Regression Candidates Through Week 6: Darren McFadden, Rebranded

Darren McFadden: Half the price, half the health, all the per-play fantasy upside.

My dad, since I can remember, has been a creative director and advertising copywriter. He’s gotten to work on some pretty fun campaigns, like the MasterLock superheroes series, Gardetto’s, even ReddiWhip’s funky chocolate mousse. I’ve gotten to learn a decent amount of that business just by being around him and observing what goes on. As I’ve gotten older, he’s actually pitched me some of his ideas and asked me for my input on the copy.

I know that I get my love of words from both of my parents, but it’s seeing this kind of process that my dad goes through -- where he constructs multiple concepts for an advertisement, might have all of them shot down, and then reimagines the whole thing -- that has shown me why I love the craft of writing so much. Sometimes I’ll have absolutely no idea where to start a lead-in for an article (whoa… meta), I’ll whip up an entire 250 blurb full of cleverness, and then scrap it because it doesn’t serve the piece.

The best bit of advice on writing I ever got was “Just start. You can always start over or erase, but you have to start.”

Fantasy football can be like that sometimes. We can be supremely confident in our choices, and sometimes they hit but sometimes they flop. It’s our duty to get erasers out then and edit our perceptions; that’s what this column is for. So, after Week 6, which fantasy football players “got milk,” and which can’t “just do it?”

Good to the Last Drop: Fantasy Underachievers

I know we profiled him last week as well, but Houston Texans’ quarterback Brian Hoyer is going out and slinging fire lately. He epitomizes the phrase “good to the last drop.” Head coach Bill O’Brien has given him the permanent position, which has allowed him to build chemistry with his receiving corps. In Week 5, the game plan was simple: fire it to DeAndre Hopkins early and often. It worked, as Hoyer has his third consecutive fantasy week with 17 points or more. He ranks 26th in per-game standard fantasy scoring among quarterbacks but is 10 in per-opportunity Total Net Expected Points (NEP) among passers with at least 50 opportunities.

I don’t think I’ll ever trust Darren McFadden in fantasy again, after having rostered him in far too many seasons since his 2008 debut. That said, he’s been given a great amount of trust by the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff, and that does intrigue me. He’s never been short on talent, but he has been short on refinement and health. That said, he’s now the chosen passing-down back (Lance Dunbar's old role) in an offense that is relying on the short passing game to sustain itself under the timid guidance of Brandon Weeden. McFadden has serious upside in PPR leagues. He’s just 45th in standard fantasy scoring among running backs but ranks 20th in per-opportunity Total NEP among backs with at least 30 opportunities. Perhaps his reputation needs alteration.

Flashes of success can sometimes seem ethereal, untouchable, like everything had to happen perfectly in one moment in order to go off. That perfect storm is Marquess Wilson, who has incredible talent, a strong-armed quarterback in Jay Cutler, and had injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal thrust him into the top receiver role between Weeks 4 and 5. He thrilled with 12 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown in that span. He may be number three again, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. He ranks just 46th in per-game fantasy scoring but is 12th in per-target Reception NEP among wide receivers with at least 25 targets.

Much like the Quizno’s Subs commercial with the singing rats, I don’t understand Rishard Matthews’ fantasy success so far this season. Unlike the commercial, I actually really like Matthews’ chance of sticking around. He played 60 out the Miami Dolphins’ 67 offensive snaps last week, and it appears he’s grabbed a clear hold on the second receiver job for the team. That’s good news for him, as he ranks 16th in per-game fantasy scoring among wide receivers but is second in per-target Reception NEP among wide receivers with at least 25 targets.

Are You in Good Hands?: Fantasy Overachievers

I think we all knew it was too good to be true. Sure, Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles is on pace to throw for 4,346 yards and 35 touchdowns in his second season in the league -- just a shade under Aaron Rodgers’ 2014 performance. That said, he’s also on pace for 19 interceptions, so let’s not get cute with the comparisons. Bortles has made big strides in his second year, but he’s still on shaky ground as a fantasy asset. In per-game standard fantasy scoring, he ranks as the seventh-best quarterback. In per-play Total NEP among quarterbacks with at least 50 opportunities, he’s just 15th.

What a year does for your brand. Jeremy Hill's reputation as the indisputable power back chair of the Cincinnati Bengals’ running back committee has all but evaporated, and he’s stuck begging for chances as the poorer half of the timeshare, now that Giovani Bernard has won favor with Andy Dalton and the coaching staff. In weeks that Hill hasn’t scored a touchdown (Weeks 2, 3, and 5), his fantasy totals were -1, 2, and 2. He’s 100 percent scoring-dependent right now, and his metrics show it: despite being the 18th-best running back in standard fantasy scoring right now, he ranks just 49th in per-opportunity Total NEP among backs with at least 30 opportunities.

Whoever runs Frank Gore's PR is doing absolute wonders. Most teams would have been terrified of a running back around age-31 or over, but Gore has become a major cog in the Indianapolis Colts’ offense. He has three games with over 75 yards rushing this season, not to mention a 4.5 yards-per-carry mark on the year. That said, he’s running on a team that heavily favors the pass, where he’s struggled in 2015. When factoring in his receiving value, Gore ranks 45th in per-play Total NEP among backs with 30 opportunities, despite a 20th-place ranking in per-game fantasy scoring among running backs. Even when we take out his poor receiving value, he ranks just 30th in per-attempt Rushing NEP.

I like Pierre Garcon, and I really do think he’s gotten a short end of the stick since he signed with Washington in recent years. Since he arrived, the franchise fell apart, drafted its savior quarterback in Robert Griffin III, and then fell apart again in miserable fashion. He has averaged 84 receptions a year in Washington but hasn’t been the same player that left the Indianapolis Colts the same year as Peyton Manning. This year, despite his 32nd place fantasy football scoring position among wide receivers, he still should be lower; he ranks 54th in per-target Reception NEP among wide receivers with at least 25 targets.