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 are 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)
- Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray went down on a non-contact injury on the third play from scrimmage on Monday Night Football. Though we are still waiting for official word, it looks like Kyler Murray's season is likely over. James Conner also missed a drive of this game after a hard tackle near the sideline. On top of that, the Cardinals fell to 4-9 on the year, securing a losing record. So what do we expect from the Cardinals moving forward? Under Colt McCoy, we can expect a high-completion quick game that tends to sputter out in the red zone. This caps the ceiling in this offense, and we should expect less touchdown upside. It should also not be surprising to see the team begin shutting down some of their banged-up stars in this lost season.
- Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens' quarterback injury woes continue to grow as Tyler Huntley went down in Week 14. Anthony Brown, the rookie from Oregon (and Boston College), filled in, handling 38% of the team's snaps while securing a lead against the Steelers. The Brown experiment was an exercise in ball control as Brown only attempted five passes. JK Dobbins returned for a big day on what was still a very limited workload (43% snaps, 36% RMS). On top of that, Dobbins appeared to be running with a noticeable limp on his breakaway 40+ yarder. If Brown remains the Ravens starter, we should expect a significant step backward in expectations for all skill players, including the RBs.
- Cincinnati Bengals: Injuries are piling up in the Bengals wide receiver room. Tee Higgins injured his hamstring during pre-game, while Tyler Boyd dislocated his finger in the first quarter. As it turns out, hamstrings and fingers are both integral body parts for wide receivers. Next man up? Trenton Irwin and Trent Taylor - come on down! You're the next contestant on "Catching High Value Targets from Joe Burrow!" Okay, maybe I need to workshop that title a little. But Irwin has seen huge chunks of playing time during JaMarr Chase's injury with encouraging results. With Hayden Hurst also not yet back with the team, JaMarr Chase has a strong case for WR1 overall in Week 15 against Tampa Bay.
- Cleveland Browns: David Njoku put all injury concerns behind him with a season-high 90% RR. Njoku saw a 23% TMS and is averaging 19% on the year, cementing himself as a strong weekly option at the position. As Deshaun Watson continues to seek out a security blanket in this offense, Njoku has a great opportunity to raise his ceiling as Watson gets more comfortable.
- Dallas Cowboys: Tony Pollard out-snapped Ezekiel Elliott 58% to 49%, but Elliott led the way in rushing share. Where Pollard excelled, however, was in the passing game where he dwarfed Elliott 60% to 33% in RR. The Cowboys almost blew this gimme of a game to the Texans. A reasonable person might assume that as the Cowboys push for the playoffs and a possible one-seed, they will lean on their most efficient player (Pollard) when the proverbial crap hits the fan.
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