Written by Timothy Lewis (@TrendsAndTakes) — 10–10–2019
First, a disclaimer: To start this new season of Trends and Takes, I chose to add buy, sell, and drop criteria. This resulted in overly-ambitious “sell” proclamations. Trades should not be that common in competitive leagues. To correct this, I’ve added a “hold” designation, to better contextualize the fantasy value of a given player. What that said…
The fifth week of the 2019 NFL season has come and gone! In other words, we have a five-game sample size to spot trends and develop takeaways. Welcome to season three of this column! If you’re not familiar, I use this time to look at numbers and tell you what I make of them. This year I will be offering additional Buy/Sell/Drop/hold criteria. Statistics are courtesy of advanced analytics goldmine, PlayerProfiler, and trusty dusty Pro-Football-Reference.
7.8 targets per game (14th in NFL)
10th in total target distance
8th in completed air yards
On pace for 1248 receiving yards
John Brown has been typecast as a one-dimensional field stretcher throughout his career. While he has the acceleration to get behind defenses, his skillset is not limited to that role. The Bills have made the speedster their first option in the passing game, giving him 20% of his snaps out of the slot. The results have been promising, with Brown accumulating a minimum of 4 receptions and 50 yards every game despite facing some of the league’s tougher matchups. While Josh Allen is on the erratic side, he extends plays and allows his receivers time to beat their man. John Brown has an enviable combination of deep targets and team-leading target share. In fact, he’s averaging the same number of targets as Will Fuller while only one spot behind in total target distance. Currently the WR 19 in PPR, I don’t get the feeling Brown is being valued at his current levels of usage and production. While it may seem like Brown has been an underwhelming asset coasting off a big week 1, the floor he’s demonstrated is more friendly than we’d assume from a player of his archetype. Much like the aforementioned Will Fuller, albeit to a lesser extent, the boom weeks are coming.
The Verdict: The Bills’ next three games are against the Dolphins, Eagles, and Washington. With their bye taking place week 6, this a great time to BUY for a team off to a strong start that is looking to acquire championship-level depth.
Red zone target share of 10.5% (32.9% in 2018)
7.9 yards per target (9.6 in 2018)
8.8 targets per game (10.2 in 2018)
DeAndre Hopkins is not going to match his 2018 performance. He probably won’t meet his 2017 performance for that matter, when he totaled 1378 yards and 13 touchdowns. Furthermore, owners should not have invested a first-round pick in the Houston phenom. But the breakout is coming. There’s a reason Hopkins was viewed as one of the draft’s safest selections. He’s performed regardless of the quarterback (minus Brock Osweiler), is coming off a career year, and has one of the best signal-callers in the game tossing the rock. At just 27 years old, the former Clemson standout is cruising into his prime. One of the conundrums impacting Hopkins is that his supporting cast is good enough to demand usage, but not good enough to shift overbearing defensive attention away from Hopkins. That is, until Will Fuller’s week five explosion. Hopkins is a silent assassin. He’s not going to make a fuss and stomp his feet about the lack of personal success. In these next three games against the Chiefs, Colts, and Raiders, he’ll make plenty of noise. Fuller’s health was a question mark coming into this year, and now that defenses will have to account for his unique explosiveness, Hopkins will be free to feast.
The Verdict: There are arguments to be made to buy, sell, or hold. Positive regression is coming. His Target depth and red zone usage will normalize. He’s really freaking good. That’s the buy argument. If you drafted him, you’re counting on Hopkins as your WR1. You’ve seen what he’s capable of and selling now would be selling low. That’s the hold argument. The sell argument is a bit bolder. One would have to believe that the Texans are making a concerted effort to spread the ball around and that the offensive line isn’t giving Hopkins time to win downfield. The name value is such that he could headline a deal for a marquee running back. However, I lean strongly toward BUY, believing the worst is behind Hopkins.
49ers lead the league with 38.5 run plays per game
Jeff Wilson (3 GL carries) inactive when Tevin Coleman plays
I’m a big-time Tevin Coleman guy. I know there’s not a lot of us. We are outnumbered by the “Matt Breida is the 49ers best back” club. And they might be correct. But with Coleman’s injury, two things became obvious. First, Brieda will never be the featured back in this offense. Second, Shanahan wants a bigger, more physical runner to finish around the goal line. As stated in “the trends”, this role was given to Jeff Wilson during Coleman’s absence to the tune of 3 goal line carries in just two games. With Wilson inactive now that Coleman has returned, those touches will likely go the way of the Indiana product. Breida might be the better of the two, but he’s not the bigger of the two. Coleman has 15 touches and goal-line duties locked in.
The Verdict: Breida is constantly breathing down the neck of Tevin Coleman investors and he popped big time against Cleveland. We still haven’t seen Coleman’s upside as a receiver. This is the time to BUY as I see Coleman out-producing the likes of James Conner, Joe Mixon, and Mark Ingram ROS. Yet, all of these players are likely viewed as more valuable. Additionally, buy Matt Breida. This became a two man backfield when Coleman returned, with Mostert receiving snaps only when victory was assured.
2.8 targets per game (8.8% target share)
28.2 receiving yards per game
How the heck did this happen? Throughout the preseason, much of the chatter was about who would ascend, Chris Godwin or O.J. Howard? We have an answer. I’d tell you to buy Godwin, but he’s currently THE WR1, so good luck with that one. Oddly enough, when looking at the peripherals, Howard has actually been… decent. 12.8 yards per reception — 6th overall. 10.6 average target distance — 5th overall. 84.4% snap share — 9th overall. This what we expected from the third-year tight end. And when we see him making plays on the field, his stature is among the most incredible size/athleticism combinations in the league. But that doesn’t matter without suitable volume.
The Verdict: The Bucs have scored 20 or more points in four out of five games this season. They have been good on offense without O.J. Howard factoring into the equation. He might have one or two of those mind-numbing blowup games, but as the 29th most targeted tight end, there’s no predicting when. DROP. Sidenote: Hunter Henry, due back from injury in the next couple of weeks, is available in a ton of leagues.
7.8 targets per game
30.4% red zone target share
11.5% touchdown rate
Sutton has flown under the radar with all the emerging receivers this year. If not for D.J. Chark, we’d be looking at him as THE second-year breakout. His recent production has him as the WR10 in PPR scoring, accumulating three touchdowns in the past two weeks. This production does need to be contextualized, however. An 11.5% touchdown rate is not sustainable, even with his absurd red zone target share. And when we consider that the Broncos do not frequently have themselves in scoring position, that red zone usage loses its luster. While 7.8 targets is the exact number John Brown is receiving per game, and I label him a buy, Sutton is not benefitting from the same degree of downfield opportunities. Now, it’s entirely possible Sutton’s overall usage increases as he establishes dominance, but even still, it will be a challenge for him to hold on as a fantasy WR1 with the limitations of his team.
While the touchdowns will be difficult to predict, there are skills on display that show Sutton’s sophomore success is no fluke. He’s the rare mixture of a big-bodied receiver that wins at the catch point, who also possesses the ability to gain separation and rack up yards after the catch. These are alpha all-purpose weapon qualities.
The Verdict: The Broncos have a solid defense and a bad offense. If you believe Sutton can sustain his WR1 production, enjoy the ride. If somebody else does, SELL. Otherwise, HOLD as a weekly flex consideration.