Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 13 (Fantasy Football)
Lucky number 13! Here are seven statistics I’ve got my eye on this week. All data is from nflfastR.
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:
It was all gravy in New York this week, with the return of Mike White launching the Jets to a 31-10 rout of the Chicago Bears. Elijah Moore had his best game of the season, and Garrett Wilson his second best. Still, a word of caution: Wilson had 95 yards and two scores on just five catches, and Moore 42 yards and a score with only two. Their stock is pointing up with Mike White at the helm, but it’s unlikely that they will be so insanely efficient going forward.
Dalton Schultz finds himself second on this list, after just four targets turned into four catches, 31 yards, and two touchdowns. He’s had a nice resurgence of late with Dak Prescott back in the lineup – three top-10 finishes at the position in his last four outings – but I’m not buying this continued upside. I’m shopping Schultz while the fire is hot; the TE position is such a barren landscape that you might be able to get a haul! We won’t discuss it in this article but his ELO rating has fallen outside the top 10, meaning he’s no longer rated as an elite tight end by the model.
Here are the ‘underachievers’:
The fantasy arrow continues to point up for Mike Evans: he saw nine targets in Week 12, which turned into just two catches for 31 yards. His talent and volume combined with Tom Brady‘s accuracy make him a great WR to roster heading into the fantasy playoffs.
So much in fantasy is left untold. Here are the pass-catchers who have ‘almost scored’ the most: tackled inside the five on drives where they didn’t end up scoring eventually.
CeeDee Lamb has been surging since a short mid-season lull: he’s posted 17.6 fantasy points per game since Week 8. What’s crazy is that these numbers could be even better. CeeDee has three ‘almost touchdowns,’ including one on Thanksgiving that had me feeling the turkey. The Dallas Cowboys are jockeying for playoff position, and you can count better WR options than CeeDee on one hand.
Here are the rushers:
It’s impressive for Daniel Jones to make this list as a quarterback; his rushing upside always makes him a solid QB2 in Superflex leagues. More exciting is rookie Isiah Pacheco, who has played 49% of snaps in the past three weeks (17% per game before that). He’s been delivering, with two performances inside the top 24 at the position, and that’s before three touchdowns that he almost punched in. We’re not sure when Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be back, and I see Pacheco as a legitimate RB2 until then.
On to one of my biggest fantasy pet peeves. When players draw a DPI (defensive pass interference) call, they don’t get fantasy points for it, even though it achieves real-life yardage for their team! I built a simple model to predict how many points a player would expect if DPI didn’t break up the reception:
Oh, golly, there’s CeeDee Lamb again! My advice: do whatever you can to get him on your roster.
Big Play Ballers
It’s certainly fun when your player cashes in a monster touchdown; however, steady production is usually the key to long-term fantasy success. Here are receivers ranked by the percent of points coming from their top 5% of plays (so, if they have had 80 receptions, what percent of points stemmed from four catches):
With Cooper Kupp out for the next few weeks (and the rest of the season if the Los Angeles Rams are smart), Gabe Davis is the de facto #1 on this list. The darling of Fantasy Twitter has given managers some reasons to smile, with four top-13 finishes at the position, including the overall WR1 in Week 5. Unfortunately, there’s no middle ground with Davis: every other week was outside of the top 32 at the position (and all but one of those were outside of the top 40). You are, put simply, relying on a big play when you put Davis in your lineup. Against the New England Patriots this Thursday, I would prefer to not bet on a big play.
One really surprising name sits on the other side of this chart. Donovan Peoples-Jones is known as a big-play receiver, and yet hasn’t had the big plays to fuel production this season. He was the WR13 in Week 11 and the WR26 the week before that and should see more opportunities with Voldemort in the lineup. I like DPJ as a potential FLEX option.
I’ve talked about ELO rankings and how they are useful for giving a sort of ‘now-cast,’ or current tier for players. They take into account player performance and defensive strength. Here are the RB rankings:
Austin Ekeler is the clear leader and, indeed, likely the most valuable player in fantasy. Unsurprisingly, Josh Jacobs has been climbing the list, with three straight top-10 performances (including a nuclear 45.3 point outing this past week). Remember, ELO is slow to update: Josh Jacobs is the fantasy RB1 on the year, but the rankings take a longer time horizon into account (i.e., previous seasons). If his production continues he’ll be atop the list soon; for now, though, the model trusts Ekeler, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb more.
Interestingly, Saquon Barkley has dropped out of the top 10 after RB40 and RB20 performances in the last two weeks. Indeed, Saquon has only been a top-10 back once since Week 6 after starting the year on a tear. More or less replacing him among the elites is Rhamondre Stevenson, the engine of the Patriots’ offense both on the ground and through the air. Indeed, Rhamondre is the biggest climber on the year:
We can get the same rankings for defenses; here are the worst units against the run:
Dameon Pierce has cooled off a bit, with 5.8 total points in his last two outings. That just might reverse itself this week as he faces the Cleveland Browns, quite literally the worst defense against the run in the league (according to ELO). I would start him as an RB2 with confidence.
We can look at the same rankings for wideouts:
No real surprises here at the top, although it’s certainly interesting to see Chris Godwin rounding out the top 10. He was the WR4 in Week 12 and continues to see a ton of targets (averaging over 10 per game since Week 4) in a Tom Brady-led offense. He’s another great trade target.
Here are the worst defenses against pass-catchers:
It’s surprising to see the Tennessee Titans at the bottom of this list, but that could bode well for the Eagles’ WR2 Devonta Smith. He’s had double-digit games in two of the last three weeks (26 total targets) and is worth a look at the FLEX spot.
Target Risers & Fallers
For a deeper dive into target trends, check out Aaron Larson’s excellent article. My favorite statistic to look at is big movers: players that have seen the biggest increase (or decrease) in targets per game since the first chunk of the season (Weeks 1 – 6 vs. Weeks 7 – 12).
The biggest jump is the aforementioned Rhamondre Stevenson, with over four more targets per game. With Damien Harris facing some injury issues – and probably his last season as a Patriot – the team has made it clear that Rhamondre is the guy. He’s an RB1 the rest of the way out; 7.8 targets per game since Week 7 is just too juicy to pass up. Second is Mike Evans, with nearly four more targets in the second half of the season. I said it above, but he’s a great target as you’re gearing up for the playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Curtis Samuel, with just about four targets less in recent weeks. He had an exciting start to the season, finishing as the WR17 and WR12 in the first two weeks. Since then, though, it’s been a wasteland, outside of a WR9 performance in Week 9. He’s seen just six targets in the last three weeks and played under 65% of the snaps in each game, his first time below that mark all season. What’s even worse, the Washington Commanders are on a three-game win streak! Clearly what they are doing is working; unfortunately for Samuel, it doesn’t appear to include him as much.
Cost of Experience
Let’s close with a fun one. The y-axis gives us the total fantasy points scored by each team, and the x-axis gives us the ‘weighted’ experience of the players on those teams (if a player scores more, his age is weighted higher).
There are two huge outliers here: the Kansas City Chiefs, who have scored by far the most points among teams, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are super old (thanks to Tom Brady). Otherwise, it doesn’t look like there is much of a correlation!
Finally, not to hammer the point, but it’s incredible that the Denver Broncos are dead last in fantasy scoring. Let’s hide.
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