Fantasy Football Week #3 Recap: Your Machine Learning Cheat Sheet


Week one and two are in the books, meaning players—and teams as a whole—should have worked out the kinks by now and be far more stable moving forward. Of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth! If it were true, fantasy football would be a pointless endeavor for all involved. So, without further ado, let’s see what week three has in store for us!

A Final Reminder On How It Works

If you’re joining us for the first time this week, here’s a brief rundown of how this all 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 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. We’re hoping to do so by week four! Until then, please 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)

We’re three weeks in and things are starting to look a little more normal around here—for the most part. The only outlier—who’s not listed in this week’s top five due to being a rookie—is New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. Even though we don’t take new blood into account, we have to give it up to the rookie for his outstanding performance on Sunday, his first official NFL start. Eli Manning rode the bench, gave some high fives, and avoided booing from his own fans for the first time in many moons.

As for the more seasoned names in this week’s top five, it’s business as usual for Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Russel Wilson, the latter of which tossed up over 400 yards, two passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns in the Seahawks’ loss against the Saints. Jameis Winston had his first strong game of the season, and Kyle Allen did well while Panthers’ starter Cam Newton deals with a Lisfranc injury. 

Darwin’s Take on Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes is on a hot streak right now, registering three or more touchdowns per game and absolutely no interceptions whatsoever. Assuming he keeps this up, he will not only eclipse Darwin’s initial prediction of 279.3 points but will also surpass Darwin’s maximum prediction of 323.5 points. Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson are in a similar boat, although even elite players are destined to have a bad game or two throughout the season.

Once Darwin starts making weekly predictions, you can expect their point totals to reflect their stellar performances so far this season, and the same goes for Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott. Darwin also says you should still be playing people like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Jared Goff. Despite the fact they’ve been mostly absent from the Top 5 (except Brady here and there).

  Running Backs (RB)

Compared to almost any other running back, Dalvin Cook has been super consistent. Now with three straight 100-yard games, there’s no reason to believe he’ll slow down in week four. Mark Ingram, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara, on the other hand, bounced back after depressing performances in week two. Phillip Lindsay managed to earn himself a slot in the Top Five this week, so good for him.

Darwin’s Take On Running Backs

Even though Saquon Barkley may be out until the Giants’ bye week (more than half the season), and Todd Gurley has been statistically insignificant for someone of his stature, there’s no reason to doubt Darwin’s predictions. Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliot, and Joe Mixon, among many others, are on track to either eclipse or meet Darwin’s predictions as the season progresses. Another player to note is the Colts’ Marlon Mack, who leads the NFL in carries after three weeks. Darwin predicts he’ll be a top 15 running back at the end of the season with about 171 points.

Wide Receivers (WR)

Mike Evans had a dismal first two games, only to put up a whopping 37 points against the New York Giants. And then Keenan Allen had a career-high performance against the Houston Texans and looks forward to pummeling the Dolphins defense this coming Sunday. Cooper Kupp, Tyler Lockett, and Amari Cooper continue to have respectable seasons as well. 

Darwin’s Take On Wide Receivers

For the most part, everything is going according to plan with Darwin, and not just for this week’s top five, mind you. Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and Juju Smith-Schuster are on target to meet or slightly exceed Darwin’s season predictions. As for Tyreek Hill, the good news is he’s finally out of his sling and was apparently able to dribble a basketball with both hands. He may even be able to return to the Chiefs’ lineup sooner than expected! With Patrick Mahomes torching defenses left and right, Hill could very well still be on track to finish in the top five overall according to Darwin, so keep being patient and don’t drop him from your lineup.

Tight Ends (TE)

As we all know, many players are bound to have a one-off performance or two throughout the regular season. Jordan Akins, in his sophomore season, fits the bill perfectly. While he’s not expected to put up big numbers like Travis Kelce, he put in work on Sunday with two touchdowns and 73 yards. Everyone else makes sense in this week’s top five.

Darwin’s Take On Tight Ends

According to Darwin, both Austin Hooper and Evan Engram are predicted to finish in the top ten in their position this season alongside Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, and are well on their way to doing so. Further down the talent chart, Will Dissly, Greg Olsen, and Tyler Eifert are performing as expected according to Darwin’s season predictions, although you should keep an eye out on Greg Olsen, who’s currently nursing a back injury.

Overall, how’s Darwin doing?

Despite the numerous injuries, sudden retirements, contract issues, and legal troubles just three weeks into the season, Darwin is holding its own so far with its overall season projections. Darwin is very close to being able to make weekly predictions; given how wild the season already is, and it will be interesting to see what its algorithms spit out in the coming weeks.

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