Regression Candidates Through Week 9: Carlos Hyde Needs a Sweater
It’s getting cold again in Minnesota.
I’m not sure how many of you have experienced a northern Midwestern winter before, but if you imagine what the biblical depiction of hell is like, and then just invert it, it’s probably close. Over two of the last three winters in particular, in 2012 Minnesota had nearly daily blizzards -- we affectionately dubbed that year the “Snowpocalypse” -- and the 2013 winter was Minneapolis’ 10th coldest in history with an average daily temperature of 9 degrees Fahrenheit.
Get your flannel long underwear out; it’s not warming up again until April.
With how insufferable the recent winters have been, I do have to hope that we get a mild one this year. I love snow as much as the next Midwestern guy, but I don’t want to be buried in it or have my nose fall off from the cold.
This is what we hope for in fantasy production: even if we have a cold snap, we hope that the next time we trot our lineup out, it will be slightly warmer in the results. By understanding how and why players regress to their averages, we can begin to predict when these cold streaks might break; that’s exactly what we do in this column.
With that in mind, which fantasy football players are cold as ice, and which will give you the warm fuzzies through Week 9?
Hot as Blazes: Fantasy Underachievers
I have once admitted and will continue to admit that I was wrong when I analyzed Tyrod Taylor's NFL potential during this past offseason. I hope that his repeated appearance in this column can help to smooth over any feathers I ruffled when I suggested that Matt Cassel would be better for these Buffalo Bills. The truth of the matter is that when Taylor is in the lineup, this offense clicks. Last week, despite only passing for 181 yards, he scored 15 fantasy points. This is a great example of why he is the sixth-best quarterback among the 36 with at least 100 opportunities through Week 9 in Total Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. That should buoy his current 19th place ranking among fantasy quarterbacks in points per game.
I know one of my good friends and writing partners absolutely loves big-bodied running backs, so when I offered to trade him Antonio Andrews in a dynasty league, I thought he was doing me a favor. Andrews -- a second-year undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky -- actually seems to be impressing in his job as the powerful lead back for the Tennessee Titans. He’s not agile at all, but he’s an incredible downhill runner and seems to be doing exactly what Tennessee needs. He ranks just 41st among running backs in per game fantasy scoring, but he’s an impressive 28th in Total NEP per play among the 59 running backs with at least 50 opportunities in 2015.
Malcom Floyd may be old, but let’s not bury his fantasy capability just yet. Sure, he injured his shoulder last night in Monday Night Football action, but if everything turns out okay for the impending retiree, he’s in a great situation to put up fantasy points. With Keenan Allen out, Floyd is one of the top options in the passing game for the San Diego Chargers. Add into that the fact that he has the 7th-best Reception NEP per target among the 53 receivers with at least 40 targets on the year -- despite a 41st-place ranking in fantasy scoring per game among wideouts -- and he could boom in the stretch run.
Eric Ebron has been much-maligned since he was perhaps foolishly drafted in the top 10 of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was raw as a route-runner and pass-catcher in his rookie year and had serious deficiencies blocking. What is undeniable is his pure athleticism, and that upside is finally starting to be realized in spurts this year. If the Lions’ passing game peps up, Ebron could factor in greatly. He is just the 13th best tight end in per game fantasy scoring but ranks 8th in Total NEP per target among the 33 tight ends with at least 20 targets this year.
The Cold Shoulder: Fantasy Overachievers
Everyone is on the Jameis Winston hype train once more, defending him for his receivers’ drops last week; Mike Evans notably had 19 targets but just 8 receptions. Still, there’s more to that than meets the eye: Winston has just a 57.7% completion percentage this season, but even when you factor out drops, he has a 68.5% completion rate, which ranks 27th among eligible quarterbacks. That explains greatly why -- despite his 13th place ranking among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring on a per game basis -- he is just 23rd in Total NEP per play among the 36 quarterbacks with at least 100 opportunities.
It’s not his fault, but running back Carlos Hyde's fantasy potential went right down the tubes as soon as former head coach John Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers. They’re in a bad state, even with Blaine Gabbert's shockingly adequate performance last week, but Hyde’s current stress fracture in his foot won’t help matters either. He ranks 30th in per game fantasy scoring among running backs but is an ugly 46th in Total NEP per play among the 59 running backs with at least 50 opportunities in 2015.
That Ronnie Hillman has any fantasy value at all in 2015 should probably be seen as a victory for the former heir apparent to the Denver Broncos lead back title. Injury and ineffectiveness destroyed much of Hillman’s early-career success, but he’s now found revival (as all backs do) in an offense with Peyton Manning. This year, he’s earned co-starting honors alongside C.J. Anderson, but he still hasn’t performed much better, despite the added volume. Hillman ranks 28th in fantasy scoring per game among running backs but is just 48th in Total NEP per play among the 59 running backs with at least 50 opportunities in 2015.
We knew the Washington passing attack wasn’t going to be stout this year, but I don’t think anyone realized it would be this anemic. Despite having the 26th-highest target total among wide receivers, Pierre Garcon has just the 34th-best ranking in per game fantasy scoring among wide receivers. Even worse, he seems to have lost the yards after catch ability he once had, as he accruing little value on these targets: he ranks just 42nd in Reception NEP per target out of 53 wide receivers with at least 40 targets, and shows no signs of improvement. Only volume keeps him useful right now.