Hello, and welcome to the Week 15 XFP Report. If you’re unfamiliar with XFP, I’ll get to that in a little bit.
But basically, every week we’re going to be telling you which players are seeing the best volume for fantasy, as measured by Expected Fantasy Points (XFP). We’ll be telling you who the best buy-low and sell-high candidates are, as measured by Points Above Replacement (PAR), or the differential between actual- and expected fantasy points. This is an especially effective approach in DFS, where players are typically priced by production rather than volume, though PAR will regress to the mean. And (at the end of the article) we’re going to be telling you who the best volume-per-dollar DFS plays are.
What is XFP?
Premium subscribers can access XFP (and other advanced stats like air yards, deep targets, end zone targets) here.
Expected fantasy points (XFP) is flat-out the best and most comprehensive way of measuring a player’s volume. It’s telling you – based on a player’s unique usage – how many fantasy points that player should have scored. It’s telling you how many fantasy points a perfectly league-average RB, WR, or TE would have scored with that same exact volume. It looks at every individual carry by down and distance and distance from the end zone and every individual target by depth of target and distance from the end zone, and then cross-references each carry and target to each carry and target with those specific qualifiers over a multi-year sample to tell you what exactly those carries and targets are worth (historically).
Expected touchdowns (XTD), same thing. RBs score from the one-yard line on 54% of their attempts. RBs score from the 17-yard line only 3.6% of the time. So why ever use “red zone carries,” which treats both carries the same, as a fantasy stat? I have no idea.
Why doesn’t everyone point to XFP in their fantasy research? I have no idea. Once you have XFP and XTD you can contrast that with a player’s actual fantasy points or actual touchdown total to tell you how efficient a player has been (PAR). This is especially useful in highlighting regression candidates, buy-low targets, and mispriced players for DFS.
Through 14 weeks of action, here are the top-25 players in expected fantasy points (XFP) per game:
Top Regression Candidates (Positive)
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (-3.9)
2. Myles Gaskin, RB (-2.5)
3. DJ Chark Jr., WR (-2.3)
4. Julian Edelman, WR (-2.3)
5. Michael Gallup, WR (-2.3)
6. Joe Mixon, RB (-2.3)
7. Devin Singletary, RB (-2.2)
8. J.D. McKissic, RB (-2.2)
9. Michael Thomas, WR (-1.8)
10. Antonio Brown, WR (-1.6)
Top Regression Candidates (Negative)
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB (+7.4)
2. Tyreek Hill, WR (+5.8)
3. Davante Adams, WR (+5.5)
4. Travis Kelce, TE (+4.9)
5. Robert Tonyan, TE (+4.9)
6. Will Fuller, WR (+4.8)
7. Alvin Kamara, RB (+4.6)
8. Nick Chubb, RB (+4.5)
9. DK Metcalf, WR (+4.5)
10. A.J. Brown, WR (+4.4)
David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears
Montgomery has long been an XFP buy-low / regression candidate – in other words, he’s long seen good volume but failed to capitalize on it – but he’s finally capitalizing on it. He’s hit 25.0 DK FP in back-to-back-to-back games, but also in back-to-back-to-back pillow-soft matchups. By FDFP, these were, respectively, the 2nd-best (25.1), best (23.0) and 3rd-best (22.8) games of his 28-game career. He’s played on 78% of the team’s snaps since Week 5 and averages 17.3 XFP and 17.7 FPG over this span. For perspective, those numbers rank 1st-, 3rd-, and 6th-most over this span.
What’s the cause of Montgomery’s recent upsurge in production? Is he finally just hitting the regression we’ve long awaited? Does it have something to do with Bill Lazor being anointed as the team’s offensive play-caller immediately prior to this 3-game hot stretch? Or was it Cody Whitehair moving from C to LG right before this streak? Or was it entirely due to Montgomery’s schedule?
Probably all of the above, but mostly the latter. By my data, Montgomery’s last 3 opponents were worth a boost about 6.1 FPG over his expectation. His strength of schedule across his first 9 games was worth -2.6 FPG. Montgomery averaged 12.3 FPG across his first 9 games, and 25.6 since (difference of 13.3 FPG). So, again, probably mostly the matchup but there are other factors at play here.
His matchup this week is fairly tough – Minnesota ranks 12th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (-1.2).
Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Akers was one of my must-draft targets for a large bulk of the offseason. And it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride. He earned 15 touches and the start in Week 1. Things were looking good. He earned the start again in Week 2, but suffered a serious multi-week rib injury immediately after seeing the first 3 RB touches of the game. He struggled to see the field after that, but burst back onto our radar in Week 12, turning just 9 carries into 84 yards and a score.
Since then, Akers has played on 71% of the team’s snaps, averaging 25.0 carries, 2.0 targets, 144.0 YFS, 20.8 XFP, and 19.2 FPG. Akers ranked 7th in XFP in Week 13, and 3rd in Week 14. He ranked 2nd in Snap% in Week 14 (79%). Over this span, he’s handled 79% of the XFP out of the backfield (90% in Week 14). If he managed a 79% of the backfield XFP throughout the whole season, he’d be averaging 18.9 XFP per game. Or what would rank 2nd-most among all RBs to play at least 7 games.
So, what’s going on? Is he who we drafted him to be – the rightful heir to Todd Gurley, beasting in a bell bow workload when it matters most (during the fantasy playoffs). I don’t know for sure. Sean McVay’s quotes were pretty discouraging at the end of last week’s game. But the good and bad news is we’ve learned by now we can never trust him. And, luckily, Akers’ Week 15 matchup has made things easy on us. The Rams are favored by 17.0-points against the Jets. So, there’s no way you can bench him in the spot. I have him ranked as a borderline-RB1 this week.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
The Cam Akers-rollercoaster ride is like Disney’s Mad Tea Party in comparison to Jonathan Taylor’s Kingda Ka. Throughout the offseason, Taylor was always a little too expensive for my liking, likely to be stuck in a 3-way committee with Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines for the near-entirety of the season. But then Marlon Mack suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1. Taylor earned a bell cow workload in Week 2 (76% of the backfield XFP) and was productive with that good volume, scoring 19.0 fantasy points. I quickly anointed him a league-winner. What happened next? From Weeks 3-10, Taylor averaged just 10.6 XFP and 10.6 FPG. He hit a high of only 11.7 XFP over those 7 games, earning just 38% of the XFP out of the backfield. However, over the last 3 weeks, Taylor is averaging 18.3 carries, 3.0 targets, 6.02 YPC, 138.0 YFS, and 22.8 FPG.
What’s going on? Which take is right? Might he still prove to be a league-winner down the stretch when it matters most? I don’t know, but I’m not as optimistic as I am with Akers. Akers has clearly seen bell cow usage over the last few weeks, but Taylor quite clearly has not. Instead, he’s merely been productive and efficient in spite of it. Taylor played on just 56% of the snaps last week (and just 49% in Week 13), well off of his Week 2 high (67%). He earned just 48% of the backfield XFP last week (and just 44% in Week 13), again well off of his Week 2 high (76%). Keep in mind, this was a game well suited to Taylor’s strengths – Indianapolis led throughout and won 44-27. Taylor has also benefited from an extremely soft schedule over this stretch – actually the position’s softest schedule over this stretch, worth a boost of 6.0 FPG to Indianapolis’ RBs.
Could the coaching staff reward Taylor and gift him a bell cow workload down the stretch? Absolutely. But I’m still wary. Luckily, like with Akers, it doesn’t really matter. You’re starting Taylor with confidence as a mid-range RB1 this week. The Colts are favored by 7.5-points against a Houston defense that ranks worst in FPG allowed (31.6), worst in rushing FPG allowed (21.2) and worst in YPC allowed (5.38) to opposing RBs.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Last week Deebo Samuel played on just 1 snap before succumbing to injury, and Aiyuk clearly benefited from his absence. He ranked 2nd among all players in XFP, totaling 25.2 on 16 targets. And he was productive with that volume, scoring 24.9 DK FP. We wrote him up as a borderline must-play for DFS, so maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Here are some crazy stats (now updated) that led up to that call:
Since Week 3, Justin Jefferson ranks 19th in XFP (13.8) and 7th in FPG (18.5). Since Week 7, he ranks 18th in XFP (14.4) and 14th in FPG (16.5)
Since Week 3, Aiyuk ranks 8th in XFP (16.0) and 12th in FPG (17.1). Since Week 7, he ranks 3rd in XFP (19.6) and 3rd in FPG (20.5).
Aiyuk has long been dominating Jefferson in volume (by XFP). And Since Week 3, he’s been returning 92% of Jefferson’s production (by FPG). Since Week 7, 124%. And yet, he’s just 86% of Jefferson’s salary on DraftKings this week, priced as only the 17th-most expensive WR on the slate. Again, even though he ranks top-3 in volume and production over the last 8 weeks of the season.
We’ve long been viewing Jefferson as one of the best picks you could have made in the offseason. And as one of the most exciting and electric rookie WRs in some time. But we haven’t been doing that with Aiyuk, even though he’s been right there with him. And I don’t really know why.
Over his last 5 games, he averages 11.2 targets, 99.0 receiving yards (low of 75), and 21.7 DK FPG (low of 19.7). With WR Deebo Samuel reportedly “out a while”, and up against a Dallas defense that has given up a league-high 22 touchdowns to opposing WRs, you’re starting Aiyuk with confidence this week as a high-end WR2.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
In 5 healthy starts with Justin Herbert under center, Ekeler is playing on 65% of the team’s snaps, averaging 13.0 carries, 9.8 targets, 21.8 XFP, and 21.7 FPG. For perspective, 21.8 XFP per game would rank behind only Christian McCaffrey. It’s also far better volume than Ekeler saw in games without Melvin Gordon last year (18.7), you know, when he was the only fantasy option coming anywhere near Christian McCaffrey (26.8 FPG). And it’s significantly better volume than he saw once Gordon returned (13.8), you know, when he was still putting up easy RB1 numbers (16.8 FPG). Ekeler’s 21.3 FPG average would also rank 4th-most among RBs, but if Ekeler remains as efficient as he’s always been, we should be expecting much more. He’s consistently ranked as one of the 3 most-efficient RBs in fantasy football, and ranks as the most-efficient fantasy RB since entering the league.
Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Last week we talked about Tyreek Hill as Exodia, but Kelce may ultimately prove to be – not just one of – but *the most* valuable fantasy asset of the season. Hill ranks 2nd among all WRs in FPG (23.3) but Kelce would rank right behind him (20.7). Factor in positional value, and it’s not hard to see the edge he gives you over all your opponents (who are, you know, not getting high-end WR1 production from their TEs). Excluding George Kittle (injury), Kelce out-scores the next-closest TE (Darren Waller) by 4.7 FPG. The No. 3 TE (T.J. Hockenson) by 8.4 FPG. That’s about the difference between the No. 3 WR (Stefon Diggs) and the WR ranking 51st in FPG (Christian Kirk). Kelce outscores the No. 10 TE (Logan Thomas) by 11.0 FPG. That’s about the difference between the No. 3 WR (Diggs) and the WR ranking 84th (Damiere Byrd).
Other / Notes / Quick Hits
- Dalvin Cook was far and away the league’s most-efficient fantasy player from Weeks 1-9, outscoring his expectation by 9.6 FPG, and finishing with a PAR of +2.4 or better in all 7 games. Since then, he’s finished negative in PAR for 5 straight games, averaging 5.1 FPG less than his per-game expectation. I’m not sure when Alexander Mattison (appendectomy) is going to be back, but if it’s this week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cook receive a diminished workload in an effort to better preserve him down the stretch.
- Is Alvin Kamara back? He might be. He scored 22.4 fantasy points on a 22.0 point expectation last week, playing on 71% of the snaps, earning 11 carries and 11 targets. In Taysom Hill’s other 3 starts, Kamara averaged 9.9 XFP, 11.5 FPG, 13.0 carries, and 2.0 targets on 55% of the snaps.
- I’m fairly confident TJ Hockenson is poised for a slate-busting game. Hockenson has exceeded 50 receiving yards in 8 games this year, as much as Darren Waller and George Kittle combined. He’s seeing phenomenal target-quality, earning 7 targets inside of the 5-yard-line (2nd-most among receivers). But – with Kenny Golladay out – he’s now paired that with good target-volume. Excluding Week 10 (due to injury), Hockenson has seen at least 7 targets in each of his last 6 games. He’s hit double-digit XFP in each of his last 6 games and double-digit fantasy points in each of his last 7 games. Over this span, he averages 15.1 XFP, 14.1 fantasy points, and 8.8 targets per game. Compare this to Darren Waller over the same stretch, who averages 15.0 XFP, 16.5 FPG, and 8.9 targets per game.
- Since Week 12, T.Y. Hilton ranks 20th in XFP (14.7) and 3rd in FPG (22.9). Over the same span, Jarvis Landry ranks 9th (18.7) and 6th (19.9).
- Were you there for the K.J. Hamler regression game in Week 14? After spending some time hyping him up on the Saturday podcast, I ended up with zero ownership. He had come into the game as one of fantasy football’s least-efficient players, falling short of his volume-based expectation by 15.8 points. And then the regression hit in a big way – he scored 22.6 fantasy points on just a 5.8-point expectation (3 targets, 92 air yards). That one game made a big difference, bumping his PAR up from -1.8 to +0.1.
- DJ Chark ranks 4th in air yards per game (102.2), 16th in XFP per game (14.0), 24th in targets per game (7.5), and just 42nd in FPG (11.6). Yeah, that’s not good, but he’s still a strong regression candidate. Especially with Gardner Minshew re-announced as the team’s starting QB.
- Mitchell Trubisky has targeted Allen Robinson on 29% of his throws this season, compared to Nick Foles’ 22%. Robinson averages just 7.6 targets, 71.2 air yards, 11.8 XFP, and 13.5 FPG over his last 5 games with Foles under center. However, over his last 13 games with Trubisky, he averages 10.8 targets, 113.6 air yards, 18.9 XFP, and 19.4 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 3rd, 3rd, 2nd, and 4th-best.
- Here’s what we said about Nelson Agholor last week: “Agholor was the league’s least-efficient player in Week 13, scoring just 7.8 fantasy points on a 21.5-point expectation (-13.7 PAR). Maybe that’s worrisome because it came against the Jets who are playing backups at all 3 CB spots. Or maybe it’s encouraging because that is good volume. He averages 15.6 XFP since Week 11, which ranks 17th-most among WRs. He continues to be too volatile to start in start/sit leagues but is someone to keep in mind for DFS tournaments.” What happened? He scored 24.0 DK FP on a 17.8-point expectation and ended up on the winning Milly Maker lineup. Since Week 11, he ranks 13th in XFP (16.1) and 22nd in FPG (15.0). Henry Ruggs will miss Thursday’s game against the Chargers.
Top DFS XFP Values (DraftKings)
1. Michael Gallup, WR (3.3X)
2. Denzel Mims, WR (3.3X)
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (3.1X)
4. Zach Ertz, TE (3.1X)
5. CeeDee Lamb, WR (3.0X)
6. Myles Gaskin, RB (3.0X)
7. Dalton Schultz, TE (2.9X)
8. Jamison Crowder, WR (2.9X)
9. Hayden Hurts, TE (2.8X)
10. Greg Ward, WR (2.8X)