For every pass, rush, or target a player receives, there is an expected fantasy value based on the game scenario at the time of the play. When all this is quantified, one can see how many fantasy points a player should have obtained on average. A comparison of this to actual results will show who is consistently over or underperforming their expectation. Fantasy football is about opportunity, first and foremost. It will be much better to have a player underperforming but with a lead role. However, those who continue to outperform expectations will continue to see opportunity, while those who underperform may see their roles cut back.
Leveraging the data from Tan Ho and Joe Sydlowski, I have quantified the prior year’s fantasy points against expectations on a per-game basis. I have also calculated the same value but for yardage only to remove scoring variance. This data should line up, but there may be a few outliers who greatly under or overperformed their expected touchdown numbers. Since touchdowns can vary greatly from year to year, it’s important to factor this into consideration.
With this data, we can see which players may be breakout or regression candidates. There may be players that did not see significant playing time but outperformed their expectations. This could lead to more opportunities in the future. Conversely, a player may have put up decent fantasy numbers but was well under expectation. Their role may diminish as they move forward.
A couple of things to note on these variations. A single-season value may be an outlier, so it’s best to see a few years of data. This also helps to see trends, such as when a veteran player may begin falling in efficiency, which could lead to a fall in value. It can also be used for rookies with limited data, albeit at less of a weighting. Data may be skewed if a player only played a few weeks of the year. With that said, let’s jump into the data by position.
2022 Wide Receivers (Veterans)
Note: Data is sorted by 2022 fantasy points per game. A minimum of three games in 2022 qualifies a player.
PAE – Fantasy points above or below expectation (left side of the chart)
YAE – Fantasy points above or below expectations for yardage elements only (right side of the chart)
Kupp, Jefferson, Hill, Adams, and Diggs were all dominant in 2022. Of those five, only Adams fell slightly negative in YAE at -.16. Jefferson led the group with +1.83 YAE, while Kupp benefited from scoring with a PAE of +3.15.
Ceedee brings in the next tier of players and remains slightly above expectations in all three years of his career. His PAE spiked last year at +1.51.
Michael Thomas played on a minimal sample but saw outsized scoring efficiency at +3.84 PAE on -.29 YAE. The scoring regression should occur, but he may still be able to put up big numbers if he can stay healthy.
A.J. Brown bounced back after a subpar 2021 with the fourth-highest YAE at +1.12.
To round out his tier, Keenan Allen, on a partial season, rebounded from his prior down years to post a +.35 YAE with negative PAE. Some touchdown progression may be in store for him after two down years.
Tee Higgins put up some massive numbers with PAE at +2.22. He has been positive in all three years, similar to Jefferson, and while lower than him in YAE, he rivals him closely in PAE.
Godwin remained positive and consistent in his last five years. His PAE fell more recently with the lack of scoring in Tampa, but his YAE remains rock solid. His partner in crime, Mike Evans, follows him very closely.
Kirk has had a strong showing, remaining positive in both metrics of late. He will need to continue the large volume as he isn’t outperforming widely on efficiency.
Lockett remains one of the most underappreciated wideouts, with top 5 metrics over the last five years. Scoring is up in Seattle, and he has benefited with a +2.47 PAE on +.62 YAE. Conversely, his teammate Metcalf failed to live up to his standards with a -.17 YAE and a surprising -1.24 PAE while being the larger red zone target between the two.
Amari Cooper, in his first year with Cleveland, remained very efficient. The hope of Deshaun Watson returning to form could lead him to new heights in volume.
Mid Tier Veterans
Jeudy finished his third year in Denver, and while the offense fell apart, Jeudy improved significantly, posting a +1.64 YAE and +2.45 PAE. He had previously not been positive in either metric while battling injuries.
Pittman has been performing well but had a down year with a -.38 YAE. His quarterback situation remains to be seen. There is the potential that his value will fall in Richardson’s first year.
McLaurin posted a +1.22 YAE and +1.86 PAE, besting his rookie season. If his QBs can get him the ball, he should be open.
Hollywood Brown has regressed every year since his rookie season. He fell in 2022 to -1.46 YAE and -2.24 PAE. Some of this may be due to Murray’s injury, but this is a bad sign for his future.
Another young star, D.J. Moore, has also fallen over his career. After his strong rookie season, he remained at elite levels in years two and three. Years four and five, however, have turned negative with 2022 -.43 YAE. With the move to Chicago, his volume should fall, leaving little room for hope.
Aiyuk, on the other hand, has improved in PAE each year of his career and saw above-average YAE in all three years.
Gabe Davis benefited from the heavy passing attack in Buffalo. He posted a -.23 YAE and -.76 PAE, which will need to improve for him to move up draft boards. With Diggs at 29 years old, he can carve out a larger role in the future.
JuJu posted his highest YAE at +.89 after a dismal -1.65 the year before. With the move to New England, it’s tough to forecast what to expect, but it’s unlikely he will be a big difference-maker.
Courtland Sutton, like much of the Denver offense, was hyped up going into 2022. While improving in YAE to neutral, he remained very low in PAE. The offense will need to improve around him, or his potential for starting on your roster is dwindling. Jeudy has outperformed him by a wide margin in efficiency.
Diontae Johnson has fallen massively in price since the start of 2022. While his efficiency has remained slightly negative, it took a nose dive ending with -1.08 YAE and -3.57 PAE in 2022. He remains a volume target guy, but without better efficiency, his ceiling is effectively closing in on him.
Richie James has put up positive values in all years. He continues to struggle for playing time but seems very efficient when given a chance.
Donovan Peoples-Jones has put up very solid numbers in his first three seasons. If he can get a boost from Watson, he may jump a tier in 2023.
Parris Campbell jumped up in 2022 after failing to reach positive values in his first three years while battling injuries. The move to the Giants is wide open, so the upside potential is there at very little cost.
Devante Parker had a similar resurgence even at his advanced age. We will have to wait to see if he can garner enough playing time to have fantasy value.
Randall Cobb continues to hit in positive territory and will join Rodgers with the Jets. He only has any value in the deepest leagues but is worth mentioning at age 32.
Laviska Shenault had been generally written off, but he bounced back to post a +.95 YAE and +1.76 PAE. He could be a value play, although unlikely fantasy relevant.
Bourne has also seen a limited opportunity but posted positive metrics over the last four years.
Kendall Hinton has increased his efficiency in each of the last three years and has a YAE of +.85 in 2022.
Lastly, Freddie Swain has been positive in each of his three years, with a +1.16 YAE in 2022 on limited games.