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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 appears to be dealing with a lingering rib injury - not a lot of fun for a running back. On top of that, Darrel Williams is dealing with a knee injury and Jonathan Ward has a hamstring injury. The only healthy body left for Arizona is Eno Benjamin, who saw a season-high 54% snap share in week five as Conner dealt with his rib injury. Benjamin could see a huge role if Conner misses time.
- Atlanta Falcons: Nothing unexpected here, just a reminder that Damien Williams is eligible to return from IR in week six.
- Baltimore Ravens: It was an odd game script, and Justice Hill was inactive with a hamstring injury, which opened the door for Kenyan Drake (inactive the prior two weeks) to actually outpace J.K. Dobbins in snaps (42% to 40%).
- Chicago Bears: David Montgomery returned to his old role right away a week after missing time with a knee injury. We are back to the basics in Chicago.
- Denver Broncos: Following Javonte Williams' season-ending knee injury, Melvin Gordon and Mike Boone split snaps 56% to 41%, respectively. Gordon was much more involved early with Boone entering more in the second half. Gordon was more involved in the receiving game than anticipated and dominated groundwork. However, he could be just one fumble away from being replaced.
- Detroit Lions: I wouldn't read too much into the diminished role of Jamaal Williams, who only posted a 33% snap share. The Lions were shut out by a capable Patriots defense, and DAndre Swift should return following their bye.
- Green Bay Packers: For the first time this season, Aaron Jones was given the big-boy treatment. Teammate A.J. Dillon, who had played at least 50% of the team's snaps every week, was relegated to backup duties and a 32% snap share. Jones dominated every aspect of the usage chart - snaps, rush attempts, targets, and routes. However, I'd imagine that, given the outcome, Dillon should resurface soon.
- Indianapolis Colts: With Jonathan Taylor sidelined, Nyheim Hines got the start and left the game with a concussion on the first drive. Enter Deon Jackson and Phillip Lindsay, who played 58% and 38% of the snaps, respectively. Jackson looked the part of a do-it-all back and could be a name to monitor if Taylor and Hines need to miss more time.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: The flippening is happening slowly as Travis Etienne cannot remain sidelined for this Jaguars team in need of playmakers. Etienne has now matched rush attempts with James Robinson in back-to-back weeks and has developed a significant lead in the routes department over that same time (53% RR vs 33% RR). The arrow is pointing up for Etienne.
- Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs got down early to the tune of three scores in week five against the Raiders. This meant that Jerick McKinnon was thrust into a large role in the running game and passing game. McKinnon is the Chiefs' most versatile back, and his presence means that Clyde Edwards-Helaire must be uber-efficient to remain relevant.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Not much to see here but worth noting that if you were torn on Sony Michel vs. Joshua Kelley, Kelley made a strong case this week to be the locked-in number two behind Austin Ekeler.
- Miami Dolphins: How bad has it gotten for Chase Edmonds? He is now playing behind Myles Gaskin. Raheem Mostert has fantastic usage.
- New England Patriots: It looks like Damien Harris will miss multiple weeks as this backfield gets hyper-thin. Rhamondre Stevenson is now in an incredible role as a bell cow with no discernable talent behind him.
- New York Giants: Saquon Barkley's usage numbers may look a little slim. Don't worry - he missed a portion of this game with a shoulder injury. He returned, suggesting he is likely fine.
- New York Jets: Breece Hall had a monster game on a very nice 69% snap share, and it should have been even bigger as he was vultured twice by Michael Carter after big plays to get the Jets inside the five.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: It was a blowout, but Jaylen Warren played more snaps than Najee Harris (51% to 49%).
- Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny's season comes to an unfortunate end with a broken leg. With Travis Homer already on IR, Kenneth Walker and DeeJay Dallas will shoulder the load. This is an incredible role for the incredibly talented Walker. He is now on the fast track to bellcow status.
- San Francisco 49ers: It's worth noting that Tevin Coleman is giving the 49ers' run game an extra dimension behind Jeff Wilson. He has been a more than competent backup and has allowed the team to keep Deebo Samuel out of the backfield (7% RMS for Samuel).
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette has his eruption spot, but Rachaad White is still a bit more involved than earlier this season.
- Tennessee Titans: Derrick Henry is great. Dontrell Hilliard, however, may be the best receiver on the team despite his running back designation. Henry also has been much more involved in the receiving game over the past three weeks, averaging 19% of the team's targets over this span.
- Washington Commanders: Brian Robinson is back and led the team in carries. Antonio Gibson has no guaranteed role in this offense.
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