Rich Hribar

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Winning, Losing and Plays

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Last season, we kicked off the summer with a series of “Notebook” posts that covered notes, regression analysis and some fun data points on a themed topic. Their goal was to highlight specific data points that could go into our diagnosis of players or teams.

 

We’re back again to kick things off with a look at play calling and game scripts for teams in the 2016 season with eyes on the potential of those moving into 2017. If you’re someone who creates personal projections, projecting the number of overall plays and ensuing split of passing and rushing plays is one of the first steps in a top-down approach.

 

Gase of Base


Adam Gase’s first year as Miami Dolphins head coach didn’t get out of the gates as expected. Miami began the season 1-4. Over the opening month, they hardly had any offensive balance while attempting to run out a running back by committee. Through four weeks, Miami had passed on 66.8 percent of their offensive snaps while their leading rusher had just 75 yards with no individual player having more than 18 total rushing attempts.

 

Gase admitted that the lack of backfield cohesiveness was a poor job of coaching. Starting in Week 5, he began to lean on Jay Ajayi as the team’s feature running back as Ajayi played 68 percent of the team snaps and averaged 71.9 percent of the team snaps per week going forward. Miami went on to close the season 9-4 and make the postseason for the first time since 2008 as Gase implemented a methodical approach that he’s leaned on since he wasn’t attached to Peyton Manning as his quarterback.

 

YearTeamPass Plays/GmRankRu% TrailingRank2nd Half Run% TrailingRank
2013 DEN 43.5 1 27.5% 28 25.0% 27
2014 DEN 39 10 26.4% 27 21.5% 30
2015 CHI 34.9 25 41.3% 3 34.9% 3
2016 MIA 31.7 32 38.5% 5 32.6% 9

 

Post-Manning, Gase has been run heavy throughout game script. Miami ran the fewest number of plays (57 per game) and passing plays per game in the league last season. That dip in volume had ramifications on the fantasy output for the passing game, leaving volume stud Jarvis Landry in a position where he lost 35 targets and 29 offensive touches from 2015. Landry's bottom line was still strong in overall wide receiver scoring, but his output after the Ajayi-based offense was implemented suffered mightily.

 
Miami Receiving Output Over the Final 12 Weeks of 2016


PlayerTGT/GWR RankRec/GWR RankReYd/GWR RankPPR/GWR Rank
Jarvis Landry 7.2 36 5.3 20 63.4 25 13.1 28
DeVante Parker 5.5 63 3.6 56 47.3 51 9.8 57
Kenny Stills 5.1 69 2.8 74 43.4 58 10.6 52

 

After catching seven or more passes in each of the opening four games, Landry caught more than five passes in just three of the final 12 and caught four or fewer in six of those contests. Miami can take a step back this season and throw the ball more, but if any of that script is rolled over into 2017, Landry becomes a dicey selection at his current WR18 draft slot since he doesn’t carry the ceiling of some receivers going around the same area.

 

That also doesn’t paint a rosy outlook for this year’s puff-piece All-Star, DeVante Parker. Parker improved across the board in his second season, catching 56 passes for 744 yards and four touchdowns while improving his catch rate from 52 percent to 64 percent., but that was only good enough for a WR50 finish. Parker had nearly an identical target split to Kenny Stills per game to close 2016. There’s allure that Parker is the most complete receiver on Miami with the highest ceiling and his price has continuously dropped for fantasy, but the rub is that his role in the offense is cannibalized a touch since Miami already has a strong intermediate option in Landry and a long-ball specialist in Stills, rendering Parker's ceiling and usage capped without an injury to one. 

 

Koetter Cutting out the Pass


Another team that found success as the season rolled on was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They started the year in a similar fashion as previous seasons, but then hit their stride midyear as they became a more balanced offense. That newfound balance wasn’t just found by game script alone as coach Dirk Koetter specifically stated he needed to reel in Jameis Winston’s pass attempts and that he was concerned that Winston was trying to do too much in mid-November. From that point on, Tampa Bay successfully accomplished pulling back the reigns on the passing game.

 

WeeksW-LPlays/GRankPass %RankRun %Rank
1-9 3-5 69.6 3 60.3% 17 39.7% 16
10-17 6-2 63.8 15 54.7% 27 45.3% 6

 

Koetter kept his word and this was a true offensive climate change, because the Bucs weren’t even good at running the football. Tampa Bay ranked third in the NFL with 231 rushing attempts over that span, but was dead last in yards per carry (3.26) with just four rushing touchdowns (28th). Running backs Doug Martin and Jacquizz Rodgers had the highest and second highest percentage of runs that failed to gain positive yardage for all backs with 100 carries on the season.

 

While that brand of winning football was a positive for the franchise, it wasn’t conducive for fantasy points.  Over the final eight weeks, Winston was the QB17 and his highest rank in weekly scoring was QB11. Winston has yet to demonstrate a major weekly ceiling as he’s scored as a top-12 quarterback 11 times over his first two seasons with just six of 32 games inside of the top-10 of his position. Everything is in place for Winston to take the next step with the additions the Bucs have made, but he’s not someone to overly extend your reach for if Tampa Bay wants to still play a controlled style of offense. Of course, If Winston was affected by the climate shift, so was Mike Evans

 

 

WeeksTGT/GWR RankRec/GWR RankReYd/GWR RankPPGWR RankTop-12 WeeksTop-24 Weeks
1-9 12.7 1 6.9 3 93.1 4 22.4 1 5 6
10-17 8.8 9 5.1 18 72.0 14 15.6 14 3 4

 

Over the season's back half, Evans was feast or famine for fantasy, and mostly famine. He finished outside of the top-40 scoring receivers in four of those eight games and above WR12 just once. Evans has only known one offensive climate for his career prior to that stretch of team success and has had minimal competition for targets since entering the league. With Tampa Bay's receiver additions and the Bucs expected to make another stride forward, Evans may not be a locked-in WR1 like the wide receivers in the top tier, and this uncertainty of volume should be enough to warrant him failing to join that top tier in terms of draft capital. That said, the 24-year-old receiver is still one of the NFL's premier touchdown threats and vertical playmakers, so it’s hard to push him down too far. I still prefer A.J. Green to Evans in a vacuum, but have no issues with where Evans is being selected in drafts.

 

All of this makes Doug Martin an intriguing option for where he falls in drafts. Martin is suspended for the opening three games as he finishes his penance for violating the league’s PED policy, He didn’t fully capitalize on a similar opportunity when he returned from injury a year ago, but the raw opportunity Martin again has is one of the best at the position. When Martin returned from injury last Week 10, he was fourth in the league in touches (128) up until being shelved for the remainder of the season after Week 15. On those 21.3 touches per week, Martin was just 15th in yards from scrimmage, however, averaging only 72.7 total yards per game. Martin has reached 600 yards from scrimmage just twice in his five years in the league and has two or fewer receptions in 27-of-35 games played since Tampa Bay drafted Charles Sims. The team has maintained Martin is still their lead back and due for healthy volume on the ground once he returns. His suspension does eat a roster spot for three weeks, but also potentially alleviates some concern about his floor. Martin is someone I’m not outright pursuing in each draft, but will be happy to take shots on as a part of rosters where I don't pursue running backs early because he seemingly has the support of the staff and can inherit a large workload.  As a sidebar, Jacquizz Rodgers is a prime pick for those looking for running back touches and starts to begin the season.

 

 


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Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer. You can find him on Twitter @LordReebs.
Email :Rich Hribar



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