Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 1
After the first week of the 2019 NFL regular season, savvy 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
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
A wild over time tie between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals boosted Matthew Stafford to a finish of QB6 overall in fantasy ranks, and his 385 passing yards is more than he tossed all of 2018. He also faces a Los Angeles Chargers defense in Week 2 that was shredded through the air last week, and currently ranks in the middle of the pack against the pass.
The devil is in the details, though, from Stafford's performance. In terms of efficiency, Stafford clocked in only 13th Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.24), and his passing total is slightly inflated from that extra 15 minutes on the field.
It's also scary when you look at the pace at which the Lions play -- in terms of situation-neutral pace per Football Outsiders, Detroit ranked 24th at 34.86 seconds per play.
Expect Stafford to take a step back in Week Two.
Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
It's usually a good idea to not completely overreact from only a week's worth of games, but it is important not to ignore it, either. If you spent high draft equity on Damien Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs, there are certainly some reasons to be concerned.
While he found pay-dirt and finished as fantasy's RB14, in peeking at running backs with 10 carries or more, Williams ranked 21st out of 34 backs in terms of Rushing NEP per carry (-0.07). That's a bit more frightening when you notice that the seventh-ranked runner, LeSean McCoy, stole 10 carries from what we thought was going to be the lead back (0.39).
Williams was still heavily involved in the passing game with six catches, but this is certainly a situation worth monitoring in the future.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
When you lock in 14 catches for a 41.4% target market share in week 1, it certainly catches the eye of fantasy owners that Jamison Crowder is a fantasy asset we want to own, especially in point-per-reception (PPR) formats.
But let's pump the breaks a bit on expecting repeat performances like this in the future. Robby Anderson had trouble against stud cornerback Tre'Davious White, and Crowder's 3.0 average depth of target needs some work.
In peeking at AirYards.com, despite that blistering work load, Crowder ranked only 57th among wideouts -- he is clearly owning a very short portion of the passing game.
He's a player we need to be mindful of, but consistently expecting nearly 20 points per week from a fantasy perspective may be unlikely.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
With teammate Jordan Reed still working his way back from yet another concussion, Vernon Davis was thrust into a significant role, and he delivered -- he finished as fantasy's TE5 with 59 receiving yards and a score.
This is where only peeking at a box score can go off the rails a bit -- Davis's day was lifted from a 48-yard catch-and score on the Washington Redskins opening drive. Following that scamper, he grabbed a total of three passes for 11 yards the rest of the game.
While his seven targets look impressive, they actually clocked in only ninth among tight ends, and he ranked 14th among tight ends with five targets or more (21).
Positive Regression Candidates
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
After a pile of fanfare, Kyler Murray made his 2019 NFL debut, and boy was it ugly. For three quarters, at least -- and then things got pretty fun.
Kyler Murray with an absolute DIME to Fitz!#DETvsAZ pic.twitter.com/NLfIxvQdAf
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 8, 2019
Murray finished only as QB11, and from an efficiency perspective, his -0.02 Passing NEP per drop back ranked him 23rd among the 32 quarterbacks with 10 drop backs or more.
Looking more closely at only the fourth quarter and overtime, among his 29 drop backs in those last two periods, Murray posted a 0.41 Passing NEP per drop back mark, throwing for 238 yards and two scores.
Arizona also is going to be paced up -- they ranked as the league's fastest offense overall (21.36 seconds per play), and they ranked sixth in situation-neutral pace (28.79 seconds per play).
Expect Murray to climb up the fantasy ranks soon.
Malcolm Brown, RB, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams running back situation is a bit tricky to predict -- there's a lot of mouths to feed, including Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, and Malcolm Brown. If Brown keeps up these types of performances, he should continue to eat and soar up the fantasy ranks.
Brown toted the rock 11 times for 53 yards, and while those totals were impressive, his goal line work, where he grabbed two rushing touchdowns, was even more impressive. There's always a market for backs that get the rock around the goal line, and coupled with his efficient production (0.48 Rushing NEP per play, third), it's a recipe for a larger role.
The Rams still will want to keep Gurley involved, but with a solid matchup against New Orleans Saints on tap this week, Brown should be ready to rock.
Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears
After an opening week that saw him rank as WR26, Allen Robinson may have been a bit disappointed, and rightfully so -- but there's a strong reason to believe some monster weeks are on the horizon.
In looking at Robinson's Air Yards, he ranked sixth among wideouts with 156, and he was tied for second among wide receivers with 13 targets.
The Chicago Bears also ranked ninth in pace (26.32 seconds per play), and Robinson was close to missing on just a few connections with Mitchell Trubisky from a much larger effort. Look for him to firmly plant his flag in the WR2 territory in Week 2.
Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders
It's Darren Waller-season y'all, and we are all a witness.
After all of the Antonio Brown mess with the Oakland Raiders coming to a head, the boys in silver and black came out and smacked the Denver Broncos around in a Monday Night Football win. Not only was Derek Carr extremely efficient, but Waller was highly productive as well.
Waller ranked fifth in receptions (7) and eighth in Air Yards (55), racking up an impressive 30.8% target market share. He's clearly a large, involved part of their offense, and he may be the largest beneficiary of Brown's departure.
If you need help at the tight end position, expect fantasy's TE10 to be creeping up the ranks very quickly.
Matt Kupferle is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Matt Kupferle also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username MKupferle. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.