Overall stats and end of season rankings can be useful tools for analyzing players in fantasy football, but they don’t always tell the whole story. That’s why we’re digging into some specific situations from the 2017 season that will help you figure out if what you saw from these players last year represented the complete picture, or if there was something left just out of frame. Below are some of the most interesting fantasy football splits from 2017.
Derrick Henry In Wins Vs. Losses
|Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Yards/Attempt||Receiving Yards|
In the 9 games Tennessee won last year, Henry put up 607 rushing yards on 104 attempts, and caught 8 passes for 121 yards. Those games accounted for 82% of his rushing volume and 90% of his receiving work. They also included a couple of extremely fluky plays on the final offensive plays of two different games that netted him 147 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Only 18% of his rushing yardage and 10% of his receiving yardage came in games that the Titans weren’t just salting away. So basically, when the Titans were metaphorically running away with the game, Henry was running his way toward his own 2018 hype train.
What It Means For 2018: Fantasy owners drafting Henry in the 3rd round better hope Tennessee’s new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur can improve on the team’s 9-7 record from last year, or Henry won’t see the field as much as he needs to become a Top 15 running back. Luckily, the Titans have the 2nd-easiest strength of schedule, so it’s possible Henry remains a focal point of the offense. Unless someone gets in the way. Which brings me to…
Dion Lewis On 3rd Down vs. 1st and 2nd Downs
|Rushing Attempts||Rushing Yards||Targets||Receiving Yards|
Looking at the other half of the Titans running back duo, something very interest stands out from his 2017 season with the Patriots. Dion Lewis saw all but 8 of his rushing attempts and all but 1 of his receiving targets on 1st and 2nd down. And yet, the narrative in many fantasy circles remains that Lewis is little more than a 3rd down pass-catcher in the mold of Chris Thompson.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
What It Means For 2018: The Titans didn’t shell out nearly $20 million for a proven, well-rounded runner just to go against his obvious strengths and let him ride the bench in 1st and 2nd down situations. That’s not to say LaFleur won’t game plan to have him on the field for 3rd downs, either, but it’s possible both Lewis and Henry will see a full-on rotation. Or maybe Tennessee will use more two-back sets in 2018 to get the most out of their backfield assets.
Keenan Allen First 8 Games vs. Last 8 Games
|First 8 Games||40||548||1||54.3|
|Last 8 Games||62||845||5||71.5|
Fantasy owners who scooped up prodigal son Keenan Allen as the 12th receiver off the board in 2017 were sorely disappointed in how the Chargers No 1 receiver played out of the gate. But those who weathered the storm and kept Allen on their rosters were rewarded with a dominant second half to the season that boosted him to a finish as the WR3 on the year.
After he shook the rust off and reestablished his rapport with Philip Rivers, Allen became the guy we hoped he could be after suffering through injury after injury after injury.
What It Means For 2018: Rivers is still his quarterback, Hunter Henry is now out for the season, and the rust is GONE. We can’t simply multiply those second half stats by 2 and call it a legitimate projection, but if Allen can get off to a stronger start this year, he could reasonably see a 110-catch, 1,500-yard, 9-TD season. He could outscore Antonio Brown and Deandre Hopkins.
Ben Roethlisberger At Home vs. On the Road
What’s so interesting about this split is actually how…well…uninteresting it really is. In previous years, fantasy analysts were quick to warn potential Big Ben owners about his disastrous home/road splits. Roethlisberger was always a QB1 when playing in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, but when he ventured into opposing territories, that’s when things got dicey. It was tough to consider him an every week starter.
That wasn’t the case in 2017. Sure, his completion percentage dropped a tad, but his TD-to-INT ratio remained an exact 2-to-1, and he put up similar yardage regardless of how many Terrible Towels were being waved in the crowd.
What It Means For 2018: There are plenty of new variables in Pittsburgh to consider when contemplating Big Ben as your QB — new offensive coordinator, Lev Bell’s holdout status, Ben’s general health — but one thing that shouldn’t concern you is whether you can start him on the road. Those hiccups may finally be behind him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster With Antonio Brown vs. Without
|Targets Per Game||Receptions Per Game||Yards Per Game|
Staying with Pittsburgh, JuJu Smith-Schuster is being positioned as one of the next big breakout stars of 2018 after some gangbuster performances late last season. The Steelers rookie finished the season as WR22 in PPR formats, so it makes sense why drafters are currently valuing him as the WR19 going into this year. But it was Antonio Brown’s absence from Week 15 onward that skewed the numbers in making JuJu look like an all-star.
Both his receptions and yards per game doubled when Brown was sidelined with a torn calf. A third of his total receiving yards came in the 3 games AB was absent. In the games with Brown, JuJu was on pace for 54 receptions and 850 yards, numbers that are almost identical to Kenny Stills (who is being drafted nearly 7 rounds later). In the games without Brown, he was on pace for 112 receptions and 1,770 yards. Those numbers, by the way, are about the same as what AB was on pace to produce before his calf injury.
What It Means For 2018: The numbers above paint quite the dichotomy for potential JuJu owners. The sophomore receiver is a questionable WR2 so long as Brown suits up, but if something were to cause AB to miss more games in 2018, JuJu could suddenly become a Top 5 fantasy receiver.
Mike Evans With Jameis Winston vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick
|Catch %||Target Share (in %)|
In 442 pass attempts last season, Jameis Winston directed 104 of those to Evans, throwing to his big-bodied receiver a little over 23 percent of the time. That’s a reasonable — if unexciting — number to expect for a QB and his top guy. (For reference, Doug Baldwin received 21 percent of Russell Wilson’s targets while Julio Jones received almost 28 percent.)
Evans’ time on the field wasn’t so fruitful when Fitzpatrick was under center. In the span of essentially 4 games (3 starts and a couple of 2nd half fill-ins), Fitz threw the ball 163 times — a ridiculous number that would give him more pass attempts than Tom Brady if extrapolated over a full season — and only 32 went Evans’ way. That’s less than 20 percent. And when Evans did get his targets, he reeled in a meager 43.8 percent of them. With Fitzpatrick at the helm, Evans was on pace for a 56-reception season, which would have tied him with Marqise Lee and Marquise Goodwin.
So…Evans had less opportunity and less success. Those ingredients do not make for a good stew.
What It Means For 2018: Don’t expect Evans to light up your fantasy scoreboard during the first 3 games when Winston is suspended. The best you can hope for is the Bucs don’t choose to sit Winston beyond that stretch once he’s eligible to return. That said, Evans could be a great trade target in Weeks 3 or 4 if the Fitzmagic fails to happen and the Evans owner wants to cut bait.
Jimmy Graham In The Red Zone vs. The Rest of the Field
|Targets||Receptions||Yards Per Reception||Catch %|
Jimmy Graham has lost a step. Jimmy Graham can’t stretch the field anymore. Jimmy Graham is nothing outside of the red zone. You’ve surely heard all these opinions and more about the once great tight end. But do they hold up to further scrutiny? Well…yes and no.
Yes, he gets a lot of targets in the red zone. And yes, he tends to do quite well in that part of the field. But he’s not the slouch people think he is in the middle of the field, either. His 11 YPR between the 20s is the same as it was in 2014, his last year with the Saints. It’s almost a full point better than Kyle Rudolph’s YPR from that section of the field last year, and less than half a point worse than Zach Ertz’s numbers. And yet, none of the accusations about Graham having lost a step have been lobbied at Rudolph or Ertz.
What It Means For 2018: No matter what you think about Aaron Rodgers’ history with new tight ends, you have to be encouraged by these numbers. Graham is still sure to get plenty of red zone looks with Jordy Nelson gone — and those heavy targets will once again dip his overall YPR — but just because he doesn’t get Gronk numbers in the middle of the field, it doesn’t mean he’s gone full Julius Thomas, either.