The 8 Most Interesting Fantasy Stats of 2013
Shawn Siegele delves through Mike Clay's advanced stats to find undervalued players for 2014.
The 8 Most Interesting Fantasy Stats of 2013
Earlier this offseason, Mike Clay ran a series of articles where he used the extensive PFF database to create adjustments to well known stats like completion percentage, yards per carry, and red zone touchdown percentage. Each of these new stats represents a gigantic leap forward in our ability to accurately gauge the performance of individual players. There’s a reason the PFF Fantasy projections are widely considered the best in the business.
For this article, I wanted to comb through that series and find the eight most actionable stats for fantasy purposes. In each case, you can click on the link to learn more about how the stat was created or do more research into other players. You could spend hours contemplating the results.
1. Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in aC%.
Rodgers had a 6.8% gap between his expected completion percentage and his adjusted completion percentage. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were at 4.9% and 3.9% respectively. This is just another reminder that Rodgers is still the best passer in the NFL, and that could have fantasy repercussions. Rodgers was just as good in 2011 as Manning in 2013. In fact, Rodgers averaged .69 fantasy points per drop back that year, besting Manning’s mark of .64 in the just completed campaign.
We saw Peyton elevate his performance this past year due to the acquisition of Wes Welker and the emergence of Julius Thomas. Meanwhile, Rodgers struggled with his own injuries and the loss of Randall Cobb. 2014 could be different. The addition of Davante Adams gives Green Bay some redundancy in the face of potential injuries. With Eric Decker moving on, the Broncos may slip back below the Packers in overall receiving corps quality. Moreover, the Packers have signaled their intentions to be among the league leaders in total plays. It was efficiency and volume that led to Manning’s season for the ages. We may be about to see a similar scenario play out in Green Bay.
The Super Bowl is just one game, but it’s of at least a mild concern for Manning owners. Brett Favre finished as QB5 in 2009 and QB28 in 2010. We don’t have to worry about age or arm strength issues for Rodgers. Fantasy Football Calculator has Manning going at 1.09 in standard leagues with Rodgers at 2.07. I don’t blame you if you believe their ADPs should be reversed.
2. Jay Cutler finished fourth in aC% when accounting for defensive personnel.
Cutler has been the target of constant criticism for his demeanor and gunslinging mentality. Even last season his performance seemed to pale in comparison to that of his backup. Josh McCown did finish ahead of him in this stat as well, but by now most are familiar with the role schedule probably played in those results.
Regardless, Cutler recorded an impressive 4.4% gap between expected and actual completion percentage. He led both Drew Brees and Nick Foles in this category. Some of this probably owes to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but both players return. Drafted outside the Top 100 picks as QB13, Cutler is the cheapest signal-caller with a legitimate chance to finish as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback. He could easily take another step forward in the scheme, and the Trestman offense provides a very high floor.
3. Kenny Stills led the NFL with a 16% gap between his expected catch rate and actual catch rate.
You could make a case that the leaders in this category are ripe for regression, but it’s probably worth focusing on the positive first. Stills’ accomplishment is all the more impressive when you consider that his average depth of target was 16.9 yards down the field. Dan Schneier has explained why Stills will see a significantly expanded role this season, and I’ve suggested he will be a breakout player as a result. Drafted nearly two rounds after his rookie teammate Brandin Cooks, the Oklahoma product looks like a great value late in Round 10.
4. Jordan Cameron led the NFL with a 14% gap between his expected catch rate and actual catch rate after adjusting for the play of the quarterback.
Cameron was one of my Red Flag Tight Ends because he led the position in routes last year, a number that’s sure to decline. His immense ability could cancel that effect if he sees improved quarterback play. While it was a small sample, Cameron scored seven more fantasy points per game with Hoyer under center a year ago. Those numbers could rise even further when electric playmaker Johnny Manziel takes over the job.
5. Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, and Zac Stacy all gained 80% or more of their yardage against fewer than five defensive backs.
Opposing defensive personnel has a significant impact on per play efficiency. All three of these players could find themselves in a better situation this coming season. Washington will run a more wide open attack, which should open things up for the underrated Morris. He might see fewer overall touches, but those attempts could be under more favorable circumstances. The Rams offense is poised to emerge. Sam Bradford is a back. The young receivers should be able to finally hold their own. The case might be most tenuous for McFadden, but the maligned Schaub is an upgrade nonetheless. Oakland receivers will also be improved in 2014.
6. LeSean McCoy gained 81% of his yardage against Nickel and Dime defenses.
McCoy is clearly the safest of the Big 4 backs. Even though the Eagles are very run-heavy, their scheme forces defenses onto their heels. Defensive coordinators will try to adjust in 2014, but Chip Kelly will probably remain at least one step ahead of them. He took a very proactive approach by overhauling his receiving corps. McCoy is difficult to stop under any circumstances, but he’s nearly impossible when opponents are employing the defensive fronts he saw last season.
7. Despite missing three games, Le’Veon Bell finished second with 10.6 oTD.
Bell only converted eight touchdowns, so he underperformed expectation. I’m not particularly worried that a 230-pound runner with 34 college touchdowns has a short yardage problem. I do think Bell has the highest healthy floor of any runner outside the Big 4. Perhaps no running back in football projects for a better combination of receptions and goal line carries than Bell.
8. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has the second highest oTD total over the last three seasons.
The Law Firm would have been expected to score 28.1 touchdowns based on the location of his touches. With the Bengals moving to a new offensive scheme, it may be a moot point, but Jeremy Hill looks dramatically undervalued. The rookie is the new favorite for goal line carries, and he enters a plum situation. Think of the Bengals as the AFC North version of the Seahawks or 49ers.
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