Mike Evans caught eight passes for 190 yards and three scores in Week 3, leading the wide receiver position with 45 fantasy points. Keenan Allen wasn’t far behind with 13 receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The mega-stars combined for 32 targets, but they also managed to outperform their volume. Evans ranked No. 1 in fantasy points over expectation (FPOE), while Allen finished in fourth for the week.
Each week I’ve been looking at the most explosive receivers in fantasy football. Breaking down the biggest games also gives me a fun excuse for my Monday morning jaunt through the RotoViz tools.
We start with the RotoViz Screener. You can use the Screener to break down any of your stat queries by down, distance, field position, quarter, game script and more. You can also translate volume (expected points) and efficiency (points over expectation) directly into fantasy points. A Chiefs receiver led the NFL in fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) in each of the first two weeks. Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson both accumulated more than 25 FPOE.
No one crested 20 FPOE in Week 3, but the number of double-digit performers jumped again this week. Seven receivers scored 10-plus FPOE, and a Chiefs receiver again made this list. This time it was Mecole Hardman. The rookie torched Baltimore’s elite passing defense for an 83-yard TD. Hardman doesn’t have Tyreek Hill speed, but his 4.31 wheels are almost impossible to stop with Patrick Mahomes chucking the ball deep. This would be Hardman’s second consecutive appearance on the list if last week’s 72-yard TD hadn’t been called back.1
Mahomes has now faced Jacksonville and Baltimore, giving him the fourth-toughest schedule through three weeks. Those defenses have barely made a dent as Mahomes’ early GOAT candidacy continues unabated.
Aaron Rodgers has faced the toughest schedule of the season, and he’s scored half as many points.
Week 3 Fantasy Points Over Expectation – Wide Receivers
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We can use the NFL Stats Explorer to dive into Evans’ background and quickly unearth any stat you want. For example, we can see that he’s posted at least one 30-point game in five of his six NFL seasons. This is his first career 40-plus game, and to manage a performance up in that rarified air, you need both volume and efficiency.
Evans’ targets should have been good for 27.9 points, more EP than any game in 2018.
The peaks and valleys can be frustrating for Evans owners. Over the last 19 games, his EP has been at the WR3 level more often than the WR1 level.2 He’s also extremely reliant on a high target rate and elite red zone performance. In each of the last three seasons he’s finished outside the top 100 in yards after the catch, and that’s been the case again in the early going this year. His 1.9 YAC ranks 111th.
With Jameis Winston pulling the trigger as erratically as ever and elite secondary threats like Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard also in the mix, 2019 may be a bumpy ride for Evans owners. But they should still be happy when it’s all said and done. Week 3 fits perfectly with Kate Magdziuk’s preseason prognostication.
Cooper has now played 12 games with Dak Prescott and the Cowboys since they rescued him from purgatory in Oakland.
He’s raised those numbers in 2019, averaging more than 21 PPG. He’s also posted his first three-game stretch with at least 5.0 FPOE.3
There’s reason to believe that Cooper will rejoin the dynasty top 10 in the new Kellen Moore offense. But it’s also important to keep in mind that Cooper achieved two games with 20-plus FPOE upon his arrival in Dallas last year, only to generate negative FPOE the rest of the way.
While the Mahomes-to-Hardman connection is one of the most fun plays in the NFL, Devin McIntyre reminds readers of a crucial element in his Talkin’ Trades column: you want to own the targets that a specific QB can throw.
Jared Goff was successful attacking down the field in his first two seasons with Sean McVay.
But he’s been a train wreck in 2019.
The Rams defense has gotten the job done, but Goff’s struggles have led to a sharp decline in points per drive.
It’s also funneled more targets to Kupp. He’s currently the highest-volume receiver of the Rams trio and also the most efficient.
While we didn’t expect Robert Woods to struggle like this through three games, this Rams scenario is why Curtis Patrick and I selected Kupp in Round 5 of our FFPC Main Event.
Allen has seven games with double-digit FPOE in his career but didn’t manage one in all of 2018. His well-rounded skill set is more volume-oriented, and that volume is now enjoying an even bigger spike following the departure of Tyrell Williams, the injury to Hunter Henry, and the holdout of Melvin Gordon.
Allen’s 37% target share leads the NFL. His before- and after-catch profiles are only notable in their lack of flair, offering a stark reminder that a receiver’s No. 1 job is simply to get open. Allen gets open literally everywhere and has even drawn eight deep targets. That type of usage keeps defenses honest as the Chargers continue to feed him a steady diet of passes in all areas of the field.4
From the beginning of the 2017 season through Week 7 the following year, Jones failed to score a TD in 20 of 22 games. He has now scored 12 TDs in his 12 games since and has been held out of the end zone in only two of those contests.
Ten of the 12 games in this 35-game split have occurred during the current 12-game run. Jones has been worth 11 fantasy points more per game in contests where he’s scored TDs since the beginning of 2017, which gives you a sense of the extreme frustration you endured as an owner during those first 23 games.
You can include me in that group. One of my Zero RB main event squads from 2018 started Jones-Allen. Their respective ADPs would have allowed a similar start in 2019, where they rank first and second among WRs through three weeks. The duo’s 157 combined points is just behind the best possible RB combination (Austin Ekeler–Dalvin Cook) and far ahead of the best RB-RB start. It will be fun to follow their progress against the elite RBs throughout the season.
Checking In On Previous Stars
Chark is the first WR to reach double-figure FPOE twice. He’s the early breakout star for 2019, but Devin encourages you to at least consider trade offers.
John Ross (-4.7) and Marquise Brown (-5.5) crashed back down to earth, but Ross remains among the full-season leaders.
Following Antonio Brown’s release, Phillip Dorsett responded with another explosive performance, and while Robinson wasn’t as heavily involved against the Ravens, he salvaged his day with a one-handed, toe-tapping TD reception. He’s making the absurd look routine and is offering Mahomes another way to beat defenses.
Make sure to stay tuned for the WR Usage Report from Neil Dutton and What Expected Points Are Telling Us from Blair Andrews. Their work will fill out the volume picture for WRs in Week 3.
Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Mike Evans.
- Hardman won even more fans when he knifed into the scrum to recover a Watkins’ fumble on the first possession. (back)
- Keep in mind that even clear cut WR1s will have plenty of individual games below the WR1 level. (back)
- Cooper entered the season with three separate three-game stretches with negative FPOE in his career. (back)
- If you explore the pass location charts in the Stat Explorer, you’ll be impressed by Allen’s variety of target locations when compared to other elite receivers. (back)