SOS Targets

Updated: August 7th 2016

Fantasy players frequently must choose between players they have rated closely for the upcoming season. Looking at the schedule of those players might assist us making the choice between them.  Knowing the schedule helps fantasy owners because good defenses tend to give up less fantasy points to opponents than poor defenses do.  Strength of schedule (SOS) is not the overriding trait that determines player value but provides one factor we should consider.  Defensive personnel and coaching changes must also be taken into account.  I give a few examples of similarly ranked players I am targeting and avoiding below, in part due to SOS.

*SOS ranks listed below were taken from Scout Fantasy SOS at the time of writing.

*Running back ranks listed below were taken from Fantasy Pros PPR ADP at the time of writing.

Fade Ryan Tannehill (QB22, SOS: 28th), Target Jay Cutler (QB25, SOS: 6th)

Both Tannehill and Cutler present fine cheaper options for backups/streamers in 1QB leagues or second starters in 2QB leagues. New Miami head coach, Adam Gase, is widely considered a coaching guru for his work with Manning in Denver and Cutler in Chicago (though Manning is Manning and Cutler’s “resurgence” was somewhat overblown).  The fantasy results for Cutler, however, were not particularly good with Gase as the offensive coordinator.  Cutler lost 78 attempts resulting in a reduction in yardage and touchdowns from the previous season.  Cutler ended the season as just the 27th ranked fantasy quarterbacks in PPG.  Tannehill could likewise see a reduced workload this season with Miami emphasizing the run game more.

Miami’s schedule also projects poorly for its quarterback. Tannehill faces one of the more difficult intra-division schedules in the league for quarterbacks with the Jets, Buffalo, and New England all projecting as bad matchups.  The out of division schedule also includes tough games against Cincinnati, Seattle, and Arizona.  The fantasy playoff schedule only makes matters worse for Tannehill with poor matchups from week 14 on.

Chicago and Cutler receive a “cupcake” schedule by comparison playing the NFC East as its intra-conference division and the AFC South for its inter-conference division. The Bears play just three games (two against the Packers and one versus Houston) against defenses with defensive passer ratings inside the top 14.  We should also remember Cutler played last season without all of his receiving weapons for a good portion of the year.  Chicago’s top five expected targets going into the season (Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Kevin White, and Eddie Royal) all missed significant time due to injury.  Expect a nice bounce back campaign from Cutler this season.

Fade Carlos Hyde (RB17, SOS: 25th), Target Ryan Mathews (RB24, SOS: 15th)

You can read my bold prediction for Ryan Mathews, but I will concentrate on Hyde here.  The third year running back faces a tough challenge this year.  San Francisco projects as one of the worst offensive teams in the league with questions at quarterback and lack of playmakers at wide receiver.  The offensive line also graded out as one of the worst run-blocking units in the league last year.   Game flow may reduce the expected Chip Kelly induced bump in volume for Hyde with the 49ers predicted to be behind in so many games.  Hyde provides very little in the passing game with just 23 receptions in 21 career games averaging a meager 5.3 YPC.

The schedule does not present any favors to San Francisco either.  Hyde and the running attack face multiple “avoid” matchups including Seattle (2), Arizona (2), Carolina, and the Jets.  The beginning of the year is particularly brutal with the Rams, Carolina, Seattle, Dallas, and the Cardinals in the first five contests.

Hyde is a player to avoid in fantasy at his current price. The situation in San Francisco offers little scoring opportunities and probable game script dictates a projected workload that is less than many expect.  The bad offensive line and tough schedule should keep Hyde’s efficiency low.  Hyde’s lack of prowess in the receiving game and the situation around him present an atrocious weekly floor and a low ceiling that fantasy player should not want a part of.

Fade Tyler Lockett (WR34, SOS: 17th), Target DeSean Jackson (WR38, SOS: 8th)

The Lockett hype exploded this offseason along with his cost. There is a lot to like about Lockett including smooth acceleration and easy separation from defenders.  Target volume works against Lockett however.  He will likely need another thirty targets on the season to move into the consistent WR3 core.  Part of the narrative is that Seattle will abandon their run-first mentality and start airing out the ball more.  Don’t count on it.  Seattle is the only team that has maintained a run percentage greater than 50% over the last two seasons.  The Seahawks are unlikely to suddenly become a pass dominated offense, particularly with the incredible defense they possess and after taking multiple running backs in the draft.  Russell Wilson, who had an outstanding season last year, could see a small jump in attempts to cross the 500 threshold but probably will not see a big boost in attempts

There are not many unaccounted for targets from last year especially if Jimmy Graham comes back from his patellar injury. Seattle re-signed fellow wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to long term deals this offseason.  The Seahawks also drafted running back C.J. Prosise in the third round who is expected to be a major contributor in the passing game.

Desean Jackson has conversely seen his draft capital sink to the WR4 range after an injury-plagued 2015. He provides one of the better values in fantasy football this season.  Jackson is still the preeminent deep-threat in the NFL with smooth, top-end speed that few corners can match.  There should be plenty of volume for Jackson with Washington expected to rely heavily on the pass next season.  There is very little talent in the backfield with Washington seemingly committed to Matt Jones, one of the worst graded running backs from last season, as the lead back.  Washington’s faces a few tough matchups in 2016 as a division winner, but generally sees an easy schedule versus the pass with divisional matchups against the NFC North and AFC North.

Lockett’s price is not bad, but does not really compare to the exceptional value of DeSean Jackson this year. Jackson has proven to be a borderline WR2/3 throughout his career, even with low target numbers.  A fantasy owner who invests in Lockett bets that he makes the jump to what Jackson already is and pays a premium to make the gamble.  Do not be that owner.  Look for Jackson to take advantage of a favorable schedule and produce somewhere around a 60 reception, 1000 yard, 6 TD stat line with upside for more.

Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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