It's time to update my True Fantasy Points (TFP) math for the second time in 2018. If you're unfamiliar with how the TFP system works, here are the links to my preseason articles:
The Cliffs Notes version is that I calculate TFP by multiplying players' "true" efficiency stats by their opportunity, and then applying Footballguys' standard scoring system to the result:
- For quarterbacks, my opportunity measure is pass attempts, and the efficiency stats I turn into "true" stats are Yards per Attempt (YPA), Touchdowns per Attempt (TDPA), and Interceptions per Attempt (INTPA).
- For running backs, my opportunity measures are carries (in the running game) and routes run (in the passing game), and the efficiency stats I turn into "true" stats are Yards per Carry (YPC), Touchdowns per Carry (TDPC), Receptions per Route Run (RPRR), Yards per Route Run (YPRR), and Touchdowns per Route Run (TDPRR).
- For wide receivers and tight ends, my opportunity measure is routes run, and the efficiency stats I turn into "true" stats are RPRR, YPRR, and TDPRR.
As an example, Julio Jones has amassed 60 catches for 933 yards and -- infamously -- 1 touchdown, over the course of 293 routes run this season. Converting these numbers into rate stats means his Actual YPRR is 3.2 and his Actual TDPRR of 0.3%. Based on about 3,600 actual routes run in his Falcons career, Jones' True YPRR is 2.6, and his True TDPRR is 1.2%, which means his 293 routes in 2018 should have produced 779 yards (i.e., 154 lower than his actual total) and 3.5 touchdowns (i.e., 2.5 higher than his actual total). If we apply Footballguys' standard scoring system to both sets of numbers, we find that he's actually scored 100.3 points, whereas his "true" skill suggests 99.8 points. One can interpret this 0.5 difference between actual scoring and "true" scoring as Jones producing fantasy points almost exactly on par with expectation.
In order to appear in the tables below, a player has to have a replacement value above 1.0 in our Top 200 Forward rankings (minus Le'Veon Bell). Columns correspond to per-game averages for standard fantasy points (i.e., "FBG"), TFP, and the difference between the two (i.e., DIFF).
Below is the table for quarterbacks:
|Patrick Mahomes II||KC||31.1||23.9||+7.2|
Just to make sure it's abundantly clear how this works, let's look at Derek Carr as an example of how to a) understand TFP and b) read the table. Based on his actual stats of 2,198 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions passing, along with 41 yards and 1 touchdown rushing, Carr's scored 152.0 standard fantasy points (i.e., FBG) so far this season. Based on his "true" rates, his passing stats should be 1,904 yards, 12.7 touchdowns, and 6.4 interceptions, which translates to 149.6 TFP (after adding in those 10.1 rushing points, and with intentional rounding ). Converting these into per-game averages produces what you see in the table: 19.0 FBG per game vs. 18.7 TFP per game. This means he's averaging 0.3 points per game more than what you'd expect from his "true" skill.
Sell High: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick would have topped this list back in Week 5 if not for being benched the prior week. But now he's back in the starting role, so here we are. Fitzpatrick's YPA is currently 9.7, whereas his True YPA across 347 pass attempts with Tampa Bay is 7.8. This means his current passing yardage total (1,793) is 367 yards higher than what it should be (1,426). Even more unsustainable is Fitzpatrick's 9.2% TDPA, which dwarfs his 5.1% True TDPA. Multiplying these rates by 184 attempts in 2018 shows that he's thrown for nearly twice as many touchdowns as his "true" skill suggests (17 vs. 9.4).
Another omen for Fitzpatrick is that, although only three of his seven opponents between now and Week 16 are above average in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks, one of four "favorable" upcoming matchups is against New Orleans, who have sured up their secondary by adding Eli Apple via trade.
Buy Low: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers appeared in this space back in Week 5 by virtue of his unusually low YPA and TDPA. Well, since then, his Actual YPA has indeed improved -- from 7.2 to 7.8 -- to the point of being in line with his True YPA (7.8). On the other hand, although Rodgers' Actual TDPA has also improved, from 4.4% to 4.5%, it remains far below his True TDPA of 6.0%. In other words, his total of 15 passing touchdowns so far this season should actually be 19.6.
Below is the table for running backs:
|Melvin Gordon III||LAC||21.0||13.1||+7.9|
|Duke Johnson Jr||CLE||5.7||6.0||-0.2|
|Mark Ingram II||NO||9.1||9.5||-0.4|
Sell High: Marlon Mack
Of the five "true" stats I calculate, Mack is unsustainably overperforming on three of them. First, his 5.8 Actual YPC far outpaces his 4.3 True YPC, which means Mack's run for 96 more yards than expected (381 vs. 285). Second, his 4.6% Actual TDPC is well above his 3.1% True TDPC, which means he's scored 1 more touchdown than expected (3 vs 2.0). Third, and most divergent, Mack's Actual TDPRR of 2.38% is nearly four times higher than his True TDPRR of 0.7%. This might seem peculiar because Mack's only scored 1 receiving touchdown, so it's not like he's setting the world on fire as a receiver. The issue is that, per Pro Football Focus, he's only run 42 routes this season, as opposed to the 147 his True TDPRR suggests it "should have" taken to score said receiving touchdown.
It's also worth noting that four of Mack's next five games are against defenses that are above average in fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs.
Buy Low: Dalvin Cook
Cook is in the exact opposite situation, underperforming on exactly the same stats on which Mack is overperforming. Starting with the least impactful difference, Cook's 4.1 Actual YPC is slightly below his 4.3 True YPC, so he should have 198 rushing yards instead of 187. More consequential is the fact that Cook has yet to score a touchdown over the course of 46 carries and 80 routes run. Per his 2.7% True TDPC, Cook should have 1.3 rushing touchdowns by now. And per his 0.5% True TDPRR, Cook should have 0.4 receiving touchdowns by now.
By themselves, none of these discrepancies seem like much. But in the aggregate, they translate to Cook's current point total being only 76.4% of what his "true" stats suggest it should be (31.4 vs. 41.1).
One final note: Provided he remains healthy, Cook will face Miami and Detroit -- two of the worst defenses in the league in terms of allowing fantasy points to opposing running backs -- in Weeks 15 and 16.
Below is the table for quarterbacks (Note: Numbers for Josh Gordon, Demayius Thomas, and Amari Cooper only include their games with New England, Houston, and Dallas, respectively):
|Marvin Jones Jr||DET||9.4||9.2||+0.2|
|Willie Snead IV||BAL||5.8||7.2||-1.4|
|Odell Beckham Jr||NYG||12.3||14.2||-1.9|
Sell High: DeSean Jackson
Jackson was highlighted in the space five weeks ago due to his unsustainable Actual YPRR. As predicted, it has dropped from 3.1 to 2.8 in the interim. However, even 2.8 is still way out of line with his 1.9 True YPRR. Through Week 9, Jackson has amassed 626 receiving yards on 221 routes run when he should have only 413. For those scoring at home, that's 21.3 fantasy points above expectation. Speaking of scoring, Jackson's TDPRR is also due for significant regression to the mean. His Actual TDPRR of 1.8% has produced 4 receiving touchdowns, whereas his 1.1% True TDPRR suggests he should have only 2.3. That's another 10.2 points above expectation.
Sell High: Tyler Lockett
Lockett is also overperforming his True YPRR and True TDPRR; the latter much more so. If we multiply his 1.6 True YPRR by his 232 routes run, we find that he should have 364 receiving yards; yet he has 416. That's 4.8 points above expectation, which, although suggestive of incoming regression, isn't all that egregious. The situation is far more anomolous, however, with respect to Lockett's touchdown scoring rate. On those 232 routes, he's scored 6 touchdowns, for an Actual TDPRR of 2.6%, which is nearly triple his 1.0% True TDPRR. Instead of 6 touchdowns, he should have only 2.4, which translates to 21.5 fewer fantasy points.
Finally, Lockett's remaining fantasy schedule may serve as a catalyst for regression to the mean. Seattle's wide receivers have the fifth-toughest slate from over the next eight weeks, with six of the next seven opponents allowing a below-average amount of fantasy points per game.
Buy Low: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald's 1.4 Actual YPRR is significantly lower than his 1.8 True YPRR, but it hasn't budged from where it was in Week 5. Therefore, it's reasonable to conclude the 35-year old has reached a new normal with respect to accumulating yardage. In contrast, Fitzgerald's 0.8% Actual TDPRR has moved in the right direction from the 0.0% it was in Week 5, so there's evidence it can continue to increase all the way to his True TDPRR of 1.2%. In total, Fitzgerald's stat line should be 34-464-3.1, but it's currently only 34-357-2, which means he's lagging behind his TFP by 17.2 points right now.
In terms of remaining schedule, Arizona's wide receivers face the 5th-easiest slate over the next eight weeks, with four of their next seven matchups coming against below-average defenses with respect to wide receiver points allowed.
Buy Low: Odell Beckham Jr
Closing out with another player that appeared in the Week 5 article whose stats have moved in the direction predicted back then, but still have further room to increase (or decrease), there's Odell Beckham Jr. Five weeks ago, Beckham's Actual YPRR stood at 1.8, which was significantly below his 2.3 True YPRR. You'll be pleased to learn that his Actual YPRR now stands at -- wait for it -- 2.3. Beckham's TDPRR is another story, however. In Week 5, it was 0.0%, for which it didn't require understanding TFP to predict positive regression to the mean. And indeed, Beckham's Actual TDPRR now stands at 0.6%, but that's still not even halfway to his 1.6% True TDPRR. On 343 routes run so far in 2018, Beckham should have 5.5 touchdowns; he has only 2.
Like Fitzgerald, Beckham's remaining schedule is poised to be a catalyst. Giants receivers have the fourth-easiest slate over the next eight weeks, with six of their next seven opponents allowing an above-average amount of fantasy points per game.