Regression Candidates Through Week 10: The NFC East Is Weirdly Comforting
Sometimes a simple act of kindness goes a long way.
We see so much pain, so much sadness, so much wanton aggression and hatred everywhere we look these days. We cannot escape being exposed to it. What we can do is take heart in the small moments of kindness and humanity that we witness, experience, or create.
Take Robin Emmons of North Carolina, for example: she saw people going hungry in her community and eating poorly -- after all, a box of generic mac and cheese is about a fifth of the price of a pound of organic apples. She decided to use her backyard to grow healthy produce to sell to others at a fraction of the cost of grocery store organic food. She merely recouped her costs to benefit others and give back to her community.
Take the example of my student from one of my theatre classes two years ago. When I was leaving teaching last week, he came up, shook my hand and said “thank you” for the class and what it taught him.
Sometimes the simplest things make a huge difference to us. That’s why in fantasy football, we parse between players to find exactly the right fit for our teams. What we need to know is if our disappointments so far will improve, and if our hopeful players will fall back to earth.
So, which fantasy football stories through Week 10 will be heartwarming and which will be somber?
Underdog Stories: Fantasy Underachievers
The man known as “Buck”, Javorius Allen, is just a backup running back for now. Yet, we have seen him do some solid things on the field as merely a change-of-pace handcuff to Justin Forsett in only Allen’s rookie year. In fact, were he receiving even 10 touches per game (he’s currently at five), Allen would be a better fantasy back than Eddie Lacy this year. As such, he’s merely a fantasy hold. Still, it’s worth noting that among running backs with at least 50 opportunities through Week 10, Allen is 21st in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) and 17th in Rushing NEP per attempt. He also ranks 34th in Total NEP (24th in Total NEP per play), despite just a 69th-place fantasy rank among running backs.
Another one of my favorite low-volume players, the data behind Ryan Mathews confirms what our eyes have seen all season. He may have been the second-most expensive running back the Philadelphia Eagles signed this offseason, but he’s been light-years better than the square peg-into-round hole situation the team is running into with DeMarco Murray. This isn’t just rate value either; Mathews is 20th in fantasy scoring among running backs currently but 6th in Rushing NEP (5th in Rushing NEP per play) among backs with at least 50 opportunities. That said, he’s been great all-around and is 13th in Total NEP (11th in Total NEP per play) as well. If the Eagles want to make the playoffs, the offense should run through Mathews more than it has been.
It’s apparently an NFC East issue of Regression Candidates, as my next guy will be the second of three players from that division on the positive side this week: Rueben Randle has really come on in his role as second banana to Odell Beckham for the New York Giants. In all honesty, Beckham is part of the reason that Randle is getting so little attention from defenses and is able to post the numbers he’s posting. Randle ranks 14th in Reception NEP per target among receivers with at least 40 targets through Week 10, despite a 42nd-place rank in per-game fantasy scoring.
Ditto for Dwayne Harris. This undersized return man was a Dallas Cowboys castoff before he found new life as a slot receiver for the Giants this season. One wouldn’t have expected Eli Manning to be able to sustain such a high-volume passing offense, but here we are, with Beckham as good as ever, Randle usable in fantasy, and a third receiver also putting up monster games, even in standard scoring. Harris did have three games at the start of the year with one or fewer targets, but he’s been lighting it up since, and has four of seven games with double-digit fantasy points. He ranks 44th in per game fantasy scoring, but is 20th in Reception NEP per target among receivers with at least 40 targets through Week 10.
Bleeding and Leading: Fantasy Overachievers
It’s hard to ding Jonathan Stewart this year when he’s having such a solid season. He’s had five straight weeks of 20 or more carries, along with 4 touchdowns and an 88.4 yards per game average on the ground. So, why don’t I like Stewart to sustain his fantasy value? He’s been efficient recently -- 4.02 yards per carry in the last five games -- but only just efficient enough. When he doesn’t score (and that’s six out of nine weeks this season), he’s usually good for just five to seven fantasy points in a week. His floor is solid, but he has no upside right now. Despite ranking as the 15th-best running back in fantasy scoring right now, Stewart is just the 27th in Rushing NEP among backs with at least 50 opportunities.
T.J. Yeldon had a much better draft position than his rookie compatriot in the ‘Underachievers’ section, but he’s had a much worse campaign in terms of value added. A large portion of this has to do with his usage, I’m sure, as the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t had the most sterling, mechanical offensive machine in 2015, but whatever the case, Yeldon ranks 28th in per game fantasy scoring among running backs but just 45th in per play Total NEP.
This one is easy to explain. Travis Benjamin has been weirdly incredible in fantasy football in 2015, ranking 11th in total fantasy scoring among wide receivers. Most of that is due to his ridiculous 29-point outing in Week 2, however, when he went off for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 4 targets. He does rank 17th in targets among wide receivers with 81, but he’s converted just 48 of them into catches. The deep-ball option in a West Coast Offense, Benjamin is unsustainable at this level. His Reception NEP ranks 22nd among receivers with at least 40 targets.
Another tiny slot receiver that is being used in the weirdest deep-ball specialist/gadget-play hybrid I’ve ever seen, Tavon Austin has been a bust since he came out of West Virginia in the 2012 NFL Draft. Was he misused for years? Yes. Does he have a better offensive coordinator now? Yes. But should we expect him to sustain his 18th-place total fantasy point ranking among wide receivers off of two 20-point weeks? No. Do yourself a kindness and trade Austin elsewhere if you can. He ranks 60th in Reception NEP out of 62 wide receivers with at least 40 targets.