The NFL offers the longest and most newsworthy off-season in all of professional sports. Over the course of the off-season, our opinions on players are swayed by persuasive beat reporter updates, tweets from influential fantasy analysts, grainy training camp videos, eye-opening preseason highlights, and cherry-picked statistics that confirm that our favorite players are indeed set up to smash this season. But then week one happens.
It turns out that we didn't know as much as we thought we knew. And perhaps the coaches may not have been telling us the truth about how they planned to use their roster this season. So, should we adjust? Indeed we must!
While week one is a very small sample size, it is far and away the best signal of what to expect moving forward. But the devil is in the details. We will not find what we are looking for in the traditional box score. Instead, we must dive into snap counts, target distributions, and the percentage of routes run to see the bigger picture.
My weekly process to maintain excellent projections here at Footballguys begins each week by combing through these "peripheral" numbers to separate the sticky stats from the fluky ones. Let's go team-by-team rapid fire to see what stood out in my week one journal.
Routes run and dropback data in this article is from Pro Football Focus. I prefer to focus on the percentage of routes run which is simply a player's routes divided by the team's total dropbacks.
- A.J. Green was a full-time player, running a route on 89% of dropbacks.
- Christian Kirk was 3rd (57% snaps) in the rotation, with Rondale Moore 4th (29%) on the depth chart.
- The Falcons only utilized two wide receivers for much of the game (Calvin Ridley 97% routes, Russell Gage 79%).
- Hayden Hurst is Atlanta's preferred fourth option (after Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts, and Russell Gage).
- Olamide Zaccheaus (26% snaps), Tajae Sharpe (14%), and Christian Blake (7%) did not get much time on the field.
- The Bills lined up in 11 personnel all day with a little bit of 10 (this means 3-4 WRs playing together).
- Emmanuel Sanders is a full-time player (93% snaps).
- Gabriel Davis could still be a GPP play (61% of routes as the WR4).
- Christian McCaffrey is back to his old workload, carry on.
- Terrace Marshall Jr could have sticky usage (64% routes run as the WR3).
- Cincinnati leaned on a three-wide base as expected (Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd all at least 84% routes run).
- C.J. Uzomah is back as the featured TE over Drew Sample (72% routes for C.J. Uzomah).
- Donovan Peoples-Jones of course let us down in fantasy but the peripheral numbers are there -- 84% routes run in Odell Beckham Jr's absence.
- Austin Hooper and David Njoku were much closer in usage than I anticipated.
- Cedrick Wilson will be the next man up with Michael Gallup out.
- Don't give up on Ezekiel Elliott (84% of snaps, 71% of routes) in this explosive offense.
- Could Tim Patrick be the WR2 behind Courtland Sutton with Jerry Jeudy out? The new 3-wide set is Courtland Sutton - Tim Patrick - KJ Hamler.
- Assuming Tyrell Williams misses week two with a concussion, it looks like Kalif Raymond (75% snaps), Amon-Ra St. Brown (64%), Trinity Benson (53%), and Quintez Cephus (35%) will vie for targets.
- T.J. Hockenson had an ascendant week one and I was way too low on him.
Green Bay Packers
- You pretty much have to toss this game out - an absolute disaster for Green Bay.
- There was a weird script in this game but Nico Collins encouragingly takes the WR2 job behind Brandin Cooks.
- There were way too many 2-TE sets in this offense for my taste (178% combined snap rate for tight ends).
- Mark Ingram II is the hammer in this offense (63% of carries) while David Johnson is the pass game specialist.
- Jack Doyle was out there less than expected (59% snaps, 52% routes).
- Michael Pittman Jr and Zach Pascal are full-time players with Parris Campbell as the WR3.
- Nyheim Hines (45% snaps after a big payday) is eating into Jonathan Taylor's ceiling.
- Keep an eye on James O'Shaughnessy (16% targets on 77% routes) - this could be a thing.
- Marvin Jones Jr and D.J. Chark Jr played slightly ahead of Laviska Shenault Jr (94%, 88%, 79% of routes respectively).
- The running back situation in Jacksonville is rough. Urban Meyer does not care about 2020's James Robinson (31% of team rush attempts).
Kansas City Chiefs
- Mecole Hardman still ran routes on 83% of Chiefs' dropbacks but will have a hard time stealing targets from two of the best pass-catchers in football.
- Demarcus Robinson is operating over Byron Pringle for WR3.
Las Vegas Raiders
- Darren Waller -- that's about all you need to know (35% targets on 93% routes).
- Disappointing dilution of routes among the wide receivers as the team used plenty of Foster Moreau (43% routes).
Los Angeles Chargers
- Mike Williams' game has sticky stuff to back it up (84% routes run).
- Jalen Guyton was working way ahead of Josh Palmer (71% vs 16% routes) in Week 1 but remains a situation to monitor.
- Donald Parham was used much more as a blocker than Jared Cook (similar snaps, vastly different routes run).
Los Angels Rams
- Robert Woods' role was way down and I want to investigate this further. My initial feeling is that this is perhaps a gameplan thing.
- Van Jefferson ran a lot more routes than Woods (85% vs 67%).
- Tyler Higbee is going to have big usage, coming off a 100% snap rate.
- Devante Parker and Jaylen Waddle were full-time players but what does this mean with Will Fuller V back next week?
- Did Mike Gesicki get hurt? He was hardly used (39% snaps vs 70% for Durham Smythe). I'll be looking into this story.
- With a banged-up TE room, K.J. Osborn was nearly a full-time player (89% routes)! He could end up running a lot of wind sprints behind Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson.
New England Patriots
- The split between Jonnu Smith (48% routes) and Hunter Henry (58%) leaves not enough meat on the bone for either.
- Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are the clear #1s for New England.
- Kendrick Bourne is the next man up and I don't expect N'Keal Harry to make a big dent whenever he returns.
New Orleans Saints
- The Juwan Johnson (12 snaps) and Adam Trautman (51 snaps) splits are curious! This was a strange game script after all.
- Every other wide receiver is playing for 2nd behind Marquez Callaway (88% of routes) but it is currently Deonte Harris (58%) with Tre'Quan Smith out.
New York Giants
- Sterling Shepard will continue to be a PPR darling (95% of snaps and 25% of targets).
- Kenny Golladay will have splash days but much less reliable connection with Daniel Jones (compared to Matthew Stafford in years past).
- Darius Slayton is the WR3 and is hanging in there (77% routes).
New York Jets
- This Jets backfield is rough as three players (Coleman, Carter, and Johnson) all attempt to drain blood from the same turnip.
- Denzel Mims is buried on the depth chart (only 5% snaps).
- The depth chart was clearly Corey Davis and Elijah Moore as the 1s with Braxton Berrios as the slot man.
- Jamison Crowder is likely to return in week two.
- DeVonta Smith has a firm grip on the WR1 job (95% routes).
- Jalen Reagor is the number two (69% routes) and Quez Watkins the three (49%).
- Zach Ertz played plenty (59%) before injury which limits Dallas Goedert's upside.
- Najee Harris did not leave the field - 100% of snaps.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster ran a route on every Ben Roethlisberger dropback (100%).
- Diontae Johnson missed just a bit of time banged up which showed up in his participation report.
San Francisco 49ers
- Of course, Raheem Mostert's injury has implications on Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon. Sermon being a surprise inactive clouds the picture of future usage.
- The entire internet has already talked about the strange usage from Aiyuk (47% of snaps and 54% of routes). Speculation is running wild.
- There was plenty of work in all phases for Chris Carson (78% snaps, 64% routes).
- Freddie Swain (46% routes) is ahead of rookie Dee Eskridge (11%) currently.
- Gerald Everett is currently locked up with Will Dissly, which puts a wet blanket on the Everett hype train.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Chris Godwin (98% snaps) and Mike Evans (94%) rarely left the field.
- Antonio Brown (72% of routes) was a focal point.
- Rob Gronkowski (88% snaps) has a stranglehold of the tight end job.
- Leonard Fournette played ahead of Ronald Jones II after a costly Jones fumble (but Jones has been announced as the starter in Week 2).
- Giovani Bernard is the 2-minute back.
Washington Football Team
- Dyami Brown ran 92% of routes along with 93% of snaps. He will be a popular addition this week.
- Last year's "Mr. Peripheral" Logan Thomas does what he always does (100% snaps).
- J.D. McKissic still ran a route on 38% of dropbacks so I would advise caution on saying Gibson has claimed the pass-catching role after his 26% target day.