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Lies, Damned Lies, and Fantasy Football Statistics (Week 6)


Are five games enough to start reading into ROS player values based on performance? Unlike baseball, where certain statistics can start to become reliable or "sticky" after a certain at-bat or innings-pitched threshold, it's never the case in football. It's a game where big individual plays make all the difference and only 16 games make up an entire season. Wait long enough to parse through the data and the season is over before you can do anything with it.

What about those teams who've been forced to early bye weeks and only played four times or those with unexpected schedule changes that forced them to play on Tuesday or extend their time between games? The answer: it's 2020 so accept it and move on.

A one-game sample in which a game flow goes completely off script can skew things dramatically on both sides. Outlier games (Travis Fulgham anyone?) can make a player look far more effective than his true value would indicate. On the other hand, some players might be underachieving based on unfavorable schedules. Not all advanced metrics are meaningful and some can be downright deceptive. My aim here is to point out those potential outliers that could steer you wrong when making key lineup decisions for Week 6 and beyond.

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Yards per Carry

One of the first ways a running back gets evaluated is by how much yardage he produces on average when touching the ball. We know opportunity is everything in fantasy, but more touches only mean more yardage if a player can do something with the ball. Just ask those who added Joshua Kelley off waivers.

Context matters, of course. Le'Veon Bell averaged 3.2 yards per carry last year but not many players could do better in that offense. That's the reason several teams were scrambling to acquire his services as soon as he was released.

Here's a look at the 2019 RB leaders for yards per rush attempt:

image taken from NFL NextGenStats

Here's the current list for 2020 after Week 5:

image taken from NFL NextGenStats

So, apparently, Raheem Mostert is for real. While we also see the list littered with the best players at the position, some odds ones stand out.

When you see backups like Gus Edwards, Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison, and Matt Breida on last year's list (and again for Edwards and Mattison this year), it might make you wonder why they don't get more touches. In the case of Pollard and Mattison, they have an elite RB ahead of them on the depth chart. Breida can't stay healthy and Edwards is limited in many other ways outside of running the ball straight ahead.

What you don't see on these charts is that Derrick Henry is now averaging 3.7, Kenyan Drake also 3.7, Josh Jacobs is at 3.6, and Christian McCaffrey 3.8 Y/A in 2020, all in the bottom 10 among backs with at least 30 carries. It's almost like this figure can change from year to year!

There are many reasons for this but it varies so the best idea as always is to take it on a player-by-player basis. Let's dive into some running backs whose rushing average might be deceptive at this point in the season, for better or worse.

Rankings listed below are based on running backs who are on pace for at least 100 rush attempts this season.

 

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

5.1 Y/A - 7th among RB

I won't hate on Sanders here because there is no denying his talent. He was my favorite RB of the 2019 draft class and should be a solid RB2 for the next few years. The problem is the Eagles offense as a whole.

Sanders ranks seventh in rushing average among qualified RBs and is 12th in the NFL in total rushing yards. Savvy readers may remember that 74 of his 316 yards, or 23%, came on one play in Pittsburgh last week. Otherwise, he totaled six yards on his other 10 carries. The Steelers Defense is great at stopping the run, but there's more at play here.

Philadelphia has seen its offensive line decimated by injuries. Starters Brandon Brooks, Andre Dillard, and Jason Peters are all on IR or PUP. Lane Johnson is questionable as he battles an ankle injury. This will make for tough sledding, making it necessary for Sanders to create big plays on his own. Those home run plays won't always be there.

Sanders isn't the type of player you ever want to bench when healthy but he won't deliver big numbers each week and could be considered a candidate to trade coming off his two-TD performance if you can fetch a WR1 or more consistent RB in his stead (see Mixon, Joe below).

 

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

3.7 Y/A - 37th among RB

Any GM who selected Mixon with a first-round pick has likely considered trading him away at some point this year. He's not close to sniffing four yards a carry and has scored fewer than 16 fantasy points in four of his five games so far (full PPR). In half-PPR and standard scoring leagues, he's been far less valuable. While he ranks right around RB11 for the year, nearly all of that production came in his Week 4 outburst against the lowly Jaguars Defense.

Was Mixon overvalued? Not fitting in with the new Joe Burrow-led Bengals? Quite the opposite. If anything, we can ignore his rushing average for two reasons.

First, schedule matters. It's easy to use that excuse, but in this case, it's true. In his four duds, Mixon faced the Chargers, Browns, Eagles, and Ravens. Those teams currently rank sixth, 10th, 12th, and third in limiting fantasy points to running backs. Looking strictly at rushing average, they allow the 16th, sixth, fourth, and 13th-most yards per carry. The Bengals did not win any of those games, so game script definitely played a role as well.

Second, Mixon could stay under four yards per carry all year long and still finish as a top-10 fantasy RB. His involvement as a receiver keeps him valuable in any given matchup but is also increasing as of late. In the first three contests, Giovani Bernard was targeted 15 times compared to nine for Mixon. In the last two games, Bernard has seen a total of two targets while Mixon has 14. Bernard is nursing a groin injury, so expect Mixon to be the third-down back for the foreseeable future.

Going against the top-ranked defense in Indianapolis this weekend, Mixon will probably have another poor day on the ground. he can make up for it through the air and then should be off and running once the schedule softens considerably in the second half with defenses of the Cowboys, Giants, Texans, and Dolphins lined up.

 

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

5.5 Y/A - 6th among RB

First, the obvious. McKinnon's average is inflated by the Jets game where he broke off a 55-yard run and then another 16-yarder for a score. He turned three carries into a delightful fantasy game without needing to catch a single pass. He's also broken off a few more runs with double-digit yardage attached since then. The problem is that's all he brings to the table, so without the big play he can easily flop like last week against Miami.

The bigger problem is the lack of usage that could get lower as the season progresses. Even with Raheem Mostert sidelined for three games, McKinnon is averaging 38.6 rushing yards per game on seven attempts. He wasn't expected to carry the ball a ton, maybe 10-12 times a game, but it was even less than we imagined. His prowess as a pass-catcher would provide the fantasy floor but Week 4 was the only game where McKinnon caught more than three passes.

Between carries and catches, the most touches per game McKinnon has ever received was 13.5 as a Viking back in 2016. If he wasn't even at that threshold before Mostert returned, there's no way it approaches that going forward. If we imagine that Tevin Coleman returns at some point midseason and the Niners can figure out their QB situation to utilize the pass more, McKinnon becomes a desperation flex the rest of 2020.

 

Antonio Gibson, Washington Football

3.9 Y/A - 34th among RB

We saw Gibson struggle to get anything going whatsoever in Week 5 as the Rams stifled him. Gibson finished with 27 rushing yards on 11 carries, marking the third straight game he couldn't even reach the 50-yard plateau on the ground. Maybe he isn't cut out to handle the load as an NFL running back after all.

Or, and hear me out here, he's on a bad offensive unit shuffling ineffective quarterbacks and hasn't gotten enough usage to make the most of his skillset. Dwayne Haskins was unceremoniously yanked as the starting QB after four modest games, so it was a mixture of Kyle Allen and Alex Smith in Week 5. This came in a game where the Rams jumped out to a 20-7 lead midway through the second quarter and never let Washington back in it.

Washington has now lost four straight games, all by 14 points or more. Negative game script plus inconsistent quarterback play is not the recipe for a successful running game. The reason Gibson hasn't seen more than 13 carries in a game yet has nothing to do with the team's faith in him. They just can't afford to chew up clock when they are constantly behind on the scoreboard.

The main reason his subpar rushing average is misleading, however, has to do with the accumulated total that doesn't show how effective he was, when given the chance, on a weekly basis. he averaged four Y/A or more in his first three games; his average sank mainly due to last week.

image taken from Pro-Football-Reference

Rather than rushing production, notice the more important stats related to his target share and red-zone rushes.

image taken from RotoWire

Gibson is up there near the leaders in broken tackle rate at 20%, placing him in the 84th percentile. We know he is elusive with the ball in his hands. With a strong 49.5% team share of rush attempts and heavy involvement in the red-zone (11 touches, tied for team lead), Gibson should deliver eventually. Of course, eventually could mean 2021...



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It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More