Fancy Stats | Analysis
October 4, 2017 at 9:46 AM
One of my favorite things to track every season, as we get deeper, is how long non-quarterbacks can reach double-digit fantasy points every week. It’s obviously an arbitrary line — a guy who puts up 20 five times and 9 once is better than a guy who puts up 10 six times — but it’s such an easy threshold to monitor, and it virtually guarantees a player who will rank near the top of the fantasy ranks.
It doesn’t usually work that way. Before last year, Arian Foster (2012) and LeSean McCoy (2011) were the only players since 2006 to even make it 10 weeks. McCoy made it 16 weeks in 2011.
This year? We’re already down to four: Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt and the Detroit defense. Odds are against any of the group making it much farther, let alone all season, but I’ll still monitor the list. Maybe there’ll be another Elliott or Johnson in the group.
On to some notable Week 5 good and bad fantasy matchups.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: In Week 1, with Ronald Darby active, the Eagles held Kirk Cousins to 0.34 fantasy points per dropback — he’s put up 0.66 in three games since. Weeks 2-4, Darby’s been out, and the story has changed. Alex Smith, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers have put up 0.52 points per dropback against the Eagles, but only 0.45 against everybody else. Jalen Mills and Rasul Douglas haven’t been up to the job. With John Brown back, along with Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson (plus Larry Fitzgerald, but he’s lining up in the slot most of the time and has a slightly tougher matchup), Palmer could see a benefit like Manning and Rivers have the last couple weeks.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: Obviously, you’re using Bell every single week in season-long fantasy regardless of whether he’s in this space or not. This is just to say that he needs to be locked into every last DFS lineup you have as well. Through four weeks, the Jaguars (Pittsburgh’s Week 5 opponent) have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to receivers, 2.0 points a game below the next-lowest. Meanwhile, they allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. The Jaguars allow 5.8 yards per carry, but only 5.9 yards per pass attempt through the air. Bell will be the chalkiest of chalk plays this week, and he should be.
Whoever starts for Seattle: At this point, it’s too early in the week to confidently say whether Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls (or C.J. Prosise, or J.D. McKissic) will be the starter for the Seahawks in the wake of Chris Carson’s injury, but the team has long tended to lean on one back for the majority of the carries, and this week the team faces a Rams defense that has allowed seven touchdowns to running backs through four weeks. The Rams offense gets credit for having scored the most points through four weeks, but the team has also allowed the fifth-most. This could be a shootout.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts: With Jacoby Brissett at the helm, it’s not always easy to recommend a Colts receiver. Even Hilton, the reigning yardage leader at receiver, has one game at 153 yards this year, and 136 yards combined in his other three games. But just as Hilton was huge in Week 3 against Cleveland, he could be that again in Week 5 against San Francisco. The 49ers’ top three cornerbacks all grade miserably (Dontae Johnson is at 56.1 through four weeks; Rashard Robinson at 36.2; K’Waun Williams at 39.2). The upshot is a 49ers team that is a distant last in PFF’s pass-coverage grading. If it’s going to happen for Hilton with Brissett, it’ll be this week.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: Through four weeks, Bryant is tied for 19th among wide receivers in standard fantasy scoring, tied for 23rd in PPR. It’s been a fine if unspectacular start for what should still be a star receiver. Of course, through those four weeks, Bryant has faced in coverage a mix of Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Patrick Peterson and Trumaine Johnson, as tough a first-four-weeks schedule as any receiver is ever likely to face. PFF Fantasy’s Scott Barrett chronicled this offseason how Bryant has been the most CB-sensitive receiver in the league in recent years. In Week 5, Bryant’s schedule eases up in just about the best way possible, with a matchup against the generous Green Bay pass defense. Bryant should get back on track.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets: In 2015, Jets tight ends had 95 receiving yards. For the season. The position jumped up in 2016, all the way to … 173. No team has used tight ends less than the Jets in recent seasons, and it hasn’t been remotely close. With Chan Gailey gone and John Morton in for this season, things have changed up a bit. The team has 148 yards from the position through four weeks, including 77 from Seferian-Jenkins in only two games played (five targets per game). This week, Seferian-Jenkins and the Jets take on the Browns, who have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in four weeks and three different TE1 weeks, to names like Jesse James, Benjamin Watson and Tyler Kroft. Seferian-Jenkins could have a career week in Week 5.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: The temptation, after Newton finally had a Newton-esque game in Week 4, would be to jump all the way back on the bandwagon and shove Newton back into all lineups. But pump the brakes a bit. For starters, Newton’s big game obviously came against the execrable Patriots defense (0.69 fantasy points per dropback allowed to quarterbacks who have put up 0.52 per dropback in their other games). In Week 5, he gets a Lions defense that is second in the league in interceptions and fumble recoveries. The defense is fourth in PFF pass-rush grades; 10th in pass coverage. Meanwhile, even off a monster Week 4, Newton is only 30th among quarterbacks in PFF grading at 62.2. Make him prove it a second time before trusting him again.
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders: Want some ominous numbers?
The obvious takeaway: Lynch’s yardage averages are getting worse every week. For a 31-year-old coming off a year’s absence for whom stamina already was a concern, numbers dropping off this quickly is concerning. The more subtle takeaway is that Lynch’s offensive line is also giving him fewer and fewer yards before contact numbers each week: 1.0 in Week 1, 0.9 in Week 2, then 0.7 and minus-0.4. Lynch needs a strong line and stamina for a full season; so far he’s had neither. Don’t be surprised if Jalen Richard and/or DeAndre Washington start seeing increased workloads.
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers: Allen is coming off a big Week 4, with 138 yards on five receptions and a whopping 11 targets. Even with only one touchdown, Allen is the No. 11 fantasy receiver through four weeks, No. 9 in PPR. The only single-score receiver with more yards is Antonio Brown. In Week 5, though, Allen will face the Giants, meaning he’ll likely see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the slot, and Janoris Jenkins on the times he lines up out wide. Instead of forcing it to Allen against elite coverage defenders (79.7 PFF grade for Rodgers-Cromartie; 81.5 for Jenkins), expect Philip Rivers to work the ball toward whoever is covered by Eli Apple (48.2 grade), either Tyrell Williams or Travis Benjamin (or even Mike Williams, if he makes his debut).
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles: Ertz leads all tight ends in yardage through four weeks at 326, and trails only Rob Gronkowski in fantasy points. Unfortunately for him, the Eagles face an Arizona Cardinals defense in Week 5 that, while it’s not the overall stout unit it has been in the past, still shuts down tight ends more often than not. The Cardinals let Jack Doyle put up almost 100 yards in Week 2, but have given up 47 yards total to the position against Detroit, Dallas and San Francisco in the other weeks, after allowing the fewest fantasy points and yards to the position in 2016 as well. Ertz is a locked-in TE1 in season-long fantasy, but shouldn’t sniff DFS lineups in Week 5.
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