Fantasy Football: Per-Snap Efficiency Leaders From 2015
I am not an efficient person by nature.
Anyone can tell you, I am very “Type B.” I react to situations rather than dictate them. I like the freedom to allow my work to wander, and I pursue whatever idea my whims draw me to. For all the worth that this approach allows for in a creative space, if I didn’t have lists and schedules to help keep me focused I would be highly unproductive.
Sometimes, we have to distill things into an efficient way of organizing time, space, or even value.
When we assess player value in fantasy football, many of us look just at the season-end total points that a player has generated. One of the easiest ways to get an impactful player at a discount in your fantasy drafts is to look for players who generated a good amount points relative to the snaps they played. By examining per-snap efficiency, you get a good sense of who can be even more explosive for your fantasy team if given more playing time.
We’re going to look at which players had enough of a sample size to have stable production (at least 100 snaps in 2015) and were outside the top-25 (quarterback or tight end) or top-50 (running back or wide receiver) at their position in total points based on half-PPR scoring.
Which potential fantasy football sleepers were the most efficient on a per-snap basis in 2015?
The most efficient quarterback deep target from 2015 was Josh McCown, who generated the 19th-most fantasy points on a point-per-snap basis for the Cleveland Browns. His points-per-snap rate was better than Derek Carr's, Ben Roethlisberger's, and Aaron Rodgers' last year, but McCown won’t return the unquestioned starter in Cleveland. The Browns signed Robert Griffin III, who may be able to hang onto the job through the offseason. Still, McCown is a high-floor option who can hang as a back-end starting quarterback in fantasy football.
Another interesting asset was E.J. Manuel of the Buffalo Bills, who spelled the injured Tyrod Taylor a few times last year. Manuel was just 26th in points per snap, due mainly to his three interception tosses, which matched his three touchdown passes. Unless Taylor succumbs to the injury bug again, Manuel can be ignored early this year. That said, he does have good rushing upside like the Bills’ starter, so he’s a good grab off the waiver pile if he gets a chance to start.
Spencer Ware formed a thunder-and-lightning combo with Charcandrick West in 2015 as the fill-ins for the Kansas City Chiefs' injured Jamaal Charles. Ware saw much less action than did West, who was the primary back in the middle of the field, but Ware got called in for touchdown-vulturing action (he scored 6 times) and still managed to churn out a 5.6 yards per carry mark. If Ware gets a similar or better volume of work this year, he could continue to be a fantasy value.
The injury bug bit Buffalo’s offense badly last year. Both LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams went down for a time, and Mike Gillislee was called on to tote the rock. He responded by electrifying his opponents with a 5.7 yards per carry mark and 3 scores. He and Ware were both top-10 in the league last year in points per snap. He’ll be buried to begin the 2016 season, but he’s an instant waiver grab if health declines for the Bills again.
Tim Hightower and Khiry Robinson were capable replacements for the New Orleans Saints' injured Mark Ingram. Both of them had yards per carry marks below 4.0, but each grabbed 4 touchdowns and contributed over 100 yards in the receiving game. Robinson now finds himself a member of the New York Jets, but both he and Hightower will have to fight for their roster spots in crowded depth charts.
Despite being one of the oldest active players in the NFL even last year, Steve Smith was ridiculously effective on just 309 snaps in 2015. He was on pace for over 1,500 yards and 7 touchdowns before a torn Achilles’ tendon ended his hope to end his career with a bang. Smith returns as the clear number one receiver for the Baltimore Ravens, and there have been no setbacks in his rehab.
J.J. Nelson has been turning heads at the Arizona Cardinals OTA’s, but this shouldn’t be the first you’re hearing of him. Nelson saw limited action last year but was targeted 27 times in his 163 snaps and converted that to nearly 300 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. He definitely needs to work on his catch rate (40.7 percent in 2015), and he likely needs a slot role to function well due to his diminutive size (5’10”, 160 pounds). Still, Nelson could be a big boomer if given enough volume.
Leonard Hankerson has always had upside, but he hasn’t always had a good situation, and he’s always lacked refinement in his play. Still, two out of three isn’t bad, and Hankerson finds himself a member of the depleted Buffalo depth chart. If he can grab the second or third wide receiver spot out of camp, this size-speed matchup nightmare could really open up the Bills’ offense. Hankerson saw 46 targets on 362 snaps last year, picking up 327 yards and 3 touchdowns. He remains intriguing in this offense.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is head and shoulders above the rest here, and it’s no contest. While Cameron Brate features on this list as well, ASJ’s points-per-snap mark was over double Brate’s last year. Part of that is a function of playing time, and Seferian-Jenkins' efficiency should wane when he plays more than a handful of snaps per game, but he has game-changing, seam-busting talent when healthy. If all is right with his medicals, he is the clear talent in this offense -- he was the second-most efficient tight end in the league last year by points per snap.
Crockett Gillmore was yet another Raven who was on the edge of greatness last year before an injury claimed his 2015 season. Gillmore was thought to be mainly a red zone threat but saw 47 targets on 566 snaps and picked up 412 yards and 4 touchdowns anyway. His depth chart is clogged by Maxx Williams and Benjamin Watson, so it remains to be seen if he’ll get work in 2016.