Stats Don’t Lie: Essential Stats for Week 1
What’s up, everyone! Week 1 is finally here and I am sure you are as excited as I am. If you read my article last season you noticed the format changed a little throughout the season. I went from 20 stats to positional stat breakdowns. With the start of the new season, I am taking a new approach. This week I will provide an essential stat for EVERY team on the main slate.
Background: Being a math teacher, I am really into numbers and statistical data. I am a big believer in using statistical data as a foundation of my weekly research. It helps me make a lot of the tough decisions when I am narrowing down my player pool. Each week I scour the internet using the many resources out there (as well as some mathematical work of my own) to find fantasy relevant stats to help you win money. Each week I will present you with essential stats to know for the week and my perceived fantasy impact.
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New York Jets: How fitting that we start with possibly the worst team in the NFL. Bilal Powell had 24 runs of 10+ yards last season. This resulted in 48% of the team’s total runs of 10+ yards and 18.3% of his rushing attempts. Over the last four weeks of last season when Powell was considered the “lead back” he averaged 20.5 rush attempts, 5.8 targets, 5.3 receptions (25.8 touches), 138 totals yards, and 0.8 total touchdowns. Matt Forte is still in the mix, but I like Powell to lead the backfield in touches (especially if they fall behind) who has very little talk attached to him this week.
Buffalo Bills: There seems to be some worry if the Bills jump out to big lead on the Jets that LeSean McCoy may not get a big workload. Last season McCoy averaged 18.4 rushing attempts, 3.4 targets, 3.0 receptions, 138.6 total yards, 1.6 total touchdowns, 6.78 yards per carry, 25.06 FD points, and 29.06 DK points in games the Bills won by 10+ points (he averaged 14.85 FD points and 17.50 DK points in all other games). In addition, McCoy had 11 rushing touchdowns in home games compared to only two on the road and had 173 more rushing yards at home. Don’t forget the Bills recently cut McCoy’s backup, Jonathan Williams and the head coach has been quoted as saying “McCoy will get as much work as it takes to win.”
Jacksonville Jaguars: Allen Robinson finished eighth in the league last year with 151 targets, but only caught 73 of them. His 48.3% catch rate is atrocious and second-worst among all players who saw 100+ targets (Brandon Marshall was worse). Yet, he has averaged 10.5 targets per game (8+ targets in all four games) and gone over 85 receiving yards in three of four games against the Houston Texans. He is nice boom or bust play in tournaments.
Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins was seventh in the NFL with 151 targets last season. He received 25 targets from Tom Savage (16.6% of Hopkins total targets) in just over two games on 73 attempts. That would be a 34.2% target share for the Savage/Hopkins combo. Target leader, Mike Evan, saw a target from Jameis Winston 29.9% of the time last season (best in the league). Hopkins, like Robinson, carries some tournament appeal, though he will probably be shadowed by stud corner Jalen Ramsey.
Pittsburgh Steelers: In five career games against the Cleveland Browns Le’Veon Bell has averaged 22.0 rushing attempts, 101.4 rushing yards, 5.6 targets, 4.2 receptions, 38.0 receiving yards, 0.6 touchdowns, 22.9 Draftkings points, and 19.6 FanDuel points on 82.6% of the snaps. Team Jam Em In will probably be going back to Bell this week, and for good reason. But, I think with all the running back value this week, fading Bell in cash could work (but risky).
Cleveland Browns: In six games last year that the Browns were within seven points (win or loss), Isaiah Crowell averaged 77.2 rush yards and scored four of his seven touchdowns. In the other ten games where the margin was 8+ points (all losses), Crow averaged just 48.9 rush yards and scored only three touchdowns. If you are playing the Crow this weekend, hope for a miracle.
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Arizona Cardinals: I could have give you any of a thousand stats on why David Johnson is the GOAT, but we all know he is a great play every week in cash and GPPs. Props to Adam Levitan for getting me to look into this a little more. Larry Fitzgerald has been a fast starter the last two seasons. In six September games, he has averaged 10 targets, 7.2 receptions, 91.8 receiving yards, and scored eight of his total 15 touchdowns (three in 2016, five in 2015). He will most likely see one of the worst corners in the league, Quandre Diggs, as top corner Darius Slay stays to the outside almost exclusively. The one concern is Carson Palmer in 1 PM starts (Palmer has been sacked 18 times, thrown eight interceptions and fumbled six times in 2016. and all four games were losses. He threw for 300 yards only once in those games).
Detroit Lions: I would not go as far as saying Arizona is an elite pass defense, but I would also say they are above average. With that said, they have some holes that can be exposed. The Detroit Lions were the most pass-heavy team in the red zone last season throwing 70.63% of the time. The Lions scored 1.9 red zone touchdowns per game at home while the Cardinals gave up 1.9 red zone scores on the road. I write all this to say that this could set up nicely for Theo Riddick. Riddick saw 20.90% of his targets in the red zone and converted those 14 targets into five touchdowns (one of the highest rates in the NFL for any player with 10+ targets). Golden Tate and Marvin Jones both saw less than 15% of their targets in the red zone. Tate converted only 5.88% of his red zone targets to touchdowns and Jones only converted 13.33% into touchdowns. If you think this game shoots out (or Detroit puts some points on the board) look at Riddick as a nice pivot of Jones and Tate.
Atlanta Falcons: For his career, Julio Jones has averaged 6.3 receptions on 8.7 targets for 9.63 yards and 1.0 touchdowns in Week 1 games. He has averaged 23.5 Draftkings points and 18.8 FanDuel points. I haven’t heard a lot of talk about Julio this week as most people are focused on the Atlanta run game due to the Falcons being favored by 6.5 points. I think new OC Steve Sarkisian makes Julio the focus, especially in the red zone (he has already stated they will get Julio more looks in the RZ this season). The Bears strength on defense is the front four and stopping the run but are horrendous on the back end. Julio is going to eat on Sunday.
Chicago Bears: Yuck! Do I have to write up any player from this team? With the injury to Cameron Meredith, I assumed looking at wide receiver might be the approach here, but then I remembered Kendall Wright makes Sammie Woates look like Calvin Johnson and Kevin White busts more than Johhny Sins. They also have a special team lifer as their other outside starting receiver (Deonte Thompson) and a way overpaid Mike Glennon throwing the ball to these bums. I imagine the Bears will try to establish the run early in this game with Jordan Howard. The Bears are a run first team and Howard saw 15+ carries in 11 games last season. He went over 100 yards rushing in seven of those games. I know Atlanta is an improved defense, but they were bottom 12 in both yards per carry and rushing touchdowns allowed last season. There is some concern Howard could be phased out of the game plan if the Bears fall behind, but he saw 4+ targets in eight games last season and saw 41 of his 50 targets in games the Bears lost, 30 targets when they were trailing, and 5.8 yards per carry in games they were trailing.
Oakland Raiders: ALL IN on Amari Cooper this week. Despite being second on the team in targets (132), only behind Michael Crabtree (145) he was out-targeted in the red zone. Crabtree had 21 targets and Seth Roberts had 20 to 13 targets for Cooper (less than 10% of Cooper’s targets occurred in the red zone). Crabtree converted 28.57% of those targets into touchdowns and Roberts scored on 20.00% of his red zone targets. Cooper, amazingly, scored ZERO times in the red zone (he did have a couple touchdowns negated by touchdown). If you believe in positive regression and talent, then that is bound to change this year. With the way Derek Carr has been talking up Cooper this offseason I expect his to target Cooper a lot in this game, especially in the red zone.
Tennessee Titans: DeMarco Murray averaged 21.2 DraftKings and 18.3 FanDuel points in games where the Titans scored at least 27 points last season. The Titans currently have an implied total of 26.5 at the time of this article. Murray must also love seeing the Raiders as he has averaged 16.5 rushing attempts, five targets, five receptions, 88.5 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, and two touchdowns per game in two matchups. If you would prefer to play Marcus MariGOATa and attack the passing game, he averaged 24.2 DK points and 23.7 FD points in the seven games the Titans scored 27+ points last season. Side note: Draftshot contributor Michael Broadbent threw this stat out – Of all active WRs with more than 15 touchdowns, Eric Decker is third in career targets per touchdown at a touchdown every 12.1 targets behind only Dez Bryant (11.6) and Jordy Nelson (11.9).
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green saw 99 targets in the first nine games last season before going down with any injury very early in Week 10. His 11 targets/game had him on pace for 176 which would have led the league (Mike Evans led the league with 173). He had a 31.2% target share which would have also led the league (Mike Evans was at 29.9%). If this isn’t enough to like Green then let’s look at his performance against Baltimore. In eight games against the Ravens, he has seen 74 targets, has 726 receiving yards, six touchdowns, and is averaging 17.7 yards per reception. In the last five games he has played against Baltimore he has 52 targets and six touchdowns. I am coming close to calling Green a LOCK this week.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco has failed to reach 275 passing yards in 12 of 17 games against the Cincinnati Bengals. He has also failed to reach two touchdown passes in 12 of 17 against the Bengals and has never topped two touchdown passes. He has a 16:21 career TD: INT ratio against the Bengals. This moves me pretty much completely off the passing attack of the Ravens. It might be sneaky to have a little exposure to Danny Woodhead in this matchup as he is likely to see some pass work and get a handful of carries.
Philadelphia Eagles: Jordan Matthews was recently traded from the Eagles. In two games last year that Jordan Matthews didn’t play, Zach Ertz averaged 15.5 targets, 11 receptions, 109 receiving yards, 1.5 receiving touchdowns, 32.4 DraftKings points, and 25.5 FanDuel points. Ertz is my favorite tight end on the slate but he is expected to carry a pretty heavy ownership this weekend. Fading in tournaments could pay off if he busts.
Washington Redskins: Terrelle Pryor was targeted 140 times last season, but only caught 77 passess (55% catch rate) including 11 games where he had a catch rate under 60%. He still managed 1007 yards and still managed six games of 75+ yards receiving. With a competent quarterback throwing him the ball in a much more high-powered offense, Pryor could be in for a big year and it could start this week. He has the best matchup on paper of Cousins pass-catching options.
Indianapolis Colts: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: T.Y. Hilton’s splits are dreadful when Andrew Luck is not playing. Over the last three seasons, Hilton has played 37 games with Luck and ten without. In the ten games Luck was not under center, Hilton averaged 7.4 targets (compared to 9.4 with Luck), 4.1 receptions (compared to 5.4), 0.2 receiving touchdowns (compared to 0.4), and 11.6 PPR points (compared to 17.0). I would honestly avoid this offense like the plague. The Rams are one of my favorite DST plays this week.
Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley led the NFL in percentage of team red zone attempts (rush attempts and targets) at 42.0% and percentage of team red zone touches (rush attempts and targets) with a 59.1% rate. In the last five games where the Rams were home favorites, Gurley averaged 19 rushing attempts, 84.2 rushing yards, 1.2 rushing touchdowns, 3.2 targets, 28.6 receiving yards, three red zone carries, 22.7 DK points, and 10.0 FD points. He actually has a competent coach now who likes him. Lock in this cheat code.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton is the only quarterback since 1980 to post three seasons of 3000+ passing yards, 500+ rushing yards, 20+ passing touchdowns, and 5+ rushing touchdowns. Randall Cunningham has done it twice. Newton could be chalk since it’s the 49ers but this is a new and improved defense with a new scheme. Call it a gut feeling, but I think the Niners could win this game. I only like Cam in tournaments.
San Francisco 49ers: Pierre Garcon could be in for a big year with the Niners this season. New head coach Kyle Shanahan has a tendency to pepper his #1 receiver with targets over his career as an OC. In fact, Garcon had a career year with Shanahan in Washington when he saw 181 targets for 113 receptions, 1346 yards, and five touchdowns. The last two seasons Julio Jones saw 203 and 129 targets (only 14 games) for 1871 yards and 1409 yards. He scored eight and six touchdowns, respectively. The only worry, as you may see, is that the targets don’t necessarily translate to lots of touchdowns. I think Garcon is a decent play this week.
Seattle Seahawks: Doug Baldwin finished the second in the NFL last season with a 75.2% catch rate for all players who saw 100+ targets. In fact, he is the only active player to have a catch rate over 75% in two consecutive seasons, catching 75.7% of his targets in 2015. Russ Wilson and Baldwin make a great stack this weekend and think you can use Baldwin across all formats with confidence. (Did you see how bad the Packers pass defense was last season?)
Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson (29) and Davante Adams (20) combined for the receiving duo with the most red zone targets in the league (49) last season. Nelson led the league and Adams was tied for seventh. They combined for 18 red zone touchdowns and both turned 35%+ of their red zone targets into scores. Scott Barrett also posted something this summer about Aaron Rodgers being the GOAT about throwing away from elite corners and targeted weak receivers. Case and point, Rodgers has only targeted Richard Sherman’s receiver on three of 84 targets (3.6%), stat courtesy of Rich Hribar. Nelson did see 21 targets in the past two matchups against the Seahawks.
Bonus Stat: Martavis Bryant has only played in 24 games since entering the league three years ago. Despite his freakish talent he hasn’t even played 1000 snaps yet (977) and has played less than 50% of the snaps in ten games. Yet, he has already scored 18 total touchdowns (16 receiving). For comparison, Jordy Nelson scored 14 touchdowns on 1015 snaps, Antonio Brown had 12 touchdowns on 1042 snaps, Mike Evans had 12 touchdowns on 950 snaps, Davante Adams had 12 touchdowns on 915 snaps, and Odell Beckham Jr. had 10 touchdowns on 1023 snaps. These guys all played a full season, were in the top 15 among receivers in snaps played, and were the top five in receiving touchdowns scored. His 1.81% TD/Snap ratio is really, really good and his average of a touchdown every 54.8 snaps means he would essentially average a touchdown per game if he played around 90% of the snaps.
Good luck this weekend. Now, let’s go win all the monies!