The 3 and Out uses the Weekly Stat Explorer to uncover significant workload changes, league, team, and player-specific trends, and hidden but powerful statistics. Note that metrics and statistics referenced in this article are sourced from the Weekly Stat Explorer. As a result, offensive rankings, for example, are based upon tool specific calculations and may not agree with rankings from other sources.
1. Play Volume and Pass/Rush Percentages
In last week’s version of the 3 and Out, we noted that the Viking’s RBs were due for positive regression as the team’s pass to run ratio would likely tighten. This would create more opportunities for Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook to produce in the ground game. Murray recorded 24 rushing attempts against the Cardinals and finished with 23 points.
Let’s take a look at play volume and pass/run percentages across the league and see if we can find more opportunities.
Give Nick Chubb the Ball
Despite a two-win record, Cleveland has managed a high play volume and rushed on 46 percent of plays. As a result, its average of 34 rushing plays per game is the highest in the league. Unfortunately, nearly all of that workload has gone to Carlos Hyde.
Hyde is averaging 3.4 yards per carry with a total of five touchdowns. Only Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott have recorded more rushing attempts.
Nick Chubb, who Hue Jackson has continually claimed will become more involved, has been out-carried by receiving back Duke Johnson.
However, Chubb has turned his 16 rushing attempts and single target into 173 yards and two touchdowns. The disparity between the effectiveness of Hyde and Chubb is best demonstrated by comparing long gains compiled by each back. Chubb, who was explosive in college, has broken two rushes of 40 or more yards. Hyde, on the other hand, has recorded just one rush of more than 20 yards.1
While we can’t draw conclusions from a sample of sixteen rushes, it’s certainly encouraging. Chubb had one of the best rookie SEC seasons in recent history, possesses a tremendous physical profile, and has the size to be a workhorse back. His long-term prospects project nicely and even in the short-term, he’s worth keeping on or adding to your team.
If the Browns come to their senses and give him more work, he could easily run away with the job. Given the ample opportunity in Cleveland, he doesn’t need to win the job outright, even a 35 percent share could prove fruitful.
The Colts are Throwing, a Lot
With 48 passing attempts per game, the Colts are throwing more passes than any other team. The absences of T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle have opened up opportunities for lesser-known players and allowed Eric Ebron to flourish. In case you haven’t been paying attention. Ebron hasn’t been the only Colt with surprisingly ample production.2
Check out Chester Rogers’ target and expected point totals starting in Week 4.
He averaged 16 points during this stretch and deserves a role even when Hilton returns. Currently, Rogers is owned in just 15 percent of ESPN leagues. He’s a great spot start in redraft and an interesting target in DFS. One thing is for sure, the Colts and their single victory are sure to continue airing it out.
2. Running Back Game Scripts
We haven’t talked about the game script graphs in the Weekly Stat Explorer yet. Now that we have six data points, it’s probably time to dive into them. The graphs plot actual fantasy points scored by the searched player when their team wins or loses by the amounts plotted on the horizontal axis.
Adrian Peterson’s graph serves as one of the best examples. Keep in mind, Washington had a bye in Week 5.
The slope of the graph demonstrates that, in general, the more points that the Redskins win by, the more points Peterson scores. For a specific example, note that when the team lost by 12 points, he scored eight. Washington faces the Cowboys, on the road, this weekend and is a one and a half point underdog. As a result, this might not be the optimal week to start him.
While it may be tempting, and intuitive, to assume that pass-catching backs will slope opposite to Peterson, that’s not always the case. For example, James White recorded his highest point totals of the season in the Patriots’ largest wins.
The Packers Backfield
Heading into the season, it was unclear which Packers RB would seize the role of RB1. While it’s still murky, there are positive signs for Aaron Jones owners. Since returning from suspension in Week 3, he’s led the team in carries every game.
As was the case last season, he’s been significantly more efficient than Jamaal Williams. Jones is averaging 5.9 yards per attempt to Williams’ 3.8. As a point of reference, Ty Montgomery is averaging 4.1 yards per attempt. While Williams’ lower average could be based upon the situations in which he’s been given the ball, it’s possible that Mike McCarthy begins to use Williams more in pass protection and less as a rusher.
But here’s the thing — though the position seemed like a valuable fantasy asset heading into the season, it’s returned little value through six games. In aggregate, Packers RBs are averaging just 22.4 points per game which ranks 24th among backfields. Given the split of opportunity between Jones, Williams, and Montgomery, the Packers have produced just two games in which an RB scored more than 10 PPR points. A major reason for this has been a lack of touchdowns. Jones scored against Buffalo in Week 4 and Montgomery against the 49ers in Week 6. The three backs have yet to find the end zone through the air.
The trio has had red-zone opportunity but the reality is that the Packers skew toward the pass. Unless a single back is given all of the work, a 10-point game will be a good week for any of the three backs. If you’re holding onto hope that a Packers RB will win you a league down the stretch … good luck.
Utility – Thielen was the Minnesota WR to Own
Stefon Diggs has been solid, averaging 18 points per game on 10 targets. But for as good as he’s been, Adam Thielen has been significantly better. Thielen is the overall WR1 averaging 26 points per game and 13.5 targets. He’s tied for 10th among WRs with nine red-zone targets, ranks second in WOPR, and eighth in air yards per game. His utility rating of 95 percent crushes that of the second-ranked Michael Thomas.
Utility is a simple metric I created in order to summarize the utility or benefit provided to owners by a fantasy player during a season. It’s different than PPG in that it isn’t inflated by one or two monster performances. It’s most useful for comparisons between players at specific positions and can be used to approximate how useful a player really is when compared to his peers. The metric is calculated for QBs as follows: 3 / 2.5. The result is then multiplied by 100 in order to give us a score in which 100 would represent the highest achievable score. It should be noted that a player could score higher than 100 if he were to score more than 25 points per game. A denominator of 2.5 is employed by the formula as this represents the ‘optimal’ addition within the numerator — 25/25 PPG + 100% + 100%.
The formula is slightly different for each position. The math is set up to give credit to players that could be used in the flex, or as a QB2 in leagues that allow for multiple QBs.
RB: ( (PPG/25) + (percent of weeks in positional top-12) + (percent of weeks in positional top-24 x 0.5) + (percent of weeks in positional top-36 x 0.25)) / 2.75
WR: ( (PPG/25) + (percent of weeks in positional top-12) + (percent of weeks in positional top-24 x 0.5) + (percent of weeks in positional top-36 x 0.25)) / 2.75
TE: ( (PPG/25) + (percent of weeks in positional top-12) + (percent of weeks in positional top-18 x 0.5) + (percent of weeks in positional top-24 x 0.25)) / 2.75
If Thielen’s utility rating isn’t preposterous enough, he’s finished inside the weekly top-12 in five of six games.
Utility Ratings – QB, RB, TE
While Todd Gurley’s utility of 106 is insane, Melvin Gordon isn’t far behind. The separation between Thielen and the rest of his positional group far surpasses that of Drew Brees and Zach Ertz the top-ranked QB and TE.
As the season moves along, Nick O’leary’s 85 percent rating will decrease. His score is inflated by his 15-point performance against the Bears — his only game played in 2018.
- And don’t forget, that’s on massively different workloads. (back)
- To be clear, I’m not surprised that Ebron has been good. However, his average of 21 points per game since Week 4 is certainly much better than I would have expected. (back)
- PPG/25) + (percent of weeks in positional top-12) + (percent of weeks in positional top-24 x 0.5 (back)