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 - With news of James Conner being unable to suit up emerging just before kickoff, many wondered if Chase Edmonds would be healthy enough to carry a full load. Fear not! Edmonds logged a 92% snap rate to go with a 76% RMS and 23% TMS for what amounts to a clear-cut RB1 role. If Conner were to miss again in Week 17, Edmonds could absolutely thrive.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - Unfortunately, the Jags are down their top two running backs after James Robinson tore his Achilles in Week 16. Dare Ogunbowale should lead the platoon of remaining bodies in Jacksonville along with Nathan Cottrell and Ryquell Armstead. Ogunbowale looks like the CLEAR workhorse, toting 82% of the team's snaps after Robinson went down. Cottrell played just one snap while Armstead did not play at all.
- Kansas City Chiefs - A collarbone injury for Clyde Edwards-Helaire created an opportunity for Darrel Wiliams and Derrick Gore in Week 16. The Chiefs offense has found its rhythm lately and the lead running back job should offer some fantasy upside. The box score could be a bit confusing without some context but Darrel Williams was the clear lead back after Edwards-Helaire went down while Gore went on to pad his snap count in garbage time. One possible monkey wrench to monitor is the possible return of Jerick McKinnon who could steal a couple of targets.
- Los Angeles Rams - Darrell Henderson has been placed on injured reserve after a tough injury in Week 16. This leaves Sony Michel in an alpha situation as long as the improbable return of Cam Akers is not significant. Michel played 90% of the team's snaps (just 3% for Jake Funk and 7% for the quickly departing Henderson). Michel has never shown the highest prowess catching the football, but as the bell cow in a high-scoring offense, he is an easy RB1.
- Miami Dolphins - The return of Phillip Lindsay really rained on the Duke Johnson Jr victory lap party as Lindsay, Johnson, and Myles Gaskin split work in a near-even fashion. Gaskin operated as the pass game specialist while Lindsay and Johnson alternated early-down work. For now, this situation has become unusable.
- Buffalo Bills - With Gabriel Davis and Cole Beasley on the COVID list, the Bills didn't think twice about who would play the WR3 role. Isaiah McKenzie was locked and loaded and even out-snapped Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders. McKenzie even posted an enviable 28% TMS. If Davis and Beasley's COVID absence lasts another week, McKenzie could be a viable streamer.
- Indianapolis Colts - Mo Alie-Cox stepped into a larger role in Week 15, but following a Jack Doyle injury in Week 16, Alie-Cox was a near-full-time player for the Colts. With Doyle likely to miss a few weeks, Alie-Cox is on the TE streaming map.
- Minnesota Vikings - Adam Thielen attempted to play through what appears to be a painful ankle injury but was frequently sidelined in Week 16. If Thielen misses additional time, look for Justin Jefferson to once again dominate the looks close to the redzone (Thielen's specialty) while K.J. Osborn plays full-time snaps on the perimeter, allowing Dede Westbrook to fill out the depth chart as the slot-man.
- New England Patriots - The Patriots look intent on getting N'Keal Harry involved in their offense as the playmaker led the team's receiver with a 95% snap rate. Notably falling out of the rotation, Kendrick Bourne appears to have clearly been passed by Harry.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Bucs' offense looks fundamentally different with Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette on injured reserve. Add a possible extended absence for Mike Evans and Tampa is down to Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. Brown posted an absolutely insane 52% TMS while the relatively unknown Cyril Grayson played the WR2 role for a 79% snap rate. With Brown soaking up targets, there wasn't much left for Grayson, but he could become more involved if defenses turn their eyes toward stopping Brown.