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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
- Buffalo Bills - The Bills running back rotation has been a pain to figure out each week but Week 14 provided us with our latest clues. Zack Moss was once again a healthy scratch and Devin Singletary took over a strong lead from Matt Breida - 82% to 14% in terms of snaps. Josh Allen put up an insane 63% RMS, not leaving much for the running backs. But it looks like Singletary has the straightest path toward any sort of relevance.
- Carolina Panthers - Week 14 was our first glimpse into life after Christian McCaffrey in the Panthers backfield. Predictably, Chuba Hubbard and Ameer Abdullah formed a traditional thunder-lightning combo respectively with Hubbard as the rushing leader and Abdullah as the routes leader. In this unreliable offense, neither makes for much of an appealing option.
- Dallas Cowboys - With Tony Pollard battling a foot injury, there were questions surrounding Ezekiel Elliott's role for Week 14. Would he simply soak up all of Pollard's work (much like Sony Michel has done in LA without Darrell Henderson)? Or would Corey Clement step up for a meaningful role? It looks like Mike McCarthy felt fine sliding Clement into the Pollard role as Elliott's usage looked nearly identical to the previous three weeks.
- Detroit Lions - With no Jamaal Williams or DAndre Swift, the Lions would presumably feature Godwin Igwebuike and Jermar Jefferson. However, practice squad call-up Craig Reynolds actually led the backfield in snaps and rush attempts. Igwebuike narrowly edged out Reynolds in routes run. Meanwhile, Jermar Jefferson was a complete afterthought.
- Minnesota Vikings - Shoulder in a sling? No problem for Dalvin Cook. Cook handled a massive workload running through holes the size of Texas. His teammate, Alexander Mattison, played a traditional backup role but his status for Week 15 looks in doubt due to the COVID protocol. Look for the Vikings to build off Cook's recent success down the stretch.
- Seattle Seahawks - The Rashaad Penny genie is out of the bottle! Sure - he ran roughshod over a demoralized Texans defense, but the Seahawks desperately needed an offensive spark and perhaps Rashaad Penny gives them just that. Can he be a long-term cure for what looks like a broken offense? Perhaps we will find out soon.
- Buffalo Bills - With Emmanuel Sanders suffering an in-game injury, Gabriel Davis immediately filled in as a featured wide receiver. Davis played a season-high 83% of snaps and 81% RR while being targeted on 16% of Josh Allen's pass attempts. He should be a fixture in three-wide sets if Sanders misses extended time (or perhaps even if Sanders returns).
- Los Angeles Rams - Tyler Higbee was a late scratch due to COVID protocols and as a result, Kendall Blanton filled in nicely, playing 90% of snaps. On top of that Odell Beckham returned closer to his full-time role, playing 72% of the team's snaps (up from 53% the week before). The offense looks much more in sync lately and could be dangerous throughout the fantasy playoffs. Ben Skowronek is the odd man out.
- New Orleans Saints - Nick Vannett has emerged as the new TE1 for New Orleans over the past two weeks. Vannett has led the unit in snaps in back-to-back weeks and just claimed a massive 29% TMS in Week 14. The market could be slow to adjust to Vannett's new lead role.