Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 14
It's playoff time. Regardless of format, the majority of fantasy leagues have started up the quest for postseason glory, and savvy owners need to find every edge that they can.
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. Digging deeper into things like our in-house metrics, touchdown rates and historical data can help us find outliers from a statistical standpoint.
Negative Regression Candidates
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings
If you are a Jerick McKinnon owner, it's going to be tough to start him over the next few weeks. While McKinnon still ranks as RB21 in half-point PPR leagues, primarily on the strength of five total touchdowns, he has slowly seen his workload diminish. Last week, he finished with a total of nine touches (seven carries, two receptions), which put him in single digits for the first time since a Week 4 loss to the Detroit Lions.
More importantly, McKinnon just hasn't been all that efficient. Among the 51 running backs with at least 70 carries, the Minnesota Vikings' running back ranks dead last in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt (-0.19).
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Fantasy's RB8 so far this season, Leonard Fournette is living on high volume -- he ranks fifth in rushing attempts (231) and has found the end zone nine times (eight rushing, one receiving).
But a closer look reveals, like McKinnon, Fournette hasn't been the most efficient runner. In Rushing NEP per carry, he ranks 16th (0.00). In Rushing Success Rate, which measures the percentage of his carries that positively impact NEP, Fournette sits 41st with a mark of 33.77%.
Week 15 won't do him any favors, either -- per our scheduled-adjusted metrics, Fournette faces a Houston Texans rushing defense that clocks in ninth-best, although a potential positive game script could work in his favor.
Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
This may seem like a knee-jerk reaction thanks to the awful news surrounding Carson Wentz's season-ending injury. But the reality is that Eagles star wideout Alshon Jeffery hasn't been as effective as his fantasy rank would lead you to believe.
Jeffrey currently sits as WR15 this year, thanks largely to an impressive eight receiving touchdowns. And while he possesses a solid mark of 14.5 Targeted Air Yards (TAY) per target, Jeffrey hasn't done a ton with all of those deep balls. Among the 41 receivers with at least 70 targets, Jeffrey ranks only 25th in Reception NEP per target (0.71).
Touchdowns have been a big boost to his value, and now that Wentz is gone, there are likely to be fewer touchdowns to go around for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Engram built a solid resume thanks to 100 receiving targets, but that volume has disappeared lately -- Engram hasn't reached double-digit targets in any game over the last five weeks, and he's only broken 60 yards receiving once in that span.
Couple that with Engram's Reception NEP per target mark of 0.53, which is only 21st out of 41 tight ends with at least 40 targets, and he looks like a player whose stock is slipping. In Week 15, he will also have to deal with an Eagles defense that has defended the middle of the field well, allowing the 12th-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Positive Regression Candidates
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers barely slides into the QB1 tier, checking in as QB9, but if he keeps performing at his current level, he could be rising up those ranks soon.
By our metrics, Rivers has been one of the game's premier passers this season. In perusing the 40 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, Rivers checks in second in Passing NEP per drop back (0.28). He's been scorching hot over his last three, posting three consecutive 300-yard outings with and 6 scores against no turnovers in that span.
Rivers gets a nice matchup this week against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that ranks 19th against the pass, per our schedule-adjusted metrics.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
In terms of Rushing NEP per play, Freeman ranks fourth among running backs (0.09), and he appears to have barely missed a beat since returning from injury. In the last two weeks, Freeman's carried the ball 36 times for a 4.61 yards-per-carry average. Even though Tevin Coleman played well in Freeman's absence, Coleman took a clear back seat once Freeman returned.
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore Ravens
The Alex Collins story is a pretty fun one as the second-year back is having a big season, seemingly out of nowhere. Drafted in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks as the 13th overall running back in 2016, he was released prior to the first game of the 2017 season and subsequently signed to the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad.
Collins didn't hit double-digit touches until Week 5, which is a big reason he is only the RB19 for the year. But he's been really great of late as he's taken the reins of Baltimore's backfield. It's deserved, too, as Collins ranks fifth (0.08) in Rushing NEP per carry among all backs with at least 70 carries.
He faces the Cleveland Browns this week in a game in which the Ravens are 7.0-point favorites, so he's in a good spot to keep rolling.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Sometimes a change really will do you some good, just like Sheryl Crow told us.
After a switch to new signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo, Marquise Goodwin has taken off. Over the last two weeks, Goodwin has caught 20 passes for 205 receiving yards. Where Goodwin shines brightest is looking at Reception Success Rate -- among wide receivers with at least 70 targets, he ranks second with a Reception Success Rate of 95%.
Despite making 41 catches for 738 yards, Goodwin has just one touchdown this season. He's due for some positive regression in the scoring department, and it could come as soon as this week. He's facing a leaky Titans defense, which ranks 26th against the pass, according to our metrics.