Each week, I’ll use my OPPO metric (OPportunity POints) to go through who had the most valuable opportunities of the week, who has been scoring less than their looks would suggest, and who has been overperforming the opportunities they’ve been given. This season’s data can be found here.
Tony Pollard is looking like a league-winner in fantasy. After being “only” RB3 overall last week, Pollard saw even more action this week, with 25 carries and 8 targets netting him 17.9 points on 30.1 OPPO. That all-around involvement was expected to yield 6.2 catches, 138.5 yards, and 1.7 touchdowns. Pollard traded his valuable looks from last week for volume this week, seeing 11 more carries and 5 more targets. He significantly underperformed, so this seems like a good time to buy low: he’s established himself as the lead back in Dallas, and, as Ezekiel Elliott has shown in the past, that’s a very valuable position to be in.
Puka Nacua continues to be the story of the season. The man drew TWENTY targets this week, easily surpassing his 15 from last week (which is still second most in a week by any player this season), and even chipped in 2 carries. Those opportunities paced the league, with Nacua earning 30.1 points on 32.6 OPPO. It’s not very often a guy underperforms with 30+ points, but that’s true here. He did his best peak-Cooper Kupp impression and was expected to see 14.9(!) catches, 159.9 yards, and (only) 0.3 touchdowns from his looks. Between last week and this week, Nacua appears locked in as the alpha and omega of the Rams’ passing attack with Kupp out, and Nacua looks like he’ll challenge for WR1 overall while Kupp remains sidelined.
An OPPO stud from last year, T.J. Hockenson is establishing himself again this season as an easy TE1. He narrowly beat out all-universe TE Travis Kelce this week, putting up 25.6 points on 17.3 OPPO. Justin Jefferson will continue to be the top dog in Minnesota’s passing attack, but Hockenson has established himself as the clear #2, which is prime real estate for a TE. He saw 8 targets this week, which were expected to yield 5.3 catches, 50.8 yards, and 1.1 touchdowns. He overperformed quite a bit this week, but he still sees elite volume for a TE, and I’d value him as such.
Dameon Pierce already appears to be on the fantasy hot seat, just two weeks into the season. Across those two weeks, he’s seen 26 carries and 6 targets and he’s underperforming across the board: 82 total yards vs. 142.4 expected, 0 TDs vs. 0.7 expected (not terrible, but not great), and he’s also earned ~1 catch less than expected (4 vs 4.8 expected). This is not a good offense in Houston right now, and Pierce is one of the reasons why. The Texans will likely have pass-heavy game scripts, so this is a rough combination of Pierce not capitalizing on the rushes he does get and not seeing involvement in the passing game. This underperformance seems more systemic than unlucky. I’d look to move him if you roster him.
After featuring his teammate last week, Ja’Marr Chase “leads” the way in underperforming (8.6 points per game vs. 13.7 OPPO per game). He’s seen 17 targets this season. He’s been fine at catching the ball (10 catches vs. 10.5 expected), but he hasn’t capitalized on the value of those catches (70 yards vs. 109.5 expected, and 0 TDs vs. 0.9 expected). Chase is in that elite echelon of WR, and I’d look for him to put up performances that better resemble that stature. The Cincinnati passing attack has been underwhelming so far (especially Joe Burrow), but I’d expect their explosiveness to return shortly.
Zach Ertz hasn’t quite earned his role as a focal point of Arizona’s passing offense (9.9 points per game vs. 15.2 OPPO per game). Ertz has continued to be a high-volume target (he led all TEs in OPPO last week), but he isn’t returning the value he should, based on his targets. 9 targets a week is impressive for a TE, and his targets were expected to return 12.4 receptions, 128.6 yards, and 0.8 TDs. Similar to Chase above, Ertz has met his catch expectation (12 catches), but has left yards and, most importantly, scoring opportunities on the table (only 77 yards and 0 TDs). The Cardinals don’t have much going for them, and Ertz seems to have chemistry with Joshua Dobbs, so I think he’s still a good option as a high-floor/low-ceiling streaming TE who can put up points in the low double-digits.
Christian McCaffrey is an elite all-purpose RB, but his results are too good to be true. He’s scored 24.2 points per game on “only” 15.9 OPPO per game. San Francisco has some of the best playcalling in football, but I’m not sure even they could scheme 6+ yards per carry over the course of a whole season, even for a back as talented as McCaffrey. Those big gains on the ground have also led to 2 rushing TDs vs. 0.4 expected. Even if he regresses to his OPPO, that’s still an easy RB1, and McCaffrey is one of few RBs who I would consistently expect to beat his expectations. Trade high if you’d like, but only if you’re getting back a king’s ransom.
I’d like to mention the entire Broncos passing offense this week, for earning 100 yards and ~2 TDs more than expected through the air. The perfect encapsulation of that performance was Marvin Mims and his 2 catch, 113-yard, 1 TD game. Mims only saw 2 targets this week, but he absolutely made them count. These were some deep shots that weren’t likely to be caught (0.5 expected catches, total), and even if they were caught, they weren’t expected to result in TDs (0.1 expected TDs). 56.5 yards per target is quite impressive but is also the definition of unsustainable. If someone thinks Mims is the next deep ball savant with Russell Wilson cooking (à la Tyreek Hill), I’d be more than happy to trade him away for anything of value.
Hunter Henry makes another appearance on the overperformers list, thanks (again) to being very efficient with the targets he’s seen. So far, he’s been thrown the ball 13 times this season and has turned that into 11 catches (vs 8.5 expected). More catches generally lead to more TDs, and that’s the case with Henry, who has 2 TDs vs. 0.7 expected. As I said last week, Henry looks like a perfectly startable TE (11.5 OPPO per game), but I wouldn’t expect him to remain a top-2 TE option the rest of the season.
I wanted to have a space to call out players who don’t have a write-up but are still worth mentioning because of notable OPPO.
RB: Kyren Williams (19.9 OPPO per game; RB3! overall), Kenneth Walker (16.0; RB9), Alexander Mattison (14.5; RB14), Jerome Ford (10.2; RB35 – 1 spot ahead of Nick Chubb), Dalvin Cook (6.8; RB51)
WR: Michael Pittman (19.6; WR5), Nico Collins (18.8; WR7), Keenan Allen (18.0; WR10), Amon-Ra St. Brown (13.2; WR30), Garrett Wilson (12.2; WR37), Drake London (7.0; WR 81)
TE: Jake Ferguson (11.8; TE6), Cole Kmet (11.5; TE8), Tyler Higbee (8.1; TE20)
Don’t agree? Think someone else has been even luckier/unluckier this season? Let me know at @blandalytics!
Feature photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire