Expected Points Assessment: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Justin Dunbar utilizes expected points to assess wide receiver and tight end production ahead of this year's trade deadline.

What should we use to project future fantasy production? It’s one thing to create projections in the offseason, but to adjust in season is incredibly difficult. We wish we could just use previous fantasy production to guide us, but with how fluky touchdown production and other stats can be in such a small sample, it’s something we cannot afford to do.

That’s where expected points come into play. You’ve probably seen some form of expected points before, but the basis is that it judges players based on the opportunities they receive, in order to illustrate how many points they should score. Since it strips a lot of the “flukiness” that can come from individual games, it’s a terrific way to create the foundation for a weekly projection.

Today, let’s utilize expected points to our advantage. However, I want to do it in a different way than you may be used to seeing. Rather, I want to utilize simple variables to create a very easy-to-use metric. Thus, for every position in this series, we will be using only one statistic that correlates strongly with fantasy football production to create this metric.

For wide receivers and tight ends, as discussed in the first expected points assessment, that variable is targets. Touchdowns and big plays ultimately move the needle yet they’re quite unstable, while targets are a much more reliable metric from one game to the next.

Using weighted yardage, the coefficient of determination between expected fantasy points and actual points was 0.65. In other words, 65% of a wide receiver or tight end’s fantasy points per game could be explained by their weighted touches per game. That indicates a pretty strong relationship, and the type of reliability we’re looking for. There will be players that consistently score more or fewer touchdowns than others, which will allow them to overachieve or underachieve their expected fantasy output.

With that, let’s take a look at how every notable wide receiver rates in terms of expected fantasy points:

 

Since the first assessment, Cooper Kupp has taken the lead in expected points, while Jaylen Waddle has risen up the ranks considerably. With Devante Parker and Will Fuller out for the year, I’d expect him to continue to see a very high target share, and, thus, serve as a WR2 moving forward. Also, while dealing with injuries, Mike Williams has fallen significantly down this list. Hopefully, with better health, we can start to see the player we saw to start the season, because that was a very fun ride.
As for tight ends:
TJ Hockensojust racks up those targets! Even without touchdowns, he’s on pace for over 100 receptions, which is unprecedented for a tight end. I’d also expect Dallas Goedert to rise up this list significantly now that he’s seeing elite snap rates in Philadelphia with Zach Ertz now in Arizona.

Buy Low

By looking at players who are underachieving their expected points total, we can find some players to potentially buy-low on. Let’s start with wide receivers:

 

Sell High

 

Conversely, by looking at players who have overachieved their expected fantasy production, we can find players to sell high on. Let’s start with wide receivers:

 

  • If the return of Russell Wilson induces intrigue about DK Metcalf’s fantasy value, now may be the time to sell high. There just isn’t much in the way of passing volume in this Seahawks offense.
  • With AJ Green and DeAndre Hopkins likely back this week, you may want to consider selling high on Christian Kirk. There are just so many mouths to feed in that Arizona offense.
  • Deebo Samuel is someone to consider selling high on. His production has mainly been 100% sustainable, but with George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk back in the fold for an offense with limited passing volume, he might not continue to be a top-five or top-ten receiver moving forward.

As for tight ends:

 

  • Dawson Knox and Rob Gronkowski each are likely back from injury this week, so you can look to sell high now.
  • Hunter Henry has yet to get more than four targets in a game over the past month, and has become rather touchdown-dependent.
  • When Eric Ebron comes back, Pat Freiermuth’s role may diminish, so you could look to trade him before that happens.

 

Overview

 

There are a lot of flaws with using actual fantasy production to project future production, thanks to all the instabilities that can take place in any given game. That’s where expected points come into play. By utilizing this metric, we’ve been able to find players to buy low on and sell high on, in addition to some players who might be interesting off the waiver wire. At the end of the day, it’s all a crapshoot, but it’s up to us to try our best to do the impossible, right? Hopefully, that’s what this version of expected points can do for us.

 

(Photo by Pro Sports Images/Imago/Icon Sportswire)

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