Team Trends That Will Help You Win (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Teams rise and fall every year in the fantasy world. It’s simply the nature of the game. The Miami Dolphins went from having barely a single startable fantasy asset in 2018 to a plethora of options in the passing game in 2019, including Fitzpatrick, Parker, Williams, and Gesicki.
Now, what if I told you that you could easily identify that team this year? Throughout the past five years, there have been some rock-solid trends for teams that not only pass or run more, but also teams that score more.
Players on these teams are prime candidates with higher than expected ceilings. The indicators I’m referring to are thresholds of passing attempts, points per game, Vegas win odds, and offensive line adjustments. Let’s take a closer look and see the qualifiers in 2020.
Trends that Matter
These four trends all have various meanings for pass volume, run volume, points scored, etc. Below, I’ll identify what the trends mean from 2019 heading into 2020 by providing the criteria for a condition being met and the subsequent results.
Trend No. 1
Condition: Teams that have fewer than 500 pass attempts.
Result: 12 of 13 teams (92%) increased with an average of 63 more total pass attempts.
2020 Qualifiers: Redskins, Vikings, 49ers, Ravens, Titans.
The Redskins and Vikings shifted both offensive coordinators and personnel, which indicate potential changes to their pass-to-run ratio aside from just this trend. Look for receivers like Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Adam Thielen, and rookie Justin Jefferson to benefit most.
Want a cheat code to finding more passing volume in an offense? 👇
12 of 13 (92%) teams that qualify increased their passing volume, with an average of 63(!) more pass attempts 🤯
– Redskins 😍
*data last 4 years pic.twitter.com/g94IYtH4nV
— David Zach (@DavidZach16) June 11, 2020
Trend No. 2
Condition: Teams that scored fewer than 17 points or more than 30 points per game.
Result: If they scored less than 17, 8 of 9 (89%) teams increased with an average of 6.9 more points per game. If they scored more than 30, 4 of 4 (100%) decreased with an average of 6.5 less points per game.
2020 Qualifiers: Redskins (16.6), Ravens (31.9).
A very useful trend. The Cardinals, Bills, and Jaguars all scored fewer than 17 PPG in 2018, and they increased by 8.5, 2.8, and 3.5 PPG, respectively in 2019.
For teams over 30, it’s a small sample size when compared to the rest, but the average of 6.5 less PPG is very significant nonetheless. The Ravens will still be a high-scoring team, they’re just unlikely to be as record-setting as they were in 2019.
Which team is a virtual lock to score more in 2020?
Why am I repeatedly bringing up Redskins' players as fantasy gems? (see passing growth tweet)
8 of 9 teams (89%) that scored under 17 PPG improved their scoring by a full touchdown per game! 👇
– Redskins 😏 pic.twitter.com/c7D4iCX726
— David Zach (@DavidZach16) June 30, 2020
Trend No. 3
Condition: Vegas win projections significantly different from the year before.
Result: Teams that win more, score more PPG (R-squared of 0.52 last four years), and vice versa.
2020 Qualifiers: Lions (+3.5 win change), Bengals (+3.5), Packers (-4), Saints (-3).
These four teams have the largest difference from 2019 to 2020 in their projected win totals. If Vegas is near correct, which they are tend to be, then these teams’ average points per game could change drastically. Considering Matthew Stafford’s return, Joe Burrow taking over, and the Packers drafting for the next paradigm shift in Jordan Love and A.J. Dillon, these all seem quite reasonable.
Trend No. 4
Condition: Offensive line rankings change.
Result: Better offensive lines lead to more points per game and vice versa.
2020 Qualifiers: Chargers(+), Browns(+), Packers(-), Titans(-), Eagles(-).
While it has the weakest correlation of the four conditions, it has picked up steam, especially last year. A few of these teams took players directly from each other (Jack Conklin from the Titans to the Browns, and Bryan Bulaga from the Packers to the Chargers), while the Eagles lost tackle Jason Peters in free agency and guard Brandon Brooks to injury. Cap expenditures and high-round picks are also being considered and can be found in the tweet below.
O-line play impacts on Fantasy 👇
2019 saw a big jump in how o-line changes impacted team PPG, which could be very useful in fantasy targets.
Guys like @4for4_John have correctly identified teams who dropped in PPG by these changes (red line) in his article linked below.
— David Zach (@DavidZach16) June 10, 2020
Putting it All Together
Based on the above trends and combining factors, here are the top changes you can expect in 2020.
1. The Redskins will pass (and score) a lot more.
New coaches Rivera and Turner come from a system that featured the second-most pass attempts in 2019. Combined with the first two trends listed above, and all arrows point up for second-year players Haskins, McLaurin, and Sims after they added very little reinforcements for them to compete with.
2. The Ravens and Packers are very likely to score less.
The first two trends tell us that regression is coming for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson was already due for a drop in his own fantasy performance, and this confirms it. Of course, he is still an elite option, but his ADP may be inflated so tread with caution. Don’t expect repeat numbers that break records again.
The last two trends suggest that the Packers will hit a significant downward spiral this season with fewer projected wins and a worse offensive line. Their management drafted core replacements for Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones, and this lower scoring projection suggests a lesser year for them both on the touchdown front.
3. The Chargers and Browns are heavy favorites to score more.
They both improved their offensive lines via additions and cap expenditures, plus they have higher Vegas win projections. More wins and better offensive lines also mean more rushing. With an ambiguous quarterback situation between Taylor and Herbert, the Chargers might lean more on Austin Ekeler and the running backs as both trends boost the backfield’s upside.
The Browns got Kevin Stefanski as a coach, and he just ran at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL last year with the Vikings. A run-centric coach, higher win total, and a better offensive line all suggest that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could be in for massive workloads.
There are more takeaways to be considered than I explicitly listed, but the five teams above were hits in multiple categories that have reliably forecasted volume and scoring developments in the past.
This will be an evergreen article barring any drastic efficiency changes in the NFL landscape, so keep it in mind for the affected positional groups in 2020 and beyond.
Thanks for reading and stay golden! If you like what you learned, follow me @DavidZach16 for more interesting stats and tidbits throughout the year.