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How Will a New Offense Impact Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford?
pintaw.com
pintaw.com

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Prediction Machine lately. I’m enjoying the process of generating predictions for various offenses based on recent history, Vegas lines, and coaching staff changes. I’ve taken quick looks at both the New York Jets and New York Giants. Up today, my hometown Lions.

Methodology

Refer to the table below as much or little as you wish. It contains the details of how I set the input variables for the App. The Projection Machine allows you to fine tune many aspects of a team-level prediction. I wanted to give you the information I used, but didn’t want to spend a thousand words explaining all my choices.1 In general, my approach was as follows:

  • Make team level estimates based on the history of Jim Caldwell and Joe Lombardi (e.g. New Orleans) offenses.
  • Make player level estimates based on the player’s recent performance and tendencies from Caldwell/Lombardi offenses.
  • Incorporate offseason news and research in a conservative manner.

2014 Lions Projections

VariableValueRationale
Pt Margin-1.35Vegas
Pass tend0.04Det/NO Hx
Pace4Det/NO/Bal HX
QB SK RT0.035Stafford Hx
QB RUSH PCT0.07Det/NO Hx
QB INT RT0.025Det/NO Hx
WR1 TGT0.25Johnson/Graham Hx
WR1 CR0.6Johnson/Graham Hx
WR1 YPT9.25Johnson/Graham Hx
WR1 TDRT0.065Johnson/Graham Hx
WR2 TGT0.17Det/NO/Sea Hx
WR2 CR0.6Det/NO/Sea Hx
WR2 YPT8.75Det/NO/Sea Hx
WR2 TDRT0.06Det/NO/Sea Hx
WR3 TGT0.08based on rest of parameters
CR0.56Median
YPT7.18Median
TDRT0.04Median
TE1 TGT0.1Hx ave rd 1 TEs
TE1 CR0.59Subpar to reflect scout concerns
TE1 YPT7.5Average
TE1 TDRT0.035Subpar to reflect scout concerns
TE2 TGT0.08Fauria/Pettigrew blend
TE2 CR0.63Fauria/Pettigrew blend
TE2 YPT6.55Fauria/Pettigrew blend
TE2 TDRT0.07Fauria/Pettigrew blend
RB1 RUSH PCT0.44Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB1 YPC4.1Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB1 TDRT0.032Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB1 TGT0.13Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB1 CR0.7Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB1 YPT6Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 RUSH PCT0.39Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 YPC4.1Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 TDRT0.04Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 TGT0.11Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 CR0.72Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB2 YPT6Det/NO Hx, Offseason news
RB3 RUSH PCT0.09Theo Riddick guesstimate
RB3 YPC3.94Median
RB3 TDRT0.023Median
RB3 TGT0.03based on rest of parameters
RB3 CR0.71Median
RB3 YPT5.42Median

Projections

Team Level

PLAYS PCTPASS PASS SACKS paATTS PCTRUN RUNS
1087.5 0.61 667.85 23.37 644.47 0.39 419.65

That’s near the top of the league in projected number of plays, but fewer than Detroit ran last season, and almost identical to what Baltimore (Caldwell) and New Orleans (Lombardi) ran. Pass attempts and pass/run ratios are right in between Detroit and New Orleans’ 2013 seasons. Rushing attempts fall in between Detroit/Baltimore and New Orleans. In short, I think this is fairly close.

Quarterback

POS PLAYER paATTS paCOMP paPCT paYDS paTDS paINT ruATTS ruYDS ruTDS ADP RNK13 FP
QB Stafford, Matthew 644.47 402.8 0.62 4897.69 29.81 16.11 29.38 94.31 0.97 5 3 347.15

Matthew Stafford is being drafted as one of the top fantasy quarterbacks this season, and with apparent good reason. A drop in interceptions and a slight bump in accuracy from last year, and voila, a projected top three finish. Later on we’ll look at what tweaking some inputs does to his projection. In the meantime, know that he’s a point spread bully and is undervalued in dynasty.

Wide Receiver

POS PLAYER TRGS RECS recYDS recYPR recTDS ruATTS ruYDS ruYPC ruTDS ADP RNK13 FP
WR1 Johnson, Calvin 161.12 98.28 1490.35 15.16 10.47 2.1 12.22 5.83 0.04 1 3 311.61
WR2 Tate, Golden 109.56 65.74 958.66 14.58 6.57 2.1 9.1 4.34 0.03 35 23 202.15

We don’t need to spend much time on Calvin Johnson. He’s firmly atop our rankings. Golden Tate’s projection also seems reasonable, but higher than we initially ranked him. Last season Nate Burleson and Kris Durham combined for 140 targets while playing second fiddle to Megatron. I projected Tate a bit lower partly to be conservative, partly because the New Orleans offense targeted its second receiver less frequently, and partly because I expect Eric Ebron to get a decent number of targets. The NFL Career Graphs App suggests that the yards/reception and catch rate numbers for Tate and Johnson are reasonable.

tatemegatron

The third wide receiver projection was negligible. Given the abundance of targets elsewhere, and crowded situation after Johnson and Tate, I wasn’t sure who to project. Even though he’s apparently healthy and might not suck, I’m not sure the third WR will be Ryan Broyles. And even though he could eventually be Antonio Brown, T.J. Jones isn’t healthy. I basically allocated the pass targets not designated for anyone else to the WR3 position, and left the inputs at league average.

Running Back

POS PLAYER ruATTS ruYDS ruTDS TRGS RECS recYDS recYPR recTDS ADP RNK13 FP
RB1 Bush, Reggie 180.45 739.84 5.77 83.78 58.65 502.69 8.57 1.78 16 12 228.23
RB2 Bell, Joique 163.66 671.02 6.55 70.89 49.62 425.35 8.57 1.7 22 18 211.95
RB3 Riddick, Theo 33.57 132.27 0.77 19.33 13.73 104.79 7.63 0.49 88 73 44.99

I struggled with the running back projection. I think this could go a few different ways. In the end, I opted for a roughly even split, based mostly on how Detroit used its RBs last year. I also threw in a bit of work for Theo Riddick, based mostly on offseason reports about his performance.

The player with the most to gain here is probably Reggie Bush. His projected workload varies the most from his historical use. I also undersold the yards per reception for Bush and Joique Bell, to better match what New Orleans’ backs have done recently. In other words, if the workload breakdown holds, there’s upside for both Bush and Bell. From the Career Graphs App, take a look at the rushing and target percentages, touchdown rates, and yards per reception. I tried to balance things, but if Bush and Bell perform closer to their recent benchmarks, they can finish higher in the fantasy standings- Bush perhaps even in the top 10.

rb

Tight End

POS PLAYER TRGS RECS recYDS recYPR recTDS ADP RNK13 FP
TE1 Ebron, Eric 64.45 38.02 483.36 12.71 2.26 15 26 99.89
TE2 Fauria, Joseph 51.56 32.48 337.7 10.4 3.09 34 31 84.81

Tight end time. That stat line for Ebron came about as follows. I used the Pro Football Reference Player Screener tool to find all first-round tight ends since 2000. After eliminating Ben Watson (only one game as a rookie) and Kellen Winslow (only two games as a rookie), the rest of the TEs averaged 10 percent of their team’s pass targets in their rookie season.

Player Yr Tgts Tm Att Pct
Becht 2000 30 621 4.8%
Franks 2000 55 596 9.2%
Heap 2001 23 529 4.3%
D.Graham 2002 23 590 3.9%
Stevans 2002 42 578 7.3%
Shockey 2002 128 519 24.7%
Clark 2003 42 564 7.4%
Miller 2005 52 375 13.9%
Lewis 2006 21 443 4.7%
Davis 2006 42 437 9.6%
Olsen 2007 66 557 11.8%
Keller 2008 78 525 14.9%
Pettigrew 2009 54 573 9.4%
Gresham 2010 83 586 14.2%
Eifert 2013 53 551 9.6%
Average Ave 52 536 9.8%

So, that’s what I used for Ebron. I set his catch rate at 59 percent and TD rate at 3.5 percent to reflect concerns about those parts of his game. I personally don’t think either is an issue, but I’m trying to be a bit conservative here.

For the TE2 numbers, I expect these to be mostly Joseph Fauria targets for a couple reasons. First, the way Detroit is using its TEs in training camp. But mostly, they’d be crazy not to target Fauria, especially in the red zone, and especially if Ebron isn’t as good in that area of the field. In order to account for the fact that Brandon Pettigrew is still likely to get some targets, however, I set the TD rate and yards per catch a bit below Fauria’s 2013 benchmarks. The Career Graph App shows both Pettigrew and Fauria’s performance last season.2

fauria

Discussion

If you came looking for something earth shattering . . . sorry. I think these projections, if the players generally stay healthy, are reasonable. What I think is valuable however, is that doing this exercise gives me a sense of confidence about how the Lions offense will perform from a fantasy perspective. Tate seems a bit undervalued, Ebron looks promising long term but maybe overvalued in redraft, and I expect Bush and Bell to reprise their top 20 finishes from last year.

I also think it’s good to look at a range of outcomes, so let’s see what happens if we tweak some of the settings. What if we just set the team level settings to league median: an average point margin/play of -1.5, a pass tendency of 0, and a pace expectation of 0. I think that’s unlikely; Detroit has been consistently positive in pass tendency and pace, New Orleans is consistently a plus pass tendency and plus pace expectation team, and Caldwell’s Ravens teams were as well.

But should such a scenario come to pass, it would shave 2.5 points per game from Stafford’s fantasy production, dropping him to QB10. Megatron takes a 2.4 fantasy point per game hit and drops to WR12. Tate drops over a point per game and falls to WR32. The impact to Bush and Bell is minimal, however.

I present this scenario not to caution you against any of these players (although if you feel confident in the workload projected, the RBs look more or less immune to changes in game script and have some upside based on potentially being more efficient than projected), but to suggest that this is the likely floor for Detroit’s skill players. Hopefully this exercise increases your confidence about their potential 2014 production, and helps crystallize where they represent value in redrafts.

———-

Find me on G+

  1. Do I look like Matthew Freedman?  (back)
  2. CC: Joe Lombardi  (back)

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