Breakout Receiver Model: Week 16

Dec 23, 2021
Breakout Receiver Model: Week 16

The Breakout Receiver Model returns for Week 16. We had another 30%-plus hit rate week in Week 15, and players in the model, on average, scored 98% of their expected fantasy points. That’s the second straight week we’ve seen that rate top 90%, a strong indicator the model is improving with more in-season data. Let’s touch on some hits and misses from last week, and then dig into the week ahead.

About the Breakout Receiver Model

The 4for4 data science team, in conjunction with our award-winning projections expert John Paulsen, have recalibrated and reconfigured the receiver "buy-low" model from years past in order to better identify under-performing wide receivers and tight ends who might be on the verge of a breakout performance. For the uninitiated, the breakout receiver model utilizes historical data and recent player performance to help determine players who have received opportunity that is typically more valuable than their recent production would indicate. This particular model's features include air yards and routes-run data as a means of determining opportunity. It also utilizes a proprietary efficiency metric that looks back at the past 10 weeks of individual player performance, all to better help predict the likelihood of a bounce-back in a player's future production. The model most heavily-weights the last three weeks of data.

Last Week's Results


Breakout Receiver Model: Week 15, Hits
Player Team Position XFP - Last 3 Week 15 XFP-Diff.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB WR 12.1 18.3 6.2
Keenan Allen LAC WR 11.2 16.8 5.6
Zay Jones LV WR 10.4 9.7 -0.7
Kyle Pitts ATL TE 9.8 9.7 -0.1
Dalton Schultz DAL TE 9.6 16.7 7.1
Cole Kmet CHI TE 9.2 10.1 0.9
Foster Moreau LV TE 8.5 10 1.5
Travis Kelce KC TE 7.9 36.1 28.2
James O'Shaughnessy JAX TE 7.2 8 0.8
Zach Ertz ARI TE 6.8 10.4 3.6


Breakout Receiver Model: Week 15, Misses
Player Team Position XFP - Last 3 Week 15 XFP-Diff.
Michael Gallup DAL WR 13.7 4.7 -9
Stefon Diggs BUF WR 13.7 11.5 -2.2
D.J. Moore CAR WR 13.6 9.8 -3.8
CeeDee Lamb DAL WR 12.4 8 -4.4
Michael Pittman IND WR 12.1 1.2 -10.9
DK Metcalf SEA WR 11.7 8.2 -3.5
Darnell Mooney CHI WR 11.2 9.1 -2.1
Marquise Brown BAL WR 11.1 9.3 -1.8
Kenny Golladay NYG WR 10.2 6.8 -3.4
Mike Williams LAC WR 10 6.4 -3.6
Terry McLaurin WAS WR 9.8 6.1 -3.7
Laquon Treadwell JAX WR 9.8 8.7 -1.1
Mike Gesicki MIA TE 9.1 6.8 -2.3
Jalen Reagor PHI WR 9 7.2 -1.8
Keelan Cole NYJ WR 8.9 1.4 -7.5
Evan Engram NYG TE 8.5 5.3 -3.2
Darius Slayton NYG WR 8.3 3.3 -5

Breakout Receiver Model Recommendations

Breakout Receiver Top Candidates

Note: Click the image to view it in a higher resolution.

Insights and Takeaways

  • A season-high 17 players are on this list from a week ago, suggesting that the players the model has identified in the past that haven’t hit yet are still looking like strong breakout candidates. Of those 17 players, five of them have averaged more than a dozen expected fantasy points over the last three weeks, and 12 have averaged double-digit expected fantasy points during that same span.
  • The Ravens’ Tyler Huntley played admirably in place of the injured Lamar Jackson, and nearly pulled off a miraculous upset against the Packers last Sunday afternoon. But like the starter he’s backing up, it’s been difficult for both Andrews and Marquise Brown to play up to expectations over a three-game sample, and Brown shows up on this list for a ninth time this season. Up to this point, Baltimore has led the NFL in breakout model appearances, averaging 1.7 underachieving players per week.
  • Mike Gesicki had another decent day against the New York Jets last Sunday, catching five of eight targets, but he’s failed to top 50 yards receiving in every start since Week 10, and he hasn’t had more than 54 yards receiving since Week 8. Gesicki, despite ranking second on the Dolphins in target share, hasn’t scored more than 8.1 fantasy points in seven straight starts and has now appeared on this list an unfortunate eight times this season.
  • Marvin Jones, while unofficially canceled from this list weeks ago, reaches a new unceremonious milestone this weekend. With his inclusion in the Week 16 model, Jones has now appeared on this list a stunning 10 times this season, most of any player. A product of the porous Jacksonville Jaguars' offense, Jones has caught three touchdowns this season, which accounts for 33% of the team’s passing touchdowns this season.

Breakout Receiver Model: Week 16

We split the breakout candidates into two categories. The first is the primary model results, also visualized in the graph above, which highlight players who are under-performing their expected fantasy point value by more than five percent. Next, we'll offer some dart-throw plays for DFS players and for season-long teams struggling with injuries who need a last-minute replacement. Use this in conjunction with John Paulsen's sneaky starts column each week.


  • `XFP` is expected fantasy points, the model's projected average half-PPR fantasy points per game.

  • `Diff` is the difference between a player's actual half-PPR fantasy points per game and their expected fantasy points per game

  • `Efficiency Score` uses a proprietary blend of individual efficiency metrics to create one singular efficiency value. Higher numbers indicate more efficient past performance.

Breakout Receiver Model: Week 16
Player Team Position XFP - Last 3 Diff. Efficiency Score
Rob Gronkowski TB TE 16.2 -5.4
DK Metcalf SEA WR 13.9 -6.2 126
Stefon Diggs BUF WR 13.6 -3.8 119.6
Robby Anderson CAR WR 12.7 -1.5 47.2
D.J. Moore CAR WR 12.5 -2.9 92.2
Michael Gallup DAL WR 12.2 -3.8
Donovan Peoples-Jones CLE WR 12.1 -2.9 117.9
Mike Gesicki MIA TE 11.7 -4.2 78.8
Marquise Brown BAL WR 11.6 -3.6 93
Kenny Golladay NYG WR 11.4 -6.6
Ja'Marr Chase CIN WR 11.4 -1.2 118.5
Courtland Sutton DEN WR 11 -8.9 63.7
CeeDee Lamb DAL WR 10.8 -0.8 108.4
Darnell Mooney CHI WR 10.2 -4.8 103.6
Dawson Knox BUF TE 10.1 -2.2
Mike Williams LAC WR 9.9 -0.2 107.4
Evan Engram NYG TE 9.4 -4.5 105.9
Darius Slayton NYG WR 9.1 -7.2
A.J. Green ARI WR 9.1 -1.1 92.4
Terry McLaurin WAS WR 9 -5.8 88.8
Keelan Cole NYJ WR 8.9 -6.6 75.6
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine TEN WR 8.9 -4 170.3
DeVonta Smith PHI WR 8.4 -4.4 84.5
Jamison Crowder NYJ WR 8.4 -2.4 94.5
Marvin Jones JAX WR 8.1 -3.3 60.6
Jared Cook LAC TE 7.4 -1.7 88.5
Tyler Conklin MIN TE 7.3 -2.8 124
C.J. Uzomah CIN TE 6.5 -1.7 168.6
Brevin Jordan HOU TE 6.2 -2.1
Ricky Seals-Jones WAS TE 6 -2.9 108

Dart Throws

While the players listed below likely belong on the waiver wire for most, these are the players who are underperforming their already-low expected fantasy points. For DFS players focused on large-field GPP tournaments, this table can serve as a starting point for finding low-salary contrarian plays.

Breakout Receiver Model: Week 16, Dart Throws
Player Team Position XFP - Last 3 Diff. Efficiency Score
Jerry Jeudy DEN WR 7.3 -1.7
Rashod Bateman BAL WR 7.2 -2.2
Nico Collins HOU WR 6.6 -2.7
Michael Pittman IND WR 6.6 -0.7 113.7
Brandon Zylstra CAR WR 6 -1.4
Tre'Quan Smith NO WR 5.9 -2.6
D'Wayne Eskridge SEA WR 5.9 -2.3
Adam Humphries WAS WR 5.7 -0.7 62.5
Ray-Ray McCloud PIT WR 5.6 -3 137.4
Phillip Dorsett HOU WR 5.6 -2.2
Jaelon Darden TB WR 5.3 -5.3
Albert Wilson MIA WR 5.3 -2.3 111.8
Tommy Tremble CAR TE 5.1 -2.8 67.9

Top Breakout Candidates for Week 16:

  • Rob Gronkowski appears on this list for the first time this season, and looks like a no-brainer play this weekend against the struggling Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have been about league-average in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to opposing tight ends this season, but have been slightly easier to attack through the air than via the ground this season, just as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers prefer. With Tampa Bay ailing at the receiver position, look for Gronk to be leaned-on heavily in the weeks to come.
  • D.K. Metcalf spent a lot of time being covered by Jalen Ramsey last Tuesday, but that’s only part of the reason why Metalf has consistently underwhelmed since Russell Wilson returned from an injury in Week 9. Metcalf’s catchable target rate sits at just 77%, outside the top-40 receivers, suggesting Wilson has been fairly inaccurate when targeting Metcalf. Metcalf’s true catch rate, which factors-out uncatchable passes, ranks outside the top-90 receivers, meaning the blame belongs to both players. Still, Metcalf has seen the ninth most air yards in the NFL and is averaging 7.5 targets per game, more than enough to do serious damage against the mediocre Chicago Bears defense who is still beat-up in the secondary.
  • With Emmanuel Sanders coming off a knee injury and Cole Beasley added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Bills will likely look to lean on Stefon Diggs in a big way this Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Patriots have been one of the strongest defenses in the NFL this season, ranking top-three in PFF’s team defensive grades, and they’re slightly more susceptible against opposing rushing attacks, but Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, as they proved last week, have enough chemistry to overcome a bad matchup. Diggs ranks outside the top-12 receivers in targets per route run and yards per route run, but still has the tenth most receiving yards and ranks ninth in fantasy points per game. Diggs is averaging nine targets a game over his last four starts.
  • The Chargers are coming off of a heartbreaking overtime loss to the division-rival Chiefs in Week 15, and now have an extremely winnable matchup against the lowly Houston Texans, who rank fifth-worst in the NFL in aFPA to opposing offenses. While Williams’ usage has remained middling over the majority of the second half of the season, Williams saw nine targets a week ago, the most he’s seen since Week 5. And with Austin Ekeler and Donald Parham likely out for Los Angeles this Sunday, expect the offense to be highly concentrated around Keenan Allen and Williams, which could lead to his first game with double-digit targets, a feat accomplished three times in his first five games this season, for the first time in his last nine tries.
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