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. Mostly, this data should line up, but a few outliers may greatly under or overperform their expected touchdown numbers. Since touchdowns can vary greatly from year to year, it’s important to consider this.
With this data, we can see which players may be breakout or regression candidates. Some players may not have seen 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 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 Running Backs (Young RBs)
Note: Data is sorted by 2022 fantasy points per game. A minimum of 3 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)
Top Young Players
Breece Hall opened up his rookie season with top PPG production and massive efficiency to boot. Over his shortened season, he was the top dog in PAE and YAE.
The Pats did not address RB in the draft, leaving Rhamondre Stevenson in line for an increase in touches. His YAE was solid in his first two years, with PAE trailing a bit.
Kenneth Walker had a very strong rookie year and remains in line for a large workload. However, his value has taken a slight hit, with Zach Charbonnet now in the mix. If his efficiency continues at this pace, the job should be his.
Travis Etienne showed neutral PAE in his first season of play but performed a massive +1.55 yards above expectation. This trailed only Hall and was performed over the entire season. Ettienne’s job is now less secure with the draft acquisition of Tank Bigsby. Like Walker, he should be in a strong position with this efficiency level.
Najee Harris and Dameon Pierce both performed well below expectations. This is the second year Harris has failed to perform, and the workload falling has also caused a deep drop in value. The Steelers haven’t made any offseason moves. This leaves only Jaylen Warren behind him, competing for snaps. For Pierce, the story isn’t as bad as his YAE was only slightly negative. However, acquiring Singletary (slightly positive YAE) should put a damper on Pierce’s workload.
Javonte Williams missed all but four games last year and will likely miss time at the start of this season. His numbers fell off a cliff which, while on a small sample size, is concerning. He landed with the worst YAE of starting RBs at -.95 and at -5.97 in PAE, triple the next worst.
Tyler Allgeier was very efficient in his rookies season with a +1.01 YAE. However, he now finds himself buried behind Bijon Robinson, which makes for a better band name than fantasy position to be in.
Brian Robinson and Rachaad White, who are the assumed starters in 2023, found themselves below expectations. Robinson’s YAE at -.59 is worse than Gibson’s at -.49. Coaches are talking of an increased workload for Gibson. A 50/50 split would hurt Robinson’s value. White’s -.66 is uninspiring, along with backup Chase Edmonds’ -.38 behind him. They may be at risk for an off-season acquisition. The retirement of Brady, however, could open up the run game from the prior pass-heavy offense.
Isiah Pacheco stormed onto the scene with a +.71 YAE and neutral PAE. He took the job from CEH but found himself in a crowded backfield with much less pedigree. He could take over the job next year if he can sustain the efficiency on a bigger workload.
Khalil Herbert showed huge efficiency with +1.32 YAE and +1.82 PAE. He will share time with Foreman and rookie Johnson so his volume may be limited. He is likely worth a look at his price.
Elijah Mitchell has put up two strong seasons but finds himself in a loaded offense behind Christian McCaffrey. His value is low but could have upside upon an injury.
Zonovan Knight had a big performance in the absence of Hall, but his efficiency is very low, and he likely now sits way back on the depth chart with three higher-pedigree guys in front of him.
Michael Carter, one of those guys in front of Knight, failed to perform last year. His -.43 YAE following up .13 the season before doesn’t scream huge upside on the Jets, especially after the drafting of Israel Abanikanda.
Chuba Hubbard remains a handcuff but showed strong YAE at +.81, up from -1.00 in 2021.
Pierre Strong is buried on the New England depth chart. However, he showed huge efficiency in his limited sample. He garnered +1.45 YAE and +2.62 PAE. He may have value as a stash if he can continue this pace on more volume.
Buffalo has James Cook set to be the lead back in 2023. He showed solid enough efficiency at +.30 YAE. With his receiving ability and added volume, he has the opportunity to jump up in PPG this year.
Jordan Mason, Jalen Warren, and Kenneth Gainwell also showed strong efficiency and could be solid handcuff options this year or down the road, more in the case with Mason.
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