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Notable 2019 Second-Half Performances & 2020 Impact (Fantasy Football)

Jul 22, 2020

Owners need to temper expectations of Ryan Tannehill moving forward.

Fantasy football, whether redraft or dynasty, is a “What have you done for me lately?” world. Despite knowing better, in creeps our little friend commonly referred to as recency bias. It is human nature to only remember how a certain player performed over the last few weeks of a season and we see these late-season standouts every year. In 2017, it was Keelan Cole, Nelson Agholor, and Alex Collins. In 2018, we saw Damien Williams and Robby Anderson contribute to many fantasy championships. 2019 was no different, but it is our job as fantasy football owners to be able to decide which trends will continue and which were simply a mirage. While the players that we will be discussing might not be as random as the late-season stars mentioned above, it is still important to understand why their breakout happened and if it can continue.

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Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN) (2020 ECR: QB17)

  • Weeks 6-13 in 2019: QB10
  • Weeks 14-16 in 2019: QB4 (77.38 points)

Ryan Tannehill is coming off one of the most efficient quarterback seasons in recent memory. Looking at all quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks in 2019, Tannehill ranked 1st in NFL passer rating, 1st in yards per attempt, 2nd in touchdown percentage, all while leading his team to the highest red zone touchdown efficiency in 2019 (77.36%), which is 10% higher than Green Bay, who finished the season in 2nd. Not only were fantasy owners greatly appreciative of Ryan Tannehill’s career year, but the Tennessee Titans were as well. They showed their appreciation by extending Tannehill through 2023 with $91M guaranteed.

What changed?

While Ryan Tannehill was extremely efficient weeks 6 through 13, it was not until week 14 that he really flourished. During week 14 through 16, Tannehill ranked 1st with a staggering 10.5 yards per attempt and 1st among all quarterbacks per PFF passer grades. What caused this change? This coincides with the emergence of A.J. Brown. In the below chart, you can see Brown’s split from weeks 6 through 13 compared to weeks 14 through 16.

Weeks 6-13
(Min. 30 targets)
Weeks 14-16
(Min. 20 targets)
Targets 51st (35) T-21st (22)
Rec. % 40th (62.9) T-19th (63.6)
Receiving Yards 37th (376) 3rd (301)
Touchdowns T-30th (2) T-2nd (3)
YAC/Rec. 3rd (7.8) 1st (8.9)

 

Can this be sustained?

There are a few things that have me extremely hesitant to expect Ryan Tannehill to continue down that QB4 path that we saw from weeks 14 through 16 in 2019. While Tannehill had a career year in many regards, much of his success came from his receivers’ ability to create after the catch. Titans’ receivers had a stunning 6.2 yards after the catch per completion in 2019 with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. For context, the top team over the course of the entire 2019 season was the San Francisco 49ers at 5.9 yards after the catch per completion.

Ryan Tannehill also benefited from competent receiving with only seven drops throughout 2019, which was the 2nd fewest of all quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks. As mentioned above, the Titans had a historic 2019 when it comes to red zone touchdown efficiency. When talking about regression, which you will hear quite often when referring to the Titans, Ryan Tannehill outperformed his expected RZ touchdowns by 5, which was the 2nd most over expectation.

2020 Outlook

I actually do not mind Ryan Tannehill’s 2020 Expert Consensus Ranking of QB16, but we cannot project him at the absolute ceiling that we saw in 2019. On a run-heavy Titans offense that just extended Derrick Henry, we cannot expect an increase in passing attempts in 2020. With the limited opportunity for Ryan Tannehill in terms of pure passing volume, the expected decrease in red-zone efficiency, and the potential for reduced yards after catch from this receiving corps, owners need to temper expectations moving forward.

Robert Woods (WR – LAR) (2020 ECR: WR16)

  • Weeks 1-9 in 2019: WR31
  • Weeks 10-16 in 2019: WR7 (114.1 PPR Points)

Every year we see players of all positions drop down fantasy owners’ draft boards simply because they are not seen as a sexy pick. In comes Robert Woods. Woods has consistently been one of the most disrespected wide receivers year in and year out despite constantly outperforming his ADP over his first 3 years in Los Angeles. Despite getting off to a rocky start in 2019, we saw Robert Woods close out the fantasy season averaging 19 PPR fantasy points per game (T-3rd) over weeks 10 through 16.

What changed?

As mentioned above, Robert Woods left much to be desired through the first 9 weeks of 2019.

Weeks 1-9
(Min. 50 targets)
Weeks 10-16
(Min. 50 targets)
Targets T-23rd (57) T-8th (60)
Reception % 20th (66.7) 2nd (75)
Receiving Yards 28th (471) 5th (596)
PPR Rank WR31 WR7

 
When looking at such a drastic turnaround mid-season, something had to happen… right?

While the Los Angeles Rams are known to be one of the offenses that throw out of “11” personnel (3 wide receiver sets) at the highest rate in the league, we did see a slight shift as the season progressed. From weeks 1 through 9, the Rams threw out of “12” personnel (2 wide receivers) only 6% of the time and that number increased to 15% weeks 10 through 16.

With the shift in personnel packages, we saw a reduction in slot percentage for Robert Woods as the season progressed. From weeks 1 through 9, Woods ran 40.8% of his routes out of the slot with that number dropping to 27.4% from weeks 10 through 16.

Typically, when there is a drastic change in production at any point during the season, we can attribute it to some type of uptick in weekly snap count. In this case, Robert Woods’ snap count was fairly consistent when comparing the 1st 9 weeks vs. weeks 10-16. However, that story is slightly different for Brandin Cooks.

Brandin Cooks’ 2019 weekly snap percentage

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
92% 97% 89% 90% 64% 98%
Week 7 Week 12 Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16
78% 78% 77% 39% 71% 59%

 

Can this be sustained?

While it is easy to get caught up in a player’s fantastic end of season run, and they often come up short in future seasons, sometimes that level of production can be sustained. With the expected continued shift in personnel packages and the need for increased production from the remaining pass-catching options in Los Angeles, there is no reason to believe that Robert Woods will not be closer to WR7 than WR31 in 2020.

2020 Outlook

As fantasy owners, we tend to be highly skeptical and look for reasons to not be drawn to these less than flashy assets. This is one of the situations where we need to put our biases aside and look to invest in Robert Woods in both dynasty and redraft. With the departure of Brandin Cooks and a decrease in slot usage, Robert Woods will be one of the more reliable wide receiver options in 2020. While his FantasyPros Expert Consensus Ranking of WR16 is fair, with his stable floor and clear upside in an offense that will be forced to throw the ball, Robert Woods is a no brainer at his current price in all formats.

Notes: Weekly snap count information from footballguys.com, statistics from PFF.com and pro-football-reference.com, 2019 rankings, and 2020 ECR from here at FantasyPros.

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John Bauer is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from John, check out his archive or follow him @TheBauerClub.

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