Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 3 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 3 edition of Hoppen to Conclusions! This is where I, Sam Hoppen, will share some of my favorite charts, which are designed to give you an overview of the NFL landscape. These charts, along with the commentary that I provide, aim to help you make start or sit, DFS lineup construction, or any other fantasy football decisions. There can be a lot of noise in fantasy football analysis, but these charts have been carefully selected to give you some of the most relevant and useful decision points.
Each of the charts has been designed in a way that you want to be targeting players and teams that are in the top-right quadrant of the chart as denoted by the dotted black lines, which signify the median value for the stat on either the x-axis or y-axis. Before getting to each of the charts and analyses, here are some brief descriptions of what you will find on each chart and how to interpret them.
Note: neutral game-script is defined as plays outside of the two-minute warning with a win probability between 20% and 80% for the offensive team.
- Team Pace and Plays: Compares a team's average plays per game to its neutral-script pace, using seconds per play as a measure of pace. On the chart, the y-axis flipped to show faster-paced teams (fewer seconds per play) on top. Simply put, teams (and overall matchups) with more plays and faster pace will offer more opportunities for fantasy point-scoring.
- Team Pass Rates: Compares a team's neutral-script pass rate to its red-zone pass rate, with the size of the team's point showing its pass rate over expectation (PROE). Here we can identify which teams are passing the most when game script isn't a deciding factor and when they get close to the goal line.
- Team Game Script: Shows the distribution of a team's plays based on their win probability throughout their games - where there is a higher bubble for a team is where the team ran more plays under the win probability. This can help explain potential play-calling and usage decisions.
- Running Back Usage: Compares running back snap percent to his high-value touches (carries inside the 10 and receptions), with the size of the player's point as his total opportunities per game.
- Wide Receiver/Tight End Usage: Compares player weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) to his targets per route run (TPRR), with the size of the player's point as his receiver air conversion ratio (RACR). WOPR weights both air yards share and target share to evaluate a player's opportunity while RACR divides a player's receiving yards by his air yards to evaluate his efficiency in the opportunity he is given. The charts show the same information for both the wide receiver and tight end position.
Team Pace and Plays
- While the Colts and Titans are in the bottom-third of the league in neutral-script pace, both have featured a high number of plays per game so far. Their matchup this week is the game with the highest combined plays per game between the two teams. With lots of plays and two sub-par defenses (both of which rank in the bottom seven in DVOA, per Football Outsiders), this matchup is one to attack for DFS, though it may carry a lot of ownership with it.
- The game between the Chargers and Cowboys this past week did not have as much fantasy production as many expected, but those two teams are still among the fastest and most voluminous offenses in the league. The Chargers and Cowboys face off against the Chiefs and Eagles (MNF), respectively, both of whom are at or above league average in pace. All four of these offenses have proven the ability to put up major points in the past, making these games worth stacking, where possible.
- This week's Sunday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers is one that you will want to avoid, if possible. These are both two of the slowest and least voluminous offenses, which is nothing new, so fantasy scoring should come at a premium. Outside of the stud players, be careful with who you start in this game.
Team Pass Rates
- Cincinnati's pass rate remains confusing and frustrating for everyone. Last year, they led the league neutral-script pass rate in the 10 games that Joe Burrow played at 64%, which is significantly higher than the 56% that they have through two games of this year. Fortunately, the passing game has been valuable from a fantasy perspective because of how concentrated their targets are, but for the ceiling to be hit they will need to pass much more than they are right now.
- I mentioned the Chiefs and Chargers matchup in the previous section, but it's worth pointing out how pass-happy both of these teams have been so far this season. It makes sense for the Chiefs, who have the best quarterback in the game and a running back in Clyde Edwards-Helaire who has struggled mightily this season. While there were some concerns over Austin Ekeler's lack of targets in Week 1, that was remedied quickly as he saw nine targets in Week 2. Both of these passing attacks should be on full display Sunday afternoon.
- One team that stands out in a positive light is the Denver Broncos, who rank in the top 10 in both neutral-script pass rate and red zone pass rate. Earlier this week, Chris Allen suggested Teddy Bridgewater as a potential streaming option at quarterback, and I fully endorse that recommendation. Facing a Jets defense that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, Bridgewater is in line for a solid game.
Team Game Scripts
- The Panthers, one of the surprise 2-0 teams this season, have been dominating their opponents as they have yet to run an offensive play with a win percentage below 50%. They'll face the Houston Texans on Thursday night, setting them up to have another solid performance. Expect their usage to be in line with how it has been through the first two weeks and start all your Panthers studs in this game.
- With how little the Patriots have been trailing this season, it's is extremely promising to see James White stay as involved as he has been. Though he is still really only a pass-catching threat (only nine carries in two games), he looks like Mac Jones' second favorite target behind Jakobi Meyers as he has a target share of nearly 20%.
Running Back Usage
- One of the biggest storylines this past week was Derrick Henry setting career-high marks in targets and receptions with six each. This has boosted his high-value touches to an astounding eight per game, which would be a dramatic increase from 3.4 HVT per game average in 2020. Jeremy McNichols has been slightly involved in the passing game (seven targets so far this season), so he would be the biggest beneficiary if Henry can't hold onto the passing role that he has worked his way into.
- Chase Edmonds may look like the lead back with a 62% snap share, James Conner is not far behind at 40%. Where Edmonds has the advantage, and where he will make his hay this year, is in the passing game as he has 10 targets so far this year while Conner doesn't have a single target. Conner does have two of the three carries inside the ten, but with Kyler Murray in the mix near the goal-line, it will be hard for either of them to consistently see that work.
- We have a full-on committee in Dallas between Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, but it's not as close as you might think (or hope, depending on who you drafted). Even though Pollard (183 total yards on 23 touches) has been more efficient than Elliott (136 total yards on 31 touches), Elliott's usage is far more consistent. Elliott has snap shares above 70% and has run a route on at least 70% of Dallas' dropbacks in each of the first two games.
Wide Receiver Usage
- What a week for Rondale Moore, who currently leads rookie wide receivers in receiving yards (182) and leads the Cardinals in targets (14). Moore's snap share rose from 29% in Week 1 to 46% in Week 2, but when he's been on the field the Cardinals look like they want to manufacture touches for him as evidenced by his 0.34 targets per route run (which is currently second in the league among wide receivers). DeAndre Hopkins will remain the WR1 in Arizona, but the hope is that Moore can unseat the aging A.J. Green in the weeks to come.
- There's been a massive shift this year in how the Carolina Panthers are using their wide receivers. So far this year Robby Anderson has an average depth of target (aDOT) of 22.3 yards and D.J. Moore has an aDOT of 9 yards - last year, Anderson was at 9.8 yards and Moore was at 13.7 yards. Moore has looked every bit the WR1 that many people wanted to see out of him as he boasts a 0.62 WOPR. Moore also has 19 total targets on the season while all other Panthers' wide receivers have combined for 21 targets. Lock him in as a top-12 fantasy wide receiver for the rest of the season.
- K.J. Osborn has been a fun surprise this season as he hauled in a 64-yard touchdown on Sunday and seems to have locked down the WR3 role in Minnesota. Osborn has 15 total targets on the year, five more than the next-highest targeted player on the team. All this to say that Justin Jefferson is still the leader in Minnesota as he is one of seven receivers to have back-to-back weeks with at least 100 air yards. Jefferson hasn't had his breakout game of the season quite yet, but it will be coming soon.
Tight End Usage
- The wide receiver room in Cleveland has been a mess to start the season, which has opened up an opportunity for Austin Hooper and David Njoku to have some solid starts to the season. Each of them has eight targets so far this year and snap shares above 55%. With Jarvis Landry headed to injured reserve, these two should be in consideration for tight end streaming and DFS rostering.
- For those of you who were (and still are) worried about Kyle Pitts, fear not. The rookie's peripheral stats have been outstanding and are a great sign of positive things to come. So far this season Pitts has run a route on 82% of dropbacks, has a 74% snap share, and has lined up in the slot or out wide on 67% of snaps (per PFF) - all of these are outstanding for a tight end, much less a rookie one.