Fantasy Football Week 2 Stealing Signals: Numbers to know, players to add, trade for, for every game – CBS Sports
The second data point is always more interesting than the first.
If a player’s Week 2 stat line doesn’t agree with his Week 1 output, understanding why is integral. Rookies T.J. Hockenson and Josh Jacobs went from big debuts to quieter Week 2 performances. Where do their rest of season expectations sit?
When Week 2 backs up Week 1, we very well might be seeing the start of a trend — Lamar Jackson should be near the top of every rest of season quarterback ranking. But that is not guaranteed, as we’re still dealing with a very small sample — T.Y. Hilton and Derrick Henry each backed up two-touchdown Week 1 performances with another in Week 2, but the pace of their offenses adds a layer of concern.
We also had injuries, including significant ones for two franchise quarterbacks and former Super Bowl champions, which matter not just for those who drafted Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger but also the skill position players on both of their offenses.
It’s a lot to sort out, so let’s go through it game by game. For Week 2, I’ll reference the Week 1 article liberally. This is not meant to be a victory lap or condemnation but a reference point that will allow us to cover more ground rather than repeat points.
Data is typically courtesy of Pro Football Reference, RotoViz, the RotoGrinders Premium Usage App, airyards.com. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter @YardsPerGretch with any questions about anything I covered or to ask my thoughts on something I glossed over. That is some of my favorite feedback, because it’s often something I’ve missed. Shout out to the followers who noted Rashard Higgins’ injury and Devonta Freeman’s fumble costing him some snaps in Week 1.
Here are some important statistical acronyms to know for Stealing Signals:
Green Zone – Inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
HVT – : for running backs, all receptions and all touches inside the 10 yard line.
TRAP – : for running backs, the percentage of all touches that are not high-value touches. Over the past five seasons league-wide, 75.1% of touches were not high-value. When an individual player has a rate higher than this, his workload is hollow; lower indicates a better chance for Fantasy success.
WOPR – : a metric created by Josh Hermsmeyer, it balances team share of targets and team share of air yards. Because a player’s WOPR is a share of his team’s overall opportunity, it’s important to consider team volume as additional context.
RACR – Receiver Air Conversion Ratio: also created by Hermsmeyer, RACR is calculated as total receiving yards divided by total air yards. Similar to yards per reception or yards per target, but per air yard instead.
Buccaneers 20 – Panthers 14
Thursday Night Football had a couple of stars, but far more duds. While the over/under fell in advance of kickoff Thursday, it still closed at 48 points. Six field goals kept it two touchdowns shy of that number.
Let’s start with the Buccaneers passing game, where Mike Evans and O.J. Howard were moderate and major disappointments, but Chris Godwin again looked like a star in the Bruce Arians slot role. There’s not much to say on Godwin, who is converting a strong opportunity share into plenty of Fantasy scoring through two weeks.
Evans is not, but he also entered the season with a sickness that it’s hard to imagine he was fully over on a short week. More notably, Evans has seen good volume and just been inefficient. Through two weeks, Evans and Godwin have nearly identical WOPRs, with Godwin having the higher target share but Evans seeing far more air yards. This is essentially what we expected; the difference in production is simply efficiency.
Evans’ RACR through two weeks is 0.38, meaning he’s converted 38% of his air yards into receiving yards. His career RACR is 0.57, and he’s never been below 0.5 in a season. So through two weeks, the volume is there, but he’s been at least 30 or 40 receiving yards shy of his typical efficiency. He’s also failed to find the end zone, despite a near miss when targeted there in Week 2. He’ll be fine as he gets healthier.
O.J. Howard is a bigger concern. Howard saw zero targets in Week 2, though he had a catch negated by a questionable offensive pass interference. Interestingly, Howard’s role expanded in Week 2. In Week 1, Howard ran a route on just 55% of Jameis Winston’s dropbacks, but he was up to a nice 69% in Week 2. Meanwhile, Cameron Brate was at 48% in Week 1 but fell to 31% in Week 2.
Howard’s not someone to drop, as in 10 games last year he had both a zero-catch and one-game game and still finished in the top six in both PPR and non-PPR points per game. Even with Brate involved, Howard should still have some splash efficiency games.
Howard simply hasn’t seen many downfield targets yet, as his aDOT in both 2017 and 2018 were well into the double-digits, but his early-season aDOT in 2019 sits at 5.8. A short completion to Cameron Brate on the first play after the two-minute warning of the first half is a great example of the targets that haven’t been there.
The defense had a single high safety and he appeared nowhere near Howard’s seam route, which could have meant a 25-yard touchdown. Winston chose to fire the ball to Brate underneath to convert the first down. The key there is Howard is still running the downfield routes that helped make him so efficient on limited volume thus far in his career.
Peyton Barber certainly looked spry on a few plays, rushing for between 12 and 16 yards on three of his carries, including his touchdown run. He had just one high-value touch on 24 total touches, and even with those splash plays he still averaged 3.6 yards per carry. Ronald Jones again appears buried; he saw just four rush attempts and barely played. Dare Ogunbowale again played on third downs. Barber won’t rack up 20-plus carries most weeks and doesn’t have a passing game role or much explosion as a player, so he’s not a recommended play going forward. Jones is back to a long-term stash until we see him on the field, but he’s not an auto-drop just because he had an exciting Week 1 and then didn’t get much action in Week 2 after reports he would. You didn’t draft him to be a huge September contributor.
On the Panthers‘ side, there’s reason to worry about Cam Newton. First of all, Newton isn’t rushing, something that significantly hinders his Fantasy ceiling. Secondly, while Newton certainly had the velocity on several throws, his accuracy does not appear to be there. Whether that’s related to his offseason shoulder surgery is unclear, but Newton has certainly had bad accuracy games in the past and been able to bounce back, so the hope is that happens here. His 48% completion rate is well below any season of his career and especially his 68% mark last season.
One positive was Newton was willing to push the ball downfield far more often in Week 2 (which is also likely why his accuracy issues stood out, as those are more difficult throws). The depth of throws was helpful for Curtis Samuel, who saw 13 targets and a massive 234 air yards (18.0 aDOT), more air yards than any player in Week 1. D.J. Moore also saw big volume, catching nine of 14 targets for 89 yards. His targets are more of the possession variety, at an aDOT of 8.5.
Both could have frankly been quite a bit more productive than they were if Newton were a bit more accurate. Both receivers appear locked into big roles, as does Greg Olsen, who actually led the team in receiving with a 9-6-110 line despite a questionable tag coming in.
Christian McCaffrey still played his typically huge snap allotment, but the Panthers seemed to game plan away from him some, which perhaps makes sense given it’s only Week 2 and he had 29 touches in Week 1. Chalk it up to a short week and a desire to win this game other ways; I expect this to be among the lowest Fantasy outputs of McCaffrey’s season.
- Signal: Cam Newton — lack of rushing; Mike Evans — plenty of air yards; D.J. Moore/Curtis Samuel — big roles
- Noise: Cam Newton — 51 pass attempts; Christian McCaffrey — 2 receptions; O.J. Howard — 0 receptions; Peyton Barber — 24 touches (script-related)
Ravens 23 – Cardinals 17
- Snap notes: Marquise Brown – 65% (+47%), Mark Ingram – 58% (+26%), Gus Edwards – 20% (-18%), Justice Hill – 20% (-10%), Damiere Byrd – 93% (+5%), KeeSean Johnson – 32% (-44%), Michael Crabtree – 32% (+32%), David Johnson – 60% (-26%), Chase Edmonds – 40% (+29%)
- Key stat: Marquise Brown – 37 routes (84% of dropbacks)
An exciting matchup of young dual-threat quarterbacks on paper, the Ravens and Cardinals didn’t disappoint in Week 2. Let’s start with Lamar Jackson, who backed up his strong Week 1 passing performance with another highly efficient outing but also opened things up with his legs after just six rushing yards in Week 1. Jackson gained 120 yards on the ground on 16 carries, and the ability to post 12 Fantasy points before even considering passing stats is exactly what makes him a cheat code for Fantasy. As I said in the intro, he’s a locked-in top-three Fantasy quarterback.
Marquise Brown’s huge production on limited snaps was an important Week 1 data point, but it’s out the window entirely now. Brown ran a team-high 37 routes and saw 13 targets and 149 air yards, posting the sixth-highest WOPR in Week 2. He’s a must-start in Week 3 against the Chiefs.
The other wide receivers are less notable both because the team rotated and because Jackson continued his preference for the tight end position, targeting Mark Andrews nine times for an 8-112-1 line and throwing an additional four passes toward Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst, with Hurst being the recipient on Jackson’s second touchdown pass. It’s very clearly Andrews and Brown as the pass-catchers to have here; no other Raven had more than three targets in Week 2, and through two weeks it goes Brown as the team leader with 18, Andrews with 17 and no one else with more than six.
Mark Ingram got banged up and didn’t play a full slate of snaps, making it all the more notable his snap share rose considerably. The lack of RB targets continues to be a concern, and while Ingram was efficient with his two chances and posted a 2-30 receiving line, two targets is not enough to post big Fantasy weeks in the modern NFL, especially when your quarterback might out-carry you as Jackson did in Week 2. Ingram’s still a sell for me given underwhelming production even with the offense rolling. Justice Hill is worth holding given that while his snaps dipped, they didn’t dip as much as Gus Edwards’ did, and he is still the most talented backup here.
While Jackson was great, Kyler Murray wasn’t far off. Playing on the road against a fearsome Ravens defense, Murray was very efficient as a passer, particularly early. Murray’s lack of rushing production through two games is a little odd given he ran for over 1,000 yards in college, but his upside is not too dissimilar from Jackson’s if the rushing materializes given he threw for 349 yards in a road game at Baltimore. He’s a great guy to target if you can acquire him given he didn’t produce any touchdowns in Week 2.
A big reason for that was Kliff Kingsbury’s unwillingness to go for it on fourth down inside the 5 yard line three separate times. Let’s hope he learns from that, because it wasn’t great for Fantasy.
The passing game was more concentrated in Week 2, and in ways we might expect. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk dominated the targets and air yards and both posted 100-yard days. We talked about the high rate of four-wide sets last week, and in Week 2 that continued, though the playing time shifted. Damiere Byrd was the clear No. 3, playing 93% of the snaps, while KeeSean Johnson gave up a considerable number of snaps to Michael Crabtree as the two split the fourth wide receiver role. If you added Johnson in deeper leagues last week like I did, he’s droppable, but that is a situation to monitor given how many snaps and routes are available for wide receivers in this offense overall.
David Johnson suffered an injury to the same surgically-repaired wrist that cut short his 2017 season, and the team was understandably cautious. Johnson did return and scored a short touchdown after the injury, but Chase Edmonds played a 40% snap share a week after playing just 11%. The Cardinals were in a pass-heavy script and totaled just eight running back rushes, with Johnson taking seven. Johnson also had just one catch, but that’s perhaps to be expected given the injury was to his wrist.
I’m not too concerned about Johnson’s usage or lack of yardage in this one, and am pleased he got out of this without a major injury. That will be something to monitor in the coming days.
- Signal: Marquise Brown — full-time player; Kyler Murray — strong passing efficiency in a tough road matchup (fade the lack of touchdowns)
- Noise: David Johnson — lack of touches, production (injury-related, tough matchup)
Colts 19 – Titans 17
- Snap Notes: Deon Cain – 46% (+29%), Zach Pascal – 44% (+7%), Chester Rogers – 40% (+0%), Parris Campbell – 25% (-4%), Derrick Henry – 50% (-11%), Dion Lewis – 50% (+9%)
- Key Stats: Marlon Mack – 95.7% TRAP; Derrick Henry – 83.8% TRAP (historical average – 75.1%)
Offensively, the Colts and Titans have a lot of similarities right now. We talked last week about how the Colts stuck to the run game even in a negative script, and through two weeks, both teams are among the league’s run-heaviest in neutral situations.
That was problematic for many of the passing-game options in this one. Jacoby Brissett did throw three touchdowns for the Colts, which helped some of the Fantasy totals on their side. Eric Ebron scored on a shovel pass on the first drive, set up by a long defensive pass interference drawn by Deon Cain. Ebron continues to be a touchdown-dependent red zone weapon who is startable in a pinch.
Last week we mentioned there might be several receivers rotating behind T.Y. Hilton with Devin Funchess out, and all four again played moderate snaps, though it was nice to see Cain get that deep look. Parris Campbell scored but ran routes on just 31% of dropbacks, while Cain was second on the team with routes on 60% of dropbacks but was officially targeted just once and didn’t have a catch.
It’s possible the offense will open up a bit, because Brissett certainly looks better than he did in 2017, as we expected. But given the offense’s run lean right now, the secondary options are not great bets. Brissett has just 336 passing yards through two games, despite the Colts trailing for significant portions of both.
Hilton is not immune to these offensive concerns, and it took a late go-ahead touchdown to post a 6-4-43-1 line. He now has three scores in two games and while I wouldn’t give him away for just anything, I’d love to trade him in leagues where my opponents overvalue touchdowns.
Tennessee has similar concerns, and nearly as many options in the passing game. Corey Davis played better, and caught a pass down inside the 5 that set up a short Derrick Henry touchdown, but the overall lack of passing meant a mediocre 5-3-38 line. He was the only Titans player to play more than 60% of the snaps or run a route on more than two-thirds of dropbacks, but he’s unfortunately droppable in shallower formats.
A.J. Brown went 5-3-25 and still looks like a star in the making, but only ran a route on 49% of dropbacks. Volume is the major red flag on his profile. Adam Humphries caught two short passes and took a rush attempt for a total of zero yards. All three of those receivers were behind Delanie Walker in Week 2 targets and production. Walker does look healthy, and of Tennessee’s pass-catchers he’s the one I’m most willing to roster, but the Titans have thrown just 52 passes through two weeks and have too many options for any of them to be consistent Fantasy producers at that volume. It doesn’t help that a tackle eligible caught a touchdown in Week 2.
The running situations are very similar for these two teams, as well. Both running backs are not as involved in the passing game as we’d like to see, but have plenty of potential to post solid rushing efficiency and score on the ground any given week. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t create monster Fantasy upside.
It was nice to see Marlon Mack run a route on 51% of Brissett’s dropbacks and get targeted three times, his first three of the year. But his snaps dipped a bit as Jordan Wilkins mixed in, and Wilkins ripped off a 55-yard run and finished with 82 rushing yards on just five carries compared to Mack’s 51 on 20 totes, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wilkins get another handful of opportunities next week.
Derrick Henry was also targeted three times, but had a bad drop on an outlet pass early in the game and Dion Lewis wound up running more than double the routes Henry did, pushing the snap split to exactly 50/50. One of Henry’s other targets came on a designed screen play, which is how he got loose for a long touchdown reception in Week 1. But given he’s not running many routes, those targets could dry up quickly, and five through two games is not what we’d like to see anyway.
All told, Mack has just two high-value touches out of a whopping 47 total through two games. Henry has just six high-value touches out of 37 total touches, and he’s now scored on three of them, which is classic overperformance to the true value of his role. While we know both players can hit home runs, they will have some dud games going forward if things don’t change (Mack already did in Week 2).
- Signal: Colts/Titans — run-first offenses; Marlon Mack/Derrick Henry — TRAPy workloads; Colts/Titans — plenty of receiving options, not enough volume to go around
- Noise: Derrick Henry/T.Y. Hilton — three touchdowns apiece through two games (not totally noise, but creates a potential sell high situation)
Bills 28 – Giants 14
- Snap Notes: John Brown – 79% (-6%), Frank Gore – 59% (+30%), Devin Singletary – 33% (-35%), Saquon Barkley – 87% (+8%), Evan Engram – 79% (+3%), Cody Latimer – 57% (-31%)
- Key Stat: John Brown – 8 targets, 110 air yards
It’s Week 2 and I’m already coming across games I wish I could just skip. Let’s make this quick.
John Brown posted a solid 8-7-72 line, but it’s the one incomplete target that’s the story. Brown got behind the defense and should have had a long touchdown, but Josh Allen overthrew him. He’ll clearly continue to get plenty of targets, and it’s certainly a positive that he still posted a respectable line (with good efficiency overall) despite Allen’s inconsistency.
Other than that throw, Allen played very well. He scored on a designed run, and the Cam Newton comps were all over Twitter. It’s not the worst comp in the world, especially considering Allen is now up to 10 rushing touchdowns in 14 career games, a rate we’ve only ever really seen from Newton among the league’s quarterbacks.
Zay Jones played more in Week 2 and Cole Beasley played a bit less, though Beasley did lead the team in receiving yardage with 83 on four targets thanks to a 51-yard play. Isaiah McKenzie and Robert Foster also got some run. Rookies Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney are rotating with veteran Tyler Kroft at tight end. Look, you’re not playing any of these guys. John Brown is the only passing-game option here.
Devin Singletary looked really good, posting 57 rushing yards and a score on just six carries, but Frank Gore was heavily involved throughout, because we can’t have nice things. To add injury to insult, Singletary came up with a hamstring issue in the fourth quarter. I don’t care that Frank Gore rushed 19 times for 68 yards and a score and also caught two passes — I will turn this bus around and end your precious little field trip before I advocate starting a 36-year-old running back. If Singletary’s out long and you’re in dire straits, go get T.J. Yeldon. He’d be more likely to catch passes anyway.
If it seems like I have disdain for the Bills, I almost certainly have more for the Giants. At least they came out and ran the ball five straight times on their first drive; Saquon Barkley was at 4-55-1 rushing with 12:36 to go in the first quarter. After two three-and-outs, Eli Manning got his first completion on the team’s fourth drive. They ran four plays on that drive but did get a first down!
Of course, all the pass-catchers were hurt or suspended. Bennie Fowler led the team with 10 targets, followed by Evan Engram with eight and Barkley with seven, though sources that don’t count uncatchable passes as targets will credit Barkley with fewer. Eli spiked at least one at Barkley’s feet and had another tipped at the line, that I saw. Barkley did go over 100 yards rushing but his total of 107 feels a bit disappointing after the fast start. He’s having to do a lot with rushing efficiency as he has negative-five air yards thus far; getting targeted behind the line of scrimmage is hurting his ability to post solid receiving yardage. His seven receptions through two games are also off the 5.7 he averaged per game last year.
Engram caught six balls for 48 yards, and while we expected plenty of targets and perhaps more production, that has to feel pretty OK given the team circumstances.
Pat Shurmur — please just start Daniel Jones so this offense has a chance at some life.
- Signal: John Brown — only viable receiving (and possibly skill position) option on the Bills
- Noise: Bennie Fowler — 10 targets (someone had to get them with all the players missing)
49ers 41 – Bengals 17
- Snap Notes: Dante Pettis – 49% (+46%), Raheem Mostert – 47% (+17%), Matt Breida – 29% (-14%), Jeff Wilson – 21% (+21%), C.J. Uzomah – 60% (-11%), Tyler Eifert – 27% (-22%), Drew Sample – 27% (+23%)
- Key Stat: Deebo Samuel – 7 targets, 2 rush attempts on just 29 snaps
From a Fantasy perspective, this game was dominated by Kyle Shanahan, whose system has been known to produce otherworldly running back numbers and didn’t disappoint here. Unfortunately for Fantasy, those numbers were spread out among three players.
Despite what the snap shares say — they always need to be taken with a grain of salt in blowouts — Matt Breida was the lead, and looked very good on the ground with 121 yards on 12 rushes, including a highlight 32-yard gain he seemed to create from nothing.
But he also got just one high-value touch, a reception on his lone target, while Raheem Mostert had four HVT and Jeff Wilson three. Mostert’s high-value touches were three receptions and a carry from the three-yard line, while Wilson didn’t record a catch but carried from inside the 10 three times, scoring twice.
But some of this rotation was due to the blowout scoreline — Breida didn’t record a touch in the fourth quarter, while seven of Wilson’s 10 touches came in the final period and Mostert played throughout. Wilson did sub in for two short-yardage carries in the second quarter, finishing off the drive where Breida made the above big play. That may have been to give Breida a breather, or it may have been an indication of specific red zone usage. Wilson’s second score came after Breida had left the game for good, though.
Mostert ran 14 routes to Breida’s seven, catching a 39-yard touchdown in the first quarter. All told, the three backs combined for 35 carries, four receptions, 315 total yards and three touchdowns. Going forward, I would expect Breida to lead a committee with Mostert perhaps seeing more passing-game work.
George Kittle was less active in the passing game in Week 2, but still very efficient, catching all three targets he saw for 54 yards. Remember, he had two touchdowns called back in Week 1. There’s nothing to worry about there, but it did open up some targets for Dant… haha, no. Dante Pettis threw a pass but wasn’t targeted, though he did play more snaps this week!
It was Deebo Samuel and Marquise Goodwin who started and were the most productive receivers. Goodwin caught an early touchdown and finished with a 3-77-1 line on three targets, while Samuel was the highlight, catching five of seven targets for 87 yards and a score. He also got two rush attempts, and was very involved given the 49ers didn’t have to throw a ton and also seemed to rotate players when the game got out of hand — only Kittle played a snap share over 51%. He’s a great waiver target that might go under the radar a bit.
For the Bengals, it wasn’t a great game. We knew Joe Mixon wasn’t healthy, and his stat line showed it. He did rack up six high-value touches with three receptions and three consecutive rush attempts from the 5-, 3- and 1-yard lines, but wasn’t able to score.
Tyler Boyd kept showing off his target hog ways with a 10-10-122 line, while John Ross was mostly quiet save for a nice catch-and-run on a quick slant he was able to turn into a 34-yard gain… until he also added a 66-yard touchdown with under a minute left, again on a catch-and-run. Ross wound up with 112 receiving yards on four catches, and 88 of those yards came after the catch.
If you’re worried Ross can’t maintain his ridiculous touchdown rate, consider his college stats weren’t much different than what he’s done at the NFL level thus far.
Ross is definitely going to regress from his first two stat lines, but he’s a solid bet to keep making plays throughout the year now that he’s an every-down player and clearly an important part of the offense.
Tyler Eifert also scored, but C.J. Uzomah led the position in snaps again and rookie Drew Sample got some playing time, though both of his catches came late in the fourth quarter. Still, Eifert is mostly a part-time player and not a Fantasy option despite likely red zone-heavy usage.
Andy Dalton, meanwhile, is a Fantasy option. His day was certainly elevated by the late Ross score, but with the weapons he has around him, he’s easily on the streaming radar.
- Signal: Deebo Samuel — 49ers WR to target; Matt Breida — lead back; Raheem Mostert — passing downs back; Jeff Wilson — mostly played in garbage time, but maybe has a red zone role
- Noise: Tyler Eifert — scored a touchdown (only ran a route on 23% of dropbacks); Joe Mixon — chalk up at least some of his poor line to his injury
Seahawks 28 – Steelers 26
- Snap Notes: D.K. Metcalf – 89% (+11%), Chris Carson – 54% (-22%), Rashaad Penny – 33% (+6%), C.J. Prosise – 13% (+13%), Will Dissly – 59% (+8%), James Washington – 60% (+8%), Diontae Johnson – 47% (+11%), Donte Moncrief – 32% (-58%), Vance McDonald – 91% (+19%)
- Key Stat: Tyler Lockett – 12 targets, 6.8 aDOT
The big news here is obviously Roethlisberger’s injury, as he’s. James Conner also suffered an injury, but that doesn’t appear to be serious. Without Roethlisberger, everyone in the Steelers offense takes a significant hit, at least in terms of current value.
Mason Rudolph will take over, and Rudolph played well both in the second half Week 2 and through the preseason, when he completed 65.1% of his 43 pass attempts for an impressive 8.3 yards per attempt (368 yards total) and four touchdowns with one interception. He showed a strong connection with former Oklahoma State teammate James Washington, and their connection makes Washington a very intriguing waiver option.
Washington caught just two of three targets for 23 yards in Week 2, but he did play more snaps as Donte Moncrief fell completely out of favor. Due to a very poor Week 1, Moncrief went from routes on 90% of dropbacks in Week 1 to just 31% in Week 2, and should be cut in most leagues. Washington and rookie Diontae Johnson were the Nos. 2 and 3 in Week 2, and apart from his history with Rudolph, Washington is particularly intriguing because of a deep role that meant the third most air yards in the NFL in Week 1. Johnson is more of a watch list guy and add in deeper formats, but also has potential given the lack of receiving threats on this offense.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is obviously the No. 1, and had another ho-hum day, but of course Roethlisberger’s injury didn’t help. JuJu took a bit to get going in the first half while Roethlisberger was still in the game, but he had two targets and a catch negated by penalty and also caught an end zone target out of bounds, so it’s not like he was invisible. He finished with an 8-5-84 line, but will take a pretty significant hit if the Steelers go more run-heavy without Roethlisberger. A big reason to love JuJu this year was his astronomical target ceiling in a pass-happy offense. Still, JuJu can ball, and he’s not going to disappear.
The Steelers threw plenty in the second half Week 2, but were trailing and also lost Conner. It will be interesting to monitor how the offense evolves without Roethlisberger, but typically coaches are more conservative with young quarterbacks.
Vance McDonald played more snaps in Week 2 and paid off with two touchdowns — both from Rudolph — on seven targets. We’ll have to wait and see on Conner’s injury status, but he’s likely in line for a big workload when healthy given the quarterback change. Jaylen Samuels looked very good in relief of Conner and should be owned in all leagues. Benny Snell also ripped off a nice run but has played just two snaps through two weeks; Samuels looks like the clear handcuff to target.
Tyler Lockett saw 12 targets and notably at an aDOT of just 6.8. This is a great sign for his value after just two targets in Week 1, specifically because for him to take a target leap this year he needed to see more short and intermediate passes. That’s what his whole game was in Week 2; by comparison, his 2018 aDOT was 13.6 and his two targets in Week 1 were both downfield looks, resulting in a 34.0 aDOT. Those deep shots will still be there for Lockett, but now we have confirmation he can rack up short area targets, too.
D.K. Metcalf caught his first career touchdown and saw seven targets and a team-high 113 air yards. Both Metcalf and Lockett ran routes on 98% of Russell Wilson’s dropbacks, and are the clear top two receiving options in this offense. Will Dissly scored twice, but he and Nick Vannett split the tight end routes. Dissly got off to a great start in 2018 before a season-ending knee injury, and is certainly a deeper tight end option, but just note that he’s splitting reps.
Chris Carson lost two more fumbles after losing one in Week 1, and while the Seahawks really seem to like him and want him to be the guy, they did take action. Carson’s snap share was 22 percentage points lower in Week 2 than Week 1, and given Rashaad Penny answered the bell with a 37-yard touchdown run, it’s possible we could see more of a split going forward.
Particularly of note was Carson running routes on just 41% of dropbacks after 71% in Week 1. Penny got out in 12 routes to Carson’s 17, while C.J. Prosise was also involved in the passing game, running six routes.
- Signal: Tyler Lockett — not just a deep threat; Chris Carson — fumblitis, lose some playing time; Donte Moncrief — lost significant playing time
- Noise: Pittsburgh — pass-heavy offense we’ve seen with Ben Roethlisberger over the past few seasons (we just don’t know what to expect)
Texans 13 – Jaguars 12
- Snap Notes: Carlos Hyde – 61% (+25%), Duke Johnson – 39% (-25%), Will Fuller – 91% (-6%), Keke Coutee – 44% (+44%), Kenny Stills – 38% (-4%), Leonard Fournette – 97% (+11%), Dede Westbrook – 87% (+4%), Chris Conley – 85% (+9%), D.J. Chark – 82% (+11%)
- Key Stat: Houston – 263 total yards
Houston and Jacksonville became an entertaining game late, but for the first three quarters it was remarkably dull. The Jaguars did a good job limiting Deshaun Watson and the Texans passing game, and Houston was content leaning on Carlos Hyde. On the other side, Gardner Minshew wasn’t able to get anything going until late. He threw for 122 of his 213 passing yards in the fourth quarter.
Hyde was the big story in that he stole 25 percentage points of snap share from Duke Johnson relative to their Week 1 split. He carried the ball 20 times and definitely looks solid in Houston’s system. Still, as I’ll say with a lot of backfields, one back performing well doesn’t have to mean the other back isn’t; I’ve seen commentary that Hyde has outplayed Duke, but that’s largely an opportunity thing, because Duke’s 5.9 YPC on 15 carries is right in line with Hyde’s 5.8 YPC on 30. Hyde of course gets more credit for doing it over a larger sample, but the point is Duke isn’t exactly playing poorly.
What was a bad sign for Johnson was the return of Keke Coutee, and it’s a safe bet the four targets Coutee got in the short area of the field contributed to Duke seeing just one on the day. Of course, Watson threw just 29 times and for just 159 yards, so this wasn’t a good day offensively overall.
As for Hyde, he did notably get a carry from the 3-yard line, although he didn’t score and wasn’t targeted. Thus, he posted just the 9.0 Fantasy points from his rushing yardage. That’s what 20 touches — efficient ones, even! — looks like when just one of them is a HVT, and it’s not nearly as good for Fantasy as it seems like it should be when you watch the game. If nine Fantasy points is the output from what was undeniably a good outcome on the field, that’s a TRAP back, and not the type of player you want to actively target for Fantasy Football.
Bill O’Brien said Kenny Stills would play more in Week 2, but he actually lost some snaps with Coutee’s return. Will Fuller was still out there on over 90% of the snaps and looks locked in to a full-time role. Both Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins had off days, again in large part thanks to the passing offense as a whole being either stifled or taken out of the game by O’Brien’s play-calling, depending on your point of view.
Leonard Fournette again played a massive snap share, and he’s going to have a big game as soon as the offense has a solid performance. But as noted, the offense was stuck in neutral for three quarters; they finished with just 281 total yards.
Compare what I said above about Hyde to Fournette, who had a poor game. He rushed just 15 times for 47 yards and didn’t get any short-yardage runs because of the offensive woe. But, because he is an every-down back involved in the passing game, he added three catches on four targets in the fourth quarter while the Jaguars were in comeback mode. That got him to four catches for 40 yards on the day, and 12.7 PPR points in what felt like more of a floor game than a positive outcome. Not coming off the field for a T.J. Yeldon type in those late-game situations is very big for Fournette’s value this year.
The Jacksonville receiving tree got more concentrated with Marqise Lee inactive and each of Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and D.J. Chark picking up snaps. It was Chark who led the team with nine targets and seven receptions, finding the end zone. He tied with Conley for the team lead at 73 receiving yards, and Conley led the team in air yards. That duo is really raining on the Dede Westbrook breakout parade, but Westbrook shouldn’t be abandoned just yet, and if he’s dropped, he’s an easy add. Chark is a more interesting play than Conley given he’s a young guy with a solid profile, while Conley is in his fifth year and hasn’t done much to date in his career.
- Signal: Carlos Hyde — role expanding, TRAPy touch mix; Will Fuller — still a full-time guy with all four WRs healthy; Leonard Fournette — massive snap share
- Noise: Houston — general lack of offense, passing yardage; Dede Westbrook — 3.0 yards per target
Patriots 43 – Dolphins 0
- Snap Notes: Julian Edelman – 92% (-4%), Josh Gordon – 79% (+9%), Antonio Brown – 33% (+33%), Sony Michel – 49% (+16%), James White – 31% (-16%), Rex Burkhead – 24% (-22%), Matt LaCosse – 58% (+58%), DeVante Parker – 92% (+16%), Preston Williams – 68% (+27%), Kenyan Drake – 55% (+2%), Kalen Ballage – 34% (-7%), Mark Walton – 16% (+8%)
- Key Stat: Antonio Brown – 8 targets on 14 routes
This was a Sony Michel game. That was clear when the schedule was released. It’s perhaps alarming, then, that Michel mustered just 12.5 Fantasy points in leagues where fumbles are minus-2.
I could essentially copy and paste the Carlos Hyde section, but Michel rushed 21 times for 85 yards with no targets. He did get five high-value touches, though three came on the same drive where he scored. He got two more chances on another drive, but that one ended with a Tom Brady sneak. Because Brady sneaks a lot and the Patriots also incorporate players like James Develin — who had four touchdowns last year — in close, I’ve never really bought into Michel’s touchdown upside. Given he’s only run eight routes this year, there’s not much more here but low-value rush attempts in plus scripts. In a game like this, when he plays an elevated snap share and is heavily involved, he should absolutely score more than 12.5 PPR points, or you don’t have a high-value Fantasy back.
James White and Rex Burkhead both took a back seat to Michel this week, but Burkhead’s involvement in the passing game through two weeks isn’t great news for White even when the script calls for more passing, especially with more downfield options in the passing game. Thus far, Burkhead has 10 targets to White’s 11.
Antonio Brown ran just 14 routes, seeing eight targets and catching four with a touchdown. This seems an indication that as long as he’s active, he’s likely to command a high target share. Heath Cummings discussed what that means.
Matt LaCosse made his debut and was on the field quite a bit, catching both targets he saw for 33 yards. His 11.0 aDOT was notable in that it was more downfield than most tight ends. Benjamin Watson will eventually be returning, but I’m keeping an eye on LaCosse as a potential deeper tight end option.
There’s not much to say about a Dolphins team that looks incapable of generating offense. Miami’s 384 total yards through two games are the second-fewest in the first two games of a season by any team in the past eight years, trailing only last year’s Cardinals. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick nor Josh Rosen threw for more than 100 yards on 21 and 18 pass attempts, and they combined to take seven sacks and throw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Miami was somehow worse on the ground, managing just 42 rushing yards on 15 attempts. You can’t start a single player in this offense right now.
- Signal: Miami — stay away; Antonio Brown — targeted heavily in limited playing time; Sony Michel — TRAP back
- Noise: Sony Michel — snap, touch increase (will fluctuate with game script)
Lions 13 – Chargers 10
- Snap Notes: Ty Johnson – 21% (+11%), C.J. Anderson – 20% (-9%), Travis Benjamin – 66% (+18%), Mike Williams – 61% (-4%), Dontrelle Inman – 57% (+16%), Austin Ekeler – 73% (-2%), Justin Jackson – 27% (+2%)
- Key Stat: Austin Ekeler – 9 high-value touches (8 last week, leads league)
The Lions were substantially slower-paced in Week 2, as expected after their overtime game with the high-octane Cardinals. They didn’t have many notable playing time changes, and followed up last week’s performance with a similarly narrow passing tree, led by Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones running a full slate of routes and T.J. Hockenson (routes on 73% of dropbacks in Week 1, 69% in Week 2) and Danny Amendola (71% in Week 1, 63% in Week 2) each dipping slightly due likely to more run packages in Amendola’s case and more bocking in Hockenson’s. Last week, I had this to say about the passing game:
“Detroit also got a nice volume boost from the extra period, and we likely saw far more passing from Matthew Stafford than we’ll see most weeks. T.J. Hockenson was a clear star with a 9-6-131-1 line, a phenomenal first performance for anyone, but especially a rookie tight end. Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay joined him as Lions with at least nine targets and 120 air yards.
Amendola’s 13-7-104-1 line also stands out, if only because of the easy comparison to Golden Tate’s old high-volume role. But much like the Ravens’ and Cowboys’ writeups earlier, we do have to be concerned about whether both Amendola and Hockenson can be productive at the same time when the volume — Stafford threw 45 passes, more than any of his final 14 games in 2018 — and overall production comes back down a bit, especially assuming Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay will likely be the lead receiving options most weeks.”
In Week 2, we saw that, with Stafford throwing 30 times, Hockenson and Amendola combining for just four targets, and Golladay and Jones leading the way with 10 and six targets. Golladay was particularly good, turning 148 air yards and the second-highest WOPR of Week 2 (0.83) into an 8-117-1 line.
Don’t read too much into Jesse James seeing four targets to Hockenson’s three. This was the bad end of the spectrum, but Hockenson ran twice as many routes as James, and should still be the lead option at the position for Detroit going forward. The issue is just volume, especially if Golladay is the legit No. 1 he looked like in Week 2.
Kerryon Johnson continues to be explosive and entertaining but a bit underworked for our purposes, while Ty Johnson got a little more work behind him at the expense of C.J. Anderson. J.D. McKissic is also involved, and it all adds up to just 14 touches for Kerryon out of 28 total for Detroit’s RBs. Of course, an explosive 36-yard touchdown reception helped him post a very strong Fantasy total. He’ll be hit-or-miss without more consistent work.
The only player with a higher WOPR than Golladay in Week 2 was on the other side of the same game, as Keenan Allen posted a massive 216 air yards — atypical downfield usage for him — on 15 targets, for a WOPR of 1.02. His 8-98-0 line undersells how heavily he was used, and he should continue to be leaned on while Hunter Henry is out.
Mike Williams played through injury and got close to his injury-shortened Week 1 snap share, again playing just shy of two-thirds of the snaps. He showed off his downfield ability with a ridiculous diving catch for a 47-yard gain with four seconds in the half to allow the Chargers to tack on a field goal before the break. He’s a good bet to have some solid performances while Henry is out, as well.
Outside those two, the only other Charger with more than two targets was Austin Ekeler. Ekeler again played about three-quarters of the snaps, posting another strong Fantasy total that could have been much bigger. I hate to quote myself twice in the same blurb, but last week’s Ekeler comment is notable.
“Austin Ekeler’s Week 1 was the embodiment of what can happen when a low TRAP back gets a bigger workload. We may have expected a bit more of a timeshare with Justin Jackson, but Ekeler wound up playing 75% of the snaps, and he notably maintained a low TRAP, rushing just 12 times (including twice in the green zone) against six catches on seven targets. In other words, eight of his 18 touches were HVT. He scored on three of those.”
Ekeler came back with nine more HVT on 23 total touches, and now leads the league in high-value touches. He scored on a short touchdown run, but fumbled away another opportunity while trying to leap over the pile a second time. It was a costly fumble for the Chargers, but they didn’t go away from him, as he got a handoff on their very next offensive play after they regained possession.
Notably, just plays before the fumble, Ekeler took a short pass 22 yards for a touchdown, only for it to be called back. That he didn’t get his second score on that drive was a cruel twist of fate.
Justin Jackson isn’t getting the usage we’d like, but he also continues to look great. His long run on the day was a 40-yarder that was actually a 60-yard touchdown that was also called back by a downfield hold on Dontrelle Inman that negated the final 20 yards. He’s definitely worth a stash, but he’s hard to start while Ekeler is dominating the high-value touches. Jackson had just one, a five-yard reception, and ran six routes to Ekeler’s 21.
- Signal: Keenan Allen — massive opportunity share without Hunter Henry; Kenny Golladay — looked like a true No. 1; Lions — 30/28 pass/run ratio; Austin Ekeler — one of the most valuable RB workloads in football right now
- Noise: Jesse James — 4 targets (T.J. Hockenson still ran twice as many routes)
Packers 21 – Vikings 16
- Snap Notes: Marquez Valdes-Scantling – 87% (+20%), Geronimo Allison – 45% (-4%), Aaron Jones – 57% (-4%), Jamaal Williams – 47% (+8%), Jimmy Graham – 72% ( +18%), Stefon Diggs – 89% (+29%), Alexander Mattison – 12% (-9%), Irv Smith – 42% (-7%)
- Key Stat: Packers – 34/33 pass/run ratio
The Packers dominated the Vikings early, but never extended a lead that was briefly 21-0 early in the second quarter, and probably should have lost because of it. The biggest thing we learned is when they get positive game script, they will feed the running backs.
It might seem odd I said running backs and not just Aaron Jones, but the reality is Jones actually lost a few percentage points of snap share while Jamaal Williams gained relative to Week 1. Despite the fact that Jones out-targeted him six to four, Williams ran more routes, and his nine carries was decent usage on the ground.
Now, some of that was just that Jones likely needed some breathers, given he rushed 23 times and caught four more passes for 27 total touches. But it’s worth pointing out that Jones didn’t dominate the backfield — it was more that the duo combined for 39 touches!
Perhaps we’ll see that type of usage whenever the Packers get big leads, but that’s a lot. It ties Baltimore’s Week 1 performance against Miami as the second most RB touches in a game through two weeks, behind only San Francisco’s Week 2 numbers in Cincinnati, discussed above. Jones looked great, and it was big to see him jump from one high-value touch in Week 1 to five in Week 2, including four catches, but this should absolutely be read as a word of caution.
Outside the backs, it was strictly receivers catching passes, with Davante Adams powering through a tough matchup to post a 9-7-106 line. Marquez Valdes-Scantling saw the second biggest opportunity share with six targets and 62 air yards, but didn’t do much with it, while Geronimo Allison turned his five targets at a miniscule 3.2 aDOT into a 4-25-1 line. Jimmy Graham had two catchless targets after being an important secondary option in Week 1.
This is a fairly typical result for a team with a legit No. 1 and a low-volume passing game. Aaron Rodgers only threw for 209 yards, and because Adams accounted for more than half of them, there just wasn’t much else to go around.
Despite the huge hole they found themselves in early, Minnesota still finished with a run-heavy lean, with a 32/27 pass/run ratio (they threw more than they ran, but anything approaching 50/50 is run-heavy, especially in a negative script). Those 32 pass attempts are substantially more than last week’s 10, and they moved away from their two-tight end sets and opened things up a bit, but the split also drives home the run-first philosophy, given the game situation the Vikings found themselves in. That’s bad news for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and renders Kyle Rudolph droppable.
It’s good news for Dalvin Cook backers, and he ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run for their first score en route to another huge rushing line (20-154-1). Cook also chipped in three catches for 37 yards, and while he won’t maintain a 6.5 YPC and may not be a top three back if the rushing efficiency dips a bit, there’s nothing too concerning here.
Diggs should have had a big day. He had one touchdown overturned on a booth-initiated replay inside two minutes of the first half that became an offensive pass interference penalty that didn’t appear to be conclusive enough to warrant an overturn. Cousins also missed him on a couple throws he really should have made — Cousins struggled throughout to a 14/32 line — including this one:
Diggs also had an uncharacteristic drop of his own on what could have been a solid gain, but did bring in another deep pass for a touchdown, and his seven targets and 161 air yards were phenomenal usage. I’m not reading too much into the inefficiency on those targets.
Thielen, meanwhile, converted eight targets and 139 air yards of his own into a 5-75 line. The wide receiver duo combined for 48% of the team’s targets and a ridiculous 89% of their air yards. It’s not an ideal situation, but as long as they dominate the receiving game to that degree they will still be usable.
- Signal: Vikings/Packers — want to be run-heavy; Aaron Jones — only 69% of RB touches
- Noise: Packers — 39 RB touches overall; Stefon Diggs — one catch
Dallas 31 – Washington 21
- Snap Share: Ezekiel Elliott – 76% (+22%), Devin Smith – 26% (+17%), Jason Witten – 77% (+11%), Blake Jarwin – 34% (-6%), Terry McLaurin – 90% (-2%), Paul Richardson – 87% (+7%), Trey Quinn – 79% (-18%), Chris Thompson – 45% (-19%), Adrian Peterson – 29% (+29%)
- Key Stat: Dak Prescott – 26/30, 269 yards, 3 TD, 69 rush yards
While Lamar Jackson has been rightfully grabbing headlines in the Fantasy community, Dak Prescott is perhaps going a bit underappreciated. The new Kellen Moore offense is clearly a major step up from prior Dallas schemes, and through two games Dak has completed a league-high 82.3% of his passes for a league-high 10.9 yards per attempt, with seven touchdowns and one interception.
That’s great news for everybody on the offense, as is the next team on the schedule — Miami. The Cowboys did ramp up Ezekiel Elliott’s usage in Week 2 (23-111-1), and it’s possible we’ll see him running roughshod over the Dolphins in Week 3 rather than Dak throwing 30-plus times. But there’s no chance you can sit Dak for that matchup with how good he’s been through two games.
It was part-time player Devin Smith who caught the long touchdown in Week 2, while Amari Cooper and Jason Witten caught shorter tosses for scores. Michael Gallup backed up his strong Week 1 with another good performance, leading the team with eight targets and catching six for 68, but he unfortunately tore his meniscus in the second half and will miss 2-4 weeks. Smith is the likely candidate to fill his role — interestingly, Smith’s long touchdown came in the second quarter, before Gallup exited, and Smith caught two more passes in the fourth after Gallup was done for the day.
Witten’s snaps rose, and he ran a route on two-thirds of Dak’s dropbacks, up from 54% in Week 1. He’s more of a PPR option, but is someone to consider in deeper formats as well while Gallup misses time. Of course, Amari Cooper is still the locked-in No. 1, and Randall Cobb has caught nine of 11 targets for 93 yards and a score through two games, so the Cowboys have options.
We noted last week Terry McLaurin was already playing a full snap share, and in Week 2 he solidified his status as the team’s No. 1, seeing 10 targets for 134 air yards, good for a 0.83 WOPR that tied Kenny Golladay for second-highest on the week. His touchdown came late in garbage time, but even without it he had put together a nice day and seen plenty of volume throughout.
Paul Richardson also caught a touchdown, but saw just three targets at a 3.7 aDOT. Richardson has typically thrived as a deep threat, but despite running plenty of routes as an every-down guy, he has amassed just 86 air yards through two weeks. McLaurin and his 277 air yards has just taken those looks.
Chris Thompson and Trey Quinn were both active with eight and seven targets at low aDOTs and are not much more than PPR options, while Vernon Davis was used similarly but saw just four looks. None had overly appealing stat lines, but all ran plenty of routes and made up the rest of the main part of the receiving corps outside McLaurin and Richardson.
Adrian Peterson found paydirt but his 10-25 rushing line is both light on touches due to the negative script and light on efficiency, likely due to his age. He’s unlikely to see much work in the passing game — he caught two balls in Week 2 but ran just five routes — so he’s a tough guy to play in any matchup.
- Signal: Terry McLaurin — Clear No. 1 usage; Michael Gallup — will miss some time, but someone to add if dropped because his usage and production has been top notch, even better than Cooper’s
- Noise: Adrian Peterson — The touchdown doesn’t make him Fantasy relevant, and his two receptions were fluky given just five routes run
Chiefs 28 – Raiders 10
- Snap Notes: Demarcus Robinson – 95% (+32%), Mecole Hardman – 77% (-1%), Damien Williams – 51% (-15%), LeSean McCoy – 43% (+14%), Hunter Renfrow – 75% (+46%), Josh Jacobs – 46% (-27%), Jalen Richard – 31% (+15%), DeAndre Washington – 23% (+14%)
- Key Stat: Patrick Mahomes – 549 air yards (career high by 82)
Patrick Mahomes is ridiculous. With Tyreek Hill sidelined, the Chiefs might have been expected to be a bit more conservative. Instead, after the Raiders got out to an early 10-0 lead, Mahomes aired it out more than ever, tossing four second-quarter touchdowns — the shortest of which was 27 yards — and setting a career high on the day with 549 air yards.
Somewhat surprisingly, Sammy Watkins didn’t flourish, catching just six passes for 49 yards. But he was still the clear No. 1 by WOPR, leading the team with 13 targets and finishing with 139 air yards. The volume was very much there; his very strong Week 1 efficiency swung back to where he significantly underperformed his Week 2 volume. He’s still a locked-in starter.
Travis Kelce did Travis Kelce things, posting a 9-7-107-1 line with 105 air yards. But Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman were the revelations. Robinson caught all six targets he saw at an aDOT of 25.3 (152 air yards) for 172 yards and two scores. Hardman was equally involved, seeing six targets and 82 air yards for a 4-61-1 receiving line but also losing another potential 72-yard score to a holding penalty on LeSean McCoy in the backfield. He very nearly had a line to match Robinson’s.
I got asked on Twitter during the game which of the two I’d prioritize in season long by a follower who plays in a league with no waivers. It’s almost impossible to say, and both are great adds, but the tiebreak for me right now would be Hardman already producing like this in his second career game, and how that speaks to further development in his rookie season, and likely more upside than Robinson.
With all the downfield passing, there wasn’t much running back production. Damien Williams again led the backfield in snaps and routes run, seeing some downfield usage on wheel routes and posting a 9.6 aDOT on five targets, an uncharacteristically high figure for a running back. He left the game with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter that occurred away from the action and we don’t have an update on, so his status moving forward is unclear. LeSean McCoy seemed to be filling a larger role even before Damien’s injury, and he notably ran twice as many routes (16) as he did in Week 1 and caught three passes, but he too left with an injury. McCoy’s was to the ankle, and an MRI revealed no structural damage.
As much as the two running back injuries seem to indicate Darwin Thompson could be in line for a significant uptick in snaps, Darrel Williams was also involved late, and he played five snaps to Thompson’s four. We’ll need more information on who is healthy to have any idea what the play is going forward.
I had this to say on Josh Jacobs last week:
“Josh Jacobs dominated the game for the Raiders in plus game script throughout, and Jon Gruden called his number 24 times, 23 of which were rush attempts. Jacobs was a hit largely because the offense was so successful — he converted two of his three green zone rush attempts for scores. Only three backs had more green zone attempts in Week 1.
As strong as his workload was, there’s minor concern that his heavy touch count featured mostly low-value touches. It’s only minor concern because he still racked up a solid four HVT, and Jalen Richard barely played. We don’t know what the split will look like in negative scripts, and the Raiders will still find themselves there more often than not, but Week 1 was certainly a positive sign.”
Jacobs wasn’t completely absent in the passing game, but he gave up a ton of snaps in negative script and ran just 12 routes compared to Richard and DeAndre Washington combining for 21. He still helped his day with a solid 51-yard run, and two of his 12 rush attempts came in the green zone. In fact, right after a Jacobs 6-yard gain to the 4, Derek Carr threw a bad interception in the end zone on 1st and goal, something that might only increase the likelihood Jon Gruden leans on Jacobs when the Raiders get close. The lack of a receiving role is still a pretty significant concern, though.
Last season, Richard was a very valuable PPR back who caught 68 passes, but this year we’re seeing him split the backup duties with Washington, which makes neither rosterable.
After a Week 1 where Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller dominated the passing game, Hunter Renfrow played substantially more snaps and became a clear third option, leading the team with eight targets but catching just four for 30. Williams and Waller both saw seven and were more productive, with Williams catching a touchdown and also being the end zone target on Carr’s aforementioned interception. Both Williams and Waller are every-week starting options on volume alone.
- Signal: Patrick Mahomes — will air it out plenty without Tyreek Hill; Josh Jacobs — lost snaps in negative script
- Noise: Sammy Watkins — relative lack of production (still led team in WOPR by a considerable margin)
Rams 27 – Saints 9
- Snap Notes: Todd Gurley – 64% (-6%), Malcolm Brown – 36% (+8%), Gerald Everett – 71% (+32%), Alvin Kamara – 65% (-11%), Latavius Murray – 35% (+8)
- Key Stat: Alvin Kamara – 1 HVT (7 in Week 1)
The loss of Drew Brees was the huge storyline from a game that could have been more of a shootout but became something far less exciting. And it’s a significant loss, particularly for Alvin Kamara, as there’s simply no one like Brees when it comes to targeting the running back position both from a volume and efficiency standpoint. Virtually every running back that has played with Brees throughout his career has posted elevated catch rates while on the Saints versus the rest of their career, and the Saints have also been in the top five of targets to the position in each season of the decade-plus Brees has been in New Orleans.
With Brees under center, this offense is in its own tier in terms of generating high-value touches for running backs. But with Teddy Bridgewater taking over for the majority of Week 2, Kamara saw just three targets and a less efficient offense overall meant no plays inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
Brees isn’t out for the season, and it’s possible Sean Payton and Brees will work with Bridgewater and try to fit him to the scheme somewhat, to mimic some of what Brees has done passing to the backs, so hope is not all lost. But it’s a significant blow to the values of Kamara and Latavius Murray, especially as they will trade a lot of high-value touches for a likely higher rate of low-value rush attempts as the offense gets more conservative.
Michael Thomas is also hurt by the injury, despite a very typical 13-10-89 line in Week 2. His specific usage isn’t damaged as much as the backs, but a big reason he’s been so productive the past two seasons is ridiculous efficiency — he set the all-time catch percentage mark for a WR with over 100 targets last season by nearly eight percentage points at 85.0% — and we’d expect that efficiency to take a significant hit with the quarterback change.
And then guys like Jared Cook, Tre’Quan Smith and Ted Ginn were all interesting to varying degrees due to the efficiency of the offense more than their specific volume, because it’s challenging to project any for significant target shares when Thomas in particular is such a target hog. So it’s going to be tough to use that trio for the six weeks, the estimate on Brees’ recovery, even if fewer passes to the backs could mean more downfield attempts.
The Rams’ passing game is much the same as 2018, where all three main wide receivers are playing huge snaps, and you’ll likely see at least two be productive in any given week. Robert Woods was the odd man out in this one, but he incredibly lost five targets and three receptions to plays negated by penalty, including a would-be 14-yard touchdown. He’s not someone to worry about, but Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp were the beneficiaries. Cooks saw just four targets but led the team with 86 air yards, and converted a short touchdown to finish with a 3-74-1 line. Kupp had a phenomenal catch-and-run that was initially ruled a 66-yard touchdown but was overturned on replay as his knee was down at the 1. That led to a Jared Goff sneak, but Kupp still finished with a strong 9-5-120 line. Gerald Everett also saw an uptick in snaps and routes and is a deeper-league tight end to monitor.
Todd Gurley gave up a few more snaps, but we saw the same pattern we highlighted in Week 1. The Rams are simply rotating series, and while last week that meant two touchdowns for Malcolm Brown because he was in as the main back for both of those scoring drives, this week it meant a short touchdown for Gurley on one of his series.
Interestingly, Brown was the back to open the drive with the long Kupp reception, and he stayed in for the 1-yard Goff touchdown sneak after the lengthy review that overturned Kupp’s touchdown. There was ample time for the Rams to substitute in Gurley because of the review, but they stuck to their pattern and kept Brown on the field. In 2017 or 2018, it’s likely that even if Gurley were on the sideline for the beginning of such a series, he would have substituted in there. That’s a microcosm of how Gurley’s role has changed, but he still has plenty of value.
Still, Gurley had a solid day, catching three passes to jump to five high-value touches in Week 2 after just one in Week 1.
Darrell Henderson, who was going in the fifth round for a stretch this offseason when the Gurley panic was at its most extreme, has played just two snaps in two games. He’s a tough guy to cut given the value of this offense when it’s rolling and his strong prospect profile. It’s probably necessary in shallower leagues, but he’s still a good stash in deeper formats as a potential late-season breakout, and if I see him released in deeper formats I’m looking to scoop him up.
- Signal: Alvin Kamara — sure to lose a lot of high-value touches without Brees; Rams — rotating backs by series
- Noise: Robert Woods — just two targets (lost five targets, three receptions, a touchdown to plays negated by penalty)
Bears 16 – Broncos 14
- Snap Notes: Anthony Miller – 52% (+31%), David Montgomery – 44% (+6%), Tarik Cohen – 38% (-34%), Mike Davis – 25% (-31%), Trey Burton – 43% (+43%), DaeSean Hamilton – 66% (-10%), Royce Freeman – 52% (+5%), Phillip Lindsay – 48% (-4%), Noah Fant – 66% (-15%)
- Key Stat: Royce Freeman — 7 targets, 5 receptions, 102 total yards
Another game where an exciting finish masked a more boring game overall, but there were plenty of interesting usage trends to look at.
Tarik Cohen went from 40 slot snaps and just five in the backfield in Week 1 to just five slot snaps and 15 in the backfield in Week 2. He had never played anywhere near the number of slot snaps he played in Week 1, but there’s an interesting parallel in Duke Johnson’s 2017 season. The Browns did similar in Week 1, playing Duke 45 snaps in the slot, before immediately reverting him to his old role — he played just 38 slot snaps total the rest of the season. My working theory on Cohen is we’ll see similar, and that Week 1 was just a matchup thing and/or an attempt to catch Green Bay off guard.
Anthony Miller was the big winner from this shift, going from routes on 21% of Week 1 dropbacks to 48% in Week 2. He’s still not playing enough and it’s fine if you dropped him, but that bears watching.
Mitchell Trubisky only threw for 120 yards on 27 passes, and 30 of those yards came on two completions that set up a game-winning field goal. The Bears only generated 273 yards of total offense. Allen Robinson again looked like the clear No. 1, and was on the receiving end of a 25-yard completion on the game’s penultimate play. His 7-4-41 line looks a little better when you consider game context.
Trey Burton returned to a partial role, running nine routes, while Chicago’s other tight ends, Ben Braunecker (eight routes) and Adam Shaheen (seven), were also involved. All three had three targets, and we’ll see whether Burton starts to pick up more snaps going forward.
It was a David Montgomery game, with the rookie taking 18 carries including five in the green zone on the same drive. After Montgomery was stuffed twice, the Bears threw on third down and drew a defensive holding penalty. An automatic first down led to three more Montgomery runs, and he finally found pay dirt on third down. Matt Nagy’s willingness to keep calling Montgomery’s number in lieu of passing or rotating in Mike Davis was very notable here.
In fact, Davis got just three touches all game and his snap share fell by 31 percentage points. It wasn’t all positive for Montgomery, though. That Cohen was more involved in backfield snaps meant that Montgomery’s snap share didn’t rise by the same degree, and Cohen stole some of the passing downs work as Montgomery went from 15 routes in Week 1 to just seven in Week 2.
Last week, I called the Broncos not using Devontae Booker “one of the most interesting Week 1 takeaways.”
“Last season, despite having both Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, the Broncos somewhat quietly still utilized Devontae Booker heavily as a third-down back. In games played, Booker averaged 19.8 snaps per game with Lindsay at 30.2 and Freeman at 22.0.”
I also noted that because the split between Lindsay and Freeman was closer to 50/50 than last year, Freeman was the big winner. Well in Week 2, Freeman out-snapped Lindsay and was the far more effective back. With Joe Flacco pulling a Joe Flacco and throwing for fewer than 300 yards on 50 attempts, there were plenty of checkdowns to go around, and both Freeman and Lindsay saw seven targets. Lindsay did out-carry Freeman 13 to 11, but Freeman gained 102 total yards to Lindsay’s 66.
This is a good time to remind you that Freeman was the second-round pick last year while Lindsay was the UDFA. Yes, Lindsay had a great rookie season, but Freeman had a ridiculous college production record that included very strong receiving numbers — over 800 career receiving yards to go along with over 5,600 rushing yards and 64 career touchdowns — and at nearly 50 pounds heavier (with better agility metrics and without sacrificing much speed) is the far more physically gifted back of the two. Given the team situation with Flacco targeting the position 14 times in Week 2, Freeman is one of the biggest buys of Week 2.
Emmanuel Sanders continued to prove he isn’t of this world, both by playing such massive snap shares when most would still be rehabbing but also by posting a 13-11-98-1 line with a ridiculously athletic go-ahead touchdown catch late. I’ve been slow to come around and have him on zero of my own teams, but he’s pretty clearly a feature part of their passing game.
Sanders’ aDOT on those targets was just 5.9, and I noted this offseason how his aDOT had fallen for several years in a row even before his Achilles injury.
That helps explain why DaeSean Hamilton doesn’t have much of a role, as he’s most effective on short-area targets. Courtland Sutton, meanwhile, is locked in to the lead downfield role; he had more air yards (82) on his seven targets than Manny did (77) on his 13. Sutton converted two key fourth downs on the final go-ahead drive and is an important piece of this passing game, but suffers a bit when Flacco is unwilling to take shots downfield.
Noah Fant played a bit less but still ran routes on 65% of dropbacks, and his 4-4-33 line wasn’t bad. As an athletic tight end, he’s another guy who can be a downfield target, as he showed off on a 24-yard catch in the third quarter. He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on.
- Signal: Royce Freeman — expanding role, huge upside; Tarik Cohen — back to a normal receiving back role; Mike Davis — relegated to deeper backup role
- Noise: Bears receivers — Mitchell Trubisky might not be great, but there will be far more than 120 passing yards to go around most weeks
Falcons 24 – Eagles 20
- Snap Notes: Devonta Freeman – 62% (+13%), Ito Smith – 38% (-13%), JJ Arcega-Whiteside – 93% (+86%), Mack Hollins – 85% (+71%), Miles Sanders – 43% (-6%), Darren Sproles – 35% (+5%), Jordan Howard – 22% (-1%)
- Key Stat: Miles Sanders — 4 of team’s 5 RB green zone touches through two games
Sunday Night Football was weird, as both Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz struggled, combining for five interceptions including a couple pretty ugly ones. The Falcons pulled it out, and there’s just not much to talk about with them. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are the clear top two passing options, and both totaled 10 targets, put up over 100 yards and scored.
Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper are full-time players who both also see plenty of targets, and the backfield is a split between Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith. This is essentially what Atlanta was all of last season, just with different running backs.
Freeman did get back to a larger share of the backfield, with Smith still involved. They each had three high-value touches and for the season Freeman has six to Smith’s five. Smith got the green zone carry, and we saw him be a vulture of Tevin Coleman at times last year, plus he scored three preseason touchdowns on just 17 rushes, so that’s not all that surprising. They like him in close.
Miles Sanders had five high-value touches, including rush attempts from the 8-yard line and 7-yard line on two separate drives. His snap share dipped a bit but he ran three more routes in Week 2, and caught three passes. Darren Sproles was more involved in the passing game this week, leading the backfield with 23 routes, but Sanders has run more routes through the two games combined.
Sanders’ output in Week 2 was disappointing and the Eagles are always going to rotate backs to some degree, but he started again, led the backfield in snaps and touches again, and got the high-leverage looks inside the green zone again. He should be viewed similarly to Kerryon Johnson right now but his production hasn’t been there so there’s still a buying window.
The Eagles lost all of Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson early, which meant a huge uptick in snaps for JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins. Perhaps predictably, Zach Ertz saw 16 targets and frankly disappointed a bit with an 8-72 line, while Nelson Agholor saw 11 of his own and had a strong night with 8-107-1.
If any of that trio misses next week, it will be difficult to handicap this receiving corps. Hollins saw eight targets and outproduced Arcega-Whiteside, but it’s Arcega-Whiteside that would be the preferred play if he’s again in line for big snaps as a plus prospect who would have made more noise this offseason if he hadn’t been buried by a deep pass-catching corps.
- Signal: Miles Sanders — still a buy
- Noise: Zach Ertz/Nelson Agholor — elevated target share (injuries to everyone else)
Browns 23 – Jets 3
- Snap Notes: Damion Ratley – 61% (+12%), Nick Chubb – 61% (-9%), D’Ernest Johnson – 39% (+26%), Le’Veon Bell – 90% (-10%), Ty Montgomery – 35% (+28%), Demaryius Thomas – 10% (+10%)
- Key Stat: Le’Veon Bell — 10 targets, 10 receptions (19, 16 through two weeks)
The Browns won Monday night, but they didn’t look great offensively save for a couple of Odell Beckham highlights. Beckham made a phenomenal one-handed catch early, then scored on an 89-yard catch-and-run late in the third to finish with a huge 10-6-161-1 day.
Nick Chubb was the other offensive star, catching all four targets he saw while running routes on a healthy 55% of dropbacks for the second straight week. With Dontrell Hilliard out, D’Ernest Johnson worked behind Chubb and matched his four targets, but Chubb was out in five more routes. Along with a green zone carry on the first drive (he was stuffed; he scored from 19 yards out later), Chubb finished with five high-value touches. He’s a guy I was concerned wouldn’t get enough passing-game work, so the routes and the high-value touches he’s been seeing have definitely elevated him in my eyes. Of course, Kareem Hunt’s return will continue to loom over his late-season Fantasy value all year.
Signs haven’t been as positive for Jarvis Landry. Last season, his aDOT (11.9) was more than four yards higher than his career high (7.4) during his time with Miami, and it killed his efficiency. While deeper targets typically mean a lower catch rate, Landry’s 54.4% in 2018 was a career low by 12 percentage points, and he also posted the second-lowest YPT of his career, and that’s a stat that we would expect to rise with deeper targets. My hope for 2019 was the addition of Beckham would allow Landry to shift back to a role that resembled his time with the Dolphins, but thus far he’s seen 14 targets at an aDOT of 11.4 and caught just seven for 99 yards. He’s seeing solid volume, but in that role he’s tough to start in Fantasy.
Damion Ratley got a little extra run with Rashard Higgins out, while Demetrius Harris picked up snaps after David Njoku suffered a concussion after just 10 snaps. Neither is a Fantasy option.
Without Sam Darnold, the Jets turned to Trevor Siemian, then turned to Luke Falk when Siemian was knocked from the game. They generated just 262 yards of total offense.
Le’Veon Bell looked healthy, and again played a huge snap share. I noted last week how heavily all five starters played for the Jets, and that trend continued this week, with the exception of Quincy Enunwa, who was sent to IR. Each of Bell, Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, and tight end Ryan Griffin played at least 90% of the snaps, and the fifth skill position slot was mostly Josh Bellamy with Ty Montgomery working in a decent amount in two running back sets and a pinch of Demaryius Thomas (seven snaps).
Bell was the star, catching all 10 of his targets and seeing a whopping 31 touches. Through two weeks, Bell is tied with Austin Ekeler for the most high-value touches among the league’s backs, and the only issue you can find with his role is the Jets simply aren’t very good so the scoring opportunities will be limited. But he’s seeing plenty of pass-game work (a whopping 72 routes through two weeks, second behind McCaffrey among the league’s RBs), and he looks good on the field after a year away from the game.
Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder each saw six targets and four receptions. That’s better for Anderson at his aDOT, and he was able to generate 81 yards, while Crowder is a little more volume-dependent (his four catches went for 40). The quarterback situation will hold them back for a couple of weeks. The Jets do get a Week 4 bye, and it’s nice they’ll get that out of the way while Darnold isn’t fit to play.
- Signal: Nick Chubb — strong routes run, passing game involvement; Le’Veon Bell — elite routes run, passing game involvement; Jarvis Landry — aDOT elevated in 2018 range, efficiency lagging
- Noise: Baker Mayfield — 325 pass yards, 9.3 YPA (numbers would have looked a lot more pedestrian without Beckham’s YAC on the long touchdown, earlier great catch)
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