Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 7
As we near the halfway point of the 2017 NFL regular season, savvy fantasy football owners are looking for opportunities to buy low and sell high on potentially unsustainable performances. We spend the entire offseason predicting what will unfold once the action starts, but with actual data and information at our finger tips, it's a little easier to make those decisions.
By detailing both negative and positive regression candidates, the hope is that we will uncover some of the truths behind what we've seen so far this year.
Negative Regression Candidates
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
If you've got a great handle on Cam Newton's 2017 season, please enlighten me. It's been an up-and-down road for the Carolina Panthers signal caller, as he was terrible through the first three weeks (QB18, QB22, QB30) but picked up the pace over the next three (QB2, QB5, QB7). In his last two contests, however, Newton has thrown for only 450 yards combined, 1 touchdown, and 5 picks. What's saved him, though, is that he is running -- he's rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown.
If those legs stop churnin' -- Newton rushed for 90 yards combined in his first five games this year -- he is in serious trouble. According to our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric, 32 quarterbacks have dropped back 100 or more times, and Newton clocks in at a putrid 20th (0.06). While he ranks as fantasy's QB8 overall, it's largely driven by his rushing ability, and he could be on the path for some serious decline soon.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
Landry has racked up a score in each of his last three contests, all coming inside the 10-yard line, and he's on pace right now to see 16 targets in that area. That's bolstered him to a WR13 ranking in half-point PPR leagues. Over the past three years, Landry tallied a total of 24 targets inside the 10-yard line. Sustainable? Doesn't seem like it.
His overall efficiency has been pretty poor in 2017. Among 37 wide receivers with 40 or more targets, Landry ranks dead last in Reception NEP per target (0.42). Look for him to take a big jump backwards in fantasy rankings soon.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
But a closer look at his season shows he's been strong in three games (greater than 50 receiving yards and a score in each), and relatively quiet in the other four (under 50 receiving yards and no scores). That volatility can be tough to roster.
Perhaps the biggest reason to be scared off of Kupp's potential upcoming production is his schedule, which is about to get nasty. After the Rams' bye, he will face the New York Giants, the Houston Texans, and the Minnesota Vikings, who respectively rank 18th, 9th, and 3rd in our defensive passing metrics.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Thankfully for Evan Engram owners, literally everyone is hurt in the receiving corps for the Giants. Okay, not literally everyone, but with Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Brandon Marshall all missing time, Engram has enjoyed a ton of work. He now leads the Giants in receiving yards (342) and garnered 12 targets last week alone.
But while the volume is fantastic, the actual production hasn't been all that great. Among 26 tight ends with 25-plus targets, Engram checks in only 14th (0.54) in Reception NEP per target.
Couple that with the fact that his next three opponents defend the tight end really well, and Engram could move off that TE5 rank. The Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Kansas City Chiefs are all strong in defending that position from a fantasy perspective.
Positive Regression Candidates
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Through his first seven contests, Philip Rivers received no favors in facing the Denver Broncos (twice) and Philadelphia Eagles pass defenses, both of whom rank inside our top-10. But he's still managed to post a QB11 ranking, and with some softness on the horizon, it's time to rev that engine up.
The Chargers will look to build on a three-game winning streak by facing a very beatable New England Patriots pass defense, which checks in 26th against the pass while also allowing 300 passing yards or more in each of their first six games.
While Rivers ranks outside the top-10 of fantasy quarterbacks, he checks in higher per Passing NEP per drop back, where he ranks eighth (0.18). In looking at Rivers' Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of plays that result in a positive NEP -- he also joins the QB1 class, ranking 10th (47.74%).
Matt Moore, QB, Miami Dolphins
'Pied Piper' Matt Moore handed chance to seize starting job https://t.co/cGuBeJVmYZ
— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) October 25, 2017
In 22 drop backs, Moore posted a Passing NEP per drop back mark of 0.27. If we broaden our sample to passers with 20 or more drop backs, Moore's one-week mark would rank fifth-best in the league. Among 44 quarterbacks with at least 20 drop backs, Moore's Success Rate of 50.00% is tied for fifth-best.
While that is a small sample size -- and the Jets aren't exactly elite against the pass (they rank 21st in our metrics against the pass) -- consider Moore's upcoming schedule. He will get a tough matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, who rank sixth against the pass, but in three of his next five contests, he gets the Raiders, Bucs, and Pats, all of whom rank in the bottom seven of the league.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
With Ty Montgomery returning to the fold in Week 6 and effectively splitting the workload with Aaron Jones (14 touches for Montgomery to 11 for Jones), fantasy owners were in a tough spot with regard understanding this backfield.
Then Week 7 happened. Jones dominated the workload, grabbing 20 touches to TyMont's 2, blasting the Saints for 138 total yards and a score.
According to our projections, he should be climbing up fantasy ranks soon from his current rank of RB29.
Rushing NEP per rush (x-axis, efficiency per @numberFire) vs. Success Rate (y, shows % of positive expected point runs) among 40+ att RBs. pic.twitter.com/44GYcSet4B
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) October 24, 2017
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Ranking pretty far down the fantasy leaders as the WR36 in half-point PPR leagues, Marvin Jones could be on the rise.
With fellow wideout Golden Tate still carrying his arm in a sling, the pass-happy Detroit Lions, who rank seventh in pass-to-run ratio (1.74 passes per run), could be funneling a lot of work Jones' way.
Despite that low fantasy ranking, Jones has been efficient, ranking 13th in Receiving NEP per target (0.74). After a tough matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he gets to face the porous Packers and Cleveland Browns pass defenses in the near future.