Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 4
We're officially more than a quarter of the way through the fantasy regular season. The bye-week crunch is underway, and fantasy owners are rushing to find replacements for those unavailable players.
This week's Regression Candidates will help determine whether certain fantasy overachievers and underachievers are due for a course correction.
Negative Regression Candidates
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles was discussed during the offseason as a potential regression candidate off last year's pace, but while he hasn't been effective in real life, he's getting the job done in the fantasy world. Bortles is currently the eighth-best quarterback in fantasy leagues, but it's not all sunshine and roses. Bortles is 20th in Total Net Expected Points (NEP) and just 27th in Passing NEP per drop back, with a Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of passes that result in a positive gain in NEP -- ranking 23rd in the NFL. The fact that he's been able to contribute despite his limited efficiency is a positive but not something fantasy owners can rely on.
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Through the first two weeks of the season, Matt Forte looked like one of the NFL's only true three-down workhorses off the heels of a monster game on Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills. What has become evident, though, is that the New York Jets are trying to scale back his workload so that the 30-year-old tailback doesn't break down. Forte saw 78.4% and 91.7% of the backfield opportunities in the first two weeks, respectively, before easing off and receiving just 63.3% and 56.7% in the past two weeks as Bilal Powell continues to impress. Additionally, Forte -- currently the 10th-best running back in PPR leagues -- has been far from efficient, ranking just 32nd in Rushing NEP per play, 35th in Total NEP, and 37th in Rushing Success Rate among running backs with 15 or more carries.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount was a monster through the first three weeks of the season but wasn't afforded the chance to run all over the Bills in last week's shutout loss. Now that Tom Brady has returned, Blount's massive workloads will likely decrease as the New England Patriots transition from the run-heaviest team in the league (0.94 passes per run) to more of a passing attack, like they were last season when they attempted the fifth-most passes in the NFL. Blount is 35th in the league in Rushing NEP per play and 46th in Rushing Success Rate, so he will likely be an extremely touchdown-dependent back with this decreased volume, particularly in PPR formats.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
Last season, Michael Crabtree emerged as Derek Carr's favorite target in the red zone. Some expected Amari Cooper to eat into those red zone targets in his sophomore season, but that hasn't really happened yet. Crabtree scored three times on Sunday and is now the fifth-best wide receiver in PPR leagues, but his production has been buoyed by touchdowns. Crabtree ranks 12th in Reception NEP per target -- so don't expect him to fall too far -- but it's unlikely that he'll score 16 touchdowns this season. Once the scoring tails off, he's more of a WR2. Sell high if you can.
C.J. Uzomah, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
This one is fairly simple. C.J. Uzomah is tied for the 10th-most targets among tight ends but ranks just 24th in PPR leagues at the position. He's 19th in Reception NEP and 22nd in Reception NEP per target among tight ends and has failed to capitalize on his opportunities. The Cincinnati Bengals are dead last in the NFL at converting red zone trips into touchdowns this season, and touchdown-scorer Tyler Eifert is slated to make his season debut this week. Uzomah isn't even on the streaming radar anymore.
Positive Regression Candidates
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Our own Brandon Gdula discussed Dak Prescott's early-season brilliance in some depth earlier this week -- and there's reason to believe Prescott can be even better in fantasy than he has been so far. Dak is fantasy's ninth-best quarterback this year but ranks second among quarterbacks in Total NEP, third in Passing NEP, and fourth in Passing NEP per drop back. The efficiency has been spectacular, but he just hasn't passed for many touchdowns -- yet.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
The backfield timeshare between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman has been effective for one of the league's best offenses, but it's frustrating for fantasy purposes. Because the Atlanta Falcons utilize both running backs in the same capacity, it's hard to determine which runner will have the better game. However, Freeman has been the much more efficient and consistent running back this season. He ranks 9th in Rushing NEP per play but 4th in Rushing Success Rate among running backs with at least 15 carries (Coleman is 16th and 45th, respectively). Additionally, the Falcons play in the high-altitude in Denver this week, and Coleman's sickle cell trait may render him limited or inactive, leaving Freeman as the workhorse in a high-powered offense. Although it's a tough matchup, the Broncos are far more susceptible to the run than the pass.
Odell Beckham Jr, WR, New York Giants
Odell Beckham was drafted as a top-three pick in the majority of fantasy drafts this offseason but ranks as just the 28th-best wide receiver in PPR leagues so far. He has certainly been a disappointment, but that's soon to change. This week, the New York Giants play the Green Bay Packers -- a team getting eviscerated via the pass in the absence of Sam Shields. Stefon Diggs stung the Packers for 9 receptions, 180 yards, and a touchdown in Week 2 before Marvin Jones bested him with a 205-yard, 2-touchdown performance the following week. Shields is expected to miss this game. Giddy up.
Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
Last week, we discussed Eric Decker as a positive regression candidate -- then he missed a game and has no timetable to return. This thrusts Brandon Marshall into the spotlight. He is 29th in Reception NEP but 62nd in Reception NEP per target -- due in large part to his 41.03% catch rate. Last week, Marshall caught just 4 of 12 targets but converted them into 89 yards and a touchdown in Richard Sherman's coverage. Despite the limitations of inaccurate quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marshall is going to produce -- especially if Decker misses extended time.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Graham's return from a torn patellar tendon has been remarkable, and it seems like he's back to being an every-week starter at a position that lacks much consistency. Among tight ends with 10 or more targets, Graham ranks third in Reception NEP per target. He's the sixth-best tight end in PPR leagues despite seeing just five targets over the first two weeks combined. In addition, Russell Wilson is throwing more than he has in previous seasons and has shown a great connection with his tight end.