Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 15
Sadly, we're nearing the end of our fantasy football season. We've had plenty of surprises and disappointments to this point, but we're here to help contextualize some performances for a select number of players.
In this season's final edition of Regression Candidates, we'll take a look at some players performing both above and below expectation.
Congratulations, and best of luck this week!
Negative Regression Candidates
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer has struggled down the stretch, but he had a great game last week against the poor New Orleans Saints' pass defense. This week, Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals face a Seattle Seahawks defense that allows the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. In what has been a shaky season, Palmer is a player to avoid in fantasy championships due to the brutal matchup.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
Dion Lewis came out of nowhere last week to lead the New England Patriots in rushing for the first time since the 2015 season, but there’s reason to believe that his heavy usage was gameplan related. The Denver Broncos have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, and the Pats looked to avoid longer-yardage and lower-percentage conversions on second and third downs by using the quicker, more elusive Lewis in favor of LeGarrette Blount. Lewis still wasn’t utilized much in the passing game (three targets), ceding snaps to James White, and was significantly out-carried in the second half of the game by LeGarrette Blount as the Pats were trying to milk the clock and ice the game. This week against the New York Jets is not likely to be a close game, and therefore should mirror the distribution of opportunities that we saw in the second half of the Denver game. It was encouraging to see that Lewis is completely healthy, but he will most likely be a bigger real-life contributor to the Patriots’ offense than to your fantasy team this week.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Tyreek Hill is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL and has the speed to impact a game on just a handful of touches every week. Having said that, it’s unfair to expect him to score a touchdown every single week on such an unstable market share of touches on his own team. Last week, Hill took a handoff 68 yards to the house, and he didn’t receive another touch for the rest of the game. Curious coaching aside -- Hill has just eight touches over the last two games (since Jeremy Maclin's return). This week, the Kansas City Chiefs face the stingy Broncos' defense that suppresses opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers, making Hill a player to fade.
Hunter Henry, TE, San Diego Chargers
Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates are cannibalizing each other's relevance, and using either one at this point is hoping for the other to not score. Fortunately for Henry, he has a 46.15% red zone target market share the past five games, but -- because of Gates -- he hasn't had more than five total targets in any of those. Despite the heavy dose of red zone targets, he has still been scoring far more than expected. Working in his favor this week, though, is a matchup against the winless Cleveland Browns.
Positive Regression Candidates
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston was a colossal disappointment for fantasy owners who deployed him in Week 14 against the Saints, but fortunately, he has another opportunity to please those people this week in New Orleans. Doug Martin has been ineffective since returning from his injury, the Saints are improving against the run, and the Bucs are underdogs in the Superdome. Winston will likely drop back to pass more than 26 times (a season-low in Week 14 against New Orleans), and he will likely throw for at least one touchdown this time around.
Rob Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins
Rob Kelley was smothered in Monday night's loss to the Carolina Panthers -- rushing for eight yards on nine carries and punching in a short touchdown -- but his usage was encouraging. He split snaps with Chris Thompson (as usual), but Kelley was involved in the pass game for the first time all season. After catching just six passes over the entire season, Kelley was targeted four times on Monday, catching all of them for 47 yards. This involvement was likely game-flow related, but seeing Kelley check off another box was great. Fat Rob now gets to face a Chicago Bears defense that was just destroyed by Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Julian Edelman's snap count has decreased in three consecutive games, and it dipped under 60% in Sunday's win over the Broncos. Somehow, he leads the NFL in targets over the same three-week timespan. Basically, if he's on the field, he's getting the ball, and this week he gets a Jets defense that's more vulnerable to the pass than the run. Although Malcolm Mitchell has established himself as a red zone weapon and is second in the NFL in red zone market share over the past three weeks, Edelman still gets targets in this area of the field. The Jets can be exploited, and look for Edelman to be heavily involved this weekend.
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans has been one of the best receivers in football this season, but he's been largely invisible during the fantasy playoffs up to this point. His owners most likely salivated over his playoff schedule for most of the season, only to see him produce his lowest point total of the season in a soft matchup against the beatable Saints secondary two weeks ago. While his results have been disappointing, not much has changed from his early season dominance. As Jim Sannes notes, over the past five games, Evans has 28.57% of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' red zone targets. This is actually a slight increase from his season-long mark of 26.67% in that department. Additionally, even though Evans hasn't exceeded eight targets in any of the past three games, he does still have a 24.72% target market share. Evans gets the Saints again this week -- this time on the fast track of the Superdome.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Greg Olsen has been up and down since Carolina's Week 7 bye, but he has re-established himself as a solid floor play in the offense over the last two weeks. Ted Ginn Jr. is a thing again, but his return to relevance has pushed Kelvin Benjamin off the face of the earth. Olsen hasn't scored since Week 9, but he does have 16 targets over the past two weeks and 85 yards in both of those games. The Atlanta Falcons struggle to contain tight ends, and they will have their hands full trying to stop Olsen this week.