Trends: Bears Allen Robinson Will Improve, Steelers JuJu Smith-Schuster May Slip Soon
Trending and NoteWorthy: The Latest Fantasy Football Trends and Statistical Insights
Two weeks are in the Fantasy books and while it’s a small number, it’s enough to suggest trends are emerging. What’s dangerous is that two is a small enough number to be deceptive or misleading and that’s why owners need to resist making rash decisions. Don’t sell David Johnson low or outright release Chris Hogan and please don’t bench Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady for Ryan FitzMagic.
All that caution aside, we have seen enough to have an opinion about what is a good or bad matchup. Here are some of the two-week trends that will impact Start Em’/Sit Em’ and Daily Fantasy decisions.
Rushing Yards Allowed
* Detroit Lions: 179.5 Yards Per Game - 3 TDs
* Oakland Raiders: 154 YPG - 2 TDs
* Pittsburgh Steelers: 152 YPG - 2 TDs
* Cincinnati Bengals: 70.5 YPG - 1 TDs
* Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 67 YPG - 4 TDs
* Philadelphia Eagles: 58.5 YPG - 1 TD
Passing Yards Allowed
* Kansas City Chiefs: 430 YPG - 6 TDs - 1 INT
* Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 376.5 YPG - 4 TDs - 0 INT
* Cincinnati Bengals: 332 YPG - 4 TDs - 3 INT
* Detroit Lions: 168 YPG - 4 TDs - 1 INT
* Baltimore Ravens: 167.5 YPG - 4 TDs - 2 INT
* New York Giants: 164 YPG - 2 TDs - 1 INT
Turnovers and Sacks
* The New York Jets (three games), Cleveland Browns (three games) Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks lead the NFL in interceptions (5), while the Los Angeles Rams have four.
The Rams tied for sixth in interceptions in 2017, while the rest of this season’s leaders weren’t any better than 13th (Seattle Seahawks). The early season numbers are NoteWorthy, but not definitive.
* The Chicago Bears lead the NFL in sacks with 10, while the Browns (in three games) and Dallas Cowboys are second with nine. The Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers are tied for third with eight.
With the addition of Khalil Mack in Chicago, Fantasy owners can feel confident that sacks in bunches is a trend and not a small sample size anomaly. The Steelers tied the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league lead in sacks in 2017, so they are delivering on expectations. The rest of the top teams need to be monitored to see if two games becomes five or six before a definitive conclusion has a meaningful foundation.
The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions
Stats: 78 Points Allowed
The Lions have allowed a league high 179.5 rushing yards per game against the vaunted New York Jets running-back-by-committee and a San Francisco 49ers rushing attack that lost both of their primary RBs. Carlos Hyde left for Cleveland in free agency, while Jerick McKinnon was signed and then lost to an ACL injury during training camp. The Bills were pounded by the resurgent? Joe Flacco led Baltimore Ravens and an above-average Philip Rivers-led Los Angeles Chargers passing game.
The Bills lead the league in both fumbles lost (6) and touchdowns allowed (10). That’s an anomalous stat that is nonetheless NoteWorthy.
The Los Angeles Rams lead the league in fewest points allowed (13), after facing a less than formidable Oakland Raiders offense and an Arizona Cardinals team that can’t seem to do anything right. The fact that the Rams have lapped the field is NoteWorthy, but the level of competition is a significant factor. The Rams are going to be a legitimately bad matchup for most offenses while it is looking like the Cardinals will be a gold mine for offensive players going forward.
The Washington Redskins have allowed 27 points and the fewest yards allowed per game (247) through two games. It isn’t a coincidence that one of their opponents was the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins being a top defense is NoteWorthy, but not definitive.
It isn’t surprising to see that the Rams (111) and Redskins (107) defenses have faced the fewest plays from scrimmage. What is a surprise is that the Chargers (115) and New York Giants (112) are third and fourth. The Cincinnati Bengals (158), Kansas City Chiefs (148) and San Francisco 49ers (144) defenses have faced the most. Plays from Scrimmage totals are an important stat to look at when streaming defenses and determining good and bad matchups for offensive players as well. That is all NoteWorthy.
Total Yards Allowed
The Kansas City Chiefs have jumped out to an enormous lead in total yards allowed per game with 508. They have been exposed primarily through the air, allowing a league high 430 yards per game, while only allowing 78 yards per game on the ground, sixth-stingiest in the NFL. They have played a formidable Chargers offense and a loaded Steelers roster, even without Le’Veon Bell. Owners shouldn’t be so quick to conclude that the Chiefs will be a disgraceful bucket of points allowed. They should settle in as a middle-of-the-pack matchup as the sample size grows and the offenses become less formidable.
Athleticism is an awesome thing to watch. But in Fantasy, what can be more important than talent is opportunities. It is disappointing to see a player heavily targeted and moderately productive, but touches and targets are consistent predictors of reliable production.
After two weeks we are starting to see opportunity trends develop.
* Three Detroit Lions rank in the Top 25 in targets. Golden Tate (28),Kenny Golladay (21) and Theo Riddick (19). Golladay has been the most explosive while Tate has been reliably productive. It’s one thing for a pass-catching running back to struggle in the red zone, but it’s disturbing to see Theo Riddick with only 62 receiving yards. That makes him NoteWorthy, but also a concern. There should be a lot of garbage time Fantasy production for the pass-catchers in this offense.
* JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 27 Targets - 18 Receptions - 240 Receiving Yards - One TD
My concern for the 2018 season was the targets. With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the field it’s difficult to see a clear path to high-volume targets, which means he has to maximize every one and that’s difficult to consistently maintain. He averaged almost 11.5 yards per target in 2017 and is currently slightly under nine yards per target in two games in 2018. He was targeted 19 times against a struggling Chiefs defense.
I am doubling-down on my concerns that neither the targets nor the efficiency is going to be there, even with Bell out. Sell high on JuJu after a huge target performance in Week Two.
* Saquon Barkley, RB New York Giants
22 Targets - 16 Receptions - 102 Receiving Yards
29 Rushing Attempts - 134 Rushing Yards - 1 TD
Barkley ranks 14 overall in targets and second amongst running backs, including 16 against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night football. Combine his pass-catching duties with 29 rushing attempts, ranking No. 14 overall, and Barkley has 51 total touches and targets in 129 plays from scrimmage. That’s a touch or target for Barkley every 2.5 plays. That is ridiculous. I think you can forget about owning Sterling Shepard until that number drops.
* Allen Robinson, WR Chicago Bears
Stats: 21 targets - 14 Receptions - 144 yards - 0 TD
Robinson is playing in a new offense on a new team with a new quarterback. It’s understandable that the production might be limited after only two starts. The target share is reason for optimism. He presents a buy-low opportunity.
* Corey Davis, WR Tennessee Titans
Stats: 20 targets - 11 Receptions - 117 yards - 0 TD
Davis is an explosive talent who is receiving the opportunities that could result in a breakout season. The upside combined with the risk might prove too costly to acquire him in yearly leagues, but in Dynasty and Daily formats, Davis is a player on the verge of being a potential star.
* Carlos Hyde, RB Cleveland Browns
Stats: 61 Rushing Attempts - 203 Rushing yards - 4 TDs
If owners were concerned about the abundance of options in the Browns offense and specifically in their backfield, the first three weeks suggest they shouldn’t. Josh Gordon has been shipped to New England and Duke Johnson Jr. and Nick Chubb have combined for 17 total rushing attempts while Hyde is averaging 20.33 per game. The yards per carry are a concern, but the touches and the touchdowns have once again made Carlos Hyde a draft-day bargain.
* Peyton Barber, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 35 carries - 91 yards - 0 TDs - 1 Reception - 2 Targets
Another running back that came to camp with competition for touches, who after two weeks, has emerged as the clear bell cow running back. It’s rare for a running back that is tied for fourth in rushing attempts to be a Fantasy bench player, but his Yards Per Attempt are miserable and the lack of touchdowns can’t be ignored. With this kind of workload Barber needs to be owned while he also needs to be benched until he starts producing more.
* Lamar Miller, RB Houston Texans
Stats: 34 carries - 166 rushing yards - 3 Receptions - 4 Targets
Miller is tied for fifth in rushing attempts while the overall yards from scrimmage and lack of targets in the passing game are both worrisome. There wasn’t a lot of love for Miller in most draft rooms and outside of a high volume of rushing attempts, you should be even less than excited now than then.
* Phillip Lindsay, RB Denver Broncos
Stats: 29 carries - 178 rushing yards
At over six yards per carry and 178 total rushing yards Lindsay has flipped the script in Denver. Royce Freeman was supposed to work his way from a committee, to a Flex, to a must-start RB2. Instead, Lindsay started as a nobody who became a must-claim and is now a Flex on his way to being a RB2.
It would be nice to see a more active role in the passing game (four targets, three receptions, 35 yards and one touchdown) but beggars can’t be choosers. Denver’s coaches have maintained that they will play the hot hand, but Lindsay is the clear priority at the moment. Watch Freeman’s touches in Week Three. If Lindsay continues to tote the rock like he has then Freeman becomes a cut and Lindsay cements his place as a must-start.
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