Inflated Fantasy Stats of 2015
The great thing about the NFL, well one of the great things about the NFL, is the mind boggling number of available statistics. The large number of numbers are of course of major interest to owners and those putting together fantasy football rankings. Yet, numbers can also sometimes be used for evil, -evil might be a tad melodramatic- nevertheless my point remains the same. Poor NFL players can be mistaken for good players by virtue of a look at their overall statistics, and people without the time to properly break down a player can get sucked in.
As a public service to you, I offer ten players who put up presentable stats in 2015, but are not completely trustworthy moving into the 2016 fantasy season.
Raiders Running Back[the_ad id=”58837″]Despite finishing as one of only seven rushers to eclipse 1000 yards in 2015, I find it difficult to fully accept him as an established stud. His 1066 rushing yards are very well and good, and indeed comprise only the 4th 1,000 yard Raiders rusher since the 2003 season, but when you consider that he handled nearly 72% of the teams carries, I think Oakland fans (and fantasy owners) are entitled to a little more. After all, Adrian Peterson only received 68.9% of the Vikings carries, behind a disgusting offensive line, and he managed a league best 1485 yards.
The Raiders refusal to commit long term to Murray as their guy indicates that they share my mind on this issue, and the addition of a talented rusher in the draft should see Murray relegated to the bench.
From Week 11 onwards in 2015, Stafford was QB4 in terms of fantasy points. The promotion of Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator doubt had something to do with this upsurge in Stafford’s form, but while this and his seasonal score (he was tied for 8th in standard scoring) seem impressive, two things should be noted. Firstly, only six quarterbacks attempted more passes than the 662 Stafford unfurled in 2015, and secondly he had Calvin Johnson to throw to. With Johnson now retired, Stafford’s production (though not opportunity, given the continuing commitment to producing putrid ground attacks the Lions have demonstrated) is going to suffer.
Using the Rotoviz Game Splits App, you can see how different a player Stafford is when Megatron has been absent throughout his career. Steer clear.
Falcons Running Back
Devonta Freeman, the breakout fantasy star of 2015 really enjoyed two seasons in 2015. The first, encapsulating weeks 1-7 of the campaign, saw him tear through the NFL to the tune of 621 rushing yards, nine touchdowns and over 150 fantasy points. The second season, from weeks 8-17, saw his yards fall to 435, with seven fewer trips to the endzone and a mere 93 fantasy points.
Some are projecting that Tevin Coleman should eat into Freeman’s carries (though not touches) in 2016, after the former Seminole ate up 62.9% of the team’s total totes last year, and it is this looming fear of a timeshare that should see Freeman become the running back he truly is.
Ted Ginn Jr.
Panthers Wide Reciever[the_ad id=”58835″]After a season in the desert with the Cardinals, Ginn returned to Charlotte to star for the Carolina Panthers, robbed as they were of second year receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Ginn posted career marks in targets (97) and touchdown receptions (10) as the team’s home run hitter. However, the touchdown numbers, by far the most volatile stat to hold up as a reason for a players superstar status, mask a truly inefficient player. Ginn, owner of a career catch rate of 50.7%, snared a mere 45.4% of his targets in 2015. He tied for 11th in terms of wide receiver drops with seven. He cannot be counted upon to even come close to replicating his 2015 form, especially given his career average of 2 receptions a game.
Eagles Wide Receiver
What was I saying about the volatility of touchdowns? On paper, Randle had an OK season, finishing just outside of WR2 territory with 128 standard fantasy points. This high mark is helped by eight receiving touchdowns, including one in each of his last four games of the season. Take these scores away, however, and we have a player who had more than five catches in a game once, topped 100 yards receiving once, and caught fewer than 60% of his targets in eight games. All this, despite seeing five or more targets in every game from Week 3 onwards. As this author notes, Randle should find himself well down the pecking order in Philadelphia in 2016, where even the odd touchdown shouldn’t help his fantasy stock too much.
Packers Tight End
Like another player blessed with an alliterative name, Rodgers had a good fantasy season on paper, with his eight touchdown catches good for 5th among tight ends. The scores prop up a disappointing stock, as 16 tight ends accumulated more receiving yards than the 526 Rodgers amassed, and fifty (50!) tight ends averaged more yards per reception than Rodgers’ 9.1 mark. The Packers signed Jared Cook for a reason, folks, and that reason is these less than gaudy statistics.
Bears Tight End
You guys are going to start thinking I hate touchdowns. This couldn’t be further from the truth, I just acknowledge their fluky nature, and don’t use them as the bottom line when it comes to players abilities.
Zach Miller set a career high with five of them last year, tied for 9th among tight ends. But his reception and yardage totals are way down in the 20s. Miller has never played a full 16 game season, and even with Martellus Bennett out of the picture, I cannot envisage a situation where I would be comfortable selecting him in redraft on the back of five touchdowns. The Bears tried to sign Josh Hill, and have Rob Housler on the roster. This is not a team that is set at tight end, believe me.
Currently Free Agent RB
Hillman finished in comfortable RB2 airspace in 2015, thanks to his 863 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. But, like some of those players mentioned above, the scores greatly inflated his fantasy output. Hillman failed to top 50 yards in nine games, and he had six games in which he carried the ball ten or more times, but averaged less than four yards per carry. Given these statistics, it is something of mystery why the Broncos refused to turn over their offense to C.J. Anderson last season, but let us hope they resist the urge not to do so this year.
Bears Running Back
Matt Forte joining the New York Jets opened up the Bears backfield, with many expecting Jeremy Langford to be the next man up. Langford displayed a nose for the end zone in 2015, at one stage scoring in four consecutive games. But in his spot relief of Forte, Langford averaged 3.63 yards per carry, and failed to reach 100 rushing yards in a game. He saw the field for 75% or greater of the teams offensive snaps just twice, seeing less than half the action in four of his last nine games. 6 scores in a rookie campaign may be cause for optimism for some players, but when men like Mike Clay are expressing doubt over your effectiveness, you might not be what owners are looking for.
Cardinals Running Back
One of the early contenders for Comeback Player of the Year (the most nebulous award in the whole of professional sports, given that a player could comeback from injury, or simply being crap), like Freeman Johnson’s 2015 season can be broken down into two distinct phases. Johnson finished the season, before ending on I.R., with statistics of 814 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a spot at RB34 in standard scoring. From weeks 1-8, he rushed for 676 yards at 4.8 yards per carry, placing him in 6th place among fantasy running backs. Between weeks 10-12 though, he fell off a cliff. His 138 rushing yards came at a measly 2.5 yards per tote, and 40 running backs scored more fantasy points than. He has re-upped with the Cardinals, but has likely lost his starting job to the other Johnson.