Fantasy football is a tough game. In my opinion, the main reason is that player values change massively week to week in unpredictable ways. These things happen in baseball and basketball, but not nearly at the volume or frequency. There is no greater example of this in 2019 than Zach Ertz. During the pre-season Ertz was an obvious overvalue in the 3rd round. The Eagles had added weapons and gave every indication that they intended to spread the ball around. In the first 8 weeks of the season, Ertz averaged a pedestrian 7.87 targets per game and 8.36 half PPR FPPG. The Eagles have been decimated by injury at the wide receiver position, getting nothing from Desean Jackson, losing Alshon Jeffery, and Nelson Agholor becoming an injury report mainstay in the second half. All of this has added up to a material change in the use of Ertz. Ertz has averaged 11 targets per game and 17.06 half PPR FPPG since week 8. Ertz, with his heavily skewed recent target share, could end up surpassing his massive 2018 target total. He has a great opportunity to finish as the #1 fantasy tight end on the season and is now ranked as my #14 player for the rest of the season.
The question becomes, did we get Ertz right in the pre-season and fall into poor luck, or did we ignore the idea that the cream rises to the top? I think the easy answer to that question is the former, and many people who spend time evaluating fantasy football point in that direction when this occurs. However, there is something to be said for the recognition that there are several of these cases throughout the league. Situations in which the #1 talent in a complex pre-season situation is winning out. The 49ers were perceived as a team looking to spread the ball around going into the year, but George Kittle is on nearly the same per game points pace as 2018. His targets have gone down, but efficiency has gone up. The Lions added a rookie tight end and wanted to hammer the ball with Kerryon Johnson, but Kenny Golladay has already blown away his 2018-point total on the same target pace. Amari Cooper… Cooper Kupp… Keenan Allen… the list goes on of top options in spread it around offenses winning out to this point.
In last weeks data domination article, I pointed how teams are not force feeding #1 receivers air yards as they had in the past, and this adds another layer to that conversation going into 2020.
Here are the other big risers in the final ROS 80 of the 2019 season:
DJ Moore (#26) – Moore is an absolute freak. In a low target week 14 he still found a way to 81 receiving yards. He has two average matchups to finish out his age 22 season as a WR1 with a subpar quarterback. Moore is #4 in the NFL in targets among wide receivers, #8 in receptions, and #4 in receiving yardage. I can’t wait to see where he goes in 2020 after proving the quarterback position simply does not matter for his level of talent.
Raheem Mostert (#28): Mostert has performed in every opportunity he has been given this season to the tune of 6 yards per carry. He has shown an incredible burst. However, this ranking is based solely on Kyle Shannahan’s comments that Mostert has given them no choice but to give him more opportunities. The Niners are the best team in football at running the ball that doesn’t have a freak show at quarterback. If Mostert is going to get 12-15 carries he is a RB2 at bare minimum.
Allen Robinson (#29): I’m not sure there has been a better wide receiver in the past decade at hitting incredible statistical marks with bottom 10 quarterbacks in the league. Robinson has averaged 20 FPPG over the past 3 weeks and tougher matchups with the Packers and Chiefs don’t make me shy away. Robinson has been a WR1 thus far in the 2019 season, and I don’t expect that to change as we close the book on the year.
Austin Ekeler (#37) – A sneaky contender for weirdest story of the fantasy season is that the Chargers have strung together the following combination. They are going to finish at or below .500. They have a bottom half scoring offense in the league. The quarterback will not finish as a QB1. They will have an RB1 and an additional fringy RB1 in per game points. They will have a WR1, a WR3, and an elite tight end on a per game basis. I have no idea how that combination of factors occurs. Austin Ekeler (the RB1) has been incredible on a per touch basis for the past two years. He is somehow beating a sub-50% snap count and less than 15 touches per game, but it is time to recognize how good he has been whether the numbers add up or not.
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