Week 10: Trade Targets (reversion to the mean)

by | Nov 8, 2023

Fantasy sports is a fickle game. Whether you are playing season-long fantasy sports or daily fantasy sports, you can do hours of research, understand matchups, weather, and every conceivable metric – only to have the most absurd and seemingly unpredictable outcomes occur. Even over the course of 8-9 games, small sample sizes can skew our perceptions of certain players.

With that in mind, here are a few players to consider targeting who have had pretty solid season, but could get a second half boost and either maybe undervalued by their current owners or have lower salary cap figures you can use to your advantage in shaping your weekly team on a site like SmashUp Fantasy Sports.


Jacksonville Jaguars Trevor Lawrence (16) fires the ball downfield during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on October 29, 2023.

Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence was a fantasy darling coming into the season, but some of the luster has worn off over his first 8 games. Instead of building off a strong sophomore campaign, there is at least an impression that Lawrence has regressed. But let’s look at the numbers:

Completion Percentage

2022: 66.3

2023: 66.8

Yards per Attempt

2022: 7.0

2023: 7.1

Completed Air Yards per Attempt

2022: 3.6

2023: 3.8

Rushing yards per game

2022: 17.1

2023: 27.0

Interception rate

2022: 7.0

2023: 7.1

Almost every metric is the same or better. So what gives, where are all of those beautiful points fantasy owners rely on?

Mostly the missing ingredient is touchdowns. Let’s look at a couple of other metrics

Touchdown Passing Percentage

2022: 4.3%

2023: 3.3%

Passing Touchdowns:

2022: 25

2023: 19.1 (adjusted for 17 games)

Rushing Touchdowns

2022: 5

2023: 0

Yes, Etienne is having a good season and is a threat to keep scoring some touchdowns on the ground. But Lawrence is having an equally good passing season versus last year, he’s has a stronger receiving core, and frankly has had a bit of bad luck so far. It wouldn’t be that hard to imagine Lawrence at least getting back on last year’s pace and possible even having his “luck” flip the other direction to see him match last year’s touchdown totals.

What does that mean from a fantasy perspective? While exact league scoring might vary, here’s three scenarios:

Lawrence matches current production: 15.1 fantasy points per game

Lawrence reverting to mean: 18.8 fantasy points per game

Lawrence getting “lucky” to match last season: 25.4 points per game

Maybe it’s a bit optimistic to think Lawrence goes on fire and matches his exact TD totals from last season, but it’s not that hard to see him topping 20 points per game the rest of the way. There is certainly no guarantee. The Jaguars do not have the easiest end to the season. But if you need a QB, Lawrence could make a good target who is available for a reasonable price.

Running Back

Oct 1, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Ford (34) runs with the ball during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Ford

After Nick Chubb went down with an injury, Jerome Ford was a hot name on waiver wires. And frankly, Ford has played well overall, but has also seen the enthusiasm around him cool a bit. But why, overall his situation and numbers are still solid, here’s his key underlying metrics so far:

Yards per Attempt: 4.0

Yards before contact: 2.6

Yards after Contact: 1.4

Targets per game: 3.5

Catch Rate: 71.4%

Not superstar numbers. But perfectly solid. While it can be hard to contextualize these numbers, the 1.4 yards after contact is on par with RBs like Kenneth Walker, D’Andre Swift, and Isiah Pacheco.

So what is the reversion to the mean here? Mostly circumstance. Right as Ford was playing well, two things happened, Deshaun Watson got hurt and then Ford himself got hurt.

Here are Ford’s numbers in games started by each Browns’ QB in games he started:

Deshaun Watson

Rush attempts: 14

Yards per attempt: 4.3

Targets: 4.5

Receptions: 3.0

Yards per Catch: 10.4

Touchdowns: 4

PJ Walker:

Rush attempts: 14

Yards per attempt: 4.5

Targets: 2.0

Receptions: 1.5

Yards per Catch: 2.75

Touchdowns: 0

Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Rush attempts: 9

Yards per attempt: 2.9

Targets: 6.0

Receptions: 5.0

Yards per Catch: 3.8

Touchdowns: 0

So Ford runs the ball more, gets more targets and receptions, has more yards per touch, and has all of his touchdowns with Watson as quarterback.

Ford is no Nick Chubb and will never replace his production. But a health Ford with Watson can produce strong numbers and would be a good target for a trade or an undervalued player you can get on a cheaper salary to round out your weekly squad.

Wide Receiver / Tight End

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (5) reacts after completing a catch in the fourth quarter during a Week 9 NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

Tee Higgins

Maybe a little less of a revelation to plugged-in fantasy managers, but the Bengals are starting to right the ship after a rocky start to the year. Burrow is getting healthy. Higgins is getting healthy. And the offense is starting to click.

If maybe too late to get Higgins if the manager with Higgins in your league knows all of this. But so far this season, Higgins has had:

10+ Fantasy points: 2 times

5 or fewer fantasy points: 3 times

And this doesn’t even count 2 weeks missed due to injury. Higgins will cost you, but a frustrated owners might be willing to part with him at a discount or you maybe able to get a good salary cap figure on him in daily fantasy sports. As for why Higgins has struggled through injuries, it’s not that hard to tell, here’s some of his key metrics the last few years:

Catch Percentage:

2021: 67.3%

2022: 67.9%

2023: 52.9%

Yards before catch per target:

2021: 10.8

2022: 10.0

2023: 7.7

Yet, Higgins aDOT (average depth per target) is still 11.3 which is in-line with the last two years. And his drop rate is 7.8%, which is similar to his career numbers (outside of a stellar 2021). So most of this can probably be attributed to Burrow’s injury woes that for the moment appear behind him.

Otherwise, Higgins is still 24 years old and the Bengals are largely the same team, have the same coach, and are running the same offense. Barring more injuries, there is no reason why Higgins shouldn’t revert to his past form and numbers.

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All data from Pro Football Reference