Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 14
There's only three weeks left in the regular season, and if you need to make some big-time fantasy football decisions, there's a good chance that your playoffs kicked off a week ago.
After 14 weeks 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 trying to predict what will unfold once the action starts, but now we can 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
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes owners are likely well aware, but if you spent early-round equity on the quarterback, this hasn't been your year.
While Mahomes has been good in his own right, he hasn't been as outstanding as many expected. Some touchdown regression we knew was looming, as another 50-touchdown season was unlikely. But Mahomes' level of play appears to have also dropped off a bit. In terms of Passing Success Rate -- or the rate of plays that generate Positive Net Expected Points (NEP) -- Mahomes ranks eighth (50.86%). Certainly not bad, but not first-round worthy, either.
If you have other viable quarterback options, this might be the time to consider using them.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
This one takes a minute to sort out, so let's get to it.
By most advanced metrics, Kirk Cousins has performed like a boss. In looking at Passing NEP per drop back, Cousins has been outstanding with a mark of 0.30 (third). In terms of Passer Rating, Cousins leads the league with a mark of 83.8 over his last eight games.
So why the negative regression?
The offense certainly isn't pass-heavy -- its pass-to-run ratio of 1.04 is one of the league's heftiest run marks. And even against mediocre defenses like the Detroit Lions (23rd-rated pass defense), Cousins put up a poor performance with a Passing NEP per drop mark of 0.11.
His schedule appears to get easier this week against the Los Angeles Chargers, who rank 19th against the pass, but that's a bit misleading. With Joey Bosa back in the fold, the Chargers have held the opposing team's quarterback to 200 or less passing yards in five straight games. That's followed by a Week 17 matchup against Chicago if your league is still playing.
Don't expect a huge playoff run from Cousins.
Peyton Barber, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you are scrambling for help down the fantasy stretch at the running back slot, Peyton Barber could be an appealing -- in terms of fantasy points scored, he clocks in a surprising 26th over the last four weeks. He's also got an insanely juicy matchup on the horizon with the Lions this week, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year.
But, per Yahoo! fantasy sports, the 23% owned running back is that low for a reason. While Barber has hit double-digit touches in each of the last three games, he's a wildly inefficient runner. His -0.04% Rushing NEP per rush and 37.59% Rushing Success Rate place him among the league's worst runners.
Even in a tight spot at the position, don't reach too far for Barber.
John Brown, WR, Buffalo Bills
With three receiving scores and a WR15 ranking in half-point-per-reception formats in the last four weeks, John Brown has been a surprisingly solid fantasy asset.
And here's the thing -- Brown rips off huge, chunk plays. Since Week 7 this season, he owns 9 receptions for 20-plus yards -- that's good for eighth in the NFL.
Here's the bad news -- this is not a pass-happy offense. The Buffalo Bills sport a 1.19 pass-to-run ratio, and his quarterback (Josh Allen) isn't all that effective as a Passer, ranking 22nd out of 35 quarterbacks with 175 or more drop backs with a Passing NEP per drop back mark of 0.05.
He could give you a big score one week, but as his last three weeks showcase -- with a combined 8 catches for 91 receiving yards -- you could be left shaking your head.
Positive Regression Candidates
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Muddling along this season from a fantasy perspective, Jimmy Garoppolo owners have likely been disappointed -- but if you stuck with the signal-caller, you surely haven't been disappointed lately.
Jimmy G ranks as the QB4 over the last month while racking up three games of 18-plus fantasy points in standard scoring settings. He led the San Francisco 49ers to impressive wins over the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints in two of the last three games.
From a season-long perspective, he checks in strongly per our metrics, too. In terms of Passing NEP per drop back, Garoppolo ranks eighth with a mark of 0.23.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees' 18.45 fantasy points per game average so far this season is fairly pedestrian -- for a point of comparison, the league-leader at the position, Lamar Jackson, is averaging nearly eight more points per game.
But if Sunday's monster effort showed anything, we could be headed for a big home stretch from Brees in Weeks 15-17.
Brees faces the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans over the next two weeks, who rank 18th and 16th against the pass, respectively. That's pretty good news for a quarterback who we rate sixth in Passing NEP per drop back (0.28). And if you want or need another reason to believe in the veteran, in terms of Passing Success Rate, Brees checks in third (53.98%).
Stick the course with Brees and you should be in a great spot.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
But as last week showed, the dynamic runner has definitely earned more touches down the stretch, and with contests against the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs -- who rank 24th and 29th against the run --, he could explode.
Ekeler's primary value resides in the passing game -- he ranks second to Christian McCaffrey among running backs with 73 catches on the season. But let's not forget his running prowess -- last week alone, he ripped off runs of 23, 27, and 35 yards each.
The question mark here is volume -- but if he can continue to carve out 10-plus touches a week, he seems to have major value as things wind down in 2019.
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers
No one saw the surge of Raheem Mostert coming, but it's certainly been a fun one to watch.
Among running backs with 100 or more rushes, Mostert leads the NFL with a Rushing NEP per carry mark of 0.15. A bit late to the party with only 105 carries to his name this year, but over the last three weeks, Mostert has carried the ball 35 times for 260 yards and 3 scores. Not terrible.
Assuming he remains heavily involved in this offense, he may be an afterthought in many leagues, but he shouldn't be.