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Fantasy points rained from the heavens as the fantasy gods smiled on week five with one of the highest-scoring fantasy slates of all time. Fortunately for us here in Unexpected Observations, we get a chance to find the hidden gems - the players who emerged even if they didn't steal the spotlight. Let's dive into the biggest surprises around the league.
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. Terms: RMS = Rushing Market Share, TMS = Target Market Share, RR% = Routes Run percentage (of dropbacks)
Running Back Rotations
- Buffalo Bills: Zack Moss appears to be distancing himself as the lead running back in Buffalo, ahead of Devin Singletary. Moss and Singletary split snaps 74% to 26% respectively while Moss practically doubled Singletary's usage across the board: rush attempts (11 to 6), targets (4 to 2), and routes run (60% to 27%). This trend has been slowly developing and appears to be a runaway for Moss.
- Chicago Bears: With David Montgomery placed on injured reserve, Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert surprisingly split duties down the middle (48% snaps for Williams, 53% for Herbert). Herbert got the slight edge on the ground, handling 18 carries while Williams handled 16. However, Williams was the ace in the passing game, seeing an impressive 15% target market share. There is cause for optimism for Herbert's passing game role as he ran only three fewer routes than Williams (10 to 7).
- Kansas City Chiefs: An injury to Clyde Edwards-Helaire mid-game created an opportunity for Darrel Williams (43% snaps) and Jerick McKinnon (31% snaps) in the Chiefs backfield. Interestingly, McKinnon was phased into this game plan even before the Edwards-Helaire injury. Williams has been earning more of a role all season. That makes this injury an interesting one as Williams could potentially carve out a strong long-term role, even when Edwards-Helaire returns. For now, Williams appears poised to play in the vast majority of positive game script situations while McKinnon comes in for the two-minute offense.
- Los Angeles Rams: An injury sidelined Darrell Henderson for a single drive which explains an interesting blip in the box score. On the one drive Henderson missed, Sony Michel toted the football nine times. This led to a respectable 38% rushing market share day for Michel causing many fantasy managers to worry about Darrell Henderson's role in the offense. This rational explanation of the missed drive, however, solidifies the idea that Darrell Henderson is a locked-in RB1.
- Miami Dolphins: After a hiccup in Week 4, Myles Gaskin took a commanding lead in the Dolphins backfield. Gaskin set season highs in snap rate (69%) and TMS (27%). On top of that, Salvon Ahmed played twice as many snaps as Malcolm Brown - the guy who dominated in Week 4.
- New England Patriots: Rhamondre Stevenson was active for the first time since Week 1 and the timing was excellent as he was able to help shoulder the burden left behind by an injured Damien Harris mid-game. In the post-Harris time of this game, Stevenson and Brandon Bolden teamed up nicely as the prototypical thunder and lightning (respectively) of the New England backfield. Stevenson led the two in rushing market share (37% to 7%) while Bolden led in routes run (55% to 23%). Bolden also garnered 14% of the team's targets.
- New Orleans Saints: Not only did Tony Jones go down in Week 4 but Taysom Hill suffered an injury in Week 5. This leaves nothing but green grass in front of Alvin Kamara as obstacles to his upside are dropping like flies. Hill was a major threat to Kamara's touchdown upside and Jones was chipping in for just a few carries per game. With only Devine Ozigbo and Dwayne Washington remaining in the backfield, Kamara should be used in every high-value area of the field.
- New York Giants: An ankle injury to Saquon Barkley threatens to sideline him for a few weeks, creating an opportunity for Devontae Booker. With Barkley exiting in the first quarter, Booker played 88% of the snaps and 70% of the rush attempts while running 71% of the routes. Moving forward, Booker only has to compete with fullback-hybrid Elijhaa Penny and rookie sixth-rounder Gary Brightwell (who did not draw a snap in Week 5).
- Seattle Seahawks: With Chris Carson missing time, Alex Collins handled a full-sized workload with 71% of the team's snaps and 68% rushing market share. He even operated as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield, logging a game-high 58% routes run. Collins has looked spry as Chris Carson's fill-in and may demand a timeshare role for the short-term future as Carson continues to play through a neck injury.
- San Francisco 49ers: In Elijah Mitchell's return to action, Trey Sermon was quickly forgotten. Mitchell out-snapped Sermon 68% to 3%! Kyle Juszczyk also adds to this backfield with a 65% snap rate as a fullback-halfback hybrid. The 49ers had their hands full with the Arizona Cardinals but Kyle Shanahan made the depth chart quite clear for now - Elijah Mitchell is the lead dog when he is healthy.
- Arizona Cardinals: It happened - Rondale Moore finally finished in the top three Cardinals in routes run, narrowly edging out Christian Kirk (59% to 53%). Moore's playmaking ability has been evident to anyone with a remote control but his role has been less than ideal. This type of continued growth is exactly what we want to see from rookies buried on depth charts. Moore is making it impossible for Kliff Kingsbury to keep him off the field. Also, Maxx Williams appears to have suffered a season-ending injury. This may force the Cardinals to use more four-wide sets until they are able to acquire a new versatile pass catcher at the tight end position.
- Detroit Lions: Quintez Cephus may be done for the year (broken collarbone) as the Lions' paltry receiving room gets a bit smaller. In his absence, the three-wide set most likely to emerge is Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and KhaDarel Hodge.
- Houston Texans: In a surprise move, the Texans released Anthony Miller. On top of that Danny Amendola was unable to suit up for Week 5 action. This left Brandin Cooks (94% RR) splitting reps with Chris Conley (91% RR) and Chris Moore (69% RR). The Texans looked scrappy in this contest before dropping the heartbreaker to New England. Davis Mills erupted to a more-than-competent 312-yard 3-touchdown day. Moore is technically still a practice squad player but it should not be surprising if he were to receive a promotion to the active roster.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Give D.J. Chark Jr's season-ending injury, many hoped for an increased role for Laviska Shenault Jr - but it was not to be. Shenault continued to play his traditional role while the Jaguars rolled out more two-tight-end sets behind a massive role for Dan Arnold (24% TMS on 71% RR) and a new number three receiver in Jamal Agnew who saw eight targets. Tavon Austin chipped in as the WR4.
- Miami Dolphins: With DeVante Parker and Will Fuller V V out plus Jakeem Grant traded to Chicago, all eyes were on Jaylen Waddle who disappointed with a mediocre 16% TMS. Behind him on the depth chart, however, was Preston Williams who notched a season-high 73% RR number. The Dolphins predictably leaned on their deep tight end room as Durham Smythe contributed for 67% routes run.
- New York Giants: Another depleted depth chart, the Giants were down to bare bones in Week 5 and the pickings got even slimmer by the end of the game thanks to a knee injury for Kenny Golladay and an ejection from Kadarius Toney. Toney was a force of nature in this game, commanding a 33% TMS on 59% RR. John Ross was the other primarily full-time receiver with Collin Johnson filling the number four role behind Golladay, Toney, and Ross.
- New Orleans Saints: Deonte Harris broke loose for a huge touchdown on the Saints' first drive of the game but exited quickly following a hamstring injury. Enter Kenny Stills, the practice squad veteran who jumped in and immediately ran a route on 82% of Jameis Winston's dropbacks - the exact same number as number one receiver Marquez Callaway. Ty Montgomery rounded out the three-wide set as Adam Trautman (86% snaps) took over the lead tight end role from Juwan Johnson (11% snaps).
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Unfortunately, JuJu Smith-Schuster appears to be headed to season-ending injured reserve. James Washington also missed Week 5 with a groin injury. This creates a very interesting situation for Chase Claypool who should become a full-time receiver moving forward. Claypool and Diontae Johnson should serve as staples on nearly every passing snap, a role formerly held by Smith-Schuster. However, Ray-Ray McCloud III looks like the most likely number three receiver until James Washington is able to get back to action.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tyler Johnson set a season-high in routes run with 56% in Week 5. He only saw 7% of the team's targets as the Buccaneers went nuclear but Johnson ran more routes than either of the Buccaneers' tight ends.
- Tennessee Titans: In A.J. Brown's return to action, he was held quiet despite drawing 28% of the team's targets on 92% RR. The real story here, however, is the return of Marcus Johnson from injured reserve. Johnson chipped in immediately with 77% RR. Slot-man Chester Rogers finished third on the team with 62% RR in a game where Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was a gameday inactive.
- Washington Football Team: Curtis Samuel's groin injury did not get any better in Week 5 as it forced the playmaker out after just a few snaps. In his place, DeAndre Carter (73% RR) and Dax Milne (40% RR) stepped in behind Terry McLaurin and Adam Humphries. Dyami Brown missed this game and should resume his number three duties upon his return. Carter, however, is a sneaky dart throw until then. Ricky Seals-Jones immediately inherited the full-time Logan Thomas role at tight end with an impressive 99% snap rate yielding 22% TMS.