Who were 2016's fantasy one-game wonders?
(“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.)
Fantasy football is a season-long game, of course, but looking at season-long numbers can be misleading. One or two huge games can make an otherwise-mediocre season look far more successful. In short, looking at a full-season fantasy total tells you something, but it can lie to you as well.
One of the best examples of this: In 2009, Jerome Harrison tied with Michael Turner for the 22nd-most fantasy points, with 149 in 14 games, 10.6 fantasy points per game. In Week 15 of that season, had 298 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns, good for 48 standard fantasy points. Take out that week, and he had 101 fantasy points in 13 games, 7.8 per game. Take out Week 15 altogether, and instead of being the No. 22 RB, Harrison was No. 38.
Yes, every point counts, but in a game where you need to win each week, a guy whose season-long totals are largely focused on a single game or two aren’t as helpful as the numbers might appear.
So today, I’m looking at which fantasy totals might be misleading. Who had the biggest portion of their fantasy totals in 2016 concentrated on a single week? I took the top 30 fantasy QBs and TEs and top 50 RBs and WRs and noted their fantasy points-per-game averages, and then those same averages after taking out their single biggest game of the season.
Below are some of the takeaways:
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
For the season, Carr was 13th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game. That includes a 38-fantasy-point game in Week 8 against the Buccaneers, when Carr had 513 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, and even added 13 rushing yards. Carr’s second-best game of the season was worth only 25 fantasy points, in Week 2.
Without that game, Carr’s ppg total (17.6 normally) drops to 16.1, and he falls from the No. 13 fantasy QB on a per-game basis to No. 20. Carr was the only quarterback among 2016’s top 20 whose best game affected his overall PPG average by more than 1.2 points.
That’s part of the reason Carr is less of a sure thing than you might like in fantasy. He’s a good quarterback, but his floor is low, by virtue of being scheduled to face the Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers a combined six times a year. In five games against those opponents in 2016 (he missed the second Broncos game to injury), Carr averaged 10.8 fantasy points, with 12 or fewer four of five times. So long as those defenses remain strong, Carr is a riskier by-week fantasy play than you might expect.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
You expect the biggest impact of this exercise to happen among players who don’t actually have that many fantasy points in total, for obvious reasons — the lower your point total is, the more effect one single game can have. So the fact that Bell was the No. 2 fantasy running back on a points-per-game basis and has the biggest difference between his ppg and his without-his-best-game ppg is really a testament to his Week 14 game against the Bills, when he had 298 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns (just like Jerome Harrison in 2009).
Even taking that monster performance — the best of the season by any player — out of Bell’s season, he only drops from the No. 2 fantasy running back per game to the No. 3. There isn’t a lesson to be learned about Bell; he’s just incredible.
Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit Lions
Remember when we were excited about Jones last season? Through three weeks, he had 408 yards and 2 touchdowns, and sat five full fantasy points clear of the No. 2 fantasy receiver. That was in large part because of his monster Week 3, when he had 205 yards and both of those scores, putting up 32 standard fantasy points.
Of course, the rest of the season, Jones barely even matches those first three weeks, with 522 yards and 2 touchdowns from Week 4 onward. Jones was the No. 36 fantasy receiver on a per-game basis in 2016; take out Week 3 and he was well outside the top 50. By one measure, he looks like a low-end flex play; by the other, he’s bench and bye-week filler, if that.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings
When a player finishes a season with four good games or four bad ones, the evaluation is pretty easy. Thielen’s last four games of 2016, though, were uncategorizable. In PPR leagues, put up 14-0-45-2 points over the last four weeks. That Week 16 performance, when he caught 12 of 15 targets for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns and even added a 4-yard carry, accounted for 22.8 percent of Thielen’s full-season PPR production, the highest percentage in the league.
Thielen was the No. 32 wide receiver in PPR points per game in 2016. Take our Week 16, he was 50th. The fact that he appeared to develop later in the season, and that the team didn’t really add any competition for him in the offseason, means this number for Thielen doesn’t scare me like it did for Jones, but it’s worth nothing.
As a position, tight end is more subject to the big swings in overall numbers than most positions, because they generally total fewer fantasy points than other positions and, as noted earlier, fewer points mean lower denominators and more chance for a big impact. So, a few quick notes:
Dwayne Allen: Five minutes to think about it, and you probably would have realized that Allen’s Monday night performance against the Jets in Week 13 would have been the single player-game all season that accounted for the biggest percentage of a player’s fantasy points. Allen was targeted only 4 times, but caught all 4 for 72 yards and 3 scores, half of his season touchdown total.
Zach Ertz: If Derek Jeter is “Mr. November,” then Ertz really needs the nickname “Mr. Week 17.” Of his four 2016 touchdowns, two came in Week 17 of last season, and the two biggest-yardage games of his career have been the last two Week 17s. Ertz was the No. 10 fantasy tight end in points per game in 2016; take out his Week 17 performance and he was No. 16.
Charles Clay: Clay entered Week 14 as the No. 34 tight end on the season, with 323 total yards and no scores. Then he scored in Week 14. Then he scored again in Week 15. Then he scored twice in Week 16, and added a season-high 85 yards. That performance accounted for 26.6 percent of Clay’s season fantasy total, and 47 of his 79 season-long standard fantasy points came from Week 14 on.