99 Stats but a Mitch Ain't One

Jul 31, 2023
99 Stats but a Mitch Ain't One

I just finished my annual task of writing fantasy football draft blurbs for most of the fantasy-relevant players in the league heading into the 2023 draft season, so I thought I’d once again share some of the more interesting stats and splits that I ran across during the time spent researching each position. The draft blurbs can always be accessed on the rankings page (click the little text box next to the player’s name) and on each individual player page.

I discovered many of these stats while using 4for4’s Market Share Splits App, developed by 4for4 Contributor and data scientist Kevin Zatloukal (Twitter: @kczat). The excellent site, Stathead.com, was also a helpful resource.

Here’s a link to last year’s article for those who want to view the receipts. There are always a few duds but I think for the most part the stats were pretty actionable in 2022.

So let’s jump right in…

When healthy, Rashaad Penny should lead the Eagles’ backfield.

As training camp opened, we received word that Penny got the first RB rep, ahead of D'Andre Swift and Kenneth Gainwell. With Miles Sanders gone, there are 279 touches up for grabs, and Penny will vie with Swift and the other Eagles’ backs for a piece of that pie. Not only does he own a career 5.69 yards per carry, but [1] Penny has posted 100+ rushing yards in seven of the 10 games where he saw at least 12 carries. (He averaged an eye-popping 7.39 yards per carry in those games.)

[2] Among the backs with at least 50 carries, Penny led the league in yards after contact per attempt in both 2021 and 2022. He’s not a particularly good receiver as he only has 27 receptions in 42 career games, but he did catch 34 passes total in his final two seasons at San Diego State. The Eagles only targeted their running backs 61 times last season, and Swift figures to get most of that work.

If Penny can stay healthy–and that’s a pretty big “if” since he has only appeared in 42 games in five seasons–he should see the vast majority of Sanders’ 259 vacated carries last season. Swift is talented, but he should not be going three rounds ahead of Penny.

Dallas Goedert has a volume problem.

Advanced stats say that Goedert is more talented than T.J. Hockenson, but his usage in Philly’s run-heavy offense and target competition leaves him at a less-than-appealing 5.5 targets per game, the 13th-most at his position. He’s highly efficient, however, and that makes him a solid TE1. [3] He averaged the fourth-most yards per route run among qualified tight ends last season. He was second in that metric in 2021.

Mike McCarthy wants the Cowboys to “establish the run,” and that’s not great for Dak Prescott.

Prescott finished as the QB20 last season (QB13 in points per game) after a QB9 finish (QB11 per game) in 2021. He lost his offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore, which is a low-key significant blow to his fantasy value since head coach Mike McCarthy is taking over the play-calling and wants to run the ball more. Here’s the rub– [4] the Cowboys were already 26th in neutral script pass rate in 2022, so McCarthy a run-heavy offense to get even run-heavier.

McCarthy’s run-heavy philosophy might vault Tony Pollard into the top five.

In 16 games, Pollard finished as the fantasy RB7 and had the ninth-highest per-game average, all while playing in a timeshare with Ezekiel Elliott. Per PFF, he had the fourth-highest run grade and the ninth-highest receiving grade among running backs. [5] Per Pro Football Reference, among backs with at least 100 carries, he was first in yards after contact per attempt (2.6) and was 15th among running backs in rush attempts per broken tackle (17.5). In other words, he's really, really good.

Jake Ferguson might break out.

The Cowboys let Dalton Schultz walk, and that opens the door for second-year tight end Ferguson to play starter’s snaps. His ADP is depressed since the Cowboys drafted Luke Schoonmaker in the second round, but Schoonmaker missed most of OTAs with a foot injury, which is going to put him behind the eight ball as a rookie. [6] Among tight ends with at least 20 targets, Ferguson posted 1.79 yards per route run, the 9th-highest at his position. That’s pretty good for a rookie.

When asked to name a few up-and-coming tight ends who are “next” at the position, George Kittle had Ferguson (along with Sam LaPorta and Daniel Bellinger) on his list.

Daniel Jones is (one of the) late-round quarterbacks that you’re looking for.

Jones was a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2022 in his first season with HC Brian Daboll, and that was with an injury-riddled and suspect receiving corps. The Giants added Darren Waller, who could be Jones’s top target, along with the speedy Parris Campbell, and Jalin Hyatt in the draft. The Giants should get Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson back as well. I’d expect him to improve upon the 3,205 yards and 15 touchdowns that he had as a passer last season.

But what makes Jones an appealing fantasy pick is his ability to rush the ball. [7] His 708 yards and seven rushing touchdowns nearly matched Josh Allen’s output (762/7) last season.

Target Isaiah Hodgins as your WR5/WR6.

The Giants found something in Hodgins, whom they claimed off the Bills roster in the middle of the season. [8] From Week 13 through the Divisional Round–a seven-game span–Hodgins caught 34-of-44 targets for 358 yards (51.1 per game), and five touchdowns.

Hodgins plays mostly outside, so he is a good bet to play major snaps given the glut of slot receivers on the roster.

Darius Slayton is also worth a look very late in drafts. From Week 7 to Week 17 he was the fantasy WR27.

Sam Howell is the (very) late-round quarterback that you’re looking for.

Howell is arbitrage for Anthony Richardson. [9] My rookie quarterback model projects Howell for 34.6 rushing yards per game after he ran for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final college season. He looked competent in one start last season, completing 11/19 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception against the Cowboys in Week 18. He also added 35 yards and a touchdown as a runner in that game.

In the 2022 preseason, he completed 43/69 for 547 yards (7.9 YPA), one touchdown, and one interception. He also added 94 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 attempts in the preseason. [10] That works out to about 45.3 fantasy points in 2.5 games of work. When combined with his lone regular-season start, it’s 63.6 fantasy points in 3.5 games of work or an 18.2-point average.

I have him as my QB19 even though he’s the QB27 off the board. My only concern is that he’s not entrenched as the Commanders’ starter after Washington added Jacoby Brissett to the mix, though HC Ron Rivera said the team is “very comfortable” with Howell as its starter. He’s an ideal QB3 target in two-QB/superflex leagues.

Terry McLaurin is a primary middle-round target.

McLaurin is on a great career trajectory. In his last three seasons, he has posted 87-1118-4 (WR20), 77-1053-5 (WR25), and 77-1191-5 (WR18), racking up the eighth-most receiving yards in that span. He consistently fares very well in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception charting. It’s a small sample, but [11] Sam Howell targeted McLaurin on six of his 19 pass attempts in his lone 2022 start. That’s a 31.6% target share. McLaurin averaged 3.36 yards per route run in that game, which is outstanding.

[12] He was 16th in yards per route run among all receivers last year. Among the 88 receivers with 30+ receptions, McLaurin posted the 14th-highest yards after contact per catch, and he had the 11th-most broken tackles per reception in the same subset. Given his WR23 positional ADP, he is a primary draft target this season.

Alexander Mattison has low-end RB1 upside.

In a minor surprise, the Vikings re-signed Mattison to a two-year contract worth $7 million. His guaranteed money ($6.35 million) was the fourth-most among this year’s free agent class behind Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, and Jamaal Williams. With Dalvin Cook out of the way, Mattison has a great chance to finish as a fantasy RB1.

[13] In the 14 games that Mattison has seen at least 10 carries, he has averaged 18.1 touches for 88 yards and 0.57 touchdowns. The resulting 13.0 half-PPR points per game are about what Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones averaged as low-end RB1s in 2022.

Even better–[14] in his seven starts from 2020-21, he averaged 23.3 touches for 118 yards and 0.72 touchdowns per game. That production would have beaten out Saquon Barkley and Nick Chubb last season. Mattison also posted the No. 14 rushing grade at PFF in 2022.

T.J. Hockenson’s usage makes him an elite fantasy option.

Hockenson’s production after arriving in Minnesota definitely puts him in the “elite TE” conversation. His per-game fantasy production was actually higher in his first seven games in Detroit, but [15] his targets jumped from 6.1 per game to 8.6 per game after the trade to Minnesota. That usage is hard to find at the tight end position, so Hockenson’s fourth- or fifth-round ADP is justified.

Since 2020, [16] only two tight ends not named Kelce, Andrews, or Kittle–namely, 2022 Hockenson and 2020 Darren Waller–have averaged 10+ half-PPR points per game.

Jahmyr Gibbs should see a big (but not bell cow) workload.

The Lions made Gibbs the second running back off the board when they took him with the No. 12 overall pick. [17] Four running backs have been drafted in the No. 8 to No. 15 range since the 2010 season and they have averaged 211 touches for 1,009 yards and 6.0 touchdowns as rookies (in 13.8 games played).

Gibbs has 4.36 speed and racked up 1,370 total yards in his final (and only) season at Alabama, including 44-444-3 as a receiver. (We appreciate the shoutout, Jahmyr.) The Lions have a great offensive line and a strong running game, but after the team brought in David Montgomery to replace Jamaal Williams (262 touches, 1,066 yards, 17 touchdowns), it’s unlikely that Gibbs sees a huge (i.e. 18+ touch) workload. He is a threat for 70+ catches and 1,200 total yards, however.

Speaking of David Montgomery–he’s “boring value.”

Want boring value in the middle rounds? Look no further than Montgomery in the seventh or the eighth round. He’s replacing Jamaal Williams, who finished as the fantasy RB12 last season while averaging 63 yards rushing and 1.0 touchdown per game.

The Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs with the No. 12 overall pick, and he’ll surely see a lot of usage, but they won’t want to go overboard with the 199-lb back.

With both Williams and D'Andre Swift gone, this is shaping up to be a Gibbs/Monty backfield with Montgomery handling 250 or so carries and most if not all of the goal-line work. Given the potency of the Lions’ offense and the quality of Detroit’s offensive line, Montgomery should be able to outproduce his RB26 ADP. [18] Williams averaged 15.9 touches in the 14 games he played with Swift–while he may see slightly less usage with Gibbs in the fold, I envision similar touches for Montgomery.

Amon-Ra St. Brown is becoming an elite receiver.

St. Brown turned in a WR8 finish after a WR27 rookie season. [19] He posted the 8th-highest yards per route run, tying Cooper Kupp with an elite-level 2.40 YPRR.

Not much has changed in Detroit, though the arrival of Jahmyr Gibbs and the return of Jameson Williams (after his suspension) could somewhat change the targets-dynamic in Detroit. But with 196 catches and 2,073 yards in his first two seasons, St. Brown’s career is off to a great start and he should produce more of the same in his third year.

Aaron Jones’s ADP is a travesty.

Jones finished as the fantasy RB9 in each of the last two seasons, yet he’s the 17th running back off the board in early drafts. His detractors will likely point to his age (28, not a major concern) and the Packers’ offense, which is expected to take a step back after the loss of Aaron Rodgers. [20] Yet the Packers had an off year in 2022–14th in points scored, 17th in yards from scrimmage–and Jones still posted top-ten numbers at his position.

He has averaged 16.6 touches per game over the last four seasons and is typically a big part of the game plan whenever he’s available. And he’s usually available–he has just four missed games in the last four years. To top it off, he’s really good! [21] Last year, he was seventh in yards after contact per attempt, 15th in broken tackles per attempt, and third in PFF’s rushing grade. He has the fifth-most receptions, the sixth-most receiving yards, and the second-most receiving touchdowns among running backs in the last two seasons.

I’d have no problem rolling with Jones as my RB1 if I were to wait until the fourth or fifth round to draft my first running back.

Jordan Love is likely to experience growing pains.

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