#Trendspotting: Week 3 - Ertz So Good

Examining player and team trends to identify valuable DFS options

Reader's Guide

  • Green text is a good matchup for that team's offensive players.
  • Red text is a bad matchup.
  • When a player's name is green, it means that he exceeded 2.75x value on his DraftKings salary that week.
  • If a name is red, it means that player was under 2x his value.
  • All reference to fantasy points assumes DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
  • All stats reference the full 2017 season unless otherwise specified.
  • All fantasy points rankings in the matchup graphics are on a per-game basis to account for bye weeks.

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

Targets Lead to Touchdowns

Last week, we used this space to call attention to Ty Montgomery, who hadn't scored a receiving touchdown despite plenty of targets and the skill set required to do so. Thanks to a late-game shovel pass, Montgomery broke through. As more data becomes available, we'll use more rigid criteria going forward to identify players whose volume would suggest they should have more touchdowns than they do.

As the season progresses, I'll be using only the most recent four weeks as the examination period. But for now, we have just two weeks of data. The qualifications here are:

  • at least seven (7) targets per game
  • at least 20% of their team's Target Market Share
  • on teams in the top one-third of the NFL in passing attempts per game
  • zero touchdowns if the team has played three games in the four-week period, or one touchdown if they've played all four weeks
PlayerTgt/GmMS%TmAtt/GmRecTDMatchup
Randall Cobb 11.0 24.2% 46.0 0 vs. CIN
Larry Fitzgerald 9.5 22.9% 42.0 0 vs. DAL
Michael Thomas 9.0 22.2% 41.0 0 at CAR
Zach Ertz 9.0 21.7% 42.5 0  vs. NYG

[return to top]


Funnel Watch

A "funnel" defense is one with a stout run defense but a suspect (or worse) pass defense. These units "funnel" production to the exterior and deep parts of the field (places where passing games focus) and away from the short middle (where the running game typically occurs). The following criteria are used to determine funnel defenses.

    • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
    • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
    • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for low percentage figures here)
    • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamPaYd/GmRuYd/GmNYd/AttYd/Rush% PassYd% RushYd
Miami Dolphins 323.0 44.0 8.1 3.1 88.0% 12.0%
Indianapolis Colts 308.0 73.0 8.7 2.5 80.8% 19.2%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 290.0 20.0 6.3 1.3 93.5% 6.5%
Washington Redskins 269.0 75.0 7.8 3.3 78.2% 21.8%
Minnesota Vikings 258.5 81.0 6.9 3.1 76.1% 23.9%
Chicago Bears* 251.0 181.0 7.7 3.2 73.5% 26.5%

* Chicago is 15th in rushing yards per game allowed, putting them just outside meeting all four criteria.

There isn't much to act upon here yet; two of these teams have played just one game. But Indianapolis and Washington are the teams to monitor. Whether it's a surplus of skill defending the run or a serious deficiency defending the pass, their opponents are killing them through the air with quantity and quality. Watch out for players from the Oakland (at Washington) and Cleveland (vs. Indianapolis) passing games this week.

[return to top]


Last Week's Trends

Let's review some trends we discussed last week that appear to have carried over from 2016 and see how they're progressing in 2017.

Atlanta Allows Huge Receiving Production to Running Backs

Notes

  • In 2016, Atlanta allowed 14.5 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, most in the NFL (12.4% more than the second-worst team).
  • Below is what running backs have done to Atlanta so far this season.

Atlanta vs. RBs

Commentary

I'll concede that those are some pretty good receiving backs, but I'll counter my own concession (yes, I'm talking to myself) by asking, "isn't Theo Riddick also a good receiving back?" Look for the trend to continue this week, especially if his backfield mates Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington are still banged up. Riddick is a nice play in all formats, especially at full PPR sites.

The New York Giants Are Poor vs. Tight Ends

Notes

  • In 2016, the Giants allowed the 12th-most fantasy points and the fourth-most yards to tight ends.
  • Below is how the Giants have fared against tight ends through two weeks of 2017.

NY Giants vs. TEs

Commentary

Jason Witten is known for being a #DadRunner, while Eric Ebron almost never scores touchdowns. Yet, they both had success. Next up is Zach Ertz, who is a candidate for some positive touchdown regression, as you may recall from above.

New Orleans is #Bad at Defense

Notes

Here are the five worst defenses by points per game allowed so far in 2017, with their fantasy points allowed ranks by position. New Orleans' best rank is third-worst in the league. 

New Orleans

Commentary

If Cam Newton can't "get well" while hosting New Orleans this week, it's going to be a long year. A sleeper in this game is Ed Dickson, taking over for the injured Greg Olsen. Dickson only has four targets this season, but his aDOT is a team-leading 29 yards per. And he has the second-most total air yards on the team. This is a aligns nicely with New Orleans early tendency to allow deep production.

[return to top]


Developing Trends

These are trends that are developing this season or ones from 2016 that we may have missed in last week's column.

Cleveland and Washington Might Rival the Giants for Worst Against Tight Ends

Notes

  • In 2016, Cleveland allowed the second-most fantasy points, the seventh-most yards, and the most touchdowns to tight ends.
  • In 2017, Cleveland allows the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.
  • Cleveland has allowed the most receptions to tight ends; their tight end opponents have been Jesse James and Ben Watson.
  • As for Washington, they're a "funnel within a funnel." As described above, they encourage teams to pass against them. Their perimeter defense is strong, which leads opponents to exploit the middle.

Commentary

Jared Cook has a high implied team total, has been part of his offense, and gets Washington. Cook is one of my favorite plays of the week as a cheap-ish tight end. Jack Doyle seemed to have the trust of Jacoby Brissett and gets Cleveland. 

[return to top]


Oakland Raiders (at Washington Redskins)

Oakland vs. Washington

Notes

  • Washington is allowing 6.0 yards per play, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Washington is allowing 78.2% of its yardage via the pass, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. They have faced Carson Wentz and Jared Goff.
  • Oakland is averaging 7.7 net yards per pass attempt, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Oakland has scored 35.5 points per game, most in the NFL.

Commentary

Washington's fantasy points allowed vs. wide receivers and tight ends bear out the trend mentioned in the section above. The biggest strength-vs.-weakness matchup here is in favor of Derek Carr.

[return to top]


Washington Redskins (vs. Oakland Raiders)

Washington vs. Oakland

Notes

  • Oakland is allowing 4.8 yards per rush attempt, seventh-most in the NFL. This includes a matchup against the lowly Jets.
  • Washington is averaging 5.2 yards per rush attempt, third-most in the NFL.

Commentary

The rushing stats listed above would suggest that Washington running game assets are the best fantasy plays. But much of their rushing production came on semi-fluky plays from third-down back Chris Thompson. It remains to be seen if Rob Kelley and Semaje Perine can keep the rushing numbers high when the sample size gets larger. This is a passing-driven team. Oakland's pass defense numbers look adequate, but half of their half of their data is with the Jets as their opponent.

[return to top]


New England Patriots (vs. Houston Texans)

New England vs. Houston

Notes

Houston has played against Jacksonville and Cincinnati, the latter of which was on a Thursday night. Let's not get too excited about their defensive numbers just yet.

In the six occasions in which New England has been a home favorite of 10 or more points since 2014, they average the following:

  • 32.3 points per game scored
  • 10.8 points per game allowed
  • 0.3 fewer passing touchdowns per game
  • 0.3 more rushing touchdowns per game
  • 13 fewer passing yards per game
  • 13 more rushing yards per game
  • 0.8 more passing attempts per game
  • 6 more rushing attempts per game

Commentary

Start your New England players when they're projected by Vegas to score a bunch of points. And don't completely buy into the game script narrative that they'll score significantly more fantasy points via the run game.

[return to top]


Atlanta Falcons (at Detroit Lions)

Atlanta vs. Detroit

Notes

  • In 2016, Detroit allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and the second-most touchdowns to tight ends.
  • Detroit is allowing 81.5% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Atlanta is averaging 8.4 net yards per pass attempt, third-most in the NFL.

Commentary

Atlanta can score in any way they want. Players from this game might be a nice ownership pivot off the expected Oakland-Washington shootout. Unlike last week with New England-New Orleans and Green Bay-Atlanta, it wouldn't be surprising if this week's high-total game didn't actually shoot out.

[return to top]


Pittsburgh Steelers (at Chicago Bears)

Pittsburgh vs. Chicago

Notes

  • Pittsburgh is gaining 21.9% of its yardage via the rush, the seventh-lowest rate in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is averaging 2.8 yards per rush attempt, fewest in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is one of 11 teams to have scored zero points via rushing touchdowns.
  • Chicago is allowing 3.2 yards per rush attempt, ninth-fewest in the NFL.

Commentary

What is listed above could be a trend, but it's like small sample size. Pittsburgh isn't that bad running the ball, and Chicago could remain good from an average perspective but will yield fantasy points to running backs due to volume brought on by negative game scripts. For all that is made of Ben Roethlisberger's home/road splits, Le'Veon Bell has some too.

In road wins, Bell averages the following:

  • 5.4 more rushing attempts
  • 1.0 fewer receptions
  • 45.5 more rushing yards
  • 9.7 fewer receiving yards
  • 0.7 more rushing touchdowns
  • 6.6 more PPR fantasy points

He's been disappointing, but it's hard to argue with volume. Bell makes for a nice GPP spend-up while many others will plug in cheaper players who have performed better this season.

[return to top]


Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail hester@footballguys.com