Stock Watch with Hayes: A Lifelong Football Guy
Why do we play fantasy football? Why do we annually endure all the ups and downs that this pastime brings? For some of us, maybe it’s for a nice cash prize at the end of the year. For others, it could be for the bragging rights over your buddies. But for me, it’s simply because I love the game of football.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, I developed a major interest in the NFL quickly. While my home city used to be a baseball town in the ’60s and parts of the ’70s, the Steelers rapidly gained popularity during their Super Bowl runs in the ’70s, as well. And even though the team was inconsistent at best – and straight-up bad at worst – for the next two decades, Pittsburgh fans fell in love with the team anyway and never looked back.
By the time I began watching regularly on Sundays, the Steelers were a perennial contender – a team with a fearsome defense but a mediocre, unexciting offense. Quarterback Tommy Maddox was fine, but he wasn’t a star. As a result, the Steelers drafted a kid named Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 and, well, you know the rest.
I certainly have no room to complain about life as a Steelers fan. After all, the team has won two Super Bowls and appeared in a third in my lifetime. But that doesn’t mean my favorite squad hasn’t provided its fair share of heartbreaking moments, either. Here are some names you should never mention around a Steelers diehard: Tom Brady, David Garrard, Tim Tebow and Blake Bortles.
But the NFL isn’t my favorite league solely because of my hometown team. Every season, I watch as many games as I possibly can. When I was younger, I’d beg my mom to let me stay up for the rest of the Thursday and Monday night games. And on Sunday nights, I’d be scrambling to finish my homework while watching Faith Hill sing the Sunday Night Football theme song (but really, wasn’t that every kid?).
It’s also thrilling to keep track of the narratives throughout the year: Who is the MVP frontrunner? Who’s shocking the world as a rookie? And have the Jets won a game yet? Once January rolls around, I live for the NFL playoffs, especially the Wild Card and Divisional weekends. And, of course, the Super Bowl. I was one of those crazy kids who would watch all seven hours of pregame coverage for no reason at all. I just didn’t want to miss a moment.
Through the craziness of high school, college and young adulthood, I’ve never stopped carving out time to watch football. It’s always been a part of my life, and I feel like it always will be. I’m happy we’ve been able to safely enjoy it again this season. We needed it.
OK, now it’s time for some “Buy or Sell.” Heading into Week 9, we’ll be talking quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends:
BUY: Ben Roethlisberger (QB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Not many experts thought Roethlisberger would be a top-tier fantasy quarterback this season, and so far, they’ve been absolutely right: Roethlisberger is the QB22 on the year. On top of that, he’s fresh off a tough outing against an excellent Ravens defense. Roethlisberger’s stock might never be lower than it is at this moment, which makes it the perfect time to buy. The fact that he gets to face the horrid Dallas Cowboys defense in Week 9 is just icing on the cake. Look for Roethlisberger to have a huge day against Dallas while generating better results in the back half of the season.
SELL: Philip Rivers (QB, Indianapolis Colts)
The 2020 Philip Rivers experiment in Indianapolis has produced mixed results, at best. But for fantasy owners, it’s been flat-out bad. Through the first five weeks of the season, Rivers eclipsed 15 fantasy points only once. However, his last two performances have shown signs of promise – nearly 26 points against the Bengals and 22 points against the Lions. Keep in mind, though, that those two teams have weak pass defenses. The next matchup for Rivers? Baltimore. I’m thinking now is a great time to sell high and get decent value in return before Rivers crashes back down to earth.
BUY: Diontae Johnson (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Friends, I am licking my chops seeing fantasy owners panic over Diontae Johnson’s performance against the Ravens in Week 8. Yes, he caught only one pass for six yards. It’s not what you want. Additionally, Johnson has been on and off the field this year due to nagging injuries. But when he’s healthy, Johnson has proven to be one of the most explosive receivers in the league, both in reality and fantasy. He tallied 8 catches for 92 yards and a score in Week 2 against Denver, and he put up a fantastic 9 catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7 against the Titans.
Next up on the slate for Johnson is the Dallas Cowboys, who, as mentioned previously, boast one of the worst defenses in football. If you’re in a league where the Johnson owner is frustrated and wants to make a deal, now is an excellent time to pounce.
SELL: Mecole Hardman (WR, Kansas City Chiefs)
Hardcore fantasy folks have been eagerly awaiting the Mecole Hardman breakout for a long time. Did it finally happen last Sunday against the Jets? Well, maybe on paper, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Hardman snagged 7 balls for 96 yards and a touchdown against New York in Week 8.
While it was an unquestionably impressive outing, owners should proceed with caution. Sammy Watkins, who has been out with a hamstring injury since Week 5, is on track to return soon, which would strip away most of Hardman’s fantasy value. It’s also worth mentioning that Patrick Mahomes has ample options in the receiving game, so don’t expect Hardman to consistently generate results like he did in Week 8.
BUY: Jonnu Smith (TE, Tennessee Titans)
I don’t think anyone is lukewarm on Jonnu Smith. You either believe in him or you don’t. I’m a member of the former group, so it’s safe to say I’ve been disappointed by Jonnu’s last couple of weeks. After posting top-five tight end numbers through the first quarter of the year, Smith has flopped three weeks in a row now, tallying below three fantasy points in each of those contests. Fantasy owners are starting to think the magic has run out, and they’re considering cutting bait.
Not so fast, people. Smith’s stock is approaching all-time lows, and Ryan Tannehill has shown he likes to target the big tight end. Grab Smith now and see if he can regain his momentum from earlier this year. He’s certainly capable.
SELL: Jared Cook (TE, New Orleans Saints)
Jared Cook has been a fairly reliable fantasy tight end this season, especially in a year where steady tight end production has been hard to come by. He’s hit pay dirt in three straight games, as well as four of his last five. But, as so many of us know, what goes up with fantasy tight ends, usually comes back down. I’d expect Cook to take a step back this weekend against a good Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
Adding to the stress for Cook owners is the fact that New Orleans will get top receiver Michael Thomas back very soon, possibly even this Sunday. Quarterback Drew Brees loves to target Thomas, which will take the ball out of Cook’s hands even more.
Thanks for reading. For more takes, find me on Twitter @Chris_Hayes8.