Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 4

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 4

Statistical Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 4

Just when you start believing that Week 3 restored some fantasy football normalcy with Odell Beckham Jr., Le’Veon Bell and A.J. Green finding the end zone for the first time this season and resuming their places among the weekly scoring leaders, consider that we also had the likes of Case Keenum, Marcedes Lewis and the New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins’ defenses piling up the fantasy points in what looked to be unfavorable-to-horrible matchups.

Yeah, those weren’t fantasy-app malfunctions.

Regardless, though, we’re that much closer to gaining more clarity with an additional week of performances added to season totals, and that also means it’s time for our weekly review of the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers compiled through action Sunday in Week 3 of the 2017 fantasy season. Here goes …

  • A quick peek at Week 3’s highest-scoring fantasy running backs in terms of point-per-reception scoring through Sunday reveals that an eye-popping eight of the top 18 are rookies, starting with the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook (fourth with 27.9 points) and continuing on with the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt (fifth, 25.3), the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey (10th, 20.7), the Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette (12th, 17), the Bears’ Tarik Cohen (13th, 14.2), the Saints’ Alvin Kamara (16th, 13.2), the Seahawks’ Chris Carson (16th, 13.2) and the Bengals’ Joe Mixon (18th with 13.1). It’s been no one-week wonder, either, as Hunt (401) and Cook (288) rank 1-2 among all league backs in season-long rushing yards; Cohen (20) and McCaffrey (18) rank 1-2 in running-back receptions; Cook (71), Fournette (65) and Hunt (56) rank among the top 10 in total touches and Hunt leads in yards-from-scrimmage with 538 while Cook (370) and Cohen (238) also rank among the top 10. In short, it’s shaping up as the best class of rookie running backs – fantasy or otherwise – the league has seen in some time and by season’s end, we may be talking about the contingent in the same terms as the 2014 crop of record-setting rookie wide receivers, which included Beckham, Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry among others. That would be heady company, indeed.
  • While the class of first-year running backs are making a splash, a veteran quarterback continues to take on a lot of water in the fantasy rankings. As of Sunday night, the Panthers’ Cam Newton ranked 28th among QBs with an average of 15.63 fantasy points per game and was ahead of only Jacoby Brissett (15.3), Brian Hoyer (15.2), Mike Glennon (14.38), Andy Dalton (12.93) and Joe Flacco (10.07) among the 32 starters this weekend. Newton entered Week 3 with nagging shoulder and ankle issues but also had a tasty matchup against a porous Saints defense. However, he could manage a 17-of-26, 167-yard, no-TD, 3-interception performance which was only partly bailed out by a rushing score and 16 yards on three attempts. In other words, another poor performance in a growing string since his league fantasy MVP season of 2015. In that span which covers 18 games, Newton only has produced three 300-yard passing outings, five with multiple aerial TDs, six with rushing scores and three with three-or-more total TDs. Contrast those totals with his 16-game marks from 2015 when he compiled three 300-yard passing games, 10 with multiple passing scores, nine with rushing touchdowns and eight games with three-or-more total TDs. Last season, Newton, finished 19th among fantasy quarterbacks with 292 total points and deserves to be benched in all 16-team-or-smaller one-QB leagues until he can find a way back to even the QB2 level.
  • And while we’re on the subject of struggling, we now move to Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper – a pair of second-year sleeper tight ends who have largely remained somnolent so far this season. On Sunday, for the second time in three games, the Chargers’ Henry somehow didn’t attract a target among Philip Rivers’ 39 passing attempts against the Chiefs. That also happened Week 1 against the Broncos, but in between Henry hauled in all seven of his targets for 80 yards in Week 2 vs. the Dolphins. That’s what was expected from the second-year tight end, but perhaps our expectations were skewed by his league-tight-end eight TD catches among his 53 targets and 36 receptions as a rookie. In reality, the targets just haven’t been there consistently for Henry all along, as he’s finished with three or fewer targets in of nine of the 16 games in which fellow tight end Antonio Gates also has played since the start of last season.  A simple lack of targets also has hampered Hooper, who has had exactly a pair in each game so far this season, and his six total targets rank sixth on the team. Hooper’s fantasy outlook also was skewed by a 128-yard, one-TD outing in Week 1 when he reeled in both of his targets against the Bears, but he’s produced only 16 yards on his four targets and three grabs in the two games since. Look elsewhere for tight-end help until the target shares take consistent and meaningful jumps for Henry and Hooper.
  • And elsewhere most definitely includes Giants rookie Evan Engram, who caught five of his seven targets in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. The first-round pick has garnered at least five targets in all three games this season and his 19 total targets was tied for sixth among all tight ends through play Sunday. He also ranks among the top 10 at his position in receptions (tied for sixth with 13), yards (seventh with 138), standard-scoring fantasy points (tied for ninth with 20) and PPR points (seventh with 33). Sure, the Giants’ passing game remains a decided work in progress despite Sunday’s breakout (366 yards, three TDs) in Philly, but Engram should remain involved regardless with opposing defenses shading their coverage OBJ’s way on a weekly basis.
  • The Dolphins endured a baffling and crushing loss Sunday, falling 20-6 to the woebegone N.Y. Jets, and it took until the final play of the game for Miami to avoid an even-more-embarrassing shutout. DeVante Parker hauled in a 3-yard scoring pass for the Dolphins’ lone TD and giving him an 8-76-1 stat line for the game on 10 targets. In two contests so far, Parker has reeled in 12-of-19 targets for a team-most 161 yards and one score and now has caught 43 of his 66 targets for 602 yards and four TDs over his last 10 games – six of which have produced at least 12 PPR points. Among all wideouts so far this season, Parker ranks eighth in PPR leagues with an average of 17.05 fantasy points and ranks ninth in standard scoring with 11.05 points per outing. In summary, he’s one Year 3 WR breakout candidate who looks like he’ll deliver the numbers to match the hype.
  • Meanwhile in Indy on Sunday, the Browns scored a season-high 28 points in nearly erasing a double-digit deficit against the Colts. The first of those TDs was a 19-yard second-quarter scoring run by Duke Johnson Jr., who went on to post his best numbers of the season (2-23-1 rushing, 6-81 receiving) en route to the sixth-best – but definitely among the quietest – PPR showing Sunday by a running back with 22.4 points. It also was the second time in three outings Johnson has outscored more highly-touted teammate Isaiah Crowell, who finished with a forgettable 44 yards on 12 rushes and 10 yards on a pair of receptions. Overall, Johnson has outgained Crowell 204-179 on 26 fewer touches (43-17) and remains the only Cleveland RB to find his way into the end zone this season. So, despite the Browns’ 0-3 start, Johnson looks to be the Cleveland back you want, particularly in PPR leagues.
  • Extra points: Through Sunday, the Rams’ Todd Gurley led all players in total touches with 76 while Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins paced the league in targets with 37. … Among the top-20 targets leaders, Eagles TE Zach Ertz (seventh with 28) and Cohen and Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (tied for 13th with 25) were the only non-wide receivers of the bunch. … Gurley also leads the league in rushes inside the opposition’s 10- and 5-yard lines with nine and eight attempts, respectively. … Wideouts Dez Bryant and Sterling Shepard, with six apiece, are setting the pace in red-zone targets while Bills TE Charles Clay, Raiders WR Amari Cooper, Jags WR Allen Hurns, Gronk and fellow Patriot Chris Hogan all had five entering Monday night’s Cowboys-Cardinals game. … The Broncos’ Trevor Siemian still leads the league with six red-zone scoring passes while Bortles, Drew Brees, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford have tossed five apiece. Stafford, of course, finished an agonizing half-yard away from hooking up with Golden Tate for No. 6 on Sunday. … Washington RB Chris Thompson, who leads all running backs with 231 receiving yards, is averaging an eye-popping 13 yards per offensive touch (350 on 27) so far this season, bumping his career average up to an amazing 6.95 yards (1,550 and 12 TDs on 223 total touches).

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