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 - An injury to James Conner threatens to shake things up for Arizona if he misses Week 3. While Eno Benjamin spelled Conner in Week 1, Darrel Williams actually gained the edge in snaps and routes run in Week 2 while tying Benjamin in carries. The interesting nugget here is that Williams' first touch came immediately after James Conner was removed from the game. From that point on, he was the James Conner of the offense, suggesting the team views him as more of the direct backup while Benjamin exists more as a dedicated spell back.
- Atlanta Falcons - With Damien Williams placed on injured reserve, Tyler Allgeier filled in immediately, gaining exactly as many carries as Cordarrelle Patterson. Avery Williams was used exclusively in the passing game.
- Baltimore Ravens - There is no lead back for as long as J.K. Dobbins is sidelined. Not a single running back, including Kenyan Drake, Justice Hill, or Mike Davis, exceeded 40% of the team's snaps.
- Carolina Panthers - Have no fear. Christian McCaffrey's role is growing. He gained 10% in snap rate, 12% in rushing market share, and 3% in target market share. He will be fine.
- Chicago Bears - This team has an incredibly odd run/pass ratio, resembling a college football triple-option offense. They are playing incredibly slow and run-heavy. Not terrible news for David Montgomery who landed a whopping 80% of the team's snaps.
- Denver Broncos - Javonte Williams took a step this week to pull away from Melvin Gordon III. Gordon will continue to be a pain in the neck for Williams managers, but it's important that he is simply on the field more frequently.
- Houston Texans - A little bit of flop lag for Dameon Pierce, the presumptive Week 1 starter. Pierce handled every non-quarterback rush attempt in the offense while playing 62% of the snaps. The Texans were competitive throughout this game which may be a key to predicting Pierce vs. Rex Burkhead on a weekly basis.
- Jacksonville Jaguars - I wish there were a nicer way to say this, but James Robinson is the starting running back in Jacksonville. Not only does he command the lion's share of rush attempts (over 60% in back-to-back weeks), but he is plenty involved in the receiving game, topping 50% RR% in Week 2.
- Kansas City Chiefs - Jerick McKinnon (47% snaps) is Clyde Edwards-Helaire's partner-in-crime. Isiah Pacheco (9% snaps) will only get consistent work when the scoreboard is out-of-hand. Think of McKinnon as the passing game specialist while Pacheco is more of the direct backup to Edwards-Helaire should he miss time.
- Las Vegas Raiders - Josh Jacobs has not lost his bell cow duties. He topped 70% of team snaps and logged 90% of the team carries in Week 2.
- Los Angeles Rams - Cam Akers took a real step forward, narrowing the snap split between him and Darrell Henderson from 82%-12% in Week 1 to 56%-44% in Week 2. Akers is nearly all the way out of the doghouse but Henderson continues to be used with a pass-catching preference, hitting a 54% RR% this week despite not earning a target. Akers will need that receiving work to get back in our good graces.
- Miami Dolphins - A flippening! Raheem Mostert got his shot in Week 2 after being Chase Edmonds' backup in Week 1. Mostert only narrowly out-snapped Edmonds (55% to 51%) but commanded 61% of the team's rush attempts (compared to 28% for Edmonds). The routes run were identical. It's hard to know what to expect here moving forward, but perhaps Mike McDaniel wants to keep bodies fresh from week to week.
- New England Patriots - With Ty Montgomery on injured reserve, Pierre Strong Jr looked like he might have a promising path toward work in this offense. What happened instead was that Rhamondre Stevenson took over the Montgomery role in addition to his own. While Damien Harris led the team in rush attempts, Stevenson featured an enviable 61% RR% in Week 2. His production did not match his usage, suggesting Stevenson could be a tremendous buy-low.
- New Orleans Saints - With Alvin Kamara sidelined and Mark Ingram II dinged up, Tony Jones was the snap leader and routes run leader in this backfield. Expect Kamara to return to his old role as soon as he is healthy.
- New York Jets - Breece Hall made plays in Week 2, but his usage continues to be alarming. The first-round pick was held to 27% of the team's snaps in a high-scoring affair that allowed Michael Carter II to run a route on 52% of Joe Flacco dropbacks.
- Seattle Seahawks - Guess who led the Seahawks running backs in snaps with Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker in the lineup. Did you guess... Travis Homer?! Homer's 45% snap rate led the team, but Penny was the real lead back here. Expect this to be a very ugly three-headed monster for the foreseeable future.
- San Francisco 49ers - Not only did the team play without Elijah Mitchell, but it also lost Tyrion Davis-Price in Week 2. Although Jordan Mason did not log a snap, expect him to serve as Jeff Wilson's backup in Week 3.
- Tennessee Titans - Ignore the box score in this blowout.
- Arizona Cardinals - After being limited in Week 1, Zach Ertz was back to his old role in Week 2, running a route on 92% of dropbacks.
- Atlanta Falcons - Drake London saw a whopping 48% TMS. This obviously left very little for anyone else in the Falcons offense. This is great news for London's prospects, but this will obviously come back down to earth, much to the delight of Kyle Pitts managers.
- Carolina Panthers - Shi Smith (averaging 84% RR% through two weeks) is the unquestioned WR3 in this offense behind D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson.
- Chicago Bears - It's time to panic-sell in this low-volume offense.
- Denver Broncos - Jerry Jeudy missed significant time in this contest, making Kendall Hinton the new WR2 (71% RR%).
- Green Bay Packers - Allen Lazard (90% RR%) is back. He's healthy. And he is the clear WR1 in the Packers offense. Everyone else is playing for second place in this pecking order.
- Indianapolis Colts - In a game without Michael Pittman Jr and Alec Pierce, the door was thrown open. Toss this game out.
- Kansas City Chiefs - This team desperately needs a playmaker at wide receiver. Patrick Mahomes II seems to maintain efficiency on pure will with this land of misfit receivers. A guy who stepped up to make a big play was Justin Watson - a name to monitor for increased playing time behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
- Los Angeles Chargers - Hopefully, Keenan Allen will return soon, but the depth chart is pretty clear with him on the shelf. Mike Williams and Josh Palmer are the starting wide outs, and DeAndre Carter is the backup slot man.
- New York Giants - Nightmare fuel. Sterling Shepard looks like the only consistent weapon in this passing game as Brian Daboll experiments elsewhere. David Sills, Richie James, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney are looking to capitalize on their opportunities to take a WR2 role.
- New York Jets - Garrett Wilson is ascending quickly! He saw a significant boost in snaps, routes run, and targets in Week 2. He could easily solidify as the team's WR1 ahead of Elijah Moore.