Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 11 (Fantasy Football)
Let’s turn it up to eleven this week! Here are seven things I’ve got my eye on; all data is from nflfastR.
There’s nothing like watching your player house a 75-yard touchdown and then pulling up your fantasy app to watch that wonderful score update. Still, it’s important to not rely on these sorts of outbursts; steady volume promises more solid fantasy output. As such, here are players ranked by the percent of their points that come on the best 5% of their plays (so, if a player has had eighty plays, then the percent of points from their top four plays). Here are pass-catchers, only considering points through the air:
The top two players, Jerry Jeudy and Cooper Kupp, are likely going to miss time due to injury. More pressing is Deebo Samuel, who lands in third, and Tyler Boyd in fourth. It’s been a disappointing season for Deebo after last year’s WR2 overall finish: he’s posted just one week inside the top 12 at the position. Deebo has always been an explosive player, but those explosions have been few and far between this season (three total TDs). Boyd has been a top ten WR twice but fell outside the top 24 at the position every other week. I’m looking to move on from both players – for the right price – after their next big week. Meanwhile, Tyler Higbee is last on this list, with just over 10% of his points stemming from his top plays. That’s mostly a function of him scoring zero TDs on the season, and any positive regression would be welcome for a tight end seeing over seven targets a game. With Kupp out for at least four weeks, Higbee should continue to get the work, and hopefully at least some scores.
Let’s move on to passers:
Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray have strong rushing baselines, so their presence at the top of the chart is less impactful. Instead, I think it’s telling to see Matthew Stafford and Justin Herbert, the QB26 and QB15 on the season, at the top. These pocket passers just haven’t seen the volume to sustain good fantasy seasons: Big Herb hasn’t eclipsed 20 points since Week 4, and Stafford hasn’t at all this season. They’re streamers at this point in the season, especially with top receiving options out. In the meantime, Tua Tagovailoa and Patrick Mahomes have a very small percentage of production from big plays, which is surprising given how many big plays they both make! They are auto-starts from here on out.
So much of fantasy football goes unseen. Here are rushers that ‘almost scored’ – tackled inside the five-yard line on drives they didn’t eventually punch it in.
Jamaal Williams stays atop this list: he almost put up three more touchdowns in the last three weeks, on top of already solid finishes (RB9, RB19, RB17). He’s the RB13 on the year, and the Detroit Lions seem content to give Williams the work while D’Andre Swift continues to recuperate. He’s a bit banged up this week, but a solid start if he goes. Meanwhile, one of my biggest peeves about fantasy football is that it doesn’t give wide receivers points for DPI (defensive pass interference) committed against them. I built a simple model to predict how many points a player should expect on a play wiped out by DPI; here are the Week 10 leaders:
At this point, Devonta Smith might be on your waiver wire. He hasn’t cracked the top 20 at the position since Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. He’s seen eight targets in two of the last three weeks, though, and had over four expected points removed by DPI this past week. The Philadelphia Eagles‘ schedule toughens up a bit down the stretch (after the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11) and they may be taking to the air more. Devonta should definitely be rostered.
I built a simple model that takes into account targets, air yards, and defensive prowess and predicts what we expect WRs to score on the week. Then, we can see which wideouts score more, in a sense overachieving given their workload. Here are the leaders:
Christian Watson, have a day. The rookie Green Bay Packers WR posted 107 yards and three scores…but on just eight targets. His previous target high was four all the way back in Week 1, and the Packers simultaneously scored and allowed the most points this season in a 31-28 win over the Cowboys. All that is to say, Watson saw more volume than we should usually expect, and even with that volume, it will be difficult to find the end zone thrice. Here are the ‘underachievers’:
K.J. Osborn saw 11 targets, which turned into just four catches for 35 yards. There’s not much you can do with this: the Minnesota Vikings were playing in an insane, high-flying game against the Buffalo Bills, and we shouldn’t expect the same going forward. Kyle Pitts, though, is interesting. The TE20 on the year (sigh) has actually seen a jump in his targets of late, with nine, seven, and eight in the past three weeks. Now, he hasn’t done much with that, finishing as the TE3, TE24, and TE23 in those games, but the fact remains that Arthur Smith seems to be using Pitts more. I’ll probably get burned by this, but he might be worth a start against the newly fun Chicago Bears (if he’s still on your roster).
If you want a deeper dive into target trends, check out this awesome article by fellow writer Aaron Larson. One simple statistic that I like to look at is the change in targets over recent weeks; specifically, Week 6 – Week 10 vs. Week 1 – Week 5.
Parris Campbell is the surprising leader of this statistic with four more targets per game in recent weeks. He’s delivered, posting WR11, WR7, and WR10 performances since Week 6. Austin Ekeler is next with 3.15 more targets, and the Bears duo of Darnell Mooney (+2.67) and Cole Kmet (+2.17) are up there. These are all players – except for Ekeler – who were largely left to the waiver wire in fantasy leagues, but could be making a resurgence. I think that’s especially true in the newly activated Bears offense.
Sadly, there’s another side to all of this. Cooper Kupp has sneakily seen 4.7 fewer targets per game in the second half of the season, although that’s less actionable with him lost to injury. Tyler Higbee is next but, again, not actionable: he should see his workload increase with Kupp out. More notable is Garrett Wilson, who has seen his target average drop off by four per game with Zach Wilson returned to the lineup. The New York Jets rookie did have a nice couple of weeks before the bye (WR16 and WR13) so we’ll have to keep an eye on it, but there’s a real possibility that his role has been downsized.
4th and forever
As Jason often says, fantasy managers love NFL teams that go for it on fourth down. They either keep their offense on the field, or they give it to their opponent with a short field, meaning they will likely get the ball back faster. Here are the teams that go for it most in non-desperation situations:
The Cleveland Browns lead this list, trailed closely by the Philadelphia Eagles. I consider that a boost to the fantasy options on those teams; one interesting player, in particular, is Donovan Peoples-Jones, who has scored double-digit totals in each of his last two games. On the other side of the spectrum sit the Atlanta Falcons, Las Vegas Raiders, and New England Patriots, teams that simply love to punt. This isn’t a surprise, either: most options on these teams (save Josh Jacobs and Rhamondre Stevenson) have largely disappointed.
Here’s a fun chart that tells us how much total yardage teams have gained on 4th down:
It’s hilarious that the Raiders simultaneously don’t like to go for it on 4th down in neutral situations, but also have gained the most yardage this season (ignore 2021 on the x-axis, sorry!). Another funny result is the Atlanta Falcons going backward on 4th down!
I say it often, but it bears repeating: you want receiving options on teams that like to pass the ball. Here’s a ranking of each team’s passing probability on each down.
Two teams really stick out here in my eyes: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears. The former loves to pass the ball at a high rate, and I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks that Mike Evans‘ and Chris Godwin‘s outlooks are excellent for the back half of the season. They are on bye this week, which makes them even better trade targets. Meanwhile, the Bears refuse to throw the ball, tossing it less than 50% of the time on every down. I would caution against this result, though: these numbers are skewed by the first half of the season, and they’ve been giving the keys to Justin Fields much more of late.
Here’s a chart of teams that like to pass even when leading, a.k.a. teams that keep their foot on the gas:
Curse of Consistency
To close out, let’s consider the wide receivers with the lowest variance (most consistent) this season:
Chris Godwin leads the way here. He’s been as steady as it gets, with a low score of 7.2 since Week 2. The downside is that his season high is 16.1 points, posted this last week in Germany, thanks to just one TD on the season. I think this insanely high floor speaks volumes of his value going forward: he’s seen ten targets a game over his last seven outings.
Here are the most volatile players:
Justin Jefferson is on here, but mostly because he represents ‘good’ volatility: he has a solid floor, but the potential for monster games (like last week). The most concerning name is Christian Watson, who, as we already alluded to, should not expect such prolific production on a weekly basis. It’s worth pointing out Amon-Ra St. Brown as well, who started out strong but has only cracked the top 24 at the position once since Week 3.
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