Rushing Yards Leader
The first question I ask myself when considering which players are a serious chance of taking out the rushing title is “is his team good enough to allow him to win the rushing title?”
What do I mean by that?
What I mean is, no matter how good of a running back someone is, if their team is down 14 points in the last quarter, have a guess at what that teams NOT going to do… run the ball. There’s no coincidence that the last 8 rushing title holders all played in the playoffs that season.
Not only do I want a Running Back who will get fed the rock because their team is winning in the last quarter, but I also want a Back who belongs to a run-first offence. I’ve found the top 7 run-first offences to be (in order): The Ravens, Vikings, Seahawks, Colts, Bills, Broncos, Raiders, and Titans.
I came to these teams by rank of Run % vs Pass % in the first halves of matches only. This way, time/margin doesn’t impact whether a team needs to run or pass, but ranks which teams actually want to run the ball, therefore a “run-first” offence.
I’m going to rule out the Ravens Running Backs as even though they probably end the season with the most team rushing yards, I don’t think it’ll mainly be from one player. With that being said, don’t rule out QB Lamar Jackson.
I’m taking out the Raiders – they’re not good enough. Broncos too. They’ll also be using a few Backs I’d suspect.
Colts are good enough for playoff, but they will split reps between 2, potentially 3 Backs, so take them out.
Well, that leaves three teams / backs: Derrick Henry (Titans), Dalvin Cook (Vikings), and Chris Carson (Seahawks). Although I think Carson will have an exceptional year (1,000+ yards) I’m going to swap him out for one player – Ezekiel Elliot (Cowboys).
There are a few main reasons why I’ve done this.
1) Elliott is the better player, not debatable
2) Elliott has a better O-Line, also not debatable
3) I believe the Cowboys are legit this season (puts them in more running opportunities)
Henry is my main pick here as this team is built for the run. Ranked 4th in run blocking (DVOA), and are the 4th most run-first team in the league. On top of this, the Titans run the ball on 30% of plays when they are leading in the 2nd half – the next most is the Vikings with 36%.
Both the Titans and Vikings want to build, and then hold their leads by running the ball. Both Henry and Cook should see plenty of the ball this season, making them great investments.
Passing Yards Leader
Matt Stafford (Detroit Lions) averaged the 2nd most passing yards per game last season (312.4) due to a number of factors; mainly due to the fact that he had the highest “intended air yards / attempt” in the league (#1 was passing yards’ leader, Jameis Winston), and also due to the fact that he threw the ball a lot (8th most attempts per game).
Stafford only played 8 games last season due to a fracture bone in his back, but he has otherwise been very durable throughout his career – not missing any games between from 2011 onwards.
With the Lions projected to be a middle-of-the-road side (again) this season, they won’t have the luxury of just running the ball in the 2nd half, and could provide plenty of opportunities for Stafford get some junk time stats.
Matt Ryan (Falcons) dropped back the most times per game in the league last season (44.87/game). This was partly due to the fact that he plays for the 4th most pass-first offence in the league, but also because the Falcons just weren’t any good. With the Falcons expected to be an average team again this season (win total o/u is 7.5), we should see Ryan in the top 5 yards/game again.
In numerous ways, Jared Goff (LA Rams) had a very similar season to Matt Ryan; Both missed the playoffs, both play in pass-first offences (Rams 6th pass-first), and both threw the ball a heck of a lot - Goff had the tied-most passing attempts last season. With the Rams going into the season not really knowing who is going to be running the ball, I’d expect the Rams to be pass-heavy once again.
It’s easy to look at last year’s leader board and think just because Michael Thomas (Saints) took out the Receiving Yards title out by 331 yards last year, that he’s just going to do it again. He very well might, but history suggests that it isn’t that straight forward.
No Receiver has taken out the title back-to-back since Megatron – Calvin Johnson – did in 2011/2012, and 18 of the last 24 title winners have won it for the first time. So even though Thomas may very well win it, I’m inclined to look elsewhere.
Since 2011, the average age of the Receiving leader is 26.11, with 6 of the 9 being 25-26 years old. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for a 30 year-old Julio Jones to take out the title, I’m just saying he’s not within the target demographic, so we will look at others.
Ideally, I’d like to choose a Receiver who is a clear number 1 Wide Receiver (Like Michael Thomas or Megatron were in their winning seasons). This means I’m eliminating Chris Godwin / Mike Evans (Bucs), and Odell Beckham / Jarvis Landry (Browns).
I’m taking out Davante Adams (Packers), purely because I believe that Aaron Rodgers has lost his accuracy downfield – something that has made him so elite for so long. If you like Davante Adams, I’d look to more Receiving Touchdowns over yards.
This leaves us with 3 receivers in the top 10 in the market – DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals), Kenny Golladay (Lions), and Tyreek Hill (Chiefs).
As I like Matt Stafford, it shouldn’t be any surprise to see that I like Kenny Golladay here also. DeAndre Hopkins should see a lot of targets from sophomore QB Kyler Murray, and let’s not forget about Tyreek Hill. Although Hill has Kelce to take some target % away from him, the high volume at which the Chiefs want to throw the ball could be enough to nullify that.
All of these receivers are under 30, and none of these players have taken out the title before - 3 Receivers who should be in their prime to take out their first Receiving title.
Late Edit: Don’t go sleeping Cooper Kupp (Rams). When I was proof-reading what I had written about Jared Goff and the Rams’ lack of certainty around the Running Back position, I was inclined to dig a little deeper into WR Cooper Kupp. Although Kupp is not your typical “Wide” Receiver, don’t underestimate his importance to the Rams offence. I see him as a modern-day Wes Welker; who, by the way, was a 2-time All-Pro and 3-time league reception leader.
Kupp isn’t someone that will hit you over the top like a Tyreek Hill does, but he is someone who Goff will try to look for in get-out situations… A LOT. Why? Because he’s safe and reliable. Kupp was targeted 134 times last season (11th in the league) and he caught 70.1% of balls that were thrown to him. Of those who had 120 + targets last season, only one player had a higher catch % rate than Kupp, and that was Michael Thomas.
Michael Thomas is a short favourite for just about every Receiving market available, as he deserves to be, but Kupp at $41 is massive value for receptions. And due to the Rams having a horrible running game, I don’t expect the Rams to want to just pound it in either, making Kupp viable in the Red Zone too. Kupp should get even more Red Zone looks this season despite already being the 6th most targeted Receiver inside the 20, and having the second most receiving touchdowns in 2019. Again, $41 is mental. The higher stake here doesn’t imply that I think it’s more probable than the 0.5 unit plays, it implies that I think there is more value in the odds. Happy to risk 1 unit on each here as I feel that the market is sleeping on Kupp. Don’t you be, either!
- 1 Unit – Derrick Henry Most Rushing Yards @ $8.50 (Sportsbet)
- 0.5 Units – Ezekiel Elliott Most Rushing Yards @ $10 (Multiple Books)
- 0.5 Units – Dalvin Cook Most Rushing Yards @ $17 (Bet365)
- 1 Unit – Matt Stafford Most Passing Yards @ $17 (Bet365)
- 0.5 Units – Matt Ryan Most Passing Yards @ $10 (Ladbrokes)
- 0.5 Units – Jared Goff Most Passing Yards @ 13 (Ladbrokes/Bet365)
- 0.5 Units – Kenny Golladay Most Receiving Yards @ $21 (Bet365/Pointsbet)
- 0.5 Units – DeAndre Hopkins Most Receiving Yards @ $15 (Multiple Books)
- 0.5 Units – Tyreek Hill Most Receiving Yards @ $17 (Multiple Books)
- 1 Unit – Cooper Kupp Most Receptions @ $41 (Sportsbet)
- 1 Unit – Cooper Kupp Most Receiving Touchdowns @ $41 (Pointsbet)
Total Units Staked: 7.5
We will re-visit these throughout the season.
Good luck with your investments, and happy NFL season!
Odds are correct as of 07:45 – 10th September 2020 (AEST). Odds are subject to change. Gamble Responsibly.