The following article is a guest post by Frank DuPont, author of Game Plan: A Radical Approach to Decision Making in the NFL. You can also follow Frank on Twitter.
This is a weekly feature I'll be doing where I take a run through my stats based projection system and give you the things that stand out most to me. Some of it will be interesting, some of it might border on obvious, and hopefully some small part of it will help you make decisions on guys to start or guys to target in trades.
Why I’m Buying Cam Newton
Before the season started, my QB strategy was essentially to bypass the QBs that would require high draft picks in favor of QBs that I thought would offer cheaper alternatives. Specifically, I thought that Matt Ryan was basically a discounted version of Matt Stafford, and I thought that RGIII could be a discounted version of Cam Newton or Michael Vick. Just so you don’t think I’m claiming any kind of clairvoyance here, I really am not. I just thought that when you adjusted for risk and price, you could attempt to get discounted QBs instead of paying the premium required to get one of the guys going in the first or second rounds of fantasy drafts.
I’m now going to make the same argument, except that I’ll reverse it. I think you should be trying to trade for Cam Newton because I think he’s a discounted version of RGIII. Let’s look at the seasons that these two quarterbacks have had thus far:
|Robert Griffin III
You can see that both QBs average similar yards/attempt. RGIII has the higher completion percentage, but the fact that they average similar yards per attempt is probably indicative of the fact that Newton throws deep more often. The quarterbacks average similar passing yards per game. They average similar yards/carry when they run the ball. The items on the stat sheet that aren’t similar are the TDs and INTs. RGIII has a pretty big lead there. But touchdowns and INTs are things that are going to be subject to the effects of regression. If you want proof of this, just look at the difference between Cam Newton’s 2011 season and his 2012 season. He’s seen heavy regression in TDs.
I think the reason you should be trying to pick up Newton in a trade is that he is coming off of a four week stretch that included matchups against Seattle, Dallas, Chicago (with a BYE between the Seattle and Dallas game). That means it’s been a month since Newton has seen a favorable fantasy matchup. That’s exactly the kind of thing that can drive down a player’s value and make them an attractive trade target. You probably couldn't trade for RGIII right now without giving up a lot, so instead you should try to trade for a poor man's version of RGII by picking up Cam Newton.
Willis McGahee, More Good Matchups Ahead
The graph below shows my weekly GILLESPIE (Game Level Similarity Projection) forecast for Willis McGahee. GILLESPIE works by identifying historical matchups that occurred between similar players against similar defenses. For instance, to estimate McGahee's fantasy points against the Bengals this weekend, we could look at James Stewarts game against the Atlanta defense during the 2000 season, or Ricky Williams' game against the Tennessee defense during the 2009 season. After we've found 30 such similar matchups, we can just take the average fantasy points scored in each game in order to come up with a projection for McGahee against the Bengals' defense.
McGahee has already been one of the great pleasant surprises of the fantasy season. It looks like his good run will continue with upcoming matchups against Carolina, San Diego, and Kansas City. The matchups against Carolina and Kansas City are the more obviously good matchups. The matchup against San Diego is less obvious as the Chargers have been generally good against the run this year. However, the Chargers have been less effective at limiting running backs who catch the ball. The Chargers are allowing an average of 51 yards receiving to opposing running backs. Combined with the 73 yards per game that the Chargers are allowing on the ground, that’s over 120 yards per game that San Diego is allowing to opposing running backs. So GILLESPIE is simply saying that between running the ball, and catching the ball, McGahee’s chances against the Chargers are fairly good.
Willis McGahee Weekly GILLESPIE Projection
Carson Palmer, Band-aid Quarterback
The graph below contains the weekly GILLESPIE projection for Carson Palmer. Last week’s game against Kansas City marked the beginning of a month-long run of generally favorable matchups for Palmer. This week’s matchup against Tampa Bay, and the week 11 matchup against New Orleans are the really attractive games on the schedule. However, almost all of Palmer’s remaining games are against lesser defenses than he’s faced to-date.
Carson Palmer Weekly GILLESPIE Projection
Greg Olsen, Tight End Matchup Play
Unless you own Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, you’re probably just as well off playing tight end matchups this year. Greg Olsen is a guy that has a string of three decent upcoming matchups that will make him startable. Below is a graph which shows the GILLESPIE projection for Olsen.
Greg Olsen Weekly GILLESPIE Projection
Olsen faces Washington this week, Denver next week, and Tampa Bay the following week. Washington and Tampa Bay are the obviously good matchups. Denver has been better against the pass, although they’ve allowed tight ends to have very good games against them. Below is a list of some of the games that tight ends have had when facing Denver. Note that five of the seven tight ends registered a touchdown.
Chris Johnson, Time to Get off the Bus
Chris Johnson has at least given you reason to step away from the ledge over the past few weeks. He’s registered at least 90 yards in four of his last five games. That means that if you want to trade him now, there should be a market of fantasy owners willing to take him, which was not the case prior to Johnson’s game against Houston in week four. However, the reason to get off the bus is that Johnson will face the Chicago defense this week and the Miami defense in week 10. After that, Johnson has a BYE. I actually think you could trade him away this week and maybe even pick him up again at a discount in week 12, if you really wanted to get cute about it. The below graph contains my GILLESPIE forecast for Johnson.
Chris Johnson Weekly GILLESPIE Projection
Mike Williams, Under the Radar Start of the Week
My GILLESPIE projections have Mike Williams as the start of the week, or the player most likely to exceed his season averages, if that makes more sense. Williams-similar receivers averaged about a 20% improvement on their season average fantasy numbers when they faced defenses similar to the Oakland defense. My sense is that this week is shaping up to be ideal for Williams. First, I think that Vincent Jackson is being held back by an injury to his calf or ankle (reports vary) suffered prior to the Saints game. But Jackson will still be on the field, which means that Williams will see the coverage that has helped him average 9.3 yards per target this year. So while Jackson will be on the field to ensure that defenses can’t key on taking Williams away (probably an underrated component of Williams’ struggles last year), Jackson probably isn’t actually the Bucs’ best option right now. Williams is the WR2/3 that I think is most likely to put up WR1 numbers this week.