The 3 and Out focuses on using 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 to rankings from other sources.
What Does Doug Baldwin’s Return Mean for the Seahawks?
Since 2014, Doug Baldwin has been Russell Wilson’s most targeted wide receiver. Baldwin has been limited by injury but could be in action on Sunday against the Cardinals. While Tyler Lockett has performed well in Baldwin’s absence, Wilson will surely be happy to have his favorite option back in action.
Lockett is averaging 17 points per game and ranks in the top 25. With a touchdown in every game so far, Lockett is vastly outperforming his expected points per game of nine. Further, he’s seen just one look in the red zone on the season and is averaging six targets per game. In 2017, Wilson targeted Lockett 4.4 times per game. Given that Paul Richardson is now in Washington, Jimmy Graham is a Packer, and Baldwin has been out, this increase is surprisingly modest.
While the lack of a major jump in usage could be somewhat discouraging for Lockett owners, the good news is that his volume will likely remain steady upon Baldwin’s return. Of course, his points per target of 2.94 are entirely unsustainable. His PPT could drop an entire point and still be well above average.
Will Dissly and Nick Vannett are collectively seeing over eight targets per game and over 27 percent of air yards. It would make sense for Seattle to shift the majority of this work toward Baldwin. Brandon Marshall, who leads the team in targets, should also cede a significant share. Marshall has caught just fifty percent of balls thrown his way and lacks the efficiency of Baldwin who has perennially posted exceptional PPT numbers. While a fantasy statistic, PPT is relevant in this case as it speaks to Baldwin’s ability to consistently produce when given the opportunity. 1
The Seahawks have thrown 95 passes this season. If this pace were to hold, the team would record just 507 passing attempts, a decrease of 48 overall attempts from the prior season and three per game. While I think it’s fair to assume that the team could increase their pace by the end of the season, hopes of increased passing volume should be tempered.
Through Week 3, Seattle is averaging 3.3 red zone passing attempts per game, a decrease of 28 percent. A Seahawk WR or tight end has yet to seize Graham’s 2018 role of red zone target hog. His vacated red zone share of 35 percent is up for grabs and I expect Baldwin to make a strong claim for it upon his return.
Wilson was drafted as a QB3 in the summer but presently ranks in at QB16 with 17 points per game. While it would be easy to blame his disappointing start on Baldwin’s absence, he’s averaging 2.3 touchdowns per game. This is higher than his average of 2.1 in 2017. He’s also thrown for 239 yards per game. Last season, he averaged only 10 more yards on a weekly basis.
Wilson’s struggles are based on his lack of production as a rusher. Rushing yards and touchdowns account for just four percent of his fantasy production. In 2017, he was boosting his weekly point totals by adding an extra 4.7 points per game with his legs. Given that he’s added just .7 points per game via rushing this season, the chasm between 2017 and 2018 can be explained by a lack of rushing production.
While Baldwin could help in invigorating the offense, Wilson getting more involved as a rusher is what his owners should be hoping for.
Speaking of Points Per Target
As I alluded to above, a great benefit of paying attention to points per target is that you can identify points in the season when a player, with near 100 percent certainty, must regress toward the mean. Between 2013 and 2017, no WR with 35 or more targets finished the season with more than 2.85 PPT. If you’re not expecting an increase in volume, it might just be the perfect time to sell high on some of the names below.
DeSean Jackson faces the 24th–most difficult schedule between now and the end of the season. We know that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pace should slow, that is if he’s able to remain the starter. With Jameis Winston as his quarterback in 2017, Jackson managed only 1.54 PPT. While we’re on the subject, do you want to know one fantasy football’s most pervasive myths that is false?
Jackson is no more of a boom or bust player than is Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, or Julio Jones. While he may score the majority of his points on explosive chunk plays, his accrual of fantasy points is not one in which he either goes for 20 plus points or less than 10.
This table includes the percentage of games played since 2013 in which the listed players reached each threshold.
Since 2013, Jackson has managed to score more than 10 points in 56 percent of games played. He’s gone for 15 or more points in 40 percent of weeks, 20 or more in 20 percent of weeks and 25 or more in only nine percent of weeks. The reality is, he’s not booming that often. But in a proportional context, he’s not busting at an exceedingly high rate.
Let’s take a look at the percentages described above plotted for a handful of other WRs and compare to Jackson.
As you can see, Jackson’s percentages trend very similar to the other receivers. If he really were booming or busting, we’d expect to see his percentages plot with a flatter line.
To further drive home this point, consider each player’s achievement of the 25-plus threshold as a percentage of his achievement of the 10-plus threshold. If a player truly were a boom or bust, we’d expect to see him post a higher percentage in this calculation. This is because, naturally, the numerator and denominator would be similar. Said differently, when the player records a game with 10 or more points, he’d also be going for 25 in that particular contest.
We also have to consider the percentage of games in which the player is busting. I’m not sure that I’d consider going for 15 or more points in 40 percent of games to be busting. To be thorough, I’ve also included each player’s 15 plus percentage as a percentage of his 20 plus. In the case of Brown and Jones, it’s important to recognize that this rough analysis doesn’t fully capture the context of the situation as they just about never bust.
|Player||25+/ 10+||20+ / 15+|
Steelers Running Backs When Le’veon Bell Doesn’t Play
There’s no denying that Le’Veon Bell is extremely talented and is likely one of the best backs in the league. However, one can make a strong argument that he’s benefited greatly from playing in Pittsburgh. This is supported by the exceptional PPR average of Steelers RBs in games in which Bell did not play. Since 2014, Bell’s sophomore NFL season, there have been 18 games in which he did not play. During this stretch, the team’s top scoring PPR back, from each week, has averaged 21 points per game. That’s insane. Last season, Ezekiel Elliott ranked third in RB points per game, averaging 20.3.
Here’s a look at the game log of Pittsburgh’s RB1s during Bell’s absences.
As a point of reference, here are Bell’s averages from 2014 to 2017.
To properly evaluate the production of the replacements compared to Bell, we’d need to take a deep dive in a separate post. Suffice it to say, the Steelers backfield is one of the most desirable fantasy locations. As long as James Conner is in control of it, he will be a monster. Whoever is control of the role in 2019 should be viewed as a top-five RB and a sure-fire first rounder.
- As PPT isn’t sticky, it’s noteworthy that Baldwin is one of the few examples of players that have been able to remain at or above average PPT levels. In the last four seasons, he finished with more than 2.0 PPT twice which is not common. (back)