The premise for this piece is simple and the method is not all that scientific. How’s that for a sell?
Here’s what we’re doing: with the help of snap count data gleaned from Pro Football Focus I’ve run the data on each offensive player (no Quarterbacks, and us fantasy folk don’t really consider lineman offensive contributors I suppose) to determine his fantasy point output on a per snap basis from 2013.
From there, I’ve made some informed assumptions about players who are in for larger (or smaller) roles and will use the per snap data (FPPS) to make a few suggestions on their 2014 value. Players included will have an expected change in their overall snap count as a result of changing teams, changing team context, presumed increase in use, or return from injury. Others, of course, will progress for other reasons: skill erosion, change in teams/offense/context and other variables, and while we will try to keep this in mind in our analysis, this piece specifically relates to those players who are in line for more work this year.
Don’t buy my assumptions? Download the data for yourself (excel) and make your own. Otherwise, still with me? Good. Here is what the data is telling us.
2014 Fantasy Football: Fantasy Points per Snap – Wide Receivers
A note to contextualize the discussion: the average snap count of the top 64 (the equivalent to two per team, so a good indicator for a starting WR) wide receivers last year was 870. Anyone with more than 800 snaps was not considered for this piece.
The Cincinnati Bengals are going to pass less, but Marvin Jones is expected to play more – something that should net out as a positive for his overall fantasy value. His per snap production is obviously buoyed by the one day of dominance exhibited against the New York Jets last season, but he was a productive wideout when on the field for most of 2013 anyhow, and led his position in fantasy points per snap last season. Most of new Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson’s comments about Jones this offseason have centered around his talent, and the fact that Jackson views Jones as the teams WR2 behind AJ Green. I’d expect his snaps to come up somewhere near Green’s range (1078 snaps), and do so at the expense of Mohamed Sanu‘s playing time (763 snaps). Add in the fact that whilst raving about Jones, Jackson indicated he plans for the team to employ an uptempo offense, and we should see Jones on the field more often.
Jones caught a healthy 66.2% of his targets last season, so assuming that he and Andy Dalton can maintain that level of accuracy we should expect Jones to be similarity productive but on the field more often. Again, Cincinnati will pass less so he may not pull in the same proportion of targets to snaps as he did last season, but the targets should net out positive along with his production – Jones finished as 22nd best receiver last season.
- I don’t need to tell you that Julio Jones is productive, but last year’s leader in yards per route run also finished second in fantasy points per snap, when he was on the field. With a return to health, and a presumed return to effectiveness of Atlanta’s pass game we must remember to treat Jones as a player in his position’s top (non-Calvin?) tier on draft day. Randall Cobb is a similar case, but we should note that he made noise during his last season return from injury and will be a big part of the teams plans in 2014, particularly with James Jones departed.
- With the drafting of Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan isn’t expected to increase his snap count much, but there is room for Rueben Randle‘s to grow. Randle graded out poorly as a receiver last year and was the only receiver with less than 100 targets to give up eight or more interceptions on passes intended for them last season, so 2014 won’t start with a solid foundation to built on. Nevertheless, the team speaks highly of his focus this offseason and of his transition to Ben McAdoo’s offense. Expect them to move Randle around a fair bit, and for things to go a little smoother in a simplified offense. Hakeem Nicks was on the field for nearly 300 more plays than Randle last season, and you should expect Randle to line up on virtually every offensive play as long as he is healthy. There is an increase in work coming for a receiver who was fairly productive on a per play basis in 2013, despite his underwhelming real world output.
- Justin Hunter made just 18 receptions in his rookie season on 41 targets while playing just 340 snaps. Naturally, his catch rate is going to have to come up considerably to make a difference – but with Nate Washington another year older and Ken Whisenhunt expected to bring life to the passing game he could see his role increased (and he showed flashes of his ability last season). In a three game stretch from Week 12-14 Hunter caught 11 balls and twice put together games of over 100 yards with a score. Washington does still project to play more than Hunter, but he’ll see regular weekly snaps and thus should have greater regular season output – Whisenhunt certainly thinks he has the ability.
- A 2013 rookie primed for an even bigger campaign: Cordarrelle Patterson. I spent a lot of time talking about how Patterson was a great fit for Norv Turner’s offense and that we should expect big increases in playing time and production this season, so I’ll save you reading it again (and encourage you to check the article, if you haven’t seen it). The condensed version: “As for the snaps, he scored .159 fantasy points per snap last year (not counting his work as a returner). Expect his snap count to rise considerably in his second year in the league, suggesting that even with no progression he should see a natural boost in fantasy scoring. The number suggest that if he gets to just 80% of the team’s snaps this year, he should score an additional 57 points (800 snaps multiplied by 0.159 FPPS, less last year’s output).”
- Andrew Hawkins, another expert in elusiveness like Patterson, posted a matching .159 fantasy points per snap number last year. Now in Cleveland, where he has been drawing rave reviews this offseason. Of course he’s drawing them because the frame of reference for comparison is pretty limited, but that means good things for Hawkins’ playing time. There is a question of whether he is well suited to playing more frequently, and lining up against more imposing corner matchups, so I wouldn’t count on that .159 clip projecting cleanly over 650-750 snaps but I would count on him being productive. Evidently, the team wants to get him involved on the outside so that they can keep him on the field. In 2012, the former CFL star averaged 38 yards per game with four touchdowns. Nothing earth shattering, but it isn’t as if he already proven productive at the NFL level.
- Due to changes in depth charts, or their own development sophomore receivers Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams and Aaron Dobson all project for more work this year. Williams was the most productive of the bunch over the course of the 2014 season and with Miles Austin now with Hawkins in Cleveland, he’ll be the clear cut number two for Tony Romo all season. He already played a fair bit as a rookie (700 snaps) but between his increased role and a presumed increase in catch rate (61.1% of his targets last season) Williams should improve on his already impressive 44-736-5 debut. Like Cordarrelle Patterson, Austin displayed great ability in both the kick return, receiving and run game last year. He wasn’t on the field all that often, but is supposedly more prepared for the NFL game in his second year – a fact that should bode well for his production, particularly when coupled with the fact that Sam Bradford is returning to camp healthy and should (we think… but, it hasn’t often been the case) put in a full season’s worth of work.
- With that said, Dobson is my pick to be the most productive of the three this season. He played in 557 snaps last season, spending much of his healthy time as a starting wide receiver, but missed time late in the season with a foot injury after it appeared that he had turned a corner. He caught just 37 of his 71 targets, a woeful number that earned him the name Dropson early in the season (surprising because he went his entire College career without recording an official drop), but had moments that showed his talent to be sure. He averaged 14 yards per reception with 5.3 coming after the catch. Last year’s 2nd round pick put together a 37-519-4 season in 12 games last year and displayed game changing ability at times in 2013 – most notably during a two game stretch that saw him put together nine receptions, 190 yards and three scores. The Patriots won’t be content to pepper Julian Edelman with targets all season again and are looking for another receiver to step up. All indications are that the opportunity will belong to Dobson and his pedigree suggests he’ll be ready to take advantage.
- A quick note to credit Michael Crabtree, who was never 100% last season and still put together solid per snap efficiency numbers in San Francisco. Expect him to pick up where he left off late in the season, if not more impressive as he returns to health and Colin Kaepernick continues his growth.
- Lastly, we should note that Jermaine Kearse is in line for more work for the Seahawks, though given that the Seattle offense isn’t as pass heavy as most and the number three role won’t offer all that much fantasy relevance. Kearse occupies that spot if Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin stay healthy in front of him.
2014 Fantasy Football: Fantasy Points per Snap – Running Backs
|Chris D. Johnson||810||279||1077||3.9||6||3||42||348||4||196.5||0.243|
The average snap count of the top 32 was 635. Frank Gore, Chris Johnson and Knowshon Moreno are the only two players left in the data above that range and are left because they expect a significant reduction in workload (in the case of Gore and Johnson) and for other illustrative purposes in the case of Moreno.
- Knowshon Moreno, last year’s league wide (regardless of position) champ in fantasy points per snap finds himself a) in a position battle in Miami… which he seems destined to lose and b) in a much less impressive overall context. He remains, as noted above, to help illustrate a point. That point is simple: if Montee Ball plays as much as Moreno, we should count on similar production in the Denver offense. There is no guarantee that his fumbling issues won’t return, or that an injury won’t crop up but given how things have played out in Miami so far this offseason, and how Moreno’s Denver career went before he got to work as a starter with Manning, that a lot of his production was system/offensive production based. Great news for Ball, who registered as one of the most efficient per snap backs himself (.282 fpps) and is expected to step right into the role occupied by Moreno last season.
- Christine Michael‘s per snap numbers are skewed, given that last year was a virtual watch and learn session for the 2013 draft pick, but they were certainly productive. He’ll be in line for a big leap in output this year, though I don’t think the Marshawn Lynch workload cliff is coming quite as badly as some predict. Still, Seattle will want to get Michael some experience with the potential for Lynch’s departure next offseason – just bear in mind that Robert Turbin only got on the field for 237 plays (and 85 touches) while serving as Beast Mode’s primary back up in 2013.
- Andre Ellington will play more than 414 snaps this season, this much we know. How many, and how often he touches the ball are still up for debate, with Bruce Arians sometimes sometimes giving his backs 25 chances a game and other times going as low as 16. With more than 1000 combined yards and .300 fpps last season in limited work, his needle is pointing up – though you’d expect his per snap/per carry efficiency to come down a bit the more he plays (particularly for a back of his stature). A workload in the range of 15-17 touches a game seems reasonable, and could net a big season from Ellington who already has a top 24 RB campaign under his belt.
- Both Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas appear on the list. The latter back is expected to receive the most playing time, though given that he already saw 578 snaps last season the bigger relative growth may come from Ingram who should easily up his 173 snaps and 85 touches from last year. Thomas (who already had 77 receptions last season, but could be in line for more carries) is the back to own, but you may find better value from Ingram.
- C.J. Spiller makes the list to remind us all that despite a limited number of snaps due to a) Fred Jackson‘s usage and b) a lingering ankle injury, he was productive on a per snap basis. Jackson still factors in, and Bryce Brown‘s addition may snipe a few carries (though nothing of significance), but Spiller is ready to take on a bigger role this season. More importantly, he’s healthy and ready to improve on an already impressive 4.6 YPC number and .293 fpps. The problem with Spiller remains that he’ll have to do most of his scoring from deep range, as you’re likely to see Jackson getting goal line touches, but there is a huge profit potential on a player who went inside the top 5 in many leagues last season.
- There is a similar potential to turn a profit on Steven Jackson, a player that many are down on due to the time he missed, his overall underwhelming production and Atlanta’s poor offense. Still, he netted a strong .271 fantasy points per snap last year, and returns to a lead back role. He isn’t getting any younger, and 2014 draft pick DeVonta Freeman is lurking, but I think Jackson has one more year as the leader of this backfield and you’ll find him being drafted outside the top 24 RBs more often than not – overall (per below, via FantasyFootballCalculator.com), he’s being drafted at the end of round six in standard leagues.
- Chris Johnson and Frank Gore should see fewer snaps – Johnson in his new home in New York, and Gore as an aging back in a crowded backfield – so adjust your expectations accordingly. I’ve made my concerns with Gore known previously (and will have more to say when camp opens), but would own Johnson if the price was right.
- Rashad Jennings, Toby Gerhart and Ben Tate are three backs that move from backups/spot starters to full timers this year. They’re listed in order of efficiency on a per snap basis for 2013 which serves as a loose suggestion on who will be the most effective in his new role. I’m starting to come around to the notion that Toby Gerhart’s 18-20 workload is feasible this season, and his career 4.7 YPC (on 276 carries… or roughly the amount the Jags are suggesting that he could net this year) bodes well for an increased role, and his .237 fpps (with more than 75% of his 199 plays coming in a blocking/non-touch capacity) does as well.
- Jennings and Tate each have their utility too. I liked what Jennings showed in Oakland last season a lot, and like Gerhart he is a low mileage back despite his veteran status. I think he is prepared for a lead back role and factors in as a mid range RB2 as the projected starter Cleveland’s overall offensive context. While the presence of Terrence West could become a factor, you’d still expect Cleveland to feed their number one back the ball plenty with limited options in the pass game and a young/inexperienced QB starting for them – be that Hoyer or Manziel. Very unscientifically, using last years fpps number and the average of 635 snaps for a starter cited above, Jennings, Gerhart and Tate project for 155, 150 and 136 fantasy points respectively.
2014 Fantasy Football: Fantasy Points per Snap – Tight Ends
The average snap count of the top 32 was 814. Anyone with more than 750 snaps was not considered for this piece.
- Jimmy Graham isn’t on the list, but we should note that his fpps production (.281, as indicated in the full data set, excel download) easily outpaces anyone at the position, including Rob Gronkowski (.213). Still, with that type of production Gronkoski remains among the positions elite and the word is that he should be ready for Week One. Yes, he’s been hurt a lot the last few seasons but he is among the position’s most dangerous when on the field (a fact we all knew, but could use reminding of).
- Dwayne Allen‘s data is worthless here, to tell the truth. He played 30 snaps in Week One before being lost for the season and managed to score a touchdown on his lone catch. That said, he’ll be a big part of Indy’s game plan this season in an offense with a lot of weapons.
- Jordan Reed was productive when on the field last season, but you knew that already. Expect him to see plenty of playing time with concussion issues behind him and a significant increase in season-long playing time, despite Washington’s improved receiving corps suggesting that the team may be less reliant on Reed, owners should still like the results. Dennis Pitta is similarly coming back from injury and expected to make an impact – like Reed he was effective on a per snap basis in limited work last season.
- The same goes for Zach Ertz who is expected to take over as the primary pass catching TE in Chip Kelly’s offense, and the same DeSean Jackson factor that may slightly affect Reed comes into play for Ertz. He’ll be relied upon to help move the chains and should draw a significant number of targets. With an extra 200-300 snaps this season he should easily outpace last year’s numbers.
- Kyle Rudolph lost a time last year, but was efficient enough when on the field. I’ve discussed Norv Turner’s affinity for the role elsewhere, and evidently Rudolph has been spending his offseason figuring out how the TE is typically deployed in a Turner offense, hoping to make the change in philosophy. He caught 30 of his 44 targets last season, a catch rate of 68.2% and a significant improvement over 2012 (62). At 10.4 YPR last season, and with a realistic chance at 65-70 receptions Rudolph is in line to benefit from increased playing time and targets as he comes back from injury.
- Gavin Escobar is expected to see the field more for Dallas, but the increase in playing time is unlikely to be enough to make him fantasy relevant this season.
- Levine Toilolo, though, is in for a significant increase in playing time as both a blocking and receiving tight end with the departure of Tony Gonzalez. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him among the position’s leaders in snaps played in 2014, but we shouldn’t simply ascribe Tony G’s targets and production to him. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his fpps number hold – coming up to the Kyle Rudolph range at most. So, over 800 snaps we’re looking at a 70-95 fantasy point season at most.