Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 3
Three weeks into the season, fantasy owners have to start planning around bye weeks. Players like Jordan Howard, Jerick McKinnon, and Dwayne Washington can be expected to produce better fantasy numbers with an increased role, and stars like Odell Beckham and Julio Jones will rebound from somewhat disappointing starts to the season.
This week's Regression Candidates will focus on some less obvious players and should be used to keep owners from falling victim to recency bias.
Negative Regression Candidates
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill was a popular quarterback streamer last week and currently ranks as fantasy's eighth-best quarterback, but there are some warning signs around his performance. He's just 24th in Total Net Expected Points (NEP), which is a concern for a player that benefits from rushing production. Tannehill ranks 27th in Passing NEP per drop back and 26th in Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of passes that result in a positive gain in NEP -- so he hasn't been an efficient passer. Send him back to the waiver wire in single-QB formats, and throw out a sell-high offer in two-quarterback leagues.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Tevin Coleman is in a full-blown running back by committee with last year's breakout star, Devonta Freeman. The Atlanta Falcons seem content with running their offense with whichever back is on the field rather than pigeonholing either player into a specific role. Coleman -- currently the fourth best running back in points-per-reception (PPR) formats -- is 7th in the NFL in Rushing NEP per play, but just 38th in Rushing Success Rate, indicating a heavy reliance on big plays and/or touchdowns. If only they could play against the New Orleans Saints' defense every week.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Cleveland Browns
Isaiah Crowell is fantasy's 16th best running back in PPR leagues, which is a surprise considering he has just three receptions this season. He ranks 14th in Rushing NEP per play -- which, on the surface, seems to align with his fantasy production -- but is 27th in Rushing Success Rate, which lends credence to the fact that his production may not be sustainable. He also began to lose some carries last week to Duke Johnson, who also handles a lot of passing-down work.
Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
In a favorable spot on Monday night, Brandin Cooks gave fantasy owners almost nothing against the Falcons. Fantasy's 13th best wide receiver in PPR leagues, Cooks is just 57th in Reception NEP per target among all wide receivers and 35th in aggregate Reception NEP -- and trails teammate Willie Snead, who didn't even play in Week 3. Additionally, Cooks is outside the top 20 most targeted receivers in the NFL, so his production may not be consistent.
Martellus Bennett, TE, New England Patriots
Martellus Bennett can be expected to regress, but for different reasons than most of the players listed above. Our analytics list him as the 12th most efficient tight end, which is exactly where he ranks in PPR leagues. However, Rob Gronkowski returned to the lineup last week and only garnered one target. However, Gronk should be expected to see a large market share going forward, which will likely make Bennett a touchdown-reliant option.
Positive Regression Candidates
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
This season's 15th-best quarterback so far, Kirk Cousins hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Fortunately, Cousins ranks 7th in the league in Passing NEP and 9th in Passing NEP per drop back. In addition, he's 6th in Passing Success Rate, so he's been more efficient than his fantasy scores indicate, despite his struggles in the red zone. This week, he gets a home matchup against the Cleveland Browns, which is just what the doctor ordered for any quarterback.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets
Among running backs with nine or more carries, Bilal Powell is first in the NFL in Rushing NEP per play and has a Rushing Success Rate of 66.67%, also the best mark in the league. He only has nine carries, so this is a small sample, but he's proven effective on the ground and through the air through three weeks. Fantasy's RB40 in PPR leagues, Powell would need an injury to Matt Forte or an increase in volume to be a weekly fantasy starter.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets
Eric Decker's streak of 18 straight games with 80 or more receiving yards and/or a touchdown finally ended last week as Ryan Fitzpatrick turned into a pumpkin against the Kansas City Chiefs, but this may present a solid buy-low opportunity. Decker has just nine receptions on 21 targets -- good for a 42.9% catch rate, fourth lowest in the NFL -- but all nine of his receptions have resulted in a positive gain in NEP. As Fitzpatrick starts throwing Decker more catchable balls, he should begin to produce better numbers. There's also additional reason for optimism: even though Decker is PPR's 33rd-best receiver, he's 15th in Reception NEP per target, indicating that he has been efficient when given a chance to make a play.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Jordan Reed is the third most targeted tight end in the NFL, and he is fifth in Reception NEP among tight ends with 10 or more targets. Despite the heavy volume, he's just the 8th best at the position in PPR leagues. The Washington Redskins have scored on just 21% of their red zone possessions this season, and for some reason, Reed has just three red zone targets and one catch in the red zone -- which could be one of the reasons Cousins has struggled inside the 20-yard line. Unless Washington keeps ignoring their tight end in the red zone, some positive touchdown regression is coming. It could happen in this week's home matchup with the Browns.