Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 7
Week 7 had some really interesting performances from a fantasy perspective.
However, some players have situations that are slightly harder to predict. These scenarios are what we explore in this week's edition of Regression Candidates.
Negative Regression Candidates
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Blake Bortles was destined for touchdown regression coming this season, but not many expected his play to fall off a cliff. On the real football field, Bortles has looked far from competent, but he's actually the 17th-best quarterback in fantasy points per game, making him a viable starter in two-quarterback leagues. Unfortunately, he leads just five quarterbacks in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, his Success Rate is well below 50%, and he's 26th at the position in Passing NEP. In addition, the Jacksonville Jaguars face the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, and Houston Texans in consecutive weeks later this season -- three incredibly tough pass defenses.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos
C.J. Anderson looked good on national television on Monday night, slightly outproducing teammate Devontae Booker in a decisive Denver Broncos' victory. It was the first time Anderson rushed for over 100 yards all season, but he did it while being out-snapped and out-touched by Booker (also for the first time all season). Anderson's playing time is trending in the wrong direction, and from an efficiency standpoint, Booker has been far more effective this year. Booker's Rushing NEP per play and Success Rate stand at 0.036 and 47.06%, respectively -- both of which are above average -- while Anderson's are just -0.027 and 39.09%, both below average.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Brandon LaFell has scored four touchdowns in his last three games, and seems to be gaining Andy Dalton's trust. He's the 30th-best wide receiver in points per game in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues, and his efficiency metrics are good. However, the problem with LaFell is that he hasn't been a usable fantasy asset when he isn't scoring touchdowns, and red zone maven Tyler Eifert is finally set to take on a larger role this week. LaFell may be nothing more than a matchup play going forward.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Kyle Rudolph has enjoyed a revival this season. Sam Bradford's safety blanket has scored the sixth-most points per game among tight ends and ranks fourth in Reception NEP among tight ends, but he has seen the third-most targets at the position in the league. He hasn't been particularly efficient with those targets, ranking just 14th in Reception NEP per target and 20th in Success Rate. If Stefon Diggs gets healthier moving forward, Rudolph could see a reduction in volume.
Positive Regression Candidates
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
Sitting in 10th in quarterback scoring per game is Andy Dalton, who ranks 7th in both Passing NEP and Passing Success Rate. Dalton would have had an even bigger day if Jeremy Hill didn't tear through the Cleveland Browns swiss-cheese run defense. Despite the top-10 ranking for Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals are 29th in the NFL in red zone scoring, which could see a substantial increase as Tyler Eifert's snap count rises.
Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins
Matt Jones' extended fumble struggles led Washington to turn away from him in Sunday's game, but the primary beneficiary wasn't Rob Kelley -- it was Chris Thompson. Thompson has always been a talented receiving back -- ranking 10th in Reception NEP among running backs with at least 10 carries -- but he has actually been running very well this season, ranking 6th in Rushing NEP per play and 11th in Rushing Success Rate among running backs with at least 20 carries. It's important to note that his efficiency is partially born from facing soft defensive fronts on passing downs, so his Success Rate will probably decline with additional volume, but an increase in volume is always notable from a fantasy perspective.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
There has been a lot of virtual ink spilled over Todd Gurley's early-season inefficiency. Playing in a bad offense behind a putrid offensive line, it made sense that Gurley would struggle -- and he has. Last season, when he was among the best running backs in fantasy, he had a low Rushing Success Rate and relied on breaking big plays in order to generate fantasy points. This year, his longest run has gone for just 16 yards. The reason he's listed as a positive regression candidate is simple -- Gurley is 7th in the NFL in red zone carries with 21, and he has 7 carries in goal-to-go situations inside the 5 yard line, tying him for 4th. Despite the red zone volume, Gurley is just 13th in red zone rushing touchdowns. He's actually tallied at least 13 PPR points in each of the last three games, even with a low touchdown total.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
DeAndre Hopkins' struggles have less to do with his on-field play and more to do with the circumstances surrounding him. After emerging as a top-10 receiver last season, the Houston Texans drafted speedster Will Fuller and signed Brock Osweiler to throw them footballs. Well, Osweiler has been terrible, and Fuller has been seeing a significant chunk of targets. But Hopkins has seen his target share rise since Fuller's injury a couple weeks ago, and the Texans' upcoming schedule is much more favorable than the opponents he has seen to date this season.
Charles Clay, TE, Buffalo Bills
At this point in his career, we know what Charles Clay is and isn't capable of doing. He'll likely never be a week-winner at the tight end position, where he currently ranks 30th in points per game, but the stars are aligning for him to see some positive regression. Offensively, the Buffalo Bills have been decimated by injury -- losing Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, and most recently, LeSean McCoy and Marquise Goodwin. This leaves Clay and Justin Hunter as the two primary targets in the passing offense. Clay has yet to score this season despite seeing 36 targets, so he probably has some positive touchdown headed his way and now he should see even more volume.