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
- Baltimore Ravens - Week 13 was a big step forward for the Ravens' new lead running back Devonta Freeman who has fully usurped Latavius Murray from the primary gig in Baltimore. Freeman played a season-high 69% of the team's snaps while Latavius Murray posted his lowest rate (19%) since returning from injury three weeks ago. With Ty'Son Williams now in "healthy scratch" status, Freeman and his 60% RR looks like a solid option with such a strong role in an offense with lots of room to improve.
- Buffalo Bills - The winds were howling in Orchard Park, leading to a heavy ground game on Monday Night Football. To prepare for these conditions, Sean McDermott needed all hands on deck in the backfield which meant Zack Moss returned to the lineup. Moss (41%) was second in the backfield in snap rate while Devin Singletary led the way with 48%. Matt Breida was quickly benched after a serious fumble and a botched kick return. Moss could return to claim a piece of the backfield long-term in this high-scoring offense.
- Detroit Lions - With D'Andre Swift sidelined with a shoulder injury, all eyes were on Jamaal Williams to handle the lead role in this backfield, both on the ground and through the air. However, Godwin Igwebuike was the team's designated pass-catcher running 56% RR compared to 20% for Williams. If Swift's absence will extend a few more weeks, look for Williams to serve as the primary runner while Igwebuike shows promise as a PPR satellite back.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - A first-half fumble from James Robinson was enough to send him to Urban Meyer's doghouse, creating an opportunity for Carlos Hyde who led the backfield in snaps and rush attempts. This looks like a good spot, however, to fade the box score and look for Robinson to have a strong bounceback game against the Titans a week after getting pummeled by the Rams on the road.
- Las Vegas Raiders - Kenyan Drake suffered a broken ankle in Week 13 and will miss the remainder of the year. This creates a huge opportunity for Josh Jacobs, especially as long as Jalen Richard misses time on the COVID-19 list. These two news items mean that Jacobs will split the backfield with only early-down plodder Peyton Barber. With a path toward passing game work, Jacobs should be utilized heavily for the remainder of the season.
- Miami Dolphins - DeVante Parker returned to the lineup in Week 13, running 73% RR and drawing only a 12% TMS. Jaylen Waddle appears to have played well enough this season to continue drawing Tua Tagovailoa's eye as the offense's focal point. Waddle's 27% TMS paced the team along with Mike Gesicki. Notably, Waddle, Parker, and Albert Wilson appeared to form a very tight three-wide set in this game, which should stick until Will Fuller V returns.
- Minnesota Vikings - Adam Thielen suffered a high ankle sprain early in Week 13 which is just the bit of nitrous oxide that Justin Jefferson needed to reach a god-like fantasy status. Jefferson's 34% TMS was a season-high and looks not far off from a reasonable expectation in the post-Thielen world. Along for the ride, K.J. Osborn will slide into a full-time role while Dede Westbrook becomes the new WR3. Look for the team to also utilize more Tyler Conklin without Thielen's amazing red-zone presence.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Called up from the practice squad, Breshad Perriman might be sticking around on the active roster for a while given the news surrounding Antonio Brown and his three-game suspension. While Perriman only saw a 6% TMS, he ran 90% RR, good for third on the team behind Evans and Godwin. In the NFL's most potent offense, the WR3 job can be very desirable and Perriman looks like a fantastic waiver wire pickup.