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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.
*Note: We do not cover the teams where things went according to expectation.
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: James Conner was not limited in week three despite his questionable injury status. Conner went on to handle 62% of the team's rush attempts but did give up some passing game work with a mere 34% RR%, down from his 61% in week one (since he was injured early in week two).
- Atlanta Falcons: Cordarrelle Patterson remains the lead back here, averaging 62% of the team's snaps over the first three weeks. However, his passing game role has been surprisingly lagging. With so few pass attempts to go around, it's easy for any pass-catcher to go missing in this offense. Patterson has seen only one target in back-to-back weeks.
- Baltimore Ravens: J.K. Dobbins made his triumphant return in week three but was out-snapped by Justice Hill as Kenyan Drake was made inactive. Dobbins should see his role increase in future weeks as he proves his knee is up for the challenge. For now, proceed with caution as the role is simply not strong enough despite a run-heavy attack.
- Buffalo Bills: In the Bills' first non-blowout of the year, Devin Singletary was the player the team trusted. Singletary set season highs in snap share, RMS, and TMS, which is a great indicator for Singletar's usage across a variety of game scripts.
- Chicago Bears: David Montgomery finds himself on the injury report, and Khalil Herbert is fresh off a monster game as a result. Look for feature back duties for Herbert as Trestan Ebner provides some mild relief.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Mixon aggravated an ankle in this game, opening the door for Samaje Perine, who was able to capitalize. Initial reports suggest Mixon should be fine for an early-week game against Miami.
- Denver Broncos: Mike Boone entered the running back rotation with a 19% snap share in week three, complicating an already-frustrating backfield that limits the ceiling of Javonte Williams. Williams saw a season-low in snap share in a competitive game in desperate need of playmakers.
- Detroit Lions: DAndre Swift was banged up in week three, but Jamaal Williams may be a favorite for carries every week for the remainder of the season. If Swift is going to miss multiple weeks as suspected, Craig Reynolds will shoulder the load in a new two-man committee with Jamaal Williams.
- Houston Texans: Dameon Pierce firmly planted his flag with an 87% RMS.
- Kansas City Chiefs: In a game that the Chiefs lost, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was out-snapped again by Jerick McKinnon. Isiah Pacheco remains a toy.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Despite a talented surrounding cast, it may be time to panic on Austin Ekeler, who saw fewer rush attempts than Sony Michel in this game. Despite being supremely talented and hyper-efficient, Ekeler needs more volume to reach his ceiling.
- Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are finding complementary roles in this offense. Henderson is the route-running specialist (56% to 15%) and Akers is the run game specialist (60% RMS to 20%).
- Miami Dolphins: Despite the fact that Chase Edmonds got the touchdowns, Raheem Mostert once again took the lead in this offense. Mostert led Edmonds in Snaps, RMS, TMS, and routes run. Brighter days ahead for Mostert.
- Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook aggravated his chronic shoulder injury, opening the door for Alexander Mattison. It sounds like Cook may try to play through the pain. If not, Mattison inherits a better role than Cook's as Kene Nwangwu is a less established backup.
- New England Patriots: The flippening is happening! Rhamondre Stevenson is the back you want in New England after a week where he finally out-snapped, out-carried, and out-targeted Damien Harris. This three-headed backfield is now two-headed, which means great things for Stevenson.
- Seattle Seahawks: Kenneth Walker took a step backward in week two as Rashaad Penny distanced himself with a 69% snap rate. Penny is the only usable player for the near-term future.
- San Francisco 49ers: It looks like Jordan Mason is not the RB2 in San Francisco. Instead, Deebo Samuel will serve as Jeff Wilson's backup. Mason is droppable.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette simply has the best usage profile in the NFL. If the Buccaneers can get back on schedule, Fournette can be a league-winning pick. Unfortunately, they seem stuck in a rut.
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