Six Facts to Know Through Week 10
To me, this is the best part of the fantasy football season.
We've got a decent sample of how teams have performed, and can use our data to truly exploit owners who are getting by with players who were only relevant during the first few games of the season. Colin Kaepernick's fun and all, but if you're not changing your viewpoint on him as a fantasy asset, you're at a disadvantage. His receiver, Anquan Boldin, could be thrown in the same discussion.
An unchanging stance on players is a surefire way to get knocked out of the playoffs. Trust me.
As much as we'd love to have a massive sample in the NFL, the media beast is only 16 anxiety-filled games long. The "wait and see" approach doesn't really work when you're almost 60 percent into the season. You have to constantly see statistical change, making sure you're ahead of the curve.
That, in essence, is what this article delves into each week. It's not about just showing off our sweet data, saying, "Look at us! We have advanced NFL metrics!". It's to help you, the fantasy owner, discover things that may be unseen to the inexperienced fantasy owner.
There's no need to be stubborn. There's no reason to think your Week 1 picks matter in Week 11. Get over the ego aspect of the game, and realize - objectively - what's happening in the NFL from an analytical standpoint.
Alright, enough with the ranting - let's get at it.
Peyton Manning’s Passing Net Expected Points has risen by just 33.17 points since Week 6.
This may not mean a whole lot to you, so let's walk through it. Over Manning’s first five games, his Passing NEP was a ridiculous 121.51. In other words, he was adding approximately 24 points each week for the Broncos offense above expectation. At that pace, he would compile a 388.83 Passing NEP total, which is about 33 percent better than any quarterback season ever.
Regression was bound to happen, even though we, as football fans, didn’t want to believe it. Since then, he’s been adding only 8.29 points above expectation, one-third of his previous rate. For some perspective, that’s a little better than Matthew Stafford.
Manning’s still the most desirable fantasy quarterback to own, but don’t think or assume he’s that much better than Drew Brees at this point. He’s certainly slowed his pace thanks to some costly turnovers.
Andre Ellington has the third-best Success Rate among running backs.
When dealing with Net Expected Points data, we can dub a play as either a success or, conversely, a failure. Success Rate for running backs measures the percentage of runs that contributed positively towards a player’s NEP, and hence, these are plays that helped said player's team.
Andre Ellington, as if we needed more fuel for this Bruce Arians’ stubbornness-driven fire, ranks only behind Pierre Thomas, LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson in Success Rate. A solid 48.15% of his 54 rushes have been deemed successful.
Ellington also currently sits as the fourth-best rusher in terms of Rushing NEP. Much of this has to do with his lack of early-down role, perhaps seeing softer defenses, but it also screams at head Coach Bruce Arians: “Give Ellington a shot, you idiot!”
Fellow running back teammate and starter, Rashard Mendenhall, ranks fifth-to-last within the metric. I don't get it, either.
Miami has the fourth-highest pass-to-run ratio in the league.
The Dolphins’ adjusted pass efficiency ranks 13th in the league while their rushing sits at 23rd – it’s not as though this ratio simply reflects a forced game plan.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Miami has run the third-fewest plays in the league, only ahead of San Francisco and Minnesota. As a result, their total pass plays – 368 – sits as the 13th-most in the NFL. It’s not like Ryan Tannehill and company are going to be overly fantasy relevant because of volume. This is why ratios can be misleading.
I do think the takeaway here, however, is that the team isn't afraid to throw the ball with Tanny, making him a serviceable streaming option in fantasy, as he was last week. Sorry Lamar Miller owners.
Jacquizz Rodgers ranks seventh among running backs in targets.
I’ve never been much of a Jacquizz Rodgers guy, but if you haven’t taken notice of his action in the Falcons’ passing game, you may want to start. He has 38 receptions on the year on 45 targets, and 31 of those receptions have come since Week 4. The only running backs with more over this time period are Danny Woodhead (36) and Pierre Thomas (32).
Rodgers isn’t an effective runner, especially behind that offensive line, but should be at least considered in full-point PPR leagues.
Andre Johnson is averaging fewer targets per game with Case Keenum as starter.
Through Week 6, Andre Johnson totaled 65 targets (10.83 per game). Now, after Week 10 and three Case Keenum starts, Dre’s sitting with 96 targets, the fourth-most in the league. That’s a change of 31 targets, or 10.33 per game.
That’s right, Case Keenum isn’t targeting Andre Johnson any more than Matt Schaub was.
The difference is the quality of targets. Johnson’s getting more opportunity in the red zone, and is getting more downfield throws from the fearless quarterback. For proof, Andre Johnson had a 35.26 Reception NEP over his first six games (5.88 points added for his team through receptions per game). Johnson’s nearly doubled that total (68.14) in his last three games alone thanks to the kid in Houston.
Essentially, Johnson has been almost twice as efficient with each reception than he was with the pick-six king, Matt Schaub.
The Carolina Panthers have the second-best defense in the league.
It’s no secret (anymore, at least) that the Panthers can play defense. They completely shut down the 49ers last week, and now claim the second-best defensive unit in the league according to our metrics.
The Chiefs still hold the lead, but have actually seen their Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points score drop since Week 6. At that time, Kansas City had an Adj. DNEP total of -70.73. It now sits at -63.84. (Negative numbers are good for defenses, as they’re effectively “taking away” points from offenses.)
To put this another way, the Chiefs have played below or at expectation defensively since Week 6.
Carolina, on the other hand, has gone from a -18.71 score – fourth-best in the league – to one that is less than two points worse than the current Chiefs (-61.90). If the Panthers can stop the Pats in Week 11, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see them rise to the top defensive unit in the league.