Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 11
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart managers learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward.
The Patriots' Pass-Catcher Conundrum
Coming into Week 11, Jakobi Meyers was a white-hot waiver wire pickup and was a DFS play du jour as a cheap wide receiver who gets mega volume and was playing in a potential shootout with the Houston Texans.
As we exit the week, it is less clear who Cam Newton's favorite target is after we thought he had eyes for only Meyers following 32 targets in Weeks 8 through 10. Meyers was held to only three targets against the Texans while Damiere Byrd had seven looks his way and N'Keal Harry had eight. Harry's return from injury complicates things as there are all of a sudden now three legitimate outside threats to whom Newton can throw. Whether any of them can be relied upon in weekly fantasy lineups is anyone's guess.
Until things clear up (or until Newton locks in on a favorite target), it might be best to avoid this wide receiver corps all together. It's clear this year that the New England Patriots prefer to run the ball. Newton has only 248 passing attempts on the year, which is astonishing when you consider Gardner Minshew has 270 and hasn't played in four weeks. This seems to be by design, as Newton's record when he throws for more than 40 pass attempts is abysmal.
Cam Newton is 0-10 in his last 10 games when he’s had 40+ pass attempts (via @FelgerAndMazz) pic.twitter.com/3mnAF9X6tj
— The Spike King (@SpikeKing76) November 23, 2020
For his career, Newton's record is only 3-14-1 in such games, so the Patriots' coaching staff is likely very happy to keep running the ball with Newton and Damien Harris.
With Rex Burkhead now out with an injury, it seems that the most reliable pass-catcher will be James White moving forward. The Patriots have thrown to their running backs 90 times this season -- fourth-highest in the league -- which is crazy considering they have attempted the fourth-fewest passes this season.
If White is available on waivers this week, he is a priority pickup in PPR formats, but the rest of the receivers probably belong on your bench moving forward.
Huge Downgrades for Cincinnati Receivers
While this is devastating for Burrow and we wish him a full and speedy recovery, from a fantasy perspective, it is a serious downgrade to Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and all aspects of the Bengals' passing game.
Before the injury, Pro Football Focus rated Burrow as the rookie with the second-highest seasonal grade, and he had thrown the second-most pass attempts in the league (402) after Week 11.
This resulted in both Boyd (0.88) and Higgins (0.86) carrying almost identical clips in Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) per target on the year -- both numbers ranking in the top 10 of all receivers with at least 50 targets this year. With Ryan Finley under center, these numbers are sure to drop. Higgins and Boyd should be dropped to WR3/Flex ranks (at best) moving forward.
Every Piece of the Chargers' Offense Is Worth Rostering
Even with the loss of Burrow, we do still have wonderkid Justin Herbert to marvel at. Apparently his football ability is not tied to the length of his hair as he continued to torch his opponents on Sunday, this time lighting up the New York Jets for 366 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions on 49 pass attempts.
Keenan Allen had an all-time box score on Sunday with 16 catches, 145 yards and a touchdown. Mike Williams totaled 72 yards and a score. Hunter Henry got seven targets, 48 yards and a touchdown. Kalen Ballage got 25 opportunities (carries plus targets).
These are quickly becoming consistent lines for these players with Herbert under center, and while the stats are amazing on a week-to-week basis, it's the volume of the offense and the pace of play for the Los Angeles Chargers that is allowing multiple pieces of this passing game to shine.
Among wide receivers, Allen and Williams are both in the top seven of snaps played per game. Henry leads all tight ends in snaps per game. Ballage is a top-10 running back in snaps per game, as was Austin Ekeler before he got hurt in Week 4.
It's obvious there is a correlation between higher number of offensive plays and increased fantasy points, but how do the Chargers rank among the other 31 NFL teams in pace? From the chart below, we see that only five NFL teams rank in the top 10 in both seconds per offensive play and plays per game. The Chargers are one of those five.
With Herbert slinging it under center and head coach Anthony Lynn letting the offense operate at warp speed, the Chargers' offense is likely to carry many fantasy managers to the playoffs and to championships. If you have any means of acquiring a piece of this offense, make the move and enjoy the ride.