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Fantasy Football Week 3: Volume or efficiency — which top performers can we trust?

Welcome to Week 3, fantasy managers! If you are new to this article series, I will be using my Expected Fantasy Points model to determine which players relied on volume or efficiency to produce for fantasy. In short, the two metrics that we will use each week are:

  • Expected Fantasy Points (or xFP)

  • Fantasy Points Over Expected (or FPOE = Actual Points - Expected Points)

Why do these metrics matter? Basically, fantasy production rooted in volume (or xFP) is usually sustainable week to week. We want to target players who rank highly in this metric. On the other hand, players who rely on efficiency (or FPOE) are much more volatile week to week. For a more detailed breakdown of my model, be sure to check out my series primer from Week 1!

Let’s dive in for Week 3!

Data courtesy of nflfastR

Wide Receivers: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top-12 Fantasy Wide Receivers from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Wide Receivers from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

Jaylen Waddle - Miami Dolphins

With Miami having to mount a comeback, Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill put on a pair of historic performances to defeat the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, the last time a pair of wide receiver teammates each scored over 30 half-PPR points was in Week 6 of the 2009 season as Wes Welker (32 points) and Randy Moss (34.9) demolished the Titans, 59-0.

As we dig deeper into Waddle’s production, it was extremely encouraging to see him lead Miami with a 38 percent target share after primarily relying on his efficiency (FPOE) to produce in Week 1. He got involved early and often, as he received 14 of his 19 targets before their fourth-quarter comeback. As a result, Waddle now ranks WR5 in Expected Points (17.6) through two games with Hill coming in at WR10 (16.2).

Of course, it would be foolish to expect the Dolphins to score this many points every single week. However, at the very least, this should ease the minds of fantasy managers who were concerned that Hill and Waddle could not coexist in the same offense. Waddle will likely have a few disappointing games; but assuming he slots in as your WR2, he provides the perfect combination of baseline production and upside as he can easily win you a matchup any given week.

Garrett Wilson - New York Jets

Entering the season, I tried to temper my expectations with this year’s rookie wide receiver class as we have been spoiled in recent years with historic rookie campaigns from Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Yet here we are, two weeks into the season, and we already have multiple rookies emerging for fantasy.

One of these impressive rookies is Garrett Wilson, who has been heavily involved for the Jets through two weeks. In fact, my usage model currently has him averaging 17.9 Expected Fantasy Points. You might be asking yourself, which wide receivers rank ahead of him?

  • Cooper Kupp (20.1)

  • Ja’Marr Chase (18.4)

That’s it. That’s the list.

In addition, Wilson currently leads the league with 7 targets inside the 10 and has received the ninth-most air yards among wide receivers through two games (224). With these numbers in mind, it is becoming inherently obvious that Wilson should be started in most leagues, assuming Joe Flacco is under center.

It remains to be seen how Zach Wilson's return will affect this offense. But for now, you can comfortably start Wilson as a WR2 with significant upside based on his usage.

Running Backs: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top 15 Fantasy Running backs from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top 15 Fantasy Running backs from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers

If you started Austin Ekeler in Week 1, you were likely disappointed as he only finished with 9.2 half PPR points (RB28) — his lowest fantasy output since Week 6 of last season. More importantly, he only saw four targets, which severely limited his fantasy upside.

This past week against the Chiefs, however, we saw a drastic improvement in his overall usage. Along with an increase in target share at 21.7 percent, Ekeler also received four opportunities inside the 20 after receiving none in their season opener. As a result, he would finish the week leading all running backs in expected value at 19.5 half PPR points. And while Ekeler has yet to find the end zone, leading to a -5.62 FPOE, his improved usage is an encouraging sign moving forward.

If you listened to Wednesday’s episode of Ekeler's Edge, Ekeler himself mentioned that they were trying to get him more involved in the passing game, especially with Keenan Allen injured. In short, do not let Week 1 fool you. Ekeler’s usage going forward will likely mirror what we saw in Week 2, which makes him one of the safest PPR running backs for fantasy.

Jeff Wilson - San Francisco 49ers

With Eli Mitchell recovering from an MCL sprain, Jeff Wilson was the next man up in the 49ers backfield. And in his first start of the season, the coaching staff did not hesitate to lean on him. He received a total of 20 opportunities, averaging an impressive 28.9 percent opportunity share against the Seahawks. In addition, he also was heavily utilized inside the 20, with six of his touches occurring in the red zone. As a result, Wilson would finish the week as the RB9 in Expected Fantasy Points with 14.5, signifying immense fantasy value as long as he remains the starter.

With Tyrion Davis-Price set to miss multiple weeks due to a high ankle sprain, you can feel confident in starting Wilson as a safe flex option in all formats.

Top-12 Fantasy Tight Ends from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)
Top-12 Fantasy Tight Ends from Week 2. (Data used provided by nflfastR)

Irv Smith Jr. - Minnesota Vikings

After a lackluster season debut, Irv Smith Jr. had a much more successful outing against the Eagles in Week 2. Not only did we see an improvement in snap share at 56 percent, but Smith also received 17.8% of the targets to go along with 25.7% of the Vikings’ air yards. In other words, he was an integral part of their passing attack as the Vikings had to keep up with an explosive Eagles offense. Especially at the tight end position, we should target players who have a path to volume instead of just the occasional opportunity to fall into the end zone.

Smith might just be one of those “volume tight ends” as he finished the week with an 11.06 Expected Half PPR points, ahead of Travis Kelce and T.J. Hockenson. And while there will surely be weeks where Adam Thielen or Dalvin Cook will be more involved, Smith should be picked up in all leagues with a potential path to consistent targets in this Vikings’ offense.

Quarterbacks: Fantasy Usage & Efficiency

Top 12 Fantasy Quarterbacks from Week 2. (Data used from nflfastR)
Top 12 Fantasy Quarterbacks from Week 2. (Data used from nflfastR)

Carson Wentz - Washington Commanders

Raise your hand if you expected Carson Wentz to be a top-five quarterback to start the season.


Neither did I.

To everyone’s surprise, the only quarterbacks currently averaging more fantasy points per game than Wentz are Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts. Considering each of those quarterbacks is known for their dual-threat ability, it is even more impressive that Wentz is not too far behind. Part of his success has been purely driven by volume, as he currently ranks third in passing attempts (87) and 2nd in air yards (826). In addition, the Commanders are currently ninth in the league in early-down, neutral situation passing rate at 58.2 percent, signifying their intent to throw the ball. And with Wentz averaging an expected fantasy value of 19.0 (QB9), you should be comfortable starting him as a low-end QB1, especially with their defense giving up an average of 29 points through two games.

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