#Trendspotting: Week 6 - An RB1 Journey Begins

Examining player and team trends to identify valuable DFS options and start/sits in season-long leagues

Hitting the Big-Time

I got word this week that this little creation of mine will be available for the usual DFS folks who are Insider Pro Plus subscribers but also for the season-long folks on the Insider Pro subscription. I'd like to thank those of you Insider Pro Plus regular readers not only for your subscription and loyalty to Footballguys but also for coming back and enjoying this article week after week. Without your precious eyeballs, this piece wouldn't have the traction necessary to be "upgraded" into being on both sides of the Footballguys house. So thank you very much. Now, on to Week 6!

Graphics Tutorial

I've gotten feedback that my graphics aren't as self-explanatory and intuitive as I think they are, so I provided a guide at the beginning of last week's article.

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.

For you traditional fantasy folks, you'll see some DFS-specific references (both written and in graphics) such as salaries and points-per-dollar. Don't let that scare you away; treat it like adjusting for strength of opponent. If a $4,500 player scores 25 fantasy points, that's even more alarming/noteworthy than a $9,000 player doing the same.

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
Antonio Brown 12.8 33.0% 39.0 1 at KC
Keenan Allen 10.4 27.8% 38.8 1 at OAK
Pierre Garcon 8.8 23.0% 38.8 0 at WAS

Last Week

It's always a good week for this space when we have a solid turnover of players and/or just a few names listed. Last week, we had six players listed. Four of those players scored touchdowns, with Pierre Garcon and his 8 receptions and 94 yards (on 11 targets) being one of the two that did not.

This Week

All three of these players have great matchups. Kansas City ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, Oakland is 12th but has suspect talent at corner, and Washington is without shutdown cornerback Josh Norman. In season-long, you're starting Brown regardless, so we'll go out on a limb here and say Garcon is the guy most likely to hit paydirt this week.

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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 309.0 87.3 7.2 3.4 78.0% 22.0%
Detroit Lions 255.8 74.6 6.7 3.3 77.4% 22.6%
Miami Dolphins 234.0 75.5 6.5 3.1 75.6% 24.4%
Philadelphia Eagles* 283.2 62.8 6.8 3.9 81.8% 18.2%

* Philadelphia is 13th in yards per rush attempt, thus narrowly missing that category, but they're firmly inside the other three.

Last Week

Tampa allowed 71.8% of its total yardage and its only touchdown of the game via the pass. The other funnels from Week 5 (Miami, Cleveland, and Minnesota all played against sub-par passing attacks).

This Week

  • Arizona's offensive passing yardage ratio is third-highest in the NFL; Tampa Bay's defensive passing yardage ratio is third-highest in the NFL (the 78.0% above).
  • Arizona gains the second-most passing yards per game; Tampa Bay allows the second-most.
  • New Orleans' offensive passing yardage ratio is sixth-highest in the NFL; Detroit's ratio is sixth-highest.
  • New Orleans gains the fourth-most passing yards per game; Detroit allows the sixth-most.
  • Atlanta's gains the fourth-most passing yards per play; Miami allows the 11th-most passing yards per play.

Rarely do funnel defenses face excellent passing offenses in the same week. Even more rarely does it happen with multiple matchups in the same week. Break ties in favor of the Arizona and New Orleans passing games, with Atlanta likely to run away from Miami and lean on the run game late. In DFS tournaments, don't be afraid to use these running games as leverage plays either.

"Runnel" Watch

Sometimes, the funnel effect can happen in reverse, where a team is very good against the pass but poor against the run (hence, "runnel" defense) Side note: I didn't create this term; I saw it on Twitter last season, but I can't recall who posted it. If you know, drop me a line so I can give proper credit.

Here's a look at Runnel Defense the criteria:

  • Top 1/3 in the NFL in Net Yards per Pass Attempt allowed
  • Bottom 1/3 in the NFL in Yards per Rush Attempt allowed
  • Top 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Pass (looking for low percentage figures here)
  • Bottom 1/3 in Percentage of Yards Allowed via Rush (looking for high percentage figures here)
TeamRuYd/GmPaYd/GmYd/RushNYd/Att% RushYd% PassYd
Los Angeles Chargers 161.2 190.2 5.0 5.7 45.9% 54.1%
Jacksonville Jaguars 146.4 177.8 5.4 4.5 45.2% 54.8%
Pittsburgh Steelers 136.6 139.6 5.1 4.1 49.5% 50.5%
Seattle Seahawks 127.2 202.8 4.9 5.4 38.5% 61.5%
Los Angeles Rams* 133.6 208.8 4.5 6.0 39.0% 61.0%

* The L.A. Rams are 13th in net yards per passing attempt, thus narrowly missing that category, but they're firmly inside the other three.

Last Week

It was very odd (and much discussed afterward) that Pittsburgh didn't exploit Jacksonville's run defense woes. On the other side of that matchup, Jacksonville only enhanced Pittsburgh's position here by running all over them and barely needing to pass at all.

This Week

We'll have more on the L.A. Chargers vs. the run later and more on Kansas City's run game vs. Pittsburgh's run defense later as well. It's worth noting here that Jacksonville gains the most rushing yards per game in the NFL, while the L.A. Rams allow the sixth-most rushing yards per game.

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The Weakest Links

Last Week

Last week, we use Matt Bitonti's "In the Trenches" article to identify advantages on defensive and offensive lines. Knowing that Philadelphia had a top-three advantage on both sides was very helpful. We also found out that the L.A. Rams defensive line had a big advantage over Seattle's offensive line, thus limiting Russell Wilson and company.

This Week

Let's look at more "Defense vs. Position" trends to find some actionable plays.

Fade Peterson, Attack the Rest

Patrick Peterson is one of the few cornerbacks in the league who is a must-avoid right now. Look at what he has done this season:

The other side of the Peterson shut-down consistency is that his teammates on defense are as bad against the pass as he is good.

Arizona vs. WRs

The players in red were mostly shadowed by Peterson; the players in green are "the other guys." If not for Marvin Jones Jr and Dez Bryant scoring touchdowns, the net production here would be near zero. It's worth noting that Jones and Bryant had just two targets each. Temper expectations for Mike Evans, but look to DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries as flex plays/cheap DFS options. Humphries has 10, 7, and 5 targets in his last three games.

Putting a Charge Into Opposing Backfields

The L.A. Chargers have been dreadful against running backs.

LA Chargers vs. RBs

Here's an example of DFS salaries providing useful information even to season-long players. When a defense is allowing double-digit fantasy points to players priced under $4,000 at DraftKings, they're very bad. This isn't exactly a list of Hall of Famers.

The two guys who were drafted in the early rounds of season-long drafts (Kareem Hunt and Jay Ajayi) both ran roughshod on the road at L.A. Oakland hasn't exactly used Marshawn Lynch as a workhorse, but they showed in the game against the Jets that Jalen Richard can get plenty of work. Look to Richard as a high-volatility (i.e. potentially high-ceiling) play this week.

We'll Keep Talking About This One Until They Stop Somebody

Surely by now, you've heard that the New York Giants are bad against tight ends. Let's take a look at just how bad they've been.

NY Giants vs. TEs

Six touchdowns in five games; every single opponent combining for at least five receptions; and they haven't even played a true "stud" tight end yet. Desperation streamers or DFS GPP players looking for a true contrarian punt may look to the Denver tight ends. Note that A.J. Derby had all six tight end targets in Denver's last game and has 12 of 22 on the season. I wouldn't recommend it, but if Denver has a tight end score a touchdown this week, this trend may never be broken.

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Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

KC vs. PIT

Notes

  • Pittsburgh is allowing 139.6 passing yards per game, fewest in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 4.1 net pass yards per attempt, fewest in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 50.5% of its total yardage via the pass, the lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 8.2 receptions per game to wide receivers, second-fewest in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh is allowing 83.4 yards per game to wide receivers, fewest in the NFL (second-fewest is a distant 105.5).
  • Now that we've established Pittsburgh's numbers vs. the pass, let's look at the ugly side of things:

PIT vs. RBs

Commentary

Pittsburgh is allowing 19.0 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, second-most in the NFL. Both backs to see over 20 carries against the Steelers ran wild and scored multiple touchdowns. Kareem Hunt has 95% of Kansas City's running back carries and 84% of its non-quarterback carries. In a game with a reasonably high total (46) and a potentially positive game-script (Kansas City is favored by 4), Hunt's outlook is as rosy as any player at any position this week.

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Washington Redskins (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

WAS vs. SF

Notes

  • Washington gains 25.9% of its passing yardage via its running backs, the seventh-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • San Francisco allows 22.5% of its passing yardage to running backs, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • San Francisco allows 15.4 receiving fantasy points per game to running backs, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco allows 185.0 yards per game to wide receivers, fifth-most in the NFL.
  • San Francisco has allowed four 100-yard wide receivers, tied for the most in the NFL (with Philadelphia).
  • San Francisco has allowed 6+ receptions to six wide receivers.
  • Further illustrating San Francisco's passing defense ineptitude:

Commentary

San Francisco allows plenty of fantasy production to running backs, but unlike last season (when they were a sieve of epic proportions), much of that production is via the receiving game. Rob Kelley is unlikely to play this week, leaving Semaje Perine as the early-downs compliment to Chris Thompson's passing game/playmaking lead. Due to opponent tendencies and game script, both Thompson and Perine are in play for GPPs and are flex-worthy plays in traditional leagues.

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Houston Texans (vs. Cleveland Browns)

HOU vs. CLE

Notes

  • Cleveland is allowing 66.6 rushing yards per game to running backs, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Cleveland is allowing 9.1 rushing fantasy points per game to running backs, fifth-fewest in the NFL.
  • Cleveland is allowing 25.1% of its total yardage via the rush, the fifth-lowest ratio in the NFL.
  • Houston scores 50.0% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the sixth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland allows 53.2% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the second-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Cleveland allows 10.0 receptions per game to wide receivers, seventh-fewest in the NFL.

Commentary

To summarize what was covered above, Cleveland is good against the run and allows a lot of passing production, but that production doesn't come from wide receivers. The dots we're connecting here suggest Cleveland must be poor against tight ends.

CLE vs. TEs

With receptions and yards being more predictable than touchdowns, this looks worst than what we saw with the Giants earlier in the column. However, linebacker Jamie Collins Sr should return for Cleveland this week, and Collins is a very good coverage player. One defender won't fix the entire problem but expect these numbers to go down - in part because of natural regression, and in part because of Collins. Ryan Griffin would be the beneficiary of this trend if there were one, but you can probably do better. 

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Denver Broncos (vs. New York Giants)

DEN vs. NYG

Notes

  • Denver is gaining 143.0 rushing yards per game, third-most in the NFL.
  • New York is allowing 139.0 rushing yards per game, fourth-most in the NFL.
  • New York has allowed 10+ fantasy points to three Defense/Special Teams units in five games.

Commentary

Don't overthink this one; Denver is a significant home favorite, and their running game is a strength that aligns with their opposing defense's weakness. If looking to the passing game, note that Giants slot-corner extraordinaire Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended by the team, which could favor Emmanuel Sanders and perhaps led to fewer tight end targets than opponents would typically throw against the Giants.

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San Francisco 49ers (at Washington Redskins)

SF at WAS

Notes

  • Washington allows 31.0% of its total receptions to running backs, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Washington allows 28.7% of its total receptions to tight ends, the fourth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Notable WR1 performances against Washington: A. Jeffery (3-38-0); A. Cooper (1-6-0); T. Hill (5-35-0).

Commentary

We've discussed in past columns that Washington is a "funnel within a funnel," meaning they allow plenty of passing production but that their corners are good enough to push the production inside to opposing tight ends. Without Norman, however, San Francisco shouldn't shy away from Garcon. Rookie tight end George Kittle saw a season-high nine targets last week and is playing the vast majority of the team's snaps. Both Garcon and Kittle are under-the-radar plays, but this could be an "all roads lead to Brian Hoyer" situation.

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New Orleans Saints (vs. Detroit Lions)

NO vs. DET

Notes

  • As discussed in "Funnel Watch" above, the New Orleans passing offense is in a great position vs. the Detroit passing defense.
  • Detroit is allowing 6.4 receptions per game to running backs, eighth-most in the NFL.
  • Detroit is allowing 58.2 receiving yards to running backs, sixth-most in the NFL.
  • New Orleans scores 58.2% of its total points via passing touchdowns, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL.
  • New Orleans targets running backs on 34.9% of its pass attempts, the highest ratio in the NFL.
  • Detroit allows 24.9% of its targets to running backs, the eighth-highest ratio in the NFL.

Commentary

My colleague Adam Harstad has done extensive studies on Sean Payton's affinity for utilizing his running backs in the passing game. The tweet below is part of a long thread on that topic. Adrian Peterson's departure may not provide significantly more opportunity, but it does give us clarity and confidence in Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara. In a potential shootout, both Ingram and Kamara are excellent plays, with Ingram being the better bet for a short rushing touchdown and Kamara being more likely to out-pace Ingram in the passing game.

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