Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 7 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 7 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.
As you can see, I have also added views on the last five weeks of games. While this is only a one-game difference, for now, this will allow us to see more recent trends as we progress throughout the season. With that, let's get into it!
Team Pace and Plays
- This doesn't happen often, but this week we get two teams in the top three in plays per game over the last five weeks facing off against each other. That matchup is the one between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans. Tell me if you've heard this before, but this sets up as a potential blow-up spot for Derrick Henry as the Titans continue to lean on him and the Chiefs have, by far, the worst run defense in the league. On the other side, Patrick Mahomes has yet to fully hit his stride this season, but the Titans' defense was just eviscerated by Josh Allen, setting Mahomes and his playmakers up for another solid week. Hopefully, we get a fully healthy AJ Brown and Julio Jones so that this game provides all of the fantasy football fireworks we could ask for.
- One interesting matchup comes in Tampa Bay, where the Bears, the team with the fewest plays per game over the last five weeks, will visit the Buccaneers, the team with the seventh-most plays per game over the last five weeks. The Bears are also a team that seems to have almost completely abandoned throwing the ball, despite investing significant draft capital into their current starting quarterback, Justin Fields. Tampa Bay has had a pass-funnel defense all year, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the Bears will have success against them given they have one of the worst offensive lines going up one of the best defensive lines. I would expect the Bears to continue their ground-and-pound ways in an attempt to slow the game down and limit possessions for both sides of the ball.
Team Pass Rates
- A game with sneaky shootout potential features two teams coming off of trips to London. The Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins both find themselves among the pass-heaviest teams both on the season and over the last five weeks. The rib injury was clearly not a concern for Tua Tagovailoa in his return as he threw the ball 47 times in Week 6, the third-most in his career. Meanwhile, the Falcons, coming off of their bye, should get their top wide receiver in Calvin Ridley back this week, which will only help that offense. With this game unlikely to carry much ownership, look for it to be a great game to build game stacks around in DFS.
- The chart showing the last five weeks of data displays a very concerning trend for the Dallas Cowboys if you have invested heavily in their passing attack (currently looking at myself). The Cowboys are near the bottom in neutral-script pass rate, red-zone pass rate, and pass rate over expectation. This should not be the case for a team with a quarterback as good as Dak Prescott. Fortunately, Prescott and his pass-catchers have been able to sustain fantasy football relevance on the back of efficiency, but they won't truly hit their ceiling without a bump in volume. What's worrisome, is that this methodology in playcalling has worked for Mike McCarthy, so he has little incentive to change his gameplans. I'm still holding onto the Cowboys' passing weapons, but if this doesn't change after their bye, then it's time to hit the panic button.
Team Game Scripts
- Despite only winning one, the Colts have been in two extremely positive game scripts in back-to-back games. This has given Jonathan Taylor a chance to showcase his talent not only rushing the ball, but also catching the ball. Since Week 3, Taylor's rate of routes run per dropbacks has increased each week, going from a season-low 26% in Week 3 to a season-high 61% in Week 6. Now, maybe this is because the Colts feel more comfortable having Taylor on the field when they're ahead and aren't forced to run, but it's certainly better than the alternative in which he continues to cede routes to Nyheim Hines. With matchups against the 49ers, Titans and Jets in the coming weeks, look for Taylor to continue his dominant stretch.
- Perhaps the hottest team in the AFC and the winner of five straight games, the Baltimore Ravens, continue to impress week after week. In Week 6, their pass rate dropped to 42%, down significantly from their season-long rate of 52%, which was due to the large lead that Baltimore had throughout the game. But Baltimore has had success passing the ball, which is different from year's past as their neutral-script pass rate has jumped from 43.2% to 54.6% in 2021. This gives me confidence that Baltimore, whose defense has also struggled more than normal, will continue to provide value for Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, and even Rashod Bateman, all of whom once relied on efficiency and can now succeed with more volume.
Running Back Usage
- We now have two weeks under our belt with Carlos Hyde back in the lineup for the Jaguars, and, fortunately, he has been much less of a factor in those games, giving way to James Robinson being extremely dominant. In the last two weeks, Robinson has gotten an 87% share of the Jaguars' running back touches, which is up significantly from his 67% share in the first three weeks with Hyde. Hyde has seen just 20% of snaps since returning from injury and didn't have a single touch in Week 6 (he did have one target). If things continue this way, it looks like James Robinson could be a bonafide RB1 once again.
- Unfortunately, Christian McCaffrey has found his way to injured reserve. Fortunately, if you landed Chuba Hubbard, you are sitting pretty. Hubbard has been just as much of a bell cow as McCaffrey as he has gotten 82% of the running back touches since McCaffrey got injured with a solid average of 3.6 high-value touches per game. Additionally, the Panthers released Rodney Smith, who looked to be getting a good chunk of receiving work, but now we have seen Hubbard's routes per dropback rate rise in each of the last three weeks. It's only topped out at 46% in Week 6, but it's encouraging to see it rise, nevertheless, as that's what we'll need to see his ceiling be unlocked. In any case, Hubbard remains a solid start in redraft and a great option in DFS.
Wide Receiver Usage
- When examining these charts, one name that really stood out to me was Michael Pittman Jr., who appears in the top-right quadrant of the chart from the last five weeks. So far, Pittman is having a really strong season. He has yet to run a route on fewer than 92% of dropbacks in a single game and has earned at least seven targets in all but two games (one of which was this past Sunday when the Colts only threw it 20 times against the Texans). Even with T.Y. Hilton back in the lineup this past week, Pittman ran a route on 96% of the team's dropbacks - nobody is taking snaps away from him. His 24% target share and 35% air yards share give him a very solid 0.59 WOPR, giving me confidence that he can emerge down the stretch of his second year.
- This past week, Courtland Sutton joined Davante Adams as the only player to have recorded two games with at least 200 air yards. This is elite, alpha-level usage, and a clear sign that he has fully recovered from his ACL tear. The Broncos did ease him in with back-to-back weeks only running 80% of dropbacks, but he has been running routes on at least 90% of dropbacks in each of the last four weeks. Sutton's teammate, Tim Patrick, is also having a sneaky good season. With an average of just under 13 PPR points per game, Patrick is the WR31 on the season so far. He's third on the team in target share at 19% and is running routes on 85% of dropbacks, both really solid marks. Patrick will remain a solid WR4 option the rest of the season.
Tight End Usage
- Tyler Conklin has quickly made a name for himself, despite Chris Herndon truthers getting their day in the sun after he scored a touchdown. The fourth-year tight end has run a route on 69% of dropbacks this season, and that is growing. In the first three weeks of the season, his routes run rate was at just 63% and it has jumped to 76% over the last three weeks. Conklin has earned a 15% target share with at least four targets in all but one game. Though the Vikings still don't pass the ball very often, Conklin is worth an add (at least in tight-end premium leagues) and warrants DFS consideration each week as a cheaper tight-end option.
- I'm done with Cole Kmet. Since his seven-target Week 1 outing, Kmet is averaging just 3.4 targets per game. While his 17% target share and 73% routes run per dropback rate suggest that he's worth holding on to, the Bears refuse to pass the ball (as noted above), making him extremely touchdown-dependent. Kmet has yet to record double-digit PPR points in a single week this season and it looks like the second-year breakout may be put on hold for now.