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I'm a projections guy. Every offseason, I build out projections for the upcoming season to see who has an immediate path to fantasy upside. It can be an extremely helpful exercise, not just for the results but for the process that it forces the projector to follow. The act of building projections can lead you to identify players and situations with ambiguous upside or clear pathways to volume.
Fortunately, I get to build projections during the season too! While I've added some shortcuts to speed up my process, I basically have to tear down last week's projections and rebuild them with the news and notes from the current week. While this can be a bit tedious, it forces me to go back through every data point from every team across the league to identify emerging trends. This article looks at some of the most interesting developments around the NFL.
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
- Arizona Cardinals: It looks like Chase Edmonds will be an IR candidate today with a high ankle sprain that should propel James Conner into a feature-back role. Conner played 77% of the snaps in Week 9, leaving 24% for Eno Benjamin. Both players ran effectively as Jonathan Ward missed this game with a concussion. Ward will be in the mix of a battle for RB2 battles once he is healthy.
- Buffalo Bills: Zack Moss left the Week 9 game against Jacksonville early with a concussion. While Devin Singletary certainly looks a bit more appealing in Moss' absence, look for Taiwan Jones or Matt Breida to add to this rotation. If Moss is able to play, it should be business as normal in Buffalo.
- Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey made his return in Week 9, but the Panthers offense is quickly falling apart. The Panthers released Royce Freeman on Monday, largely in part because of the effective play of newly signed Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah has outplayed Chuba Hubbard and his experience makes him perhaps a more appealing backup to the versatile McCaffrey. McCaffrey played 49% of the snaps this week, well shy of his typical 90% range. Fortunately, he made it through without any setbacks and could be an intriguing buy-low option.
- Chicago Bears: Speaking of returns from injury, David Montgomery handled 85% of snaps in his return from a four-week absence. Montgomery resumed his alpha role, reverting Khalil Herbert back to a complementary role. Herbert, however, has likely played well enough to keep Damien Williams primarily on the sideline for the rest of the season.
- Green Bay Packers: Aaron Jones has not had 50% of the team's total rush attempts since Week Five. Instead, A.J. Dillon has become a bigger piece of this offense, helping grind away low-value touches in between the 20s. While Jones' volume is decreasing, his ability to convert fantasy points remains. He still looks like the Packers' preferred option in the passing game and in the red zone. Plus, he has the trust of Aaron Rodgers.
- Indianapolis Colts: Marlon Mack was inactive on Thursday night, marking a new era for Jonathan Taylor's ceiling case. Mack was just enough of a nuisance to really stifle Taylor's upside. Mack being inactive really clears up Taylor for a high-volume role on top of extremely high efficiency. This also solidifies the role of Nyheim Hines, especially when the Colts are missing key pieces of their offensive weaponry such as T.Y. Hilton.
- New England Patriots: Injuries to Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris threaten to shake up the Patriots backfield for Week 10. If this pair happens to miss time, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor will split the remainder of the opportunities. Taylor is a diminutive 5'6" speedster while Bolden is a pass-catching specialist and replacement level runner. Bolden should operate as the leader of a 65/35 committee.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Kenneth Gainwell is somehow playing even less than before with the injury to Miles Sanders these past two weeks. Instead, practice squad veteran Jordan Howard is taking control with Boston Scott operating as his wingman. Scott led the trio in snaps while Howard was more involved on the ground. When the Eagles get in close, look for Howard to be the guy to benefit.
- San Francisco 49ers: Jeff Wilson returned from IR to play zero snaps in Week 9, an encouraging sign for Eli Mitchell who did not get the "pitch count" memo. Mitchell continues to be a real workhorse in this offense and has some encouraging routes run data to suggest that better receiving days could be ahead. Could a healthier Wilson perhaps begin to eat into Mitchell's work? For now, the answer seems to be no.
- Tennessee Titans: In the first game post-Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Adrian Peterson, and DOnta Foreman formed an uninspiring committee with McNichols looking like the most versatile option. McNichols led the team in snaps, routes, and targets while Adrian Peterson was the primary rusher. Peterson's role could grow if he can show a bit more burst, but for now, Foreman looks like a much more dynamic runner.
- Cleveland Browns: With Odell Beckham destined elsewhere, Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Anthony Schwartz operated as the clear three-wide set in Cleveland. However, a bit more predictably, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant all saw major increases in playing time. The scoreboard also led to a more conservative possibility for the Browns.
- Green Bay Packers: Recent absences from Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling plus the season-ending injury to Robert Tonyan Jr really shook up the Packers' depth chart. Add on a quarterback swap, and it was bedlam in Lambeau. Emerging from the scrap heap, Davante Adams and Allen Lazard emerged as the primary full-time receivers while Valdes-Scantling and Randall Cobb both played approximately half the snaps each. At tight end, Marcedes Lewis actually maintained his usual role while Dominique Dafney actually saw the boost in playing time. If anyone is going to take over Tonyan's role, Dafney could be the one trending in that direction. He and Josiah Deguara led the position with 21% RR.
- Las Vegas Raiders: While the addition of DeSean Jackson will shake this up, we predictably saw Zay Jones take over as the WR3 along with Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards. However, with Jackson in the mix, we'll likely see him rotated in as an alternate with Zay Jones.