Mon. Sep 16th, 2019

The Fantasy Fanalysts

For the Love of the Game.

Extreme Wide Receiver Fantasy Point Variances

9 min read

Aside from the fantasy playoffs, redraft and dynasty leagues can be viewed from a macro level where you can survive two or three bad weeks or roster decisions and succeed.  That’s quite the contrast from daily fantasy where every option on a slate is put under a microscope and one mistake can make or break your week. 

NFL players have their own tendencies where they perform better in various scenarios whether it be as a favorite or underdog, playing at home or in hostile territory, or when their respective team wins or loses a game.  We’re going to explore which players at each position performed at their best or worst in various situations from last season to try and help us discover ideal roster opportunities in daily lineups.  Note that these figures can vary from year to year when someone who performed better indoors the year before now suddenly performed better outside the following year.  Viewed in another light, these figures can be interpreted as an extension of consistency rankings.  

This piece isn’t just exclusive to DFS and has a place in non-DFS leagues where an available free agent may be in a better spot to perform than a rostered option that should be on the bench for a specific week.  This will be the final part of the three-part series that concludes with the wide receiver position and only evaluates those that played a minimum of 12 games. 

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN A STRAIGHT-UP WIN

Robby Anderson: 5.86: The Jets didn’t win much in 2018 but when they did, Robby Anderson was involved as he registered a touchdown in three of those four victories.  He closed out the campaign strong and given another offseason with second-year starter Sam Darnold, their chemistry can only continue to flourish.

DeAndre Hopkins: 5.57: Opposing secondaries  that were able to somewhat stymie Nuk held him to 82.8 receiving yards and .4 touchdowns in Houston losses.  Those that fell to his wrath allowed 105.27 receiving yards and .82 touchdowns in Houston wins.  Hopkins and Davante Adams were the only two receivers to maintain a floor of 12.4 fantasy points in every game they suited up.

Jordy Nelson: 4.9: We hadn’t been accustomed to seeing Jordy Nelson without Aaron Rodgers and from Week 5-Week 12, it wasn’t a pretty sight.  In three Raider wins that he played, he maintained a double-digit FPPG average while he was boom or total bust in 12 losses.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN A STRAIGHT-UP LOSS

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 8.89: Antonio Brown had a +1.37 FPPG differential in Steeler losses but still posted more fantasy production in games they were victorious.  Meanwhile, JuJu’s variance was much more extreme at a +8.89 FPPG differential in defeats as well as generating more production in those losses.  JuJu had a solid sophomore season as the WR8 in PPR scoring and put on a display in losses that he erupted for over 30+ fantasy points against Kansas City, Oakland, and Denver.

Tyreek Hill: 6.8: He generated 17 catches for 357 yards and five touchdowns in two shootouts against the Patriots and Rams that resulted in Chiefs losses.  Since 2017, Kansas City is 3-5 straight-up when their defense surrenders 30 points or more, a scenario Tyreek Hill thrives in as he has registered 20+ fantasy points in five of those eight matchups.

D.J. Moore: 4.06: His ceiling game of 28.7 fantasy points in a loss to the Lions was the major cause of this variance for the rookie receiver out of the University of Maryland.  His only competition at the position looks to be Curtis Samuel as he looks to build on a successful rookie campaign and possibly take the reins as the #1 receiver in Carolina.  

SMALLEST WIN/LOSS VARIANCE

Alshon Jeffery: +.07: While consistent in this metric in 2018, Alshon Jeffery has shown a more positive correlation in production with Nick Foles throwing him the football vs Carson Wentz doing so since 2017.  Whether Foles remained with the Eagles or not, Jeffery will compete for looks with Zach Ertz, Wentz’s preferred option and the team leader in receptions each season since Wentz was drafted in 2016.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN HOME GAMES

Amari Cooper: 10.37 (Cumulative with Oakland and Dallas): One of the ultimate boom or bust receivers throughout his career in Oakland, that attribute carried over when Amari Cooper was dealt to Dallas.  However, when he did erupt, it was in the friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum/AT&T Stadium as 68.46% of his receiving yards as well as seven of his eight touchdowns came in home games.  

Brandin Cooks: 8.73: He had a positive correlation in games at Gillette Stadium in his brief stay with New England but as Jared Goff’s home/road splits were drastic, so were Brandin Cooks as his +8.73 FPPG differential at the L.A. Coliseum demonstrated.  He had nearly two times as many receptions in home games at 53 compared to 27 receptions on the road in 2018.

Michael Thomas: 8.52: While the inverse occurred in 2017, Michael Thomas flourished in games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to the tune of a +8.52 FPPG differential in games at that venue in 2018.  Drew Brees regressed back to his norm in games inside the fast-paced dome last year and that translated to a strong positive correlation in home games for both the future first ballot Hall of Famer and his trusty receiver.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN AWAY GAMES

Antonio Callaway: 8.89: Callaway was a non-factor in games at FirstEnergy Stadium as his 3.89 FPPG average in eight games played strongly suggests.  He was serviceable on road trips as he saw almost double the amount of receptions in road games as well as registering all of his five touchdowns away from Cleveland.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 8.56: Victim of another strong correlation, JuJu was as useful in games the Steelers played outside of Pittsburgh as he was in games that they were defeated.  He posted crooked numbers in hostile territory with a floor of 14.8 fantasy points and posting 20+ fantasy points in five of eight road matchups.

Alshon Jeffery: 7.68: Like Antonio Callaway, Alshon Jeffery was another receiver that was nonexistent during the home portion of the Eagles 2018 schedule, a variance that became more extreme from 2017.  He saw 6.14 receptions and .71 touchdowns in seven road games vs 3.66 receptions and .17 touchdowns in six games at Lincoln Financial Field. 

SMALLEST HOME/ROAD VARIANCE

Curtis Samuel: +.16: He’s at worse the #3 receiving option for the Panthers behind  Christian McCaffery and D.J. Moore heading into 2019 but was the best in home/road consistency among evaluated receivers.  He was a low-ceiling fantasy option but when given additional snaps beginning in Week 12, Curtis Samuel maintained a solid floor of 11.2 fantasy points in five of those six games.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN GAMES WHEN THE RESPECTIVE TEAM IS A FAVORITE

Amari Cooper: 13.88: (Cumulative with Oakland and Dallas): Amari Cooper will have his breakout games as he has shown but Zeke being the focal point of the Dallas offense reduces his output some weeks.  Two of his three breakouts in 2018 were when his respective team entered the game as a favorite, averaging 71.2 receiving yards and 1 touchdown in four of those instances vs 40 receiving yards and 0 touchdowns in the underdog role.  

Nelson Agholor: 11.03: This variance reoccurring in 2019 would be quite the surprise as Nelson Agholor was rendered useless to the tune of .9 fantasy points in two games the Eagles went in as underdogs.  With the exception of the final two weeks, 2018 was a disappointing campaign that saw his touchdown receptions slashed in half from 2017

Allen Robinson: 6.46: The Allen Robinson that slaughtered the Eagles in the divisional round only appeared once in regular season action as his days of being drafted in the first four rounds may be over.  In fact, in PPR scoring, he finished just 1.4 fantasy points ahead of Taylor Gabriel for the WR1 on the Bears.  His variance exists largely due to the carnage he created against the Lions secondary in Week 10 last year.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL IN GAMES WHEN THE RESPECTIVE TEAM IS AN UNDERDOG

Tyreek Hill: 20.5: Since 2017, the Chiefs are 4-3 in games they enter getting points from their opponents with Tyreek Hill averaging a ridiculous 31.18 FPPG in six games in that role; he didn’t suit up Week 17 against the Broncos in 2017 as the Chiefs were locked in as the #4 seed.  He’s crossed the pylons at least one time in each of the last six instances he played in a game the Chiefs were underdogs.

Mike Williams: 11.25: Tyrell Williams departing for Oakland slots Mike Williams as the #2 wide receiver for the Chargers.  Underdog performances against the Rams and Chiefs saw the former 7th overall pick out of Clemson average eight catches for 78.5 yards and two touchdowns, a main contributor to Williams possessing this large differential.

Michael Thomas: 9.14: As Drew Brees saw a +11 FPPG differential in three games the Saints were underdogs, Michael Thomas was just as insulted in that role as he had a floor of 19.9 fantasy points in those matchups.  The Saints should be favored in nearly every game in 2019 with the exception of an NFC Championship rematch against the Rams, a secondary Michael Thomas torched for a 12/211/1 clip in Week 9.

SMALLEST FAVORITE/UNDERDOG VARIANCE

Jordy Nelson: +.29

The Raiders version of Jordy was a sad sight to behold after years of success with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  Age and injuries have caught up with him and it’s no surprise to see him enter retirement after a successful 11-year career that netted him a Super Bowl ring in 2010.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL AGAINST TEAMS RANKED IN THE TOP HALF IN PASS DVOA

Amari Cooper: 10.29: Back for a third mention, Cooper wrecked havoc on some of the stronger secondaries as he posted 20+ fantasy point performances in five of six occurrences against defenses ranked in the top half in pass DVOA.  It’s maddening that he couldn’t put those performances together against the weaker secondaries but again, Zeke touching the ball as much as he does can be attributed to this issue.

Robert Woods: 8.29: Robert Woods was at his best when the secondaries were of the tougher variety.  While Brandin Cooks better correlated against defenses in the bottom half in pass DVOA, Woods was the opposite as he posted 87.2 yards and .5 touchdowns in 10 games against the top half vs 57.83 receiving yards and .17 touchdowns in 6 games against the bottom dwellers.  

Mike Williams: 7.67: Against 10 defenses that the Chargers faced that ranked in the top half in pass DVOA, Mike Williams saw double-digit fantasy points in PPR scoring in seven of those games.  Despite injuries that hampered his rookie season, Williams rebounded nicely and will syphon some of the 64 targets that Tyrell Williams leaves behind.

LARGEST DIFFERENTIAL AGAINST TEAMS RANKED IN THE BOTTOM HALF IN PASS DVOA

Calvin Ridley: 8.03: He was on pace for 24 touchdowns at the conclusion of Week 4, a sure sign that regression would and did strike as Calvin Ridley only had four touchdowns in the final 12 games.  He thrived against defenses in the bottom half in pass DVOA, averaging 14.02 yards per catch to complement his 61.7 receiving yards and .9 touchdowns per game vs 10.2 yards per catch, 34 receiving yards, and .17 touchdowns per game against the better half.

Christian Kirk: 6.54: Nearly an identical situation as Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk was more effective against the weaker defenses in his rookie campaign.  While Ridley knows who will be throwing him the ball in 2019, Kirk awaits to see if Josh Rosen will be traded and the Cardinals take Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in Nashville in a few weeks.

Odell Beckham Jr.: 6.54: His situation certainly improves as he moves on from an aged Eli Manning to a blossoming Baker Mayfield.  Regardless, Eli always made it a point to target OBJ throughout his time in New York, more so against the weaker secondaries that saw the former Giant average 100.33 receiving yards and .83 touchdowns per game against bottom-half pass DVOA defenses last year compared to 75 receiving yards and .17 touchdowns against stiffer competition.

SMALLEST PASS DVOA VARIANCE

Adam Thielen: It was the tale of two seasons as the first eight games saw Adam Thielen average 25.38 FPPG while that number regressed to 13.16 FPPG in the final eight.  Dalvin Cook may have been a factor as Thielen posted a 9.6/111.4/.8 clip in 5 games Cook was inactive vs a 5.91/74.18/.45 clip in 11 games Cook suited up.  Regardless, Thielen posted stellar performances against superior and inferior defenses in 2018, especially in the earlier portion of the campaign.

WHO WERE THE MOST CONSISTENT WIDE RECEIVERS OF 2018?

This portion of the article is reserved for those who demonstrated a consistency in all of the above metrics.  As the WR9 in PPR scoring, Mike Evans rebounded from a disappointing 2017 campaign and reached double-digit fantasy points in 12 of 16 contests in 2018.  With the exception of a variance just shy of three in top-half vs bottom-half pass DVOA opponents, Evans was remarkably consistent with FPPG differentials no greater than 1.25 in the other three metrics.  The Bucs move on from one offensive-minded coach in Dirk Koetter to another in Bruce Arians, one that will continue to benefit Evans moving forward.

As mentioned above, Adam Thielen performed equally well against stingy and porous secondaries.  That consistency also carried over in the other evaluated metrics with variances no higher than three fantasy points.  Thielen has benefitted from Dalvin Cook’s inability to stay healthy in his first two seasons in the league, a positive for Thielen to keep in mind as his ADP currently sits around the end of the 2nd round/beginning of the 3rd round at the time of this writing.

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