NFL Offseason Moves and the DFS Ramifications
NFL Offseason Moves
Every NFL offseason, teams shake up their roster and impact players move partially because organizations are trying to improve and partially because league contracts are rarely guaranteed. Their system inherently leads to movement and, with the large rosters, the movement can be tough to follow.
This article is designed to analyze the new situations in which certain players have landed and discuss how DailyRoto's DFS projections have accounted for their move. Our projections incorporate market shares in many statistical categories and we define market share as the portion of the category controlled by the specific player.
Ex: If a player garnered 25-percent of the market share of targets on a team that attempted 600 passes, he was targeted 150 times.
Here is a look at some offseason movers and a look into what our projections believe is ahead for them in Week 1 (and potentially beyond):
In the offseason, the Chiefs traded quarterback (QB) Alex Smith to the Redskins in exchange for cornerback Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick (that the team ended up trading to the Bengals). Smith graded 10th highest in “NFL throws” according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and second best in terms of adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for some things that are out of the QB's control and players are credited for on-target throws that are dropped, throwaways, batted balls, etc.). Smith has a reputation for “playing it safe” so the adjusted completion numbers were not a surprise. The question remains how Smith will fare with a completely new arsenal of weapons.
Smith will leave a Chiefs situation headlined by Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt and head to an offense severely lacking a running game due to the injury to Derrius Guice and relying upon such pass-catchers as Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson Jr., Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson. A few numbers that stood out in 2017 for Smith and partially led to his success were his 66.9-percent completion rate against the blitz and his 8:1 big time throw to turnover-worthy throw ratio when blitzed. The Chiefs featured a true downfield threat in Hill that is simply not present on the Redskins. Whereas Hill graded as a top 15 receiver in terms of his receiving ability on PFF, Doctson graded outside the top 70. Additionally, 27.8-percent of Doctson's targets were of the “deep” variety last season and he only caught 30-percent of them. In 2017, Smith ranked first in deep passing accuracy (54.8-percent) which accounted for 1,344 of his yards and 12 touchdowns (TDs). Comparatively, Smith's deep pass accuracy was only 39.1-percent in 2016 with 521 yards and two scores in 2016 and he only completed 35-percent of his downfield passes in 2015 (for 450 yards and three TDs). Also, Richardson caught eight of 20 deep targets, good enough for 61st in catch rate, and he tied for the 73rd most deep targets as well. There are two ways to look at this phenomenon: either Doctson/Richardson are set to positively regress or Smith was lucky to post the numbers he did downfield due to Hill's freakish talent and an extreme outlier season. Smith ranked 22nd in the NFL in open accuracy (when a receiver was deemed open) and his deep pass percentage was by far a career-best.
Our projections still believe Smith will get 13-percent of the rushing market share and 20-percent of the market rushing touchdown TD share following the Guice injury so his feet will provide him with a solid fantasy floor. Without that strong downfield threat, it remains to be seen whether Smith has replicated his 28 TD magic from a season ago. Cousins threw 27 TD in this offense just a season ago and our projections like Smith to start the season off strong (13th projected QB in Week 1) against a Cardinals defense that ranked 10th in Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) statistic in 2017. Smith will likely be under pressure more this year because the team's run game is so weak so it seems reasonable to temper his expectations slightly compared to last year.
Examining Smith is a nice transition to the guy whose job he took: Kirk Cousins. Leaving Washington may be the best thing that has happened to Cousins because he heads to a situation with a fantastic two-headed receiving core: Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Last season, Crowder was about the only reliable week-to-week target Cousins had at his disposal and he still finished with over 4,000 yards and nearly 30 TD passes. Whereas the Redskins had exactly zero receivers grade inside the top 35 at the position last season, per PFF, both Thielen and Diggs graded as top nine overall receivers. As if that were not enough, the team will get their starting running back (RB) back following a torn ACL last year and Kyle Rudolph has proven to be an effective red zone target (seven-plus TDs in back-to-back seasons).
The Redskins featured an above-average offensive line but that, unfortunately, will not be the case in Minnesota. Prior to the season, PFF ranked this the 28th best offensive line in the league with only one player garnering a rating over 48.6. Cousins ranked 17th out of 41 QBs in terms of his grade under pressure and he graded below average in terms of his turnover-worthy play percentage. He was nothing more than a league-average QB under pressure but he excelled (109.8 QB rating) while being blitzed. If feeling bullish on Cousins, the expectation would be that his weapons help neutralize some of the negative effects from the offensive line downgrade. Dalvin Cook's presence in the rushing game should help as well as it will set up play-action and enhance Cousins' ability in the red zone. For what it is worth, Cousins' three turnover-worthy plays near the goal line tied for fourth-most amongst all QBs, but his 17 red zone TDs tied for eighth most.
Our model is not as high on Cousins from the start even though the Vikings are listed as 6.0-point home favorites in a game with one of the highest implied totals of Week 1 (46.5-points). However, he does not possess the rushing floor that Smith does, so projecting him higher than Smith would mean our model believes he will post an outlier positive passing performance. There is certainly reason for optimism versus a 49ers secondary that ranked 28th in passing DVOA and one that struggled to cover number one and number two wide receivers (WRs) respectively (27th and 16th in DVOA).
Arguably the sole player who updated their situation most this offseason was Jerick McKinnon. Not only was he financially upgraded (four-year, $30 million) but he enters a situation where he should be the featured back. Coach Kyle Shanahan's offenses have ranked top seven in rushing scored in three of the last four seasons and in the top half of rushing attempts in three of the last four as well. After signing an undrafted rookie SPARQ stud (88th percentile) last season, Shanahan decided to upgrade by acquiring McKinnon and his 100th percentile SPARQ score. Essentially, Shanahan recently has a type at the position, and he appears to prefer physical beasts.
Remember, Shanahan coached Devonta Freeman to back-to-back 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016 (the only two of his career) and his only two double-digit rushing TD seasons as well (although Tevin Coleman missed at least three games in each of those seasons). During those two seasons, Freeman caught an average of 45 receptions during those two seasons. Shanahan also coordinated Carlos Hyde to 988 rushing yards, six rushing scores and 59 receptions with the 49ers last year. Meanwhile, McKinnon is coming off a season where he caught 41 passes in his final 10 games while splitting the workload with Latavius Murray. For a player with his receiving (and athletic skills), this has the potential to be a match made in heaven with Shanahan's coaching style.
This season's 49ers offense is led by a league-average offensive line up front and an up-and-coming QB who blossomed down the stretch of 2017. Our projections are not expecting McKinnon to come out of the gates strong as he is listed as a negative value across the industry. Interestingly, McKinnon and Freeman are almost being projected for an identical market share in their respective offenses, being that it is Shanahan's old and new teams. If it were not for McKinnon suffering a “muscle strain” in camp, he may have been projected for a larger market share. The matchup against the Vikings is a difficult one (sixth in rushing DVOA) and Matt Breida is expected to play a significant role from the start (32-percent projected market share in terms of rushing attempts and 30.5-percent of the rushing TD market share). As McKinnon continues to get healthier and likely separate himself (especially in terms of his receiving ability) from Breida like Hyde did a year ago, our projections will adjust accordingly.
McKinnon is able to take over as the lead back in San Francisco because Carlos Hyde left via free agency in the offseason. While he was able to fend off Breida for a full season with the 49ers, there is even more competition for Hyde with the Browns: rookie Nick Chubb and pass-game specialist Duke Johnson Jr. He also is unlucky enough to join this team the year after probable Hall-of-Fame tackle Joe Thomas retired. Still, the offensive line is solid (14th according to PFF), and Coach Hue Jackson's offenses have ranked in the top seven of rushing attempts in four of the last six years.
After drafting Baker Mayfield number one overall and signing Tyrod Taylor, there is finally some reason for optimism around the Browns, although the Josh Gordon and Antonio Callway off-the-field issues are not helping. A balanced offense would only help Hyde's cause and he has been the clear-cut starter in the preseason. With the first team offense, Hyde has played 19/32 total snaps, Johnson Jr. has played 13/32 and Chubb has played exactly zero snaps. As the week goes on, reports seem to get more and more positive for Hyde's outlook as it appears he has won the starting role in the early-going of the season.
Luckily, the analysts behind our algorithm were already ahead of the curve and had projected Hyde for 46-percent of the rushing market share, 50-percent of the rushing TD market share and seven-percent of the receiving TD market share from the get-go. Unlike his role with the 49ers, Hyde will be affected by the presence of a receiving back, although it is possible Johnson Jr. lines up in the slot as well (especially if Josh Gordon is not active). The situation is a downgrade for his market share, which will depreciate from 2017, but he has a coach committed to the run and rushing QBs have positively correlated to an uptick in team yards per carry overall. At this point, Hyde is a rock-solid RB2 and he is not being valued as such by the public.
Allen Robinson II
Coming off an injury-plagued season, the Bears paid Allen Robinson II true WR1 money (three-year, $42 million contract including a $6 million signing bonus) which was an interesting development to say the least. Robinson is a big receiver (6'2”, 220 lbs.) with a 91st percentile catch radius and 92nd percentile SPARQ score but there are some underlying issues with him beyond health. Back in 2016, which was his last healthy season, Robinson only caught 50.7-percent of the passes he was targeted on and he managed just 883 yards and six TDs in 16 games. A young Blake Bortles was partially to blame but so were Robinson's nine drops (tied for seventh most in the league).
Mitchell Trubisky attempted more than 35 passes in a game just twice in 2017 and he attempted 32 or fewer in eight of his 12 starts. In other words, there is not a definitive amount of data to make a final determination on his skills quite yet, especially because the team limited his passing attempts due to the lack of weapons. Our model is giving Robinson credit for a slight improvement in catch rate from 2016 (54-percent) and projects a 21-percent market share in the passing game. By comparison, Stefon Diggs and Amari Cooper currently have a projection for 22-percent of their respective team's market share. Additionally, Devin Funchess and Marquise Goodwin are predicted with identical market shares and identical catch rates, but they play on more formidable offenses than the Bears. The Bears are not included on the first main slate because they play on Sunday Night Football versus the Packers but the game flow will likely be in Robinson's favor with the team playing catch up (especially with two of the team's best defenders, Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd, looking destined to play at less than 100-percent).
Volume has been plentiful for Jarvis Landry in his young career as eh has been targeted 131-plus times in three straight seasons and 111-plus times in every one of his four seasons as a professional. He had been allergic to the end zone in his first three seasons before ranking second in the NFL in red zone targets last season. Here was the entire list of receivers targeted inside the red zone at a higher rate than Landry: Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green, Keenan Allen and DeAndre Hopkins. On this team, with a QB who only attempted 30-plus passes in 26.7-percent of his starts last year, it is difficult to imagine his volume coming anywhere close to his recent season totals. With David Njoku looking like an every-down starter and Josh Gordon potentially in the mix, it is unlikely his red zone target share remains as high either. Landry is a prime regression candidate.
Our model is not sold on Gordon's presence early-on which has led to a projection of a 27-percent market share in Week 1. Assuming Gordon is not suited up and/or has a minimum role leads to a substantial receiving TD market share of 25-percent. Others on the team with sizeable receiving TD market shares include Njoku (21-percent), Antonio Callaway (15-percent) and Duke Johnson Jr. (12-percent). On DraftKings, Landry is one of just 12 receivers who rate as positive values on the Week 1 main slate, and he rates as our ninth best value. If Gordon were to play and play a significant role, Landry would move down our rankings considerably. For now, his expectations should be tempered in the year because of the QB situation and more competition for targets than ever before. Still, our projections believe in him as a tournament play, especially if Gordon is out/limited, and most will probably want to wait and see on his new situation. Get ahead of the curve by rostering him in GPPs Week 1 and sour on him when the competition stiffens.
Obviously, Aaron Rodgers is an upgrade for a pass-catcher regardless of what situation they are coming from, but playing alongside Russell Wilson was not exactly a poor set up for Jimmy Graham. Although Graham is coming off a season with a career-worst 5.4 yards per target (YPT), his fantasy owners barely noticed as he scored double-digit TDs for the first time since 2014. In seven games with Green Bay last season, Martellus Bennett only averaged 6.1 YPT but he also was targeted in three red zone three total times in seven games. In 2016, Jared Cook averaged 7.4 YPT with the Packers and scored just one TD. Basically, looking back at recent Packers data does no good because players at the position have not been targeted in close. Presumably, Graham was brought in to fill the void that has been missing for a few seasons.
Like Robinson, Graham will not be included on the Week 1 main slate on either DraftKings or FanDuel, but our model has him projected for nearly 11 fantasy points in Week 1. He is projected to catch 69-percent of the passes sent his way which is a slight uptick from his career 65.6-percent rate and that Is a product of playing with Rodgers. Yet again, our projections do project a huge percentage of the market share of the targets (16-percent) for a 25-percent market share of the receiving TDs is huge on Green Bay. Over the course of his career, Rodgers has played 15-plus games eight times and he has thrown at least 28 TDs in every one of those seasons. During those healthy seasons, Rodgers has averaged 34.9 TDs per year, and 25-percent of that would equate to around 8.73 projected TDs for Graham. Sure, the Bears ranked 11th in DVOA versus tight ends (TEs) last season, and the Bears are loaded with solid linebackers in coverage (Nick Kwiatkowski and Danny Trevathan), but Graham can beat anyone in the red zone if matched up one-on-one.
Note: an article covering rookies will be coming out later this week and will be written in a similar format. Saquon Barkley and all the first-year players will be covered in that piece!
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