The XFP Report: Week 12

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The XFP Report: Week 12

Hello, and welcome to the Week 12 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 11 weeks of action, here are the top-25 players in expected fantasy points (XFP) per game:

The Top 25

Elijah Moore, WR, New York Jets
[FPG: 12.0, XFP: 11.8, Diff: +0.2]

Oh boy. Has it finally happened? The true Elijah Moore breakout we’ve long awaited?

Since Week 8, Moore leads all wide receivers in fantasy points scored, averaging 20.9 FPG. Over this span, he ranks 4th in YPRR (2.92) and 2nd in PFF grade (86.7). And he’s been the single most efficient WR in fantasy over this stretch, exceeding his volume-based expectation by a whopping 61%.

He’s now hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 5 games, and 25.0-plus fantasy points in 2 of his last 3 games. That seems… I don’t know… Good?

But up until last week, Moore’s production felt somewhat flukey. Or at least, hard to trust. Over the prior three weeks, Moore was clearly and inexplicably just a part-time player, running a route on only 51% of his team’s dropbacks. And, keep in mind, the team was without Corey Davis in two of those three games. But last week, Moore’s route-share jumped to 82%. And he looked dominant in that new full-time role, turning a team-high 11 targets into 8 catches for 141 yards and a score (plus 15 rushing yards on one carry).

What took so long? I have no idea.

I’m now back fully on board the Elijah Moore hype-train, but in order for him to come anywhere near Exodia-status, like I dreamed of this offseason, we need competent QB-play from Zach Wilson. We need him to be only Joe Flacco-, Mike White-, or Josh Johnson-levels of bad, rather than “worst QB in football”-bad. Because Moore averages just 5.0 FPG in Wilson starts, but 20.9 FPG without him. So, that seems to be the one thing that could derail the Elijah Moore hype-train and breakout campaign.

But, even with my distrust of Wilson, you’re still starting Moore this week as a mid-range WR2. He gets a pillow-soft matchup against a Texans defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.8).

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
[FPG: 14.2, XFP: 14.6, Diff: -0.5]

This season, Waddle has been the intended target on 24.6% of Tua Tagovailoa’s throws. That ranks well ahead of the next-closest Miami receiver (Mike Gesicki, 16.3%), and would rank 13th among all receivers. Clearly, their rapport has carried over from the Alabama days.

In addition to better target volume with Tagovailoa (24.6% target share vs. 19.1% with Jacoby Brissett), Waddle is also seeing significantly better target quality (8.2 aDOT vs. 5.4).

Waddle now ranks as the overall WR5 since Week 6, averaging 10.2 targets and 16.4 FPG over this span. In Tagovailoa’s five full games, Waddle is averaging 9.3 targets and 17.4 FPG. And, without DeVante Parker, that jumps to 10.0 targets and 21.7 FPG in a small three-game sample.

Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
[FPG: 16.0, XFP: 14.4, Diff: +1.6]

Since Week 6, Freiermuth ranks 6th in targets per game (7.4), 4th in XFP/G (13.6), and 4th in FPG (13.5). He’s seen at least 6 targets in 5 of 5 games over this span, or at least 7 targets in 4 of 5. He has 4 touchdowns over his last 4 games, and has also hit double-digit fantasy points in 4 of his last 5 games.

Keep in mind, TE Eric Ebron played in 3 of these 5 games, and when he was out, Freiermuth averaged 17.9 FPG, and his route share jumped from 57% to 70%. With Ebron now out for an extended period of time — potentially the remainder of the season — Friermuth needs to be viewed as an every-week TE1.

Dontrell Hilliard, RB, Tennessee Titans
[FPG: 9.5, XFP: 9.5, Diff: 0.0]

Hilliard was signed off his couch and hadn’t played a single snap all year, until last week, when he scored 16.2 fantasy points on a 19.3-point expectation (8th-best among all RBs). On a 63% snap share, he earned 7 of 24 carries and 10 of 13 targets out of the backfield. And now Adrian Peterson, who had 2 targets and a team-high 9 carries last week, has been cut from the team.

So, what do we make of this? Is Hilliard now the newest iteration of James Conner, Darrel Williams, D’Ernest Johnson, Mark Ingram, Rhamondre Strevenson, etc.? Which is to say, is he the new former-backup now turned multi-week bell cow here to save your Zero-RB teams? No. Almost definitely not.

There were a few confounding factors that went into this big game. A.J. Brown, dealing with injuries, ran a route on just 44% of the team’s dropbacks. The team’s typical scatback Jeremy McNichols missed the game with a concussion. And Tennessee trailed on 90% of their offensive plays. You may remember, in Tennessee’s only two other losses, McNichols averaged 1.5 carries, 8.0 targets, 5.5 receptions, and 59.0 YFS per game.

So, Hilliard probably isn’t worth rostering, merely serving as the understudy to McNichols. But McNichols probably is, whether in deeper PPR leagues or maybe even in DFS in weeks Tennessee enters as underdogs. As we’ve seen all year (e.g. Conner, Williams, Johnson, Ingram, Stevenson, etc.) a depleted backfield can turn lower-tier talents into fantasy studs for a few weeks, so long as the volume is good and the offense isn’t wholly inept. With Peterson now out of the picture, I’d be viewing McNichols similarly to the second-half of 2020-version of J.D. McKissic (following the Antonio Gibson injury). Which is to say, he’s a great bet for nearly double-digit targets in games with predominantly negative gamescript. And this is a great week to test out that theory, as Tennessee enters as 6.5-point underdogs against a Patriots defense that has surrendered the 4th-most receiving FPG (13.5) to enemy RBs.

If McNichols (concussion) can’t play… well, maybe Hilliard gets a chance to seize that role and ride with it.

Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears
[FPG: 12.5, XFP: 12.3, Diff: +0.1]

Last week, without Allen Robinson, Mooney ranked 2nd-best among all WRs in XFP (25.0), earning a 41% share of the team’s total XFP, which ranked 2nd-most by any WR in any week this season. He commanded a whopping 16 targets (48% target share) and 228 air yards (most on the week), but caught only 5 passes. Still, he gained 121 yards and scored a touchdown, good for 23.1 fantasy points (4th-most on the week).

Even with Robinson healthy, Mooney appeared to be the team’s true WR1. And now, without Robinson, he really looked like a WR1, capable of commanding high-end WR1-levels of volume.

Across the full season, Mooney ranks 33rd in FPG (12.5) and 42nd in XFP/G (12.3). But Robinson ranks 80th (7.8) and 53rd (12.3).

Regardless of Robinson’s status (or Justin Fields’), Mooney should be started this week, as a high-end WR2, against a Lions defense that ranks worst in YPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep targets (77.4) and 8th-worst in YPT allowed to opposing outside WRs (1.93).

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins
[FPG: 12.2, XFP: 15.0, Diff: -2.8]

Here’s the good news: Gaskin scored 18.6 fantasy points last week. And, over the last three weeks, Gaskin ranks 3rd among all RBs in XFP/G (20.7). Over this span, he’s handled 58 of 69 carries (84%), 14 of 17 targets (82%), and 12 of 13 10-zone opportunities (92%) out of Miami’s backfield. Add it all up, and that’s good for an 85% share of the backfield XFP, which would rank 2nd-best among all RBs if over the full season.

Here’s the bad news: I don’t think he’s very good. He ranks just 24th in FPG over the last three weeks (13.6). He’s the 2nd-most inefficient RB in fantasy, falling 30.8 fantasy points short (-19%) of his volume-based expectation. And even last week, against a generationally bad New York Jets run defense, Gaskin fell 9.5 fantasy points shy of his volume-based expectation. (He fell short of his expectation by exactly 9.5 fantasy points the week prior as well.) The Jets are giving up a league-high +13.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs, which is nearly double the worst defense from the 2020 season. And though Gaskin’s 18.6 fantasy points seems good, it’s dreadfully poor in contrast to the pillow-soft matchup, and the fact that he totaled 28.1 XFP (3rd-most among RBs on the week).

So, if he was still woefully inefficient against the Jets, that doesn’t really inspire much confidence moving forward. And now he gets a Panthers defense that ranks 2nd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (-6.1). So, in spite of the newfound bell cow workload, you’re only starting him this week as a low-end RB2.

and beyond that, who knows, now that the Dolphins have signed RB Phillip Lindsay. Given how poorly Gaskin has played, I’d bet that’s going to be a legitimate hit to his season-long value.

Dawson Knox, TE, Buffalo Bills
[FPG: 12.0, XFP: 9.0, Diff: +2.8]

Last week, I had this to say of Dawson Knox:

I still maintain that Knox should be viewed almost no differently from 2020 Robert Tonyan.

Knox ranks 7th among all TEs in FPG (11.8), but is averaging only 4.0 targets per game (24th). Last season, Tonyan finished as the overall TE3 despite ranking just 24th in total targets (3.7 targets per game). His 2.99 fantasy points per target average was the most by any 50-target TE in any season all-time. And Knox is just barely behind that mark this year, averaging 2.94 fantasy points per target.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is this: I don’t totally trust Knox, just like I never totally trusted Tonyan last year. And I’m expecting a heavy regression to the mean. But in spite of that, I still think we have to view Knox as an every-week TE1. In part due to the lack of depth at the TE position, and because he’s a key hyper-efficient cog in the juggernaut-like Bills passing attack-wheel.

And, in any case, I’m not expecting the regression to come this week. Buffalo has a massive 28.5-point implied total, and the Colts rank 3rd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG (+4.9). So, fire up Knox as a mid- to low-end TE1 this week.

And well, last week Knox didn’t look much like 2020 Robert Tonyan, and he didn’t look a lot like Dawson Knox either. He earned a career-high 10 targets (up from a prior career-high of 8) and a career-high 95% route share (up from 78%). And he caught 6 of those 10 targets for 80 yards.

Obviously, last week’s matchup was ideal, and so maybe that played into the dramatic jump in usage. Or, Cole Beasley’s nagging ribs injury was a factor. But, still, this is very encouraging. Knox is still due for a massive efficiency regression, but he can help offset that with an increase in volume.

Mike Williams vs. Keenan Allen

Through the Chargers’ first 5 games of the season, Allen ranked 4th in XFP/G (19.9) and Williams ranked 6th (19.3). By FPG, Allen ranked just 21st (15.4) and Williams ranked 3rd (22.8).

At this point in time, I was shouting from the rooftops that Allen was a screaming buy-low candidate and a top-3 top positive regression candidate. I was certainly vindicated in that regard, but I also said that I felt confident in Williams returning WR1-levels of production throughout the remainder of the season. And, though I’m confident he turns things around, that seems nearly impossible now.

Over Los Angeles’ last five games, Allen has bested Williams in XFP in all five games. Over this span, he ranks 8th in XFP/G (18.2), while Williams ranks 41st (11.9). By FPG, Allen ranks 11th (18.0) and Williams ranks 57th (8.9).

But I am optimistic Williams will turn things around. He’s hit at least 20 fantasy points in five games (3rd-most), though he averages just 5.2 FPG in his other five games.

The good news is, I think all of his down-games (minus one) can be easily explained away. Williams dealt with a knee injury for several weeks during this down-stretch, and he also had a brutal CB matchup in all of his worst games (minus one) — shadow coverage from Casey Hayward in Week 4 (2.1 fantasy points), he played on only 36% of the snaps in Week 6 due to injury (4.7 fantasy points), shadow coverage from J.C. Jackson in Week 8 (3.9 fantasy points), and shadow coverage from Darius Slay in Week 9 (7.8 fantasy points). I’m not sure why he flopped in Week 10 against the Vikings (7.3 fantasy points), but I suppose he’s allowed one inexplicable down-game.

From here on out, I’m viewing Williams as high-end WR2 for fantasy, but one that is very boom-or-bust and matchup dependent. (HC Brandon Staley strikes me as the type of coach to always attack a defense’s vulnerabilities and steer clear of their strengths, so when Williams is shadowed by a top-5 CB, that’s going to be Allen in the slot.)

This will be a good litmus test as Denver doesn’t have any CBs who will shadow. And they rank 11th-worst in FPG allowed to outside WRs (22.6) and 13th-worst to slot WRs (13.8). So, this should be a favorable matchup to both Williams and Allen.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
[FPG: 9.2, XFP: 12.4, Diff: -3.2]

Last week, despite Tony Jones’ return, and the team being down both of their two starting tackles, Ingram again received a full-on bell cow workload, and again hit 3.0X value on DraftKings. He scored 16.3 fantasy points on a 22.6-point expectation (6th-most), earning 16 of 20 carries, 9 of 10 targets, and 2 of 2 10-zone opportunities out of the backfield.

Since 2019, New Orleans’ non-Kamara RB1 has averaged: 19.2 carries, 7.0 targets, and 25.3 DK FPG, hitting at least 100 YFS in 5 of 5 games (averaging 127.0).

Neither Kamara nor Ingram were able to practice on Tuesday, and while Kamara is out, Ingram is listed as questionable. If both are out, I’ll be all-in on Tony Jones for DFS. The allure of a Sean Payton bell cow at $4,000 is just too attractive to ignore; everything else (e.g. the risk of a committee, the matchup, the ownership, etc.) be damned.

The matchup is tough on-paper, against the Bills, but maybe only on paper — Derrick Henry dropped 35.6 fantasy points against the Bills in Week 6. Over Buffalo’s next two games, Miami’s RBs and Jacksonville’s RBs (without James Robinson) collectively averaged just 11.8 FPG, but those aren’t exactly intimidating or even competent backfields. In Week 10, New York Jets RBs dropped 32.3, which was 36% more than their season-long average. And then, as we all know, Taylor scored 53.4 fantasy points against the Bills last week.

Quick Hits

Updating our section on Jonathan Taylor from last week: Taylor averages an astounding 29.6 FPG since Week 5. That leads all players at all positions (by +5.6)… He hit a career-high in XFP in Week 11 (29.5). And that also represented 45% of his team’s total XFP, which ranked most by any RB in any week this season… His XFP totals over the last two weeks rank 1st and 3rd best in his career, and, by snap share, best and 2nd-best in his career… As we’ve been saying for nearly a month now, which is now obvious to just about everyone in the world, he’s looking like an all-time league-winner, on par with 2017-2018 Todd Gurley. And that’s how he should be viewed for DFS as well. Which is to say, he has massive slate-busting upside every week and totally independent of the individual matchup.

Although Joe Mixon is smashing for fantasy, posting 4 top-5 fantasy finishes over his last 5 games, his role really hasn’t been as good as we were promised. He’s not the bell cow we were hoping for; rather his role hasn’t changed at all from 2020, with Samaje Perine serving as the team’s new Giovani Bernard. He’s scoring more fantasy points, yes, but that’s because his gamescript is significantly improved, and the offense as a whole is significantly improved as well (more sustained drives, more scoring opportunities, etc.). Mixon has handled 79% of the team’s carries but just 48% of the targets out of the backfield, which comes out to just 68% of the backfield XFP (10th-most). And, so, with Perine stealing about 50% of the passing-down work, Mixon is going to continue to be highly-volatile and gamescript dependent on a week-to-week basis. Since 2018, Mixon averages 22.4 FPG in wins but only 13.9 FPG in losses.

James Conner, however, is an uber-bell cow. Or at least he has been without Chase Edmonds in the lineup. Over the last three weeks, he’s averaged 18.0 carries, 5.3 targets, 20.7 XFP (RB4), and 25.1 FPG (RB4), while handling 82% of the backfield XFP (RB6).

As JMtoWin has been saying on our weekly podcast, one of the most underrated dub-stacks in DFS is Aaron Rodgers stacked with Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Over the past two seasons, Adams and MVS have a 0.11 positive correlation. You can contrast that to Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf at -0.32… If you played that stack last week, and ran it back with Justin Jefferson (which seems obvious now in hindsight), you would have scored 135.5 DK fantasy points from just those four players… Last week, and among all WRs, MVS ranked 6th in fantasy points scored (22.3), 5th in XFP (21.6), and 1st in deep targets (5). And, well, that's sort of why he’s always in play for GPPs, and why he’s always been so boom-or-bust. Those deep targets are highly volatile plays. The conversion rate is low, but he just needs to catch one to break the slate, like he did last week… Over the past two seasons MVS averages 19.8 FPG in his 7 best games (35% of his targeted games), but just 3.8 FPG in all other games.

Michael Gallup ranked 8th in XFP last week (18.4), but scored only 9.4 fantasy points. And that's been a common theme, as he's fallen short of his expectation in every game thus far — -9.0 in Week 11, -4.1 in Week 10, and -8.2 in Week 1. Still, his volume has been excellent. If he had his Week 11 route share (5%) in Weeks 1 and 10 (injury games), he’d be averaging about 11.9 targets, 21.7 XFP, and 11.5 fantasy points per four quarters.

Since Tee Higgins’ return to action in Week 5, Ja’Marr Chase ranks 11th in XFP/G (17.3) and Higgins ranks 28th (13.7). By FPG, over the same span, Chase ranks 7th (18.8), while Higgins ranks 54th (10.0). So, why has Higgins been DFS chalk every single week over this stretch? I have no idea.

Mike Evans averages 19.6 DK FPG over his last 9 games. If excluding just one game (shadow coverage against Darius Slay in Week 6), then Evans averages 21.5 DK FPG over this span, with a low of just 12.8 DK fantasy points (another tough matchup, against Marshon Lattimore's shadow coverage). For perspective, 21.5 DK FPG would rank behind only Cooper Kupp (27.7), Deebo Samuel (22.6), and Tyreek Hill (21.8). Though, this week, he’s priced as just the WR7 on a shortened slate, up against a Colts defense that ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (+8.7).

Top Regression Candidates

Most Fantasy Points Negated by Penalty

1. Jonathan Taylor, RB (15.1) 2. Najee Harris, RB (14.7) 3. Mark Andrews, TE (14.4) 4. Dallas Goedert, TE (13.6) 5. Derrick Henry, RB (12.0) 6. Kenny Stills, WR (11.6) 7. Keenan Allen, WR (11.5) 8. Austin Ekeler, RB (11.2) 9. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (10.8) 9. Josh Jacobs, RB (10.8)

RB Team XFP%

1. Alvin Kamara (29.5%)

2. Christian McCaffrey (28.0%)

3. Derrick Henry (27.8%)

4. D’Andre Swift (25.6%)

5. Najee Harris (25.5%)

6. Jonathan Taylor (25.1%)

7. Dalvin Cook (23.2%)

8. Joe Mixon (22.0%)

9. Aaron Jones (21.7%)

10. Austin Ekeler (21.2%)

RB Team Pos XFP% (The Bell Cow Stat)

1. Najee Harris (90.0%)

2. Dalvin Cook (82.2%)

3. Alvin Kamara (78.9%)

4. Derrick Henry (77.6%)

5. Austin Ekeler (75.8%)

6. Darrell Henderson (73.8%)

7. David Montgomery (72.8%)

8. James Robi nson (72.5%)

9. D’Andre Swift (69.6%)

10. Joe Mixon (68.1%)

WR / TE Team XFP%

1. Davante Adams, WR (27.4%)

2. Cooper Kupp, WR (26.4%)

3. Diontae Johnson, WR (25.6%)

4. Tyreek Hill, WR (24.0%)

5. Deebo Samuel, WR (23.7%)

5. Calvin Ridley, WR (23.7%)

7. Brandin Cooks, WR (23.3%)

8. Tyler Lockett, WR (23.2%)

9. Keenan Allen, WR (22.9%)

10. Terry McLaurin, WR (22.2%)

DFS Values (DK)

1. DeVante Parker, WR (4.14X)

2. Calvin Ridley, WR (3.98X)

3. Diontae Johnson, WR (3.20X)

4. Sterling Shepard, WR (3.17X)

5. Jared Cook, TE (2.93X)

6. Brandin Cooks, WR (2.75X)

7. Mike Williams, WR (2.74X)

8. Aaron Jones, RB (2.72X)

9. Darrell Henderson, RB (2.68X)

9. Myles Gaskin, RB (2.68X)

11. Corey Davis, WR (2.67X)

11. Antonio Brown, WR (2.67X)

13. Najee Harris, RB (2.66X)

14. Chase Claypool, WR (2.64X)

15. Tee Higgins, WR (2.63X)

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as Fantasy Points’ Chief Executive Officer.

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