Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 5 (Fantasy Football)
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.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Passing)
Here’s a breakdown of the most prolific pass-catchers based on where they are doing their work:
And the same for quarterbacks; apologies about the Tua-only checkdown box, no other QB has passed the mark (60 yards in the last three weeks) to be included on this chart.
Finally, we can look at which defenses have been allowing significant yardage in these areas of the field. These numbers are against expectation, which is crucial because we don’t want to punish a good defense for giving up yards to great offenses. Similarly, we don’t want to put a bad defense on a pedestal just because they played well against the Denver Broncos. The idea, then, will be to look at how many yards the defense allowed minus the average yards the opposing offense usually gains.
Here are some of my takeaways:
- Jaylen Warren‘s opportunities have been steadily increasing, culminating in six catches (on six targets) last week. He’s been dominating in checkdown yardage, but he faces the divisional rival Baltimore Ravens, who have been equally stout against short throws. For a player who has seen nearly 5.5 fantasy PPG from receiving work, I’m a little concerned and will be looking elsewhere for my RB2.
- Outside of an overall QB1 performance for Daniel Jones in Week 2, it’s been an extremely ugly year: QB28, QB31, and QB24. But those games also came against the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks, all teams with either tough defenses or ferocious pass rushes. This week Danny Dimes plays the Miami Dolphins, who were just gouged by Josh Allen and company; perhaps more notably, the Phins have been giving up more yardage on short passes than any other team, while Jones has been top 10 in short passing yardage. I’m not saying to start DJ in a single-QB league, I’m just saying that you probably don’t have to move away from him yet as your QB2 in a SuperFlex.
- We’re all waiting for the Marvin Mims breakout — except maybe Sean Payton, who hasn’t seemed to mind that the rookie standout’s highest snap percentage is just 35% on the season. Unfortunately, this may not be the week. While Mims is one of the most prolific deep-pass catchers this season, he draws the New York Jets, a top-five defense against deep balls (and a top-five defense in general). You’re hoping that Mims makes a big play on limited opportunities (just 2.8 targets per game this year). It’s hard to bet on that against the Jets who, frankly, will be the first elite defense the Broncos have faced (Bears/Dolphins/Commanders/Raiders).
- CJ Stroud and Nico Collins have been incredible to start the season and look to be the next up-and-coming NFL offense. I’m trying to get them on my roster in every league I’m a part of. And yet — they have made their biggest impact on mid-range passes, something the Atlanta Falcons, their Week 5 opponent, have been elite at stopping (in addition to allowing under 20 PPG to opposing offenses this season). Nico Collins is probably in your lineup no matter what unless you’re absolutely stacked at the position. But I don’t love CJ Stroud as a single-QB streamer this week.
The Math Behind the Matchups (Rushing)
Here are the same stats for rushing:
- The Las Vegas Raiders have been terrible on the ground this season: last year’s rushing champ Josh Jacobs hasn’t eclipsed 62 yards rushing in four weeks. But the tonic for that might be the Green Bay Packers, who have been especially weak against the two areas where the Raiders have struggled: runs to the left and right. Jacobs is an interesting trade target if you can land him after his RB5 performance last week. He’s seeing nearly 22 opportunities per game which, for a player of his caliber, really should cement his top-12 running back status.
- On the other hand, the Detroit Lions have been quite stout on those left and right runs. Miles Sanders (my ‘My Guy’ this offseason, unfortunately) has disappointed so far, with 2.9 yards per carry and under nine fantasy points per game. He’s questionable with a groin injury and will draw this tough Lions defense, in a game where the Panthers will probably be trailing. It might be time to sit Sanders if you have depth at the position.
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).
The signs were there for Jordan Addison, who topped this chart last week before scoring zero fantasy points in a 21-13 win over the Carolina Panthers. He’s on my bench until further notice, and he might be joined by Tank Dell, who has nearly 60% of his fantasy output coming on just a few plays. I’ve already talked about how the Texans’ matchup with the Falcons isn’t favorable.
On the other hand, let’s applaud Evan Engram, who has received 7.3 targets per game, including three straight with eight targets. He has zero touchdowns on the year and has still managed to be the TE7; that’s quality, sustained production with serious upside. Unfortunately, he’s also joined by Ja’Marr Chase, who has seen over ten targets per game but has also scored zero touchdowns. I’m not sure what’s going on in Cincinnati, but I know that Chase is one of the most talented wideouts in the league seeing double-digit targets a game. Even if Burrow is hobbled with injury, those two factors mean that Ja’Marr should finish much better than his current status as WR28. He’s a trade target for me.
In this section, I use a simple regression model that uses air yards, targets, and defensive ability to predict how many fantasy points a player should score, and compare that to how many they actually score. An overachieving player might be one who catches a few TDs on only a couple of targets; an underachieving one sees a lot of targets (against a bad defense) and doesn’t do much with them. Here are the standouts:
And the ‘underachievers’:
Finally, it’s sad to see Chris Olave leading the ‘underachievers’: he had just six targets turn into one catch for four yards. If you watched the game, you know this was because Derek Carr couldn’t push the ball down the field: as the guys mentioned on the show, Alvin Kamara had 13 catches for just 33 receiving yards, which absolutely shatters the record for the least yards among players with 13 catches (previous 71). So don’t blame Olave for a bad outing. If anything, he’s a super talented player seeing 9.5 targets per game, and you might be able to wrest him from a manager who isn’t paying attention.
How It Went, How It’s Going
It’s interesting to compare team fantasy scoring vs. last season, overall and broken down by position:
No surprises here that the Miami Dolphins have seen the biggest uptick, powered by their running backs, after the 70-point romp over the Denver Broncos (the biggest position group change, eking out the Texans’ WR room). But it is pretty surprising to see the Chicago Bears as the third most-improved team. This is because, simply put, they were so bad to start last season: Justin Fields had 9.2 PPG through four weeks.
The biggest overall mover on this chart, of course, is the Cincinnati Bengals, who have seen scoring evaporate across all major positions. Will the Bengals get back to their high-flying ways? Probably not all the way. Will they look this bad all season? I certainly don’t think so.
One of my biggest fantasy pet peeves is that defensive pass interference (DPI) calls advance the ball for a real-life NFL team…but don’t accumulate any fantasy points. Here’s an estimate — using a simple model to predict how many fantasy points would have been scored — of how many DPI points were wiped out for each receiver.
We talked earlier about how Jordan Addison put up zero points this week and has a huge percentage of points coming from just a few plays; unfortunately, losing five points to DPI in Week 4 doesn’t really change my opinion. I’m a bit more interested in Calvin Ridley, who managed 10 points on just two targets in London. He netted 10.8 points, and managers are certainly worried about Ridley…but I bet you would be less worried if he had another catch and 15 fantasy points. Perhaps more importantly, his ‘two catches for two targets’ was a departure from previous usage; his lowest number of targets to this point was seven, and he’s playing 80% of the snaps. I’m not moving on from Ridley yet.
Playing All 60 Minutes
One interesting stat to consider is fantasy output accrued in ‘garbage time’, or periods in the game where the outcome of the game is almost certainly decided. Here are the leaders over the last three weeks:
I hate to keep talking about them, but CJ Stroud and Nico Collins are way out in front. It’s not inconceivable that they get out ahead of Atlanta and enjoy a quarter of garbage time this week… but I also wouldn’t bet on it.
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