Picture these two scenarios, and think about which player you would rather have on your fantasy team:
1. A receiver catches a 15-yard pass on 3rd & 20 that moves the ball from his own 10-yard line to his own 25, bringing up a 4th down punt.
2. A receiver catches a 15 yard pass on 3rd & 10, moving the ball from his opponent’s 17-yard line to their 2, setting up 1st & goal.
While both receptions carry equal weight in fantasy, I’m sure you’d rather have the wide receiver from scenario number two on your team. Many players will put up similar statistics in a sample size as small as five weeks. Distinguishing which of these players will be fantasy assets going forward is key. This is where net expected points (NEP) comes in handy.
NEP weighs each play based on how it contributes to its team's scoring. In scenario 1, the receiver’s team did not have much likelihood to score both before and after his reception. But in scenario 2, since the receiver’s team went from a likely field goal before his catch to a likely touchdown after, the receiver would get credited for a significant amount of positive NEP.
NEP is a good predictor of fantasy numbers because it shows who is most effective at putting his team (and therefore, himself) in the greatest position to score. Do keep in mind that passing and receiving NEP will be higher than rushing NEP, because passing plays tend to be longer.
Every week, I'll be analyzing a few players who are doing well in this metric (NEP Studs), and a few who are doing poorly (NEP Duds). Without further ado...
Denarius Moore, 0.96 Rec NEP/Target (Ranks 7th of 79 Qualifying WRs)
Through five games, Moore is on pace for 64 receptions, 1014 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Emerging as Terelle Pryor’s clear go-to receiver, Moore is also on pace for over 100 targets. Andrew Renschen already told you why Pryor is a legit passer, so its about time for his primary receiving option to start getting some serious fantasy consideration.
Raider quarterbacks have a 113.7 rating when throwing to Moore, which is one of the highest in the league. While Moore is near the top of the league in yards per route run and owns a hefty 15.9 yards per reception average, there are signs he’s turning into a complete receiver. Only five of his 34 targets have come more than 20 yards downfield, and 2 of his 3 touchdowns have come from 5 yards or less. In addition, he’s raised his catch rate to 59 percent, up from his career average of 44 percent.
Moore is currently 18th amongst all wide receivers in fantasy points. While his double-digit touchdown pace may not be sustainable, a top-25 finish certainly isn’t out of the question. I’d be comfortable with Moore as an every-week WR3 with upside.
Knowshon Moreno, 0.23 NEP/Rush (Ranks 1st of 50 Qualifying RBs)
Peyton Manning certainly gets an assist here, but no running back has been more effective at increasing his team’s scoring potential than Moreno. With defenses having to zero in on Peyton and his quartet of talented receivers, Moreno is on pace for over 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns. While the 13-touchdown pace may look unsustainable at first glance, consider that Peyton is throwing the 7th-lowest percentage of deep passes of all quarterbacks. This means less long touchdowns for the receivers and more chances for Moreno in scoring position.
Moreno hasn’t been a one-trick pony, either: he’s also on pace for 40 receptions for 400 yards. Because of his pass-blocking pedigree, he’s still the Broncos’ preferred third-down back.
While there were initial concerns about Denver’s backfield being a full-blown committee, Moreno has clearly established himself as the lead back. He’s getting twice as many snaps and touches as Ronnie Hillman, who has been relegated to change of pace duty. The Broncos showed they still don’t fully trust Montee Ball, who played only 6 of 81 snaps in the Broncos first close game of the season.
We have Moreno projected to score the 13th-most fantasy points of all running backs for the rest of the season. Trust him as a high-end RB2 with RB1 upside in any given week because of the high-powered Broncos offense.
Mike Wallace, 0.45 Rec NEP/Target (Ranks 66th of 79 Qualifying WRs)
Check out Ryan Tannehill’s quarterback rating when throwing to his top-three wide recievers this year:
|Tannehill's QB Rating|
If Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland knew how ineffective Wallace would be, he would have probably paid him even more money. That was a joke, but there's nothing funny about Wallace's sub par 2013. Don’t let last week’s 105-yard performance fool you - Wallace caught less than half of his targets in that game and generally hasn’t played well. He’s on pace for fewer than 900 receiving yards and he has reached the end zone only once in five games. Did I mention he leads the league in drops with six?
Wallace’s struggles haven’t been due to lack of targets: he’s averaging a team-leading 8.8 per game. He just hasn’t been able to do much with the targets and has been most effective as a decoy, opening up the field for Hartline, Gibson, and tight end Charles Clay.
What’s very concerning is that Wallace is averaging a career-low 12.8 yards-per-reception. Wallace has never been about volume, having only one season of more than 70 receptions. Where Wallace makes his money for us fantasy footballers is with his 16.8 career yards per reception and the fact that he came into the season averaging a touchdown every other game.
It hasn’t all been Wallace’s fault, as only three of Tannehill’s 10 deep throws towards Wallace have been catchable. This could improve as the season progresses.
The problem is that there are too many things working against Wallace. Drops, lack of chemistry with Tannehill, and game-planning constitute the multitude of factors that could possibly hinder Wallace in a given game. While his amount of targets are promising for the longer term, right now I’d view him as a boom-or-bust WR3 rather than someone I’d feel comfortable inserting into my lineup every week.
Tavon Austin, 0.34 Rec NEP/Target (Ranks 75 of 79 Qualifying WRs)
Austin is only managing 31.2 receiving yards per game. A few weeks back I mentioned how all Rams receivers were weak fantasy plays because they are cannibalizing each other’s value. I did think Austin was worth the longest look, but so far he has not been a sight for sore eyes.
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has tried all sorts of schemes to get Austin in space so he can break a big play, yet it hasn’t happened. Austin averages a paltry 6.8 yards per reception and 2.5 yards per rush. Despite all his play-making ability, he has forced only two missed tackles on his 44 touches (not counting special teams).
Austin possesses 4.34 40-yard-dash speed, which is quick enough to outrun nearly everyone in the NFL. The problem is, he hasn’t gotten the chance. Only one of his 40 targets have been on the deep ball. One.
Making matters worse, rather than remedying the problem by simply sending Austin deep more, Schottenheimer has instead sent him to the sideline. Austin had by far his lowest snap count of the season in Week 5, seeing only 23 of the Rams 73 snaps. He’s being started in 21.2 percent of ESPN leagues, but until he starts making plays, that number should be more like zero percent.
Note: Min. 25 rushes or min. 20 targets to qualify.