Six Facts to Know Through Week 14
The situation in Washington is a mess. And no, that statement has nothing to do with politics.
Today, the Washington Redskins announced that they’d be shutting down franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season. In his place comes Kirk Cousins, a second-year passer with an opportunity to make a case to be a starting quarterback in the league.
Conveniently, Cousins enters the picture as the Redskins face the Falcons this week, the worst defense in the entire league according to our metrics. Fantasy footballers be ready: Cousins will surely be a sneaky play this week.
Was it a good move? I see both sides, but from an organizational perspective, I understand the reason to give Cousins some reps and see if they can dangle him in front of quarterback-needy teams. Considering their upcoming opponents, it’s very possible that Cousins performs well.
And even if we look at it from a football perspective, you could make an argument. The first fact to know this week tells you why.
Robert Griffin III ranks 18th in Passing Net Expected Points among all quarterbacks this year.
Three weeks ago, RGIII was sitting pretty as the 11th-best passer in the game, holding a Passing Net Expected Points total of 40.08. At that time, he was less than a point behind Matt Ryan, and had performed better than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
After this week’s game, RGIII now ranks 18th in Passing NEP, listed behind each of the quarterbacks mentioned. His NEP score has dropped from 40.08 to 20.86 in those three games – a detriment to the team to the tune of 6.41 points per game – which is worse than Eli Manning’s average on the season.
Griffin's efficiency has dipped, and, unfortunately for fantasy owners, it’s not going to improve any more this season with him shut down.
Jason Campbell has a 39.42% Pass Success Rate, third-worst in the NFL.
Part of my hesitation to be cool with Jason Campbell as a fantasy asset is because he’s played a lot worse than his raw numbers say. He has a -0.84 Passing NEP on the season, which is worse than over 75 percent of quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, and his Pass Success Rate has been horrendous.
If you’re unaware, Pass Success Rate shows us the percentage of a quarterback’s passes that end up contributing positively towards his NEP. Most of the top guys see theirs in the 50-55 percent range, while the above average passers have a 45-50 percent Success Rate. Campbell? Under 40 percent.
There are two reasons for Jason Campbell’s recent fantasy football success: Josh Gordon and volume. The Browns have dropped back to pass more than any team this season, and Gordon is showing that he’s one of the elite wide receivers in the game. If not for those two things, Campbell would be utterly worthless in pretend pigskin.
If you’re going to play him, don’t do it with any confidence. His production numbers are there, translating to fantasy success, but his efficiency statistics are anything but.
Toby Gerhart has the best Rushing NEP per Rush of all 30-plus attempt running backs.
Like any metric, context is key. When a running back sees low volume and does well with it, he can often catapult himself towards the top of the Rushing NEP category. Reason being, running is inherently inefficient (albeit needed in football), so Rushing NEP scores are going to be low for most running backs.
That being said, Gerhart has done a lot with his 36 touches this season, and is adding about 0.27 points to the Vikings output with each carry, better than any other runner with 30 or more carries. Given Gerhart may be able to start on Sunday (he, like Adrian Peterson, is hurt), this is an attractive thing to see.
I will mention that Gerhart's historically rushed the ball ineffectively, including last season. In 2012, Gerhart had a -9.59 Rushing NEP on 50 carries, giving him a Rushing NEP per Rush that would rank in the bottom five at the position in 2013.
If Toby plays, think of him more as a volume guy. He’ll need 15-plus carries to get into that RB2 range.
Jerricho Cotchery leads the league in Reception NEP per Target.
The Reception NEP per Target metric is one that looks at efficiency given volume, seeing how many points a player is adding for his team divided by how often he’s targeted. Big play or touchdown-dependent pass-catchers usually will score higher in this metric, as they don’t necessarily see the volume that top guys do, but make as many big plays, contributing a hefty value to his team. If you get a player who scores high in this category and is getting a lot of targets, then, well, he’s going to be a fantasy football unicorn, like Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson.
Cotchery has just 41 catches on the season, but nine of them have gone for touchdowns, giving him a nice 21.95% touchdown rate. Of the players in the NFL with seven more receiving scores, only Marvin Jones has a higher rate of getting into the end zone on a catch (22.86%).
While plenty will see this as fluky – and it probably is a bit – keep in mind that the Steelers lack any sort of red zone target for Ben Roethlibserger. That, and Pittsburgh has thrown the eighth-most passes in the league this season, mostly due to being down in contests.
The unfortunate part of Cotchery’s fantasy value is that it’s dependent upon touchdowns, so starting him is a massive risk. He has just one game with more than five receptions this season, while there's been eight with three or fewer.
Over the last three weeks, no quarterback has more fantasy points than Josh McCown.
The scoring for this particular fact is 20 yards passing per point and four points for a passing touchdown.
McCown’s thrown for 1,055 yards, eight touchdowns and just one pick over his last three, including five rushes for 20 yards and another score. For some perspective, only Tom Brady has more yards, and only Peyton Manning has more touchdowns. And of the quarterbacks who rank in the top 10 over the last three weeks, Ben Roethlisberger’s the only one who has thrown fewer interceptions than McCown.
He’s been a monster, and as I mentioned last week, the Bears are performing at a higher level – fixed for strength of schedule – with him under center. If he plays, you almost have to start him in fantasy unless you’ve got elite options.
The Houston Texans rank second-to-last in the league in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP.
One of the best cases as to why pure yardage statistics can be misleading is with the 2013 Houston Texans. So far this season, only Seattle has allowed fewer passing yards. One team. That’s it. Other than that, the Texans are better than everyone.
However, according to our advanced analytics, Houston ranks 31st when you adjust their Passing DNEP for strength of schedule.
Why the difference? Well, not only have their opponents been fairly week, but the Texans have seen the lowest number of pass plays on defense this season. When there’s lower volume, there’s lower chance for high yardage totals. That doesn't mean they've been inefficient though.
Get this – the Texans have faced 406 pass plays this season, 25 fewer than the 31st-ranked team, Chicago. The team that’s faced the most passing plays this year, Philadelphia, has seen 173 more passes than Houston on defense!
Efficiency is the name of the game with our metrics, folks.