Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 11
Eleven weeks down, and only six to go. It's been a wild ride so far, and we have seen some truly great and not-so-great performances. Clever fantasy football owners are 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 we can now finally react to actual data and information.
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
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
There are some scary warning signs we are starting to see in relation to Alvin Kamara, and it seems hard to believe that the New Orleans Saints' back is going to finish 2018 as fantasy's RB2, especially if recent trends continue to occur.
Kamara's absurd touchdown rate is starting to regress, and Week 11 showed that while both can be very valuable running backs in a fantasy setting, his early season work load is all but gone.
Over the Saints' last three games, Mark Ingram has seven goal-line carries. That actually leads the NFL. Alvin Kamara has four of them.
Mark Ingram has one touchdown on those attempts. Kamara has three.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) November 20, 2018
While he does have eight touchdowns in the last four weeks, Kamara was out-rushed by Mark Ingram 16 to 13 in Week 10, and he saw only one catch in the passing game.
Kamara was producing at a bananas rate early on, but it's clear that's not likely to keep going.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey sits as RB8 in half-point-per-reception (PPR) leagues through Week 11, making him a very solid fantasy asset. After not scoring a rushing touchdown through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, the second-year man went bonkers with four scores in the next three weeks, still continuing his impressive passing game work. He also added three receiving touchdowns in that same time frame.
Just like he was bound to break his scoreless streak, this one's not likely to keep up, either. Facing a tough Week 12 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, who rank seventh in points allowed to opposing running backs, McCaffrey's rushing volume could screech to a halt again.
McCaffrey gets two mediocre rushing defenses following the 'Hawks in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (19th) and Cleveland Browns (16th), per our metrics, but then he closes with two contests against the New Orleans Saints, who clock in eighth against the run. Hopefully his passing work keeps up, because his rushing work could be backsliding very soon.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Los Angeles Rams
It's hard to put things that happen now in historical perspective. But I feel OK saying we just saw the greatest NFL regular-season game of all time. https://t.co/ZVis1NulbT
— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) November 20, 2018
So with Kupp out, should we expect this kind of effort moving forward? Not so fast.
Over recent weeks, Reynolds has found the end zone at an extremely high rate -- in his last two contests, he's converted 13 targets into nine catches for three touchdowns and 122 receiving yards. While the Rams are a prolific offense, he won't keep up that type of receiving pace.
Those overall numbers are solid, but his eight targets this week represented a 16.3% target market share among Kupp's 49 drop backs, so temper the expectations on the wideout.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
With four touchdown receptions in his last five games, the wasteland known as the tight end position has gotten another viable option with Greg Olsen.
While those scores are very solid, he's been an extremely touchdown-dependent option in the offense. Over the last five games, Olsen's 24 targets equate to a 15.1% target market share, and despite trailing for a large part of a Week 11 loss to the Detroit Lions, Olsen received only three Cam Newton targets. That logged Olsen fifth in targets on the team.
Next up is the Seattle Seahawks, who have been very stout against the tight end position. In 2018, they've allowed the seventh-fewest points to the position, making his touchdown streak pretty unlikely moving forward.
Positive Regression Candidates
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Signing an $84 million contract in the offseason will make you a marked man, and chasing the Chicago Bears in the NFC North was certainly not what Minnesota Vikings fans were expecting after new quarterback Kirk Cousins became part of the organization.
And in the last four weeks, their expensive quarterback has not lived up to the billing, ranking as fantasy's QB20, averaging only 13.2 PPG. That could be a short-lived slump -- the Vikings play the Green Bay Packers in Week 12, who rank only 20th against the pass per our metrics, and have been roasted for 27 or more points in five of the last six weeks.
To climb back into the playoff race, the Vikes need Cousins performing at his peak, and Week 12 could be just the elixir for that.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The good news is that David Johnson is finally being freed and a big part of the Cardinals offense. Johnson followed up 28 touches and 183 all-purpose yards in Week 10 with a strong 26 touches and 154 all-purpose yards in Week 11. Still only fantasy's RB10, this work load could portend a much higher fantasy finish over the coming weeks.
His schedule doesn't hurt things, either -- he will face a Los Angeles Chargers rushing defense that ranks 22nd and a Packers defense that ranks 27th, so expect a lot of the Northern Iowa running back down the stretch.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
As hard as it could be, Melvin Gordon's brilliant 2018 could be getting somewhat overlooked, and the running back didn't find the end zone in Week 11, which was the first time all year he hadn't scored.
Gordon's also back slid in fantasy rankings, too -- he's been only RB8 over the last four games, and that's largely due to finding the end zone only once on the ground over 52 carries during that time frame.
Touchdowns could be coming in bunches down the stretch, starting immediately. Gordon will square off against the Cardinals at home in Week 12, who've been popped in the last few weeks by the Denver Broncos (131 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns), the Kansas City Chiefs (118, 1), and the Oakland Raiders (152, 0). Expect a bigger effort from Gordon and the Bolts this week.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams
With the Rams continuing to look for answers with Cooper Kupp out, Brandin Cooks has certainly shined over the last few weeks, and he looks only bound to be a bigger fantasy asset moving forward.
Despite only one receiving touchdown in the last four weeks, Cooks has been a monster with 40 targets (tops in the league), and that's no short-term fluke.
For the year, Cooks has been strong won the deep ball. In peeping his Targeted Air Yards (TAY), or the average passing air yards per target for the receiver, by measuring the yards downfield at the time of all passing attempts that the receiver is the target, Cooks has posted a solid mark of 13.1 TAY, and his 33.1% TAY% ranks him 13th in the NFL.
With 24 targets and 18 catches in the last two games, expect Cooks to find the end zone more frequently as part of numberFire's third-ranked passing offense.