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Fantasy Football Edge: Reacting To Hot Starts

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By Matt Cott and Matthew Schwimmer of RotoAnalysis.com

Last week for this column, we dealt with disappointments. This week, we deal with the other side of the spectrum and look at guys who have come out scorching hot. The most difficult thing is fantasy is deciding whether or not to trade guys who have carried your teams through the first half of the season. However, fantasy trades are about getting value and what guys will do for you in the future and not the past. Here are 4 guys who have started red hot, with thoughts on whether or not they will continue their torrid pace?

Stay Hot: Matt Ryan

Selected as a popular sleeper preseason, Matt Ryan has not disappointed this year as he currently ranks third in points amongst all signal callers through week 6. Prior to his game against the Raiders last week, Ryan had not scored lower then 17 points in a single week. While Ryan has been reliable, he has also presented owners with upside as he’s scored over 30 points in a week. Ryan’s hot start is not a fluke and will continue as the Falcons continue to rely on a spread offense with their three big player makers being Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez. Some could argue that Ryan’s numbers will improve as Julio Jones becomes more consistent and Jacquizz Rodgers becomes more involved as a pass catcher out of the backfield. With a bye week to regroup after a poor performance against Oakland, Ryan will be ready for his second half and benefit from the fact that he doesn’t face an elite secondary the rest of the way and faces DET (27th against the pass) once and NO (31st) twice.

Cool Down: Willis McGahee

Ranked one spot outside of the top 10 amongst halfbacks through week 6, Willis McGahee is headed for regression. The clear outliers in his season so far have been his performances against ATL and OAK as they have accounted for 62% of his year-to-date fantasy points. While the touchdowns in those games are not fluky, McGhaee has never shown to be a guy who can average more then 4 yards per carry over a full season. In addition, McGahee’s involvement in the passing game is something we’ve not seen since 2008 when he was in Baltimore. If Denver wants to keep their 235-pound halfback on the field, he likely won’t continue to be as involved in the passing game. Ronnie Hillman is a more effective pass-catcher and should get more snaps as the season progresses because he is just a rookie. If you take out McGahee’s best and worst games this season, he averages between 8 and 9 points per game. If he had played all 16 games last season averaging 8 points per game, he would have finished the season 26th amongst running backs and that is ignoring injuries. While McGahee is better then the 26th best running back, he is most definitely not the 11th best back either.

Stay Hot: Reggie Wayne, Colts WR

For a guy who was 28th in the preseason rankings, Wayne has been one of the 2012 season’s best surprises. He is 6th among all wide receivers and has had his bye already, which none of the 5 ahead of him have (His average fantasy points per game would place him 3rd!). Additionally, he is tied for the league lead in targets with Victor Cruz. These targets are the best sign for his continued success, as Andrew Luck will look for him every week. With the Colts lacking other playmakers, Wayne will be an elite play in all formats even if he doesn’t find the endzone each week. Wayne has the kind of wily veteran skill that should make him a legitimate top 10 guy for the rest of the season and even higher in PPR formats.

Cool Down: Torrey Smith, Ravens WR

Smith is the perfect example to counteract Reggie Wayne. Whereas with Wayne you get consistency with targets, Smith is a huge risk. His week 3 performance against the Patriots with 127 yards and 2 touchdowns was one of the best games by a wide receiver this season, but he has only one other game with more than 3 catches. His 36 targets are the least of any top 20 receiver and tie him for 50th in the league (also counting tight ends). As a deep threat a la Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson, he will have a ton of variance from week to week and struggle to be consistent on such a small dosage of targets. He is targeted less than teammate Anquan Boldin and guys like Andre Roberts, Nate Burleson, and Andrew Hawkins. Even though he’s the 12th ranked WR through 6 weeks, I’d stay away from him most weeks and only value him as a top 25-30 guy at a wide receiver position that’s ridiculously deep this year.

Agree? Disagree? Questions? Tweet @RotoAnalysis and be sure to follow Moe @MoeProblems and Matt @KidCotti21. Check out their work on RotoAnalysis.com, as well as The RotoAnalysis Fantasy Sports Podcast.

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