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Mr. Irrelevant

What are some 2017 trends that could repeat in 2018?

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For the second straight year (and better late than never!), I am shamelessly co-opting @zftcg's 2016 thread concept originally borrowed from Bill Barnwell - about NFL and fantasy trends from the prior year (or, in our case, the prior couple of years) and how we might be able to draw parallels to 2018. (The point of this post isn't to humblebrag about my nominations from last year's thread, but I didn't do too badly there, if I do say so myself.)

As in prior years, your comments on these, or additions of your own along these lines, are welcomed!

1. Second-year RB who blew up in the second half of his rookie year and is now a first-round pick
2016: David Johnson
2017: Jordan Howard
2018: Alvin Kamara

If you do the math on “0.5 PPR fantasy points per touch” for RBs over the past few years, you’ll see that the top-tier fantasy RBs tend to average in the 0.8-0.9 range. It can be a useful tool to flag low-efficiency guys who are just making their bones on volume (e.g. Leonard Fournette = 0.69), but it’s also instructive to see that it’s extremely difficult to maintain an average above 1 on workhorse volume - Todd Gurley’s fantastic 2017 averaged just 1.02.

So let’s look at the averages from last year’s top 6 RBs, shall we? Besides Gurley, we’ve got 0.74, 0.76, 0.83, 0.86 and … 1.39. Say whaaaaa?

That was Kamara, and that is completely unsustainable. So it’s not exactly a shark move to predict regression. But do we mean like Antonio Brown “regressing” from 129/1,698/13 in 2014 … or Nick Foles regressing from 27 TD / 2 INT in 2013?

I think there’s almost certain downside baked into Kamara’s current 1.06 ADP - and yet, Ingram’s suspension should offer him the volume boost to offset at least some of the inevitable efficiency drop-off. He’s worth a first-round pick, but I haven't been able to take the plunge at his ADP.

2. Second-year QB primed to make the leap to elite fantasy production
2016: Jameis Winston
2017: Carson Wentz
Potential 2018: Patrick Mahomes

Let’s get this out of the way: With a one-game NFL sample size, nobody really knows who Patrick Mahomes is. He’s a gunslinger with a cannon where his right arm should be - okay, great. Does that make him Jay Cutler (a fantasy afterthought) or Matt Stafford (a perennial QB1)?

In this case, I’m trusting the coaching and the weapons. Andy Reid has a history of getting the best out of his QBs - he made Donovan McNabb into a borderline HOFer and Alex Smith into a top-3 fantasy QB. And Mahomes has three elite pass-catchers in Hill, Kelce and Watkins plus a top-tier running game with Hunt and the underrated Spencer Ware.

Mahomes was being overdrafted in the spring - but oddly, after having acquitted himself nicely in training camp and preseason, his draft stock has taken a tumble, down to the QB17 range. You know who was going off the board at QB17 last year? Carson Wentz. Coincidence? Well, yeah. But if you can stomach the ups and downs, Mahomes should deliver enough eye-popping weeks to make it worth making him a QB2 target of yours. 

3. Teammate of QB from previous example who will come along for the ride
2016: Mike Evans
2017: Alshon Jeffery
Potential 2018: Sammy Watkins

With a top-8 RB, a top-10 WR, and a top-2 TE by ADP, there isn’t a lot of hidden value there for the taking in the Chiefs offense, even if Mahomes breaks out. So I’ll go with the WR2 on an offense that should be potent enough to demand attention all over the field, leaving Watkins clean on intermediate routes and the occasional deep ball - the two areas where his efficiency has historically well above-average. He’s the perfect fantasy WR3 - a guy with talent in a good situation that will sometimes underperform but can deliver a handful of game-winning weeks. 

4. Young WR so widely expected to "make the leap" that he winds up getting drafted close to his ceiling
2016: DeVante Parker
2017: Terrelle Pryor
Potential 2018: JuJu Smith-Schuster

J2S2 is to the WR position in 2018 what Kamara is to RBs. The top 12 fantasy WRs collectively averaged 1.50 fantasy points per target last season; JuJu’s figure was an outrageous 2.14. Much like Tyreek Hill - my 2017 prediction - he’s massively talented; unlike Hill last year, he has a bona fide MVP contender vacuuming up targets across the field from him and another one (sooner or later) doing so from the backfield. It’s possible he sees 110-115 targets this year (vs. last year’s 79); but even then it would take Diggs-type efficiency numbers to make him a top-15 WR. With a WR18 ADP, you’re basically buying a call option on an injury to AB - who’s missed 3 games in 5 years. Give me Golden Tate a full round later, especially in full-PPR. 

5. Regression of Top QB back to their prior two-year normal
2016: Cam Newton
2017: Matt Ryan
Potential 2018: Deshaun Watson

It’d be cheating to say Alex Smith here - and not very useful, either, since despite last year’s out-of-nowhere QB3 finish his ADP continues to hover in the QB18 range. So while we don’t have two years worth of data to regress back to in Watson’s case, it really doesn’t matter, for the same reason it doesn’t matter for Kamara and JuJu. Here were the fantasy points per attempt (pass + rush) for 2017’s top 6 fantasy QBs: 0.55, 0.55, 0.56, 0.58, 0.60, 0.62. Mr. Regression Alert himself, Carson Wentz, led all qualifying passers by this metric at 0.64.

Watson’s figure was 0.81.

It was a five-game stretch unlike almost anything the NFL has ever seen, so if you want to argue that Watson is a model-breaker in the Randall Cunningham mold, be my guest. But from where I sit, his QB2 ADP may be the most egregious overdraft I recall since Trent Richardson was going 1.01 in dynasty startups after his rookie season.

6.  RB who had great success for a couple years then is dragged down by horrible coaching and crappy team rebounds to have a great season
2016: DeMarco Murray
2017: Carlos Hyde
Potential 2018: Alfred Morris

I would have had a lot tougher time finding a suitable candidate for this line item before Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL (although, to be honest, his size and injury history had kept him off my boards at his ADP in any case). But Morris, a street free agent a month ago, could not possibly have walked into a better combination of depth chart and situation than he gets in San Fran. He had his best fantasy years by far under Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme in Washington, which his “find the hole, hit the hole” style suits far better than Breida’s jitterbug tendencies.

And for all the improvements to the 49er offense since this time last year, neither the 6’ Garcon nor the 5’9” Goodwin are anyone’s red-zone darlings, and the one who could vie for that role (George Kittle) is perpetually injured. The carries Morris is likely to get inside the 5 could make him fantasy starter-worthy on their own, even before the 800+ rushing yards that are there for the taking. Even at his soaring ADP (if you can call RB42 "soaring"), the downside is modest and the upside significant.

7. Last-round flier who backs into a top-30 season by accumulating targets on a bad team
2016: Rishard Matthews
2017: Robby Anderson
Potential 2018: Chris Godwin

The “bad team” is the easy part of this equation - Vegas lines have Dirk Koetter the favorite as the first coach to be fired in 2018, at least partially because the Bucs’ opening schedule (during which their starting QB will be suspended) rates as the toughest in modern NFL history.

Godwin, like Allen Robinson before him, combines eye-popping measurables (95th percentile SPARQ-x) with a Penn State background that advocates technical precision and route-running. His efficiency per route (albeit in a small rookie sample) was among the highest charted by Matt Waldman and FO (10th in DVOA). And his main competition for targets outside is the fading husk of DeSean Jackson.

It’s true that his skillset doesn’t mesh perfectly with either of the Bucs’ quarterbacks, but that didn’t stop A-Rob from putting up a superstar sophomore campaign with Blake Bortles, and it won’t stop Godwin in Tampa. He’s got every-week starter potential and should have absolutely no trouble outpacing his WR63 ADP.

8. Sleeper rookie receiver who all the sharps will be just a little early on in terms of fantasy usefulness
2016: Tyler Boyd
2017: O.J. Howard
Potential 2018: D.J. Moore

This is kind of a space-filler pick, as none of the rookie pass-catchers have tickled the fancies of the sharps the way Mike Williams and Corey Davis (about which more later) did last year, with only Moore and Ridley being drafted inside the top 50 WRs. As between the two, I’ll lean Moore to be the greater disappointment; he’s less polished a route-runner than Ridley, he’s got three established pass-catchers to contend with and, most importantly, he’s got a much smaller pie to share in Carolina, which routinely ranks in the bottom 8 teams in pass attempts. His big-play potential means he’ll be good for a couple of top-24 weeks, but he won’t be someone you can confidently plug into your lineup late in the season.

9. Young pedigreed WR who finally delivers on the "post-hype sleeper" tag
2016: Davante Adams
2017: Keenan Allen
Potential 2018: Corey Davis

As I mentioned last year, big bouncebacks require a blend of talent and situation. There’s no disputing Davis has star talent - his measurables, technical ability, and draft pedigree attest to that, and even in a season beset by injuries he was able to command 65 targets on a low-wattage Titans offense, not to mention a huge game in their playoff upset.

The question is one of situation. Was Mularkey’s utter lack of offensive creativity such a damper that anyone - even a rookie HC like Vrabel - can do better with the young, high-octane pieces he possesses? Or is this a case like the 2011 Eagles where the whole just winds up being less than the sum of its parts? As a big believer in the pure talent at the skill positions - especially Mariota - I’m willing to take a gamble on the former. Davis has obvious downside at his WR27 ADP, but league-winning upside as well.

10. Veteran QB who can be had for $1 but could put up a top-10 season
2016: Philip Rivers
2017: Alex Smith
Potential 2018: Matt Ryan

Fantasy owners really do have memories like goldfish, don’t we? Less than 12 months ago, Matt Ryan was coming off an MVP-caliber season boosted by an unsustainably high TD rate, and was going as the 4th QB off the board. One season later, the small-sample-size gods punish him by driving his TD rate to unsustainably low levels, and - with almost no change in the underlying fundamentals - his ADP plunges to QB15.

The Falcons have lost no major weapons and in fact gained first-round pick Calvin Ridley, largely considered the draft’s most pro-ready WR. Entering his age-33 season, it’s unlikely that last year was the precursor to a sharp age-related fall-off, as might be a concern if it had happened to Brees or Rivers. Ryan will likely never be fantasy's QB1 again, but should make a fine bargain alternative for those fond of waiting at the position. 

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Bravo! So glad you've kept this thread going for another year (and you're right that last year's predictions were excellent). What's amazing is that, unlike Barnwell, I wasn't actually trying to make predictions. Just IDing trends that may or may not continue.

I have a couple quibbles (I think Hill will be the beneficiary of Mahomes' emergence, and I don't think Keenan qualifies as a "young pedigreed WR" for 2017) but overall this is very good.

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Great post, @Mr. Irrelevant -- super interesting and well-backed with data.

I may have more thoughts, but some initial ones:

6.  RB who had great success for a couple years then is dragged down by horrible coaching and crappy team rebounds to have a great season

While this is admittedly a longer shot than Morris, Lynch and/or Doug Martin may fit this bill. Raiders are going through a lot of growing pains still but have a top third O-line in the league and Lynch was fairly solid last year. Both these guys may have value if this offense clicks under Gruden (who is definitely more committed to the run/PA than the previous regime) and could be solid contributors.

7. Last-round flier who backs into a top-30 season by accumulating targets on a bad team

Godwin is a great choice, but at this point (depending on how you define bad team) you could also slot in guys like Michael Gallup, Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, John Brown, Moncrief/Westbrook (given injury), Anthony Miller, and even Quincy Enumwa -- all could qualify for this, and to me, it's the hardest call to make at this point in the season in terms of who has the best value. 

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6 minutes ago, Stompin' Tom Connors said:

Great post, @Mr. Irrelevant -- super interesting and well-backed with data.

I may have more thoughts, but some initial ones:

6.  RB who had great success for a couple years then is dragged down by horrible coaching and crappy team rebounds to have a great season

While this is admittedly a longer shot than Morris, Lynch and/or Doug Martin may fit this bill. Raiders are going through a lot of growing pains still but have a top third O-line in the league and Lynch was fairly solid last year. Both these guys may have value if this offense clicks under Gruden (who is definitely more committed to the run/PA than the previous regime) and could be solid contributors.

7. Last-round flier who backs into a top-30 season by accumulating targets on a bad team

Godwin is a great choice, but at this point (depending on how you define bad team) you could also slot in guys like Michael Gallup, Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, John Brown, Moncrief/Westbrook (given injury), Anthony Miller, and even Quincy Enumwa -- all could qualify for this, and to me, it's the hardest call to make at this point in the season in terms of who has the best value. 

Totally agree on Lynch. Unsuccessfully targeted him in multiple drafts.

As was discussed in the late-round WR thread, most of our late-round sleepers don't pan out. I think it's far more likely that whoever does emerge will do so off the waiver wire because no one is even talking about him right now.

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11. RB who watched his own team play from the stands once again watches his own team play from the stands

2017: Marshawn Lynch

2018: Marshawn Lynch

 

No but really, nice post.

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nice list.esp the JuJu schuster stuff - he's going WAY too early.good player, dont get me wrong.but Fantasy Index has him rated WR #8.wow. 

I strongly disagree with Watson - I think he's the next A. Rodgers. he looks improved so far in preseason.and that's just scary.Bill O'Brien never wins a damn thing as a HC but boy can he coach an offense..

strongly disagree with Mahomes - I just dont see it. he might fit in the 'overhyped 2nd year QB thrust in a lead role on a team that is coming off a career year from the previous QB and new guy is being compared to previous guy's career-best stats from last season'..just not happening.he won't sniff Smith's numbers from 2017, he'll be lucky to get 3200 and 18-20 TD.oh, and probably the same number of INTs. totally overhyped, overdrafted player who has the Brett Favre gunslinger mentaility. Chargers wil expose him in week one and that'll be it..

Edited by Tanner9919

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On 9/5/2018 at 3:44 PM, Mr. Irrelevant said:

10. Veteran QB who can be had for $1 but could put up a top-10 season
2016: Philip Rivers
2017: Alex Smith
Potential 2018: Matt Ryan

My selection in this category last year was Andy Dalton. This year, Matt Ryan. :lmao:

I'm thinking I may retire this nomination for the 2019 edition.

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On 9/5/2018 at 2:44 PM, Mr. Irrelevant said:

... One season later, the small-sample-size gods punish [Matt Ryan] by driving his TD rate to unsustainably low levels ... 

Steve Sarkisian = Small-Sample-Size God? Hmmm.

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16 minutes ago, Doug B said:

Steve Sarkisian = Small-Sample-Size God? Hmmm.

I'm pretty sure that is the first and last time I will ever see the words "Steve Sarkisian" and "God" in the same sentence.

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I'll post one that is no less true for being obvious:

Rookie RB who was a Top 5 NFL draft pick and lives up to the hype

  • 2016: Zeke
  • 2017: Fournette
  • 2018: Saqon

Sure, Fournette is a little bit of a stretch -- he put together a solid season, but missed a few games and was outperformed by Kamara. Still, the fact that Dallas/Jax invested high picks in RBs and immediately made them bellcows should put Barkley owners' minds at ease.

Though actually, the Kamara thing has me wondering ...

Later-round rookie RB who matches/outperforms the more-heralded 1st rounder after some mid-season roster churn

  • 2016: Howard
  • 2017: Kamara
  • 2018: Nick Chubb

To clarify, this is different than @Mr. Irrelevant's first item. He was predicting regression for Kamara in 2018. I'm trying to guess who will be this year's Kamara. I don't think guys like Michel, Freeman and Kerryon are eligible, since they've all gotten plenty of hype already. The thing with Chubb (or Hines/Ballage) is that they're definitely being discounted due to crowded depth charts. But if an injury/trade provides the opportunity, they could run off with the job.

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