Each year, I have one huge pet peeve about what some fantasy football players say when asked about why they value a particular player more than another. “Player X has so much more talent than Player Z, I don’t understand why Coach Y doesn’t play him more. If he only got the chance, he would be a RB1 for me!” This comment has two major flaws. First, talent scouts and coaches spend much more time in person with their players than even the most ardent fantasy football player, so there is a reason Player X isn’t getting more playing time. Second, the most important thing in fantasy is NOT talent, it is opportunity. Let’s take a look at some “Fantasy Football Targets of Opportunity” after the first five weeks.
Odell Beckham Jr. is Crazy
Last week after another tough game, OBJ went off about the coaching staff and life as an NFL football player, suggesting he needs to get more targets every game and said he doesn’t get 20 targets a game like those other guys. Earth to OBJ, Earth to OBJ, come in please. After the first five games, Beckham Jr. was targeted 59 times, for the third-best total in the league, for an average of 11.8 targets a game. The top two players Antonio Brown and Adam Thielen are tied at 66 targets, for an average of 13.2 per game. Only one player, Antonio Brown, has been targeted 15 or more times in more than one game all season! Also, OBJ leads the league with 53% of the targets to wide receivers on his team! If you are going to lash out at your team, at least have your facts straight!
Zach Ertz is a Beast
If you ask NFL or even fantasy football experts to name the top TE in the league on talent, I am not sure Zach Ertz would be the first name suggested by a majority of experts. But when it comes to OPPORTUNITY, Zach Ertz is the leader in the clubhouse after the first five weeks. Ertz has been targeted 58 times in the first five weeks, for an average of 11.6 targets a game, which is fourth-best in the league for ALL players and ahead of the second-highest TE, Travis Kelce, by 12 targets or 2.4 per game. Ertz has earned his ADP of TE3 so far this season.
The Hunt for Kareem Hunt
Last year, Kareem Hunt was the leading rusher in total yards and third-best in standard scoring at the position. This season, he is off to a much slower start, but still has been effective with the fourth-most total rushing yards and the seventh-most points in standard scoring. If you dig deeper into the statistics, it is clear why his numbers are down. Last year in the 15 full games, Hunt averaged 18.3 rushing attempts per game. This season, despite the appearance of under usage, he is actually averaging 18.6 carries per game. But Hunt is losing opportunities in the passing game, only averaging 1.8 targets per game this season compared to 4.2 last season, with the dink and dunk attack of Alex Smith versus the strong-armed gunning downfield of Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes. As teams work to slow down Tyreek “The Freak” Hill and Travis Kelce, look for Hunt’s targets to increase and his fantasy scoring to get closer to last year’s average.
Forecasting the Bears
Before the season started, I made a bold prediction that the Chicago Bears would win nine games this season when the so-called experts had them forecast for another losing season. But I also was uncertain with the skilled position players of the Chicago Bears when it came to fantasy football. After the first five weeks of the season, the Bears are 3-1, having just had their bye week. New Coach Matt Nagy is an offensive genius, with many crazy schemes, and his offense is seventh-best in the league in points per game, at 27.8 compared to last year’s 29th ranked team that only averaged 16.5 points. Increasing your points per game by double digits in one year is very impressive! Last year, the offense was ranked 30th in total yards, with 287 per game, 16th in rushing, with 112 per game, and 32nd in passing, with only 176 yards. Despite the huge increase in points per game, the Bears’ offense is just 25th best in the league, with 341 yards per game.
While the winning record and impressive increase in point totals shows improvement, this is still an average offense when it comes to yards. Running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen have produced for their coach when asked, but have been very inconsistent fantasy football players this season. Howard has even out-gained Cohen in receiving yards in three of four games. Trey Burton was considered a sleeper pick at TE because of Nagy’s use of TE Travis Kelce in KC. But after their first four games, Burton is only averaging 4.75 targets per game compared to the TE average of 6.1 last season. Forecasting the Bear’s skill position players in fantasy going forward will continue to be risky business, and the team’s scoring should slow down, unless the defense continues playing at this level all season.
Five weeks worth of data is enough to start making some educated guesses on player performance going forward for 2018. Next week, I will dissect defensive numbers to show what to watch out for when it comes to forecasting average fantasy points yielded by a defense when looking at favorable match ups for the upcoming week.
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