This new season-long mini-series is brought to you by the RotoUnderworld Game Analyst Team. The Game Analyst Team consists of over 75 individuals that chart and re-watch every snap from every game in the NFL between game end, and Monday afternoon. The guys you have generally not heard from before stop in to drop some tidbits from their weekly game charting process in hopes to give us a sneak peek into the depth of the games each Sunday.
While Christian Kirk’s not a full-time player, he’s manning the slot role (76.5-percent slot rate) in a high-powered offense. That means he’ll have a high floor. Also, the Cardinals-Vikings implied point total is one of 11 games to break the 50-point mark. While the Vikings’ DVOA is nothing to write home about – ranking No. 18, including No. 21 in pass DVOA. The Cardinals ranked sixth in situation-neutral pace last week as well. More plays = more fantasy points.
The downside for Jared Cook in a great matchup is that his Route Participation rate is a lowly 59.6-percent. That said, his Target Rate is an elite 28.6-percent, so the participation (and Snap Share) can just be the Chargers monitoring Cook’s snaps. Basically, when he is on the field, he is not running empty routes. The Chargers offense totaled 47 pass attempts last week as well. It’s time to smell what the Chargers offense is cooking.
By weighting Catchable Target Rate by Average Target Distance, we see different WRs who are in similar per-target situations for scoring fantasy points. Cooper Kupp has a remarkably high 83.2-percent (No. 17 among qualified wide receivers) Catchable Target Rate. Those targets came with a 6.6 (No. 103) Average Target Distance. He is likely to convert his targets into receptions. From a fantasy perspective, each individual reception is not generating significant fantasy point-scoring opportunity.
Conversely, Mike Williams has a low 65.9-percent (No. 100) Catchable Target Rate on a 14.8 (No. 9) Average Target Distance. He’s not nearly as likely to catch every target he receives, but when he does, they are likely to generate more fantasy points due to being deeper down the field. Those deeper receptions rack up more yards and more touchdowns. He and Kupp play differently, but their per-target opportunity is the same through the lens of Target Quality Rating.
In fantasy terms, we should be targeting players that command a large share of their teams’ targets. But be warned, not all Target Shares are created equal. It is important that we look at a team’s total pass volume to provide greater context when it comes to appreciating how much work a pass-catcher will get.
Target Rate is another stat that can sound impressive in of itself. But when used in concert with other stats and metrics, it can be used to push up players that really don’t need to be in our thoughts when it comes to fantasy football. It’s a nice conversation starter if you want to talk to your mates about how much more work Braxton Berrios should have got in 2020. But those conversations are, I hope, rare.
There are quite a few forces pushing quarterbacks towards their lower-variance profiles. Primarily, quarterbacks have an incredibly stable workload from week-to-week. They’re almost never game-scripted out the way RBs can be in losing situations, or WRs can in difficult CB matchups. Instead, much of quarterback variance stems from touchdowns and rushing yardage, which are both more impactful than passing yards.
If I’m in the final few rounds of a best ball draft looking at wide receivers with projections of six-to-eight points per game over the course of the season, I’m taking speed guys on high-volume aerial attacks who just need the right cornerback matchup to get one deep lineup-making touchdown. High-variance players hit their ceiling once or twice a season. And playing a below average player for the chance at upside is almost never the correct move in traditional formats.
Antonio Gibson had a 60.0-percent (No. 6 among qualified running backs) Light Front Carry Rate and no other major back to challenge him for carries. There’s a reason he has gained traction in RB rankings in the fantasy community. Gibson averaged 5.5 Light Front Yards Per Carry with 17 carries inside the 10-yard line and a 4.7-percent (No. 23) Breakaway Run Rate. Efficient against a high rate of Light Fronts, expect him to continue seeing them for as long as he remains a receiving threat.
It’s no secret that J.K. Dobbins was one of the league’s most efficient backs in 2020. The Ravens offense seeing lots of Base Fronts helped; Dobbins didn’t see extra defenders in the box due to how they line up. His rookie status and not becoming a lead back until the second half of the season also helped him to see more of this “common” look against him. The Baltimore offense seeing a large rate of Base Fronts, plus Dobbins’ efficiency against them, bodes well for him in 2021.
Notable players sitting atop the Adjusted Yards Per Attempt leaderboard include Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr. Although Tannehill regressed a tiny bit in 2020, he averaged 8.3 (No. 4 among qualified quarterbacks) Adjusted Yards Per Attempt, down from 9.2 (No. 1) AY/A in 2019.
In 2021, Drew Lock averaged 5.6 (No. 30) Adjusted Yards Per Attempt and looked inconsistent. In four games where he finished inside the top-12, he averaged 24.7 Fantasy Points Per Game, primarily boosted by 11 of his 16 (No. 20) passing touchdowns on the season. During games where he finished outside of the top-12, he averaged 10.6 fantasy points.
For any and all of you who aren’t Best Ball purists yet, the hardest decisions in fantasy football are made week to week. At quarterback specifically, if you don’t have a Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson-type player that you lock and load each week, often you are making weekly decisions between two uninspiring quarterback options. These are tough and often impactful choices that determine the final outcome of the week.
Projections try to capture the expected value in a player’s performance, rather than try to predict the inherently unpredictable outlier games that players put up. When do quarterbacks put up big numbers? When are they more likely to have outlier performances? Quarterbacks perform best when the opposing quarterback is having a big fantasy day.
We don’t give Antonio Brown enough credit for walking into Tampa Bay midseason and immediately making an impact. Brown finished with an 11.8 (No. 26) Half-PPR Fantasy Points per Game average through Week 17. He displayed a low floor, but in eight games, he provided more to best ball rosters than T.Y. Hilton, Jerry Jeudy, and others did over the whole season. Considering he now has an entire offseason to become more acclimated to the offense, there is a huge buy-low opportunity present.
Lamar Jackson’s rushing ability gives him an elite floor that is desirable in standard formats, but his lack of ceiling held Jackson to 55.2 (No. 10) Best Ball Points Added. The Ravens face the league’s best Game Script and play and the league’s slowest pace. Jackson isn’t required to rack up the production that other quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Dak Prescott, even with his rushing volume. If the team’s pace doesn’t increase, Jackson paying off his QB4 price could be a mirage for believers.
Total QBR is not a relevant stat in predicting a quarterback’s fantasy football success. For example, in 2020, Drew Brees’ 74.5 Total QBR ranked No. 6 among qualified quarterbacks, but he finished the season averaging 18.0 (No. 15) Fantasy Points Per Game. This metric is more relevant in dynasty football leagues. Quarterbacks with low ratings in their Total QBR metric are likely replaced sooner rather than later.
Carson Wentz had a 33:7 touchdown-interception ratio back in 2017 and was an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL. With Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator, Wentz had a 75.8 (No. 3) Total QBR in 2017. Reich would leave for the Colts’ head coaching job and Wentz would struggle in his absence. If there’s one quarterback in the group who can turn around his Total QBR like Aaron Rodgers did last season, it’s Wentz.