Yet, fantasy managers will try to “recover value” from what they believe are depreciated assets. They will overreact to one week of underperformance, panic, and trade away undervalued assets for overpriced players. This is called Tilt Trading.
There tends to be a commonality among people who engage in tilt trading: the anchoring effect. The anchoring effect dictates that we hold on to the first piece of evidence we are provided, and when later, disconfirming evidence arises, we disregard it in favor of the first piece of information we were offered. Tilt traders practice the anchoring effect in regards to player performance; if a player underperforms or overperforms, they will believe that trend will continue despite if facts exist that dictate otherwise. We have to realize that Week 1 is almost a separate season from Week 2-Week 17. Coaches are finally playing their real playbooks, most starters are playing in live game action for the first time, and there is no game film on incoming players.
I want to debunk several overreactions and discuss how you should take advantage of your opponent’s flaw in logic.
“The Running Back by Committee (RBBC) will be death to my fantasy team”
There were two notable RBBCs that played this week: The Bears and The Eagles.
The Bears’ David Montgomery was drafted in the 3rd or 4th round in most leagues, while Tarik Cohen was drafted in the 6th or 7th round. Everyone is so concerned about Mike Davis leaching carries away from Montgomery and receptions away from Cohen, and they are undervaluing these players because of it.
However, if you watched the game, you will see how ineffective Mike Davis was with these touches. He averaged 2.8 yards on 6 receptions and 3.8 yards on 5 carries. David Montgomery, when given the ball, forced two broken tackles on six carries, showed incredible balance, and was open in the flat often. Cohen was shifty and averaged 6.1 yards per reception. As time goes on, Mike Davis will be phased out due to his ineffectiveness, and Montgomery/Cohen will take a more prominent role.
If you can get David Montgomery for someone who over-performed off of one great play yesterday (like Derrick Henry and his 75-yard screen TD), you will be happier in the long run. It will take some time for Montgomery to become the lead back, but by mid-October, you will be happy you bought him low.
The Eagles also lead a RBBC, with Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, and Darren Sproles splitting time. People who drafted the rookie Miles Sanders may believe he will not perform well over the course of the season due to his ineffective Sunday. Miles Sanders only rushed for 25 yards and caught one two-yard pass. However, we need to look at the circumstances surrounding the poor performance.
The Eagles went down early to Washington, trailing 20-7 at halftime. Darren Sproles needed to come in as the primary pass catching running back so the Eagles could play catchup. This led to Sproles getting 9 carries on the ground and three targets through the air. Yet, the Eagles will likely not be in comeback-mode every game due to their tremendous talent on both sides of the ball. Even despite the negative game script, Miles Sanders still received 11 carries, more than any other Philadelphia running back.
The Eagles invested a 2nd round pick in Miles Sanders, while Sproles is on a one-year veteran deal and Jordan Howard was added for a 2020 6th round pick. The Eagles are invested in Miles Sanders to succeed. The rookie had one 19-yard run that looked tremendous, which almost netted him a touchdown. He has the talent, investment by the organization, and a great offense around him. I believe he will be the lead back and break Doug Pederson’s RBBC tendencies as the season progresses.
If you have Miles Sanders, hold him until at least midseason. If you do not, now if the perfect buy-low opportunity. He might even be dropped if people believe the Eagles will not use him. Miles Sanders is an excellent tilt trade target, as his stock will only rise as time goes on.
“Antonio Brown will soak up all of the targets!”
In case you are Patrick Star and live under a rock, you know Antonio Brown has been released from the Oakland Raiders and signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots. Everyone is my league was immediately trying to trade Julian Edelman, James White, and Josh Gordon. They are still trying to do so after each one of them had a solid performance in Week 1. In Half Point PPR, Josh Gordon scored 14.8 points (3 catches for 73 yards and a TD), Julian Edelman scored 13.4 points (6 catches for 83 yards and a 32-yard pass), and James White scored 10.7 points (5 catches for 56 yards and 26 yards rushing).
People fear that Antonio Brown will soak up all of the targets from these players and make them irrelevant for Fantasy. That’s just not the case. New England’s system is not predicated on having a #1 receiver. They play matchups and take advantage of mismatches. Take for example yesterday’s game: New England would always try to line up James White on Pittsburgh linebacker Mark Barron, because they knew White would have the lateral quickness to beat him. They also would get their receivers open on crossing routes and pick plays since the Steelers were playing entirely man coverage. Antonio Brown won’t hurt the other Patriot weapons. If anything, he will help them. Defenses will have to double cover AB if they want to take him out completely. That leaves Josh Gordon open for one-on-one coverage in man defenses. If they play zone, Julian Edelman and James White are quick enough to find soft spots in the zone. Also, opponents will either be forced to put a linebacker on James White/Rex Burkhead, or play with only corners and safeties, risking being gashed on a run. And if you are worried about how the third wide receiver will perform in this offense, see Philip Dorsett’s performance last night, where he grabbed two wide open deep touchdowns.
All of the Patriot weapons won’t have great games every week, but they will all be utilized. If you can grab Edelman or Gordon for players like D.J. Moore or Marques Valdes Scantling, you will be stealing them. Target the tilting Patriot owners who believe they are getting good value by offloading on their assets before AB comes to town.
A Steel City Meltdown
On the opposite side of the matchup, the Steelers had their worst performance in recent history. James Conner was game-scripted out of the contest, with 21 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving on 4 catches (8.5 points). Juju Smith-Schuster couldn’t beat coverage, scoring only 10.8 points on 6 catches for 78 yards. In fact, every Steeler had a negative performance and was utterly disappointing.
This is the perfect time to buy low on the Steelers. The narrative going around will be: “Juju doesn’t have what it takes to be a #1 receiver, James Conner was a fluke, and the Steelers can’t function without Bell and AB.” The problem with this narrative is the evidence is based on one game against the Patriots. New England is known for taking away an opponent’s best weapon and forcing them to go off-script.
By taking an early lead and double covering Juju, the Steelers were forced to abandon the run and play five wide for most of the game. This took Conner out of the game by taking him off the field, and made Juju a nonfactor by defending him with a cornerback and a safety. The Pats also brought pressure, forcing Ben to quickly throw it to either Donte Moncrief or James Washington. These players had a combined 5 catches on 16 targets.
In future games, Juju won’t have to face lockdown double coverage and the Steelers won’t be game scripted out of the run so easily. Now is the perfect time to buy low on these premier players that owners are worried about. Offering players like Keenan Allen or Amari Cooper might get the job done. If you can get any Steeler weapon for cheap, you should buy them before their value inflates.
Other Notable Overreactions
Todd Gurley is washed: This was his first game action after rehabbing this offseason, and he looked more explosive as the game progressed. He will become more featured after they ease him in. He will never be the Todd Gurley of old, but he will be better than what people are saying. Buy low on him if you can.
The Browns are back to being the Browns: You know how I feel about Cleveland, but they will have fantasy production. The Tennessee defense caught Baker and the O-line off guard, stifling fantasy production. Chubb and Landry should be great buy low targets as the Browns start building chemistry each week.
Trouble in Atlanta: The Falcons got steamrolled, but their players are too good to take one game as the standard. Devonta Freeman may be my favorite buy-low target of Week 1.
Fantasy managers always overreact after Week 1. There are key takeaways to learn from the NFL’s first week of play, but not everything should be taken at face value. If you have the above players, do not tilt. Stay the course for a few weeks and watch their value rise. If you don’t have them, I would do my best to target some of these guys while their value is at its floor.