The XFP Report: Week 11

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The XFP Report: Week 11

Hello, and welcome to the Week 11 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 10 weeks of action, here are the top-25 players in expected fantasy points (XFP) per game:

The Top 25

D’Andre Swift, RB, Detroit Lions
[FPG: 18.2, XFP: 19.6, Diff: -1.4]

Even when Jamaal Williams was healthy, Swift was proving to be one of the best picks you could have made in your 2021 fantasy draft.

Through the first seven weeks, Swift ranked 5th in XFP/G (19.3) and 5th in FPG (19.6). Keep in mind, that was with Williams stealing about 35% of the snaps and 34% of the XFP out of the backfield, though both numbers were steadily falling (in Swift’s favor).

In the two games since, without Williams, Swift has been a full-on bell cow. In Week 9, a 38-point blowout loss, Swift played on 95% of the team’s snaps through the first three quarters. In Week 10, Swift played on 93% of the snaps, earning 33 carries and 7 targets (24% target share). This sort of usage is exceedingly rare — there are only five other instances of a RB getting 30-plus carries and 5-plus targets in a single game since 2017. All of this added up to a 27.7-point expectation (2nd-most on the week), though Swift scored only 16.3 fantasy points in a bottom-3 on paper matchup.

Even with Williams active, you could argue Swift should be viewed almost no differently from Austin Ekeler, a high-end fantasy RB1 who can put up WR4 numbers as a receiver and fringe-RB1 numbers as a rusher. And with Williams out, Swift should be viewed almost no differently from peak Alvin Kamara.

So, keep all that in mind this week. Swift’s matchup, against the Browns, is only neutral on paper, but looks significantly improved in contrast to his Week 10 matchup against the Steelers. If we’re expecting 93% of the work again this week, it’s worth a boost of about +4.4 FPG.

Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos
[FPG: 10.1, XFP: 11.2, Diff: -1.1]

By my favorite RB-stat (also the stickiest and most-predictive), Williams is easily the most efficient RB in football — he leads all of 83-qualifying RBs in missed tackles forced per touch (0.34), one year after setting the PFF NCAA record (0.47).

And, so, my hope is that Williams eventually gains a stranglehold over this backfield; Denver demotes Melvin Gordon to backup duties and lets Williams run free as the team’s true bell cow.

And that happens a lot. On average, rookie RBs see a 54% jump in carries, a 40% jump in targets, and a 50% jump in fantasy points across the second half of their rookie season. And of the rookies who made the greatest second-half leap, most were similarly highly-efficient and highly-regarded rookies carrying high-end draft capital.

But is there any evidence that Denver holds the same hope as I do? Well, for the first time this season, Williams out-snapped Gordon, but he was still capped at just 55% of the team’s snaps. This has been a near perfectly even committee for the entirety of the season (and in Week 10 as well), with Williams handling just 47% of the XFP out of the backfield. But, unfortunately, Gordon has been excellent this year, out-scoring his volume-based expectation by 7%, while Williams has fallen short of his expectation by 10%.

But the good news, though it may seem a little bleak at this juncture, Williams’ upside is sky-high should he take over this backfield. If his backfield XFP% jumped from 47% to 70% he’d rank 11th in XFP/G. If it jumped to 80%, he’d rank 7th-best.

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
[FPG: 17.5, XFP: 16.9, Diff: +0.6]

The #SqueakyWheelNarrative hit big for Jefferson in Week 10, who caught 9 of 11 targets for 143 yards. If including plays negated due to penalty, he actually saw 13 targets, one shy of a career-high, and totaled 26.9 XFP (a season-high and most by any WR on the week).

He now ranks 12th in XFP/G (16.9) and 10th in FPG (17.5). And, through 25 career games, Jefferson totals 2,175 receiving yards, the 2nd-most by any player all-time.

Yeah, so, he’s a beast. But I will say you should probably temper your expectations across the next few weeks, and throughout the remainder of the season. He gets Green Bay, San Francisco, and Detroit the next three weeks. And they rank, respectively, best, 5th-best, and 12th-best by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WRs over the last five weeks of the season. In real terms, his remaining schedule is worth -4.3 FPG off of a perfectly-neutral schedule, and his postseason schedule is even worse, worth -5.2.

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
[FPG: 21.5, XFP: 18.4, Diff: +3.1]

I’ll spare you a lengthy write up just because we wrote 500-plus words on Taylor in this space last week. So, I’ll just say, our thesis proved exactly correct.

In Week 10, Taylor earned a career-high 84% of the team’s snaps, handling 23 of 25 carries and 8 of 12 targets out of the backfield. That latter stat (pointing at the increase in pass-game usage), is absolutely crucial, and hints at a newfound lack of gamescript-dependence. Those 8 targets were a career-high, and are typically worth, in weighted opportunity terms, about 12.9 fantasy points, or 8.1 fantasy points more that what he’s typically received (3.0 targets per game).

Since Week 4, Taylor leads all players at all positions in FPG (26.1), with +2.9 more than the next-closest RB (Alvin Kamara). And he’s finished top-6 at the position in fantasy points in 6 of the last 6 weeks.

If he’s not the most-valuable player in fantasy, he’s at least top-3, in a small tier alongside Cooper Kupp and Christian McCaffrey.

Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens
[FPG: 17.8, XFP: 17.0, Diff: +0.8]

Brown ranks 11th among all WRs in XFP/G (17.0) and 7th in FPG (17.8). And although he flopped last week, scoring just 9.7 fantasy points, I’m more encouraged now than ever before.

That’s because Brown walked away with 25.2 XFP (2nd-most on the week), on the back of 15 targets, 165 air yards, and 3 deep targets.

Over the last four weeks, Brown leads all players at all positions in XFP/G, averaging 25.6. He’s finished 1st, 3rd, and 2nd among all WRs in each of his last three games, averaging 14.3 targets, 186.7 air yards, and 3.3 deep targets per game over this span.

This is partly a function of negative gamescript, with Baltimore trailing on 68% of their plays over this span. Keep in mind, Baltimore led all teams in point differential over the prior two seasons (+414), and with an astounding 58% more than the next-closest team. Baltimore has been forced to fully abandon the run, due to this increase in negative gamescript, but also because they’ve found little success with their string of backups. This has led Jackson to throw 40-plus times in 3 of his last 5 games, though he’s reached that mark just one other time in his four-year career.

And, clearly, Brown has been the primary beneficiary. Though, I’d temper expectations this week. The on-paper matchup is slightly above average — the Bears rank middle of the pack in FPG allowed to outside WRs, though 5th-worst in FPG allowed to WRs on deep passes — but Baltimore is favored by 6.0-points.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
[FPG: 19.8, XFP: 20.2, Diff: -0.4]

CMC is back!

Although he played on just 59% of the team’s snaps (but 71% in the first half), he saw 13 carries and 10 targets (10 catches), totaling 161 YFS. This was good for 26.1 fantasy points (4th-most among RBs), though, keep in mind, he didn’t even score a touchdown. And he only played two snaps in the fourth quarter. And he was tackled three separate times inside the 2-yard-line, and had he scored, would have added an additional +18 fantasy points to his monster outing.

If excluding Week 3 and Week 9 due to injury, McCaffrey has now finished top-2 at the position (by fantasy points scored) in 9 of his last 20 games (45%). Top-6 in 17 of his last 20 games (85%), And top-8 in 19 of 20 (95%).

He’s a freak. And should be the highest ranked flex-eligible player in our projections every week moving forward.

James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
[FPG: 16.0, XFP: 14.4, Diff: +1.6]

Robinson came into last week’s game seriously hurt; a true gametime decision. He was clearly a bit limited, playing on only 59% of the team’s snaps, and still, he walked away with 84 YFS on the back of 12 carries and 5 targets.

This was an unspectacular but highly encouraging performance. And I think, as soon as he’s off the injury report, you have to view him exactly as you would the James Robinson of 2020 (who finished 5th at the position in FPG, and in spite of his team’s 1-15 record).

In his last game prior to injury, Robinson played on 85% of the team’s snaps (2nd-most), handling 17 of 17 carries and 4 of 5 targets out of the backfield. Over his last five weeks prior to injury, he averaged 17.3 carries, 4.0 targets, 2.5 10-zone opportunities (3rd), 17.3 XFP (9th), and 21.7 FPG (5th). Meanwhile, Carlos Hyde’s snap share had declined in three straight games over this span (33% to 26% to 13%).

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
[FPG: 18.9, XFP: 14.9, Diff: +4.0]

Three weeks ago in this space, we talked about how Chase was not only the most efficient player in fantasy, but the most efficient player I’ve ever seen in my database which spans 15 NFL seasons.

I wrote, “An efficiency regression is inevitable. Now that’s not to say Chase can’t continue to produce like an easy WR1. Just that his efficiency numbers, as they stand, are totally unsustainable. He may not regress in terms of raw production (he’ll just need more volume to do so), but his efficiency surely will.” And well, the efficiency regression hit Chase like a Mack Truck in Week 9.

Chase actually led all WRs in XFP, totaling 28.7 on the back of 2 rushing attempts, 14 targets, 175 air yards, 2 end zone targets, and 4 deep targets. And yet, he scored only 10.9 fantasy points. Up until then, Chase was out-scoring his expectation by 6.7 FPG. But in Week 9, he fell 17.8 points short, which was the worst differential by any player in any week this season.

The bad news is, like I said, the efficiency regression was inevitable. The good news is, I closed out my analysis with this, “He’s probably going to continue to rank top-10 in PAR throughout the remainder of the season, but probably not quite this high. And he could be the overall WR1 by season’s end, but he’ll need better volume to accomplish that feat." And he is now seeing much better volume; the sort of volume he’d need to see in order to justify a top-5 weekly ranking.

Since Week 7, Ja’Marr Chase ranks 4th in XFP per game (behind only Marquise Brown, Tyreek Hill, and Cooper Kupp), averaging 20.7 XFP/G (up from 12.0 XFP per game). And since Tee Higgins has returned from injury in Week 5, Chase ranks 7th in XFP per game (18.0), while Higgins ranks 22nd (15.2). So, it seems he’s clearly leapfrogged and is now running laps around Higgins as the team’s true alpha WR1. And, so long as this newfound boost in volume isn’t a fluke (it doesn’t seem like it), he should continue to be ranked as an every-week top-5 fantasy WR And a top-3 overall finish is well within his reach.

But, all of this being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Higgins outscores Chase this week. I’d expect (because remember, he’s the team’s true alpha WR1) PFF’s No. 10-graded CB Casey Hayward to shadow Chase, leaving Higgins in the far more advantageous matchup.

Brandin Cooks, WR, Houston Texans
[FPG: 14.8, XFP:17.0, Diff: -2.2]

Cooks saw tremendous volume in Week 9 (prior to his bye), but had little to show for it. He finished the week 2nd in XFP, totaling 24.7, on the back of 14 targets, 135 air yards, 3 end zone targets, and 1 deep target. But he scored only 11.4 fantasy points. A discrepancy like that (-13.3 points) isn’t going to happen too often, and I will say he’s a positive regression candidate, but only slightly so. Rather, I think we should expect Cooks to continue to rank well below average in points above replacement (PAR).

This down-game came in a matchup against a Miami defense that ranks 3rd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs. So, that’s a little alarming. You can play devil’s advocate by noting that Cooks did run 43% of his routes lined up against Xavien Howard. However, Howard has given up 18.7 FPG in his four shadow games this year (Stefon Diggs x2, Henry Ruggs, and Antonio Brown), so maybe that’s not a great excuse.

More than anything, I think this is just what you need to expect with Cooks moving forward. He’s the only serviceable player on a woefully inefficient and bottom-3 offense, and thus, the only player opposing defenses really need to account for. So, I think we should expect good volume, but poor efficiency throughout the remainder of the season.

Cooks ranks 8th in yardage share (27%), 5th in XFP% (24%), 9th in targets per game (10.0), 10th in XFP per game (17.0), and 23rd in FPG (14.8). So, low-end WR1 volume, low-end WR2 production, bottom-20-overall efficiency. I’d say that feels about right, though I might view him as a mid-range rather than low-end WR2 moving forward.

That said, I’d expect a bounce-back game this week. The Titans rank worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs, and 5th-worst against opposing WR1s (18.5). After flopping in another top-5 matchup before his bye, he’s admittedly tough to trust in cash, but he remains an excellent GPP-play every week, having hit 17.5 fantasy points in 5 (3rd-most) of his 9 games. (Though he averages only 8.4 FPG in his other 4 games.)

Quick Hits

A somber shoutout to those of you who played Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf in DFS last week. Lockett ranked 7th in XFP (21.8), and led the position in air yards (218) and deep targets (5). Metcalf ranked 10th (18.3), earning 10 targets (one more than Lockett) and 132 air yards. Of course, Lockett was the least-efficient WR of the week (-17.5 PAR), and Metcalf ranked 3rd-worst (-12.7). Together they combined for just 9.9 fantasy points on a 40.1-point expectation… If this wasn’t easily the worst game of Russell Wilson’s career, you could have been in line for a massively profitable day. But, alas, it was the worst game of Wilson’s career, or at least the first time he was ever shut out. Perhaps his finger still isn’t quite right, or perhaps he was just rusty from the extended absence, but just know that better days surely lie ahead.

Antonio Gibson had an absolutely brutal Week 10 matchup; 9.5-point underdogs against the league’s best run defense. I was also worried about the stress fracture in his shin. I was told this is something that is only going to get worse (not better) and he’s going to have to fight through this injury for the remainder of the season. To make matters worse, in his last game prior to the bye, Gibson’s already declining snap share fell to just 33% (from 42%), and he was out-carried by the team’s other RBs 14 to 8, and out-targeted 9 to 3…. And so, understandably, I wrote Gibson up as a “sit”, and I felt good about it. What happened next? Gibson played on 62% of the team’s snaps (most since Week 2), handling 24 of 30 carries, 2 of 6 targets, and 4 of 4 opportunities inside the 5-yard-line. This was good for 22.9 XFP (6th-most), which he turned into 21.8 fantasy points (7th-most)… I’m not sure what to make of this, but due to my massive Gibson exposure, I’m at least hoping this means he’s turned a corner in his recovery and is nearing full health.

At various intervals, rookies Elijah Moore and DeVonta Smith both ranked as one of the five least-efficient WRs in fantasy. Moore was averaging a PAR of -7.4 FPG through his first four games, but that’s jumped to +4.7 over the last four weeks. Heading into Week 9, DeVonta Smith had finished in the red in 7 straight games, averaging a PAR of -4.7 FPG. But he’s exceeded his volume-based expectation by 10.0 or more points in back to back games, ranking as the single-most efficient player in fantasy over this span… I must say, this is all very encouraging. Remember, rookie WRs tend to make a massive leap in the second-half of their rookie season… However, from a DFS perspective, I’m not quite ready to fall in love with Moore all over again. Among all WRs, Moore ranks 5th in fantasy points, 26th in targets, and just 40th in routes run. So, I’ll need to see his 51% route share jump back up before I fully buy in. Though, I suppose, it is worth noting that Joe Flacco will be starting this week, and he’s targeted Elijah Moore on two of his three pass attempts this year (2-40-1)… Smith’s situation is a little more easy to buy into, however. He’s run a route on 92% of the team’s dropbacks over the last two weeks, and has led his team in targets in both games.

I’ve long trashed Hunter Renfrow, who looks exactly like my cousin who works in insurance. And is also probably the same height and weight, and is comparably athletic. But, that said, it’s pretty impressive he can do things like this. And he has seen an uptick in usage and volume following the release of Henry Ruggs. And so, I’m really starting to buy into the notion that he may be able to put up starter-worthy numbers throughout the remainder of the season… Since Week 7, Renfrow ranks 15th in XFP/G (16.8) and 15th in FPG (16.1). He’s one of only six WRs to hit at least 16.0 XFP in each of his last three games. And he hit a season-high in route share in Week 10 (85%).

Over Tampa Bay’s last four victories, Leonard Fournette has played on 65% of the snaps, averaging 20.6 XFP and 21.4 FPG. Both numbers would rank top-3 if over the full season… But Tampa Bay didn’t win last week. They lost 19-29 and trailed throughout. And still, Fournette saw shockingly good usage. I would have expected more usage from Giovani Bernard (the supposed scatback), but he only played on 30% of the team’s snaps. And Ronald Jones only played on 1 snap… In total, Fournette played on 65% of the team’s snaps, earning 11 of 12 carries and 9 of 12 targets out of the backfield. So, now, we have to rank Fournette quite a bit higher on the bell cow spectrum. 9 targets is exquisite usage for a RB in any situation… He’s still fairly gamescript dependent in my eyes, but something like a mid-RB1 in victories and a high-end RB2 even in losses. And, so, maybe a fringe-RB1 overall…

Updating our blurb from last week, CeeDee Lamb has now led Dallas’ WRs in 8 of his last 9 games. He’s very clearly the team’s WR1… After last week’s monster performance (scoring 28.6 fantasy points on a 16.3-point expectation), he now ranks 13th in XFP/G (16.8) and 9th in FPG (17.6)… Interestingly, Lamb also ran a season-high 70% of his routes from the slot, up from 23%. If that’s his new role, look for softer matchups and more fantasy points moving forward.

Top Regression Candidates

Most Fantasy Points Negated by Penalty

1. Jonathan Taylor, RB (15.1) 2. Najee Harris, RB (13.4) 3. Mark Andrews, TE (12.9) 4. Derrick Henry, RB (12.0) 5. Kenny Stills, WR (11.6) 6. Keenan Allen, WR (11.5) 7. Josh Jacobs, RB (10.8) 7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (10.8) 9. Donald Parham, TE (10.6) 10. Khalil Herbert, RB (10.1)

RB Team XFP%

1. Alvin Kamara (30%)

2. Derrick Henry (28%)

3. Christian McCaffrey (27%)

4. Najee Harris (26%)

5. D’Andre Swift (26%)

6. Jonathan Taylor (23%)

7. Dalvin Cook (23%)

8. Joe Mixon (22%)

9. Aaron Jones (22%)

10. David Montgomery (21%)

11. Austin Ekeler (21%)

12. Ezekiel Elliott (20%)

RB Team Pos XFP% (The Bell Cow Stat)

1. Najee Harris (91%)

2. Dalvin Cook (82%)

3. Alvin Kamara (79%)

4. Derrick Henry (78%)

5. Austin Ekeler (74%)

6. Darrell Henderson (74%)

7. James Robinson (71%)

8. David Montgomery (71%)

9. D’Andre Swift (69%)

10. Joe Mixon (68%)

11. Chris Carson (68%)

12. Jonathan Taylor (64%)

WR / TE Team XFP%

1. Davante Adams, WR (28%)

2. Cooper Kupp, WR (26%)

3. Diontae Johnson, WR (26%)

4. Deebo Samuel, WR (25%)

5. Brandin Cooks, WR (24%)

6. Tyler Lockett, WR (24%)

7. Tyreek Hill, WR (24%)

8. Calvin Ridley, WR (24%)

9. Keenan Allen, WR (23%)

10. Terry McLaurin, WR (22%)

11. D.J. Moore, WR (22%)

12. Ja’Marr Chase, WR (22%)

DFS Values (DK)

1. DeVante Parker, WR (3.9X) 2. Michael Gallup, WR (3.2X) 3. Derrick Henry, RB (3.1X) 4. Tee Higgins, WR (2.8X) 5. Brandin Cooks, WR (2.8X) 6. D.J. Moore, WR (2.8X) 7. D’Andre Swift, WR (2.8X) 8. Laviska Shenault, WR (2.8X) 9. Darren Waller, TE (2.7X) 10. Mecole Hardman, WR (2.7X)

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and Lead DFS Writer.