Not a Literal Connection: Sam LaPorta and Trey McBride Keep Breaking the Flex Position
Image Credit: Steven King/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Sam LaPorta.

Walter Sobchak: Well, there isn’t a literal connection, Dude.
The Dude: Walter, face it, there isn’t any connection.

In today’s look at Week 13 through the lens of the podcast channel, we’ll examine the connection between tight end heroics and Main Event glory. But first we’ll preview Monday night with an emphasis on how the RotoViz tools can help you work through tough start/sit decisions or prepare for a difficult sweat.

After the disappointment of last Monday night, Sunday’s fireworks were a balm for the fantasy soul. Main Event rosters with my podcast co-hosts went 3-0 in the FFPC semifinals, with one contest up in the air tonight. Ben and I have an 11.8-point lead and face down Joe Mixon.

The Bengals starter is averaging 13.5 PPG and has gone over the key threshold in seven of 11 contests. Of course, one of the misses came last week with Jake Browning under center. Cincinnati gave only eight carries to the backs in a game where they ran a shockingly low 41 total plays.

It could be a similar situation tonight, as teams simply don’t run effectively against the Jaguars. Blair provides the stat visual in the Wrong Read.

Jacksonville doesn’t face a lot of attempts, and for good reason. Top-five metrics in rushing FPOE, yards after contact, and success rate tell the story. Moreover, Mixon isn’t good at creating either yards before contact or big plays, so even the slightly exploitable areas don’t work in his favor. And that’s before we get to the likely lack of respect for Browning’s passing ability.

How do the Game Level Similarity Projections see this going?

If you’re facing Mixon, keep in mind that before Week 12, he was on a four-game stretch where he averaged 17.8 PPG. GLSP weights these recent games most heavily.

This looks like a pure coin flip, but Mixon fans also must contend with another possible complication. Chase Brown has been activated from IR, and in a lost season, it’s incumbent upon Bengals decision-makers to find out what they have in the young back.

“Chase had some plays in the game plan that were his that we didn’t get to,” [offensive coordinator Brian] Callahan said after the loss. “When you get eight attempts, it’s pretty tough to divide up that carry number. We need to find out what Chase can do for us because I don’t know. That’s the answer at this point, and we do need to find out.”

Brown was a RotoViz favorite throughout the draft process, and undoubtedly brings more big-play ability than Mixon. He tested with an 81st percentile Freak Score and 95th percentile explosion score. He was also a big-time workhorse with at least 20 touches and 100 yards in every game.

Mixon’s easiest route to a decent game will come as a receiver. He held a 16-6 route edge over Trayveon Williams a week ago, and broke a 39-yard reception late that accounted for half of his points. The Jaguars shut down the running game, but they have been susceptible to RBs through the air.

Of course, there’s context here. Two of these game belong to Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. But if your fantasy contest depends on Mixon tonight, make sure to follow his usage in passing situations.

Want to crush those hardest decisions in Week 14? Make sure to check out the Passing Matchup Rater and Dave Caban’s advanced matchups column.  

Stealing Bananas

Ben and I were both a little giddy last night, and my co-host was still coming down off of the high from Friday, when his Huskies defeated Oregon for the Pac-12 title and punched their ticket to the college football playoff.

Sam LaPorta is a monster

The Saints came in having allowed the most fantasy points over expected (FPOE) to the TE position over the last five weeks. They offered no resistance to LaPorta, who caught all nine of his targets for 140 yards and a score.

Through 13 weeks, LaPorta is crushing the best rookie TE seasons in memory.

PLAYER TEAM SEAS REC Yards TDs PPR
Sam LaPorta DET 2023 64 679 6 171.9
Evan Engram NYG 2017 51 569 6 143.9
Kyle Pitts ATL 2021 49 709 1 125.9
Aaron Hernandez NE 2010 39 513 4 117.4
Dalton Kincaid BUF 2023 56 474 2 115.4
Jordan Reed WAS 2013 45 499 3 114.7
Pat Freiermuth PIT 2021 43 353 6 114.3

In discussing how our player analysis fits with our draft tactics at RotoViz, we put a lot of emphasis on trying to limit the number of things we have to get right while maximizing the value created by those hits. LaPorta is a good example. We called him the Next George Kittle back in July and drafted him on every team (along with Rashee Rice) as part of our Perpetual Reloading strategy in dynasty. Then he was one of our three highest-rostered players in redraft and best ball.

LaPorta’s big day was part of all three MEs that advanced, and also pushed FFPC best ball teams with Conor O’Driscoll, Erik Hove, and Zachary Krueger into playoff position.

Conor and I have gotten a special kick out of tracking this one, because with Desmond Ridder and Aaron Rodgers, we essentially don’t score QB points.

* This week’s push came despite Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s long TD drop, Rhamondre Stevenson’s injury, Keenan Allen’s dud, and the ongoing issues surrounding Garrett Wilson and Kyle Pitts.

It may seem like overkill to select three additional TEs after paying up for Pitts, but the RotoViz Roster Construction Explorer strongly recommended that approach, and it’s been a big part of the playoff calculus for all of the teams mentioned above.

The Lions Still Tried to Lose

You have to take some of this as a given, but the Lions desperately tried to lose after sprinting to a 21-0 lead. My frustrations with the run game boiled over after Jahmyr Gibbs again looked unstoppable, and yet David Montgomery carried 18 times for a paltry 56 yards. When you have players like LaPorta, Gibbs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Jameson Williams – who showed off his 4.3 speed on a reverse-turned-19-yard score – Montgomery should be a goal-line afterthought, not the linchpin of your offensive identity.

As Ben pointed out, the Lions had five possessions of four or fewer plays, and four of them started with a Montgomery touch.

New Orleans ran more plays, gained more yards, and generated more first downs than Detroit, and they might have won if not for Jameis Winston missing Chris Olave on back-to-back third and fourth downs as New Orleans tried to execute a game-winning drive.

Olave was not involved early, but exploded for 119 yards during the comeback. Despite absences from Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans QBs averaged 9.2 yards per pass. Still, the coaches opted to run 36 times at a 3.1 clip. These weren’t your normal come-from-21-down tactics, and they would have been far less successful if Detroit hadn’t been trying to give the game away.

The Most Talented Offense of All Time?

If you can think of a better group of skill position players than the 2023 San Francisco 49ers, let us know.

  • Deebo Samuel was the overall WR3 in 2021 when he gained 772 yards after the catch and rushed for 365 yards. He averaged over 3.0 yards per route.
  • Brandon Aiyuk came into Week 13 in second place in YPRR, with more than a half yard lead over Justin Jefferson in third place. Following another impressive performance against the Eagles, he ranks No. 5 in reality EPA/G, trailing only Tyreek Hill, CeeDee Lamb, Tank Dell, and Allen.
  • George Kittle has scored 200-plus fantasy points in four of the last five seasons and has gapped everyone but Travis Kelce in both yards per route and EPA in 2023.
  • Christian McCaffrey is in the midst of an all-time great season.

As a result of the talent around him and his own impressive performance, Brock Purdy leads the QB position in EPA/G.

Player PPR EPA/Game Comp% Yards YPA TD YAC/Comp aDOT AirYards
Brock Purdy 228.5 10.9 70.2 3185 9.6 23 6.6 7.9 2633
Josh Allen 288.8 10.4 68.1 3214 7.4 24 5.1 8.3 3576
Dak Prescott 254.8 8.6 70.1 3234 7.9 26 4.7 8 3299
Tua Tagovailoa 210.3 6.4 70.1 3457 8.6 24 6 7.5 3003
Patrick Mahomes 222.2 6.4 67.8 3127 7 22 6 6.9 3068
C.J. Stroud 237.9 5.8 63.4 3540 8.5 20 5.5 9.2 3841
Jalen Hurts 282.8 5.5 66.5 2995 7.4 19 4.9 8.5 3407

With the exception of the snakebitten Josh Allen, these are the leading contenders for MVP. Purdy is also leading in yards per attempt, in part because of his sizable advantage in yards after the catch per completion.

There’s a chicken-and-the-egg element here, but there’s no question that McCaffrey, Samuel, and Kittle are among the best ever at their positions when it comes to YAC. And there’s little question about Kyle Shanahan’s ability to draw up plays that create after-catch opportunities.

Samuel gained 138 yards and scored three TDs on a mere seven touches. Almost all of that yardage came with the ball in his hands.

To put all of that in a little context, here are the Week 13 YAC leaders.

Player PPR EPA YAC AirYards RushAtt RushYards RushTD TargetShare Recs RecYards RecTD
Deebo Samuel 35.8 12.8 115 1 3 22 1 16 4 116 2
Tyreek Hill 32.3 13.2 80 107 2 -4 0 28 5 157 2
Mike Evans 29.2 6.1 77 212 0 0 0 44.4 7 162 1
Nico Collins 34.1 12.1 72 147 0 0 0 46.2 9 191 1
DK Metcalf 37.4 14.9 66 93 0 0 0 21.1 6 134 3
A.J. Brown 19.4 8.2 62 107 0 0 0 31 8 114 0
Rashee Rice 14.4 2.5 62 9 0 0 0 30 8 64 0
Puka Nacua 23.9 2.8 57 105 2 34 0 20.6 4 105 1
Jaxon Smith-Njigba 13.2 -0.2 48 49 0 0 0 28.9 7 62 0
Michael Pittman 27.5 6.4 46 109 0 0 0 39 11 105 1

* Puka Nacua also had a third long run called back. 

Although Samuel’s receiving profile has been underwhelming this year, he adds a unique element to the offense and now has four rushing TDs, a number many RBs (like Javonte Williams) would kill for.

It’s encouraging to see Rashee Rice on the list and consolidating his own minor breakout, but the different approaches that San Francisco and Kansas City have taken to the skill positions tells you everything you need to know about their respective seasons.

RotoViz Overtime

Trey McBride Is the No. 1 in Arizona and a Threat to LaPorta’s Long-Term Stranglehold on the Position

On a four-play sequence late in the first half, Pittsburgh’s season changed. Starting with a first-and-goal from the 7, Najee Harris carried three times and Kenny Pickett suffered a multi-game injury on a sneak. On the fourth and final play, Harris was stuffed at the 1-yard line.

The Cardinals then embarked on a 15-play, 99-yard drive where Trey McBride scored not just one but two TDs (after the NFL broke all of its rules to overturn the first). It’s unusual to deploy the phrase “wouldn’t be denied” in support of a TE, but McBride was a man possessed after the two-minute warning. He caught four passes for 50 yards (plus), cementing his status as a 2024 second-round pick and putting a gigantic dent in the Steelers’ season.

On the day, LaPorta and McBride combined to catch 17 of 18 targets, and the only incomplete pass was actually a TD.

McBride is an extreme example of the quandary fantasy football presents, especially early in the season. Internal evaluation is notoriously inaccurate in the NFL, forcing you to ignore the expertise of the, well, experts.

McBride averaged 3.2 PPG during this stretch and didn’t crest 60% of snaps until Week 8. The rest is history.

Tight End Leaderboard – Week 8 to Week 13

Player Games PPR Targets TargetShare Recs Catch% RecYards RecTD AirYards YAC
Trey McBride 6 97 53 29 41 77.4 440 2 360 204
T.J. Hockenson 5 90.6 49 30.6 33 67.3 396 3 417 122
George Kittle 5 83.1 35 25.5 27 77.1 441 2 309 230
Sam LaPorta 5 81.2 37 22.4 29 78.4 302 3 281 115
Jake Ferguson 6 79.8 37 15.8 25 67.6 308 4 238 150
David Njoku 6 70.3 53 25.1 29 54.7 293 2 220 227
Dalton Kincaid 5 69.1 37 21.3 31 83.8 281 2 203 136
Cole Kmet 5 67.3 36 24.2 31 86.1 242 2 136 128
Travis Kelce 5 58.8 34 20.5 26 76.5 288 1 233 133

McBride has crushed the position in receptions over this span and offers great balance between target share, catch percentage, air yards, and yards after the catch.

It’s even more impressive when you consider the lack of support from the overall offense. An Arizona passer has not thrown for 300 yards in that stretch, and Week 13 was the second time the starter threw for less than 150.

Green Bay Springs the Upset

It was a masterful performance from Jordan Love and Matt LaFleur as the Packers upset Kansas City on Sunday night. Green Bay began the game with two 75-yard scoring drives to take a 14-3 lead. They held on through a flurry of bad officiating late and dramatically changed the trajectory of both teams’ seasons.

What does this mean for Love and just how good are these Packers? Check out the show for the full breakdown, and we’ll back with another OT tomorrow. Good luck to everyone tonight. We’re rooting for you.

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Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

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