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Signing the Waiver
By Joshua B, aka Generallyaware
You may recognize these terms from my narrative breakdowns in past week deep start picks. They are the labels I’ve give to the major points in the process I’ve been honing and exercising in this column weekly. So in the interest of making myself obsolete, I thought I’d share that process as it currently is:
Opportunity refers to the chances being given to the player by his own team. This can be due to a number of reasons. It can be a change on the depth chart due to the team’s decision, or forced upon the team due to injury, game script and opposing defense. For example, the opposing defense may focus on removing a team’s primary option, thereby forcing the team to give opportunity to other options. This isn’t a vulnerability in the defense, just a cause resulting in the effect of more opportunity for another player.
Vulnerability refers to trends or specific weaknesses within an opposing defense. This can be due to injury or simply a consistent area that the defense does not defend well, such as deep passes to fast receivers, or quick tight ends, or bruising running backs. There’s certainly overlap with Opportunity here, since if a defense does focus on one area or position on the field they are, in a sense, creating a vulnerability elsewhere.
Production does not refer to the future result of the player in the upcoming game in question. Rather, it refers to a player’s past proven ability to produce in a football sense. It measures capability as much as results. The sample can be small. For example, if a player is catching 75% of their 8 targets then we have proof that they can catch the ball and all they need is more opportunity to prove they can be even more productive. It is reassurance not just that a player is capable, but also that their team will recognize this and continue to give them opportunity.
I generally view each of these points in the order given. If a player is not going to get opportunity then it will be nearly impossible to predict. Only if a player continues to be highly efficient on limited opportunity can you even think of starting such a player (Tevin Coleman did so last year). Next, we look for matchups where a player with opportunity lines up with their opponent’s vulnerability. This is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes the weaknesses can be very specific and easy to miss until you zoom in on the details. A team may appear good at defending running backs, but a closer look shows they give up lots of receptions and yards to smaller, quick receiving backs.
Finally, it’s nice to know that the player in question has proven they can take advantage of the situation. This can also be very specific. Just because a player has not appeared to produce many times before it does not mean they have not produced against this specific vulnerability.
There is a sort of cycle, turning counter clockwise on the diagram, where when opportunity meets a vulnerability and produces, it results in more opportunity.
This may seem simplistic and even obvious, but I have always found it useful to lay out a process. It makes it easier and faster to work through, and I am more likely to catch things I may have missed if I was not being as deliberate.
This process is not just for finding deep starts. It can be used for any sit or start decision. The greater the opportunity, vulnerability and past production is for any player, the more fantasy points you can expect from them, whether they are owned in 1% of leagues or 100%.
I encourage you to think through your own process (you’re using one whether you know it or not) and maybe even adapt the one I’ve given here. Please share any thoughts, observations or criticism.
I’ve always been a bit skeptical of fantasy league site’s ownership percentages. And writing this column has done nothing to assuage those doubts.
Normally I try to focus on players that are owned in less than 1/3rd of leagues (less than 33%). I am very active on the waivers in my 9 leagues, and usually have a pretty good sense of what players are usually owned or not. So when I started working on my picks for this week a few names stuck out to me and they were names that I was finding available in my active 10-12 team leagues. I even started writing the details for my picks before realizing that they were technically owned more frequently than 33% according to ESPN. I also check on Yahoo and NFL and they are generally close, but sometimes off by as much as 30%.
It seems largely dependent on the baseline of the initial suggested draft rankings used by each site. Which tells me their formulas are including lots of bad leagues where people drafted according to a list they were provided and aren’t adding and dropping actively since. They may be “active” leagues, but are not representative of truly active leagues when it comes to many players who were mid to late round picks that have not performed and have been cut. Theo Riddick below is a perfect example.
So I am doing something a bit different this week. I’m going to throw the net a bit wider and try to give you all some more options for this Bye week. They may technically be higher ownership, but they will all be players I’ve seen available in active veteran leagues. Hopefully a few of them are available in yours.
Austin Hooper, TE Atlanta vs Miami
ESPN 37% Yahoo 49%
Sunday 10/15 @ Atlanta at 1:00
I don’t understand why people think these Tight Ends are hard to predict. Just follow the process. They are not a touchdown dependant position in a PPR league if you simply follow the targets and opportunity.
- Miami gives up 15.7 PPR points to Tight Ends, 5th worst (or is it best?)
- Matt Ryan will be missing his normal big target for 1st downs and TDs (that’s Sanu in case you weren’t paying attention)
- Hooper led the team with 7 targets in Atlanta’s last game when Sanu and Julio left with injuries.
Theo Riddick, RB Detroit vs New Orleans
ESPN 71.1%% Yahoo 43%
Sunday 10/15 @ New Orleans at 1:00pm
8 targets, 8 receptions, 85 yards.
11 targets, 9 receptions, 101 yards.
This is what New Orleans has given up to opposing teams’ receiving backs the past few weeks. I’m excluding one games where the opponent didn’t have a receiving back, and another that was a terrible Miami game.
Theo also had 5-15-1TD last December against the Saints. That’s a respectable 12.5 points.
Last week, Riddick had 4-45.
But I have seen Riddick widely discarded in leagues these past two weeks as Abdullah has had some success. Check your league.
I think this game is high scoring (I’m not alone, Las Vegas point spreads have this hovering around 50 as of this writing, highest of the week) and Theo will be involved.
- High scoring game script
- NO has been exposed by receiving backs
Moncrief, WR Indianapolis vs Tennessee
ESPN 50.5% Yahoo 46%
Monday 10/15 @ Tennessee at 8:30pm
You should know the Axiom by now: Start your receivers against the Titans. Moncrief is getting more targets and better opportunities from Brissett every week.
- It’s the Titans
- Brissett is opening things up
Elijah McGuire, RB New York Jets vs New England
ESPN 33.2% Yahoo 37%
Sunday 10/15 @ New York at 1:00pm
McGuire and Perine below should be starts in all leagues if their veteran teammates are held out. As of this writing, Powell is doubtful but Forte will likely be active. There should still be work for McGuire though.
The Patriots are giving up big gains on the ground, probably because they are focused on not letting a big play happen behind them (by Robby Anderson this week).
- Opportunity with veterans injured.
- Vulnerability of NE defense.
- McGuire has produced when given the chance so far.
On the Books
These will count as my usual “by the rules” picks.
Jalen Richard , RB Oakland vs Los Angeles Chargers
ESPN 5.9% Yahoo 11%
Sunday 9/17 @ Oakland at 4:25pm
Not giving up on this. Probably a good game for Lynch as well, but if he’s given enough opportunity, Richard will produce even more.
- Chargers giving up most yardage to RBs.
- EJ Manuel is not good, and is not a running QB despite what he may think. Hand it off or dump it down, please.
Samaje Perine, RB Washington vs San Francisco
ESPN 22.5% Yahoo 27%
Sunday 10/15 @ Washington at 1:00pm
Rob Kelley has all but been announced as Out for the week. The Niners give up the second most PPR points to opposing Running Backs.
- Production? Well if we waited for all three check boxes on an RB, they wouldn’t be low ownership, would they?
George Kittle, TE San Francisco vs Washington
ESPN 8% Yahoo 7%
Sunday 10/15 @ Washington at 1:00pm
Josh Norman is out for Washington. Originally I saw Norman on Garcon as a positive for Kittle, but now there will be little to slow Hoyer from connecting with his primary target.
Unless. The Redskins will need to compensate, and may even overcompensate leaving Kittle just as open, if not moreso, as if Norman was on Garcon.
- Weakened Redskin defense
- Growing role and need for Kittle
Week 5 Review
Marquise Goodwin managed to suit up, so the Aldrick Robinson pick was voided.
Jalen Richard, RB Oakland vs Baltimore
For much of the first half, Richard split carries evenly with Lynch to the tune of 6 carries for 26 yards. But as the game slipped away Oakland did not start using Jalen more, they tried using Lynch more. A short yardage situation gave Lynch the chance at a touchdown, which he got, and from then on Lynch was used primarily.
I still think Jalen is the best RB here and will eventually come through. In fact, for the first time, I’ve heard some other analysts wonder aloud if he’s not the best back in Oakland.
- Carr out, Raven defense good vs WRs. Raider offense struggle CORRECT
- Lynch will get boxed in MOSTLY RIGHT
- EJ Manuel needs a release valve/dump off. CORRECT. (He needed to but ran instead)
- Jalen Richard will get lots of snaps and lots of junk points. Only needs to break off a couple big runs or catches. WONG
- Cause my gut said so. STILL CORRECT
Kenny Stills, WR Miami vs Tennessee
New Axiom. Don’t trust Dolphins. They are fickle. They ignore the importance of any and all trends (except trends against their defense). They would lose to the Jets and then turn around and beat the Patriots later this year I bet. Never what you are expecting or counting on.
- It’s the Titans. CORRECT (Duh).
- Stills is a deep threat and is healthy. WRONG? (his non-usage was inexplicable, I had to double check he was even in the game)
- Stills technically leads Parker and Landry in snaps. WRONG NOW
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets vs Cleveland
Would you like me to tell you “I told you so” now or at the end?
Please make sure he is owned, preferably by you. He has a juicy matchup with the Dolphins next week, too.
- Opportunity. CORRECT
- Proven production. CORRECT
- Defensive vulnerability. CORRECT
- Checkmate. YOU WIN!
I told you so.
One’s I Missed
Should have figured that with Goodwin still in, but beat up, the target monster would become Kittle instead of Aldrick Robinson. I couldn’t have known that when I wrote the column, but this is the kind of thing a process will help us catch before the games on Sunday.
I’ll Just Leave This Here
- Some specific trends jumped out at me about the Chargers @ Raiders game. Chargers have given up most running yardage by RBs, and are especially weak on the right side. Meanwhile, the Raiders have had the most success rushing right. If the Raiders can key in on this and the Chargers have not corrected it, the Raiders could get the Chargers defense on their heels early in the game. This might not end up a high scoring and high passing yards game, at least not on the Raider’s side. Lynch should have a good game, but hopefully the Raiders coaches give Richard first crack at it, because he can actually break out runs over 5 yards.
- Mack Hollins had a good game on Thursday night, 2 for 38 on 2 targets. Volume isn’t there, but he looked great, and the second catch was later in the game when they needed a first down and Wentz found him. Look for that trust to build. I said it here before when discussing Role vs Position, when Jeffery gets injured look for Hollins’ volume to increase. Agholor is still improving at the same time, so targets would get split between them. No, Torrey Smith is not happening. Not league winning information, but in dynasty he’s a cheap or free player that will be a WR2 in Philadelphia next year.
- It frustrates me when fantasy analysts use outlier games to prove their points. No, you cannot keep referencing a London game where the entire Raven team was terrible and the offense was doing nothing as evidence that Buck Allen can’t be trusted. Kareem Hunt would have had a bad performance in that game for the Ravens. I also keep hearing he’s not being used and isn’t trusted by the coaches. But he has a 60% snap share for four weeks straight. Just stop creating arguments and narratives based on outlier information that doesn’t fit the majority of the data.
Find me on the Fantasy Life App & Sleeperbot as generallyaware. Hit me up for questions, a good debate, or even better, to share a good fantasy story.