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Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: Ceedee Lamb, Javonte Williams, Rashee Rice (Week 13)

Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: Ceedee Lamb, Javonte Williams, Rashee Rice (Week 13)

Hello and welcome to the Week 13 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.

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. You’ll notice that I’ve added a second chart to each section. This is the same chart that you’re used to seeing for each section, but looking purely at the last four weeks. As we move through the season, the more recent weeks should hold more weight so this will give you a snapshot of more recent usage and trends! 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

  • This week’s matchup between the Washington Commanders and Miami Dolphins features a 50.5-point game total, the highest of the week by four points! As much as I’d love to see this game soar over that total, there’s reason to believe it might not. From a pace perspective, these are two of the slowest teams in the league. Both Washington and Miami rank in the bottom-eight in neutral-script seconds per play and no-huddle rate. When Washington is trailing (which they will be in this game), they still leave an average of 9.4 seconds left on the play clock, the eight-fewest seconds). Though losing Jaelan Phillips to an Achilles injury is brutal, Miami’s defense as a whole has also played much better recently and could stymie the Commanders’ offense as Dallas did on Thanksgiving. Over the last four weeks, Miami’s defense ranks third in EPA per play allowed, fourth in passing (something Washington loves to do) EPA per play allowed, and seventh in pressure rate. While Miami should have no issue moving the ball against the Commanders, they snap the ball with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock an astounding 78.1% of the time, second only to the 49ers. Miami has also trended towards rushing the ball (which keeps the clock moving) more lately with a PROE of -8% or lower in two of their last three games. This game should have a decent amount of scoring, but with a total that high you need a lot to go right and have these teams avoid drive-ending turnovers in the wrong spots.
    • Action: bet under 50.5 total points

Team Pass Rates

  • Since Dallas’ Week 7 bye, their PROE has skyrocketed to an 8.9% rate, second only to the Bengals in that span. Previously, Dallas had a -2.1% PROE, so this is a massive improvement. With this, the Cowboys have increased their pass attempts by roughly five per game across those two splits. This must mean the Cowboys’ pass catchers are seeing an increase in volume, right? Well, not exactly. Almost all of the extra volume has just gone to CeeDee Lamb, who went from averaging seven targets per game with a 22% target share in the first six games to an average of 12.4 targets per game with a 32% target share. In fact, all of Jake Ferguson, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, and Jalen Tolbert have seen their target shares decrease from before the Cowboys’ bye. Cooks and Ferguson are the only Cowboys, besides Lamb, running a route on more than 70% of their dropbacks, so I would continue to hold them. Ferguson’s 15% target share and 14% end zone target share this season is enough to keep him in consideration as a TE1, but the ceiling doesn’t seem as high as it once used to.
    • Action: sell all Dallas pass-catchers not named CeeDee Lamb

Running Back Usage

  • The Denver Broncos are currently riding a five-game winning streak, putting them in contention for a Wild Card spot. This has come with a heavy dose of the run game as Denver has had a -5.7% PROE in that span, the fifth-lowest rate in the league since Week 7. This has greatly benefitted Javonte Williams, who has seen at least a 50% share of the backfield touches in each of those games, averaging a healthy 18.4 carries per game. Though Denver had a -8.7% PROE in Week 12 (their second-lowest mark of the season), Williams’ role shifted slightly as he earned a season-high 25% target share (five targets) on a season-high 48% routes-run rate. Behind Williams, Samaje Perine seems to have warded off Jaleel McLaughlin as a threat of being the team’s backup. Since Week 7 (when Williams was back to full health), Perine has consistently logged snap shares between 25% and 35% while McLaughlin hasn’t eclipsed a 20% share, bottoming out at just two snaps played this past week. Perine also recorded his first two green zone touches since Week 5, while McLaughlin has just four such touches all year.
  • We’re officially back to having a three-headed monster in Baltimore, but one of them is slowly emerging with each passing week. Since Week 9, the work has been split pretty evenly between Gus Edwards (35% snap share, 42% backfield touch share), Justice Hill (35%, 23%), and Keaton Mitchell (31%, 35%). That said, there’s reason to believe that this will be a 1-2 punch between Edwards and Mitchell going forward. First, on Edwards. He’s the team’s goal-line and short-yardage back as he’s handled 63% of the team’s carries inside the five in the last four weeks while maintaining a slight lead with a 40% snap share on short down and distance snaps, per Fantasy Life’s Utilization Report. On the other hand, Mitchell’s snap share has risen in each of the last four games with a season-high 47% share in Week 12. Mitchell has yet to record a green-zone touch, so the best shot that Mitchell seems to have at securing more HVTs is through the air as his routes-run rate also hit a season-high 39% last week. Albeit on a small sample (just 29 carries this year), Mitchell’s 7.48 yards after contact per attempt leads the league and is one of 28 running backs with at least five carries going at least 15 yards.
  • The Houston Texans welcomed Dameon Pierce back to the lineup after missing three straight games. The backfield had been taken over by Devin Singletary in his stead with an 81% snap share, and he didn’t give up an inch with Pierce back as he recorded an 81% snap share on Sunday, his third-straight game above 80%. This usage runs counter to the pre-game reports that suggested these two would be sharing the load. That said, Singletary’s running back touch share dipped to 63% (his lowest since Week 8), while Pierce was at 32%. So, it seems as though Houston may want to ramp up Pierce’s workload by limiting his snap share to start. That said, the overall volume of running back touches may be declining as Houston leans into a more pass-heavy approach. I wouldn’t want either of them touching my lineups if given the choice as Houston’s 34.1% rushing success rate ranks 5th-worst in the league this year and explains why they’re trusting CJ Stroud with the ball in his hands more.

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Wide Receiver Usage

  • We finally got the Rashee Rice game that we deserved. On Sunday, Rice recorded season-high marks in routes run rate (68%), target share (32%, his first game above 20%, too), targets (10), receptions (8), and receiving yards (107) while adding a receiving touchdown on top of it all. Now, I want to pour a little cool water on this because, though they were each running routes on fewer than 30% of dropbacks, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman both missed this game. That said, this is just the second time all year that a Chiefs wide receiver recorded a target share over 20% — Justin Watson did it in Week 11 and also had a 19% target share in Week 9. I do think that Watson is worth a deeper-league add because he seems to have become one of Patrick Mahomesmost trusted deep-threat options. However, it’s clear that Kansas City thinks Rice is the best receiver on the team as his 15.9% first-read target share is second only to Travis Kelce. We just need to hope that this is the turning point for Rice to see an increase in volume.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve done a wellness check on the Seahawks wide receivers and, well, it’s not great! Across all of the Seahawks receivers, there has only been one game in which they have recorded at least 20 half-PPR points (Tyler Lockett in Week 2). All three of Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are all running routes on over 70% of the team’s dropbacks, but their targets per route run rates all fall outside the top 20 receivers this season. The silver lining, if there is one, is that Seattle’s target tree is rather concentrated on these three players. But, you could also see it as all three cannibalizing each others’ opportunities, which is severely limiting their weekly ceiling. While Seattle’s dropback rate is holding steady around the 65% to 67% mark each week, their overall play volume has been low enough to warrant fading these guys if you have other options.
    • Action: fade all Seahawks wide receivers
  • Jordan Love has been on a tear lately (relatively speaking) as he ranks top seven in EPA per play, completion percentage over expected, and PFF passing grade over the last four weeks. This has given rise to some of the Packers’ wide receivers. On Thanksgiving, Christian Watson had by far his best day of the season with five catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, resulting in his first game with at least 15 half-PPR points this season. Watson has been consistently running a route on over 80% of Green Bay’s dropbacks, but the targets were lacking, so it was only a matter of time before he would have a big game. The most intriguing member of Green Bay’s wide receiver group is rookie Jayden Reed, who has now scored double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games. The Packers seem to be looking for ways to manufacture touches for Reed given he has multiple carries in each of his last two games. He’s also had two of his highest routes run rates of the season in those two games while maintaining a 20% targets per route run rate this season. The second-half rookie breakout could be coming for Reed, so it’s best to buy into him now before the price gets too steep.

Tight End Usage

  • Juwan Johnson had one of his best games of the season on Sunday because the Saints’ wide receivers are dropping like flies. New Orleans recently sent Michael Thomas to injured reserve and had both Chris Olave (concussion) and Rashid Shaheed (thigh) exit Sunday’s game unable to return due to injuries. This led to season-high marks in targets (7), target share (19%), and routes run rate (85%) in Week 12. He earned all this despite leaving the game for a brief stint himself. The lack of pass-catching options also likely drove New Orleans’ season-low -9.3% PROE against Atlanta. But, with players rarely returning from a concussion the following week and Shaheed already unlikely to play, it could be another high-volume day for Johnson in Week 13, especially since they face a Lions team that should push them to pass the ball more.

Quick Hops

  • Monday Night Football was a privilege to watch, not only because of the disastrous quarterback play but also because Roschon Johnson finally made his mark on the Bears’ backfield. Johnson out-touched Khalil Herbert 15 to 8 and played on 75% of the team’s snaps despite being in a neutral game script the entire night. I’ve often said that Johnson is Chicago’s best pass-catching back, and that came to fruition with a season-high 49% route run rate.
  • Cedric Tillman has now run a route on over 88% of dropbacks in each of the past three games. The volume is very thin as he hasn’t topped more than five targets in those games, but he’s worth an add in very deep leagues.
  • What we initially feared with Joe Burrow‘s injury has happened as Ja’Marr Chase has just seven and six targets in his last two games, both of which have come without Tee Higgins in the lineup, too. He should be downgraded to a WR2 with mid-WR1 upside at this point.
  • Pat Freiermuth is all the way back. He ran a route on 62% of dropbacks, recorded 11 targets for a 48% targets per route run rate, and led the entire league in receiving yards in Week 12 with 120.

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