Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 8
Savvy fantasy football owners are always 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 a half-season's worth of 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
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The sensational Dallas Cowboys quarterback has performed well this season -- he currently ranks as QB6 in standard-scoring formats -- but the outlook moving forward isn't all so rosy for Dak Prescott.
According to our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric, 33 quarterbacks have dropped back 100 or more times, and Prescott clocks in only 18th (0.12). Unfortunately, he also has some tough matchups on the horizon against two tough pass defenses in the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers, who rank 10th and 14th against the pass in our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
Similar to Prescott, Cousins has performed well this season, but not as much when using our metrics. When looking again at those 33 quarterbacks 100-plus drop backs, his 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back ranks just 17th. He's built a solid resume thanks to facing four leaky pass defenses in the Oakland Raiders (31st), Kansas City Chiefs (18th), San Francisco 49ers (25th) and Dallas Cowboys (21st).
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans
When will the madness stop, Will Fuller?
Starting the season late thanks to a fractured collarbone, Fuller has wasted no time making his presence felt. He is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions with teammate DeAndre Hopkins (7) despite pulling in just 13 receptions over four games played. Taking a step back, Fuller is finding the end zone on roughly every other catch, which places him as WR23 in half-point PPR formats.
Logically, this cannot continue, and the last two seasons show us as much. In 2016, your touchdown reception leader, Jordy Nelson, scored 14 times over 97 receptions, averaging about one score per 6.94 catches. In 2015, Doug Baldwin tied for the league lead with 14 scores on 78 receptions, or one about every 5.57 catches.
When a dude is scoring every other catch, it's obviously madness, and the regression monster is going to hit hard.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Just when we gave you the keys to the Benz, Mark Ingram, you just had to go and screw things up.
Ingram currently ranks as RB12, but he fumbled twice in the fourth quarter during last week's win over the Bears. That kind of lackadaisical effort wasn't ignored from the Saints coaching staff:
At the time of Mark Ingram's first fumble Sunday, he had 22 opportunities to 7 for Alvin Kamara. After that, it was 4-2 in favor of Kamara.
— Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) October 30, 2017
While Ingram has been great from a fantasy perspective, a closer look reveals he still hasn't been all that efficient. Of the 34 running backs with 60-plus carries this season, Ingram ranks 29th in Rushing NEP per carry (-0.11).
Given that nasty disease of fumbleitis paired with some inefficient production, rookie Alvin Kamara could be in line to steal some work away.
Positive Regression Candidates
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo Bills
It hasn't been the easiest of years for Tyrod Taylor owners, who is currently this year's QB14. There is room for hope, though.
Taylor ranks slightly better per our Passing NEP per drop back metric (0.16), checking in 10th, and has also faced one hell of a schedule, battling three top pass defenses in the Carolina Panthers (6th), Denver Broncos (3rd) and Cincinnati Bengals (14th). An easier path is on the horizon, with the Buffalo Bills facing the New York Jets (24th) on Thursday and the New England Patriots (26th) twice during the second half of the season.
Jay Ajayi, RB,
Miami Dolphins Philadelphia Eagles
Dolphins traded RB Jay Ajayi to Eagles for a fourth-round pick, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 31, 2017
At first glance, Ajayi hasn't had the greatest season. His -0.15 Rushing NEP per carry ranks 30th, while hi 3.4 yards per carry would be the worst mark of his young career. A change of scenery could do him some good, though.
The Philadelphia Eagles love to run the ball, as they boast the eighth-lowest pass-to-run ratio in the league (1.16). They have also been an effective running team, ranking 13th in our team rushing metrics, whereas his former team in South Beach ranked last.
Philly's backfield has been a revolving door, as LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement all have seen significant work. Ajayi's arrival could make this even messier, so this situation is worth monitoring.
Paul RIchardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Long perceived as a run-dependent team, it may surprise you that the Seattle Seahawks have shifted towards a more pass-friendly offense in recent seasons.
Russell Wilson's pass attempts/game by season:
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) October 4, 2016
And that pass attempt number has continued to rise -- through seven games this season, Russell Wilson has attempted 36.9 pass attempts per game.
As that pass volume rises, there are mouths that need to be fed, and wide receiver Paul Richardson looks primed to step into a larger role. If we broaden our sample size and look at wide receivers with 30 targets or more this year (a group of 73), Richardson ranks fourth-best in Reception NEP per target (1.01).
If we add in that Wilson ranks sixth in NFL.com's Intended Air Yards statistic (10.2), Richardson's volume and deep-play ability could make him a valuable fantasy asset moving forward.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The changing of the guard began in Weeks 5 and 6, as Smith-Schuster out-snapped Bryant twice. Then, the rookie went ham with 7 catches, 193 receiving yards and a score last week. Partially thanks to that herculean effort, he rocketed up to second in Reception NEP per target metric (1.07).
Layer in that he has back-to-back dream matchups on tap with the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, who rank 32nd and 28th, respectively, against the pass, and the pass catcher's bike getting stolen may no longer be his defining moment of 2017.