Welcome to Week 4, fantasy managers! If you are new to this article series, I will be using my Expected Fantasy Points model to determine which players relied on volume or efficiency to produce for fantasy. In short, the two metrics that we will use each week are:
Expected Fantasy Points (or xFP)
Fantasy Points Over Expected (or FPOE = Actual Points - Expected Points)
Why do these metrics matter? Basically, fantasy production rooted in volume (or xFP) is usually sustainable week to week. We want to target players who rank highly in this metric. On the other hand, players who rely on efficiency (or FPOE) are much more volatile week to week. For a more detailed breakdown of my model, be sure to check out my series primer from Week 1!
Let’s dive in for Week 4!
Wide Receivers: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency
Remember in Week 1 when it seemed like drafting DeVonta Smith was a colossal mistake?
Admittedly, I, too, was slightly concerned when the passing offense was fully centered around A.J. Brown in Week 1. However, Smith is just too talented of a receiver to remain completely irrelevant for fantasy purposes. And sure enough, we have seen his production steadily improve. Smith is the WR8 in fantasy usage over the last two weeks, averaging 13.6 expected points per game. And while he is only the WR15 in target share (29.3 percent) in that timespan, Smith has been heavily utilized downfield, compiling the fifth most air yards among wide receivers with 261. On top of that, he has also been one of the most efficient wide receivers, scoring +5.6 Points Above Expected per game since Week 2.
Furthermore, this offense continues to transform into a more pass-heavy scheme. So far, the Eagles have seen the 12th-highest increase (+4.5 percentage points) in neutral situation passing rate year over year; they're clearly making an effort to use their most dynamic weapons on offense. And while there will be games where Brown is the more featured receiver, Smith will continue to hold significant upside in what is shaping up to be one of the best offenses in the league.
The WR1 role for the Green Bay Packers was one of the most anticipated positional battles heading into the season. And based on ADP (average draft position), fantasy managers were clearly expecting Allen Lazard or even Christian Watson to emerge for this team. To our surprise, a different receiver broke out this past week as Romeo Doubs was far and away the WR1 for Aaron Rodgers, becoming the first Packers receiver to produce a top-12 performance this season.
Taking a look at his usage, you will notice that his Expected Fantasy Value was rather low (9.67), ranking only WR48 in usage in Week 3. This was partially driven by the location and depth of his opportunities as six of his eight targets came within five yards or less from the line of scrimmage. In other words, the Packers were using him in short-yardage situations and allowing him to create yards after the catch. And since my Expected Points model prefers deeper targets (which historically generate more fantasy points), it attributed most of Doubs’ production to efficiency.
While this would generally be a red flag, Doubs still received eight opportunities and continues to build trust with Aaron Rodgers. Therefore, he needs to be picked up in all leagues, though I would wait another week before plugging him into your lineups to see if this trend continues.
Running Backs: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency
Entering Week 3, Derrick Henry was trending in the wrong direction as the Tennessee Titans were far from the efficient offense that we have grown accustomed to over the last couple of years. This clearly affected Henry’s fantasy output as he was the RB31 through two weeks while accounting for only 32.7 percent of the team’s total opportunities. To put this into perspective, Henry hasn’t averaged less than a 39% opportunity share since the 2018 season. Even more alarming, he only received one target through two games. Therefore, it was clear the Titans had to get him more involved if they wanted to end their losing streak.
And in Week 3, they clearly made an effort to correct this mistake as Henry accounted for 49.1% of the team’s total opportunities and 23.1% of their targets against the Raiders. As a result, he finished the week with an Expected Fantasy Value of 17.5, ranking fifth among running backs.
Going forward, I would not be surprised if his Week 3 usage becomes the norm as the Titans will need to rely on Henry if they want to stay competitive each week.
As mentioned in my series primer, we need to keep an eye on players who rely too much on efficiency (FPOE) to produce as they are at risk for regression each week. And while Khalil Herbert and Saquon Barkley stand out in the table above, you can make an argument that this was likely an outlier game for both of them. Barkley has shown consistent volume each week, while Herbert should be the workhorse running back if David Montgomery were to miss some time.
The same cannot be said about Chase Edmonds, who only ranked as the RB50 in usage (5.02 xFP) in Week 3. He received only seven opportunities against the Bills but converted two of them into rushing touchdowns. Clearly, that type of efficiency is unsustainable.
In addition, Raheem Mostert has averaged a higher fantasy usage value (7.56 xFP) and snap rate (56%) over the last two weeks, implying that Edmonds has clearly been demoted to the RB2 in this offense. Therefore, do not chase the points and keep Edmonds on your bench, especially against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed the seventh-lowest rushing yards per attempt in the league this season.
Tight Ends: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency
One of the most surprising players so far this year has been Tyler Conklin. In three games this season, he is averaging 90.3 percent of the snaps and an expected fantasy value of 9.7 points. In other words, Conklin has received consistent volume, making him one of the most reliable tight ends to start the season.
Of course, now that we finally have the confidence to start him, Zach Wilson is set to return and could drastically change the target distribution of this offense. Regardless, it does not change the fact that Conklin is within the top 10 at his position in slot rate and route participation, which means he will likely remain heavily involved. As a result, he should still be rostered in most leagues as there is a possibility his volume remains unchanged.
Quarterbacks: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency
Ryan Tannehill - Tennessee Titans
Ryan Tannehill finally had a bounce-back game this past week. However, unlike Derrick Henry who produced due to his volume, Tannehill only threw the ball 27 times and relied heavily on his efficiency to finish in the top 12. To provide more context, his expected fantasy value of 12.8 ranked QB27 on the week. In other words, if Tannehill had not scored on a “quarterback sneak” from the one-yard line, he would have finished outside of the top 24, leaving fantasy managers disappointed for a third straight game. And considering the identity of this offense is centered around Henry, Tannehill will be tough to trust in your lineups week to week.
Unless you are in a SuperFlex league, Tannehill is best kept on waivers as other players provide a higher baseline of fantasy production.