Fantasy Football: Regression Candidates After Week 2
Regression is often accompanied by a negative connotation in fantasy football. We often say things like a certain player will "regress back to the mean" after they have an outstanding outlier performance. But with just one game's worth of data to fall back on, fantasy football managers must understand that outlier performances will lead to both positive and negative regression in the weeks to come. Usage, situations, and opportunity can change in an instant in the NFL, and the best managers will understand and practice either patience or proactiveness.
This weekly column will look at some key players from the past week in fantasy football and consider the factors that will lead them to either positive or negative regression in future games.
Positive Regression Candidates
Marquez Valdes-Scantling - If there are too many games like we saw in the first two weeks of the NFL season, we may just have to rename this the MVS Memorial Regression Column.
After Valdes-Scantling drew 156 air yards but only finished with 17 receiving yards in Week 1, he apparently said "hold my beer" to himself, then went out and got 112 air yards without a single catch or receiving yard against the Detroit Lions on Monday.
For those counting at home, that would be 268 air yards on the season to only 17 receiving yards. Or, put another way, his air yards rank sixth among all players, but his receiving yards rank 217th. Superstar players like Alec Ingold, Keith Smith and Jauan Jennings have more yards through two weeks. I'm trying to think of another sport analogy that would be similar to this. Perhaps in baseball if you hit 50 450-foot fly balls, but only had 5 doubles to show for it?
All of his other numbers are in check with past production. MVS has almost a 20% target share, the same as Mike Evans. He has 12 total targets, the same as DeAndre Hopkins. The Green Bay Packers showed on Monday that, no, their offense isn't broken and can still put up plenty of points in a hurry. This is already getting to silly levels through two games, so hopefully Valdes-Scantling can pull down a couple of these long bombs in the weeks to come.
His average depth of target (aDOT) is fourth in the league at 23.75 yards, but we have seen him come down with plenty of these long shots before. It's just a matter of time, people.
Trevor Lawrence - Through his first two NFL games, number one overall pick Lawrence has quite the discrepancy between his passing volume and his production.
Lawrence has attempted 84 passes through two games -- that can happen when you are down big in both of your contests -- which ranks sixth among quarterbacks. He also ranks third in average intended air yards (10.0 yards) and second in total air yards (817 yards) among all quarterbacks.
That's the good news. The bad news is what he has done with those throws so far.
The prized rookie ranks 26th in passing yards (450), 33rd in passer rating (57.1), first in total interceptions (5), and 34th in completion percentage (50.0%). Even the elite volume has not been able to mask the fact that Lawrence has struggled in his first two games.
However, there is hope. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, these are the 10 quarterbacks with the largest negative discrepancy between their actual completion percentage and expected completion percentage (minimum 30 passes).
Lawrence's expected completion percentage of 62.5% is still near the bottom of the quarterback pack, but imagine his numbers if his receivers had hauled in an extra 12.5 percentage points of his passes. Considering the volume, it certainly would account for many more yards and possibly another score or two.
If you have Lawrence in redraft leagues, it's probably best to hold for how. Better days may not be ahead for the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense, but they certainly will be for Lawrence as he acclimates to the NFL, develops a better connection with his receivers, and plays in game scripts that call for plenty of passes.
Negative Regression Candidates
K.J. Osborn - Osborn is the surprise wide receiver breakout of the first two weeks, finding himself in the top 15 of receiving yards with 167 through two games. But if you saw Osborn's big touchdown play from Sunday, you probably know where this is headed. His season so far has been defined by a couple of outlier catches.
Osborn may find himself 14th on the receiving yards list, but he is only 48th in air yards (114 yards). Chances are he is not the next Cooper Kupp (271 receiving yards on 162 air yards), and he is the beneficiary of just a couple busted plays that have turned his mediocre aDOT of 7.8 yards (92nd among wide receivers) into some smash plays.
Through two games, Osborn's target share is a respectable 19%, but that ranks 45th among wideouts and still trails the two obvious first looks in this Minnesota Vikings offense: Justin Jefferson (25%) and Adam Thielen (22%). Throw in 15% for Dalvin Cook and the rest of the running backs, and the remaining portion of the pie looks much smaller for a player like Osborn, who is currently playing 51 snaps per game compared to 70 for Thielen and 65 for Jefferson.
After waivers ran on Yahoo this morning, Osborn is still only 20% rostered in leagues on that site. Perhaps people are wise to this development with Osborn, but if you see a manager who is smitten with Osborn's highlights the past two weeks, feel free to sell high.
Cordarrelle Patterson - Just as we all predicted, Patterson sits in the top-10 among running backs in PPR leagues through two weeks. And if you play on Yahoo, he is also top 25 among wide receivers with his dual eligibility.
Much of that ranking is buttressed by Patterson's performance in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In that game, he rushed for one touchdown and caught five balls for 58 yards and another score. His Week 1 performance was average -- 54 rushing yards and 13 receiving yards -- but without the scores to prop him up.
NFL coaches -- and fantasy managers, for that matter -- surely love Patterson's versatility and ability to make plays on the field. At six months shy of his 31st birthday, he keeps finding meaningful NFL work and seems to be in the right situation to take advantage of this year with the Atlanta Falcons.
But he is going to have to start playing more snaps for his regular fantasy usability to continue. Here are the snap counts and snap percentages for each of Atlanta's skill players through two weeks, according to Fantasy Data.
Patterson is far and away the lowest of the skill position group but has done the most with his touches (53.3 fantasy points per 100 snaps).
There is assuredly a team that is running back desperate in your redraft league that would jump at the chance to grab a player eligible at two positions coming off a multi-score week. Feel free to flip Patterson for an upgrade with confidence.