Hello and welcome to the Week 4 edition of Hoppen to Conclusions! This is where I, Sam Hoppen, will share some of my favorite charts, which are designed to give you an overview of the NFL landscape. These charts, along with the commentary that I provide, aim to help you make start or sit, DFS lineup construction, betting picks, or any other fantasy football decisions. There can be a lot of noise in fantasy football analysis, but these charts have been carefully selected to give you some of the most relevant and useful decision points.
- Waiver Wire Advice
- Weekly Fantasy Football Expert Rankings
- Fantasy Football Start/Sit Advice
- Fantasy Football Trade Tools
Each of the charts has been designed in a way that you want to target players and teams that are in the top-right quadrant of the chart as denoted by the dotted black lines, which signify the median value for the stat on either the x-axis or y-axis. Before getting to each of the charts and analyses, here are some brief descriptions of what you will find on each chart and how to interpret them.
- Team Pace and Plays: Compares a team’s average plays per game to its pace over expected, using seconds per play as a measure of pace. On the chart, the y-axis flipped to show faster-paced teams (running plays faster than expected) on top. Simply put, teams (and overall matchups) with more plays and faster pace will offer more opportunities for fantasy point-scoring.
- Team Pass Rates: Compares a team’s pass rate over expectation (PROE) to its red-zone pass rate. Here we can identify which teams are passing the most when game script isn’t a deciding factor and when they get close to the goal line.
- Running Back Usage: Compares rushing expected fantasy points per game to his receiving expected fantasy points per game, with the size of the player’s point as his snap percentage. I use expected fantasy points as a measure of one’s workload in that specific area of the game, so it can help us discern which players are getting strong rushing or receiving workloads.
- Wide Receiver & Tight End Usage: Compares player weighted opportunity rating (WOPR) to his yards per route run (YPRR), with the size of the player’s point as his routes run rate (as a percent of the team’s dropbacks). WOPR weighs both air yards share and target share to evaluate a player’s opportunity, while yards per route run is a measure of one’s efficiency with the routes (and targets) he’s given. The charts show the same information for both the wide receiver and tight end position.
Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways
Team Pace and Plays
- At face value, a matchup between the Patriots and Cowboys with a 42.5-point game total doesn’t scream shootout, but the pace at which these teams play would suggest otherwise. The Cowboys and Patriots are first and second in seconds per play and have posted the fourth and second-most plays per game on offense, respectively. New England also ranks third in neutral-script no-huddle rate at 17.1%. I have few doubts that Dallas will be able to move the ball against New England with an offense that ranks top eight in EPA per play, success rate, and EPA per drive. But, the biggest unknown about whether this game can get over the 43.5-point total is if New England will be able to move the ball against the Cowboys’ ferocious defense. That said, New England’s offense hasn’t been as abysmal as it might seem as they’re near league-median in offense series conversion rate.
- Action: bet over 42.5 total points
- One thing I had my eye on this past weekend was how Indianapolis would approach their pace of play without Anthony Richardson. Fortunately, the Shane Steichen-led Colts remained fast-paced with Gardner Minshew under center. The Colts are now just one of five teams to have played faster than expected in all three games this season. Indianapolis also has the 2nd-highest neutral-script no-huddle rate at 18.2% – an astonishing number for a team with a rookie quarterback. While Colts players may not get there on efficiency, they should have ample opportunities – their 66.7 non-overtime plays per game ranks 15th in the league, which is solid for a team many expected to have a non-functioning offense early on. Two players in particular, Michael Pittman and Zack Moss, have benefitted greatly from volume this year. Pittman is one of just four receivers with double-digit targets in every game he’s played while Moss’ 90% running back touch share on the Colts leads the league. It will remain to be seen what happens to Moss’ workload when (or if) Jonathan Taylor returns, but I don’t think he’ll be thrown to the side immediately.
- Action: buy Michael Pittman, hold Zack Moss, and buy Jonathan Taylor (if you’re off to a good start and can afford some risk)
Team Pass Rates
- This past week the Cleveland Browns had their first game in the post-Nick Chubb era following him tearing his MCL. In that game, Cleveland posted a 4.4% PROE, which was the fourth-highest mark in the Kevin Stefanski era (and the highest since bringing on Deshaun Watson). While Chubb missing the game may have been a large factor in that, it also may have been part of the game plan against Tennessee’s pass-funnel defense. In any case, the biggest beneficiaries of this increased passing have been Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore. Both of them have 25 targets on the season and at least seven in each game this season, but they have two very different roles getting targeted at different levels of the field. Regretfully, the slight increase in passing hasn’t proliferated to David Njoku, who has just 10 targets and a 1.8-yard (!!!) average depth of target. If it were me, I would be targeting one of the most athletic tight ends in the league slightly further downfield. Because of this, his floor is low and his ceiling is extremely limited. I consider Cooper and Moore the only two worth considering in starting lineups going forward.
- Action: start Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore, sit (or drop) David Njoku
- For better or worse, Eric Bienemy is letting Sam Howell sling it. Washington’s 6.7% PROE currently ranks second in the league while their neutral-script pass rate of 58.4% ranks sixth. This is all well and good, but Washington also has one of the least-concentrated passing attacks in the league. Despite passing attempt totals of 31, 39, and 29, only one Commanders pass catcher has recorded more than seven targets in a single game (Logan Thomas had eight in Week 1). What’s most shocking about this is that Washington’s routes are tightly condensed between Jahan Dotson (95.1% routes run rate), Terry McLaurin (80.2%), and Curtis Samuel (73.2%). Those three players make up 48% of Washington’s targets, but the issue is that Howell is targeting running backs and tight ends on 46.7% of his attempts this year. Last year there were just two teams, Baltimore and Kansas City, to target wide receivers on less than 50% of targets, and they both have elite tight ends. I expect the distribution of targets to some of Washington’s best play makers to even out in the long run and, should they continue to pass this much, you can get most of these players at a solid discount.
- Action: buy Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, and add Curtis Samuel
Running Back Usage
- I was originally going to write up Javonte Williams as one of my favorite buy-low players, but after digging deeper the stats don’t really back that up. Williams, who has earned a solid 59% of the running back touches, clearly is not Denver’s primary pass-catching back. Samaje Perine has run a route on 46% of Denver’s dropbacks while Williams is at just 30%. Though Williams started off strong with five HVTs in Week 1, he’s had just four total in the past two weeks combined. His 11.6 expected PPR points per game is respectable, but not what you’re looking for from a consistent plus starter. For now, I think Williams is a hold and should only be considered a starter in plus matchups (like this Week 4 against Chicago).
- Action: hold Javonte Williams
- Now onto my actual favorite buy-low running back: Alexander Mattison. The Cam Akers trade (swapping conditional 2026 7th-round picks with the Rams) is nothing more than a glorified waiver claim on a running back who was likely going to be cut anyway. If you look at the running back depth the Vikings have behind Mattison, this type of flier makes a ton of sense. In any event, the case for Mattison is simple. Among running backs that have played in every game this season, Mattison ranks 3rd in running back touch share at 78% and is averaging over 18 opportunities per game. Mattison is also running a route on 55% of Minnesota’s dropbacks, which is huge considering the Vikings have a 6% PROE (3rd in the league) and figure to be passing a ton this season. While he hasn’t been particularly efficient, the workload is there and makes him a firm RB2 the rest of the way, even with another inefficient back joining the backfield.
- Action: buy Alexander Mattison
- Let’s get one thing straight, the Cowboys don’t miss Ezekiel Elliott. What we do miss is Elliott not encroaching on Rhamondre Stevenson’s workload, which is exactly what has been happening. In two of three games this year, Elliott has been given at least 40% of the Patriots’ running back touches. Despite this, Elliott still hasn’t played on more than 40% of snaps in a game. The case for Stevenson is still strong, though, because he’s the clear pass-catching back with a 60% routes run rate and is earning four HVTs per game this season. As a final silver lining, it’s only Stevenson and Elliott getting work in this backfield as no other running back has gotten a touch for New England yet this season.
- Action: sell Ezekiel Elliott, hold Rhamondre Stevenson
Wide Receiver Usage
- It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions for those with Tee Higgins on their roster. In Week 1, Higgins was targeted eight times for 151 air yards, but didn’t catch a single ball. He then followed that up with eight catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns, only to come falling back down to earth in Week 3 with two catches for 21 yards despite another eight targets. For the season as a whole, Higgins still has an extremely solid workload profile: 0.67 WOPR (15th among wide receivers), 94% routes run rate (18th), and 0.24 targets per route run (32nd). That’s resulted in just 28 half-PPR fantasy points, most of which have come in his Week 2 performance. I don’t think Joe Burrow’s injury is to blame as Higgins’ targets are coming on routes when he has very little separation – his average of two yards of separation on targets is fourth-lowest among qualifying receivers, according to Next Gen Stats. For now, you’re just going to have to live with the highs and lows while shifting expectations that Higgins may not have the same consistency as he once had.
- Action: hold Tee Higgins
- When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the 20th overall pick as the first wide receiver off the board, many expected him to step into a starting role immediately. While that’s happened in some respects, he certainly hasn’t taken over Tyler Lockett (running a route on a team-high 90% of dropbacks), the man whom he was presumed to replace. Smith-Njigba has run a route on 63.4% of dropbacks (third on the team behind Lockett and DK Metcalf) and is clearly in when the Seahawks use 11 personnel. But, the issue is that he hasn’t been able to break into 2WR sets, and Seattle is using 11 personnel at just a 56.6% clip. The other glaring concern is his 2.7-yard average depth of target, which is dead last among 88 wide receivers with at least 10 targets this season. Both Lockett and Metcalf sit above a 10-yard average depth of target, so Smith-Njigba is being used in a very specific role for the team, making it more unlikely he breaks into a different role without an injury. Rookie wide receivers notoriously take some time to develop in their first season and typically don’t break out until the second half of the season, but when you see fellow rookies like Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers having success early on, it’s hard to be patient. So, if you’re in need of immediate production or are in a shallower league, I don’t have any issue dropping JSN, especially with a Week 5 bye upcoming, but I’m not going out of my way to pay up for a rookie with this current production profile.
- Action: don’t buy Jaxon Smith-Njigba
- It’s high time I give some attention to the Arizona Cardinals because they’ve been much friskier than even I thought they would be heading into the season. Joshua Dobbs hasn’t played out of his mind, but for someone who was traded for in August, he has been serviceable enough to not completely tank the offensive production. As this is the wide receiver section, let’s start with Marquise Brown, who inherited the WR1 role after DeAndre Hopkins was released this offseason. Brown is currently commanding a team-high 42% air yards share and 27.5% target share while running a route on nearly every dropback. He hasn’t been particularly efficient at 1.66 yards per route run, but his two touchdowns put him at WR26 on the year. Next in line is rookie receiver Michael Wilson, who is Arizona’s deep threat with a 17.2-yard average depth of target, but he has only been targeted nine times this season. Finally, we have Rondale Moore, who Drew Petzing is using more creatively than Kliff Kingsbury ever did. Moore is only averaging 4.3 touches per game, so his floor is as low as any, but I’m certainly keeping an eye on how this usage plays out over the next several weeks. All this to say, I think Brown holds some solid weekly WR3 value with a bit of upside while Wilson and Moore should be bench stashes in case Arizona starts passing more or there’s an injury.
- Action: hold Marquise Brown, add Michael Wilson and Rondale Moore in deeper leagues
Tight End Usage
- Luke Musgrave is primed to break out one of these days. The rookie tight end leads the Packers in routes run rate at 83.2% and doesn’t have a game running a route on fewer than 80% of dropbacks – only four other tight ends can say that so far. Musgrave had seven total targets in the first two weeks only to earn eight targets in the Week 3 comeback victory. Unfortunately, Musgrave does not have an end zone target yet this year, but his 11.5-yard average depth of target ranks second among tight ends with at least 10 targets this year, so the big plays will come eventually.
- Action: buy Luke Musgrave
- Dallas Goedert has been frustrating to have on fantasy teams, to say the least. Following his Week 1 goose egg, Goedert has recorded back-to-back games with seven targets. This has led to just 11 catches for 63 yards and no touchdowns, though. Currently the TE32 in half-PPR leagues, Goedert still has some solid peripheral stats. Goedert is one of the four other tight ends I mentioned above that’s running a ton of routes the 14 targets he has in the past two weeks are good for a solid 25% target share in that span. These combined are exceptional for a tight end, but he’s averaging an abysmal 2.1 yards after catch per reception so far this season, which is 3rd-worst among tight ends this season. That said, being on a team with a near-even PROE and a highly concentrated passing attack makes me more bullish on him than another tight end whose name rhymes with Pyle Kitts.
- Action: hold Dallas Goedert
- Zach Charbonnet saw a season-high 11 opportunities and 44% snap share in Week 3. While this backfield is dominated by Kenneth Walker at the moment, a couple of weeks down the road we could see Charbonnet become more of a 1B option than the RB2. Your buy-low window may close sooner rather than later.
- Not a single Jets player is startable while Zach Wilson is the quarterback. The string of defenses New York has faced so far – Buffalo, Dallas, and New England – are no easy opponents, but a Wilson-led offense is putrid.
- Jordan Addison’s route participation has risen in every game this season, topping out at 80% in Week 3. Similar to Mattison, the rate at which Minnesota passes has me bullish on Addison’s ROS outlook.
- Sam LaPorta has been incredible so far. He’s one of just three tight ends with at least five catches in every game this season. He’s a top-six tight end rest of season.
- Jimmy Graham (nine routes run) caught a touchdown and Usher was announced as the Super Bowl halftime performer on Sunday. Apparently, I’m back in high school?