Breakout Receiver Model: Week 4
Welcome to the very first run of the new Receiver Breakout Model for 2021. This year, 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 heavily-weights the last three weeks of data, making Week 4 the perfect time to debut the model for 2021.
One thing to note: the model doesn't have special caveats for changes in personnel, schemes, or situations. Take these results with a healthy grain of salt, and contextualize the numbers with what you know to be true about a player's situation going forward. Remember that the model doesn't explain why a player is under-performing, it can't tell the difference between bad luck and poor play, and as we know, when a player under-performs their expectations it's often a mix of both. This article will only feature players whose results have been below expectation. When we tested the model last season, we found that the under-performing cohort scored, on average, 89% of their expected fantasy points the following week, a solid indicator of the model's proper calibration as it begins to take in data from this season.
In future versions of this article, we'll take some time to examine the model's hits and misses from the week prior. For now, let's get into the model's recommendation for the week ahead.
Breakout Receiver Model Recommendations
Top Breakout Candidates
Insights and Takeaways
- Darren Waller has been one of the most heavily utilized players in the league, regardless of position, ranking fourth in the NFL in targets per game, and is the only player at his position to rank in the top-five in targets in all three weeks of the season thus far. But his production has lagged behind other big names at the tight end position, and he currently ranks fourth amongst tight ends in fantasy points per game, a disappointment considering the enormous workload. His teammate Bryan Edwards makes the complete list below, as well, but is currently averaging just one fantasy point per game less than his near 9.7 expected fantasy points per game.
- The model features two Buffalo Bills players in the top-five, and while seeing Stefon Diggs on this list shouldn't be a surprise, but seeing Emmanuel Sanders is, especially after his WR4 finish in Week 3. Sanders doesn't fit the typical buy-low mold after last Sunday, but Diggs, who hasn't scored more than 14 half-PPR fantasy points yet this season, continues to be targeted (and targeted deep) consistently. With Josh Allen finally looking more like the Allen of 2020 in Week 3, the explosive plays and touchdowns should come for Diggs.
- I wouldn't hold my breath for either Dolphins' player exiting this list. It's encouraging that DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki both still receive enough volume to be considered for this list, but Jacoby Brissett ranks 31st in QB composite efficiency (which combines expected points added and completion percentage vs. expectation), making both players, and all Dolphins players in general, low-probability breakouts going forward.
- Mac Jones makes his mark on the list by managing to support three under-performing receivers. One of the top free-agent acquisitions at their position, Hunter Henry is languishing on the Patriots' run-first offense that ranks 27th in points per play, while Nelson Agholor ranks 12th in the NFL in unrealized air yards. Jakobi Meyers's underlying metrics indicate a potential WR1, and his 13.9 half-PPR points in Week 3 mean his stock will be rising more than others on this list. New England gets the Buccaneers in Week 4, whose defense currently allows the third-most adjusted fantasy points (aFPA) to opposing offenses in the NFL.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to see enormous playing time in one of the more prolific offenses in the NFL (Week 1 notwithstanding), but according to the model, is one of the most egregiously under-performing players in the league so far this year, averaging over six points under his expected fantasy points per game at this point in this season. Valdez-Scantling ranks number one in the NFL in targets of 20-plus air yards and 16th among all receivers in air yards share, and currently ranks outside the top-80 in fantasy points per game.
- The Ravens grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat twice in the last two weeks, but the presence of both Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown is an indicator that the passing attack has had a chance to be much more productive than it has been over the course of the season's first three weeks. Watkins has been known throughout his career as a high-volatility player, and in his first year as a member of the Ravens, making his slight underperformance thus far understandable. Andrews, however, is more perplexing. Andrews ranks third at his position in target share and seventh in air yards share, but barely inside the top-10 tight ends in fantasy points per game. His 2.42 yards per route run this season suggests hasn't lost a step, making him a prime positive regression candidate despite seeing his production increase every week since Week 1, and scoring 13.4 half-PPR points last Sunday.
Receiver Breakout Model: Week 4
- `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.
|Player||Team||Pos||XFP - Last 3 Weeks||Diff.||XFP - Last 10 Week||Diff.||Efficiency Score|
Top Breakout Candidates for Week 4:
After reviewing the model's recommendations, here are the players who are catching my eye for Week 4.
- DeVonta Smith has been kept quiet for two straight weeks after exploding onto the NFL scene in Week 1, earning over 50% of the Eagles' air yards, but facing the Chiefs in Week 4, in a game with the highest Vegas implied total of the week, the Eagles will be passing and passing plenty, which could lead to a resurgent day from their top 2021 draft pick. The Chiefs haven't been particularly impressive defensively, either, ranking fifth-worst in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA) to opposing offenses, indicating a fantasy-friendly environment for Smith and the Eagles this Sunday. His teammate Jalen Reagor narrowly missed this list, and has averaged 8.4 expected half-PPR fantasy points per game over the last three weeks, making him a decent dart-throw play in DFS tournaments.
- Stefon Diggs was a quiet contributor in the Bills' thrashing of the Washington Football Team, but figures to see his plenty of high-value usage in Buffalo's Week 4 game against the Houston Texans middling defense that ranks bottom-12 in points per play allowed, and just below-average in bottom-10 in yards per pass attempt allowed. 4for4 has Diggs projected for the third-most receptions and fifth-most half-PPR fantasy points at his position this weekend.
- Kyle Pitts has stuttered out of the gates alongside the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense, but still ranks second at his position in routes run and fifth in red-zone targets. Only one tight end has a higher share of team air yards than Pitts, and he's yet to score more than 10 half-PPR fantasy points. Despite playing in a game with a mediocre 48-point total, Atlanta faces a Washington defense that appears to have regressed significantly since 2020, and is currently allowing more PPR schedule-adjusted fantasy points to opposing offenses than any other team in the NFL.