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Doubling Down on All-RB Bench in Week 8


Consider this article like the movie Paranormal Activity or the second season of Mr. Robot. There’s going to be a lot of build-up until you die or wake up in prison. If you really want to jump the gun because you don’t have the time to read my article (you’re a busy and important fantasy football player) you can check out my advice here.

So, a little birdie named @Uncle_Leo asked me an interesting question today. “Brett, is this year’s crop of wide receivers underperforming as a whole?" My eyes lit up and my mind began to race... “Teams drafting more cornerbacks and safeties all in response to the pass-heavy trend? Quarterbacks spreading the ball out more than ever? Oh @Uncle_Leo, you are surely on to something." But let me go validate this theory before sending an article over to “El Camello” @pfunk00 and giving advice to our fantasy readers.

And Leo, if we are right, we are going to double down big time on my all Bench RB strategy and have a Matt Kelly (@fantasy_mansion) dance party!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

The New Fantasy Landscape

The first order of business is to determine if the narrative I built is actually true. Is wide receiver production down this year, and if so what are the reasons?

Cornerbacks and Safeties

I was prepared to do a ton of research until I realized that SBNation had already written a great article on Corners and Safeties.  It shows that 2017 was actually a record year for drafting at these positions.

Running Back Target Share

Next, are QBs responding by spreading the ball out more? I can tell you that I was not expecting to see what the data revealed. Not only was Leo right, but I think we uncovered the single largest reason: running backs are getting targeted more in the passing game.

I took a look at the top 100 most targeted players in 2016 and 2017, and one finding stood out big time: the amount of running backs in this crew. In 2016, there was only one running back in the list of the top 50 most targeted players targets, and only five RBs in the top 100.

In 2017, get ready for this, there currently are seven running backs in the top 50 for targets and 20 running backs in the top 100. That's a big change.

Tight End Target Share

I did the same analysis for tight ends and the numbers were almost identical in both years, so they aren’t having an impact.

Wide Receiver Target Share

As for targets among wide receivers, the most revealing stats were target differentials between 2016 and 2017 amongst WRs 26-100.

WR1s and WR2s are still getting their targets this year, but the volume of targets to WR3s and beyond has dropped substantially in 2017. 6.45 targets/game has dropped to 5.78 for WR 25-50, and 4.15 targets/game has dropped to 2.94 for WR 50 - 100. That is huge.

Fantasy Points Per Game

What impact is the target share effect having on fantasy points for wide receivers?  In 2017 (PPR) WRs 25-50 are averaging two less points per game than 2016, and WRs 51-100 are averaging one less point per game.  The stats are consistent in both years for the top 24, meaning WR1s and WR2 are still getting their share.

Wide Receiver Underperformers in 2017

Now let’s look at specific players to get a snapshot of what's taking place. We have seen many of the wide receivers that were expected to take a step up in 2017 fail and only a few exceed expectations. Some big names on this list haven't performed due to injury, but they make the list nonetheless as draft day disappointments based on ADP. Here is the list of underperformers vs. overperformers:

Underperformers Overperformers
Odell Beckham Jr.  Adam Thielen
Julio Jones Chris Hogan
T.Y. Hilton Cooper Kupp
Michael Thomas Jermaine Kearse
Amari Cooper Devin Funchess
Alshon Jefferey Nelson Agholor
Allen Robinson Ted Ginn
Julian Edelman Danny Amendola
Terrelle Pryor Pierre Garcon
Eric Decker
Corey Davis
Donte Moncrief
Brandon Marshall
DeSean Jackson
Brandon Coleman
Willie Snead
Sammy Watkins
Tyrell Williams
Marvin Jones
Kenny Britt
Jameson Crowder
Martavis Bryant
Mike Williams
DeVante Parker
Kevin White
Eli Rogers
Taylor Gabriel
Randall Cobb
Jordan Matthews
Mike Wallace
Cam Meredith
Jeremy Maclin
John Ross
Cole Beasley
Quincy Enunwa
Josh Doctson
Marqise Lee
John Brown
Kenny Golladay

 
Okay, now that we have looked at some support, let's recap what has been revealed:

  1. Beyond WR1 and WR2 (Top 24) there has been a huge drop off in targets and ppg.
  2. RBs are taking these targets

Think about using RBs for your flex and optimize that strategy by going to an...

 

All-RB Bench

Fill your entire bench with running backs, because the reward of one or two hitting is too great to ignore.

Not only is there scarcity at the position, and volatility due to injuries and depth chart changes, but these RBs are performing and taking away targets from WRs. NFL offenses and schemes adjust, so fantasy owners must adjust as well. That's why we are moving towards an ALL-RB BENCH.

Thank you @Uncle_Leo for this idea because it has been incredibly interesting to research. And again, take a look at my initial All Bench RB article that discusses how a bench full of RBs can reap tremendous rewards.

Sincerely,

Brett Mitchell
@BrettMitchellFB

 

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