By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports
We’re going to look at one prime breakout candidate, one ideal sell-high player, and one sneaky waiver wire add, based on advanced stats and metrics, heading into Week 7.
Breakout Candidate: Joe Mixon
With six weeks in the books, and 563 Yahoo Fantasy articles written by the best analysts in the business, we must have exhausted all the possible breakout candidates in the Fantasy Football player pool, right? Right. Wrong.
May I introduce Joe Mixon. After averaging just 8.7 PPR fantasy points per game through five weeks and coming off a Week 6 bye, no one is thinking about Mixon. He is the ultimate under-the-radar running back. This is where analytics comes in handy.
Reviewing Mixon’s advanced metrics prospect profile in a vacuum this offseason, he possessed the highest probability of becoming the NFL’s next generational running back. His size-adjusted workout metrics were the most impressive among the 2017 rookie running back class, evidenced by a 111.2 (91st percentile) Speed Score and a 102.4 (73rd percentile) SPARQ-x Score.
Mixon is more than a size-speed specimen. At Oklahoma, he posted an 11.7-percent (81st percentile) target share, demonstrating an ability to win in all phases on the football field. For this reason, Mixon’s metrics align closely with Ezekiel Elliott. Yet, his running style reminds scouts of Le’Veon Bell. To summarize, the numbers compare Mixon to Elliott and the experts compare him to Bell [drops coffee cup in slow motion].
The advanced metrics now support the Mixon-Bell comparison at the NFL level. This year, Mixon is demonstrating rare patience, particularly for a 21-year old rookie running back. His 3.13 seconds spent behind the line of scrimmage ranks No. 3 in the NFL. No surprise, Bell’s 3.21 seconds ranks No. 2.
In Lazor We Trust
In Week 3, Bill Lazor took over for Ken Zampese as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. Since Lazor took the controls, Mixon’s role has expanded rapidly:
|Metrics||Without Bill Lazor||With Bill Lazor|
|Touches Inside 10-Yards||0%||67%|
It seems Lazor visited Mixon’s PlayerProfiler.com page and is now compelled to unlock one of the NFL’s most impressive young running backs.
This week, Mixon travels to the Pittsburgh whose 26.9 PPR fantasy points allowed per game to opposing RBs is the seventh highest in the NFL. More recently, Pittsburgh has implemented a run funnel philosophy opting to vacate the box and redeploy defenders to the boundary to throttle opposing passing attacks. As a result, the Steelers run defense was recently gashed by three young backs with varied skills sets:
|Week||Running Back||Rush Yards||Yards Per Carry|
Mixon looks like a running back on a precipice of a game-changing breakout. Acquire him in fantasy leagues before that trade window closes, and make sure he is activated this week against at Pittsburgh.
Sell-high: Adrian Peterson
Playing Mixon this week feels like Christmas, but what about Peterson? This refurbished toy looks like new again! Not. So. Fast.
Despite taking handoffs from Drew Brees in a wide open New Orleans attack, Peterson was still one of the NFL’s least effective running backs by every advanced metric. Even after accounting for last week’s 134-yards eruption, Peterson still checks in the near the bottom of the league in all efficiency categories.
|Adrian Peterson 2017 Efficiency (Or Lack Thereof)|
|Production Premium||-54.7||#111 ranked|
|Yards Per Touch||2.9||#103 ranked|
|Fantasy Points Per Opportunity||.35||#109 ranked|
Furthermore, Peterson’s Week 6 flashback performance was one of the least impressive 100-yard rushing games by an NFL running back in this context:
1. The Cardinals enjoyed a 24-0 lead with no incentive to throw another pass after halftime.
2. Peterson caught zero passes.
Time to Cash Out
Peterson fantasy owners should leverage his name recognition and residual brand equity and deal him now for an ascending player such as the aforementioned Mixon.
Sneaky Add: Dion Lewis
Great news: Dion Lewis is back!
Top Talent Resurfaces
Lewis was a top-10 fantasy running back through seven weeks in 2015, despite a mere 44.6-percent RB Opportunity Share. How was that possible? Lewis was the NFL’s most elusive running back that season, evidenced by an astounding 58.8-percent Juke Rate, evaded tackles per touch on PlayerProfiler.com.
|Dion Lewis Historic Juke Rate|
Lewis tore his ACL midseason, and then re-injured the surgically-repaired knee heading into the 2016 season. Two years since his first knee surgery, Lewis appears 100-percent healthy based on the return of his next-level elusiveness.
All Systems Go
The Patriots ramped Lewis back up slowly. Showing no ill-effects from additional usage, Lewis out-snapped, out-touched, and out-produced cardboard cutout RB Mike Gillislee, who also had a fumble to put him in the doghouse last week. Lewis looks like the guy in the Patriots backfield.
Stash him now and reap the rewards.