Seven Stats & Expectation Trends for Week 6 (Fantasy Football)

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High five!

Hope that’s what you were dishing out after Week 5 fantasy football victories. Not a fan of that joke? Don’t worry – there’s more where that came from. Let’s get into the seven things I saw this week, all with data from nflfastR.

Elo Update

I’ve been talking a lot about Elo ratings and how they can impact fantasy football. Put simply, they give us a ‘nowcast,’ or a rating of how good players are right now, what form they are in today. They take into account a player’s performance, past and present, as well as ‘opponent strength,’ or how good the opposing defense is. Elo is generally slow to update. It takes a while for the ranking system to really trust a player. A strong week or two won’t significantly move your ranking since sustained performance is required. That’s especially true for moving up in the rankings. Once a player has a high rating, it’s easier to lose it than move up further.

Elo is useful because it provides an objective measure of current player form. There are certainly other salient variables: injuries, coaching adjustments, and the like all play a role.  Importantly, though, Elo eschews all of the emotions and subjective context, controls for opponent strength, and sorts players based on actual performance. It’s a useful tool for building trades, making waiver decisions, and start/sit calls. To start, here are the top-ranked quarterbacks:

Interestingly, Patrick Mahomes is atop this list, not Josh Allen. This is likely because the former has faced more difficult defenses in recent weeks. Josh Allen has been able to beat up the sieve-like Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens (probably something you wouldn’t hear a decade ago about these two defenses!). Lamar Jackson has fallen a bit after modest performances in recent weeks, but he’s still #4 overall. Here are the biggest changes on the year:

Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith have rocketed up the standings, while Baker Mayfield has plummeted. Russell Wilson is a downwards mover here, too, which makes sense if you watched Thursday Night Football last week. One surprising change is Cooper Rush, who has fallen significantly, despite not being ranked highly to start. This is a good reminder that, while the team is winning, Rush isn’t producing much by way of fantasy. He hasn’t finished inside the top 12 at the position, and can probably be avoided.

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Let’s transition to running backs:

Nick Chubb has taken the crown! He’s one of the largest increases on the year, and he’s three points ahead of Derrick Henry (a slim margin) to lay claim as the top-rated RB in all the land. Saquon Barkley also continues to move up the ranks, and will likely find his way into the top five with another big performance. One climber to note is Breece Hall, who has seen the third-largest jump on the year (behind fellow rookie Dameon Pierce). Now on to wideouts:

Cooper Kupp is the unsurprising king, but Marquise Brown is a surprise in the third spot! Hollywood is the WR6 on the year, coming off of three straight weekly top-10 performances (all against solid defenses). He’s in excellent form and is a must-start, at least until DeAndre Hopkins comes back (and probably beyond that as well). Here are some of the largest movers:

Josh Reynolds has been quietly moving up the ranks in an explosive Detroit Lions‘ offense; he is sneakily the WR23 on the season. Robbie Anderson, and much of the rest of the Carolina Panthers‘ offense, has moved in the opposite direction. Finally, we can check out tight ends:

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Unsurprisingly, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews are in a league of their own, far ahead of the rest of the field. Dallas Goedert‘s mark here is impressive, though; he’s the biggest climber on the year, and he’s ranked closer to Andrews than Andrews is to Kelce. Tyler Higbee has also snuck into the top five, and you should feel comfortable starting him until proven otherwise.

Under/Overachievers

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’s not surprising that Travis Kelce leads the pack here: he took eight targets and managed to convert half of them to touchdowns (he also posted just 25 yards, which is hilariously low compared to four scores). More notable is Gabe Davis, who turned just three catches into 171 yards and two touchdowns. All told, Davis has just 20 targets, for a mere 11 catches, this season. He’s big-play dependent, and a risky start each and every week. Let’s look at the underachievers:

It’s a sad time in Pittsburgh, but Diontae Johnson is still getting targeted. He had 13 balls thrown his way on Sunday and finished with just 60 receiving yards. It’s possible he’s on the waiver wire after an atrocious start to the year (just one finish inside the top 30), and my contention is that he doesn’t belong there. His volume is simply too great to be un-rostered: 50 targets this season!

Hidden Statistics

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.

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Not much ‘stands out’ here: there are plenty of players with two ‘almost scores.’ I’ll note the Lions (T.J. Hockenson and Josh Reynolds) playing in the perfect fantasy environment: explosive offense, terrible defense. Hockenson should be rostered and started, and Reynolds is worth a stash. Breece Hall is also notable as one of the only RBs on this chart: his arrow is pointing solidly up. Let’s turn to the rushers:

Joe Mixon stays atop this list. He’s averaging a whopping 24.6 opportunities a game, and is just the RB17 on the season; I expect him to finish in the top 12. Josh Jacobs is another name to note: he’s had an awesome two weeks, finishing as the RB1 and RB3, but it could have been even better. He was stopped just short twice!

Decisions, Decisions

It’s important to align your fantasy players with actual NFL coaching decisions. That is, you want aerial options on teams that like to throw the ball, and rushing options on teams that like to ground it out. This chart shows which teams like to throw the ball on first down, and how well they do it (y-axis is yards per attempt):

Very surprising to see the Carolina Panthers as the most pass-happy team here; less surprising is that their YPA is below average. More notable are the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, both of whom pass it a lot on 1st and do it very well. On the other side, the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans throw the ball about 30% of the time on first down; hard to find any receiving options worth starting on those teams (sorry Kyle Pitts fans). Fortunately, you feel a measure of confidence starting players in their ground game!

Let’s turn to teams that like to push the envelope. These teams are ranked by their probability of going for it on fourth down in non-desperate situations (less than five yards to go, win probability greater than 50%).

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The Indianapolis Colts are surprising aggressors: they go for it nearly 70% of the time in this situation (partly because of a small sample size!). Still, I wouldn’t give up on the exciting offensive options there just yet: Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. should bounce back sooner or later.

Spreading the Love

This chart gives us a measure of how much teams spread the ball around; namely, how many players on each team have five or more catches this year.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, and Buffalo Bills sit atop this list. The important point here is that since they are such prolific passing teams, we might want to get ‘pieces’ of those offenses, settling for less productive players because the pie is so much bigger. This works to a point: the top few wideouts on each team (Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Chris Olave) are great fantasy options. Beware of the more periphery options, though, since these teams seem willing to spread it around no matter what. Let’s turn to teams that spread the run:

No surprise to see the San Francisco 49ers in the lead as their RB room is often a carousel. While Jeff Wilson Jr. has the controls now, it’s a situation that we always must be wary of. The next few teams – Washington Commanders, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens – have backfields that can be totally avoided thanks to the focus on rushing committees. Interestingly, the Miami Dolphins, a backfield we were uncertain about going into the season, have spread the ball around the least. That’s a pretty good signal for Raheem Mostert, who appears to be the emerging starter and possibly in line for bell-cow work.

Ranged Attacks

This chart tells us where QBs are making their mark on the field. All of these bars are air yards, so in a way, they represent partially unlocked potential.

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Tom Brady and Justin Herbert both show up thrice in this chart. They’ve both been disappointing for fantasy, partly due to a lack of rushing production, but also due to injuries to their WR corps. They should heat up as the season progresses. Carson Wentz, on the other hand, only shows up on the ‘deep’ part of this chart. We’ve sort of figured it out by now. After an impressive first few weeks, Wentz’ fantasy production has left us wanting. He should be avoided in most single-QB leagues.

Let’s check out the same chart for receivers:

Dallas Goedert is one of the only non-RBs in the checkdown section, and as a tight end no less! That sort of built-in usage is a great sign for one of the top TEs in fantasy. Meanwhile, Gabe Davis is by far the leader in deep yardage, posting nearly 60 per game. As mentioned above, he represents a massive risk for fantasy lineups.

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Key Matchups

We can return to Elo for the final section, on the defensive side. Here are the best and worse running back defenses going into Week 6:

Everyone knows that the Bucs have a stout run defense, but the New York Jets are a surprising #4 on this chart. They get the Green Bay Packers in an evergreen matchup, and while you’re starting Aaron Jones, a fading A.J. Dillon could have a difficult day. On the other end, the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers have been sieve-like against the run. The former is on bye, but the Chargers face the struggling Denver Broncos. Melvin Gordon could be a sneaky good start. On to wideouts:

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When did the Houston Texans get so tough? I’m not sure, but we won’t be able to test it in Week 6 since they’re on bye. We will see the New York Giants, though, bringing their top-3 WR defense to bear against the Ravens. It could be uphill sledding for borderline starts Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay; Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews are the only must-starts on that team. Finally, let’s peek at bad QB defenses for some potential streaming options:

The Las Vegas Raiders are on bye, but the Atlanta Falcons are taking on the San Francisco 49ers. Jimmy Garoppolo actually finished as the QB9 last week and could keep the momentum going against one of the worst QB defenses in the league. Daniel Jones is another name to look at as he’s lining up against the uncharacteristically yielding Baltimore Ravens defense.

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Questions? Let me hear it on Twitter.

 

 

Comments

Peter Arsenault says:

awesome article, well dobe

Matt DiSorbo says:

Thanks for reading Peter!

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