Hidden Stat Line: Preparing for Week 2 and Beyond

Hidden Stat Line: Preparing for Week 2 and Beyond

This article is part of our Hidden Stat Line series.

I probably won't be able to do this on a regular basis throughout the season, but given the importance of Week 1, it only seems right to pick out some of the key usage trends from our Hidden Stat Line articles earlier this week. 

The first one, Backfield Breakdown, analyzed snaps, carries, targets, routes and goal-line work for every running back who had a role in his team's Week 1 offense. The second article — Targets, Routes & Snaps — focused on similar usage statistics for wide receivers and tight ends, adding leaderboards for target share, air yards and a few other things.

Both pieces have a lot of useful information — especially if you play DFS or are in some deeper leagues — but they're also a a liiiiiittle on the long side for casual reading. The goal below is to pick out some of the most interesting findings from Week 1 and briefly explain why they matter for fantasy football.

Running Backs

1) Josh Jacobs gets career-high 78 percent snap share.

I'm not sure this is actionable for season-long or dynasty leagues, seeing as Jacobs is 100 percent rostered and isn't likely to be available for trade after a three-TD week. His usage was encouraging, no doubt, but he did cede five of seven snaps to Jalen Richard on 3rd-and-medium/long. Part of the career-high snap share was Jon Gruden intentionally sending Jacobs on more routes, but part of it was just a product of the nature of this game — the Raiders never ran their two-minute/hurry-up offense and faced very few difficult 3rd-down conversions... those are the situations where we worry about Jacobs losing snaps to Richard or Devontae Booker.

2) Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott & Saquon Barkley all play more than 85 percent of snaps.

Maybe nobody else was worried about this, but with each of these three RBs getting a new head coach or offensive coordinator in the offseason, there was some chance of workloads being altered. Anyway, it didn't happen Week 1. Mike Davis, Tony Pollard and Dion Lewis were seldom seen.

3) James Robinson plays 68 percent of snaps, gets each of Jacksonville's 16 RB carries.

Meanwhile, Chris Thompson had zero carries and two targets on 24 percent snap share. Thompson did have a 12-11 advantage in routes run, but this wasn't as close of a split as we expected, as Thompson only played in obvious passing situations. Robinson should be a functional RB2 if his role stays the same, yet he's still available in 41 percent of Yahoo leagues and 53 percent of ESPN leagues.

4) Miami's Myles Gaskin gets nine carries and four targets on 63 percent snap share.

Gaskin essentially handled the role we thought Matt Breida would have, while Breida saw only five touches (all carries) on 23 percent of snaps. Jordan Howard had an 8-9-1 rushing line on 15 percent of snaps, disappearing after the first quarter until he was needed at the goal line (where it took him three tries to get one yard). I think the Dolphins will still use Breida and Howard at least a little, if only because they're being paid pretty good money, but Gaskin might really be the lead guy. His usage through the air could be especially fruitful, considering his Week 1 mark of 0.68 routes per QB dropback was fourth highest among all RBs (behind only McCaffrey, David Johnson and Alvin Kamara). 

Gaskin is still available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues and 95 percent of ESPN leagues... I think he should be rostered in any league with 12 or more teams. You can't start him with confidence Week 2, but there's upside for 8-10 carries and 4-5 targets per week, which would put him on the RB2 map.

5) Malcolm Brown gets 60 percent snap share, including goal-line carries and passing downs.

Cam Akers got 14 carries on 40 percent snap share, but Brown had a 21-10 advantage in routes and a 4-1 advantage in targets, not to mention an 18-79-2 rushing line. Sean McVay's offense won't provide so many carries most weeks, but Brown can cede half those carries to teammates and still be a solid RB2 if he's the one taking the higher-value opportunities (targets & goal-line carries). It doesn't hurt that he outplayed Akers on Sunday, nor does it hurt that Darrell Henderson (three touches on 7 percent snap share) was barely noticeable.

6) Benny Snell rumbles for 19-113-0.

This is one where my advice is to pump the brakes. Snell had a great night after James Conner was injured, but it doesn't sound like the ankle sprain is too severe, and Jaylen Samuels took 43 percent of snaps after Conner left Monday's contest. There's no doubt Snell will get carries if Conner misses time, but the Steelers don't trust him in the passing game the same way they trust their starting RB. 

7) Devin Singletary and Zack Moss work in a near 50/50 split.

 Singletary had the advantage in snap share — 59% to 45% — but both players took nine total carries, and Moss's workload included four carries and two targets (including a TD) inside the 10-yard line. Singletary did have a 27-20 edge in routes and a 7-4 edge in targets, but that's arguably smaller than expected. The Bills seem to trust both guys as runners and pass catchers, with Moss having the early edge near the goal line. If this split continues, Moss and Singletary both figure to linger around low-end RB2/FLEX territory.

8) The Patriots go full committee.

Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead each played 30 percent of snaps, with even J.J. Taylor getting 14%. The usage was particularly concerning for White, who finished with his smallest snap share since Week 10 of 2017. If the Pats' run-heavy trend continues, White could be a total bust this year.

9) Leonard Fournette barely plays.

Fournette took five carries on 13 percent of snaps, while Ronald Jones had a 17-66-0 rushing line on 47 percent of snaps. LeSean McCoy was strictly a passing-down specialist, logging 36 percent of snaps and holding a 21-13 advantage over Jones in routes run. This basically was the same thing we saw late last season, only with Fournette instead of Peyton Barber, and McCoy instead of Dare Ogunbowale.

10) J.K. Dobbins scores two TDs, plays 39 percent of snaps.

This is another "pump the brakes" example. Mark Ingram still had a team-high 10 carries, compared to seven for Dobbins and four for Gus Edwards (three of four for Edwards came on the final, garbage-time drive). Ingram had a 10-6-1 carry advantage before that final drive, but Dobbins did finish with a 15-7 advantage in routes, so it seems the rookie is trusted as a pass catcher even if he didn't get any targets. If this type of split continues, it will be tough to rely on any Ravens running back.

11) Austin Ekeler ranks eighth in RB snap share (68%) and seventh in routes per QB dropback (0.62).

There seems to be some concern about the lack of targets (one) and Joshua Kelley's solid showing in the second half. But Ekeler had a career-high 19 carries, and he'll still be on the field for most of the Chargers' pass plays. The targets won't flow quite like they did last year with Philip Rivers at QB, but Ekeler is still a solid bet to finish top 10 among RBs in every major receiving stat. He'll get his targets.

12) Chris Carson plays only 45 percent of snaps, takes six carries.

A 6-45-2 receiving line got the job done for fantasy purposes, but Carson did it on only 18 routes, in a game where Russell Wilson had 42 dropbacks. Even if we don't count the final drive in garbage time, Carson only took five of the Seahawks' 12 RB carries, with Carlos Hyde getting five and Travis Homer adding two. We knew Hyde would be involved, to some extent, but we didn't know Homer would get three carries and two targets on 21 percent snap share. A three-way split would be problematic for Carson, even if he's the clear No. 1 of the bunch. I'm treating him as a low-trust RB2 for the moment.

Wide Receivers

1) DeSean Jackson draws an NFL-high 210 air yards.

Jackson was a popular DFS play Week 1, and while it didn't exactly work out, he did see four of his seven targets travel more than 20 yards downfield, per PFF. On the other hand, Jackson ran a route on only 60 percent of Carson Wentz's dropbacks, with 54 percent snap share and 17 percent target share. We'd like to see a little more playing time, but if nothing else, he's a good tournament play for DFS as long as his price stays near its current level ($5,100 on DK). By the way, Allen Robinson was the one guy to get more targets (five) 20-plus yards downfield.

2) DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams are the only players with 40 percent target share.

It's only one game, and we already knew both guys would see a lot of targets. Still, it was good to see, especially for those who were worried about a team change impacting Hopkins. Both figure to be heavily used in DFS this week, which probably means a fade is the smart play in tournaments. It's really not that big of a deal when guys like Adams and Hopkins have huge games, but people tend to overreact when it happens Week 1.

3) Julian Edelman plays only 58 percent of snaps.

On the other hand, Edelman ran a route on 19 of Cam Newton's 22 dropbacks (86 percent) and saw the fifth-largest target share (36.8 percent) of Week 1. So it was really only running plays where Edelman wasn't on the field. The problem, of course, is that the Patriots ran the ball so many times, and it's possible they continue the run-heavy trend now that Newton is at QB. This is more of a wait-and-see situation than a take-action situation. In any case, it's not like Edelman will bring back something huge in a trade. 

Also, while we're here, it's worth noting that N'Keal Harry got 80 percent snap share, 0.86 routes per QB dropback and 31.6 percent target share, finishing with 5-39-0 on six targets (he also came within a yard of a TD but instead fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback).

4) Mike Williams get 31 percent target share (9th) and 46 percent air-yard share (8th).

The shoulder injury from training camp appeared to be a non-factor, with Williams playing 78 percent of snaps and running a route on 88 percent of Tyrod Taylor's dropbacks. The stat line was a throwback to last year, 4-69-0, but on a team-high nine targets. Williams is my favorite cheap WR play on DraftKings ($4,200) for Week 2.

5) Preston Williams plays 90 percent of snaps.

Williams finished with 2-41-0 on seven targets (23.3 percent share), but we at least saw a heavy workload in his first game back from last year's ACL tear. He should be extra busy if DeVante Parker (hamstring) misses time, though a Week 2 matchup with Buffalo is suboptimal.

6) Russell Gage gets 23.1 percent target share, 70 percent of snaps and 0.82 routes per dropback.

Gage averaged 7.3 targets over the final nine games of last season, but it was largely dismissed as a product of Austin Hooper, Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones missing time with injuries. Maybe we need to take Gage seriously, at least as an option in deeper PPR leagues and a potential third/fourth wheel for Falcons stacks in DFS. Meanwhile, new tight end Hayden Hurst got 78 percent snap share and .80 routes per dropback, but only saw 9.6 percent target share. Some of Gage's share will transfer to Hurst in future weeks; it's just hard to say how much.

7) Will Fuller goes 8-112-0 on 32.3 percent target share.

Fuller's mark of .80 routes per dropback was low for a No. 1 receiver, as the Texans used Kenny Stills (40 percent snap share, 0.43 r/db) off the bench to give their starters semi-regular breathers. But Fuller was the top priority whenever he was on the field, drawing a target on 31 percent of his routes (eighth best of Week 1).

8) D.J. Moore gets 26.5 percent target share and 95 air yards. Allen Robinson gets 25.0 percent target share and 150 air yards.

No need to panic. Bad weeks happen, especially for wide receivers and tight ends. The usage here was similar to last year, only with deeper looks for A-Rob.

9) Breshad Perriman, Kendrick Bourne, Steven Sims and Damiere Byrd each run a route on more than 90 percent of QB dropbacks.

None of them did much with the playing time, but it's at least interesting to note they were full-time guys. Sims was just the slot guy in three-wide formations last year, but he saw playing time in two-receiver sets Sunday afternoon, handling 83 percent snap share overall and lining up wide on 13 plays (compared to 44 in the slot). 

10) Diontae Johnson works as Pittsburgh's No. 2 receiver, with 32.4 percent target share, 86 percent snap share and 0.94 routes/dropback.

James Washington scored the TD, but he was down at 9.7 percent target share, 58 percent snap share and 0.69 routes/dropback. Meanwhile, JuJu Smith-Schuster saw 19.4 percent target share, 86 percent snap share and ran a route on every QB dropback in a two-TD performance. The larger point here is that Johnson is the No. 2 receiver, while Washington is the No. 3. However, Washington (14.0 aDOT in Week 1) tends to get more downfield looks, so he's still a solid choice for any Pittsburgh stacks. Johnson's Week 1 aDOT was 6.3, and JuJu's was 5.0.

11) Keelan Cole gets 25 percent target share for JAX; Quintez Cephus gets 24.4 percent for DET.

These were probably the two biggest surprises on the weekly target-share leaderboard, albeit with extenuating circumstances. The Jaguars attempted only 20 passes, and the Lions didn't have Kenny Golladay (hamstring). Still, it was interesting to see Cole (66 percent snap share, 0.79 routes per dropback) have slightly more pass catching opportunity than Laviska Shenault (62% snaps, 0.64 r/db) and far more than Chris Conley (32 percent snaps) and Dede Westbrook (healthy scratch). And Cephus worked ahead of Marvin Hall, who barely played.

Tight Ends

1) WFT's Logan Thomas gets team-high 26.7 percent target share

Thomas backed it up with 74 percent snap share, 0.86 routes per dropback and a 4-37-1 receiving line. He's still available in 88 percent of Yahoo leagues. Go get him if you need a tight end!

2) Darren Waller gets 28.6 percent target share, 89 percent snap share.

He also led the team, by far, with .90 routes per dropback, though WR Henry Ruggs might've posted a similar number if he hadn't missed some time with a minor knee injury. Anyway, the main point here is that Waller is still a full-time player and usually stays on the field even in heavier formations. He may not be a good blocker, but the threat of his receiving ability gives the defense something else to think about.

3) Mark Andrews gets career-high 71 percent snap share.

Andrews also ran 0.87 routes per dropback, up from 0.61 last year. It's not a surprise with Hayden Hurst gone, and Andrews provided an instant pay off with his 5-58-2 receiving line. Travis Kelce and George Kittle may soon have company in the elite TE tier.

4) Chris Herndon gets 21.2 percent target share and 71 percent snap share.

That's the good news. The bad news is that he was used as a pass blocker nine times, which limited him to 22 routes on 39 Sam Darnold dropbacks (0.56 routes/db). I doubt Herndon is a good enough player to continue drawing targets on 32 percent of his routes, so we'll need to see reduced blocking responsibility if he's going to be anything more than a TE2 type. This wasn't necessarily a bad output if you drafted Herndon, but the underlying usage is a bit less promising than the target total (seven) and target share indicate.

5) Austin Hooper got 77 percent of snaps and ran 0.67 routes per QB dropback.

He only saw two targets, but it wasn't for lack of playing time. Hooper is still worth rostering in the vast majority of fantasy leagues.

6) Jimmy Graham got 80 percent of snaps and 0.78 routes per QB dropback.

He finished with 3-25-1 on seven targets and came close to a second TD. Graham looked washed up in Green Bay, and he may indeed be washed up, but there's some fantasy utility to be had if this type of usage holds up. After all, someone needs to catch passes besides Allen Robinson, right?

  

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below or chat with me on twitter (@JerryDonabedian).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Donabedian
Jerry was a 2018 finalist for the FSWA's Player Notes Writer of the Year and DFS Writer of the Year awards. A Baltimore native, Jerry roots for the Ravens and watches "The Wire" in his spare time.
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