Fantasy Football Trends to Watch – Week 1 Edition

by Matthew Gajewski ·

With the NFL finally here, many player personnel situations across the league remain ambiguous. Each unsettled situation provides an opportunity for a player to seize additional opportunity. While these situations can cause head aches for fantasy owners, they also provide an opportunity to gain an edge on the competition in DFS and on seasonal league waiver wires. Using advanced stats, metrics and analytics, we can identify value players in uncertain situations.

Kansas City Chiefs Running Backs

A premier cut from the weekend, LeSean McCoy almost immediately signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Muddying the backfield, the Chiefs listed McCoy as a co-starter with Damien Williams for Week 1. Further complicating matters, Darwin Thompson also climbed the depth chart this preseason and may siphon a few carries in each game. While this looks sub-optimal for fantasy, the Chiefs led the NFL in points per game (34.8) and yards per game (418.5). At the running back position, Kareem Hunt totaled 14 touchdowns in 11 games. Similarly, in six games started (including playoffs), Williams notched 602 total yards and 10 touchdowns. McCoy looked completely washed last season with 3.1 (No. 66 among qualified running backs) True Yards per Carry and a -26.1 (No. 70) Production Premium.

Check out Darwin Thompson on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Thompson also brings his own concerns with an 88.4 (20th-percentile) Speed Score and a 24.7-percent (49th-percentile) College Dominator Rating. Volume remains fantasy football’s most important aspect, particularly in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense. Finding the touch breakdown between Williams, McCoy, and Thompson remains important for fantasy football.

Miami Dolphins Wide Receivers

Following Kenny Stills‘ departure, the Miami Dolphins find themselves with a starting trio of DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, and Albert Wilson. Many project the Dolphins to finish among the league’s worst teams. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm and projected negative game script throughout the season, targeting Miami receivers brings hidden upside. Arguably the NFL’s weakest receiving corps, Miami receivers also finish among the most injured each season. Last year, each of these receivers missed at least five games. Grant and Wilson finished 2018 on injured reserve. With injuries and lack of opportunity influencing their prior lack of production, any of these receivers can earn a significant target share under Fitzpatrick. All three run sub-4.50 40-yard dashes and have shown upside in the past. Wilson notched 155 yards and two scores in Week 9 last year, while Parker recorded six catches for 134 yards in Week 10.

With all three options injured this preseason, Miami took a long look at undrafted rookie Preston Williams. The Colorado State product recorded a strong 45.3-percent (91st-percentile) College Dominator Rating. The late Breakout Age (21.4) raises concern, but he transferred from Tennessee and missed a season due to NCAA regulations. With this oft-injured receiver corps, Williams remains a name to monitor throughout the season. Ultimately, if one receiver emerges with a steady 20-percent Target Share, DFS and seasonal fantasy owners alike can benefit. The Miami receiver situation remains one to monitor throughout the NFL season’s early going.

Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers

The preseason didn’t go according to plan for Andy Isabella or Hakeem Butler enthusiasts. Butler landed on season-ending Injured Reserve and Isabella played behind the likes of Trent Sherfield and KeeSean Johnson. However, regardless of name, finding the starting receivers in this Arizona offense remains important for fantasy football. New head coach Kingsbury expects to bring his air raid offense to the NFL. In college, his teams finished 31st or better in points per game over the last four years. Similarly, he ran an offense that was among the fastest in college football. Texas Tech ran more plays than any other team over the last five years. Kingsbury expects to retain this high paced offense and combine it with more four and five-wide receiver sets. Spreading defenses out is a key to the air raid system, which will lead to fantasy value for multiple receivers.

KeeSean Johnson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Behind Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, the Cardinals recently signed Michael Crabtree. Now 32-years old, Crabtree most recently recorded 54 catches for 607 receiving yards on 100 targets for the Baltimore Ravens. He finished near the league-bottom in most efficiency metrics, lowlighted by a -16.9-percent (No. 93)  Target Premium. However, volume remains the driving factor in fantasy football and Crabtree remains the early favorite for increased volume in Arizona. As for Johnson, the Fresno State-product recorded a 35.7-percent (7oth-percentile) College Dominator Rating and a 19.9 (68th-percentile) Breakout Age (68th-percentile). For now, Crabtree and Johnson remain the most interesting names to monitor behind Fitzgerald and Kirk until Isabella gets back up to speed. With an expected up-tempo offense, finding ancillary receivers should benefit DFS grinders and seasonal fantasy owners.

Tampa Bay Running Backs

Despite spending second round draft capital on Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay allowed the undrafted Peyton Barber to rack up 254 touches in 2018. While Jones’ failures have been well-documented, Barber also performed poorly, registering 3.6 (No. 54) True Yards per Carry with a -31.0 (No. 51)  Production Premium. This allowed Dare Ogunbowale to elevate himself to the active roster this preseason and potentially carve out a role for himself. Coming out of Wisconsin, he disappointed from a measurable and production standpoint. At the Combine, he ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at 5-11, 213-pounds. This equates to a 91.1 (30th-percentile) Speed Score. He also notched a 17.2-percent (24th-percentile)  College Dominator Rating, albeit while sharing a backfield with Corey Clement. However, Ogunbowale proved a capable receiver with an 11.9-percent (85th-percentile) College target share. He looks like a legitimate threat to both Barber and Jones in the receiving game.

With Bruce Arians coming to Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers should remain near the top of the league in yards per game after finishing second in that category last season (415.5 yards per game). Ogunbowale quietly brings fantasy upside in this offense after Barber recorded 39 red zone touches last year (No. 10). While he remains a long-shot, this Tampa Bay situation provides plenty of hidden upside for fantasy football.