Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 6 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 6 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
- The matchup between division rivals Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos looks like it may be an enticing one as they are both near or above-average in plays per game, but a deeper look makes it apparent that this could be a stay-away spot, if possible. First, the Raiders' play count has been inflated by playing two overtime games in their first five games - one of those games went an extra five minutes and the other went the full ten-minute overtime period. Secondly, as you can see on the chart, both teams are below average in neutral-script pace of play with each of them having a seconds per play rate below 31 seconds. With the Raiders playing under a new play-caller this week, I don't expect them to force the pace of the game to be higher than it needs to be.
- Perhaps the most fantasy-friendly environment from a pace and play standpoint is the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens. You will remember the high-flying game that the Chargers played last week - their opponent, the Cleveland Browns, played their second-highest paced game of the season, and I expect the Ravens to be forced into a similar situation. Though they weren't in a neutral game script for that much of the game, Baltimore also played their fastest game on Monday Night Football against the Colts after they fell behind early. Both of these teams rank in the top 12 of plays per game and this should be a matchup that features a plethora of fantasy points on both sides.
Team Pass Rates
- Thursday Night Football figures to be a passing fest with two of the pass-happiest teams facing off. On one side, you have Tom Brady who, at 44 years old, is shattering all expectations once again and leads the league in passing yards. While the Buccaneers' passing offense isn't that concentrated, the top three receivers are good enough and the Buccaneers pass enough to warrant starting any and all of the primary pass catchers. On the other side, Jalen Hurts certainly doesn't have the same pedigree as Brady, but is every bit as good of a fantasy quarterback. The second-year quarterback is currently the QB6 on the season both in part due to his improved passing and his ability to run the ball - Hurts has rushed for at least 30 yards in each of his nine starts. Since the Buccaneers have a pass-funnel defense, I would confidently start DeVonta Smith and Zach Ertz, but none of the other pass-catchers have been consistent enough for me to consider starting them.
- The Miami Dolphins have had an interesting start to the season, having to turn to Jacoby Brissett while Tua Tagovailoa (who has been designated to return from Injured Reserve) dealt with fractured ribs. In his absence, the Dolphins have thrown the ball at one of the highest rates, currently ranking second in neutral-script pass rate and sixth in pass rate over expectation on the season. The wide receiver group has been in flux quite a bit with Will Fuller yet to play a full snap share in a game (his season-high is currently 61%) and DeVante Parker missing the game this past week with a hamstring injury. Jaylen Waddle, meanwhile, has been as steady as they come, earning at least six targets in all but one game and running a route on 86% of the team's dropbacks. Fantasy wide receivers have had some success against Jacksonville as they rank 15th in adjusted PPR fantasy points allowed, but this sets up to be a spot where both Waddle and Parker (if healthy) can have big weeks.
Team Game Scripts
- In case you hadn't heard, Derrick Henry is an absolute stud. Through five games, Henry has amassed 156 total touches - to put this into perspective, there were just 33 running backs who eclipsed that mark in all of last season. What's most impressive is that Henry's workload has stayed strong despite the Titans being behind in several games this year. As you can tell with the size of their bubble in the previous chart, they have zero desire to pass the ball. Maybe it's because AJ Brown and Julio Jones have struggled to stay healthy and they just don't have any other options outside of Henry that they trust, but it still is encouraging to see his usage withstand some negative game scripts.
- Unfortunately, getting rid of Adam Gase wasn't enough to make the New York Jets a competent football team yet. They have been in extremely negative game scripts for the majority of the season, so we haven't gotten a chance to see what a full workload might look like for Michael Carter, the rookie out of North Carolina. Since Week 2, Carter has double-digit carries in three of four games and has at least a dozen opportunities in every game. His snap rate has crept up into the 50s in the past two weeks, but being on an offense that does not run a lot of plays and isn't efficient is the worst possible scenario for a running back. He's still worth a bench stash (none of the other running backs are worth rostering), but it may be some time before we can confidently start him in lineups.
Running Back Usage
- D'Andre Swift is currently your league leader in total high-value touches on the season and is averaging 7.2 HVTs per game, only second to Christian McCaffrey. Despite frustrations that Swift isn't getting a full RB1 workload after Dan Campbell said that he wanted to get him the ball more often, Swift has been efficient enough to be considered an RB1 for the rest of the season. Even with Jamaal Williams being a thorn in the side of Swift's managers, Swift has doubled Williams up in targets and is RB7 on the season with an average of 18.2 PPR points per game. Williams' touches will be annoying, but that shouldn't stop you from marveling at the fact that you landed a top-12 RB in the third round or later.
- Elijah Mitchell has fully taken over the 49ers' backfield (at least when he's healthy). This season he is averaging 15 carries per game and has earned a commanding 75% of the running back touches when healthy. Conversely, after trading up to draft Trey Sermon in the second round, he has been neglected when Mitchell is active. In the three games that Mitchell has played, Sermon has been a healthy inactive for one and played a total of three snaps across the other two games. It's not like Shanahan to have a bell-cow back, but Mitchell looks every bit like one. With the 49ers heading into a bye this week, I would not fault you for dropping Sermon and, at this point, would not clog your bench by holding onto Jeff Wilson, who is now unlikely to return before Week 11.
- The Raiders as a team are a mess right now, but it's worth pointing out some of their running back usage since Josh Jacobs returned to action. After missing two weeks due to injury, Jacobs returned with back-to-back games with five targets, the first time in his career that he's done that. In those two games, he has seen a 66% snap rate, while Kenyan Drake has fallen to the wayside with only a 26% snap share. Furthermore, Jacobs has earned an elite 88% of the running back touches while averaging 19 opportunities per game. This is RB1-type usage, but it remains to be seen if that will continue with the new regime.
Wide Receiver Usage
- Davante Adams is back on the throne as being the WR1 for the rest of the season as if it was ever really up for debate. His usage has been absolutely elite the last three games with at least 11 targets in each game for an average of 15 targets per game over that stretch. His 46% air yards share is fourth in the league and his 38% target share leads the league, making him one of two receivers with a WOPR above 0.75. Additionally, what makes his 0.37 targets per route run most impressive is that he is running a route on 91% of the teams' dropbacks. There's nothing actionable here (other than avoiding other Packers' players not named Aaron Jones because of how much of the opportunity Adams is hogging), this was just one of the few times I wanted to gush over how dominant he's been.
- This past week DeAndre Hopkins looked like his old self - after two straight weeks with fewer than 11 PPR points, Hopkins found the end zone for the fourth time this season and notched his second game with at least 20 fantasy points. What was more interesting, however, was the usage from the receivers behind him on the depth chart. Week 5 was the first time this season that Rondale Moore ran more routes than Christian Kirk, and Moore took advantage of it by making the catch of the year so far. Moore's 60% routes run per dropback rate was his season-high, but he only has a 6% air yards share so far this season. It seems like the Cardinals are using him in a Deebo Samuel-type role (from years past), but for those waiting on his breakout, it may be coming sooner than we think.
- I didn't mention it in the pass rate section, but the Dallas Cowboys' pass rate and pass rate over expectation have been well below average after throwing it 58 times in the season opener. Fortunately, the Cowboys' receivers have been able to survive on the back of some extreme efficiency. Both CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper both have two games with at least 15 PPR points since Week 2, but their other games have been quite abysmal. Fortunately, their peripheral metrics still make them worth starting. They have both run routes on over 90% of dropbacks, have an air yards share above 25% and have a target share of at least 17%. I would rather have Lamb than Cooper for the rest of season, but outside of them and tight end Dalton Schultz, nobody should be trusted in a lineup until they start throwing the ball more frequently.
Tight End Usage
- I mentioned the Dolphins as being one of the most pass-friendly offenses so far this season, and one major beneficiary of that is Mike Gesicki. You will notice him on the chart above near names like Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, and Kyle Pitts, all of whom are seen as elite fantasy tight end options. While I don't think Gesicki is quite on that level yet, he has certainly entrenched himself as a solid option at tight end. So far this season, Gesicki is averaging six targets per game, good for the team's third-highest target share at 18%. His 24% air yards share is also second on the team behind a hobbled DeVante Parker, so not only is he seeing plenty of opportunities, but he's also seeing downfield opportunities, which you don't often see with tight ends. He looks to be a TE1 for the rest of the season.
- With Logan Thomas sent to Injured Reserve, Ricky Seals-Jones stepped into a rather large role immediately. In his first game without Thomas, Seals-Jones earned eight targets second on the team in Week 5) while running a route on 88% of the teams' dropbacks. Thomas is expected to be out at least another 2-3 weeks, making Seals-Jones a viable tight end streamer in his absence.