Welcome to the first edition of Fantasy Football Stock Watch, where we’ll look at who’s hot, who’s not and everything in between over the next four months. On tap for this week: a closer look at a 2021 star stuck in a tough situation, one of Tom Brady‘s favorite targets and a pair of talented teammates going in opposite directions. But first: everyone’s favorite mercurial slant god, Michael Thomas.
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Fantasy Football Stock Watch Week 1
WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Stock Up
Ah yes, MT. The man who put up one of the greatest fantasy seasons by a wide receiver ever has spent the past two years toiling in IR purgatory. His current draft range of the fifth or sixth round doesn’t feel like much of a value, even though he has similar upside to injury risks like Saquon Barkley and Cam Akers. To be fair, it’s hard to blame managers; Thomas has only managed to play in just seven games since 2019, often sidelined by a nagging ankle injury.
So, why stock up? Partially because there’s nowhere to go but up. The 29-year-old has plenty to prove, and everyone knows the talent is real. There’s also plenty of optimism about the Saints. New QB Jameis Winston is an upgrade from the declining Drew Brees, and a supporting cast of Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry should keep New Orleans’ offense moving. The concerns about production without Brees is overblown; in ten career games without him, Thomas has averaged over 92 receiving yards per game. Camp reports have raved about number 13, and, despite a hamstring injury, he should be ready to go on Sunday. If healthy, this is easily the WR2/Flex managers drafted him to be; a true return to form is gravy.
WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Stock Down
There are few receivers in football more talented than Diontae Johnson, but in fantasy, the cruel reality is that opportunity often trumps ability. The Steelers are poised for a far different offense under Mitch Trubisky compared to last season with Ben Roethlisberger. Part of that is due to the addition of rookie wideout George Pickens, one of the stars of this year’s preseason. It’s also reasonable to expect Pittsburgh to run the ball more with second-year running back Najee Harris (27th in total rushing attempts last season). That’s not all; slot receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth are also sure to be featured red zone options.
So, where does that leave Johnson? Last season, he was the second-most targeted player in all of football, behind only Cooper Kupp. However, he was only the WR8. If that number goes down, a virtual guarantee with a new quarterback and so many other offensive weapons, who knows how far this Steeler can fall? Couple that with a history of nagging injuries, and it’s not hard to see Johnson going from mid-range WR1 to low-end WR2 in an average passing offense. He’s still a good player to have, but managers might have to temper their expectations for Diontae.
RB Damien Harris, New England Patriots: Stock Down
RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: Stock Up
In nearly every league, Harris has been drafted ahead of Stevenson. It makes sense; the former ran for 15 touchdowns last season as Bill Bellichick’s featured running back. However, that level of red zone production is also cause for concern. Harris finished last season as just the PPR RB14, mainly due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. Should those touchdowns slip below double digits, Harris might be a lot closer to RB30 than RB10. Reports that the Patriots were thinking of trading Harris, in his contract year, also point to a reduced role this season.
Stevenson might not enter the season as New England’s starting running back, but he could have a more valuable role than Harris this season. Stevenson has been one of the biggest stories out of Patriots camp, and the team’s lack of a true receiving ‘back on the roster means third-down work should be expected. It seems he has a solid connection with fellow second-year player Mac Jones, and Belichick has always been hesitant to entrust rookies with a heavy workload, so Stevenson should see a bump in playing time from his first season. Even in a near 50/50 snap split, Stevenson’s path to fantasy points is far less touchdown dependent than Harris, making him an enticing RB2 or Flex option this season.
WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Stock Down
By the end of the year, it would be no surprise to see Chris Godwin producing like he normally does, as a top fifteen wide receiver. However, it might require some patience before he’s able to play at the level managers are accustomed to. After suffering a torn ACL last year, the Bucs have been cautious with Godwin, having him practice with a knee brace during practice. While Godwin was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, both he and Todd Bowles declined to confirm whether he would be good to go for Sunday night against the Cowboys.
Even if Godwin is able to play, which seems likely at this point, a snap count should be expected, which means there might be better options for your team at WR2 this weekend (not to mention waiting to see if he will play could be risky). ACL recoveries can be tenuous, so a “playing it safe” period makes sense for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Tampa Bay added Russell Gage and Julio Jones partially so they don’t have to rely as heavily on Godwin. Elite production is still possible, if not eventually inevitable, but there’s no need for the Bucs to force the issue.