Hot or Cold Starts to the 2017 Fantasy Season

By Connor Allen

Three weeks into the season, I want to outline a few players who have started off either “Hot” or “Cold” from both a real and fantasy football perspective. I’ll be diving  into why they have started that way, and whether they should continue trending in that direction or not. And what would an article of this sort be if it didn’t start with the red-hot Kareem Hunt?Kareem Hunt SROA

(all graphics courtesy of SharpFootballStats.com)

Hunt has taken the fantasy world by storm after the injury to Spencer Ware thrust him into a prominent role. He’s currently the No. 1 running back in PPR Fantasy leagues averaging a whopping 32.3 points per game. While I don’t expect this insanely high average to remain constant, there is plenty of reason to believe in Hunt as a top-5 RB for the rest of the season.

Through three weeks among players with 20+ carries Hunt’s efficiency has been stellar with a 57% Success Rate (4th), 13.7% above the league average. He also has 1.2 Missed Yards per Attempt (7th), which measures how close he was to being successful on an unsuccessful play. Largely because of Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs are leading the league in explosive run percentage (20%). When he isn’t exploding for a big gain, his success rate and missed YPA show he has still been a consistently efficient runner.

Beyond rushing the ball, Hunt has excelled in the passing game. He ranks first among all pass-catchers in receiving success rate (89%). His only catch which was deemed unsuccessful missed by a mere half a yard. Andy Reid historically uses his running backs often in the passing game making it vital for Hunt to perform well. He is currently exceeding expectations in the pass game, making it likely he continues to be a workhorse.

Something worth noting is that Hunt has played against three teams who have been relatively poor in rush efficiency defense. Of course in a sample this small Hunt’s own success partially causes this. But through the first three weeks the Chiefs have played against the 3rd easiest schedule of opposing rush defenses. The rest of the season they play against what projects to be the 3rd hardest schedule of opposing rush defenses. This could impact Hunt’s rushing yardage and efficiency if the data we are going off now is predictive.Kareem Hunt SOS

However, as I mentioned before he will still be utilized often in the passing game, making him a locked-in top-12 running back the rest of the season in fantasy football.

Another player who‘s started hot is Jared Goff. The offseason additions of Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth along with the changes in their coaching staff, has made a noticeable difference in the Rams’ offense. They are currently leading the league in explosive passing rate with 21% of passes going for 15 or more yards. They are also 2nd in overall passing success rate at 53% and 7th in early down passing success at 57%. Goff has looked noticeably better than last season but the hype these stats suggest don’t tell the whole story. Going back and watching the Rams first three games you see a majority of their “explosive” plays came through a player being wide open or in space due to play design. Head coach Sean McVay has done a great job of setting his team up for success but will have his work cut out for him going forward. After facing three easy explosive pass defenses the Rams now face the hardest projected schedule in the league in this facet. Four of their next five matchups are against teams in the top 10 at explosive Pass D efficiency.

Despite the tough matchups, I’m fairly confident the Rams’ will continue to rack up plenty of “explosive” passes. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of their success has come through creative play design and that should remain true even against more difficult opponents. While not bold, I’m confident the Rams finish the year inside the top 10 in explosive pass play percentage and passing success rate.

Rams SOS explosive Rams SOS game by game

Moving onto the “Cold,” a player who has started the year frozen is Kenny Britt of the Cleveland Browns. Many fantasy enthusiasts expected him to fall into 120+ targets this season and churn out solid numbers due to his previous efficiency with the Rams. This doesn’t look to be the case even with former first-round pick, Corey Coleman, out with a broken hand.

Britt is averaging 5 targets a game, putting him on an 80 target pace for the whole season.  Beyond him not receiving the targets many hoped, he is painfully inefficient with the ones he does get. Britt currently ranks LAST in success rate and 3rd to last in missed yards per attempts among all wide receivers with more than 10 targets this season.

Combining his inefficiency with a lack of targets has made Kenny Britt the latest free agent bust through three weeks and I’m confident it won’t change.  If the stats don’t convince you, his desire to win and make a difference on the Browns clearly isn’t there as evidenced by this video.  It’s a 4th down play with 30 seconds left, and Kenny Britt is hardly jogging. He’s droppable in all fantasy leagues unless something drastically changes.

Dez Bryant received a lot of hype in the offseason as a player who’s matchup dependent (Scott Barrett did research and wrote an article on that dependency here). Understanding this, Dez predictably started slow as he faced Janoris Jenkins, Aqib Talib, and Patrick Peterson in the first three weeks of 2017. His efficiency reflects his matchup dependency as he currently only has a 33% success rate (76th) and 2.7 Missed YPA (50th). He’s currently the WR32 in PPR fantasy leagues due to these tough matchups and poor efficiency. He has to bounce back with easier matchups, right?

Taking a closer look at how his strength of schedule has changed since the offseason, I’m not so sure his “bounce back” to domination is coming. His schedule is actually projected to get harder. While Pass efficiency defense doesn’t factor in Dez being shadowed by the opposing top corner, it isn’t encouraging he will be facing tough secondaries. Nine of their next 13 games are against teams who are currently inside the top 15 in pass defense.

Cowboys SOS

In terms of efficiency, Dez seems unlikely to be better than average this season. In the world of fantasy football, there’s still hope. He currently has 27 targets through three games, tied for 9th in the league. With one corner unlikely to shadow him in the majority of his upcoming games, Dez should be able to improve his efficiency in terms of catch rate. This would help his impact in PPR leagues. He is always a threat to score touchdowns and has two through three games, a sign of his potential for the rest of the season.

One last player I want to touch on is Lesean McCoy. He has been extremely inefficient so far with a 31% success rate (55th) and a 3.2 Missed YPA (59th).  Despite the lack of efficiency, his high workload of 48 carries and 18 catches has bolstered his fantasy value as he is currently the RB13 in fantasy despite not scoring a touchdown.

Breaking down his performances by game and their rush efficiency defense, McCoy rushed 22  times for 110 yards against the Jets (25th), 12 carries for nine yards against the Panthers (5th), and 14 carries for 21 yards against the Broncos (1st). McCoy has expectedly struggled against tough opponents and succeeded against an easy one. This isn’t something that’s necessarily surprising.

Looking at the rest of the Bills’ schedule, you see a group of opposing defenses who are bad against the run. The Bills will play against what projects to be the 2nd easiest schedule of opposing run defenses the rest of 2017. This could make a monumental difference in McCoy’s efficiency and fantasy value.

I expect McCoy to become more efficient in the coming weeks, highlighted by a stellar stretch from Week 9-14 where his schedule is softest.

bills SOSAbout the author:  Connor Allen (follow: @ConnorAllenNFL) was crowned co-winner of the Sharp Football Stats 2017 Writing Contest.  He will share articles featuring his analysis throughout the 2017 NFL season.

Special Weekend Edition – NFL Week 4 – 9/30/17

Week 4’s Sunday & Monday games get the Sharp Football treatment as Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) of SharpFootballAnalysis.com and Evan Silva (@EvanSilva) of Rotoworld.com discuss matchups, DFS plays and fades, and a massive deep dive into all the angles and advanced metrics you need to set great lineups and have a successful Sunday of sports betting.

The guys tackle their top 2 overreactions made by the public this week, the 2 most under or over hyped players this week, and cover multiple key games in detail.

Be sure to check out sharpfootballstats.com (on your desktop) for the advanced, visualized Strength of Schedule, the Sharp Box Score and other data tools.

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Week 3 Recap & Early Week 4 Preview from the Sharp Football Show

Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) breaks down the key storylines from week 3 using analytics, including:  Arians gut wrenching MNF loss to Dallas, Le’Veon Bell’s inefficiency is caused (in part) by lack of outside rushing, but why it won’t get fixed against the Ravens this week, the Lions loss should have been a blowout, Andy Dalton’s short passing efficiency in week 3 but why he might be able to go deep to AJ Green week 4, and a deep dive into Anthony Lynn’s Chargers and why they absolutely must change some basic philosophies on offense.

Be sure to check out sharpfootballstats.com (on your desktop) for the advanced, visualized Strength of Schedule, the Sharp Box Score and other data tools.

Check out the Periscope video of this show HERE.

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