Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 9
We are nine weeks through the NFL season, and 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 fingertips, 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
Will the Cam Newton from Weeks 4 and 5 please stand up? In those victories, the Panthers quarterback threw for 671 yards and 6 touchdowns. Fantasy's current QB7's running prowess (341 rushing yards) has nearly eclipsed his 2016 rushing efforts, but his passing efficiency seems to have vanished. Over his last three contests, Newton has passed for only 501 yards combined.
According to our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric, Newton's recent performance isn't an aberration. Among the 34 quarterbacks who have dropped back 100 or more times, Newton clocks in only 22nd (0.06). His upcoming schedule will do him no favors -- on tap in coming weeks are the New Orleans Saints, who rank fourth in our passing metrics, and the Minnesota Vikings, who have allowed the fourth-fewest points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
That said, Blount has been efficient this year. Among the 30 running backs with 75 or more carries, Blount ranks 10th in Rushing NEP per play (-0.02), and in terms of Rushing Success Rate, or the rate of plays that return positive NEP, Blount is even better, checking in 8th (42.20%).
But the Eagles were in an extremely positive game script last week, blowing out the Denver Broncos by a 51-23 margin. They carried the ball 37 times, and Blount received only nine of those rushes (24.3% rushing market share).
With Ajayi added to the fold -- who averaged 9.6 yards per carry in Week 9 -- Blount could be a less valuable asset moving forward.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
After he toted the rock the most times ever by a 30-plus-year-old running back, you may think Adrian Peterson has discovered the fountain of youth. More than likely, he may be on the decline. And soon.
In the Arizona Cardinals' last two wins, Peterson has rushed 63 times for 293 yards. In both games, the Cardinals were involved in extremely positive game scripts, jumping out to leads that led to a high workload.
If the game script changes as it did in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago, that volume is bound to go down. And it could happen soona -- the Cardinals face the Seattle Seahawks this week, who have allowed the sixth-least points to opposing fantasy running backs. Then comes the Houston Texans the following week, who rank fourth in our rushing metrics.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
After a monster Week 9 performance that gave him 702 receiving yards on the season, T.Y. Hilton is fantasy's WR4. Among the 31 wide receivers with 50 or more targets, he leads the pack in Reception NEP per target (0.88).
The bad news is that Hilton has built this 2017 resume on three massive games -- he has 505 receiving yards in three wins over the Browns, 49ers and Texans, which means in his other six games, he only has 197 receiving yards combined (32.83 yards per game).
Positive Regression Candidates
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have not posted a winning record since the 2003 season, but are now 7-2. What a world.
That massive turnaround is partly due to the jump second-year signal caller Jared Goff has taken. While he ranks as QB13 so far this season, he ranks fifth in our Passing NEP per drop back metrics (0.24).
In Week 9, Goff passed for 311 yards and 4 scores on only 22 drop backs, and up next is a Houston Texans pass defense that ranks only 19th per our metrics -- and has allowed 760 passing yards and 6 touchdowns in the last two weeks.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers sit atop the AFC North with a two-game lead, but it's not due to the play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In 2017, Big Ben ranks only as fantasy's QB24, and he's fired more touchdown passes (10) than interceptions (9).
In reviewing our Passing NEP per drop metric, Ben fares a bit better, ranking 15th (0.13) in a group of quarterbacks with over 100 drop backs. He may have the chance to amp up those fantasy ranks quickly thanks to upcoming dates with struggling pass defenses like the Indianapolis Colts (31st), the Tennessee Titans (28th), and the Green Bay Packers (26th).
Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
He may rank only as RB35 this season from a fantasy perspective, but Henry checks in fifth in Rushing NEP per play (0.01) among runners with over 75 carries.
In Week 10, the Titans face a Cincinnati Bengals rushing defense that allowed 149 yards on the ground to a Leonard Fournette-less rushing attack, and in Week 12, he faces a Colts run D that has allowed the third-most points per game to opposing running backs (21.5 points-per-game).
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
At the current pace Marvin Jones is performing over the last few weeks, he may be on his way to a top-5 fantasy wide receiver ranking. No one would have expected that after his iffy start.
In Weeks 1-3, Jones caught a total of 6 balls for 88 receiving yards. Combined. That's #notgood.
But Jones has been en fuego in recent weeks. From Weeks 7-9, only Amari Cooper (39) has more targets than Jones, who has racked up 36. He ranks second among the 31 wide receivers with 50 targets or more in Reception NEP per target metric (0.87), and in Week 10 he will face a Cleveland Browns pass defense that ranks 29th in our passing metrics.