Hoppen to Conclusions: Week 4 Insights and Analysis
Hello and welcome to the Week 4 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. As you can see, I have also added views on the last five weeks of games.
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 (NPR) 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.
- 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 Baltimore Ravens are an enigma. Despite being one of the slower (29th in neutral-script pace) and least-voluminous teams (28th in plays per game) in the NFL, their games have put up point totals of 33, 80, and 63. That 58.67 point total per game average ranks just second behind the Lions. This is likely due to Baltimore ranking 6th in offensive EPA per play while ranking just 20th in defensive EPA per play. They face off against the Bills this week, who aren't an exceptionally fast team, but they run a hell of a lot of plays and are typically efficient doing so (they are 3rd in offensive EPA per play). Baltimore's increased proclivity for passing the ball makes both Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews must-starts even against one of the best defenses so far this year. This is one of the more high-profile games of the week, and Baltimore's sluggish pace shouldn't scare you off this week.
- This week's get-right-game-of-the-week belongs to the Los Angeles Chargers, who, entering with a two-game losing streak, get to face off against the Houston Texans. With an extra week to rest, Justin Herbert may look closer to what he did in Week 1 (and parts of Week 2). This game is so appealing, though, because both teams play fast - each ranks in the top five in neutral-script pace - and neither defense has been particularly strong so far this year. The combination of fast offenses facing lackluster defenses gives me hope that the Chargers can bounce back after putting up just 10 points against the Jaguars last week.
Team Pass Rates
- The below-average neutral-script pass rate may have you concerned about the Falcons and their pass-catchers. But this is one of the few cases in which you shouldn't worry about the team's primary weapons in the passing game. Those two players, of course, are Drake London and Kyle Pitts. I say this because it is one of the most concentrated passing attacks in the NFL, with London and Pitts combining for 56.6% of the team's targets. On a lower-volume offense (and on any offense, really), this is what we're looking to attack because we can be more confident knowing where the work is going to go. Both Pitts and London are also the only two players on the team to be running a route on more than 75% of the team's dropbacks. Not to mention, Atlanta has been frisky this season, putting up an average of 26.7 points per game with a point differential of just -1, meaning that they've been competitive in each of their games. Once they face more formidable opponents, they will surely be forced to pass the ball more.
- Who would have thought that trading for Carson Wentz would make the Commanders one of the most pass-heavy teams in the league? Certainly not me. But here we are with Washington ranked fifth overall in pass rate over expected at 5.2%. Unfortunately, just because a team is passing a lot doesn't mean they are doing so effectively. Washington currently has just a 7.7% explosive pass (15+ yards) rate, which is in the bottom third of the league. But, Curtis Samuel does find himself as a top-10 wide receiver in PPR thanks to 30 targets so far this season. Samuel is running the third-most routes on the team, but he's still all the way up at an 82.3% route rate, which is very solid. With both Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson running slightly more routes, they should remain in the mix as flex options going forward, too.
Running Back Usage
- As you saw above, the 49ers are and will continue to be, a run-first team. With the loss of Trent Williams, I expect San Francisco to continue to lean into running the ball so that Jimmy G isn't put in a situation with more pressure in his face. Should that be the case, then Jeff Wilson, and all the people who picked him up off of waivers, are in a great spot. In the first full game without Trey Lance, Wilson was given 63.2% of the team's carries, which aligns with the 64% of team carries that he got in three games that Elijah Mitchell was out last year. Yes, Deebo Samuel is going to continue to be involved in the rushing game (he got 26.3% of the team's carries), but for Wlilson to be the only running back to get more than one carry in Sunday night's slugfest is very encouraging.
- Action: confidently start Jeff Wilson
- After Week 1, it looked like the Bills' backfield would continue to be a mess and a nuisance for fantasy purposes. And, well, that still may be the case, but one back in particular is starting to distance himself just a tad. Devin Singletary, after earning just 10 and 9 opportunities in the first two weeks, got a whopping 20 opportunities in Week 3's barnburner against Miami. Meanwhile, Zack Moss and James Cook combined for just 11 total opportunities in that same game. Singletary is also playing on over 60% of the team's snaps while no other Buffalo running back has seen more than 25% of the team's snaps. Though I don't believe Singletary's usage will remain as high as it was this week (Buffalo ran an absurd 90 plays on Sunday), he clearly seems like the RB1 in the backfield.
- Before the season started, a lot of assumptions were made about who the handcuff was to each of the starting running backs. Now, three weeks into the season, we have some clarity on which players offer upside if the starter were to go down. Here are a couple of teams for which I'd consider adding the handcuff if you have bench space available:
- Samaje Perine has solidified his role as a high-end RB2 if Joe Mixon were to go down. Even with Mixon active each week, Perine has seen the field on 26.3 of the team's snaps. In fact, he's the only other running back on the Bengals to record a touch so far this season as Chris Evans has played a total of just two snaps through three games. Action: add Samaje Perine.
- Cincinnati's AFC North foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have a similar situation on their hands. Najee Harris is the clear RB1, but Jaylen Warren has proven himself in the same way that Perine has. Warren remains the lone back (outside of Harris) to log a snap for the Steelers so far this season. He's done solidly with his work, too, averaging 0.12 rushing yards over expectation per carry, which is much better than Harris' -1.11 per carry mark. Action: add Jaylen Warren
- There's a possibility that Rachaad White has found his way to your waiver wire, and rightfully so. I was bullish on White entering the season, but I would have expected a slightly more significant role at this point. That said, he's clearly the backup to Leonard Fournette as White is the only other Buccaneers running back to record even a single snap this season. Fournette, who has dealt with a litany of injuries in the past, could break down at any moment, and White would be plastered on every waiver wire column known to man. Action: add Rachaad White
Wide Receiver Usage
- DJ Moore ended draft season as a consensus third-round draft pick, and it is looking very likely that he may not pay off that ADP. I went into writing this section thinking it was all doom and gloom for Moore, but the underlying stats are still encouraging. Moore currently leads Panthers wide receivers in target share (23.4%), WOPR (0.55), routes run rate (100%), and expected PPR points per game (10.3). While these numbers don't jump off the page, especially compared to other wide receivers, his fantasy point total is making the situation to be worse than it actually is. Until the production catches up to the workload you have to sit him, but I'm optimistic that it will come sooner rather than later.
- Action: sit DJ Moore
- It's been a rollercoaster of a year so far for Allen Robinson. After an abysmal opening night recording only one catch, Robinson relieved managers with a 15-point PPR performance, only to pull the rug out from under them again with two catches for just 23 yards. The problem is that he hasn't seen more than five targets in a single game, and he currently sits behind Ben Skowronek in targets on the season. This isn't for lack of being on the field, either, as he's run a route on 96.5% of the team's dropbacks (only Cooper Kupp has run more). But among 81 receivers with at least 10 targets this season, his 0.11 targets per route run rate ranks 80th (that's second-worst for those counting at home). The Rams pass the ball enough (11th in PROE), so I'm hoping the volume starts to move in his direction.
- Action: sit and hold Allen Robinson
Tight End Usage
- Through the first two weeks of the season, Tyler Conklin had played a solid role for the Jets. He had earned 15 total targets and was running a route on 84.4% of dropbacks. This was all without CJ Uzomah, though, who returned to the lineup in Week 3 for the first time this season. Conklin followed this up with nine total targets, which he caught all of for 74 yards, to just one for Uzomah. Uzomah only ran a route on 23.6% of plays, so it could be that they were easing him back into action, but I'm believing that the Conklin usage will continue.
- Action: add and start Tyler Conklin
- A rising tide lifts all boats, and Trevor Lawrence's improved play has lifted the boat of Evan Engram. Once one of the better prospects, Engram's time in New York did not pan out as expected. Now he finds himself on Doug Pederson's team, who very actively used tight ends during his time in Philadelphia. Currently earning a 17.8% target share and running a route on 80.2% of dropbacks gives some hope that he'll be a solid fantasy asset if streaming tight ends. His 7.5 expected PPR points per game aren't great (20th among tight ends), but you could find worse options out there. I'm encouraged by what Engram could offer if Jacksonville's offense continues to improve.
- Action: add Evan Engram