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: In the first full game after the Chase Edmonds injury, James Conner predictably handled the lion's share of the Cardinals running back work with 82% of the team's snaps and an encouraging 14% TMS that could have been higher if not for a lopsided scoreboard. Eno Benjamin (27% snaps) was a very distant second to Conner, who should continue to thrive in Edmonds' absence.
- Atlanta Falcons: An injury to Cordarrelle Patterson and a hyper-negative game script allowed Arthur Smith to give some backfield reps to Wayne Gallman who played a position-high 43% of the snaps, handling 63% RMS. On a short week, Patterson looks doubtful for the Thursday Night Football contest against the Patriots, meaning Mike Davis and Wayne Gallman should form a two-person committee.
- Green Bay Packers: While Aaron Jones obviously suffered an injury in-game, the Packers were insistent on using A.J. Dillon as an early-down workhorse in Week 10, a trend that has been developing over the last three weeks. With Jones banged up, look for Dillon to also seize pass-catching duties, while Patrick Taylor becomes the new temporary backup.
- Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins run game has been atrocious but Myles Gaskin has really taken over the reps over the past two weeks. While Patrick Laird has played in two-minute and on third downs, Gaskin has been the team's primary rusher. If you're a believer in volume, it's tough not to like the role that Gaskin is carving out.
- New England Patriots: A concussion to Damien Harris opened a door of opportunity for Rhamondre Stevenson who looked shot out of a cannon in Week 10. Stevenson handled 55% of the snaps and 59% of the team's rush attempts, operating as the lead back ahead of Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor. Harris is questionable for Week 11's Thursday Night Football event against the Falcons. The explosive Stevenson should command a high-volume role if Harris misses. But even if Harris plays, Stevenson has played well enough to force this into a committee.
- New Orleans Saints: With Alvin Kamara on the shelf, Mark Ingram II got his first taste of feature back duty where he commanded 85% of the offensive snaps, 67% of the team's rush attempts, and 20% of the targets. Ingram got the full Kamara treatment, making him enticing if Kamara is sidelined for an additional week or longer.
- Seattle Seahawks: Wow - zero snaps for Rashaad Penny in an absolute stinker of a game between the Seahawks and Packers in Week 10. On top of that, Pete Carroll was quite non-committal about Chris Carson's upcoming availability. This could once again create an opportunity for Alex Collins who formed a one-two punch with Travis Homer. Collins (49% snaps) and Homer (51% snaps) were the only two running backs to see the field. The Collins-Homer split was tied almost exclusively to the run game and the pass game with Collins handling 63% RMS and Homer seeing an 11% TMS.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette is absolutely running away with the lead back job in Tampa Bay. In a negative game script, Ronald Jones II played just one snap. Fournette claimed an 85% RMS and 27% TMS, which would be truly elite numbers if remotely sustainable. Look for Jones to be a bit more involved in the future, but the market has likely not caught up to how elite the role is for Leonard Fournette in the NFL's highest-scoring offense.
- Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens pass-catchers were healthy for a brief moment in time as Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman joined Marquise Brown for the first time together this season. The result was perhaps a bit predictable - Sammy Watkins was hampered by an injury while Devin Duvernay and Rashod Bateman looked poised to take over regardless. There was true four-player rotation during the first quarter of the game. Look for Bateman to maintain the WR2 job while Duvernay and Watkins battle for WR3 duties.
- Buffalo Bills: An injury to Cole Beasley led to a season-low 16% snaps for the veteran. While this opened an opportunity for increased playing time for Gabriel Davis (season-high 52% snaps), it mostly just led to a monster game (46% TMS) for Stefon Diggs. If Beasley misses Week 11, look for Gabriel Davis to assume his job, while the target competition slims down for Diggs. Dawson Knox was also able to return from his hand injury with an impressive 84% snap rate.
- Kansas City Chiefs: Byron Pringle appears to have unseated Mecole Hardman as the WR2 in Kansas City and boy was it a success as Patrick Mahomes II delivered a vintage performance. Pringle (67%) ran twice as many routes as Hardman (33%) and has now out-snapped Hardman in two of the last three games.
- Los Angeles Rams: Jay Glazer nailed the Rams game plan following the Odell Beckham Jr signing, saying that Ben Skowronek will actually be playing the Robert Woods role, not Beckham. That much was true in Week 10 as Skowronek ran a route on 73% of Matthew Stafford dropbacks, trailing Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson at the position. Will this hold up after the bye? That will be the story to monitor.
- Miami Dolphins: Left for dead in this offense, Albert Wilson had a resurgence in Week 10, handling 9% RMS and 15% TMS as the WR2 behind Jaylen Waddle. As long as Will Fuller V and DeVante Parker miss time, it seems the Dolphins are interested in exploring options at the WR2 position.
- Tennessee Titans: With Julio Jones out (again), the Titans needed someone to sep up on the outside. Marcus Johnson delivered, running a route on 60% of Ryan Tannehill dropbacks for a team-high 22% TMS. Geoff Swaim has emerged as the TE1 in the Titans offense with TMS values of 16%, 15%, and 19% over the past three weeks.