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Tangible Results from the Uprising in Minnesota – Stefon Diggs Leads the Way in Fantasy Points Over Expectation

Shawn Siegele looks at the most explosive wide receiver performances of Week 6, including a 43-point eruption from Stefon Diggs.

After one of the most epic weeks in fantasy football history, Week 6 offered a season-low three WRs reaching double digits in fantasy points over expectation (FPOE).

Stefon Diggs

Through five weeks, Stefon Diggs was WR52. After his 43.5-point explosion in Week 6, he moves up to WR15.

The Week 6 eruption follows a string of 10 consecutive games in which he’d been held under 20 points and finished as no better than a weekly WR2. Eight of those games came under the direction of Kevin Stefanski. We may now be witnessing the results of a near-mutiny after Week 4.

Kirk Cousins was one of the worst QBs in the league through the first month, but exploded after being called out by Adam Thielen and freed up by Stefanski.

His sub-3,000-yard, 12-TD pace became a 5,000-yard, 48-TD pace for two games. It came on the back of ridiculous efficiency, with his yards per attempt jumping from 8.0 to 11.4. His passing attempts remain low at a sub-500 level.

This burst of efficiency comes during a stretch of soft opponents. Two weeks ago, Cousins was my 2-QB trade target due to a month of plus matchups. The Strength of Schedule Streaming tool allows you to manipulate these stretches to your benefit. Schedule-based trades make a huge impact in fantasy football where the regular season is only 13 weeks (and sometimes shorter).

Should the Vikings be targeting Thielen and Diggs more often? Almost certainly. We can use the Weekly Stat Explorer to quickly contrast their ranks in volume and efficiency. Although they rank No. 42 and No. 45 respectively in expected points (EP),1 they rank fourth and fifth in fantasy points over expectation (FPOE). On a per attempt basis, Diggs is the equal of the two biggest breakout players of the season.

Fantasy Points Over Expectation Per Attempt Leaders – 20 or More Targets

What Should We Expect Going Forward?

The problem, of course, is that we aren’t likely to see that volume, and it turns the Vikings stars into difficult weekly plays. When a player gets off to a poor start, it not only damages your team in the win/loss column, but it makes it more likely that they’ll be on the bench when the explosion finally occurs.

That was the case for our RotoViz FFPC Main Event team this week. Curtis Patrick and I benched Diggs for the quartet of Cooper Kupp, Calvin Ridley, Curtis Samuel, and Will Fuller. Samuel finally had the big game that Dave Caban told you to look for in his excellent 3 and Out series. The results were not so good for our Week 5 hero as Fuller dropped not one, not two, but three potential TDs. I say that mostly with love. All three catches were of the challenging variety that you get on deep end zone targets. The Week 6 foibles simply illustrate again the massive upside that Fuller offers every Sunday.

Luckily, our overall structural approach and player selection criteria are starting to pay dividends and we were able to put up 171 without Diggs.2 Not all of my Diggs squads were so lucky, but Ben Gretch and I had Diggs in our lineup on the way to a fourth consecutive victory in our co-owned Main Event.3

Can we start Diggs confidently again next week? Throughout this series, we’ve discussed the way in which plus efficiency can lead to extra opportunities. Diggs isn’t a young player like a D.J. Chark or Terry McLaurin. The Vikings should know what they have in him. But we can still hope that they take the right lesson from the role he played in their pivotal victory over the Eagles. After all, even an efficient and explosive receiver like Diggs will rarely pull off yesterday’s feat.

Diggs has averaged just a hair under 2.0 FPOE per game since the beginning of 2016, and has managed five games in double-digits.

On the other hand, we can see an area where the change in offensive philosophy may free Diggs up to finally reach the top tier of receivers. An objectively more athletic version of Antonio Brown,4 Minnesota’s co-No. 1 is almost impossible to cover deep. With the multiple TDs of 50-plus yards on Sunday, Diggs now has more yardage on passes that traveled more than 20 yards than he did all of last season.

With more than 200 yards already on deep passes, Diggs has been a very different player than he was under John DeFilippo’s scheme in 2018. Last year he was targeted 101 times within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.

It’s hard to believe he only has 17 such targets in 2019. While we love to see the multi-TD explosions from players like Fuller and Diggs – and often emphasize them in DFS – these underneath passes provide the weekly cushion that allows you to start a player with confidence in seasonal formats.

Peruse all of these stats and more – like in-depth Matchup Analysis – on the player pages from the NFL Stat Explorer.

Terry McLaurin

If you read Kate Magdziuk’s excellent Flex Plays article, you knew to play McLaurin in all seasonal and weekly formats. He delivered, turning four receptions into 100 yards and two scores, a performance that vaults him back to WR14. Those are crazy numbers for a third-round rookie in a bad offense, but it’s even crazier that they include a bye and a Colt McCoy start. Focus only on his play with Case Keenum, and he looks like the second coming of Odell Beckham.

After another Beckham performance against the Seahawks where occasional highlights punctuated the flurry of drops, it’s bittersweet to remember what used to be.

McLaurin is off to a similarly blazing start. This is already his second appearance on the FPOE leaderboard, but red flags abound.

Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn combined for -9.5 FPOE, and while this offers more confirmation that McLaurin is on another level from his teammates, it’s also a sign of a flailing, low-volume passing attack.

Devin McIntyre makes the case that McLaurin could be handcuffed by the same philosophy that has limited Diggs and Thielen. Even after a better Week 6, the Vikings rank dead last in EP to the receiver position. Bill Callahan has indicated he’ll do the same thing in Washington. While I’d hold out for superhero offers, this isn’t a bad time to sell.

Robby Anderson

Since Sam Darnold was selected No. 3 overall in the 2018 draft, Anderson has been a different receiver with the New York’s potential savior. Due to Anderson’s elite speed and vertical ability, it’s no surprise that his 92-yard score coincided with Darnold’s return.

But Anderson’s best season occurred before Darnold’s arrival. During his breakout sophomore season, he scored 200 points and finished as WR18. That was also the only season of his first three where the speedster was targeted an average of less than 15 yards down the field.

As we’re seeing with Diggs currently, Anderson needs those underneath targets to fill out his profile. The Jets promised to make him a focal all over the field this season, and his target depth has dropped back to his 2017 levels. Unfortunately, his target share has gone the wrong way and is down to 19%. That should change with Darnold back under center.

In leagues where owners are looking to use his Week 6 as a sell-high exit point, Anderson is a good acquisition target. But if he’s to develop into a true season-long play, the current rapport with Darnold can only be a first step in their mutual development.

Image Credit: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Stefon Diggs.

  1. The number of points they would be expected to score with their target profiles, including down, distance, and line of scrimmage.  (back)
  2. While the Diggs decision cost us a chance to go over 200 points in consecutive weeks, we’re sitting on the high score in our league heading into Monday night.  (back)
  3. It was a Sunday to celebrate, but between Fuller and the approximately 150 yards of dropped passes from Mike Evans, there was also a feeling of what-might-have-been.  (back)
  4. Diggs is more athletic than Brown. Whether he’s otherwise comparable to Brown or even deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence is another question.  (back)

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