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Stats Perform’s 2019 Fantasy Football Season Projections

By: Stats Perform

It is prime fantasy football draft season, making there no better time for Stats Perform to weigh in with its own analysis for the new campaign.

Our advanced analytics team has developed its own fantasy projections based on our proprietary data. Keep in mind that Stats Perform’s models predict who will score fantasy points, not who is the best player.

That’s because we heavily factor in opportunity as well as talent, so our feelings about how good a player is at football are not the same thing as how good they project as a fantasy player.

Stats Perform has pinpointed three players at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver that we project are either higher or lower than the consensus rankings among other experts. We’re using FantasyPros, which aggregates roughly the top 100 major fantasy ranking systems, to compare our projections with the others throughout the industry.

Our rankings are designed for standard-scoring leagues, though we do include references to other formats. With that, here are Stats Perform’s top undervalued or overvalued players.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, right, avoids a hit from Green Bay Packers linebacker Curtis Bolton during the first half of a NFL football preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Baltimore. 

We’ve ranked Jackson fourth among quarterbacks in a standard-scoring format whereas FantasyPros has him as the 13th. The reason is pretty simple: We expect Jackson to run more than most major fantasy websites.

In seven starts last year, Jackson averaged 79.4 yards on 17 rush attempts. Over 16 games, that projects to 272 carries and 1,271 yards. Throw in that Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he wants to get “medieval” with the rushing attack, and we just don’t feel comfortable predicting as much of a regression in Jackson’s running as other models.

We are much higher on Allen’s passing yards and touchdown totals than other websites mostly because of the Bills’ offensive line. Allen led the league in air yards per attempt last season (12.65) despite having a terrible line. Air yards per attempt is calculated by filtering out screens, shovel passes and other throws that aren’t down the field.

The Bills drafted offensive tackle Cody Ford from Oklahoma and signed three other free agents that project to start. Allen’s aggressive downfield throwing only resulted in a touchdown on 3.1% of his passes, but with better protection that number should improve. If he reaches last year’s league-average TD% of 4.8, he would throw roughly 24 touchdowns based on our projected number of attempts.

Like Jackson, we see Allen as a great fantasy option even though we might not be sold on him as a player. Both second-year quarterbacks have a high floor because of their ability to run and a higher ceiling than pure passing QBs when it comes to fantasy points.

We just flat-out love Prescott’s situation. He has a great offensive line in front of him, weapons all over the field, and has consistently run the ball for touchdowns. All of that gives Prescott a really solid floor, so we see him as a fantasy starter with good upside under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He could make big strides in his fourth year in the league.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019.

This may come as a shock to some, but the underlying metrics have yet to line up with the perception of Garoppolo as a starting-caliber quarterback. He could take a big step this year under Kyle Shanahan, but he also may be pushed for playing time by Nick Mullens if he does not perform. Factor in Garoppolo’s injury history, and we don’t project him to throw for more than 4,000 yards like most other rankings.

We disagree with the consensus on Murray for two reasons. First, we are slightly lower on his passing production. Secondly, he’s a rookie quarterback with basically no help.

Our 2018 rankings had the Cardinals’ offensive line 29th in pass blocking and their pass catchers 27th. With no obvious improvements in those areas, it is going to be hard for Murray to succeed.

Much like his predecessor at Oklahoma, Baker Mayfield, Murray often uses his legs to buy himself time, but we do not see him abandoning the pocket to run consistently. None of Kliff Kingsbury’s offenses at Texas Tech featured a lot of designed runs, so we have Murray attempting just 50 carries – 13thmost among quarterbacks. We do not necessarily dislike Murray as a player, but his situation does not seem conducive for big fantasy production.

Brees may still be great this year, but from a fantasy standpoint, we see him as a huge risk. The 40-year-old veteran does not run, significantly lowering his floor. And his performance tends to drop toward the end of the season – the most important time for fantasy owners. Brees bolstered his numbers last year because of a great TD/INT ratio, but it was his best touchdown percentage since 2011. If that falls, Brees will just not be a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback.

Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson rushes the ball in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Baltimore.

This obviously comes on the heels of Lamar Miller tearing his ACL. We already thought Johnson would be heavily featured from a PPR perspective, especially because in acquiring him, the Texans gave up the most draft capital for a running back in a trade since the Colts surrendered a first-round pick to get Trent Richardson from the Browns. With Miller out, he should get a ton of carries as well.

Our projections don’t love Lewis per se, but we think the hate has gone too far. The Titans did not have any notable additions in the backfield and Derrick Henry had just 15 receptions last season. Unless Henry becomes a much better receiver or is going to vault to 300 carries from his 215 in 2018 (which no one is projecting), we don’t expect Lewis’ volume to plummet drastically.

With offensive lineman Taylor Lewan missing the first few games, it might be tougher for the Titans to utilize Henry’s skill set early in the season. If you can grab Lewis, there’s a good chance he starts the year strong, and you can trade him once the Titans’ line is back to full strength in Week 5.

With running backs, there are very few safe picks outside of the top-tier guys. Stats Perform sees Barber as a low-end No. 2 running back because of his floor, but he is being taken as a bench player. His backup is Ronald Jones, who we do not expect to push Barber for carries. Even though Barber was not stellar by any means, Jones averaged 1.9 YPC in his rookie season and isn’t likely to take touches away from the bigger Barber near the goal line. Even if Barber is not particularly good, he is being undervalued as someone who should consistently receive double-digit carries.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) carries in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Minnesota Vikings in New Orleans, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

We still have Kamara ranked extremely high, but we do want to point out that our prediction for his season point total is consistently lower than other major fantasy websites because we predict Kamara to have major touchdown regression.

In order to generate touchdown predictions, we look at things like targets and touches in the red zone – which both suggest that Kamara has scored at an unsustainably high clip based on his opportunities. Latavius Murray is expected to take Mark Ingram’s touches, so we do not foresee a change in Kamara’s touch distribution. As a result, we have his projected total touchdowns at 9.6 rather than in the 13-16 range.

Some of the biggest draft websites disagree heavily on Freeman, and we are wary for a few reasons. First and foremost, he is a running back coming off season-ending groin surgery. That already makes spending a high fantasy pick on Freeman risky before we even get to our other concerns.

Ito Smith was by no means fantastic as a rookie, but he got 90 carries last year behind Tevin Coleman once Freeman went down and could be featured more if the Falcons want to give Freeman a slightly smaller workload.

Freeman’s fantasy production in previous seasons was bolstered by his ability to find the end zone. He had 29 rushing TDs from 2015-17 in large part because he had a ton of goal-line carries. We expect Freeman to have some natural regression to the mean, limiting his upside.

For Guice, it’s all about opportunity. Coming off a torn ACL, Guice is battling Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love and Chris Thompson for playing time. Peterson averaged 4.2 YPC on 251 rushes and tied for the league lead in broken tackles in 2018, so we don’t see him giving up the majority of the attempts to Guice.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (81) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens strong safety Tony Jefferson (23) during the first half of a NFL football preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Baltimore.

Allison was extremely efficient as the Packers’ third target last season before missing the final nine games. While his production came in a small sample size, Allison’s 75.86 Burn% led all NFL receivers with over 10 targets. He also averaged 12 yards per target, so we have high hopes for Allison as Aaron Rodgers’ second option if he stays healthy.

Wilson has the perfect mesh of talent and opportunity we look for in a “sleeper.” He makes the kind of big plays that usually score touchdowns and win fantasy weeks.

The Dolphins have no proven high-end receivers on the roster, so Wilson figures to become an integral part of the offense. His upside is just too high to be going as low as the 50th or 60th receiver in drafts.

In terms of playing style, Nick Foles’ most comparable quarterback is Tom Brady. To be clear, style does not mean quality. Brady is obviously the superior quarterback, but if you look at things like what areas of the field they tend to target, Foles and Brady play the position very similarly.

As a result, we like Westbrook’s upside because we think he can be Foles’ version of Julian Edelman. Westbrook should get a lot of targets, and Foles is extremely accurate. Plus, Westbrook has a history of getting involved in the run game on end-around plays, so he should be in a good situation to put up fantasy points.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.

Williams had 10 touchdowns on 66 targets last season, an impossibly high rate to sustain. With the return of Hunter Henry at tight end for Chargers, it’s unlikely that Williams is going to see a massive increase in volume.

Our advanced metrics do not see Robinson as a good match for a QB like Mitch Trubisky. His hands are great, but getting open is not something he’s ever specialized in. He’s a little like the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins in this way. The difference in projections is Trubisky.

When your greatest skill is overpowering your defender, you need the ball to be thrown within a small window. Anything off target and the receiver doesn’t get a chance to use his skill. If Trubisky improves his accuracy, Robinson could have a stellar season, but we’re not sold on the Bears’ young QB yet.

We also like a lot of the Bears’ other weapons. Tarik Cohen had the third-best Burn% of any running back with at least 30 targets, and we expect his performance to remain steady. Robinson is a No. 1 receiver in name only in an offense that likes to spread the ball around. That screams high variability and frustrated fantasy owners.

We fear that Kupp will regress for a few reasons. First, he’s coming off a torn ACL and Josh Reynolds could continue to get snaps after playing well in his absence last year. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are clear-cut top two receivers on the Rams, and we think better fantasy options. While we like Kupp as a player, we don’t like him in fantasy leagues.