It's fantasy football playoff time, which means the decisions you make are even more crucial. With that in mind, I am going to discuss some players this week whose perception or name value might not match their true value. Don't be scared to give the under-performing players on your make-believe squad the Stevan Ridley treatment and bench them if need be. After all, if you are going to treat people like Bill Belichick in any way, shape, or form, it's probably best you do it in fantasy land, and not in the real world.
Note before you get started: For a description of Net Expected Points (NEP), check out our glossary.
Michael Floyd (0.91 Reception NEP/Target, Ranked T-7th of 75 Qualifying Wide Receivers)
Michael Floyd is quietly a top-20 fantasy wide receiver this season, and his NEP metrics show he has been even more effective than that. Many still view Floyd as a WR3, but I view him as a solid WR2, and there's solid reason as to why.
Throughout the first half of the season, the Cardinals struggled in pass protection, giving quarterback Carson Palmer no time to hit Floyd down the field. During the bye week, head coach Bruce Arians shifted from a lot of three wide receiver personnel to more two tight end personnel. This has helped mask the protection issues and has given Palmer more time to get the ball deep to Floyd.
Before the bye, Floyd only averaged 12.7 yards per reception on 35 catches. After the bye, that number has jumped to 21.3 on 20 catches. At 6'3", 200 pounds, Floyd is very difficult to defend down the field. He can use his size in one-on-one matchups, which he inevitably gets because he lines up across from All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. Floyd's Average Depth of Target (aDOT, courtesy of Pro Football Focus) is a robust 15.6, which is one of the highest in the NFL.
Our algorithms have Floyd ranked as the 31st wide receiver for the rest of the season, primarily because of what look like some tough matchups with Tennessee's number-one defense against fantasy wide receivers, and then the daunting Seattle defense.
However, the Titans have faced a very soft wide receiver schedule (Jaguars, Rams, Raiders, Jets, 49ers) this season, and their cornerbacks, despite having a lot of success, are both well under six feet and 200 pounds. They are no match for Floyd's size. In Seattle, I expect Floyd to draw plenty of targets because Fitzgerald should spend most of his time in shutdown corner Richard Sherman's coverage. Floyd's volume in that game should be able to compensate for the difficult matchup.
Jordy Nelson (0.91 Reception NEP/Target, Ranked T-7th of 75 Qualifying Wide Receivers)
Jordy Nelson is one of the best and most versatile receivers in he NFL, with the ability to play both in the slot and outside. On the season, he has been extremely effective, but the loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers has affected him adversely. Take a look at how Green Bay's passing game has deteriorated since Rodgers went down in Week 9:
Remember, these are cumulative, so a 10 spot drop in five weeks is huge. The Packers have lost 15.92 points off their Passing NEP total since Week 9. Extrapolated over a full season, their Passing NEP would be -38.21, which would rank 28th in the NFL.
Even worse for Nelson is that the Packers current starter, Matt Flynn, has been even worse than previous fill-in, Scott Tolzein. And neither has come close to Rodgers' production:
|Passing NEP/Play||Success Rate|
The Success Rates are particularly telling, as Flynn is losing points for his team on an astounding 61.5 percent of his throws. It's simply hard to sustain any kind of offense when your quarterback has been that ineffective.
In the last five weeks, Nelson has averaged 4.8 receptions for 62.4 yards and zero touchdowns per game. In eight full games with Rodgers, those averages were 4.8 receptions for 81.1 yards and 0.88 touchdowns per game. The Packers' passing limitations of late are forcing Nelson to do most of his work in the short and intermediate game, and has also severely affected his touchdown-scoring potential. In weeks 1-8, Nelson's aDOT was 13.2. Since then, it is 8.6
Nelson is still a very talented wide receiver, but until Rodgers comes back, Nelson drops from a WR1 to a WR3.
Pierre Garcon (0.59 Reception NEP/Target, Ranked 54th of 75 Qualifying Wide Receivers)
The common perception is that the talented Pierre Garcon is one of the safest fantasy wide receiver plays around. After all, he had drawn double-digit targets in all but two games. In PPR, he is indeed a great weekly play; he will get his catches.
But the same circumstances that make Garcon a great PPR play make him more of a WR3 in standard leagues, a la Kendall Wright. He is more likely than not to put up underwhelming yardage numbers and does not have as much upside as you might think.
You see, Garcon racks up the targets and and catches because the Redskins are feeding him high percentage passes near the line of scrimmage. These passes might be a little too high percentage for our fantasy tastes. Of all wideouts with 100 or more targets, Garcon is the only one to have an aDOT below 10.0 - his sits at 9.5.
The consistency of Garcon's usage in terms of targets and receptions is being mistaken for safety in standard fantasy. His most likely outcome is being mistaken as his floor.
Garcon has been incredibly consistent...at putting up underwhelming receiving yardage numbers. He has three 100-yard receiving games, which is not spectacular, but decent. However, in his other nine games, his yardage totals have fallen between 46-73. You are getting 75 percent odds that he puts up only 4-7 fantasy points from yardage every game.
This wouldn't be the end of the world if Garcon was able to supplement it with touchdowns. However, he has only seven scores in 22 games with the Redskins. At this point, we have to accept that he will not rack up touchdowns like most heavily-targeted number-one receivers do. He also is not likely to catch a deep bomb for a score; Robert Griffin III has only connected with him on two out of 15 deep attempts. Lately, the Redskins' main deep threat has been Aldrick Robinson.
The Redskins' offense is quickly devolving into a huge mess. Because their receiving corps struggle to win one-on-one matchups, defenses can focus all of their coverage on Garcon. His low average depth of target tells us that, on his deeper routes, he is simply not getting targeted because he has not been able to free himself from all the coverage. This likely explains why the coaching staff has attempted to mitigate this problem by getting the ball into Garcon's hands with high-percentage passes. But this nickel-and-dime approach is not optimal for standard fantasy production.
The last two weeks were especially rough - Garcon's average depth of target has sunken to 4.7. Essentially, over the past two weeks, you would have been relying on him to take a screen pass to the house to put up a decent standard fantasy outing.
I think this information is really important when analyzing Garcon for daily fantasy or for your fantasy playoffs. If you get a full point per reception, he is a fine play. If you play 0.5 PPR, he probably won't lose you a week, but likely will not win you one either. Most daily fantasy games are 0.5 PPR, and I strongly believe Garcon is overpriced. Finally, if you play standard, remember that there is a 75 percent chance he only nets you somewhere between 4-7 points. Use him accordingly.
Lamar Miller (-0.12 Rushing NEP, Ranked 49th of 58 Qualifying Running Backs)
Coming off a 22-carry game and with Daniel Thomas out of the picture, is Lamar Miller finally a viable weekly running back play?
I wouldn't get overly excited about him. Despite the perception that he should have been given a full workload at the expense of Thomas all along, Thomas actually ranks 20th in NEP/Rush, a full 29 spots higher than Miler. Perhaps the Dolphins coaching staff knew what they were doing all along.
With younger backs who have less established track records and questionable usage, it's always good to try to glean potentially useful information that may provide clues as to how the player will be used going forward. Something that recently struck me was head coach Joe Philbin's remarks following Miller's 22-carry, 72-yard effort against the Jets last week:
"The thing we're looking for with all our backs is the ability to break more tackles and have more explosive runs."
This seemed to be an indictment of Miller. Thomas breaks tackles at nearly double the rate Miller does - Thomas has 16 in 77 rushes while Miller has 16 in 136 rushes. If the coaching staff does not fully trust a player, you should not trust him either on your fantasy team come playoff time (See: Ridley, Stevan).
Breaking tackles will be especially important since Dolphins have a poor offensive line, especially after losing two starters to the well-publicized hazing fiasco.
Another reason that it's hard to trust Miller is the Dolphins lack of commitment to the run. Sure, they handed the ball to Miller over 20 times last week, but this was a game against the lowly Jets in which they controlled the ball and the game basically throughout.
In Miami's previous three games, they have given 11, 13, and 14 carries to running backs. This is an extremely low amount, especially considering none of those games were decided by more than four points. They also gave running backs nine carries in a three point loss to Baltimore and 13 carries in a four point win against the Falcons earlier in the year.
The Dolphins do not fully trust Miller, or their running game as a whole, and therefore you should not either. View him as a flex with big-play upside, but also a low floor.