In Week 2 of the 2015 NFL regular season, Colin Kaepernick and teammates Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis all exceeded their season long DraftKings averages – and by a substantial amount. In fact, collectively the group outscored their per game averages with San Francisco by approximately 35 points (an increase of 39 percent).
Remarkably, though, the team only scored 18 total points and two TDs. On a rate basis nothing was dramatically that different either. The team attempted passes on 56 percent of their offensive plays, not far off from their average of 54.28 percent on the season. The offense was a little more concentrated with Smith, Boldin, and Davis receiving 52 percent of the team’s targets, but it wasn’t absurdly off their average of 42 percent. In fact over the team’s average pass attempts per game (32.9), that market share increase results in an average of just one extra target per player. On a per attempt basis, Kaepernick was okay. His 7.28 average outpaced his 6.62 mark on the season, but was still just his third highest average over eight games and right in line with his career mark.
Obviously there’s a correlation between QB success and that of his receiving options, but how do four members of an offense outperform their season long averages by 39 percent when they only scored two TDs and didn’t see a substantial increase on a rate basis (pass percentage, YPA, MS of targets)? The answer is total team volume.
In this game the 49ers ran 82 offensive plays, an increase of nearly 21.5 plays over their season long average (approximately a 35 percent average). Not coincidentally, that 35 percent increase is eerily similar to the 39 percent increase in DraftKings points for these four players.
It’s intuitive that if a team runs more plays than usual, they will rack up more statistics and more Fantasy points than usual. It’s still a bit striking to see how impactful this can be on its own. When you further consider the variance in NFL, it’s easy to see we could have seen higher point totals from one or two of these Niners players. What if the pass/run ratio was skewed? What if the team was more effective on a per play basis? What if one of the three receiving targets saw a more substantial boost in targets? This is how players, even ones on bad offenses like the 49ers last season, can turn in GPP winning performances or be useful in cash games on certain weeks.
Knowing the impact a team’s total volume can have on individual Fantasy performances is a start, but the key, in terms of application, is to be able to identify when shifts in team volume may occur ahead of time. In order to try and figure this out, I took a look at every game of the 2015 NFL season and compared each offense’s plays from scrimmage to their season average and ran a series of comparisons and correlation tests.