Fantasy Football Fact or Fluke: Same faces, new places — what can we believe about player performance?

Week 11 is in the books. I could talk about Davante Adams finally having a top-10 WR week or that Tony Pollard almost had a top-10 RB week, but the fact that either of those is worth mentioning is kind of depressing. Here's hoping it's a sign of good things to come.

Instead, I'm going to pick up where I left off last week, thinking about small sample sizes.

We determined there is simply too much inherent variability in factors contributing to a player’s fantasy performance. We cannot put a number on how many games we need to see before we believe we know the truth about them. I looked at rookies that time, who necessarily have a small sample size given it’s their first year in the league.

This week I want to consider veterans in new roles for the same team, or those who have changed teams. Even here we have more data for some players than others. When the new version doesn’t match the old version, what’s a fantasy manager to believe? Same faces, new places: let’s sort out what’s true and what’s just noise.

I hope everyone has a happy and successful Thanksgiving Day, both at the table and the box scores. Thanks for reading!

T.J. Hockenson, TE Minnesota Vikings (New Place)

Hockenson is the current TE1 by total fantasy points and TE2 by half-PPR fantasy points per game. His Week 7-10 run was Travis Kelce-esque (he averaged nine catches for 95 yards and two receiving touchdowns in that span). He was traded at the deadline last year to the Vikings, but had only one noteworthy fantasy game (Week 16 vs. the NY Giants) the remainder of that season. Since Justin Jefferson was injured earlier this year, Hockenson has been the main man. Even though the team struggled Sunday night in Denver, it was Hockenson who led the team with seven targets and 55 receiving yards. Tight end certainly isn’t a stable fantasy position for most of us, but if Hockenson is on your roster, you can relax and trust him to the end.

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Minnesota Vikings (New Place)

Dobbs has turned out to be not what I expected. It reminds me that Kirk Cousins turned out to be not what I expected in Minnesota either. Maybe it’s a place for quarterbacks to thrive. Dobbs played his best football of the season his first two weeks as a Viking, but not by such a terrific margin. On the season he is second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (389) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (six) while ranking fourth in pass attempts (362) with 12 TD/6 INT. His completion percentage isn’t great, but it's better than Justin Fields’, Kyler Murray’s and C.J. Stroud’s.

The numbers put him in very good company, fantasy-wise, and he should be starting in any Superflex or two-QB leagues. Even while losing to Denver, Dobbs made history by being the first QB to score both a passing and rushing touchdown in his first three games with a new team. Jefferson getting closer to returning only increases the probability of Dobbs remaining fantasy-relevant through the playoffs. FantasyPros gives Minnesota the best QB strength of schedule remaining, if you need more incentive.

Devin Singletary, RB, Houston Texans (New Place)

The Texans have given Singletary 52 carries over the past two games without Dameon Pierce. He has turned them into back-to-back 100-plus-yard rushing games, both with a score while averaging over 5.0 YPC. This is well above anything Pierce has done this season but he does appear to be getting closer to returning. The most likely outcome here is a timeshare that will drastically dampen Singletary’s future projections. Hopefully, you were able to harness these two great spot starts because I expect the numbers to drop as soon as Pierce is back in action, possibly for Week 12 vs. Jacksonville.

Dalton Schultz, TE, Houston Texans (New Place)

While we’re on the Texans, Schultz has been a key cog in this new offensive powerhouse team led by rookie Stroud. The rookie quarterback struggled in Week 11, but still managed to pull out a win over Arizona. Schultz has emerged as fantasy’s TE7 in overall fantasy points, TE6 in points per game (half-PPR). He’s close to Nico Collins and Tank Dell in targets and touchdowns, highlighting that he isn’t an afterthought in this offense. He’s startable every week.

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (New Role)

Pollard has had a lot of ink spilled on his behalf this season, so to speak. The expectations on him in the absence of competition pushed his ADP into late Round 1-early Round 2. He was known to fantasy fans as an explosive talent capable of big plays in space and hard-nosed rushes up the middle. Wherever he went at the end of last season, fantasy points followed. Things got off to a great start this fall, but quickly came to a screeching halt. While we tried to make sense of his lack of scoring opportunities and reduction in carries he slowly crushed our fantasy dreams.

In Week 11, he finally found his way into the end zone for the first time since Week 1. No Pollard managers celebrated until they were sure the penalty was on the defense. The whole Pollard situation is frustrating, because Dallas is thriving without his contributions. The team has zero motivation to do anything different. In fact, the Cowboys could limit him further to ensure he's in top shape for the playoffs. I wish I could be more optimistic, but despite a pretty nice upcoming schedule, Pollard is a low-end RB2 for fantasy.

Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals (Returning role from injury)

Murray has played two games and is already back in his usual company as the QB4 in fantasy points per game. When he plays, he’s effective and must be started. His first two matchups weren’t cakewalks either; Houston and Atlanta both have improved defenses. Murray helped fantasy managers by rushing in a touchdown in each game, something he looks so natural doing you know there’s more to come on that front.

He’s locked in on Trey McBride as a favorite target, but has also gotten Rondale Moore and Greg Dortch more involved in the pass offense while not forgetting about Marquise Brown. James Conner’s value has taken a hit as a result of Murray’s rushing touchdowns and a difficult schedule ahead signals warning to his managers. Overall, Murray’s return is a boon to his backers and McBride managers, but the run game might be in decline over the next few weeks. The Cardinals’ wide receivers are best reserved as DFS dart throws than season-long starters.

Jake Ferguson, TE Dallas Cowboys (New Role)

The departure of Schultz to Houston opened up a nice opportunity for Ferguson this season. It doesn’t take much to be a valuable tight end — Ferguson is TE8 with just 8.2 fantasy points per game. That’s better than Dallas Goedert, Dalton Kincaid, Darren Waller, Pat Freiermuth, Evan Engram and Kyle Pitts, though. Ferguson had a three-game TD streak going before Week 11 but remained involved in the game plan with five targets. He’s seen as many as 10 targets in a good passing matchup, so I really like him against Washington this Thursday afternoon.

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