#Trendspotting: Week 4 - Keeping Up With the Jones

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 2016 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

In this section, I'll attempt to identify potential regression candidates whose workloads suggest they should have earned more touchdowns. This week (and going forward), I'll be using only the most recent four weeks as the examination period. 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 in 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
Jarvis Landry 13.0 33.8% 39.0 0 vs. NO
Julio Jones 8.7 28.3% 35.7 0 vs. BUF
Demaryius Thomas 8.3 24.8% 34.0 0 vs. OAK
Christian McCaffrey 7.7 27.1% 35.7 0 at NE
Marqise Lee 7.7 27.1% 33.0 0 at NYJ

Last week, we had four players listed, three of those four played, and all three scored. That's a smashing success for the first week we displayed the table. If Cam Newton continues to not be able to connect downfield, he'll have no choice but to continue utilizing Christian McCaffrey. Of the Denver receivers, believe it or not, Demaryius Thomas gets fewer red zone chances than Emmanuel Sanders. But he's still seeing enough volume and is enough of a playmaker to break through. Julio Jones is scoring a touchdown this week; that's happening (more on Atlanta later).

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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
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 329.5 72.5 8.3 2.7 82.0% 18.0%
Indianapolis Colts 283.7 85.7 7.2 3.3 76.8% 23.2%
Miami Dolphins 278.0 73.5 8.6 3.1 79.1% 20.9%
Minnesota Vikings 277.7 62.7 7.1 3.0 81.6% 18.4%

Tampa Bay hosts a New York Giants team who is bad enough at running the ball on their own, let alone when they face a stout front; the Giants shouldn't even bother attempting double-digit rushes. Though it's not on DraftKings' main slate due to their changes for this week, Seattle hosts an Indianapolis team that is not your father's wet-paper-bag rush defense. Expect Russell Wilson and his passing game weapons to be productive until a blowout develops. Minnesota hosts Detroit, a team who is fine substituting short passes for the run game. A likely beneficiary is Golden Tate (more on Tate and how his matchup is exploitable later in the article).

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Trend Tracking

Let's take a look back at some trends we've looked at this season and some new ones that might be developing.

Roethlisberger's Roller-Coaster Ride

Back in this season's debut article, we showed how Ben Roethlisberger's home/road splits weren't the only notable part of his up-and-down performances. Since 2015, Roethlisberger has shown peaks and valleys that most top quarterbacks don't have. Almost every time he has a poor performance, he bounces back not only with a solid one but usually a spectacular one. The trend was so extreme that Roethlisberger's down weeks were under 12 fantasy points. On occasions where he played the week immediately after those "stinkers," he averaged 24.06 fantasy points per game. Below is the image we showed a couple weeks ago to help illustrate the trend.

Big Ben Big Splits

Commentary

Last week in Chicago wasn't a total bust performance, as Roethlisberger finished with 16.3 fantasy points. This week, however, could be. Pittsburgh travels to Baltimore, which is perhaps the "home/road-iest" of his home/road splits. M&T Bank Stadium has been a house of horrors for Roethlisberger and for the Steelers as a team. You might notice that he finished as a back-end QB1 in last year's game at Baltimore. However, a rushing touchdown boosted his production. And that's not something Roethlisberger fantasy owners can count on; he has a total of two rushing touchdowns since 2010.

YearWeekTeamOpp.ResultCompAttComp%Pass YdYD/AttTDINTFPsPosRank
2016 9 PIT BAL L: 14-21 23 45 51.1% 264 5.9 1 1 22.5 12
2015 16 PIT BAL L: 17-20 24 34 70.6% 215 6.3 0 2 6.0 31
2014 2 PIT BAL L: 6-26 22 37 59.5% 217 5.9 0 1 8.9 31
2013 13 PIT BAL L: 20-22 28 44 63.6% 257 5.8 2 0 24.0 14
2011 1 PIT BAL L: 7-35 22 41 53.7% 280 6.8 1 3 13.9 22
2010 13 PIT BAL W: 13-10 22 38 57.9% 253 6.7 1 1 15.6 16
2008 15 PIT BAL W: 13-9 22 40 55.0% 246 6.1 1 0 19.4 13
2006 12 PIT BAL L: 0-27 21 41 51.2% 214 5.2 0 2 6.6 26
2004 2 PIT BAL L: 13-30 12 20 60.0% 176 8.8 2 2 14.8 18

In other words, this week (not last) could be the "stinker" performance that leads to next week's huge bounce-back.

Speaking of Bounce-Backs...

Also in the season debut, we discussed the tendency of Julio Jones to catapult back and forth from mediocre to elite performances.

To this tweet, we can add Week 2, when Jones followed up Week 1's 4-66-0 with a 5-108-0. In Week 3, Jones had "only" 7-91-0. So it wasn't a sub-70 game, but his owners are hungry for big-time production. This is the week it's coming. We still have more to come on that later, as you may have suspected from article's title.

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The Weakest Links

Often, entire defensive units are labeled as "avoids" in the fantasy community. Very rarely, though, is a defense impenetrable in all phases and manners. In this new section, we'll take a look at units with strong points that are still exploitable in specific areas.

Avoiding the Main Rhodes

This discusses Minnesota's defense and star corner Xavier Rhodes. He's a shutdown player who shadows opposing WR1s. Let's look at the last two weeks - both against teams with clear WR1s - and see who the more productive wideouts were.

WRs vs. Minnesota

WR2s and slot players are out-performing their WR1 counterparts, which is a testament to how good Rhodes is and a sign that teams are aware of it. We mentioned Detroit's slot-man extraordinaire earlier in the piece; look for Tate to have a big game as Detroit continues to make Marvin Jones Jr the sacrificial lamb against top corners.

Just a Run of the Mills Player

These headers are becoming insufferable dad jokes, and for that, I will not apologize. Unlike Minnesota's defense above, where a great top corner shadows and opponents avoid him, Philadelphia's secondary is "led" by a player who teams target with impunity. Last week, you may have noticed Odell Beckham Jr Jr making headlines for endzone celebrations. What you may not have seen was Jalen Mills feverishly waving his hands to signal that Beckham's touchdowns were incomplete passes. Mills was victimized twice for touchdowns and targeted plenty of other times as well.

The Chargers wide receiver production isn't as focused as that of the Giants with Beckham leading the way. Since Mills will likely stay on one side, any Chargers wide receiver is worth a shot in a GPP.

Funnel Within a Funnel

Last week, we introduced this concept regarding Washington's defense. In short, Washington is stout against the run, making them a funnel defense. But they're also strong against the perimeter passing game, leaving the middle of the field as the weak point. This was on display as Jared Cook was the team's leading receiver (in yardage) and caught the only touchdown pass last week. Washington plays against Kansas City on Monday night this week, so Travis Kelce should have a field day.

Since that's not a main slate DFS game, we'll provide another similar team.

  • Baltimore is allowing 28.0% of its total passing yards to tight ends, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Baltimore is allowing 1.3 touchdowns per game to tight ends, most in the NFL.
  • Baltimore is allowing 49.9% of its total passing yards to wide receivers, the third-lowest rate in the NFL.
  • Jesse James has 17 of Pittsburgh's 18 tight end targets and has played 171 out of 198 offensive snaps this season (86.3%).

Watching for Next Week

Let's keep an eye on these and re-visit later down the road if they materialize.

  • Morris Claiborne plays for the Jets now, and he has shut down Amari Cooper and Devante Parker in consecutive weeks while shadowing them. Neither Allen Hurns nor Marqise Lee are "shadow-worthy," so we'll keep this one in our back pockets for future weeks.
  • We know Patrick Peterson is good. But teams also don't frequently throw to running backs or tight ends against Arizona. Justin Bethel is a bullseye for opposing offenses. This week, that could make Marquise Goodwin a sneaky start.
  • The Giants have two excellent cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The latter plays the slot, while the former shadows WR1s, both with great success. Teams have figured this out and started using WR2s to target Eli Apple, who is the least effective of the trio. DeSean Jackson is coming off an excellent Week 3 in a similar situation against the aforementioned Minnesota defensive backfield. Look for him to see increased usage once again.

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New England Patriots (vs. Carolina Panthers)

New England vs. Carolina

Notes

  • After allowing zero combined passing touchdowns to Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor, Carolina allowed three to Drew Brees (who was on the road) in Week 3.
  • Carolina is allowing 162.0 passing yards per game, third-fewest in the NFL.
  • Against Carolina, running backs have been targeted 30 times the season, third-most in the NFL.
  • Carolina is allowing 7.3 receptions per game to running backs, fifth-most in the NFL.

Commentary

It's hard to tell yet if Carolina's defensive stats are due more to a good defense or poor opponents. There's nothing like a trip to New England to help figure that out. Teams have thrown to their running backs often against Carolina. With the highest implied team total on the board, New England ownership would be wise. For GPP purposes (especially on full PPR sites), James White is an interesting play, particularly coming off a bad week.

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Atlanta Falcons (vs. Buffalo Bills)

Atlanta vs. Buffalo

Notes

  • Buffalo allows 14.3 receptions per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • Buffalo allows 159.0 yards per game to wide receivers, 12th-most in the NFL.
  • The NFL average for passing touchdowns allowed per game is 4.4.
  • Outside of Buffalo, no team has allowed fewer than two passing touchdowns in total; 28 teams have allowed more than two.
  • Buffalo has allowed zero passing touchdowns.

Commentary

It may seem like this a case against Julio Jones, but it's the opposite. Regression is coming for Buffalo; they have played against the Jets, a struggling Carolina team, and Denver. That's far from a Murderer's Row of offenses. And as we saw in Targets Lead to Touchdowns, regression is coming for Jones too - but in the other direction. Jones gets 100 yards and at least one touchdown.

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Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders)

Denver vs. Oakland

Notes

  • Demaryius Thomas Target Share / Red Zone Targets / Share of Air Yards: 25% / 1 / 31% 
  • Emmanuel Sanders Target Share / Red Zone Targets / Share of Air Yards: 29% / 4 / 37%

Commentary

In Weeks 1 and 2, Oakland didn't face a top-end passing attack (at Tennesse, vs. New York Jets). When they traveled to Washington in Week 3, they were dismantled. While Thomas' volume would suggest he is "due," Sanders is the one looked to more often, both all over the field and in the red zone. Both make for nice plays against a talent-lacking Oakland secondary.

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Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)

LA Chargers vs. Philadelphia

Notes

  • Philadelphia has allowed 6+ receptions four wide receivers.
  • Philadelphia is allowing 78.0% of its total yardage via the pass, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Philadelphia is allowing 68.7% of passes against them to be complete, ninth-highest in the NFL.

Commentary

The L.A. Chargers passing game is hard to figure out in terms of who will produce week after week. Here's a look at target share vs. air yards market share and Average Depth of Target.

ReceiverTarget ShareAir Yards ShareaDOT
Keenan Allen 26.0% 21.0% 6.7
Tyrell Williams 16.0% 25.0% 12.6
Travis Benjamin 13.0% 33.0% 19.9

Keenan Allen is widely considered the best fantasy option, but the other plays can't be forgotten. Benjamin sees the fewest targets, but his targets are high-value. Last week was a 2-15-0 next-to-nothing performance from Williams, but he still saw seven targets. A Philip Rivers-Tyrell Williams stack should be low-owned due to the lackluster nature of the passing game last week.

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