Fantasy Football: The Report, Week 4
What is The Report? It's a comprehensive, statistical look at how teams and players are functioning offensively, with notes as to what it all means for the fantasy football future. Each week, The Report will feature charts on team play-calling tendencies, player usage close to the end zone, deep ball rates, and so much more. With added commentary, the purpose is to not only hand you information, but provide actionable information to crush both season-long and daily fantasy football.
Let's dig into Week 4's report.
|Team||Pass Att||Rush Att||Ratio||+/- 6 Ratio||RZ Plays||RZ Ratio||GL Plays||GL Ratio|
The New England Patriots offense isn't doing what it was supposed to do. Through three games, the Patriots are ninth-worst in yards per drive, and they're scoring a touchdown on 18.2% of their drives, down from the 29.7% rate they hit last year. That lack of efficiency has certainly hurt fantasy football assets within the offense, but so has overall volume. Over the last two weeks, New England's run 132 offensive plays, the third-fewest in football. And that's not by choice, as New England's called plays at the ninth-fastest pace in the league.
It'll be interesting to see how things go for them against Miami, a team that ranks second-to-last in the NFL in plays run. They're one of the slower teams you'll find (26th in pace), so if the New England defense -- one that has faced the fifth-most plays -- can't stop them, it could be another low-volume day for the Patriots.
And then there's Baltimore. They've run more plays than any other team in football, and while they've got the 11th-highest overall pass-to-rush attempt ratio, they've been an even pass-friendlier team in neutral game scripts, ranking third in pass-to-rush attempt ratio when the game is within six points. That could create a lot of opportunity in their contest against Pittsburgh this weekend: the Steelers rank sixth in neutral script pass-to-rush ratio, meaning we could see a lot of passes in that game, generating more total plays. That's probably a big reason that game has a fairly significant 51-point over/under.
So far this season, there've been five teams who haven't had a rushing attempt at the goal line: Miami, Green Bay, New England, Detroit, and Jacksonville. Of those teams, only Miami has a rushing touchdown on the season. That should normalize a bit as the season moves forward, potentially creating "buy" opportunities in the backfields of those teams.
Schedule-Adjusted Net Expected Points
To learn more about numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, check out the glossary. (Note: Negative figures for defense are good.)
|Team||Adj NEP||Adj Pass NEP||Adj Rush NEP||Adj D NEP||Adj D Pass NEP||Adj D Rush NEP|
Thus far, Dallas has played roughly 32 points worse than an average passing attack. Meaning, if you were to place an average passing unit within Dallas' offense, you'd see a 32-point spike across three games, or over 10 points per game. That's resulted in some pretty poor offensive numbers. The Cowboys are fourth-worst in scoring rate per drive, and they're a bottom-10 team in yards per drive.
After having one of the better secondaries in football last year, the Saints now rank dead last in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP. They've allowed two top-two performances to fantasy quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1, Matt Ryan in Week 3), but it's also affecting the way the team calls plays. As you can see in the initial table above, New Orleans currently has the fourth-highest pass-to-rush ratio in the NFL. They've gone from being a run-heavy team in 2017 back to a pass-happy one here in 2018. That's what happens when your defense plays poorly and you don't really have a choice.
Team Directional Passing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
You've got to ignore Cleveland's passing numbers in the chart this week, because there's this dude named Baker Mayfield who's taking over at quarterback for them in Week 4. And he's got a decent-enough matchup against Oakland, who's been torched through the middle and on the right side of the field to start the season. Jarvis Landry is a locked-in start this week, but don't sleep on Antonio Callaway and David Njoku, either. Callaway saw the most air yards for Cleveland in Week 3, and Njoku has run the fifth-most routes at the tight end position this year, per Pro Football Focus. Mayfield isn't necessarily the top streaming quarterback, but he's a good one.
The Vikings' opponent this week is the Rams, and you'll notice that LA's perimeter numbers are strong in the chart. Well, uh, about that -- they'll be without starting corners Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib for at least a month, making the matchup not so bad for the Minnesota passing attack.
The Buccaneers have been torched throughout their secondary, but the Bears also have some of the most depressing passing numbers that you'll find in the league. In most circumstances, Mitchell Trubisky would be a good option off the waiver wire this week. Given his poor play -- he's bottom-five in the league in passing efficiency according to NEP -- he's more of a deeper, desperation play.
Pittsburgh's offense has been fine this year -- especially through the air -- but stopping the pass has been an issue. You've got to love Joe Flacco's matchup this week, and wide receiver John Brown is naturally in a good spot as well. Flacco is currently third in the NFL in air yards, and he ranks in the top-10 in average depth of target. Brown's fourth among all wide receivers in air yards. And the Steelers -- owners of a bad, bad secondary -- have allowed the most deep-ball plays in the league to start the year. Don't be surprised if the Ravens take some shots down the field.
Team Directional Rushing
All numbers below reflect yards per play.
The Cowboys' passing attack may rank dead last in the NFL, but their running game ranks second. Since passing is more efficient than rushing, the Cowboys are still a bottom-half offense, but Ezekiel Elliott is getting the job done on the ground. And this week, he'll be at home to face a Lions defense that, before Week 3, had been torched in back to back weeks via the rush. This could be a big one for Zeke.
As bad as Tampa Bay has been against the pass, they've been pretty good against the run. They've allowed two top-10 performances to the running back position in three games, but the two backs who hit that rank -- Alvin Kamara in Week 1 and Corey Clement in Week 2 -- did so as receivers. The two actually combined for just 59 yards on the ground. And then, on Monday night, James Conner ran the ball 15 times for 61 yards. Not bad, but nothing special. That could really put the game on the aforementioned Mitch Trubisky's shoulders. Stock up the beer fridge, Bears fans.
Phillip Lindsay was thrown out of Week 3's game against the Ravens after throwing a punch, but as long as nothing more comes from that, he's in a really good situation this week. The Broncos are heavy underdogs against the red-hot Chiefs, and if and when Denver trails, it'll be the pass-catching Lindsay who's on the field. And he'll be facing a Kansas City defense that's allowed the second-highest Success Rate -- the percentage of positive expected point plays made -- to running backs this year on the ground, as well as the third-highest Success Rate to running backs through the air. It's the perfect situation for him to go bananas.
We should definitely be worried about the Tennessee Titans offense in Week 4. Philadelphia has been stout against the run for a while now, and it's forced teams to throw the ball against them. Last season, only the Titans saw more pass attempts thrown against them and, this year, the Eagles rank second in pass-to-rush ratio faced. Meanwhile, the Titans have been the most run-heavy team in the NFL this year both in terms of overall and neutral script pass-to-rush ratio. That means Tennessee, with a questionable quarterback situation, will be forced to do what they've been avoiding -- they're going to be forced to throw the football.
Running Back Usage
|Player||Att||Rush %||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Att||RZ Targets||GL Att|
Alvin Kamara's workload has been out of this world. He has a near-30% target share through three games, and he's seen 15 red-zone carries and 12 red-zone targets. Kamara's 12 targets within his opponent's 20-yard line is the same number as the second- through seventh-ranked PPR running backs combined. It'll be tough to maintain close to these numbers -- especially when Mark Ingram returns -- but Kamara owners are loving life right now.
After a big Week 3, Chris Carson is up to a 58% rushing share in the Seattle Seahawks offense. That paired with an 8.4% target share is pretty solid. The problem is that scoring opportunities have been limited (he's got just three red-zone rushes and one goal-line rush), and Carson's 33.3% Success Rate is a below-average one. It's not that he's the issue, it's that the situation -- specifically the offensive line -- is the issue.
It was talked through in this week's 15 Transactions column, but Kareem Hunt's receiving volume is troubling. He's only seen three targets, and his 3.2% target share is one of the worst marks among relevant backs. He's now seen two goal-line rushes, which is a plus, but his weekly floor is being jeopardized by the lack of passing game love.
Sony Michel handled 14 of a possible 19 carries for New England on Sunday, good for a 73.7% share. The Patriots seemed like they really wanted to get him going, and with Rex Burkhead now nursing a neck injury, Michel could continue to see work. The biggest question mark in that offense is who will see the goal-line touches. As noted earlier, New England hasn't run the ball at the goal line yet this season, so we're not sure who's going to be the touchdown scorer in the backfield. Michel's had documented fumbling problems, so it would be nice to know if he's locked into that role. Perhaps we'll find out in Week 4, as long as Burkhead's active.
With the return of Aaron Jones from suspension, the Packers saw a split backfield in Week 3. Jamaal Williams saw five carries, Jones had six, and Ty Montgomery had four. Ty Mont led the way with seven targets, with Williams at three, and Jones at one. It was a complete nightmare for fantasy purposes. Jones has had the best numbers by far over the last season and change, so he's my pick for upside, but it's a backfield that'll be tough to forecast each week moving forward. That is, unless one of these dudes emerges.
Wide Receiver Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Everyone is rightfully talking about Michael Thomas' ridiculous start, but Adam Thielen is surprisingly leading the league in targets after three weeks. His target share is second to Jarvis Landry, but he's being fed in these negative scripts that the Vikings keep facing, giving him a great floor each week. Thielen just hasn't seen a ton of red-zone work, but that's partially because the Vikings have run 14 plays in the red zone this year, second-fewest in football.
Calvin Ridley broke out in a big way on Sunday, but he was on the field for only about 62% of Atlanta's snaps, running behind Mohamed Sanu. He's a worthwhile add off the waiver wire, but he'll have to see a better snap share as the season progresses if he's going to be a consistent fantasy asset. If the Falcons were smart, that would happen.
Everything looks pretty good for Corey Davis across the board. He's got a 29.6% target share, he's playing top wide receiver snaps, he has four red zone targets, and he even has two targets within the opponent's 5-yard line. Like I said, everything looks good...except for his quarterback situation. Unfortunately, you can't really trust Davis until we see consistent play from a Titans signal-caller. But at least we know his peripheral numbers look great.
Amari Cooper has just a 16% target share through three games, playing as a WR5 in fantasy football. What's most alarming is his lack of red-zone usage -- he's yet to see a target in the red zone this year. Cooper's faced some tough matchups, but it's hard to call him a buy-low candidate with this type of usage. The only way I'd trade for him is if I'm getting rid of some bench depth.
As I noted earlier, the Dolphins rank 31st in plays run. Part of that is because they've only run 62 plays while trailing, fifth-fewest in the league. That's hurt the team's playmakers a bit from a volume perspective. Kenny Stills, for instance, has a 17.3% target share -- which isn't all that bad for a big-play receiver -- placing him 42nd among wideouts within the statistic. But he's got just 13 targets, when 59 wide receivers have more. If Miami trails against New England this week (they're seven-point underdogs, so it's certainly possible), then that should be a boost for someone like Stills.
Tight End Usage
|Player||Targets||Target %||Snap %||Last Wk Rate||RZ Targets||< 10 Targets||GL Targets|
Jared Cook continues to see strong usage. He's now fifth among all tight ends in target share, and after having just one red-zone target through the first two games of the season, he was hit with five of them on Sunday against the Dolphins. The entirety of the tight end position is pretty horrific, but he's one bright spot who's providing a decent floor each week for your fantasy football lineup.
There are a lot of tight ends with a target share in that 10% to 15% range, with one of them being Austin Hooper. Hooper's currently a high-end TE2 (Have I mentioned that the tight end position is bad?), but he's got an interesting matchup this week against the Bengals. In 2017, just four teams surrendered more receptions to the tight end position than Cincinnati did. That's continued into this season, with the Bengals currently sitting in third in tight end receptions allowed. Hooper, in a game with one of the highest over/unders on the week, is a strong streaming play, especially considering he's tied for second among tight ends in targets from within the opponent's 10-yard line.
With Jack Doyle sidelined in Week 3, Eric Ebron had a big opportunity. Unfortunately, it didn't translate to much -- he had just 5 catches for 33 yards. But he did see 11 targets and, according to Pro Football Focus, he ran the fourth-most routes at the position this past week. With a plus matchup in Week 4 (the Texans have allowed decent-sized tight end days to New England and New York this year), if Doyle's sidelined again, look for Ebron to have sneaky upside.
Deep Ball Passing
|Player||15+ Yd Att||15+ Yd Att %||15+ Comp %||15+ % of Tot Yds||15+ Yd TD %|
We can't talk deep-ball passing without mentioning Andrew Luck, who was removed at the end of the Colts' game against Philly on Sunday so that backup Jacoby Brissett could throw a Hail Mary as time expired. Some may think that's nothing, but it's definitely not nothing.
Luck has thrown just 10.5% of his passes 15-plus air yards this year, higher than only Derek Carr and Dak Prescott's rates. His previous career low in a single season was 18.8%. He also has a 5.6 average depth of target (aDOT), one of the lowest marks in football. It's concerning, and definitely something that's hurting wideout T.Y. Hilton, whose 8.0 aDOT is nearly four yards shorter than his career low.
We know Josh Allen has a big arm, and he's been showing it off. No quarterback has thrown it deep at a higher rate this year, but only three passers have a lower completion rate on those throws. To be fair to Allen, not many passers would be able to thrive in his environment. And the players below him in deep-ball completion rate -- Nick Foles, Mitch Trubisky, and Dak Prescott -- are all in better situations.
Over 47% of Ryan Fitzpatrick's yards have come on long balls. Dating back to 2011 when quarterback numbers saw a spike, no quarterback has maintained such a rate. After facing the Saints and Steelers -- two of the worst secondaries to start the season -- Fitzpatrick is bound to regress a bit with his deep-ball passing.
Running Back Touchdown Regression
Regression analysis doesn't always have to be so complicated. As you'd expect, there's a decent correlation between yards gained and touchdowns scored. The regression analysis in The Report looks at running back and wide receiver yards gained, shows how many touchdowns they've scored, and then finds how many touchdowns they should have scored based on trends from the last seven NFL seasons.
|Player||Rush Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference||Total Difference|
Despite crazy usage and 428 yards from scrimmage, Christian McCaffrey hasn't found the end zone. We can blame that partially on Cam Newton, but CMC does have eight red-zone and two goal-line attempts this year. He'll either break a big play for a score or pound one in from the goal line soon. Math says he should, at least.
Kerryon Johnson currently ranks third in Success Rate among the 43 running backs with 20 or more carries this year. Teammate LeGarrette Blount ranks 39th. The Lions haven't called a goal-line rush yet this season, and it will likely be Blount's job to run it in there, limiting Johnson's touchdown upside. But with over 200 total yards and excellent play on the field, Johnson's arrow is pointing up. Touchdowns should come.
If you've got Alex Collins, you may be shedding a tear or two after looking at this chart. Javorius Allen has scored four times this year, but based on his yardage totals, he shouldn't even have one. It's just that he's seen four goal-line rushes, while Collins has just one goal-line rush. There's some negative regression coming for Allen in the touchdown column, but his work near the goal line is a huge bummer for Collins owners.
Wide Receiver Touchdown Regression
|Player||Rec Yds||TD||Should Have||Difference|
|Odell Beckham Jr||271||0||1.63||-1.63|
Brandin Cooks was so close to scoring this past week, but he fell about a foot short of the end zone. Naturally, Todd Gurley then ran it in. But Cooks is a great buy right now in leagues where folks are paying too much attention to fantasy output, because his usage and yardage totals have looked great. Touchdowns will find his box score eventually.
On the other side of things, Chris Godwin has 3 scores on just 171 receiving yards. He's a talented receiver with lots of upside, but he's still playing only a little over half of Tampa Bay's snaps. The thing that's really helping his touchdown cause is that he's seen six targets from within the opponent's 10-yard line, tied for the league lead with Michael Thomas. You could consider him a sell right now, but most league managers probably understand that he's still somewhat of a part-time player with loads of talent.