Who Needs Megatron? Golden Tate Is the Best Receiver in the NFL

He is not what you think he is, he is golden, he is golden!

For the third week in a row, I've chosen to go with the sensationalist, click-bait headline for this weekly article. Why, you ask? Because I'm the CEO and I have investors to answer to, of course!

You clicked on it though, and now you're here. I'm sorry for the ruse. I apologize to you. And I'm sorry to you, Calvin Johnson. You're hurt and you deserve all the time in the world to get healthy. While you're laying on couch, taking it all it in, I regret to inform you that you're getting scooped. Not by Dez Bryant or Jordy Nelson, but your own teammate. The indignity!

For those of you new to these rankings, we're using NEP, or Net Expected Points, which is a defense-adjusted calculation on a player's impact on his team's ability to score points. For example, if you rush for two yards on a 3rd-and-1, you've extended the drive and helped your team's scoring chances; a loss of one would end the drive and hurt those chances. It's not some crap where some fat guy in a room looks at tape and assigns it an arbitrary number to make you think it's quantitative; no, it's math, it's real, and my word, it's beautiful.

Oh, and the final clarification, these ratings are from Week 7 only. Again: Week 7 only.


Player Opp NEP
Peyton Manning vs. SF +23.72
Russell Wilson at STL +23.26
Tony Romo at WAS +21.84
Brian Hoyer at JAX -19.01
Andy Dalton vs. IND -15.43
Jay Cutler vs. MIA -11.77

It was Peyton Manning's week and not even the cold, impartial hand of mathematics can get in the way of that. The same week he gets crowned as the Mario Lemieux (the best ever - argue with me about it on Twitter if you want to lose an hour and an argument) of the NFL, he tops our weekly list at a robust +23.72 NEP, just edging out Russell Wilson's +23.26. What's amazing about Wilson's day is that his Passing NEP is actually rather pedestrian; it's his +9.04 Rushing NEP which is truly remarkable and would in fact put him as the number-two running back of the week. Tony Romo (+21.84) rounds out the top quarterbacks, as he continues to play much better than you think, mostly because he is, in fact, much better than you think.

On the worst side of the coin, remember when the biggest narrative in Cleveland was about whether or not Brian Hoyer would re-sign with the team after the season? With a few more weeks of NEPs like Week 6's -19.01, Johnny Clipboard may want to actually read the playbook for once. Elsewhere, Andy Dalton (-15.43) continued to prove that redheads are best as child actors and Jay Cutler (-11.77), well, I'm sure whatever Brandon Marshall screamed at you was 100% correct.

Running Backs

Player Opp NEP
Matt Forte vs. MIA +11.65
Shane Vereen vs. NYJ +7.20
Le'Veon Bell vs. HOU +6.84
Ben Tate at JAX -7.52
Roy Helu vs. TEN -4.25
Andre Williams at NE -4.07

For the second week in a row, Matt Forte (+11.65) tops our running back list; if only his team was good, right? He leads all other backs in the league in targets by over 50% over the next most targeted runner, so either linebackers need to get faster or Jay Cutler needs to remember that he's better than Alex Smith.

Speaking of backs who catch the ball almost exclusively, Shane Vereen (+7.66) checks in at number two, although much like the parable with the tree and the empty forest, when you do well against the Jets, do you really do well? Le'Veon Bell rounds out the list with a solid +6.84; the Steelers are going to need him to eat yards if they're going to hold Andrew Luck under 700 yards passing.

On the negative, we lead the parade with fantasy killer and DFS bomb-dropper Ben Tate, who single-handedly caused yours truly other people that I know who absolutely aren't me to lose massive amounts of money this week. Thanks a lot, Benny! Elsewhere, Roy Helu channels his inner Kirk Cousins and fumbles his way to a -4.25, while Andre Williams (-4.07) somehow makes us all pine for the salad days of Rashad Jennings, who as recently as two years ago was best known for failing out of Pitt and being Darren McFadden's backup.

Wide Recivers/Tight Ends

Player Opp NEP
Golden Tate vs. NO +16.15
Demaryius Thomas vs. SF +15.09
Doug Baldwin at STL +13.51
Robert Woods vs. MIN -5.04
Dante Rosario vs. MIA -3.72
Larry Donnell at NE -1.54

As I alluded to in my preamble, Golden Tate (+16.15) takes the top spot this week, making Detroit fans temporarily forget all about Calvin Johnson and his parade of receptions, touchdowns, and awkward interviews. I'm not going to be ridiculous just for the sake of being ridiculous - Megatron has finished in the top two of yearly NEP every year since 2010 - but at some point, you have to wonder how finally having a legitimate number-two option in Detroit will affect him. Will it help? Or will it eat targets, leaving the alpha dog hungry and perhaps sniping behind the scenes ala Dez Bryant, or sniping openly like Brandon Marshall? We shall see. For now though, Tate is on top and he deserves the credit for proving many people wrong.

(Since a few of you didn't get it, let me be clear: he's not better than Calvin Johnson. He was simply the top-rated WR in Week 7. If you're still angry and at the ready to write me a snarky comment or email, breathe in and read those two sentences again.)

Elsewhere, Demaryius Thomas (+15.07) continues to keep sports psychologists who focus exclusively on defensive backs in the black, racking up yet another week above +12.00 NEP; some fantasy owners of Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders may complain that Peyton is locking in on him, but with effectiveness like that, why would you go anywhere else? Taking the bronze medal is Doug Baldwin (+13.51), proving both that numberFire is the smartest site to have ever existed and that Percy Harvin is going to find working with Geno Smith is almost as fun as living and working in northern New Jersey, the pizza stain of America.

On the flip side, it's hard for receivers to crank negative NEP simply because of the nature of the metric; very rarely do receivers cause turnovers or drop catches to end drives. That didn't stop Robert Woods (-5.04) from showing us that he's one game away from playing for the Ottawa Redblacks, or Dante Rosario (-3.72) from showing us why he's one game away from being a high school strength coach in rural Oregon. Larry Donnell rounds off the list with a -1.54; unlike the other two, he actually made some useful catches, he just needs to learn that turnovers are only good if they're filled with apples and maple sugar.

Well, that's it for this week! Hope you enjoyed your free lesson in abstract math! Feel free to reach out to me any time on Twitter and be sure to share the article with your friends and loved ones - you'll turn me into a loved one for doing it.