Are the low fantasy scores of Week 13 the new normal?
After a week of largely disappointing fantasy totals, Brandon Marianne Lee wonders if that's a sign of things to come.
Are the low fantasy scores of Week 13 the new normal?
Did you look at your box score this morning and wonder how there could be so few points? Maybe you even won your matchup, but the point total seems incredibly low.
You are not alone.
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One explanation is that the Tennessee Titans were on a bye (sorry Cleveland) and they have a top-10 quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. But we’ve had worse bye weeks with sometimes up to six teams on bye, so let’s dig deeper.
Only four quarterbacks scored over 20 fantasy points in standard scoring of far this week.
In Week 12, three quarterbacks scored over 30 fantasy points and 15 scored over 20 points. Who is missing from this 20-plus point club?
First, Drew Brees imploded this week. He was at home against the Detroit Lions. Brees did complete 31 of his 39 aimed pass attempts for 326 yards, but he didn’t throw a touchdown all day and he surrendered three interceptions. The Lions are not known for generating pressure on the quarterback, but what little they could muster did the trick. Brees only completed five passes under pressure for 65 yards and an interception.
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Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins are two quarterbacks who have scored over 20 fantasy points a combined nine times since Week 7, even while both had byes over that timeframe. But this week Prescott faced the Minnesota Vikings, with the 10th-highest PFF pass-rush grade and the 13th-highest run-defense and pass-coverage grades. The Vikings managed to clip Prescott’s fantasy wings, holding him to 139 passing yards and one touchdown. And Cousins faced the Arizona Cardinals, with the fourth-highest PFF pass-rushing grade, the seventh-highest run-defense grade and the 14th-highest pass-coverage grade. And even in a tough matchup, Cousins scored a respectable 18 fantasy points in standard scoring (propped up by a rushing touchdown).
Aaron Rodgers is another fantasy must-start who played in one of the first snowy games of the season. Although Rodgers barely cleared 200 passing yards, he managed to throw two touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Jameis Winston and Ben Roethlisberger with a 75.0 adjusted completion percentage, 10th-best of the week.
Jordan Howard played in the worst conditions, with the least experienced quarterback, and so far, this week he is the highest-scoring fantasy running back.
Perhaps the largest misstep of the 2016 fantasy season was the “zero running back” theory. I’ve written about this before, and I will let the entire season play out before I go completed nuclear, but consider this:
The top running backs this Sunday were Jordan Howard, David Johnson, Thomas Rawls, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Melvin Gordon, Terrance West, LeSean McCoy, Le’Veon Bell, Mike Gillislee, Spencer Ware, Ezekiel Elliott, LeGarrette Blount, Doug Martin.
Of those 15 backs, all but Gillislee (8) and West (13) got 16 or more touches. Touches equal points.
Of those 15 backs, eight of them were in the top 15 in terms of the 2016 final ADP numbers. Yes, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Doug Martin, LeSean McCoy, Thomas Rawls and Latavius Murray were all top-15 running backs at the beginning of the season. They were in the top-15 this week, as well. Injuries have marred some of their numbers (especially Rawls and Martin), but the talent and the potential for production has always been there.
The running back production has been incredibly predictable all season, and Week 13 furthered that narrative.
Only two wide receivers scored over 20 fantasy points in standard scoring so far in Week 13: Tyler Lockett and Golden Tate.
And before we lean on the weather narrative, Jordy Nelson is the third-highest-scoring receiver on the week due to his eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in blustery conditions.
Even in PPR scoring, only nine wide receivers scored over 20 fantasy points: Tate, Nelson, Lockett (due to a gadget 75-yard rushing touchdown), Albert Wilson (also with a gadget 55-yard rushing touchdown on a kick fake), Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Crabtree, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. Per ADP data from the beginning of the season, Wilson, LaFell and Ginn weren’t even really drafted this season, and others from that list were available late.
To be fair, 46 total wide receivers scored over 10 PPR fantasy points and 21 receivers scored over 10 points in standard scoring, but depending on your receiver corps to prop up your fantasy team is not a winning 2016 strategy.
Overall, the top wide receivers this season are Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. At the end of the season, they will likely be at the top of the list in terms of total points scored throughout the season. If you landed those top four receivers at the beginning of your draft, you’re pleased (even if Jones has four games with 35 or fewer yards).
It’s the wide receivers after those elite four that have gone up and down all season. Those wide receivers who went off the board early due to a mad rush in the preseason to lock down as many wide outs in the first few rounds as possible; those players have been frustrating.
Here are some positive signature stats that may help you determine some key players to focus on while you make your way into the playoffs:
- Doug Baldwin, Stefon Diggs, Mohamed Sanu, Cole Beasley and Willie Snead have the top-five catch rates in the slot so far this season. When you’re checking out matchups, make sure to check on how a team defends against the slot and not just how they defend the pass in general.
- One of the most telling signature stats at Pro Football Focus is yards per route run. Julio Jones leads the league with 3.16 YPRR. Then it’s A.J. Green, and we can’t play him until he’s back from his hamstring injury. All the following players have at least a 2.02 YPRR: Mike Evans (2.40), Cole Beasley (2.25), Antonio Brown (2.25), Odell Beckham Jr. (2.22), Stefon Diggs (2.21), T.Y. Hilton (2.16), Kelvin Benjamin (2.14), Amari Cooper (2.13, Rishard Matthews (2.12), Emmanuel Sanders (2.08), Jarvis Landry (2.07), Kenny Britt (2.05), Tyrell Williams (2.02)
Every week I get Twitter questions about the many of the wide receivers in the aforementioned list. If you are waffling between two players, rather than rely on only the matchup grades and recent box scores, consider the player’s YPRR.
Only Dennis Pitta scored multiple touchdowns and over 20 fantasy points among tight ends in Week 13.
His first touchdown of the day was his first since 2013. Frustrating.
Tuesday morning, I will have a detailed piece on PFF about the sorry state of the tight end position this year. It’s a topic that needs more attention, so I will do just that.
However, I will give you a list of the tight ends with a 2.03 YPRR so far this season, since as I said, that is a much more predictive stat that can help guide you when you have to pick yet another disappointing tight end: Delanie Walker (2.12), C.J. Fiedorowicz (2.09), Jordan Reed (2.09), Greg Olsen (2.07), Jimmy Graham (2.07), Travis Kelce (2.04), Martellus Bennett (2.03).
Brandon Marianne Lee
Brandon Marianne Lee is a PFF Fantasy contributor, a SiriusXM host, co-founder of Her Fantasy Football and was a finalist for FSWA's Newcomer of the Year in 2014.