Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 5 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 5 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
- A matchup between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings features two teams whose offenses have shown plenty of flashes in the first quarter of the season but whose defenses have seen better days. While people typically see an ugly matchup with these two, there's a good possibility that this ends up as a shootout, especially with the fifth-highest game total (49.5) on the week. You are starting all of your studs in this game, but it may be worth a look at your fringe players - KJ Osborn, Quintez Cephus, or Tyler Conklin to name a few - to throw into your flex or consider in a DFS lineup.
- This week's Thursday Night Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks is an interesting one. The game has the second-highest game total (54.5) in Week 5, but the combined plays per game of the two teams are the lowest total of any matchup this week. Clearly, bookmakers are banking on the Rams and Seahawks playing extremely efficiently, which isn't out of the question as both teams rank in the top six in EPA per play on offense this season. While the high game total may entice you to start as many players as possible, these teams are two of the most concentrated teams in terms of opportunity share for their top weapons.
Team Pass Rates
- The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to throw at an insane rate, mainly because they have been terrible since Week 1 and their offensive line is the worst-ranked run line. However, this benefits the receivers tremendously, as well as the receiving upside for Najee Harris. Another thing going for them is that they have one of the most concentrated passing attacks. Diontae Johnson leads the way for the Steelers, averaging 11.7 targets per game with 10+ targets in every game he has played - he should be considered a reliable starter any time he's healthy to play. Meanwhile, Juju Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool should be considered solid flex plays - and potential contrarian DFS plays - based on the passing volume of this offense.
- New Orleans' pass volume is concerning, especially for Alvin Kamara. While Kamara is averaging a career-high 19.5 carries per game which is all well and good, but he's only averaging 3.5 targets per game, a career-low. This split of 85% of his opportunities coming as rushing attempts is drastically higher than his career rate of 62%. His elusiveness and ability to create yards after the catch are what gave him an extremely high ceiling, but if he isn't getting that then he likely has no shot to be the overall RB1. If I had Kamara on a team, I would consider selling high on him when possible.
Team Game Scripts
- The Buffalo Bills look like a powerhouse right now, outscoring their opponents 118-21 since their Week 1 disappointment against the Steelers. Unfortunately, this hasn't given us any indication into who may be the lead guy in their backfield. I bring this up in the win probability section because, even if there was a clear split in usage, we may be able to chalk it up to so much garbage time. But, there hasn't been a big split as Zack Moss and Devin Singletary have snap shares of 47% and 50%, respectively, over the past three weeks. Each of them is also averaging over 13 opportunities per game. While muddy backfields like this are usually ones to stay away from, the Bills score enough that they should both be started as flex options.
- The Las Vegas Raiders took their first loss this season and they were in a negative script for most of the game as they entered halftime with a 21-0 deficit. In the first half, their 62% pass rate left a little to be desired as they were one of the pass-happiest teams in the league going into the week and it looked like Jon Gruden was trying to get the run established with eight carries from Josh Jacobs (his first game back since Week 1). However, their pass rate jumped in the second half jumped to 72%, right where we want to see them. It looks like this offense will still run through its passing game, we just need to hope that Gruden doesn't change his mind.
Running Back Usage
- Kenneth Gainwell is cutting into Miles Sanders' workload and severely capping his weekly ceiling. The rookie running back currently has a 35% snap share on the season and is averaging 4.5 targets per game this year. On the other hand, Sanders has yet to eclipse a 70% snap share in a single game (64% snap share on the year), and though his 3.5 targets per game are solid, earning more would uncork his potential. Another concerning trend (for Sanders at least), is how the opportunities are split when Philadelphia gets into the red zone. Per Sports Info Solutions, Sanders has played on 49% of the teams' red zone snaps and Gainwell has played on 51% of the teams' red zone snaps. If Sanders were to miss time, it doesn't look like the Eagles would hesitate to treat Gainwell like a featured back.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is the talk of the town in the fantasy football streets, and rightfully so. Following his three-touchdown Week 4 performance, Patterson ranks as RB3. However, there's a lot of reason to believe this isn't sustainable. Though he's averaging 12 opportunities per game, Patterson is currently only playing on 34% of snaps. That, compared to the 67% snap share and 17 opportunities per game for Mike Davis, makes Patterson an apparent 1B to Davis' 1A. The time to sell high on Patterson is right now, and you may not get another chance.
- Both Leonard Fournette and Chase Edmonds are averaging at least 16 opportunities per game but still have yet to score a touchdown. Their usage is extremely encouraging as they are two of 17 running backs to be averaging that many opportunities and have played all four games so far this season. I would slightly lean on Edmonds having a better chance to score a touchdown as he is averaging one touch per game within the opponent's 10-yard line, while Tampa Bay has the second-highest red zone pass rate in the NFL. In any case, both of these backs should see some positive regression and hopefully find the end zone sooner rather than later.
Wide Receiver Usage
- Corey Davis looked like he had solidified his role as the WR1 for the New York Jets, but that may be changing with the return of Jamison Crowder. In Crowder's first game back, he garnered nine targets compared to seven for Davis. The Jets did not hesitate to give Crowder a nearly full workload as he ran a route on 78% of dropbacks this week. Notably, this was without rookie receiver Elijah Moore, who has run a route on 70% of dropbacks and had an 18% target share in the first three weeks. Crowder's return is encouraging for those with him on their team, but I will be paying close attention to how this wide receiver group plays out when all three of these guys are on the field.
- In other returns to action, Curtis Samuel made his Washington Football debut. He was eased back into play a bit more than Crowder as he only ran a route on 34% of dropbacks. Most of those routes appeared to come at the expense of Dyami Brown, who ran a season-low 45% of dropbacks. The saving grace for Brown is that his role is much different than Samuel - Brown has an average depth of target (aDOT) of 14.2 yards while Samuel had an aDOT of -1.25 yards in his first game. That said, Brown can safely be dropped and replaced with other higher upside players.
- Courtland Sutton looks like he is all the way back, which is great to see. Sutton is averaging 123 air yards per game, which is tied for fourth among receivers that have played all four games. He is only averaging seven targets per game, but that's good enough for a solid 22% target share. The rest of the Broncos wide receiver group has been dealing with injuries, leaving Tim Patrick with a solid opportunity. In fact, Patrick is actually averaging more PPR points per game (12.1) than Sutton (10.9) in the first four weeks thanks, in large part, to 98 yards or a touchdown in three of four games. With the Broncos having a 55% neutral-script pass rate (15th in the league), Patrick is a solid flex play while Sutton remains an every-week starter.
Tight End Usage
- It's another year that the Philadelphia Eagles' tight ends are cannibalizing each others' opportunities. Zach Ertz, with a 14% target share, is currently the TE17 on the year while his teammate Dallas Goedert, with a 10% target share, has been more efficient and is the TE8 right now. They are both running a route on approximately 60% of the teams' dropbacks, but neither of them is going to be above 80% while they are both around. I tend to trust Ertz's usage more, but they should both be considered high-end TE2s going forward.
- It's about time we start paying attention to Dawson Knox, who has four touchdowns this season which is tied for the most touchdowns among tight ends. I have written plenty in this article about how often the Bills pass the ball, so any part of their passing offense is worth targeting. This season, Knox has a 13% target share and is averaging five targets per game, both solid marks for a tight end. While he is running a route on 68% of dropbacks, the hope is that he can see some more downfield targets so as to increase his 36 receiving yards per game and make him a more reliable option.