Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 15
It's Championship Week in fantasy football leagues.
Well, for many, it's championship week. For some, it could be the semifinals. Either way, this is a big week. Huge. Bigly. We need to find every edge we can, and using regression as our guidepost, we may be able to do just that.
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
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Do you think the Seattle Seahawks know that their Week 15 contest with the Los Angeles Rams has started (and ended)? Billed as a battle for the NFC West title, the Seahawks were whipped from nearly start to finish. And while part of that beating was thanks to some fantastic play by the Rams, some of it was also due to some really bad play from the Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson. But should we really be all that surprised?
In fantasy terms, Wilson has been a beast -- he ranks as QB2 overall. But in looking at some more advanced metrics, it hasn't been so rosy. Using Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back as our North Star, among the 41 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, Wilson ranks a fairly mediocre 18th overall (0.12). In terms of Total NEP, which includes his rushing, he's eighth among all quarterbacks.
Facing a porous Dallas Cowboys pass defense that ranks 22nd in our adjusted per-play metrics, Wilson can get back on track this week, but based on the advanced analytics, his fantasy production has been a bit boosted this season.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
Fantasy's RB12 so far this season, Lamar Miller is lucky at this point that D'Onta Foreman was unfortunately injured -- because Miller has built a résumé high on volume with 220 carries (eighth-most) and 6 total touchdowns. A closer look reveals that, while Miller has been solid from a fantasy standpoint, he hasn't been the most efficient runner. In perusing the 42 running backs with 90 carries or more, Miller ranks 30th in Rushing NEP per carry (-0.07) and 25th in Rushing Success Rate.
Miller, who hasn't topped 100 all-purpose since Week 4 and hasn't scored in his last three contests, may be able to bounce back this week against a Pittsburgh Steelers rushing defense that ranks 24th per our rushing metrics. However, his recent performances wouldn't indicate as much.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders
Fantasy owners may look at Michael Crabtree's Week 15 outburst with two scores and think he is on his way back -- but in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friends.
While the volume has been there -- as Crabtree has garnered a whopping 30 targets in the last two games -- this season's WR23 has relied heavily on touchdowns. His eight receiving scores ties him for fifth-most in the league.
But in terms of efficiency, Crabtree hasn't been so hot. In looking at Reception NEP per target, Crabtree's mark of 0.56 places him only 40th among 50 wide receivers who have seen 70 targets or more.
Touchdown regression may not be Crabtree's friend, either. He's averaging a score once every 7 catches, while the average among the top-20 wide receivers in terms of receiving touchdowns not named Will Fuller is one touchdown per 8.26 receptions.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the love of fantasy owners, could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers settle on a tight end? Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard each have six receiving touchdowns this season, which is quite the dangerous tandem.
But Brate's touchdown total seems to be a bit of an outlier -- mostly because he just isn't playing enough. On the year, Brate hasn't surpassed six receptions since Week 6, and five times over that span, he's recorded just a single catch. In looking at snap rates on the season, Howard has been in on 67.4% of offensive snaps, while Brate is playing on only 53.1% of offensive snaps.
It seems as though this year's TE8 could be crashing back to reality soon, although it's important to keep an eye on a late injury to Howard that occurred during Monday Night Football.
Positive Regression Candidates
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Profiling the guy listed as the QB7 this year as a positive regression candidate feels odd, but Drew Brees makes a pretty strong case for it.
By our metrics, Brees has been elite this season. Among the 41 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs, Brees checks in fourth in Passing NEP per drop back (0.23) and fifth in Passing Success Rate (51.01%). Brees doesn't rank among the elite signal callers fantasy-wise, as he is on pace for one of the lowest touchdown marks of his career, firing only 21 so far on the season.
Brees ranks fourth in passing yards (3,850), and positive touchdown regression could be on its way soon. The top five signal callers in passing yards are averaging a touchdown pass nearly every 21.4 passing attempts, but Brees has fallen a tick behind in averaging one per 23.6 passing attempts. For his career, Brees has averaged a passing score once every 19.0 passing attempts.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
Lewis ranks only as RB25, thanks to some inconsistent playing time early in the year, but he could be rising quickly. Among the running backs who have carried the rock 90 or more times, Lewis clocks in second-best in Rushing NEP per play (0.16). Lewis also ranks fifth in Rushing Success Rate (47.69%).
His success is certainly no fluke, and with Burkhead out, along with sitting as massive 11.5-point favorites this weekend in Buffalo, the game script could certainly be in Lewis' favor.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins
If it seems like the Miami Dolphins took too long to settle on Kenyan Drake, you could be right. With stud Jay Ajayi assuming lead back duties to start the season before his trade to Philadelphia, Drake then found himself stuck in a timeshare with Damien Williams. But with Williams nursing a shoulder injury, this is now Drake's backfield.
Drake ranks only as RB34 in 2017, and that's thanks to a reduced volume workload of only 106 carries this season. But he's been really great of late, ranking as a top-nine running back in each of the last three weeks. Over that time span, he has touched the ball 22 times or more in each of those games, ripping off 100 or more all-purpose yards.
He faces the Kansas City Chiefs this week, who rank 27th against the run per our metrics, so he's in a good spot to keep rolling.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Another week, another reason to be on board with Marquise Goodwin.
Ranked as WR32 so far this year, Goodwin has exploded with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm of the offense the last three weeks, catching 24 passes for 319 yards over that time span. Among the 29 wide receivers with 90 targets or more, Goodwin ranks 11th in Reception NEP per target (0.75) and shoots up to second-best in Reception Success Rate (96.00%).
With 51 catches and only one touchdown on the year, he could be due for some positive regression in the scoring department, although it could be tough this week. He is likely to be stifled by Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye as part of an air-tight Jacksonville Jaguars pass defense, which we rank as the best in the league.
However, the Jags have shown recently to be beatable -- in the last three weeks, DeAndre Hopkins (4 catches, 80 yards, and 1 touchdown), Doug Baldwin (3, 78, 1), and T.Y. Hilton (3, 51, 1) have done their fair share of damage considering how difficult the matchup is.
Currently sitting as 4.5-point underdogs, the San Francisco 49ers may be forced to throw, leading to some nice targets coming Goodwin's way.