Regression Candidates Through Week 13: Kenny Stills Is in the Fast Lane

Kenny Stills' already-rising fantasy value is still pointing upward. Expect even bigger from him.

Most of you who follow me on Twitter saw the play-by-by-play of the epic ordeal I encountered trying to get back home to Minnesota on Monday after visiting my family in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving. I won’t necessarily blame our bus driver for our bus's breaking down, nor the good people at the bus company’s headquarters who wouldn’t send out a new bus or mechanic for five hours while we sat in the cold and the dark. Heck, I won’t even blame my fellow passenger, who wouldn’t stop running his mouth while we were trying to sleep at 4:00 a.m.

However, the kindness of a Trempeleau County School District’s bus driver, the Wisconsin State Troopers, and the Osseo McDonald’s got us through and we arrived safe, albeit six hours later than expected.

That, friends, is life regression: a bad situation happens, and it seems like all the luck in the world is against you. All it takes, though, is a little good to come back the other direction, and you have yourself back on track and safe and sound. We deal with this in fantasy sports on a week-to-week basis: someone may have an exceptionally awesome or exceptionally terrible week, but sooner or later everything will average out to an expected level. That’s what we look at in this column, so which players through Week 13 look to suffer eventual engine failure, and which ones are fueled up and ready to roll?

In The Carpool Lane: Fantasy Underachievers

If you’ve read this column at all previously this season, you’ll know that I have an admitted undying love for the bearded beauty that is quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Well, ladies and gents, “Fitzmagic” is back in action in a big way, having tossed six touchdowns this past week against the woeful Tennessee defense. Fitzy ranks just as the 19th-best fantasy quarterback this year, but he comes in as the 16th starting signal-caller in Total Net Expected Points (NEP). With matchups against Jacksonville and Indianapolis on tap, Fitz could provide great upward regression value down the stretch.

The much-maligned Andy Dalton somehow still finds a way to sucker us back in every year. He’s not particularly talented and his offense isn’t prolific, but this 20th-ranked fantasy passer, actually ranks in the 17-spot in Total NEP among starting quarterbacks. As a fallback option or a two-QB league starter, I don’t mind plugging in the “Red Rifle;” his underlying numbers indicate he’s been better than he’s shown.

All the attention in the St. Louis Rams’ world is being paid to the revolving door at quarterback and the explosive rushing highlights of a one Mr. Tre Mason. However, that’s all "Maseo Jr." brings to the table right now in NEP terms. The real talent in the St. Louis backfield at the moment is journeyman Benny Cunningham, who may only rank 44th among running backs in fantasy points but is an astounding 12th among rushers with over 40 carries in Total NEP. Cunningham is currently playing a change-of-pace and passing-down role for this offense, but if he were to receive a greater volume of touches, he would be highly productive in fantasy. His Reception NEP production is a shocking 11th in the league, and his Target NEP (reliability as a receiving option) is a stunning fifth, just behind Denver phenom C.J. Anderson.

Kenny Stills has exploded onto the scene since fellow Saints wideout Brandin Cooks was placed on injured reserve, accumulating the most targets of any Saints’ pass-catcher in that span of time. He also ranks just 34th in fantasy scoring among wide receivers, but he has a good amount of potential to rise quickly, ranking 28th among receivers in Total NEP. Stills appears ready to boom in a big way at just the right time for the fantasy playoffs, and his steady 11th-ranked wide receiver Target NEP and 77.19% catch rate suggest this value is highly sustainable.

On The Tow Truck: Fantasy Overachievers

The football player formerly known as “SuperCam,” Cam Newton, has had a decidedly mortal year in fantasy terms, as he’s slipped from a top-five fantasy finish in each of his five seasons to a lackluster 17th place among fantasy passers this year. Worse, though, is his 26th-place rank in Total NEP among fantasy quarterbacks. Despite his second-place value in rushing the football among quarterbacks (18.04 Rushing NEP), Cam has been a detriment to the Panthers in the passing game this season, actually costing them just fewer than two points so far this season.

The ageless wonder that is the 49ers’ tailback, Frank Gore, seems to have slowed down finally - just enough for Father Time to catch him. Gore ranks 25th among fantasy backs, but almost all of this value is due to the fact that he has the eighth-most rushes in the league. He’s been extraordinarily ineffective as a rusher, however, ranking 67th among 69 running backs in Rushing NEP with at least 40 carries this season. His efficiency hasn’t been as bad, but if you have much value at 52nd in Rushing NEP on a per-attempt basis, it’s solely through the volume of touches.

I was actually fairly high on Terrance Williams’s prospects coming into this season. He started to light up down the stretch in 2013 and had a fine start to the year, averaging just below 11 standard fantasy points per game in his first five weeks of 2014. As things have shaken out, though, Williams has slipped to 37th in fantasy scoring among wide receivers. He looks like he could fall even further before the end of the season, ranking 52nd among all receivers in Total NEP. He’s always been a second-fiddle to Dez Bryant, but I thought the Dallas offense would spread more receiving value than this.

This seems to be a simple passing of the guard. Veteran Andre Johnson had seemed to been losing a step or two for the past few years, but I don’t think anyone saw him this ineffective, as the 46th-ranked fantasy receiver, let alone 58th in Total NEP among wideouts. Sophomore DeAndre Hopkins has ascended to the top fantasy and NFL consideration in the Houston receiving corps, and Andre’s effectiveness will continue to slip downward as he ages and as this season concludes. Goodnight, sweet prince.