By Hayden Winks, Rotoworld
Special to Yahoo Sports
If you’ve been reading Rotoworld for the last few seasons, you’re used to seeing a weekly in-season column called “Targets and Touches.” It was Jesse Pantuosco’s baby every Tuesday and I’ll be taking it on in 2020, although I’m putting my own spin on it.
Opportunity is king in fantasy football and building a usage model, in my opinion, is the best way to measure just how much each player is being used. If we only look at target totals each week, we are missing out on a lot of predictive variables like air yards, relation of the receiver to the sideline, the yard line of each target, whether the quarterback was in shotgun or under center, and more. That’s where modeling comes into play.
The plan for 2020 is for me to post my Expected Fantasy Points (xFP) model for each position every single week. In addition to the raw results of the xFP model, I’ll share my “fantasy buy lows” and maybe the “fantasy sell highs” of the week, which are basically the production of players whom I expect to positively or negatively regress the upcoming week. While the model alone is more predictive than actual weekly fantasy points, we are best off combining the results of the model with context.
The “xFP” model is projecting for PPR scoring. Remember that it's simply converting usage into expected fantasy points, so minor adjustments for talent and team are needed. Actual PPR scoring is listed under “FP.” Be sure to check out the season-long and week-by-week results of Hayden’s model at this Google Sheet here.
Fantasy “buy lows” at wide receiver
1. Robert Woods (WR4 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. WR18 in ADP)
Woods isn’t a sexy pick, but his price tag doesn’t make much sense compared to last season’s volume. Between Weeks 10-17, he was second in receptions (52) and fourth in receiving yards (663) among all receivers. Meanwhile, Cooper Kupp only posted a 36-369-5 receiving line over that same span, and he played one more game than Woods. If Woods lives up to his “positive touchdown regression candidate” title, he’ll smash his ADP and contend for weekly top-10 WR production. Not bad for a 4th- or 5th-round receiver.
2. Tyler Boyd (WR16 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. WR32 in ADP)
Boyd’s price tag has remained in check with A.J. Green expected to return, but there’s still room for Boyd to beat expectations with Green on the field. That starts with the projected upgrade at quarterback. It’s always sketchy to follow receivers tied to rookies, but Joe Burrow’s record-breaking season at LSU, maturity, and underrated dual-threat ability gives him a better chance of Year-One success than others in similar positions. Boyd’s catch rate (61%), touchdowns (5), and yards after the catch (348) should climb in 2020 even if he doesn’t see quite as many targets (148) as he did last season.
3. Jamison Crowder (WR20 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. WR44 in ADP)
The Jets imploded under head coach Adam Gase last year, but one thing remained constant for most of the season: Crowder was the top dog in the passing game (122 targets, 23% target share). That role shouldn’t change much with Robby Anderson (779 yards, 5 TDs) out of the building and a lot of unproven talent (Breshad Perriman/Denzel Mims/Chris Herndon) replacing him. It’s simply hard to find receivers with a path to 110-140 targets at Crowder’s ADP (WR44) and that’s not baking in the potential improvements Sam Darnold takes as he heads into his third NFL season with arguably the best offensive line of his young career. Weekly PPR WR3 production is within Crowder’s range of outcomes.
4. Marvin Jones (WR22 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. WR38 in ADP)
Jones’ ADP is representing a value near his floor right now, and there’s a lot of room for him to outkick his WR38 position. During Matthew Stafford’s eight-game stretch early last season, Jones averaged 16.5 PPR points per game on 7.1 targets. He was fantasy’s WR14 at the time of Stafford’s back injury, and his ceiling would be even higher if Kenny Golladay were to miss time for any reason. Jones’ 16-game pace during his four seasons with the Lions is 62-1,002-8. Not bad for a mid-round pick.
5. Anthony Miller (WR28 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. WR53 in ADP)
Miller began to emerge late in 2019, his second year in the league. It wasn’t a coincidence either. It perfectly lined up with Taylor Gabriel’s injury, and with Gabriel gone and nobody notable brought in to replace him, we can safely project Miller for a bigger role in 2020 behind Allen Robinson. With more than 85 targets very likely coming his way, Miller just needs Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky to not play like the worst starting quarterback in football to have weekly flex consideration in redraft leagues. I’ll take on that risk because the ADP is so friendly.
Fantasy “buy lows” at running back
1. Le’Veon Bell (RB11 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. RB21 in ADP)
If we really dig deep into the numbers, Bell had a decent season last year compared to the environment he was in. Bills Stats & Graphs tweeted that Bell had the highest median result for rushing yards after adjusting for his offensive line, the defenses he faced, and a whole lot more. Basically, Bell might not be totally washed yet, despite his awful 3.2 YPC average from 2019. If that’s the case, then Bell would represent a decent draft value at RB21. His adjusted volume from last season put him on the RB1/2 borderline, and we should expect things to get slightly better in New York given the capital that went into the offensive line this offseason. Bell just could be the forgotten high-end RB2 of Rounds 4-5. With that said, I’m usually fading RBs in this range in favor of receivers.
2. Kareem Hunt (RB25 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. RB27 in ADP)
There probably isn’t a better modified zero RB target than Hunt right now. His upside as a handcuff is obvious, especially with Nick Chubb’s worrisome injury history. But he may be able to pay off his RB27 ADP alongside Chubb. Under ex-Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski, the Browns should be one of the most RB-heavy offenses in the NFL this season and that could include using Hunt as a part-time receiver in addition to his role as an all-around running back. Hunt was the RB25 in expected fantasy points per game from Weeks 9-16 last season and nearly outscored Chubb in actual fantasy points over that stretch (RB15 to RB17).
3. Tevin Coleman (RB38 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. RB43 in ADP)
The 49ers’ backfield was a total mess last season, but things are quietly clearing up with Matt Breida traded to Miami and Jerick McKinnon yet to resume cutting. If McKinnon just can’t rebound following knee injuries, that would leave Coleman and Raheem Mostert as the clear-cut top dogs in an offense that posted the fourth-most combined PPR points at the RB position last season. While I don’t mind Mostert earlier in fantasy drafts, Coleman’s RB43 ADP is my preferred option of the two. He would be a bye week flex option if he shares the backfield evenly with postseason star Mostert and would be an RB2 candidate if he takes back his job. Worst case, he’s an upside backup.
4. James White (RB19 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. RB38 in ADP)
A 34-year-old and oft-injured Julian Edelman is the only other proven pass-catcher besides White on the Patriots roster heading into 2020. It’s not a sexy pick and the upside is relatively capped by what could be a bad offense with a committee backfield, but White’s pass-catching volume makes him a draft target at RB38. White has averaged 80 receptions and 698 receiving yards since Sony Michel was drafted in 2018, and he may see more dump-off catches this year if the Patriots find themselves trailing in their post-Tom Brady world. White could shape up as a weekly flex play in PPR leagues.
Fantasy “buy lows” at tight end
1. Tyler Higbee (TE4 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. TE7 in ADP)
You can listen to my thoughts on Higbee here at 10:27:
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) June 20, 2020
2. Mike Gesicki (TE5 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. TE10 in ADP)
Gesicki averaged 6.3 PPR points through 11 games in 2019 before averaging 13.8 PPR points over the Dolphins’ final five games. Yes, some of this can be explained by WR Preston Williams’ ACL tear, but some of this spiked production can also be explained by Gesicki taking strides in his second NFL season. Gesicki’s 97th percentile athleticism (4.57 forty) and high snap share in the slot (72%) make him a late-round target for those who miss out on Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and other early and mid-round tight ends.
3. Jack Doyle (TE12 in Exp. Fantasy Points Weeks 9-16 in 2019 vs. TE19 in ADP)
Doyle has a few things working in his favor in 2020. First off, Eric Ebron now plays for the Steelers, but more importantly, Doyle gets an upgrade at quarterback with Philip Rivers, who has historically targeted tight ends at above-average clips. Doyle’s upside isn’t as high as other sleeper tight ends because he only has one 60+ catch season, but I’d argue that he has a higher chance of becoming a borderline TE1/2 than others around his TE19 overall range. Doyle should catch 45-60 passes in what should be an improved offense in Indianapolis.
Hayden Winks is an NFL and NFL Draft writer for Rotoworld. Follow him on Twitter @HaydenWinks.