By the Numbers: Week 9 (2020 Fantasy Football)
Another week, another gut-wrenching, season-ending injury.
Initial reports of George Kittle’s injured foot on Sunday indicated he had avoided a major injury, but further testing on Monday proved otherwise, as the San Francisco 49ers star tight end is set to miss the next eight weeks with a small fracture, effectively ending his regular season.
This is terrible news for the 49ers, Kittle, and the fantasy managers who roster him, but in an upside-down 2020 NFL season, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
According to FantasyPros’ ADP report, 13 of the top 24 drafted players (half-PPR) this fantasy season have missed or will miss multiple games, and the prolonged early-season absences of stars such as Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, Nick Chubb and Austin Ekeler put managers rostering them in particularly precarious waters to start the year.
Despite these injuries, there’s no excuse for failure, and there’s absolutely no quitting in fantasy football.
For reference, I roster Austin Ekeler in two of my three leagues this season and have shares of George Kittle, Miles Sanders, Jamison Crowder, Chris Carson, and Chris Godwin. Even with rosters ravaged by injuries and untimely bye weeks, I’ve successfully navigated the trade and waiver wire waters to rank first (out of 14), second (out of 14), and sixth (out of 12) in scoring in each league.
Unfortunately, the results don’t reflect the processes, as my records in the respective leagues stand at 4-4, 4-4, and 3-5. This isn’t a humble brag, or a “poor me” moment, but an underscoring of just how volatile week-to-week fantasy results can be.
Despite making educated moves and literally being a “Fantasy Pro,” I’m still swimming upstream in the hunt for a playoff bid, which means there are more than a few sub-optimal rosters sitting pretty as we move into the most crucial weeks of the regular season.
No matter whom your team loses, there is a way – via the trade market or waiver wire – to replace them, and trust that against all odds and projections, you can win no matter who’s in your starting lineup. It’s just going to take a little extra effort and some luck.
Through eight weeks, Lamar Jackson is averaging 20.7 fantasy points per game, which makes him the QB12 on a per-game basis.
Entering the 2020 campaign, most of the fantasy community was extremely high on Jackson given his breakout 2019 season, but skeptics like me were worried about savvy defensive coordinators using the offseason to find holes in the defending MVP’s game, which appears to be coming to fruition so far this season.
While still an upper-tier fantasy quarterback, Jackson is averaging a solid but not extraordinary .53 fantasy points per dropback, which ranks ninth at his position. Considering the Ravens rank 31st in the NFL with 30.3 team pass plays per game and have expressed interest in limiting Jackson’s designed run plays, it appears we won’t be seeing a repeat of last season’s fantasy stardom anytime soon.
I’d wait for one big breakout game from Jackson, then sell high on him in exchange for a mid- to top-tier flex player.
Since Carson Wentz joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, his starting tight end Zach Ertz has averaged 8.5 targets per game, and never ranked outside the top six fantasy scorers at his position, finishing third, second and fifth over the past three years, respectively, in half-PPR scoring.
Enter Dallas Goedert, who will be Wentz’s top receiving option once the team returns from bye in Week 10.
Goedert returned from injury in Week 8 and wasn’t a huge part of the offense, but did play a position-leading 84 percent of the Eagles’ snaps, which bodes well for his fantasy value moving forward.
With Ertz shelved until at least late November, Goedert is a safe weekly play for tight end-needy rosters.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is…average? According to the numbers in 2020, he is.
Number of 20+ yard carries since 2019 for #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott: 5 on 433 attempts.
Number of 20+carries in 2020 for #Browns RB Nick Chubb: 6 on 57 carries.
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) November 3, 2020
Through eight weeks, Elliott is averaging 2.1 yards after contact and has totaled a lowly seven rush yards over expected (.06 per attempt) on the year. Per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, Elliott ranks a pedestrian 18th at his position on a per-play basis.
Top-tier opportunity coupled with underwhelming efficiency can still make for a strong fantasy player, but Elliott isn’t looking like the high-ceiling, early first-round pick managers were expecting this season. Similar to Jackson, I’d try to sell high after Elliott’s next big game.
In four of his seven games this season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has totaled just three receptions.
He’s averaged 8.1 half-PPR points in those three-reception games, but without touchdowns – which we know can be influenced by luck – his half-PPR scoring average in such contests would be 5.1 points per game.
I’m not extremely worried about Thielen, but his trademark fantasy skill has always been volume, as he’s averaged 5.2 receptions and 7.6 targets per game over the past four seasons.
Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham will never be close to what he was from 2011-2014, when he averaged 138 targets, 89 receptions, 1,099 receiving yards, and 11.5 touchdowns per season, but he’s looking like a serviceable fantasy tight end for the first time in years (although to be fair, it doesn’t take much to be a serviceable tight end in 2020).
Through eight games this season, Graham is on pace for 98 targets and 58 catches, and while he hasn’t done much with the ball in his hands, he’s secured 13 red zone targets, second only to Travis Kelce at his position.
Fantasy managers could do a lot worse than Graham, who currently ranks as the half-PPR TE9 and has secured five or more targets in six consecutive games.
He’s certainly nothing flashy, but Graham represents a cheap roster plug for managers struggling at fantasy football’s most top-heavy position.
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