Written by Timothy Lewis (@TrendsAndTakes) — October 17th, 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 sixth week of the 2019 NFL season has come and gone! In other words, we have a six-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. Any other sources will be hyperlinked in the article.
2.6 targets per game
42nd in yards per touch (4.2)
33rd in yards created per carry (1.16)
The Lions have been a lot more fun than expected. With their success throwing the ball downfield, we’d think more space would be opened to run the ball. However, Detriot’s oft-lauded offensive line is middle-of-the-pack in the statistics that measure that kind of thing. What’s more bothersome is the way Kerryon is being used. He’s been reduced to a between-the-tackles grinder, and while that’s resulted in a league-leading 7 goal-line carries and 17.4 carries per game, it’s also tanked his efficiency. I know, I know: volume is king. I get that, I really do. Now consider this: The Lions have been in the lead for the majority of their five games this season. In this time, Kerryon has no carries of 15 or more yards. He’s not being creatively schemed into the open field and he continues to grade out rather average in elusiveness metrics. Going forward, there will be plenty of games he doesn’t reach paydirt. And with Darrell Bevell’s scheme constantly pushing the ball downfield, the check-downs and designed passes to the running back position aren’t there to buoy production.
The Verdict: Despite the above, Kerryon still has value. There are top-flight RBs like Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliot who have underperformed. You may be able to build a package around Kerryon for one of them. In PPR leagues, I recommend trying to poach a WR1 from an RB-needy team. SELL.
16.5 carries per game.
3rd in the NFL in goal-line carries (6)
9th in rushing yards (71 p/g)
It’s funny how team setting can dramatically change the value of a player. Some offensive play-callers want their running back to be able to spread out wide, or operate as a safety valve for their QB to check down to. The Texans are not that kind of team. They have a questionable offensive line and a QB who likes to extend plays looking for a big completion downfield. In this situation, the most valuable attribute for a RB is to wear down defenses and hit the hole hard. Hyde isn’t making people miss at a high rate, but he is creating 25 yards per game on hard-nosed downhill runs. There are some peripheral stats that keep Hyde in RB2 territory. He’s only received 8 targets all season, with pass-catching being a well-known deficiency. Additionally, he’s on the field for under 60% of the snaps despite severely out-working stablemate, Duke Johnson Jr. Lastly, Deshaun Watson has a league-leading 5 rushing touchdowns. His mobility theoretically poses a threat to Hyde’s goal-line usage, although there’s been enough to go around thus far.
The Verdict: DeAndre Hopkins still has yet to make his mark in red-zone packages. Watson can vulture touchdowns at any time. But the usage is there to give Hyde a safe floor and make him a stable FLEX. He’s a nice asset to have, and I recommend fantasy GMs HOLD. You’re getting the fantasy production of the aforementioned Kerryon Johnson out of a waiver addition, but because of that, he’s likely not going to fetch the same trade value.
Odell Beckham Jr.
5th in target share (28%)
Most drops in NFL (5)
1 touchdown on the season (14.8% RZ target share)
The Browns entered the season with much fanfare. To put it bluntly, they have not lived up to expectations. The bye week will be a time for intense consideration, both for the coaching staff and upper management. Freddie Kitchens is an experiment. In his time at the helm, the team’s former running backs coach has made play calls so amateur a casual Madden player would scoff. The good news is that the Browns have a backup plan in place with Todd Monkin handcuffed at the offensive coordinator position. As we well know, he has not been afforded the luxury of play calling. That could change in a hurry. Monkin generated a ton of value from the Bucs’ offense in 2018, leading Mike Evans to the most efficient season of his career. For Odell, the volume has been there, even if the ball has been forced, and the offense’s creativity is lacking. Drops happen at an uneven rate season to season (just ask DeAndre Hopkins), and touchdown production should positively regress to match the target and receiving totals. While some may have misgivings about the receivers’ “diva” personality, it’s far from OBJ’s fault that production has lagged.
Verdict: There’s no guarantee that things get better in Cleveland. I’m sure that statement wouldn’t shock their loyal fanbase. But Nick Chubb is producing at an elite level and there is offensive intelligence lurking in the staff. Odell is worth the BUY, as his upside remains massive.
22.9% red zone target share
1st in receiving yards (497)
1st in total target distance
5th in yards after the catch among TEs (154)
I wasn’t one of the people telling you to draft Kelce in the first round. I wasn’t even interested in the second round. I understood the argument — positional scarcity, WR1 numbers, elite offense, etc. But it’s your first or second-round pick, an asset you bank on to win you weeks, and it never made sense to bet on a player maintaining historically great production.
The thing is, Kelce has sustained historically great production. He’s on pace for over 1300 receiving yards once again. He’s fielding deeper targets than any other tight end in the league and he’s still managing to win after the catch. Where regression has taken place is Patrick Mahomes’ touchdown rate. He won’t be reaching 50 again. But Kelce’s yardage totals and red zone usage still indicate he should have reached the end zone more times this season. Instead, the touchdowns have gone to an inconsistent carousel of running backs and tertiary receivers scrambling to replace Tyreek Hill’s production, all the while directing defensive attention toward the 30-year-old tight end. I believe the return of Hill alleviates the latter dilemma.
Verdict: The tight end position is scarce for startable options, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to pry Kelce away from disappointed investors. Teams that spent early draft capital on the Chiefs’ stud likely left themselves with holes wide receiver or running back. Kelce is a strong BUY for me.
The Bengals are 2nd in pass plays per game (44.2)
Boyd is 4th in targets (9.8 p/g)
11th in yards after the catch among WRs (151)
7.4% red zone target share
This Bengals team stinks. The red rocket has not blasted off, his flame smothered by a porous offensive line. Mixon, a borderline first-round pick, ranks behind Frank Gore, Miles Sanders, and Royce Freeman in standard and PPR leagues. The trendy Zac Taylor offensive revival has been overblown, plain and simple.
Now that we’ve accepted this team is a dumpster fire, let’s go diving. The bad offensive line, lack of commitment to the run, and defensive shortcomings have led to an exorbitant number of pass attempts. Investors in standard leagues likely look at him as a shoddy pick in the mid-rounds, while PPR investors are left shrugging their shoulders. With the loss of John Ross, there hasn’t been a presence to stretch the field and allow Boyd to work underneath, hence his lousy 3 receptions for 10 yards against the Ravens. However, A.J. Green is due back any day now.
Verdict: The return of Green is unlikely to change much about how this offense is run but he will change the way the defense reacts. Should the long-time ace stay healthy, he will occupy the opposing team’s best defensive back. With Green and Auden Tate, both 6’4”, operating on the outside, Boyd may actually see an uptick in his red-zone target share as the forgotten man. There’s some upside to be had, and plenty of targets to go around. For me, that makes Boyd a HOLD. You may even be able to get him as a throw-in to lubricate a larger trade.