Fantasy Football Week 7: Position-by-Position Breakdown
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on Bleacher Report by numberFire Content Editor and Writer Zach Warren. It is being republished here with both Bleacher Report's and the author's permission. Because denying anybody the stats magic is a crying shame.
Fantasy football's hard to predict. Partial insanity like we saw in Week 6 makes it tougher. A few funny things happened on our way to the forum (err, Thursday night venue Candlestick Park):
- The top five fantasy running backs, in order according to a standard ESPN league: Shonn Greene, Ray Rice, Ahmad Bradshaw, Felix Jones, and C.J. Spiller.
- Only three players rushed for over 100 yards. One was a quarterback.
- Only five players had over seven catches. In Week 5, there were 12.
- Four tight ends made it to double-digit fantasy points. One was the Packers' No. 2 TE.
Needless to say, it got a bit crazy. You might almost say it was impossible to predict. And that's where we come in.
This week, I'm here to bring you the top 10 players at each skill position. The fantasy points given here are based on Math!, so don't argue with me, argue with the numbers. And those fantasy points are based off of a standard ESPN league scoring system. If you want to see the full rankings (including defenses and kickers) and individual stat projections, head over to our projections page. But if you want the breakdown, read on.
The Top: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
numberFire has been putting together these projections for a good two-and-a-half seasons now. We've seen the rise of Cam Newton, the ridiculousness of last year's quarterbacks, and even way back yonder when Chris Johnson wasn't a punch line.
Never have the projections spit out a number as high as RGIII's projected 26.94 FP this week.
It comes down to two main numbers for Griffin: Turnovers and rushing touchdowns. His projected 0.60 INTs are the least of any quarterback, which falls right in line with his league-leading two INTs on the year. His 1.00 projected rushing TDs, meanwhile, is more than any single running back is projected to have this week, even more than (spoiler alert!) Maurice Jones-Drew's 0.96.
The Surprise: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Not expecting to see Big Ben up among the top three? I'm not quite sure why. Roethlisberger is tied with Griffin with only two interceptions on the year and ranks in the top 10 with 10 TDs thrown. And considering the Steelers' tendency to throw the ball, that number could shoot higher: The Steelers have thrown the ball on 61 percent of their offensive plays, and they threw on 65 percent of their plays in Week 6.
The matchup this week makes him an even better option. The Bengals are the 26th most-efficient defense this season according to our opponent-adjusted rankings system. That's in the bottom 10 for those who don't want to count backwards.
The Lead Weight: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Of the quarterbacks started in at least half of ESPN fantasy leagues last week, only one non-bye QB finds himself out of numberFire's top 10. In fact, you won't find him until all the way down at No. 17. And if you didn't skip over the bold text, you know where I'm going.
Chicago's stellar Week 5 performance against the Jaguars, coupled with the Texans' Alamo-inspired surrender on Monday night against Green Bay, has vaulted the Bears to the No. 1 spot on numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive rankings.
Matthew Stafford has only gained 15.79 Net Expected Points (explanation of NEP here) for the Lions so far this season over the average NFL player, a contribution that ranks 19th among all NFL QBs entering Week 7. That number could very well go down; the Bears have held each of their last three QBs faced to a negative NEP mark on the game.
The Top: Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Hope you don't forget about him after the bye week, because Jones-Drew has both the running ability and the advantageous matchup to dominate the charts this week.
Jones-Drew's last two matchups went worse than expected; he only put up seven FP against the Bengals in Week 4 and five FP against the Bears in Week 5. However, in those games, the Jaguars were throwing early and often. Jones-Drew only had 13 and 12 carries in those games, respectively.
This week against the Raiders, though, the Jaguars are more likely to keep the game close. And that spells good tidings for the Hyphenated Wonder; numberFire projects him with 18.90 rushing attempts, second-most in the NFL.
The Surprise: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
I want to know: How many people laughed when they saw Chris Johnson at No. 8 this week I suppose I'll know from any comments calling this article a joke (and please, I encourage the comments).
But the math doesn't lie. The Steelers were the least efficient defense the Titans have faced this season. The Bills are worse. Johnson has a chance to duplicate his Week 6 success (sixth-most rushing yards in the NFL) against numberFire's next-to-last opponent adjusted defense.
Buffalo has given up five double-digit FP games to opposing running backs this season, including two in the same game to New England. Peyton Hills (who had eight) and William Powell (who had seven) are the only lead backs to miss the 10 FP plateau.
The Lead Weight: Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
He's still start-worthy as numberFire's No. 19 RB this week; he just isn't "Carry the (fantasy) team on my back" worthy.
The Seattle Seahawks have absolutely shut down opposing backs so far this year. Their 70.0 rushing yards per game allowed is second in the NFL behind the Bears, and their opposing 3.3 yards per carry is second behind the Dolphins.
San Francisco, meanwhile, has not seen a defense of Seattle's caliber. In its six games, the highest opponent-adjusted defensive ranking it has have faced was the No. 11 Packers. The Seahawks are at No. 7.
The Top: Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Nobody likes to root for injuries; it's against everything good and holy that being a sports fan in a place other than Philadelphia is supposed to be about. (Sidenote: Save me your whining, Eagles fans. Seven-year-old me wore an Aikman jersey into Veteran's Stadium once. I'm as surprised I'm still alive as you are.)
However, if there's a positive to take from an injury, it's that Hakeem Nicks' lingering troubles have sent Victor Cruz's status through the roof.
It's not the yards after the catch and the touchdowns for Cruz; those are highly variable from game to game. It's that he's getting absolutely everything thrown his way. Cruz has been in the top 10 in NFL receiving targets in four of the six weeks so far this season. He hasn't had less than eight balls thrown his way yet. Even though the Redskins have the NFL's No. 12 opponent-adjusted defense, which could limit big plays, those targets won't stop any time soon.
The Surprise: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
So far this season, the Packers have played musical cheeseheads with their receiving corps: You never exactly know who's going to get the most targets in a particular game. At the very least, Jennings, Jones, Finley and Nelson have each had the honor at least once this year.
Why so high on Nelson, then? Because out of the pack, he has finally distinguished himself as Rodgers' go-to-guy once again. He has now led the Packers in targets (12 both times) in two of the past three weeks. And in that other game, against the Colts, he finished second. His 48 total targets on the year represent 21.2 percent of Rodgers throws; no other Packer is above 18 percent.
The Lead Weight: The Entire Jets Receiving Corps
See a breakout game in the cards against a Patriots defense that has allowed at least 20 points in five straight games? Tebow over that crystal ball a little bit longer, my friend, because not a single Jets receiver is fantasy-start worthy this week.
Stephen Hill is the top Jets receiver on our projections; he sits at No. 34. Jeremy Kerley is next; he sits at No. 38. Chaz Schilens could barely be bothered to make the top 70. None of those guys are expected to have over three receptions (Hill's catches projection is exactly 3.00), and none of the projections have a single Jets receiver over 50 yards.
Considering Sanchez's "breakout" strategy of handing the ball off on 70 percent of plays last week, leaving the Jets players alone seems to be a good way to go.
The Top: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
The Venn Diagram of sports fans and cooking fans has a very small sliver in the middle. So for those of you in the sports fan circle and not in the cooking fan circle, here's my favorite recipe. It's called "Top Tight End Stew."
First, you take an outrageously athletic tight end. There aren't that many available, so look closely.
Next, you add in a quarterback with the most passing attempts per game in the NFL.
Then, you make sure that tight end is receiving a high number of targets. Nothing less than 18 percent of his QB's throws will do.
Finally, you mix that all up, preferably in a warm-weather climate against a team with the 22nd-ranked time of possession in the NFL.
And there you have it: Top tight end stew. Don't worry, it even stays good for Denver and Philadelphia the next two weeks..assuming Jimmy Graham's ankle isn't as bad as some people fear.
The Surprise: Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
Pierre Garcon has 12 targets from Robert Griffin III this season. Josh Morgan has 20. Santana Moss has 23. Aldrick Robinson has 25. And none of them are in the Washington team lead.
Fred Davis has emerged as the go-to receiver for RGIII, having 30 passes thrown his way so far this season. Those 30 targets represent 18 percent of all of Griffin's throws, equal to what the top tight ends in the league have (including the aforementioned Graham). Davis has not had those looks converted into touchdowns, but he has into yards: His 312 receiving yards is 40 percent more than any other player on his team.
Remember from the first slide how I said that RGIII has the highest projected game since the start of the 2010 season? Now, who is going to benefit most from Griffin throwing the ball? It has to be Davis. The Redskins receiving corps has more turnover than Capitol Hill, but Davis has been a constant so far this season.
The Lead Weight: Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
I still think he's a viable player to have on your fantasy team, let me get that out of the way first. I'm not jumping headfirst over the side of the ship. I'm just resting below deck for a while and letting other people steer.
And if you're going to continue steering, you should probably consider that the waters of Houston Texans Bay are some of the most difficult to navigate. Aaron Rodgers managed last week, but his starting tight end was collateral damage: Jermichael Finley finished with two catches for 12 yards on the day.
I don't see Pitta's day being much different than Finley's Monday night. Pitta has gotten 11 targets in the past three weeks combined, and he has not seen 20 percent of Flacco's throws come his way in a single game since Week 2.