The biggest fantasy risers and fallers over the second half of 2016

Breaking full-season fantasy numbers into smaller portions can help show which players got better or worse as the season went on.

| 2 months ago
(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The biggest fantasy risers and fallers over the second half of 2016


(“Today’s Crazy Fantasy Stat” is an occasional offseason offering from PFF that highlights something that catches our eye and aids in our preparation for the 2017 fantasy season.)

Sometimes it’s fun to make a grander point with stats. You know, “Player X has the most Stat Y in the last 10 years.” That sort of thing.

Sometimes, it’s just interesting to look at numbers. Pick a stat, look at leaders and trends, see what’s interesting.

That’s what I’m doing today. I grabbed every pass-catcher (RB, WR, TE) who played at least 15 games in 2016 and marked their fantasy points game by game, quarter of the season by quarter, just to identify trends.

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There are obviously some caveats here. First is that “fantasy points” isn’t the most reliable way to track a player, of course. It’s a handy shorthand, but no conclusion drawn purely from a fantasy point total is a conclusion to roll with. Second is that I didn’t account for guys who grew from a backup role to full-time, or vice-versa. This isn’t to prove anything grand about anybody. It’s just for some interesting numbers:

Gainers

  • The biggest gainer in per-game fantasy production from the first half (4.6 fantasy points a game) to the second (11.4) last season was Jets RB Bilal Powell, which makes sense — Powell was a backup to Matt Forte for much of the year, then took the job late, and was third in the league in fantasy points (behind Aaron Rodgers and Le’Veon Bell) from Week 14 on.
  • Behind Powell on the list of biggest gainers were some obvious names:
    • Tyreek Hill, who found his place in the Kansas City offense while Jeremy Maclin was injured.
    • Rishard Matthews, who took some time to gel with his new offense in Tennessee.
    • Robert Turbin, who saw his workload improve over the course of the year as Frank Gore tapered off a bit.
  • But there were also some interesting entries on the list of big gainers:
    • Ted Ginn Jr. didn’t have a single game with double-digit fantasy points until Week 11, then did it four times over the season’s last seven games. He also had two games with two fantasy points in that stretch, because that’s who Ginn is — big risk, big reward. But if the Saints don’t add another pass-catcher before the season, Ginn profiles as a nice best-ball type, just as he always has.
    • Julian Edelman struggled early, as the Patriots had different quarterbacks than normal, and Rob Gronkowski was producing. He didn’t top seven fantasy points in a game until Week 8, and didn’t reach double-digits until Week 11. But once he went over seven, he didn’t fall under it again.

Fallers

  • Lions WR Marvin Jones had the biggest fall from the first half of the season to the second, which, if you had any shares of him in 2016, you know by heart — Jones was the league-wide WR1 through three weeks, WR6 through seven. After that, though, he was WR81, putting up fewer fantasy points from Week 8 on than he did in Week 3 alone. Jones has a solid role in the Detroit offense — absent a surprise receiver draft pick — and as such, he’ll have his moments, but the relevant fantasy performer from early 2016 is not there now.
  • This one surprised me — the fifth-biggest fall from the first half to the second last year was Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans. Evan averaged 15.1 fantasy points a game in his first eight games, but only 9.9 in the second. I assume the answer to that would be touchdown luck, but the reality is that Evans’ numbers fell across the board. The chart below shows Evans’ per-game numbers over his first eight games of 2016, and then his second.
    Mike Evans’ per-game 2016 production
    Targets Receptions Yards TDs aDOT
    First 8 games 12.375 6.875 93.125 1 16.3
    Last 8 games 8.625 5.125 72 0.5 15.6

    Even Evans’ second-half pace would have made him a fringe top-10 fantasy receiver over a full season (and he actually improved over the second half in his first two seasons), but the dropoff from the first half last year is still stark.

  • Tennessee RB DeMarco Murray is an easy bust candidate for 2017. He’s 29, with more than 1,700 career touches and a former Heisman Trophy winner breathing down his neck for more playing time. On top of that, he fell off in a big way in the second half last year, going from 16.9 fantasy points per game to a still-respectable 11.8. Murray isn’t going to lose his relevance in 2017, especially early, but his age and Derrick Henry make Murray one to watch.
  • ESPN’s Mike Clay took some heat on Twitter last week for discussing the lesser second-half performances of Derek Carr:

Related, Carr’s top three receivers all notably fell off in the second half last year. Amari Cooper had the seventh-biggest slide (11.3 fantasy points per game to 6.2), Michael Crabtree had the 10th (11.4 to 6.6), and Seth Roberts had the 21st (5.5 to 2.8), despite barely seeing any work behind the top two. It remains to be seen whether Carr is a star NFL quarterback or just an above-average one, and that determination could go a long way to deciding how strong a career a receiver like Cooper has.

And the middle

  • Only one player in the sample had a net zero from the first half of the season to the second: Miami WR Jarvis Landry. He averaged 8.0 fantasy points a game over the first half, and equaled that with an 8.0 in the second half. Landry had four double-digit fantasy games on the season — two in the first three weeks of the season, and two in the last three.

| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.

  • Joe Agresti

    interesting…but I paid 40 bucks for this?

    • Daniel Kelley

      Well, this piece was one of the free ones, so … no?