Fantasy Football: 3 Things We Learned in Week 2
Perhaps more than anything, fantasy football is a game of adjustments. Season-long fantasy doesn't end at the draft, and smart managers learn to take the trends and data that each week of games offers and apply it to their roster decisions moving forward.
This weekly piece will look at trends from the previous slate of games and determine which trends in snaps, usage, and matchups are actionable moving forward. Lets' dive in and look at some interesting pieces of information from Week 2.
Tom Brady is Breaking the All-Time Touchdown Record
I know, I know. Way to start out on a limb. Tom Brady leads the league in touchdown passes (nine) through two weeks, and the NFL added an additional game this season. Considering Brady has a 50-touchdown season under his belt and threw 40 last year, it's not a total stretch to say he can top Peyton Manning's record of 55 at some point in the 17th game of the season.
This prediction is much more about what we have learned through two weeks about the nature of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense and much less about "Tom Brady is throwing lots of touchdowns."
Through two games, Brady is 5th in passing yards, 3rd in attempts, and a pedestrian 16th in average yards per attempt. While these are good numbers, nothing about them screams "best all-time season." However, what separates Brady from the rest of the quarterback pack -- and what will eventually lead him to break the record -- is how Bruce Arians is calling plays in the red zone.
The Bucs have essentially abandoned the run in that area of the field. Brady leads the NFL in red-zone pass attempts (20), passing yards (96), and touchdowns (8t). Knowing that, does anything stand out to you from list of red-zone target leaders through two weeks?
|Name||Completions||Red Zone Targets||TDs|
Each of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Rob Gronkowski all rank in the top eight in the NFL in red-zone targets through two games. Antonio Brown is not a factor in the red zone so far (one target), so that's something to keep in mind for fantasy teams, too.
Tampa Bay only has 7 rush attempts in the red zone despite 10 trips there this season. Leonard Fournette has all of them, while Ronald Jones and Giovani Bernard have been shut out. We would expect that the closer the Bucs get to the goal-line, they more likely they would be to muscle a score in on the ground, but that hasn't been the case. Tampa Bay only has two rush attempts inside the 10 yard line and zero attempts inside the five-yard line. Essentially, the closer the Bucs get to the end zone, the more likely they are to throw the ball.
Could this be a season like 2007 when it was clear that Brady and his coaches just decided they were going to pad stats? It's possible, and if the trend continues where the Bucs abandon their run game in close, it's going to be hard for anyone to challenge Brady for most touchdowns this year.
Mike Williams is the New Michael Thomas
Chalk up a win for the collective fantasy football analyst hive mind on Twitter, as Williams is becoming what many hoped he would be when Joe Lombardi moved west from New Orleans -- Michael Thomas 2.0. Williams has always flashed upside as a burn-it-down-the-field, "hope he stays healthy" player in his time with the Los Angeles Chargers. His average depth of target (aDOT) was a robust 13.72 last season, 10th among all receivers with at least 50 targets.
But this season, his route tree has bloomed to give him opportunities all over the field. Here are Williams' route charts from his first two games, courtesy of NFL NextGenStats:
As you can see, he is being targeted anywhere between the line of scrimmage and 35 yards downfield. Both he and Keenan Allen are causing problems for opposing secondaries in the middle of the field.
At this rate, Williams is a lock for a career year; all he has to do is surpass 1,001 yards and 10 touchdowns. Considering he is roughly 20% towards those totals through two games, it looks like -- at the very least -- a strong WR2 season for him if he stays healthy for a majority of the year. If you took a shot at Williams as WR45 in the 12th round in fantasy drafts, congratulations on securing a bona-fide league winner.
Jonathan Taylor Has Better Sundays Ahead
The first two weeks of the season have not been kind to Jonathan Taylor owners. Taylor, so far, has 107 rushing yards on 32 carries (3.3 yards per attempt) and no touchdowns. Per numberFire's Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry metric, Taylor ranks 25th out of 38 backs with at least 15 carries through two weeks. He is averaging -0.08 NEP per rush, which translates to hurting his team's chances to score every team he carries the ball.
However, his efficiency masks the elite opportunity Taylor has seen in the red zone through two weeks. Taylor ranks second in the NFL with seven rushing attempts inside the 20-yard line, ranks first with five carries inside the 10-yard line, and first with five carries inside the 5-yard line as well.
On his seven rushes in the red zone, Taylor is averaging only 2.4 yards per carry, and in his five rushes inside the 5-yard line, he has gained a total of zero yards. Clearly, this should significantly regress for a talented player, and Taylor looks like he is well on his way to the potential for a strong touchdown year -- even after being shut out in the first two games.
Nyheim Hines vulturing snaps and targets has always been -- and will continue to be -- a problem for Taylor. But Taylor has seen eight targets through two games, and if he can keep up that pace of targets per game in addition to 15+ rush attempts each contest, that is enough of a workhorse role to truly benefit him as the schedule lightens up.
The Indianapolis Colts have faced the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks through two weeks, which have been historically plus defenses, but the Colts get the Texans and Titans twice, plus the Jaguars, Jets, and Dolphins all before the fantasy playoffs. This is a player to kick the tires on this week before they face the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. If he comes out and dominates, especially if Carson Wentz is out, the asking price is going to go up significantly.