Fantasy Football Week #2 Recap: Your Machine Learning Cheat Sheet


We hope week one was nothing short of spectacular in your fantasy league. If not, don’t lose hope; even the 2010 Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs with a losing record. Even better, you have Darwin on your team! While winning your league’s jackpot—or your gas money back—isn’t guaranteed, Darwin will at least ensure you remain competitive by making well-rounded, data-driven decisions. So, here we go, week two!


A Reminder On How It Works

Darwin will predict how many points (standard, non-PPR) every player is going to score during the 2019 NFL season. We trained the model on historical player data from 2002-2017 as well as player age, draft position, strength of schedule, and many other variables, but the model still needs to be trained on new data generated from the first few games of the 2019 season before Darwin can make weekly predictions. Until then, we will refer to “Expected Fantasy Production” in the full report and compare Darwin’s predictions to’s projections.

*Note1: Rookies and players that did not play in 2018 were not used to create predictions.

*Note2: While the model was applied to Defense & Special Teams, we did not include projected fantasy points in the full report, and thus will not cover Defense & Special Teams in this blog series.


Top 5 Players of the Week in Each Position


                                                                       Quarterbacks (QB)

RingCentral Coliseum, the only remaining stadium in the United States that’s shared by professional football and baseball teams, played host to two historic events this week:

  1) The Oakland Raiders’ last game played on infield dirt;

 2) Patrick Mahomes burying the Raiders beneath the same dirt 

     they’ve called home since the 1960s.

In just the second quarter—without star receiver Tyreek Hill in the lineup, mind you—Mahomes chopped up the Raiders’ defense into compost with 278 passing yards and four touchdowns. That’s right. It took all of 15 minutes to prove he’s the real deal and should be in your starting lineup without question moving forward. The same goes for Lamar Jackson, who continues to defy expectations and currently leads all QBs in the league with 64.4 points so far this season.

If you happen to read any headlines about the mistreatment of dolphins, don’t panic; it’s not about Seaworld this time. The Miami Dolphins got shut out 43-0 by Tom Brady and friends, six of those points coming from a QB sneak by 42-year-old Brady. Even though this section is dedicated to quarterbacks, the first order of business is to drop Miami if, for some reason, they’re on your roster. Otherwise, it should come as no surprise to see Brady in the top five almost every week.


Darwin’s Take on Quarterbacks

Compared to other positions, everything looks normal on the quarterback front. However, Ben Roethlisberger, who Darwin predicted would finish in the top two (technically first, given Andrew Luck’s retirement), suffered a season-ending elbow injury. It’s not Darwin’s fault that two elite quarterbacks succumbed to the horrors of everyday life, but other than that, based on Expected Fantasy Production in our full report, Darwin’s been on point! 


                                                                       Running Backs (RB)

On Sunday, Dalvin Cook and Aaron Jones went head-to-head in Green Bay, both outperforming expectations with excellent showings. Cook rushed for 154 yards and had a career-high 75-yard touchdown run. Jones, despite a lackluster week one against a solid Chicago Bears’ defense, put up 116 rushing yards, a touchdown, and 34 yards from four receptions. Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliot are right where they should be after so-so performances in their respective season openers. 

Raheem Mostert also put in a surprisingly good week despite sharing the workload with Matt Breida and Jeffrey Wilson, all of whom joined the NFL as undrafted free agents. But that’s not expected to last once Tevin Coleman returns from a sprained ankle injury suffered in week one.

Darwin’s Take On Running Backs

Once again, based on these top five, Darwin’s predictions for Expected Fantasy Productions are relatively sound for the most part. It will be interesting to see though, once the model is trained on enough new data, how projections will change, especially in the case of Austin Ekeler who had another strong showing this week and currently leads all running backs with 50.7 points.

                                                                    Wide Receivers (WR)

Before Sunday, Demarcus Robinson’s sole purpose for being on an NFL roster was to dish out high-fives to his superior teammates. In doing so for three straight seasons, he seemingly gained enough talent via osmosis to put on a once-in-a-lifetime performance. Even if Tyreek Hill never returned this season, I wouldn’t count on Robinson accomplishing anything more than perfecting secret handshakes with each of his teammates.

Everyone else in this week’s top five makes sense, although you might note the absence of Bengals’ receiver John Ross, who put in a respectable showing following his lights-out performance from last week. Again, his future isn’t so crystal clear once A.J. Green returns, but he’s a solid choice this upcoming week.

Darwin’s Take On Wide Receivers

You might also notice the disturbing absence of DeAndre Hopkins. Jalen Ramsey, one of the best cornerbacks in the game, held the Texans’ star receiver to just 40 yards on Sunday. However, Darwin predicts he’ll finish the season as a top-five receiver with 171.1 points, and shouldn’t be doubted just because he had a bad week. His situation mirrors Julio Jones’ predicament, who had a disappointing first week against the Vikings followed by a spectacular showing against Philadelphia on Sunday. Darwin also has him finishing top five in his position, so I’d trust Darwin on this one, too.


                                                                      Tight Ends (TE)

It’s only been two weeks, but Mark Andrews is already having a stellar sophomore season. We can likely attribute this to Lamar Jackson playing out of his mind right now, but let’s give credit where credit’s due. He’s in the awkward position of not clearly being a second or third-tier player in his position, and yet he leads all tight ends (nearly nine points ahead of Travis Kelce!) at this point in time. Simply put, he’s a reliable option as long as Jackson continues to make defenses look silly.

For the first time in his career, Vance McDonald scored twice in a single game. No one likes to see a player in pain, but Ben Roethlisberger wrecking his elbow might be the best thing to happen in McDonald’s career. Backup quarterback Mason Rudolph connected with McDonald for two touchdowns in the second half, and I see no reason why the two won’t continue to build on this newfound relationship as the season progresses.

Darwin’s Take On Tight Ends

Once again, it will be interesting to see how Darwin’s predictions change given Mark Andrews and Vance McDonald’s pair of unlikely performances right out the gate. 


Overall, how’s Darwin doing?

The first two weeks in fantasy football are almost meaningless unless a star player suffers an unexpected injury or stirs up political controversy that angers nonathletes. Otherwise, it defies basic statistics and rational thinking, allowing random players to have their own “Helmet Catch” performances before evaporating into thin air like locker room sweat. 

Going by Expected Fantasy Production from the full report, Darwin is doing just fine, but the real fun starts once it can make weekly predictions. We hope to be able to do so starting next week or the week after, so you can expect a few changes in the formatting of this blog series to accommodate Darwin’s predictions, and therefore be able to provide juicier, more in-depth analyses to supplement the full report. See you next week!

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