Regression Candidates Through Week 6: Drop Knowledge, Not Nuk
I was uninspired this weekend. I was uninspired to work on writing, to read or run, even to do my dishes. I got about halfway through a project I’d started in my apartment, to clean everything and debulk my possessions, before I realized I didn’t want to do that. I’m now sitting in the middle of a room that has boxes, papers, action figures, books, and clothes strewn about it in various piles, and it all looks worse than when I started.
The good thing is that the current state of my apartment is not the average (at best, we’re talking 20th percentile).
We talk a lot in this column about the idea of regression being a return to an expected or probable average, but there’s also a different meaning I want to offer to you as fantasy advice here. Regression can also mean the opposite of progression and, in that meaning, you should encourage your fantasy teams to regress. You might think, Wow, that sounds utterly insane. How is that advice?
Like my apartment, sometimes you need to regress before you can truly make progress. By creating a mess and trading an unsustainable hot-streak player for an injured A.J. Green or a slumping Torrey Smith may seem like regression for the present, but, by doing so, you set yourself up to reap the rewards later on.
Let’s make a mess, then, and see what sort of order we can pull out of it. Who’s likely to regress from their performance through Week 6?
The Socks Under the Bed: Fantasy Football Underachievers
In case you forgot about him during the bye week, Alex Smith is currently the 22nd-highest scorer among quarterbacks in average fantasy points. He is also the 14th-best quarterback in our Total Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, not factoring in that he has had one week off and many of the players ahead of him have not. Smith is still an extremely solid, reliable passing option (13th in Passing NEP on a per drop back basis; just one interception thrown since Week 1), and adds a good amount of value on the ground as well (14th among current starters in Rushing NEP on a per attempt basis). I still see Smith as a very nice bye week fill-in with potential fantasy QB1 upside.
Jeremy Hill is extremely undervalued right now, ranking as just the 25th highest average fantasy scoring running back. He is, however, our ninth-best running back (minimum of 45 touches) in terms of Total NEP. Over the past few weeks, he’s shown not just the tenacious north-south running style he was selected in the second round for, but also soft hands and improved pass protection. Hill is a complete back, and will be a quality fantasy producer even in a timeshare with Giovani Bernard.
“Drop Knowledge, Not Nuk." This is the most appropriate phrase I could think of to describe DeAndre Hopkins' situation. Hopkins currently ranks 30th among wide receivers with at least 25 targets in Total NEP, and despite also ranking 23rd in average fantasy scoring, I believe he’s undervalued. Why? His underlying numbers are stellar: Nuk ranks 24th in Target NEP, as well as 10th in Reception NEP on a per target basis. He is playing efficiently and adequately reliably; now he just needs to steal more targets from the ineffective Andre Johnson.
When is a good time to offer up another profession of the numbers’ love for Reggie Wayne? I’ll answer that with another question: is there ever a bad time? We featured Wayne a few weeks back in this column, and he reappears this week, still feeling a Rodney Dangerfield-esque lack of respect in the box score. Wayne is only 30th in average fantasy scoring among wideouts through Week 6, but is 10th in Total NEP. He’s been a reliable target (23rd in Target NEP; 62.96% catch rate), and he’s provided a great amount of value through volume to the Colts’ offense. It’s only a matter of time before his average of nine targets per week makes him a reliable fantasy option again. Get him before that happens.
Snarky Phrase T-Shirts: Fantasy Football Overachievers
My, how one week will change things. Russell Wilson was a hero for some fantasy teams in Week 5, dropping 34 standard fantasy points on Washington on Monday Night Football. In Week 6, he was more of a goat, held to just 10 points against the much-maligned Cowboys defense. This performance dropped him to the 15th spot in Total NEP among quarterbacks, but he still clocks in as the fourth quarterback in average weekly fantasy scoring. I’d still believe the latter is truer going forward, but this is a fair warning: his Passing NEP ranks 23rd among full time starters, so his value is Konami Code reliant every week.
Lamar Miller looks to seize the reins of the Dolphins backfield shortly, with Knowshon Moreno hitting the full IR on Monday with an ACL injury. One might think that with added opportunity, he will increase his fantasy totals and metrics scores; I don’t expect so. Miller currently ranks 10th in fantasy scoring among running backs, but a mere 29th in Total NEP among backs with at least 45 touches. He has not been nearly as efficient as other backs in either the rushing or receiving phases, and his Target NEP ranks 42nd among these runners. Volume may keep him an acceptable fantasy option, but if there were a way to sell high in the coming weeks, I’d do it.
Mike Wallace is still just not very good. Despite an 11th-place rank in average fantasy scoring among wide receivers, Wallace checks in at 39th among receivers with at least 25 targets on the year. His bugaboo continues to be poor hands, as he is extremely athletically gifted, but has caught only 56.82% of his passes, and his Target NEP ranks 38th among these receivers. He just isn’t a great weapon for the Dolphins because he cannot catch the ball.
Exercise caution when flexing your hype muscle for Andre Holmes this week. He’ll be a trendy pickup after going off for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns, but there is still a lot of uncertainty in this Oakland offense in general. Holmes ranks 24th in average fantasy scoring among wide receivers, mostly on the heels of two double-digit weeks in Week 4 and Week 6. He sits at only 34th among receivers in Total NEP at the moment. There is some optimism for him, as his Reception NEP on a per target basis ranks ninth, but I have my concerns about a player whose catch rate sits at just 51.72%.