Fantasy Football: Week 14 Personnel Tendencies
In fantasy football, we look at a ton of factors when retrospectively dissecting one week and projecting the next. We analyze a player's opportunity in the form of attempts and targets, their matchup against the opposing defense, their game script by betting odds, and a whole lot more. One thing we don't do a lot of, though, is look at a player's opportunity or matchup through the lens of personnel groupings.
By personnel grouping, I mean which type of offensive package his team is deploying on a play-by-play basis. Are they rolling out big sets with frequency, or are they more likely to spread it out with three to four wideouts?
For those who might be a bit unfamiliar, personnel groupings are commonly referred to in numbers like 21. The first of the two figures, the "2", refers to the number of running backs (including fullbacks) on the field, whereas the second, "the 1", indicates the number of tight ends in the formation. So, 21 personnel is very traditional in that you get a fullback, running back, tight end, and two wideouts. Today, that traditional set isn't as popular as it once was, with a trend toward 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, and three receivers) for purposes of efficiency in the passing game.
You can find this personnel grouping information in a neat, sortable format over at Sharp Football Stats. You can see how frequently a team uses (or opposing team faces) each grouping and what kind of success they have found in doing so. You can even narrow it down to run and pass game efficiency.
While shifting our focus forward, we take a look at last week's personnel usage to find a few valuable pieces of data for season-long fantasy owners and DFS players alike.
Let's see what we can find.
The Chargers Running From 21
The Los Angeles Chargers and their run game have been wildly inconsistent this season. After opening the year with two games of 100-plus yards from the combination of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson, they have only four such games since -- with Melvin Gordon as the team's primary rusher.
However, we have to take note that all four of those big rushing days have transpired over the last five matchups. Gordon is averaging 82.2 yards and 4.7 per carry in that time, and a lot of that success stems from the Bolts running from 21 personnel, made up of two backs and one tight end. Over 28 rush attempts from that formation, L.A. has averaged 5.5 yards per carry with a 71% rushing success rate (50% in Week 14) and two scores. That success rate is better than any one of their other formations they have used.
It might come as a bit of a surprise, too, given the fact that they have mainly deployed Gordon and Ekeler alongside one another. In fact, fullback Derek Watt has maxed out at a mere 17 snaps in one of those five games.
Needless to say, this bodes well for both backs. Gordon's the bellcow, but Ekeler is electric and fresh off a 100-yard outing last week. On Sunday, the duo will play at home against the Minnesota Vikings, a team that's been hit up for 5.2 yards a carry and a 71% rushing success rate versus 21. Gordon -- at $7,400 -- is only $200 more than Ekeler, so both make for solid value plays at the running back slot.
The Drew Lock Broncos in 12
At least so far, the Denver Broncos' Drew Lock experience has worked out quite nicely. The young quarterback is 2-0 at the helm with wins over the Chargers and Texans, and he has thrown for a total of 443 yards and five touchdowns while completing 40 of 55 passes (72.7%).
This week against Houston, Lock threw 50% of his passes out of 12, turning in a 64% success rate with a 114.3 rating in the process. He's put together only 5.1 air yards per attempt, yet he has thrown two touchdowns to one interception.
When we put that together with his rookie debut, Lock -- out of 12 -- has completed 15 of 19 attempts for a 63% success rate and 5.4 air yards per attempt. Of his five touchdowns, two have gone to tight ends, two to wide receivers (both to Courtland Sutton) and one to running backs.
That trend, along with the usage of 12, benefits Noah Fant and -- to a much lesser extent -- Jeff Heuerman, but it also keeps the wide receiver competition down for Sutton and his targets. Sutton has a 22% target share in the last two games, according to airyards.com.
This week's game will be a tough one at Arrowhead versus the Kansas City Chiefs. But KC's defense has allowed an above-average passing success rate against 12 personnel, and their 95.5 passer rating against keeps Lock in play in a game he will be forced to throw with frequency.
Lock costs $7,400 on FanDuel, and Sutton projects as his top weapon at $7,000. And at tight end, be sure to keep Fant ($5,700) or Heuerman on your radar. Fant didn't practice Wednesday, and the latter is only $4,500. Oh -- and did I mention the Chiefs are top eight in fantasy points allowed to the position? They are.
Miami Passing Out of 12
Like Denver, the Miami Dolphins are another team that has had an uncertain quarterback situation throughout the year only to emerge with some solid play of late. With Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and guys like DeVante Parker stepping up, they have won three of the last six, with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles and a narrow loss last week to the New York Jets on the road.
The Dolphins remain in New York this week to face the Giants in what figures to be another plus matchup for the passing game. And that's a passing game that has excelled when utilizing one back and two tight ends.
This past week, the Dolphins sent out that formation on 60% of their total plays and 54% of their passes. Both of those numbers are up from the season-long marks. They were rather inefficient thanks to a pick and a sack, but they completed 70% of their passes and averaged 9.0 air yards per attempt on 21 plays out of the formation.
Even with Parker and Albert Wilson going down with injuries, Allen Hurns and Isaiah Ford were able to do enough with their time. They played 57 and 55 snaps, respectively, and combined for 11 catches (on 17 targets) and 160 receiving yards. Whether it's those two or Parker returning from his concussion, we could see more of this setup in Week 15.
Gesicki is a tournament dart throw. The wide receivers are always targets in a negative game script, and the Giants are no defense to shy away from. Just keep an eye on the injury report. Parker ($6,900) would be a lock-and-load play at full strength, but if he misses, Ford would be a great punt at $5,500.