Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 8
The sneaky little secret about fantasy football is that deciphering usage is actually more important than evaluating talent.
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) November 1, 2016
Snap counts and efficiency metrics can often tell us more about a player's fantasy football prospects than a box score or game film.
Digging deeper into touchdown rates and historical data can help us find outliers from a statistical standpoint. This is what we'll take a look at in this week's edition of Regression Candidates.
Negative Regression Candidates
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor -- currently the eighth-highest scoring quarterback -- has contributed a large chunk of his fantasy production on the ground. He has rushed for 98 more yards than any other quarterback in the league and is second in rushing touchdowns at the position with 3. Taylor has rushed for a touchdown in consecutive games -- boosting his rank from the middle of the pack into the top 10 -- but when he doesn't rush for a touchdown, his performances have been middling. He's 16th in Total Net Expected Points (NEP) but just 21st in Passing NEP.
Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks' offense is in shambles. Russell Wilson has battled through multiple injuries all season but has failed to throw for a touchdown since Week 4. Christine Michael has scored 50% of Seattle's offensive touchdowns this season, which is the highest percentage of any player in the NFL -- but he still is just the 15th-best running back in points-per-reception (PPR) leagues. Scoring at a rate this prolific isn't sustainable, and to make matters worse, he was in on the lowest percentage of snaps this season (53%) last week as C.J. Prosise played a bigger role. The Seahawks face a series of challenging opposing run defenses in the coming weeks.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray has been an incredible fantasy asset for owners this season, but it may be time to consider selling high. Although he's the second-best running back in PPR leagues, he's just 15th in Rushing NEP per play and Rushing Success Rate. Additionally, Murray was banged up in Thursday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, leading to an increased role (16 carries) for rookie Derrick Henry. Workload can be an indicator of future injury, and Murray has handled the most touches at the running back position this season.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Listing T.Y. Hilton as a negative regression candidate coincides entirely with Donte Moncrief's successful return to the field last week. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Hilton has averaged 12.97 PPR points with Moncrief in the lineup versus 23.18 PPR points with Moncrief sidelined. Despite last week's one-catch clunker, Hilton still ranks seventh among wide receivers in points this season, but it's fair to assume that this rank will decline.
Jesse James, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jesse James is tied for second among tight ends in touchdowns this season. He has seen just 31 targets in 2016, which ranks 4th on his team and 24th among tight ends in the NFL. Pittsburgh has been the most pass-heavy team inside the 10-yard line this season, which is where a touchdown-dependent option derives his value from, but while James has been close to a full-time player, he hasn't run routes on a high percentage of those snaps. Clouding the picture is the possible return of Ladarius Green in the near future.
Positive Regression Candidates
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton is currently just the 16th-best quarterback in fantasy this season, due to missing one game with a concussion and facing some negative touchdown regression off last year's touchdown rate. Newton was stuffed on the goal line on two different drives last week that resulted in Jonathan Stewart touchdowns, but those two scores would be the difference between where Newton currently ranks and the fifth-best quarterback by points per game. He recently said that he won't stop running because of his concussion issues and that it remains his edge on the field. Sunday's game was the second time this season that he was held without a passing score, but that is unlikely to happen again this week against the Los Angeles Rams.
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
As mentioned above, Henry received an opportunity to showcase his talent in a nationally televised game last week when DeMarco Murray briefly departed due to a toe injury. While he lags behind Murray in Rushing NEP per play, Henry ranks 6th out of 68 running backs with 30 or more carries this season in Rushing Success Rate (ahead of Murray at 15th), highlighting the ability to gain yardage consistently. He remains one of the highest upside bench stashes in fantasy football, but he could also begin to see more volume if the Tennessee Titans seek to keep Murray fresh.
Tyrell Williams, WR, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have been tasked with withstanding multiple injuries all over the field, which is how Tyrell Williams was inserted into the rotation at wide receiver to begin with. Of the 56 wideouts in the NFL who have seen 40 targets or more, Williams ranks 7th in Reception NEP per target and 14th in Total NEP -- but just 29th in PPR scoring at the position -- after he predictably flopped against the Denver Broncos' elite defense in two of his last three games. He's also the only receiver in the league in the top 10 in percentage of receptions for 20-plus yards (31.3%) and in percentage of targets in the red zone (19.3%). Williams could begin to see an even bigger increase in targets if the injury to Travis Benjamin is at all serious, and their schedule over the rest of the season is extremely appealing.
Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons
Rookie tight ends are hardly ever useful fantasy contributors, but Austin Hooper could be a rare exception both this week and moving forward. For some reason, Julio Jones has not seen a red zone target since Week 3, while Jacob Tamme has 11 red zone targets on the season. Tamme will miss this week's game with an injury, inserting the promising rookie into the starting lineup against a weak Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.