Regression Candidates Through Week 1: Is Tyrod Taylor for Real?
Early on in an endeavor is the time to try things. That is the time to see what you have and then you can make adjustments if necessary. At this point in the year, with nothing vital on the line, we can be bold in the lineups we set and the waiver claims we make.
In the immortal words of painter Bob Ross, from The Joy of Painting on PBS, “There are no mistakes: only happy little accidents.”
Here, after Week 1 of the regular season, we may see some things that don’t appear believable for the rest of the season. The random big-game performances that happen in Week 1 are legendarily fluky, so we need to be aware of which ones are sustainable and which are not.
Believing in a player’s upside based on preseason action is not always a mistake. Start them in Week 1 and see what you have. Now that we have more information, though, it’s time to really get detailed about our vision of the NFL landscape, define those light sources and let the points (or paints) break where they will.
Which Week 1 performances will reveal a bounce back, and which ones are hiding an impending bust?
Happy Little Accidents: Fantasy Underachievers
The Buffalo Bills dismantled the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor was a big part of that. He put together a solid 13th-place finish among quarterbacks in fantasy points on Sunday. His per-play Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) efficiency of 0.63 -- second among quarterbacks -- indicates that with more volume he could be terrifyingly good in beneficial matchups, and his 4.70 Rushing NEP on six attempts (0.78 per play) means his versatile skill set will still keep him afloat when he struggles to pass. Tough matchups against the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins await, but Taylor’s underlying numbers give cause for excitement.
Most folks have written off Giovani Bernard after teammate Jeremy Hill emerged as the primary running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, but the numbers certainly haven’t. Bernard produced 8 standard fantasy points this week, which was a good enough score to tie for the 25th-best running back total in Week 1. Our data, however, shows that Bernard produced 2.50 Rushing NEP on his eight carries, which was the 12th-best total among running backs, and his per-play mark of 0.31 Rushing NEP was the seventh-highest score. The usage in the Cincinnati backfield is going to be highly gameflow dependent, but Bernard’s electricity on a per-play basis means many might be sleeping on his upside.
Many people are high on rookie running back Todd Gurley's potential, and for good reason. However, both he and second-string back Tre Mason sat out on Sunday, opening the door for one of my favorite change-of-pace backs in the league -- Benny Cunningham -- to start against the Seattle Seahawks. Cunningham put up the 19th-most fantasy points among running backs this week, but his Total NEP (6.33) ranked him fifth among all backs. He’s always been effective when he’s played, and this is just a reminder that he’s worth a start when he gets the nod.
Nobody likes mistakes, but it appears that the Indianapolis Colts are learning from theirs very early on in the 2015 NFL season. The age and decline of Andre Johnson showed very clearly on Sunday, and the team was forced to use second-year receiver Donte Moncrief in a greatly expanded role. He caught 6 passes for 46 yards and a touchdown, leading him to a 16th-place finish among wide receivers this week. By our Reception NEP metric, however, he was seventh among all wide receivers (9.70). If his work stays this constant, we can expect him to be a very good fantasy option, with Andrew Luck as his quarterback.
Happy Little Clouds: Fantasy Overachievers
I list him here, but I have the distinct feeling that he is going to outperform his metrics all season. DeMarco Murray, in his first start as a Philadelphia Eagle, totaled 8 carries for 9 yards rushing and a touchdown, as well as 4 receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown in the air. If you’re keeping track at home, that’s a yards-per-touch of 1.67. Nonetheless, the two scores buoyed him to an 11-spot in the running back fantasy ranks through Week 1. His Total NEP score (0.50), however, put him at 32nd among all running backs with five or more touches in the week. This appears to be a full-blown committee, which will diminish Murray’s weekly upside.
This isn’t generally a huge difference between fantasy score rank and NEP ranking, but a friendly reminder that Danny Woodhead's fantasy score was buoyed highly by his two touchdowns this week. Woodhead did get solid work, touching the ball 16 times for 62 yards and 2 scores, and it earned him the fifth-best running back ranking in fantasy. He ranks just as the 15th-highest running back per Total NEP (2.66), however. He’s just not going to be this good every week, though he will be good.
The big picture in Miami is looking really good so far. Ryan Tannehill is looking even more progressed as a passer, the overhauled receiving corps is really coming around, and there are great talents everywhere. That’s why Rishard Matthews’ 22nd-best ranking among wide receivers in fantasy football is totally unsustainable right now. As of now, he is the team’s third receiver, but he’s certainly the fourth option on offense, including tight end Jordan Cameron. Rookie first-rounder DeVante Parker is going to be given a bigger role sooner or later, and Matthews’ fantasy production will sink closer to his 42nd-place rank in Reception NEP (3.80).
The ever-enigmatic Percy Harvin had himself quite a day in his Buffalo Bills’ debut, with 5 receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown, adding a carry for 9 yards. This example of his explosive playmaking upside and role versatility achieved him a ninth-place ranking among fantasy wide receivers this week. He ranked just 20th in Reception NEP (6.13) among wideouts through Week 1, however, an indication that his receiving yardage was drastically improved by the single long scoring play. He’ll have to be more consistent to rank higher in NEP, so Harvin should still be considered an upside play with a low floor.