Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy stats to know from Week 3

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 24: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after throwing an interception against the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Each week in this space, we’ll be taking a look back at Sunday’s games to find five of the most important stats for fantasy owners heading into the following week. With 15 of 16 games from Week 3 in the books, here are the five stats you need to know:

1. Cam Newton is averaging a 72.5 passer rating over his last 16 games. For perspective, Brock Osweiler averaged a 72.2 passer rating last season.

In Week 1, Sam Bradford set a career high in passer rating against the Saints (143.0), throwing for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In Week 2 against the Saints, Tom Brady threw for 447 yards (third-most for Brady in a regular season game), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In total, the Saints were allowing a passer rating of 141.4 heading into this game (worst), after ranking fourth-worst last season (98.0). To add further insult to injury, the Saints were also without two of their starting cornerbacks in rookie Marshon Lattimore (highlighted in this space last week) and Sterling Moore. In spite of everything seemingly working toward Newton’s advantage, his final stat line was horrific: 17 completions on 26 attempts, for 167 yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions. Sadly, the 2016-2017 Cam Newton looks a far cry from the MVP winner we saw just two years ago.

Understandably, he’s not far removed from shoulder surgery, and much of this stretch was while he was playing through the original injury, but I’m still fairly pessimistic regarding his fantasy potential moving forward. On top of losing Greg Olsen for the remainder of the season, he has been overly reliant on rushing production throughout his career, which is especially troubling considering his head coach wants to limit him (and has this year) as a runner.

2. Rookie running backs continue to look awesome.

Among all running backs to run at least 15 routes, Kareem Hunt leads in yards per route run (2.69). Among all running backs with at least 15 carries, Hunt ranks first in yards per carry (8.5), yards after contact per attempt (4.2), and missed tackles forced per carry (0.36). He also leads in PFF grade, missed tackles forced per touch, fantasy points per snap, and fantasy points per opportunity. While his raw volume numbers look low, he does rank second-best in percentage of team running back touches. Hunt is easily a top-three fantasy running back until further notice.

Through three weeks, Dalvin Cook ranks behind only Hunt in PFF run grade and total missed tackles forced. His 4.7 yards-per-carry average ranks third-best among all running backs with 40 carries, and is more impressive when factoring in Minnesota ranks bottom-10 in PFF’s run-blocking grade. Cook’s raw volume numbers have been encouraging as well, ranking behind only Todd Gurley in total touches.

Despite being both a rookie and a running back, Christian McCaffrey currently leads the Panthers in targets (22), receptions (18), and receiving yardage (173). The large bulk of this production (11 targets, nine receptions, and 101 yards) came Sunday against the Saints with Kelvin Benjamin missing due to (a reportedly minor) injury, but as Newton continues to struggle (see stat No. 1), McCaffrey should continue to be peppered with targets as Newton’s primary check-down receiver.

Under new first-week offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, Joe Mixon led Cincinnati’s running backs in carries with 17 (10 more than next-closest) and targets with four (two more than next-closest). Although he averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, he was still the team's highest-graded running back for the week. The volume alone is a very positive sign for Mixon’s fantasy prospects going forward.

3. Tom Brady has 1,092 yards, eight touchdowns, and zero interceptions through three weeks. This is just the fourth time a quarterback has hit the quadruple-digit yardage mark and totaled at least eight touchdowns with zero interceptions through the first three weeks of the season. The only quarterbacks accomplish this feat are Brady (twice) and Peyton Manning (twice).

After completing just 44 percent of his passes in a shaky Week 1, Brady is back doing Brady-like things. Not much further analysis needed.

4. Odell Beckham Jr. averages 0.82 touchdowns per game. This ranks best among all receivers since 1950.

OBJ is back! Or, at the very least, the production is back. Beckham saw 13 targets, catching nine for 79 yards and two touchdowns, despite coming into the week still dealing with a high ankle sprain. After seeing five targets and 61 percent of the snaps in Week 2, Beckham saw 13 targets and played on 83 percent of the snaps in Week 3. The above highlighted stat is important, because even if Beckham is still fairly banged up (he didn’t look it to me), he still retains value as an elite red-zone threat. He needs to be started every week he’s active.

5. Amari Cooper currently leads all receivers in dropped passes with six, while the next-closest receiver only has three. Cooper has dropped a whopping 37.5 percent of his catchable targets this season.

Since 2007, there have only been three players to see at least 100 targets and still post a drop rate of 17 percent or worse: Braylon Edwards (2007 and 2008), Greg Little (2011), and Amari Cooper (2015). This was a big concern for me heading into 2016 fantasy drafts, after Cooper’s rookie season, but Cooper would eventually alleviate those concerns. After dropping 18 targets in 2015, he would drop just four passes in all of 2016. Unfortunately for us, it seems those frustrating concentration drops are back, as he’s dropped a pass in three consecutive games. In terms of expected fantasy points, Cooper’s drops have cost him 13.9 points, or the difference between him ranking 25th at the position instead of 50th. I worry this may also have negatively impacted his workload near the end zone, which was already a concern for Cooper. Cooper saw four targets inside of the 10-yard line in Week 1, but dropped two of them, and hasn't been targeted within 20 yards of the end zone since.


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