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 on tool specific calculations and may not agree with rankings from other sources.
The waiver wire is sparse, we know the players with increased workloads, and are aware of the veterans that should remain on the bench. As a result, this week’s edition of the 3 and Out will be a little different from prior iterations. We’re going to look at start/sit decisions at quarterback, running back and wide receiver and determine which player is the preferable start. Of course, every fantasy decision is unique given team and matchup specifics but for this exercise, we’ll identify the player that has the higher probability of producing more fantasy points in the majority of circumstances. Hopefully, running through these examples will help you to develop a process for making your own managerial decisions.
Position specific strength of schedule (SOS) metrics will be referenced numerous times. As a reminder, these metrics are not based on points allowed. The following excerpt from the Weekly Stat Explorer (WSE) sheds light on the process used and overviews how to use them within the tool.
The below chart can be used to identify RB units with favorable schedules. A ranking of 1 represents the most challenging defense for a RB to face; a ranking of 32 represents the least difficult defense. Rankings are calculated by comparing the per game averages of the top-70 RBs against their point totals when facing each defense. Defenses that allowed fewer fantasy points than opposing RB averages are difficult mathups and are highlighted in red. Use the drop downs to isolate a range of weeks. Average opponent rank and SOS rank are included in the table to the right. Higher averages and lower ranks are more desirable, as reflected by the green highlights.
Derrick Carr vs Marcus Mariota
Since Week 8, Derek Carr has averaged 14 fantasy points per game. He opposes the Chiefs this weekend, a team that based on the WSE QB SOS metric has been a more challenging opponent than pure points allowed would lead one to believe. In fact, the team has been the 12th-hardest matchup for opposing quarterbacks.
Carr, like the Raiders’ offense at large, has struggled mightily this season. In fact, Carr has finished in the weekly top-24 of QB rankings just twice. His utility percentage of 33 ranks 26th.
Oakland is a 15.5 point underdog but Carr’s game script graph is relatively flat. As a result, it’s hard to conclude that his odds of scoring more points than average are dramatically increased by this.
Carr’s historical projection is pessimistic, projecting an average of 12 points, low of five and high of 17.
While Marcus Mariota has underperformed expectations, he’s been significantly better than Carr. Since Week 8 he’s averaged 18 points per game. That average includes a three-point performance against the Colts in Week 11 in which an injury held Mariota to just 13 attempts. While he’s finished inside the top-12 of weekly QB rankings only a single time, he has recorded 4 QB2 finishes.
The Titans are seven and a half point favorites over the Jets. This helps Mariota as he’s been significantly better in victories this season.
The Jets possess the 12th most challenging defense for opposing passers but Mariota’s historical projection is optimistic. He’s projected with an average of 17 points, low of 12 and high of 17.
This is a pretty easy call. Go with Mariota.
2. Running Back
Tevin Coleman vs Lamar Miller
Tevin Coleman and Lamar Miller got off to slower starts than their owners would have liked. However, both backs have recovered and sit inside of the top-24 of RB PPG rankings. Since Week 8, Coleman has averaged 16 points. Of course, this average is inflated by a 33 point performance against Washington. On the season, He’s accrued 15 or more points in 27 percent of games and has eclipsed 10 in over 80 percent.
On the season, Coleman is averaging 13 PPG, outperforming expectations of 12. His workload has been steady, with approximately eight rushes and four targets per game. The Falcons are one point favorites against the Ravens. Coleman has been slightly stronger in wins this season, however, the Ravens have been the single most challenging defense for opposing RBs to face. As a result, it seems likely that it will be a struggle for him to reach his seasonal average on Sunday.
His historical projection agrees and projects him with an average output of 11 points, low of six, and high of 15.
Miller faces an easier opponent in the Cleveland Browns, a team that has been forgiving to opposing RBs, and the Texans are favored by six points. This bodes well for Miller who has averaged 16 PPG since Week 8 and benefits from a positive game script.
Miller boasts a stronger utility ranking thanks to two top-12 finishes, but has gone for 10 or more points in only 60 percent of games.
Because Miller will be playing an easier opponent and has been seeing close to 17 rushes and three targets per game, his historical projection is far more favorable than Coleman’s. Miller’s average forecast is 16 points, his low, eight, and his high, 20.
It’s hard to find any metrics that point toward rolling with Coleman over Miller.
3. Wide Receiver
T.Y. Hilton vs Kenny Golladay
Since Week 8, T.Y. Hilton has averaged 18 PPG and nearly eight targets. On the season, he’s gone for 15 or more points in over two-thirds of games. If you’re seriously considering benching Hilton, odds are high that you’re firmly in your leagues’ playoff picture.
Hilton opposes the Jaguars this weekend, which is likely the reason that fantasy managers are considering benching a player that ranks 16th in PPG at his position. The Jaguars have allowed fewer points to opposing WRs than any defense and rank 10th from a WSE WR SOS perspective. Hilton faced the Jaguars in Week 10 and scored 11 points on seven targets. In this game, he posted an expected point total of 11. Hilton did score 19 points against the strong Bills defense in Week 7. While it’s likely that the Jaguars defense will slow him down more than an average team would, it won’t preclude him from having a decent outing.
Indianapolis is favored by four points as a road favorite. Interestingly, Hilton’s best games have come in victories. This, perhaps, speaks to his important role in the Colts’ offense. Regardless, it doesn’t appear that game script is a cause for concern.
Hilton drew 71 air yards in his prior matchup with Jacksonville and has seen over 100 in his last two games. His historical projection is strong with an average of 19, low of 11, and high of 21.
Since the departure of Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay has seen 12 targets on average, scored two touchdowns, and recorded 20 PPG. Marvin Jones was placed on injured reserve after missing Weeks 11 and 12. As a result, it’s hard to envision scenarios in which Golladay’s volume shrinks. Before Detroit’s target share opened up, the sophomore receiver averaged just 13 PPG. Still, he ranks 21st amongst WRs from a utility perspective and has gone over 10 points in nearly three-quarters of games. Golladay has finished as a WR2 six times this season, which equates to 55 percent of games played.
Detroit will be a 10-point underdog when facing the Rams this weekend. Golladay his been relatively game script neutral this season so it’s hard to say if the projected spread is to his benefit or detriment. However, WRs have been averaging more points than their personal averages when opposing the Rams. This is counterintuitive as the Rams rank 12th on a points allowed basis. However, they rank 26th when using the WSE metric. Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, Chris Conley, and Emmanuel Sanders scored 25 or more points when opposing Los Angeles. WR2s are averaging 17 points. While this may appear to be an unfavorable matchup at first blush, that doesn’t appear to be the case when looking beneath the surface.
Golladay’s historical projection recognizes his recent increase in opportunity and does not appear too concerned about the Rams. With an average projection of 18 points, a low of 12, and a high of 22, he looks like one of the better WR options. Golladay and Hilton project with similar ranges of outcomes. While Golladay boasts a higher ceiling, Hilton edges him out in average. Of course, the two project with ranges of outcomes that are so similar that they can’t be used as a major input in the decision-making process.
Ultimately, we’re choosing between two options that can be reasonably expected to produce WR2 numbers and have WR1 upside. Both are the main option in their offenses and possess touchdown potential. However, it seems more likely that Golladay is able to draw a higher number of targets and is opposing a more favorable opponent. While this is a close one, and it feels odd to say, I’d roll with Golladay over Hilton this weekend. When I look at this objectively and remember that the Golladay that exists presently is different from the one that opened the season, it’s hard for me to rule differently.
A Couple of Additional Notes
There are certainly more data points that can be considered in decisions like the above. However, sometimes it’s best to simplify things and not overload oneself with information. By considering prior performance, current opportunity, whether or not matchup needs to be considered, and absorbing a player’s range of outcomes, these decisions become more straightforward. If you’ve yet to do so, definitely check out the WSE, as there’s an abundance of other information that I use and would recommend that you look at while running through your weekly process.