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Bump and Run

Super Bowl LV Preview and 2021 Best-Ball Tips

by Chris Allen
Updated On: February 10, 2021, 3:32 pm ET

Super Bowl weekend is finally upon us. We avoided any personnel losses due to the pandemic, the forecast on gameday looks fine, and both teams have had enough time to get healthy. The end of a unique and chaotic season is just days away and the news cycle for 2021 is already in full swing with trade discussions and updates on the incoming class. But let’s focus on the championship matchup one more time. I took another look at the game from Tampa Bay’s perspective and how they match up to Kansas City both offensively and defensively. In addition, I provided some more lessons learned for those looking to get into best-ball drafts for next season.

Keys to Success for Tampa Bay

Tampa’s defensive strength matches up well with Kansas City’s weakness on offense. The Bucs’ 27.8% pressure rate will be their key to getting through a depleted offensive line to Patrick Mahomes. However, with multiple options in the passing game, Mahomes has the footwork and vision to create once the pocket inevitably breaks down. Tampa needs to be able to balance both aspects of the Chiefs’ potent passing office. We saw a possible blueprint for the Buccaneers’ defense during their game against Green Bay.

Tampa was able to generate pressure with four while their corners played man coverage and the safeties took away Rodgers’ primary read. But press coverage resulted in a 23-yard strike early to Tyreek Hill in the first quarter in Week 12. A 10-yard cushion ended in a 75 yard touchdown. Tampa’s secondary will have their hands full, but their defensive front should be their saving grace.

But there’s no likely scenario where Tampa needs only 20 points to win. Tom Brady will need to respond to Kansas City’s dynamic offense. The Chiefs are first in Expected Points Added per Dropback allowed (-0.08) throughout the playoffs, but their safeties have had their lapses on big plays.

Brady has a 0.36 EPA per Play on throws of 15 air yards or more in the playoffs alone. While Josh Allen was limited to Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and John Brown down the field, Tampa’s passing game features seven different players with two or more deep targets during their march to the Super Bowl. Brady should be able to challenge Kansas City’s secondary and keep the offense moving.

Best-Ball Primer – Part II

Wide receivers and running backs dominate the early and middle rounds of best-ball drafts. We start at least two of each position every week and have to account for bye weeks and/or possible injuries over the course of the season. But the ‘onesie’ positions (positions we typically only start one player at each week) require their own strategy. Tight-ends are no exception. After trying to stream Cole Kmet for the fourth week in a row, drafters may turn to investing in the position early. Historical data points in that direction, but don’t wait too late to make your first selection.

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Elite Tight End or Bust

There are only a few true difference makers at the tight-end position. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews were the elite triumvirate heading into the 2020 season. Darren Waller and Zach Ertz have sat on the fringe for the last couple of season.  However, we talk ourselves into the mid-round options every year.

Tyler Higbee was the TE1 from Week 11 through the end of the season. All systems go in 2020."

“Kevin Stefanski used 12 personnel at the second-highest rate in 2019. Austin Hooper will thrive in Cleveland.”

The problem isn’t the logic. Most of it is rooted in the best information available at the time. The problem comes with the increase in ADP. Drafters that miss out on Kelce or Waller are looking for the next best option during the middle rounds. Analysis and narratives like the examples above are like ads we see on TV. Instead of focusing on what the product or player could provide we focus on the brand or the player’s name. Opportunity cost is cast aside. However, the last couple of years have shown us what we can reasonably expect.

Round Drafted vs TE PPG for 2019 and 2020

If you’re going to draft a tight-end, draft them early. Kelce and Kittle have propped up the position over the last couple of years, but Waller and Andrews at least have the usage to stay in consideration. The rest fell into the abyss. Unless you hit on Waller in the fifth round this season or Cook in the same range last year, your expected weekly output was similar to tight-ends drafted in later rounds. In addition, the players you passed up would have likely generated more.

I’ve named five different tight ends while discussing the position and its week-to-week volatility (seven if you count Higbee and Hooper). There were 58 different Top-12 tight ends through Week 16 of the 2020 season. The amount of differentiation at position with few high-end options should push drafters to avoid sacrificing opportunity cost just to fill a ‘onesie’ position.

Bounce-back Candidate for 2021

Baker Mayfield, Browns

Bounce-back may be a little extreme for characterizing Mayfield, but a fringe-QB1 finish should be within his range of outcomes in 2021. In his first season with Kevin Stefanski, Mayfield finished seventh in EPA per Dropback and Cleveland’s offense finished 10th in EPA per Play. The Browns haven’t seen similar success since Derek Anderson was the starting quarterback. Regardless, Mayfield and the offense reached previously unseen heights in both passing yards and points per game after much of Cleveland’s coaching staff changed from the previous season.

Weeks

EPA per Dropback

Neutral Passing Rate

Deep-ball Rate

PPG

1 to 4

12th

44.4%

16.5%

13.7

5 to 8

21st

54.1%

24.1%

14.6

9 to 12

12th

37.3%

21.1%

10.3

13 to 16

5th

65.4%

20.6%

22.1

The season started off confirming many of our priors. Stefanski’s run-first scheme dominated Cleveland’s offensive blueprint limiting Mayfield and his pass catchers. But surprisingly, the offense continued to evolve despite the loss of Odell Beckham after Week 7. Two extreme weather games in Weeks 8 and 10 slowed some of the progress, but the steady increase in neutral passing and EPA per Dropback should be noted. They still need some development to compete in the playoffs, but the foundation for success was apparent in their final game against Kansas City.

Pre-snap motion and play-action passing have become larger components of the Cleveland offense and lead to Mayfield’s improvements as a passer. His red-zone passing rate rose to 53.7% in the final quarter of the season with four QB1 performances to close out the season. He doesn’t have the juice on the ground to enter the Top 12 conversation (although his 165 rushing yards were a career high), but his offensive scheme and personnel should put him in contention for a QB1 spot in 2021.

Chris Allen

Chris Allen is a mechanical engineer by trade that leverages his analytical background to study the various components of fantasy football. From how weather impacts results to draft strategy, Chris uses a 'process over results' approach to deliver actionable analysis for any fantasy football format. You can find him on Twitter @ChrisAllenFFWX.