Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 15 (Fantasy Football)
We’ve made it: it’s Week 15 of the regular season and Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs! Hopefully, you are still all aboard the title train; as Andy put it, if you are playing this week, treat this matchup like your championship. It’s win or go home, and here are seven things I saw to help you with your managerial moves. All data is from nflfastR.
We need to take a moment and appreciate the absurdity of Evan Engram‘s 11-162-2 performance, good enough for 33.7 points and the twelfth-best TE performance since 1999. No player – and that includes the likes of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, and Zach Ertz – has surpassed that mark more than once in their career.
What’s important, though, is that it came from absolutely nowhere. Engram is averaging 8.3 points on the season (up from 6.1 before the Week 14 explosion), the lowest season PPG of any TE to eclipse 33.7 points. He only has two other weeks with double-digit points.
So – what do you do? My answer is simple, at least: ride with Engram until proven otherwise. The tight end landscape is a desolate one, evidenced by the fact that he catapulted to the TE4 on the season after this week. He’s got 22 targets in the last two outings and the volume, at least, should continue.
Also, for those keeping score at home, while 33.7 points is 12th best for TEs since 1999, it’s only second best this year, falling to TJ Hockenson‘s 8-179-2 romp in Week 4.
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:
This was a cathartic – if wholly unexpected – week for those rooting for offensive output in Denver. Jerry Jeudy returned in his first injury-free game since Week 8 and posted 73 yards and a whopping three scores (doubling his touchdown total on the season). The catch: he had nine targets, and a third of targets turning into touchdowns just isn’t likely to repeat itself. I actually don’t think this offense gets much of a downgrade with Brett Rypien behind center, but expecting continued dominance from Jeudy is just statistically unlikely. I see him as a WR2, borderline WR3 at this point.
Another name to note is Jerick McKinnon, who also had nine targets and notched 112 yards and two touchdowns, also doubling his scoring total on the season. He was the RB1 in Week 14, but beware: we don’t expect such efficiency through the air to continue, even in Patrick Mahomes‘ offense.
Here are the ‘underachievers’:
Nelson Agholor is a really interesting name here. He saw a season-high ten targets in Monday’s tilt (and I do mean tilt, that game was off-balance) against the Arizona Cardinals. Agholor managed to turn those ten looks into just five catches for 32 yards. If Jakobi Meyers continues to miss time, he could provide some nice production from a FLEX spot, especially against the hapless Raiders’ secondary.
So much in fantasy is left untold. One of my biggest pet peeves is that defensive pass interference calls, which move the offense forward, do not generate any fantasy points for a wide receiver! Here are the players that had the most points ‘wiped out’ by DPI calls (according to a simple model I built) this past week:
Marquise Brown led the way with over six points snatched away by DPIs. He ended up posting 5.4 fantasy points on eight targets, and thus certainly could have used an extra six! I think Hollywood is a really interesting name going forward: the offense will miss Kyler Murray, but might rely on throwing the ball more with Colt McCoy‘s relative incompetence rushing the ball. What’s more, Rondale Moore is now officially out for the season, opening up more volume for Hollywood. He’s worthy of at least a FLEX spot, and probably a low-end WR2.
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 1–8 vs. Weeks 9–14).
I’ll reiterate that Nico Collins is atop this list with four more targets per game in the back half of the season; Nico didn’t play in Week 14, though, so his stats haven’t changed on that end. Another name to watch is Cole Kmet with a 3.5 target jump, now sitting at six targets per game. He’s off of the bye, and Darnell Mooney will be out for the rest of the season, so Kmet might honestly be the top option on this revamped offense. He’s a sneaky start at the position.
At the other end of the spectrum, quite surprisingly, sits big Mike Williams. He saw six targets this past week, or 2.4 less than his average from Weeks 1-7. Now, he was incredibly efficient with those targets, catching all of them for 116 yards and a touchdown. I don’t expect that to continue: his previous catch rate on the season sat just below 64%. Don’t hear what I’m not saying: Mike Williams needs to be in your lineup, but it’s something to keep an eye out for, and it might help to balance out your roster with more solid volume guys. From Weeks 1-7 he had three top-10 performances at the position and three outside the top 45; that is, the very essence of boom/bust.
Big Play Mavens
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 20% of plays (so, if they have had 50 receptions, what percent of points stemmed from ten catches):
Every week I mention Gabe Davis, and every week he sits atop this list with almost 60% of his performance coming from a handful of plays. I will continue to say it: he’s a big risk to have in your lineup since his weekly fantasy production is dependent on these monster plays. Indeed, he’s finished as the WR33, WR66, WR38, and WR64 in the last three weeks, and only has one top-30 finish since the bye in Week 7.
It’s also no surprise that Christian Watson is near the top: he went on a four-week/eight-touchdown tear running up to the bye, and yet saw a total of just 17 touches in that span. You have to start him, but be wary: eventually, the lack of volume will be a problem for the rookie WR.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Zay Jones and Donovan Peoples-Jones, two players who have been sneakily solid in recent weeks. DPJ has averaged 10.2 PPG since his Week 9 bye, with 6.8 targets per game in that span. Zay Jones has been even better since his (later) Week 11 bye, with 14.1 PPG and 11 throws his way per outing. Both guys have earned the trust of their quarterbacks, and I’m confident starting them (WR2 for Zay and FLEX for DPJ) from here on out.
Curious Cases of Consistency
We can rank wide receivers by the variance of their weekly performances, and examine the least volatile players:
I’ve mentioned Nico Collins already, but he is the lowest variance WR through thirteen weeks (he missed Week 14 due to injury, which is why this chart stops at 13). Nico has had just two games below five points scored, and seven games with seven or more. He won’t blow the roof off of your roster – his best outing was 5-49-1 for 13.4 fantasy points in Week 10 – but he can give you steady production as a FLEX if you want to balance out some of the more boom/bust guys that we’ve talked about in this article.
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, and we can get ratings for both players and the defenses they faced. For example, if you’re streaming a quarterback in this crucial week of fantasy playoffs, here are the worst defenses against the position in terms of ELO:
No surprise to see the Las Vegas Raiders sitting in last place; they draw a frustrated Mac Jones in Week 15. It’s hard to advocate for starting Mac outside of Superflex leagues, though, even as a New England Patriots fan: he has just two top-10 QB performances on the season. More intriguing is Mike White if he’s healthy and on your waiver wire: the fan-favorite draws the Detroit Lions, second against the position this season.
Here are the tight end rankings:
The Seattle Seahawks bring up the rear here, and they square off against George Kittle in a divisional clash this week. Kittle has been relatively disappointing as the TE7 this season but, with a healthy matchup and a target vacuum in the wake of Deebo Samuel, he should have a fine day.
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