Staff Playbook: Which Underlying Player Stat Is Notable And Why?

What's in a stat? Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs) and the QB List Staff share some underlying player stats that are notable and why heading into Week 4.

Welcome to the QB List Staff Playbook Series. Every week throughout both the season, we will conduct a staff survey, asking multiple fantasy analysts to share their insights on some of fantasy football’s most pressing questions. Essentially, we’re sharing our “playbook” with you, revealing the hard choices and strategic moves we would make to stay ahead of the competition.

This week, the QB List Staff was asked which underlying player stat specific to a player is notable and why:

 

Paul Ghiglieri (@FantasyGhigs): Marlon Mack (Top 7 in Football Outsiders’ DYAR)

Reasoning: Marlon Mack was viewed by most as a mid-range RB2 at best during the offseason. The unexpected retirement of Andrew Luck further depressed Mack’s stock, and his perceived lack of involvement in the passing game caused him to slip into the RB3 range in many drafts. For those who drafted Mack there, he has been an absolute steal. Advanced metrics suggest you could be sitting on a top-10 running back, rest of season.

Football Outsiders DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) measures the total value of a running back on a per play basis in relation to replacement value, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage. Currently, Mack ranks 7th in the NFL in DYAR behind Mark Ingram, Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliot, Matt Breida, Saquon Barkley, and Christian McCaffrey. The 49ers expect Tevin Coleman back after their Week 4 bye, so Breida could find himself embroiled in a three-way RBBC. Barkley could miss close to two months of action with his high ankle sprain. Attrition alone could make Mack a top-five back moving forward.

Consider the leverage in his corner: he plays behind the 4th best O-Line in football, according to PFF. With Jacoby Brissett under center, the Colts will remain a run-heavy team. According to Fantasy Pros’ ROS Strength of Schedule, the Colts have the 11th easiest schedule for running backs in Weeks 4-16. Plus, the skills alone show a top-level talent.

Lastly, the biggest knock against Mack has been the threat of Naheem Hines reducing him to a two-down back, but Mack has seen usage above 50% on routes per dropback. He received three targets in both Week 2 and 3, catching two balls in each game for a total of 26 yards. The receptions should come, especially as Mack’s calf injury heals more.

 

Nate Watt (@NateWattQBL): Devin Singletary (3 Evaded Tackles on 10 Attempts)

Reasoning: Despite Devin Singletary being knocked for his so-called “lack of athleticism,” (particularly after a poor showing in the 40 yard dash), he’s been incredibly elusive in a small sample size, which has helped him break off seven runs of ten or more yards on ten attempts, as well as three runs of 20 or more yards. Frank Gore has the same amount of forced missed tackles on more than quadruple the carries and is averaging 3.7 YPC to Singletary’s 12.7 YPC. Obviously, these eye-popping stats are fueled by a small sample size, but Singletary has shown that doubting him for his “lack of athleticism” is ridiculous.

 

 

 

Stephen Dudas (@Dudas68): Matt Ryan (115 Passer Rating When Clean)

Reasoning: Matt Ryan is off to a strange start. The Falcons are 1-2 and are only averaging 20 points a game (21st ranked), and Ryan himself has already thrown six interceptions after throwing seven in 16 games last year. Despite that, Ryan comes in as the 6th best fantasy QB. So what the heck is going on here? Should we be worried about Ryan going forward? I would argue that everything is going to be just fine because Ryan is playing lights out in the most predictive area of the game–clean pockets.

When Ryan has the time, especially with the weapons around him, he is one of the most deadly accurate QBs in the league: 115 Passer Rating (6th), 79.5% completion (2nd). His poor play under pressure would be more concerning if Ryan was running for his life every play, but a pressure rate of 35% is right around his career normal even after facing two very tough fronts in Philadelphia and Minnesota. If anything, Ryan could see more clean pockets, and through some variance (luck), he will probably play better under pressure as well. Given all this, plus the problematic Falcons defense, Ryan could be in for some huge fantasy weeks.

 

 

Brandon Miller (@BrandonMillerFB): Courtland Sutton (41.5% Share of Team’s Targeted Air Yards)

Reasoning: I will admit that I wasn’t too high on Courtland Sutton heading into 2019. I didn’t like that Joe “Is He Elite?” Flacco would be throwing him the ball. Additionally, I wasn’t blown away by his performance when he became a starter last year, and I saw him as the #2 receiving option at best in what I expected to be a mediocre, run-first offense. After seeing his game log and 41.5% share of the team’s targeted air yards (eighth-highest in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats), I am willing to pivot. Sutton is a big, physical presence who uses his body to shield defenders to win 50-50 balls and is receiving valuable targets, both downfield and near the goal line (his five catches on six red-zone targets this season is tied for second in the league). His combination of physical tools, quality target-share/ target depth, and role in the Broncos offense has convinced me to buy back into being a Sutton supporter.

 

 

Rich Holman (@nextdoorFFguru): Seattle Seahawks O-line (3rd-Worst Adjusted Lines Yards)

Reasoning: The Seahawks have been a run-heavy team since the start of 2018, and this off-season OC Brian Schottenheimer talked about establishing the run being their main priority. However, what happens when your offensive line isn’t on-board? Over the first three weeks, Seattle has the third-worst adjusted line yards, according to Football Outsiders. The Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages: losses – 120% value; 0-4 yards – 100% value; 5-10 yards – 50% value; 11 and above – 0% value. The Seahawks 3.02 adjusted line yards are ahead of only the Dolphins and the Bengals, not a group you want to be associated with. This makes the Seahawks backfield a sell for me, and consequently, Russell Wilson a potential buy if the run game stagnates. Wilson has shown the ability to post quality numbers in previous years behind shoddy offensive line play.

 

Marshal Hickman (@MHick93): Dak Prescott (74.5 COMP% vs 64.6 xCOMP%)

Reasoning: Ah, completion percentage – a simple stat that is so dependent on so many variables that it can occasionally be misleading. That’s where NFL Next Gen Stats’ xCOMP% comes in. Expected Completion Percentage is an advanced metric calculated “using a passer’s Completion Probability on every play, [to] determine what a passer’s completion percentage is expected to be.” Basically, it attempts to determine what a passer’s completion percentage should be given all of the variables at play. Looking at the data, a majority of quarterbacks with at least three games under their belt this season have a COMP% and xCOMP% within 1-2% of each other. Dak Prescott, however, sits with a 74.5% Completion Percentage and a 64.6% Expected Completion Percentage. If this metric is to be believed, Prescott’s Completion Percentage should be about 10% lower than it actually is, which could spell regression for the Dallas QB moving forward.

 

Myles Nelson (@MylesNelsonPL): Dalvin Cook (454 All-Purpose Yards)

Reasoning: Kids these days with these hokey “advanced stats.” As far as I’m concerned, this game has always been about and always will be about moving the damn ball up the field. You can’t win if you don’t score, and you can’t score if you don’t go anywhere. Cook leads the NFL in all-purpose yards; that’s a fancy way of saying his rushing and receiving yards combined. How’s that for an advanced stat? That sounds pretty advanced to me. And he’s scored four touchdowns already, showing exactly what I’m saying. You gotta move the ball to score the ball. There’s your anuhlyticks.

 

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

 

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