Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates Through Week 10
How is it already Week 11? It's been a wild ride so far, and we have seen some truly great and not-so-great performances. Clever fantasy football owners are looking for opportunities to buy low and sell high on potentially unsustainable performances. We spend the entire offseason predicting what will unfold once the action starts, but we can now finally react to actual data and information.
By detailing both negative and positive regression candidates, the hope is that we will uncover some of the truths behind what we've seen so far this year.
Negative Regression Candidates
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger has been fantastic this season, ranking as fantasy's QB6 in terms of fantasy points per game (PPG). That's on the strength of firing nine touchdown passes in his last three games, averaging one score per 12 pass attempts.
In a Thursday night blowout over the Carolina Panthers, Big Ben was brilliant in throwing for five scores, but that came on only 25 passing attempts. Ben has been throwing touchdowns at a furious clip lately, but he's even far exceeding his own season-long pace and other top quarterbacks:
|Drop Backs||TDs||Drop Back per TD|
|Last Three Games||108||9||12.00|
|Ben Roethlisberger 2018||339||21||16.14|
Things are about to get a lot tougher for Roethlisberger, too. He hits the road for a matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who rank only 15th in our pass defense metrics, but have allowed the fewest passing yards to opposing signal-callers in the NFL, and rank eighth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
He's been on fire as of late, but that pace likely won't keep up.
James White, RB, New England Patriots
Fantasy's RB8 in point-per-reception (PPR) formats in 2018, James White has been an absolute beast, and he's been even better as of late. Over the last four weeks, he ranks as RB5, hitting pay-dirt five times.
However, Sony Michel returned to action last week, and that was a harbinger of downside for White. In a blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans, which seemingly would lead to more passing attempts and a heavier workload for White, he nabbed only six touches as Michel grabbed 11 carries in Week 9.
Coming off their bye, the New England Patriots face the New York Jets in an AFC East matchup, and are likely to be heavy favorites -- which would presumably lead to more work for Michel. Keep in mind that the Jets were just blasted by LeSean McCoy for 113 yards and two rushing touchdowns, so look for White to slide back in those fantasy rankings.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Like White, Kerryon Johnson had been the man recently for his team's rushing attack. Clocking in as fantasy's RB20, Johnson developed a solid resume built on Weeks 3-8 (including a bye), which saw the running back top 100 rushing yards twice in that time frame.
Recently, as the Detroit Lions have been playing from behind, Johnson's work load has started to slip. Over the last three weeks combined, the rookie runner only has 34 carries for 110 yards, scoring once in that time span. Theo Riddick, who's had a larger role in the passing game, has 13 catches in Weeks 9 and 10.
Despite playing at home, the Lions are currently 3.5-point underdogs to the Carolina Panthers. If they are playing from behind again, expect more work to tilt Riddick's way, which could leave Johnson's fantasy owners disappointed.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Alright Eric, quit playin'.
.@Colts TE Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) is the second tight end in @NFL history with two touchdown catches and one rushing touchdown in the same game, joining Rob Gronkowski (two receiving & one rushing on December 4, 2011). pic.twitter.com/fIqmKZSqe5
— NFL345 (@NFL345) November 11, 2018
Ebron had himself quite the day last week, finding the end zone for a rushing score to go with two receiving touchdowns. In the fantasy wasteland known as the tight end position, can we expect Ebron -- currently TE3 -- to stay in this elite group?
All signs are pointing to no.
Ebron ranked 41st in offensive snap rate among tight ends last week, posting a 38% rate -- which is even wilder when you consider that ranked third on his own team behind Jack Doyle (88% snap rate, three targets) and Mo Alie-Cox (41% snap rate, four targets).
On those 21 offensive snaps, Ebron ran only 12 routes and received three targets, showing a scoring rate that is clearly unsustainable.
Factor in a matchup with the Tennessee Titans, who have been the stingiest in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends (3.3 PPG), and Ebron should came crashing back to the rest of the group.
Positive Regression Candidates
Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
After a very rough start to the 2018 season, Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans have busted out of their offensive slump in a big way, and fantasy's QB28 could become a major fantasy asset down the stretch.
After posting mediocre metrics all season long, Mariota roasted the New England Patriots in Week 10, and the deep ball was a big reason why. In peeking at Average Intended Air Yards (IAY), or the average Air Yards a passer throws on all attempts, Mariota clocked in second to the illustrious Matt Barkley with a mark of 11.6 IAY, and his passing tree is a beautiful sight.
Mariota has also posted his three best individual passing games over the last three weeks, at least by our metrics. Looking at his Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, Mariota has posted marks of 0.33, 0.29, and 0.47, respectively.
Mariota now gets to attack a Indianapolis Colts defense that ranks as our sixth-worst pass defense, so look for him to continue his ascent.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb has zero problems hitting the long ball:
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 11, 2018
Stuck behind Carlos Hyde until his recent trade, Chubb ranks quietly as from a fantasy perspective, but coming out of the bye week, that volume is about to get turned way up.
Now posting 78 carries in the last four games, the only question remained whether Duke Johnson would steal a pile of passing volume from the rookie runner. But if last week was an indication, Chubb grabbed 23 touches to Johnson's seven, and he's been an efficient runner in 2018.
Among the running backs with 75 or more carries (38), Chubb ranks fourth with a Rushing NEP per carry mark of 0.17. Things are looking up for Chubb, and he should be pushing his way near the RB1 grouping quite soon.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
As Marcus Mariota's bump season has gone, there's been a direct correlation to Corey Davis's output, too. But there's no hiding this wide receiver after an explosive day in Week 10.
Against the Pats, fantasy's WR38 busted out for a seven-catch, 125-receiving yard, one-score day, but it's the deeper metrics that make Davis so promising. For the season, the work load is certainly there -- the second-year wideout ranks third in the NFL in Targeted Air Yards percentage (42.26%), and he commands a monster target market share in the Titans offense (37.4%).
Facing a porous Colts pass defense, which has allowed big games to folks like A.J. Green (six catches, 92 receiving yards, one touchdown), DeAndre Hopkins (10-169-1), Jermaine Kearse (9-94-0), and Donte Moncrief (3-98-1), Davis could feast in Week 11.
Josh Gordon, WR, New England Patriots
Despite not being able to find his way onto the field for the Cleveland Browns, with Rob Gronkowski sidelined Josh Gordon has become an integral part of the Patriots passing attack, and that's great news for fantasy owners.
#Patriots targets (TS) & air yards (AY) distribution with Rob Gronkowski out in Weeks 7 and 9:
• Julian Edelman — 18 targets, 25% TS, 22% AY
• Josh Gordon — 17 targets, 24% TS, 43% AY (!!)
• James White — 17 targets, 24% TS, 3% AY
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) November 10, 2018
The quick-moving Patriots offense, which leads the league in situation-neutral pace (26.99 seconds per play), will come off their bye to face a Jets pass defense that ranks only 19th per our metrics. That number looks even harder to believe when peeking at the Week 10 box score, burned by Zay Jones for an eight-catch, 93-receiving yard, one-touchdown day.
Despite a loss last week to Tennessee, we rank the Pats passing offense as seventh-best in the NFL, so look for them to bounce back in Week 12, and Gordon should be heavily involved.