Big-name WRs set to thrive rest-of-season
Easiest Pass Defense Efficiency Strength of Schedule ROS:
Los Angeles Chargers
Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Rams
The good news here is that there are many teams sporting top-level receivers with clear roles and a handful of sleepers worth holding out hope for. If you’re looking for your buy list for wideouts before fake football trade deadlines, it starts here. Let’s go through the list.
-We know Allen Robinson is the star of the Chicago Bears. He’s tied for second in the NFL in targets (86) despite ranking outside the top-10 in yards per game (79.1). Youngsters Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller have each collected 24 targets over the last three weeks. Mooney is the vertical threat (15.6 air yards per target) while Miller has more catchers (16).
-The Colts don’t have any receivers that have stepped up yet.
-Jarvis Landry is coming off an 11-target game for the Browns in their first week sans Odell Beckham Jr. Landry could be healthier coming off their Week 9 bye. Rashard Higgins was one of many Browns victimized by the nightmare weather in Week 8 but is a clear starter, running a route on 80 percent of Mayfield’s dropbacks.
-Marquise Brown remains a buy-low with a 41 percent share of his team’s air yards. More on him in the last section.
-It’s hard to say if the market has caught up to the reality that Keenan Allen is a clear-cut WR1 the rest of the way. He’s tied for second in the NFL in targets but has just started to get cooking with Justin Herbert. Mike Williams is boom or bust but we’ve seen Herbert trusts him in crucial situations.
-Tua Tagovailoa looked awesome in his second start. Given his play, the schedule, and the fact Preston Williams just hit IR, DeVante Parker could cruise as the clear WR1 in Miami the rest of the way.
-Terry McLaurin is a star. He’s the alpha of this team without another consistent receiver to speak of. He currently ranks as a WR1 and we don’t expect that to change.
-You know the deal with the Rams. Neither Robert Woods (WR14) nor Cooper Kupp (WR24) has the ceiling to hit the top-12 at the position since the offense just doesn’t throw enough or with the requisite juice. However, they’re ultra-safe plays.
-We’ll cover the Eagles in detail below.
-The Broncos have the most aggressive quarterback in the NFL with Drew Lock throwing 20-plus yards down the field on 18 percent of his throws while averaging 10 air yards per toss. That’s great news for Jerry Jeudy, who looks to be finally unleashed as a WR1. Jeudy has 24 targets over the last two weeks and has run just 4.5 routes per game from the slot. He’s just the WR36 on the season but I’d bet he cracks the Top-20 by year’s end.
Kyler Murray has officially entered Top-10 QB territory
Completion percentage over expectation: 4th
EPA per dropback: 7th
Success rate: 8th
Of course, Kyler Murray is already well-established as much more than a Top-10 quarterback in fantasy football. Not only was he drafted as such in 2020, he currently sits atop the quarterback scoring leaderboard with 240.5 points.
What we’re talking about here is that Kyler Murray has already established himself as a Top-10 real-life NFL quarterback.
Doubters will be quick to point out that he’s had some ups and downs as a thrower in 2020. No doubt, the entire Cardinals passing attack has been a bit rocky at times. However, he’s been lights-out as a passer since Week 5, with a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 9.6 adjusted yards per attempt mark.
Even so, three of the above metrics were purposefully included because his running plays positively influence his EPA and success rate as a player. Among his 76 rush attempts on the year, 24 of them have been scrambles and those plays truly feel like the lifeblood of the Cardinals offense. You can argue the wisdom of relying on such plays, but you can’t dispute that it’s turned Arizona into a Top-10 offense based on a variety of efficiency metrics.
We already know this blossoming has made Murray a weekly hammer play in DFS and kept DeAndre Hopkins firmly near the top of the wideout ranks (third in yards per game). However, we should continue to see it trickle down to other players with Christian Kirk being a prime example. Few receivers have been as hot as Kirk since Week 5, when he’s totaled five touchdowns and averaged 19.1 yards per catch. Now we’re just waiting on the running game to give us some more juice. Hopefully, it’s not just a season-long toil-in-vain of waiting for clarity out of the Kenyan Drake/Chase Edmonds tandem.
Carson Wentz should finally step up to lead a great offense
Completion percentage over expectation: 4th worst
EPA per dropback: 30th
On-target throw rate: 31st
Carson Wentz, please, we implore you — just be normal. We can make all the excuses we want about his skill position talent and justifiably be appalled by his offensive line conditions amid injuries at times this year. However, the above metrics make it clear that Wentz has been an individual problem in 2020.
That said, the Eagles are now poised to be an excellent value play offense for fantasy managers down the stretch.
Even if the results haven’t been there so far, the Eagles passing game is set up to succeed. Philadelphia sports the sixth-highest passing play rate on early downs when the game is within three points and Wentz is throwing the ball down the field at the third-highest mark among starters (9.4 air yards). This is a dream environment for a passing team that has a top-10 schedule the rest of the way (see the first blurb in this column) and now, FINALLY, boasts a healthy explosive trio of young pass-catchers in Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert. Oh, and of course, Miles Sanders is practicing again. Not only will he chip in as an outlet receiver but he’s the exact type of back — one tethered to a strong offense — you want on a fantasy team.
Great things lay ahead for the Eagles if they can just be normal. Not only will fantasy gamers enjoy the spoils brought on by their young skill position players, but this team should also convincingly win the NFC East without the giggles that have haunted this division all year.
Nick Chubb could wreck the NFL in his return
Rushing yards over expectation per carry (2.04) - 1st
Yards after contact per attempt (3.4) - 1st (min. 50 carries)
To put the above-advanced metrics into human terms: Nick Chubb is one of, if not the, very best ball-carriers in the entire NFL.
What’s been made clear since Chubb left the scene after just four games is that while Kareem Hunt is a good back and a starting-caliber player, he’s not at the same level as his counterpart. While Hunt ranks fifth in yards after contact per attempt, he’s just 18th out of 50 backs in rushing yards over expectation. His production has been hit or miss throughout the four weeks he’s been the clear-cut feature back with fluctuating touch totals of 23, 15, 21, and 16.
The Browns remain the fourth-highest team in terms of run play percentage, and this run-heavy team has clearly missed its top rusher. Chubb is set to come back and tear things up in this environment.
He should get started on that tear with authority if he returns in Week 10. The Texans have allowed the second-most rushing yards in the NFL and rank 28th in Football Outsiders run defense DVOA. They’ve been stomped all year. Chubb is next in line.
Mark Andrews should be a clear Top-5 TE
Run a route on 75% of Lamar Jackson’s dropbacks
Played on 63.6 percent of team snaps
Leads the team with a 35% red zone target share
Ranks 4th among TEs (min. 30 targets) with a 9.9 aDOT
Sits a TE9 overall on the season
Ranks 15th in yards among TEs
Ranks 14th in catches and 13th in catches among TEs
Nick Boyle has four more yards (79 to 75) and one more TD (1 to 0) than Andrews despite seven fewer targets since Week 6
Another keyword of should when it comes to a player projection. While players like Zach Ertz and Evan Engram have drawn the intense ire of fantasy managers who took them in the early to mid rounds, Mark Andrews has been almost just as frustrating — and he likely went ahead of both as the TE3 in the vast majority of summer drafts.
If there is a clear theme that is spelled out by the metrics listed above it’s that the process has been nearly crystal clear for Andrews to be a top tight end, but the results have been sorely lacking.
Process over results can sometimes draw a mass eye-roll from the hordes of disappointed fantasy managers. However, sharp players and league observers know that following a good process, for the most part, will eventually lead to positive results. There’s plenty of reason to believe Andrews flips it around and puts up the numbers his volume stats would indicate he ought to be producing already.
As the first blurb in this column notes, going forward the Ravens will have the fourth-easiest schedule in terms of opponents' pass defense efficiency, according to Sharp Football Stats. That’s notable, because they’ve played the fourth-most difficult schedule to date.
Perhaps a simple yet dramatic shift in the quality of defenses they’re facing is all it will take for Lamar Jackson to up his own passing efficiency, therefore causing a trickle-down effect to players like Andrews and Marquise Brown.