Positive Regression: Bounce-Back Players for 2018 Fantasy Football
Being able to spot positive regression candidates is a huge advantage in Fantasy Football. This may involve actually having paid attention last season, but hey, that’s what this writer is here for.
In the Fantasy world, “positive regression” means a player is going to have a bounce-back year. This week, we are going to highlight a few players that should return to their statistical mean so you can fade guys that will not return value and buy-low on players whose ADP has suffered based on a poor 2017.
Positive Regression Candidates for 2018
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
In 11 of the past 13 seasons, Drew Brees has finished as at least the QB3 in PPR leagues. In those years he finished as the QB6 and the QB11. The latter of those finishes was last season, where Brees threw for less than 600 pass attempts for the first time since 2009. In that season, he still managed to finish as the QB2 overall with 514 attempts.
Last year the Saints identity changed as they committed to defense and running the ball. With Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram leading the way, the Saints had 444 rushing attempts, their most since – you guessed it- 2009. The Saints had 468 carries as a team that season, and even though Brees threw the ball less than usual, his 34 touchdowns kept his Fantasy stock elevated.
The argument can be made that in the first four games of the season, the Saints will not rush the ball as much as usual because Mark Ingram will be suspended. That may be the case, even though the Saints just signed Terrance West and already have Jonathan Williams who looks to factor into this offense without Ingram’s presence. However, based on 2009, we know that even if the Saints run the ball even more, Brees has an opportunity to put up high-end QB1 numbers. Touchdowns are the category that must increase for positive regression to take place for the 17-year veteran.
Brees had 23 touchdowns in 2017, his lowest total since 2002, his first year as a starter in the NFL. This is not due to a lack of effort, however, as Brees had 82 red-zone passing attempts which was third in the NFL behind Tom Brady (90) and Ben Roethlisberger (89).
The Saints are still a team that likes to throw the ball inside the 20, and even if the number of passing attempts in the red zone stays the same for Brees, he should experience positive regression in touchdowns in 2018. Brees still has Top 5 upside next season and should be drafted as such, but he could slip in drafts. Buy low on Brees as he is currently the seventh quarterback off the board according to FantraxHQ.com.
What makes Drew Brees one of the most accuracy quarterbacks in the league?
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 13, 2018
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Nobody has received more hate in the Fantasy community over the offseason than Amari Cooper. Cooper finished outside the WR2 range for the first time in his career and ended up as the WR35 overall in PPR. Cooper had his usual boom-or-bust game log in 2017, but the busts were way more frequent than usual at the beginning of the season. In Weeks 3, 4, and 5 Cooper finished with 1.6, 2.9, and 1.8 Fantasy points which put him in drop consideration.
If we look at his game log, excluding the ridiculous 11-catch, 210-yard, two-touchdown explosion in Week 7, Cooper actually had four touchdowns in his final five games of the season. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been vocal about the shoulder and ankle injuries Cooper was dealing with last season, which may explain the Raiders inability to get the former Alabama University stud involved at times. Cooper did have five drops last season which was tied for ninth, but he also only had 95 targets in 14 games which was a career-low.
Cooper’s stat line of 48 catches and 680 yards is due for positive regression because his number of targets in 2018 should return to its mean. Cooper had more than 130 targets in his first two years, a number he can easily achieve if healthy.
Michael Crabtree has been replaced with Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson so that usage will cancel out. Head coach Jon Gruden has proclaimed that the Raiders will use Cooper all over the field and he is the clear No. 1 receiver in the offense. His fourth-round ADP is worth the risk as his ceiling is still a WR1. His 83 catches for 1,153 yards in 2016 was not a fluke and should be viewed as a product of volume. More targets in 2018 mean more Fantasy points and positive regression for Cooper in 2018.
*Clip of the Day*
Amari Cooper has some of the best footwork and lateral movement of any WR in the NFL. Check out the “jab step” he uses to gain outside position on this fade route. It is so dirty the DB is asking for a flag after the play. @SpreadOffense @1coachtow1n pic.twitter.com/7MtCi60Pbo
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets
Isaiah Crowell finished as the RB14 in PPR in 2016. His 944 yards and seven touchdowns helped his ADP skyrocket to the third round in 2017 Fantasy drafts. The role stayed the same for Crowell last season, but his receiving totals went down and he ended up as the RB32.
Crowell’s season-ending touchdown totals in his four-year career are eight, five, seven, and two. The career-low touchdowns last season can be attributed to Duke Johnson’s outlier touchdown total of seven along with being on a low-scoring Browns team. The fifth-year pro signed a three-year 12M with the Jets this offseason and he will be the starter. While the move can be viewed as lateral in terms of offensive efficiency, Crowell should receive his usual 200 rushing attempts and should see at least a share of the goal-line work. If he can score five touchdowns (just below his career average), Crowell is in store for an RB2 finish in 2018. He is currently being drafted as the RB40. Buy low on Crowell as he is in store for positive regression in 2018 Fantasy football.