East Coast Offense: Generational Players
East Coast Offense: Generational Players

This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.

The Daniel Jones Era

I have no idea if Jones is any good – he was considered a reach at six overall, but he had a good preseason, and he would almost certainly have gone in the first two rounds even had the Giants passed on him. But I'm just ecstatic the Giants have finally moved on from player who was five years beyond his usefulness, and we'll get to see someone who has a chance to be on their next playoff team. And if Jones flops, the Giants can pivot quickly like the Cardinals did and take another QB early in the 2020 draft. 

And don't feel bad for Eli – he's got two Super Bowl MVPs, enough money for a few generations and most likely an unearned ticket to the Hall of Fame. I don't think he was a terrible guy, but I'd have had more respect for him had he stuck up for Odell Beckham, the player who likely dragged his carcass over the Canton line, when the media was hyperventilating over a kicking net. Credit where it's due for being up to the moment in two Super Bowls, but this is a good day for Giants fans, the NFL and humanity generally. 

Do Not Regress Generational Players Using League-Wide Historic Norms

It's common knowledge not to draft a quarterback early in 1-QB fantasy leagues. Why waste a late second-round pick on Patrick Mahomes when you can get Dak Prescott for free in the 12th? That's all well and good if you landed on Prescott, Tom Brady or Lamar Jackson (so far), but if you got Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky, Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins or Cam Newton, you might regret taking Mike Evans or Joe Mixon instead of Mahomes in Round 2. 

Even if you got someone off to a good start and in a stable situation like Keenan Allen, I'd still argue you're better off with Mahomes' consistency and ceiling at the league's most reliable position, even in a PPR league where Allen should be pretty consistent himself. Maybe that's obvious now that we see Mahomes throwing for 450 yards without his top receiver and despite having a 75-yard TD called back for a hold, but it should have been obvious before the season too. If someone had offered you Mahomes' 2018 numbers for your pick, you'd have been wise to give up anything outside of the top four. So why were so many supposedly savvy owners passing him up in the mid-to-late second and early-third rounds?

The simple answer: their mental (and digital) models had an error in them. The error involved the way in which they regressed Mahomes' outlier 2018 numbers into 2019 projections. Even Vegas, which had Mahomes TD totals at only 36.5, made this error, though at least Vegas can be forgiven somewhat because the under wins in the event of any significant injury, even one that's not long term. (For example, if you draft Mahomes, and he suffers a four-game injury, you'll still probably wind up with second-round value combining his 12-game and your sub's four-game stats. But those four games might kill your over in Vegas.) And in any event injuries are not a factor for his fantasy ranking because QBs have less risk than running backs and tight ends. 

So why didn't Mahomes get projected for something only slightly regressed from his 2018 numbers, making him a no-brainer second-round pick? Because some of the inputs that went into his projections were historical league-wide averages for things like yards and touchdowns per attempt. Because outliers are by definition rare, difficult and entail success rates that most players are unlikely to repeat, projections systems use average success rates as large components of the projection. As such, Mahomes' uncanny success is "regressed" toward the NFL mean. 

But Mahomes is a unicorn, a generational talent with physical skills we might not have seen before. He's Aaron Rodgers with an even better arm. And he plays in the greatest passing era of all time with one of the best offensive coaches and has the fastest and some of the most skilled offensive weapons in the league. When even good players have outlier years, you have to regress them because some of their goodness was probably due to luck. But when someone is playing at a talent level we might not have seen before, and that's married to an ideal situation, you should largely throw the historical league-average numbers in the garbage. 

We've seen this before. LeBron James averaged more than seven assists per game for a decade. It mattered not at all when making his projections that 6-9 small forwards rarely average more than four. Mike Trout's rookie year was a massive outlier, some thought, but now it's fairly common knowledge he's on the short list of greatest players of all time. 

So it's obvious we can't treat unicorns like ordinary horses, but who those unicorns turn out to be is only obvious after the fact. How can we say that Mahomes is the unicorn when Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning regressed massively after their outlier years?

For starters, Manning, Brady and Rodgers had plenty of superstar years short of their best ones, i.e., they still regressed to merely elite levels, and Rodgers' interception rate, in particular, has been unicorn-esque his entire career. But Manning and Brady never had Mahomes' physical talent, and their teams were rarely set up the way the 2019 Chiefs are. (And when Manning got that kind of setup with the Broncos in 2013 he set the record for yards and TDs.) 

Bottom line, there no one criterion to say which outlier performance is a fluke and which is repeatable, and everyone who puts up historic numbers looks great doing it. But to punt on making the call, and instead use a generic regression formula for everyone is, in my opinion, a mistake, or worse, a cop out. Making those calls is why so many of us got into this game in the first place – recognizing and appreciating greatness. To lump all 50-TD passers as generic regress-to-35 candidates is not only less enjoyable, it can also cause you to miss out on first-round production at a second-round price. 

Week 3 Trivia

With so many young receivers taking the top off defenses early on, can you name the active skill players (QB, RB, WR, TE) with the fastest 40 times at the NFL Combine?

Guessing the Lines

GameMy LineGuessed LineActual LineML-ALO/UActual O/UMO-AO
Titans at Jaguars2.5pick em-1.5-44240-2
Bengals at Bills34634543.5-1.5
Dolphins at Cowboys20.520210.54347.54.5
Broncos at Packers87.5804443-1
Falcons at Colts3.52.52.5-14647.51.5
Ravens at Chiefs3.55.56.535655-1
Raiders at Vikings11.510.58-3.54442.5-1.5
Jets at Patriots19.517.522.534545.50.5
Lions at Eagles7.577-0.547481
Panthers at Cardinals30-2.5-5.54646.50.5
Giants at Buccaneers87.56.5-1.548480
Texans at Chargers3.533-0.54647.51.5
Steelers at 49ers7.57.57-0.54744-3
Saints at Seahawks7.575-2.54544.5-0.5
Rams at Browns2.5-2.5-3-5.55150.5-0.5
Bears at Redskins-3-3-4-14241.5-0.5

It's insane there are two 20-point lines this week, the first time I can remember that's been the case. My biggest discrepancies are the Panthers - likely off the board now that Cam Newton is iffy for Week 3 - the Browns, though they'll be coming off a short week and the Jaguars on Thursday night. 

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.

Week 2 Observations

Rams-Saints was incredibly frustrating. Not only did the refs miss on the Cameron Jordan TD, but Drew Brees was knocked out early, and Teddy Bridgewater is worse than Taysom Hill.

While Brees (Mr. Dink and Dunk) depends heavily on Alvin Kamara's run-after-the-catch skills, apparently Kamara is also dependent on Brees' timing and touch throws that allow him to catch the ball in stride.

Todd Gurley scored on a goal-line carry and out-touched Malcolm Brown 19 to seven, so his situation isn't dire yet. I'd still try and hold onto Darrell Henderson, but that will depend bench size and roster health during the bye weeks.

Maybe Jared Goff's home/road splits are a thing.

Some players like Adrian Peterson seven years ago and Cooper Kupp this year recover from ACL tears like it's the common cold. Others like RGIII are never the same.

The Bears (Super Contest pick) blowing the cover after being up 10 in the fourth quarter was a baseball bat to the testicles. I didn't get exactly what happened on the two-point-conversion that did it (and prevented overtime) — did the Broncos only go for two because they had it from the one? — but I'm shocked Flacco was able to engineer those drives. Maybe the defense got worn down in the altitude. I also read the Bears final drive was gifted to them by a weak personal foul penalty. Not that I cared once the cover (Bears -2.5) was blown, but it's amazing the league lets games turn on total garbage.

Emmanuel Sanders made a great catch at the back of the end zone to complete the comeback. I'm surprised the government hasn't abducted him to study his healing superpowers. (Just nine months ago, the 32 YO had surgery to repair a torn Achilles.)

Incidentally, doesn't it seem like there are more prominent old players than ever in the league? Jason Witten, Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Adam Vinatieri (though maybe not for long), Darren Sproles, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc. It's one thing if they were long snappers, back-up QBs or essentially player-coaches, but these guys are getting carries/targets/attempts every week.

David Montgomery wasn't efficient, but he ran hard, and it's no longer a committee on early downs in Chicago.

I got Mahomes in one of five leagues, but I should have been more aggressive in a couple others. (One NFFC one I picked first, and he was gone before the pick came back to me, but there were three more in which I could have paid up for him.)

When the Chiefs face a team that can hang, we could see a 600-yard passing game from Mahomes. (Also Tyreek Hill will be back at some point.)

As for the Raiders I'll repeat a bad joke I made on Twitter: "Derek Horse and Buggy."

Leonard Fournette scored on that two-point conversion. Imagine the uproar if the Jaguars had a fan base.

Gardner Minshew looks like a player. He scrambled well and kept his poise with the pressure on. Every so often great quarterbacks (Kurt Warner, Tom Brady, Tony Romo) come out of nowhere, and while each individual one including Minshew is a long shot, it will happen again, especially in an era when it's never been easier to play the position.

Jaylen Ramsey sure locked down DeAndre Hopkins.

It looks like Carlos Hyde is early-down workhorse in Houston. If you're convinced Hyde is terrible, and Duke Johnson is so much better, then there's hope. But for now it looks like Johnson might end up with more or less than role he's had for most of his career with the Browns.

It's disappointing Kyler Murray had only three carries for four yards, but I'll take 349 passing yards and 8.7 YPA in Baltimore.

Lamar Jackson showed Murray what a real running QB looks like. I'd like to see him play a good defense, but QB2 (after Mahomes) would not be a crazy ranking for him right now.

I narrowly escaped losing a matchup because I benched Mark Andrews for O.J. Howard. Never again.

Kliff Kingbury's FG attempt on 4th-and-1 from the Ravens four, down seven on the road as 13-point underdogs was unconscionable.

It's only two games, and against average or worse defenses, but Dak Prescott with a real offensive coordinator and decent wideouts looks like a star. (The Michael Gallup injury hurts, though.)

Rashaad Penny out-produced Chris Carson and did not fumble. After seeing only two targets last week, Tyler Lockett had 12 on Sunday, but his output was uncharacteristically Jarvis-Landry-esque. I suppose the volume is the more important thing, though.

Who knew Antonio Brown was the glue that held the Steelers together?

Only the Dolphins possibly — and it's a close call — have a worse defense than the Giants.

I took the Dolphins +18.5 at home in the Super Contest. The line could have been double, and Miami still would not have covered. 

The Patriots haven't given up a touchdown since last year's AFC championship game.

Antonio Brown led the Patriots in targets, receptions and yards, though it was a modest day for the team's pass-catchers given the blowout. My assumption is he'll be around the rest of the year, barring new evidence about which we haven't yet heard. It's certainly possible some emerges, but given the incidents in question were from 2017, that strikes me as unlikely.

There's not much to say about Titans-Colts except Indy isn't remotely packing it in after losing Andrew Luck. But it might be time to put Vinatieri (two more missed PATs) out to pasture.

Dalvin Cook looks like a top-five fantasy player when healthy. Aaron Jones ceded a TD catch to Jamaal Williams early but is the clear starter and a top-10 back right now.

I get the Chargers can't make a field goal these days, but Philip Rivers' interception, down three, on third-and-19 from the Lions 28 was idiotic. If the guy's not open, check it down and try a short, game-tying field goal. Instead he forced it, gave away the game (and the potential cover.)

So much for T.J. Hockenson as a must-start TE. Maybe the must-start TE is whoever is playing the Cardinals (Hockenson in Week 1, Andrews in Week 2, Greg Olsen in Week 3.)

 I scoffed when I saw people spending so much FAAB on career special-teamer Raheem Mostert last week. But Matt Breida is too small to be a bell cow, and someone else has to carry the rock. It's nice Jeff Wilson scored two TDs though, leaving Mostert only the receiving one.

I guess it's time to drop Dante Pettis who has fallen to the ninth circle of hell. Deebo Samuel and Marquise Goodwin seem to be Jimmy Garoppolo's favorite looks, over even George Kittle. I have to imagine the record holder for receiving yards by a TE will be heavily involved, even if the record was set largely with Nick Mullens under center.

If you Duckduckgo (Google is dead to me) garbage time, there's a video of John Ross catching a 66-yard TD with 45 seconds left, cutting the lead to 24. Normally, you get some PPR crumbs in that situation, but almost never a long bomb.

Baker Mayfield had good stats thanks to Beckham's one-handed sideline catch and an 89-yard TD that was mostly yards after the catch. But Mayfield wasn't especially accurate for much of the game, missing Beckham high and throwing behind his backs on short routes. Even so, Mayfield played like star, and by that I mean, as though he were one, something that goes a long way in a world of check-downs and holding the ball too long in the face of a rush. He moved well, kept his focus down the field and was always on the attack. We saw him play better last year, but possibly his best asset, his mentality, is still the same.

Beckham is a generational receiver, the only one (well maybe Hopkins) who makes that one-handed catch on the sideline, and Hopkins would have been caught from behind on the slant.

Jarvis Landry and Mayfield just aren't a good fit. Landry belongs in a dink and dunk offense with Ryan Tannehill, not poor man's Brett Favre.

Nick Chubb ran hard, but there weren't a lot of holes, though his involvement in the passing game was encouraging.

Trevor Siemian's play devolved below that of an invertebrate, perhaps down to the level of a single-celled organism (0.5 YPA on six passes) before he was injured. Luke Falk replaced him and looked sharp, and that includes a drive-killing drop by Josh Bellamy. Good luck next week in New England, though.

Le'Veon Bell ran well despite modest production (the whole defense keyed on him) and remains one of the league's premier workhorse backs. He had 21 carries and caught all 10 of his targets.

Myles Garrett was a monster, generating three sacks, a roughing the passer penalty and the hit that knocked Siemian out of the game.

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Chris Liss
Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.
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