Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 2
Week 2 in the NFL was a disaster. Several players around the league succumbed to various injuries, leaving fantasy owners scrambling to find adequate replacements.
It's important to note that we're still dealing with extremely small sample sizes here, but there are trends and patterns that are beginning to reveal themselves. This week's column will help sort through some of the noise and identify which fantasy football players are prime buy-low and sell-high candidates.
Negative Regression Candidates
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor struggled immensely in Week 1, but he rebounded nicely to be fourth-best fantasy quarterback in Week 2. There are plenty of reason to be wary of this, though. Taylor's performance was buoyed by a 71-yard touchdown to a wide open Greg Salas and an 84-yard touchdown to Marquise Goodwin, and even though Taylor has shown the ability to connect on a big play or two in the past, his fantasy outlook is heavily reliant on these big plays. He's towards the middle of the pack in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, but his Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of plays that positively impact NEP -- is third-lowest clip in the NFL, which highlights his reliance on big plays. When they don't come, Taylor will be a landmine as he was in Week 1.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray ranks 40th in Rushing NEP per play out of 50 running backs with 10 or more carries. This wouldn't be a major concern if he had the backfield to himself, but rookie Derrick Henry is breathing down his neck for playing time -- Henry actually played 46.3% of the snaps last week in a game that the Titans were mostly trailing. Murray has inflated his fantasy production in back-to-back weeks with short receiving touchdowns and long runs, and Henry's role is growing.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount is currently seeing massive workloads, but these figure to decrease in two weeks with the return of Tom Brady. With Brady in tow, the New England Patriots figure to become a pass-heavy offense like they were last season when they attempted the fifth-most passes. With decreased volume, Blount will be an extremely touchdown-dependent back, particularly in points per reception (PPR) formats. While his Rushing NEP per play is towards the middle of the pack so far in 2016, he's just 35th out of 50 in Rushing Success Rate.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Denver Broncos
Out of wide receivers who have been targeted at least 10 times this season, Emmanuel Sanders has been by far -- by far -- the worst in Target NEP. His score of -12.47 is almost twice as bad as the next closest receiver, which happens to be Tavon Austin. Now, this isn't all his fault -- Trevor Siemian is his quarterback, and he hasn't been particularly accurate -- but it's worrisome for his fantasy outlook. The Broncos continue to be a run-first team, relying on C.J. Anderson and their defense to win games. As the 1B to Demaryius Thomas' 1A, Sanders is tough to trust on a weekly basis, and even in a great matchup last week with the Indianapolis Colts, he was only able to catch 3-of-8 targets for 39 yards.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland Browns
Terrelle Pryor has seen heavy volume in the Cleveland passing offense, but there are two main reasons for concern. Pryor is towards the bottom of the league in Reception NEP per target, and now Cody Kessler will be throwing the ball to him in Week 3, which isn't something any NFL offense should want. In addition, Josh Gordon's impending return should cap some of the upside that exists purely from a volume standpoint. Although Pryor is an exciting talent, he will continue to be inconsistent and unreliable.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins
Cameron returned from the dead in Week 2 against the New England Patriots by scoring a touchdown and tallying 49 receiving yards. The last time Cameron surpassed 35 yards receiving in a game was a whole calendar year ago, during Week 2 of the 2015 season. He's not going to be consistent in an offense that has DeVante Parker back and ranks just 13th out of 18 tight ends with 10 or more targets in Reception NEP per target.
Positive Regression Candidates
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Before the season started, Russell Wilson was universally considered one of the NFL's top fantasy quarterbacks, but the results have not been favorable through two weeks. Wilson has battled a high-ankle sprain, which probably takes a lot of the blame here, but the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line hasn't been good, either. Wilson ranks 27th in Passing NEP per drop back of 34 quarterbacks who have started a game this season, but this year he hasn't been able to supplement his poor passing performance with rushing statistics due to his injury. In fact, his Rushing NEP is dead last among all quarterbacks. As he recovers and gets to full health, expect his statistics to jump, as well.
Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins
Matt Jones currently ranks 9th this season in Rushing NEP per play out of the 50 running backs with at least 10 carries, and he is tied for 3rd in Rushing Success Rate among the same sample. The problem is Washington has run the fewest run plays in the league, so Jones may struggle to see consistent consistent volume moving forward, but he makes for a decent flex play -- particularly in non-PPR formats -- when Washington is favored.
Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions
Theo Riddick is due for a huge uptick in opportunity following Ameer Abdullah's season-ending injury. Utilized mainly as a pass-catching back in years past, Riddick is 17th in Rushing NEP per arry out of the 50 running backs with at least 10 carries this season, 5th in Reception NEP, and tied for 3rd in Rushing Success Rate. He will likely cede the majority of goal-line opportunities to rookie Dwayne Washington, but Riddick should see more early-down carries in addition to his usual pass-game work and will be viable in all formats going forward.
Tyrell Williams, WR, San Diego Chargers
We highlighted Williams in this section last week, and he responded with 15.1 PPR points, but he should start to see even more volume now that Danny Woodhead is out for the remainder of the season. Williams tied for the team lead in targets with six in last week's blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he currently ranks third in the NFL in Reception NEP per target. Dontrelle Inman caught just one pass, which indicates that Williams is the clear number two wideout in the offense behind Travis Benjamin.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts
With Donte Moncrief sidelined for four to six weeks, the Colts' top three receivers are T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, and Quan Bray -- all of whom weigh less than 200 pounds and are below six feet tall. Enter Dwayne Allen, who will likely see a substantial increase in red zone targets as one of the only big-bodied red zone weapons in this offense. In addition, Allen has been efficient -- he just hasn't seen extensive volume yet. In fact, he's first in Reception NEP per target among all tight ends with 10 or more targets this season.