Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 3 (Fantasy Football)

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In this series, I walk through seven trends that I’m seeing evolve as the season progresses. All data, unless otherwise specified, comes from nflfastR.

Scoring Is Back

There was a lot of concern last week about fantasy football scoring, which was down 17% from an already low-scoring 2022. We can all — hopefully — breathe a sigh of relief after Week 2, which was the fifth-highest week of total scoring compared to all Week 2s since 1999. This bump was mostly thanks to enhanced rushing attacks: we saw the sixth-highest and second-highest rushing yards and rushing TDs, respectively, since 1999 (again, among Week 2s). Receptions sat at the third-highest mark.

Who Is Responsible?

We can break out the change in fantasy scoring — through two weeks — by team:

It’s impressive to see the Minnesota Vikings atop this list, which feels discordant with their 0-2 start. But it’s true: Kirk Cousins is the WR1, Justin Jefferson is the WR6, and TJ Hockenson is the TE2. The market is pretty decided on Jefferson and Hock, but there’s a chance that Kirk Cousins is available in single-QB leagues; if he is, there are not many other QBs that I would start over him. I feel obliged to mention the New England Patriots who, despite also falling to 0-2 in this young season, look much improved on offense under Bill O’Brien’s scheme. Mac Jones has serious value as a QB2 in SuperFlex, and rookie WR Demario Douglas has flashed and might even be available on your dynasty waiver wire.

On the other hand, we can all pity the New York Jets, who have far and away the biggest change on this chart. How is that possible, you ask? Well, Joe Flacco started the first two weeks of the season last year, including throwing four touchdowns in a 31-30 tilt against the Cleveland Browns. It’s really bad news in New York for all of the Jets’ offensive weapons, except maybe Garrett Wilson, who we’ll discuss later.

Here’s the same chart broken out by position:

The Los Angeles Rams‘ RB room (led by Kyren Williams) and the Houston Texans‘ WR room (led by Nico Collins and Tank Dell) have the highest year-over-year jumps on this chart. Kyren and Nico should be started in all leagues, Tank should be rostered; either way, these are players that need to be on your radar!

Big Play Mavens

An important part of fantasy football is consistent volume. You generally don’t want players who are dependent on a few big plays each game; sure, it’s nice when they rattle off a 60-yard TD, but it’s not so fun when they goose the next week. Here are receivers who have scored 30+ points ranked by the percent of receiving points they received from their top 20% of plays (so, if a player has 50 plays, the percent of points from their top 10 plays).

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DeVonta Smith is having a monster start to the year, landing as the WR4 thanks to a couple of long touchdown passes. It is a little bit concerning, though, that the majority of his production has come from just a handful of plays.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying: DeVonta Smith is insanely talented and has an excellent connection with a great QB. I’m not saying that you should be actively looking to trade him…I am saying that I don’t expect him to stay as a top-five WR all season with the number of targets he is seeing (15 in two games) and with AJ Brown being vocal about wanting more himself. I wouldn’t be opposed to trading high, perhaps targeting a Justin Jefferson or an elite RB in return.

On the other hand, it’s truly stunning to see how Puka Nacua has exploded onto the scene. He’s been the WR9 and WR5 in back-to-back weeks, on 35 targets despite scoring zero touchdownsTry to get him signed on your roster, because when he eventually does find the end zone, the stat lines will be bananas.

The Whole Pie

We talk about ‘pies’ a lot in fantasy football, and not just because we are hungry. Ideally, you want to roster players on teams with large pies — offenses with lots of production — where the player gets a big slice of the pie (a large percentage of that production). Here are the top players ranked by the percent of team fantasy points they have scored:

Ah, Garrett Wilson. Such a shame. His stock obviously dropped with Aaron Rodgers‘ exit, but it’s refreshing to see that Garrett is controlling such a huge slice of the Jets’ meager pie. Now, granted, he only had two catches in Week 2, one of which was a monster touchdown…but it was on eight targets, and it was against the Dallas Cowboys’ ferocious defense. I guess my point is that I’ve been seeing a lot of ‘buying low’ — like, really low — for Garrett Wilson, but I still think he’ll be a very solid fantasy asset. If he’s on your team, don’t part with him too easily!

Let’s also take a moment and mention Christian McCaffrey, one of two running backs on this chart, soaking up almost 30% of the production in a vaunted offense. Hilariously, CMC only has six catches on the year…he’s doing all of this with basically no receiving work. When Brock Purdy does start to check it down, CMC should moon even more.

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Calling The Shots

I like to categorize teams that insist on passing the ball when they are in the lead as ‘Foot on the Gas’ teams. Here are the leaders so far:

The Buffalo Bills disappointed in Week 1, but that was against an elite Jets defensive unit. They’ve shown a proclivity to slinging the ball late in games with the lead, which bumps up the value of their pass catchers. Obviously, Stefon Diggs is in your line-up, but don’t underestimate post-hype Gabe Davis, or RB17 James Cook (10 targets on the season). Both are solid flex plays: even if the Bills are leading, Josh Allen will still be throwing.

On the other side of the coin, we have teams that insist on running even when they need to mount a comeback:

Every year we hope for a WR1 to emerge for the New York Giants…but the odds are against any of the familiar faces taking a step forward, especially with Darren Waller commanding 6.5 targets per game.

Spreading It Around

This chart tells us how many different players have tallied five or more catches this season:

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Once again, the New England Patriots have been a surprisingly competent offense to start the year. Hunter Henry is the TE1, which shouldn’t last, but lots of different personnel are getting involved. If you have a strong opinion about the talent of the Pats’ pass catchers, they will have a chance to emerge (I mentioned earlier that my bet is on Demario Douglas). On the other hand, this chart confirms that you want to stay away from any of the Jets’ receivers other than Garrett Wilson.

Here’s the same chart for rushing:

It’s interesting to see the Dallas Cowboys atop this chart, but it makes sense: Tony Pollard has never been a three down back (although he did get 25 carries last Sunday). Meanwhile, it hasn’t been a stellar start to the season for Alexander Mattison and Joe Mixon, but they are both really the only game in town. Mattison has 29 opportunities so far, Mixon 36…the volume is there, and hopefully plays start breaking for these guys.

Passing Downs

Finally, here’s a chart that shows team passing probability by down:

Another shoutout here to the Minnesota Vikings, who have had a sneakily prolific passing attack this season. It’s worth commenting on the Atlanta Falcons, who are near the bottom in terms of passing rate on first and third down, and far below the rest of the field on second down. As I’m sure you’ve heard Arthur Smith mention, the Falcons do not care. They have the lowest passing rate in the league. Drake London and Kyle Pitts have eight targets each…and they are 2-0, in a great position to win a weak NFC South.

Put simply, it’s unlikely that anything changes. Avoid Desmond Ridder except in desperate SuperFlex situations. I’m probably not starting Drake London, and I’m probably not rostering Kyle Pitts. On the other hand, Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier should get a ton of work.

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Devin says:

I cant wait to see end of season greenbay stats.

Curtis Dean says:

Thanks Matt! Awesome ggplot visuals, by the way!

Curtis Dean says:

Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but are all the receiving stats based on PPR, HPPR, or “standard”? Hard to determine how much weight to put behind “Big Play Mavens” when % of points attributed to top 20% of plays could just mean yards and TDs (in the “standard” scenario).

Matt DiSorbo says:

Sorry Curtis, forgot to put that in! It’s Half-PPR!

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