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Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: Joe Burrow, Zach Charbonnet, Jameson Williams (Week 9)

Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: Joe Burrow, Zach Charbonnet, Jameson Williams (Week 9)

Hello and welcome to the Week 9 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

  • One of the premier matchups this Sunday afternoon is the first of two NFC East matchups between the Cowboys and the Eagles. This matchup should feature plenty of fantasy points and, in my estimation, plenty of actual points. Let’s explore their pace tendencies first. The Dallas Cowboys’ blazing pace has yet to slow down – their 27.7 neutral-script seconds per play is the fastest in the league this year. On the other side, the Eagles use no-huddle at a 16.1% rate in neutral scripts, the second-highest this year, and average over 70 plays per game. Now, you may think that the defenses will put up a fight to keep this total from going over, but each has shown its weaknesses in recent weeks. Philadelphia has struggled to limit explosive pass plays, allowing a 10.4% explosive pass rate, the 3rd-highest rate over the last four weeks. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ 45.5% rushing success rate allowed this season is the fourth-worst mark in the league. I think both of these offenses, which rank fourth (Philadelphia) and sixth (Dallas) in EPA per drive on offense, can have enough success moving the ball to push this point total over the 46.5-point line.
    • Action: bet over 46 total points

Team Pass Rates

  • The Bengals, and their PROE, are on the rise. Cincinnati posted a season-high 22.4% PROE in the week before their bye, only to follow it up with an 11.2% rate against the 49ers defense in an upset victory. Joe Burrow has attempted at least 30 passes in every game this season, going over the 40-attempt line in three of them. Not only are they passing more, but they’re getting more efficient, too. Over Cincinnati’s last four games, they’ve posted a passing success rate of at least 50% in all four. Burrow is back to bonafide QB1 status for the rest of the season and all the pass catchers will see a major boost.
    • Action: buy Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ passing attack

Running Back Usage

  • The Kirk Cousins injury sucks, it really does. But, now that Cousins will miss the rest of the season, there’s a chance we see Minnesota shift more towards leaning on the run, so let’s examine the recent backfield usage. Cam Akers has been with the Vikings for five games now, but the backfield opportunities have largely still been controlled by Alexander Mattison, who has a 65% share of the running back touches across those five games. However, after being given just 16 total opportunities in his first three games with the team, Akers has handled 13 and 10 opportunities in the past two games. Perhaps the most eye-catching trend from this past week’s game was that Minnesota gave Akers both of the green zone touches (back-to-back carries, one of which he converted to a 6-yard rushing touchdown). Mattison still appears to have a lock on the passing-game work as his routes run rate has dipped below 40% just once since Akers became a part of the picture. That said, the overall value of this backfield (and the other fantasy-relevant pieces of this offense) will drop tremendously without Cousins and his ability to keep the offense moving. With this split becoming slightly more cannibalistic, I’m selling the idea that either Mattison or Akers can provide more than low-upside RB3 potential going forward.
  • It’s time I revisited the Seahawks’ backfield usage because one particular aspect of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet‘s usage this week caught my attention. Specifically, it was that Charbonnet ran a route on a season-high 56% of dropbacks, while Walker was at 32%, his second-lowest rate of the season. They still each saw only two targets a piece, but this puts a slight damper on Walker’s value if he’s not able to fend off Charbonnet as the pass-catching back. Walker has still been given all but two green zone touches this year, but Seattle didn’t have a single one to give in the game against Cleveland. It should also be noted that Walker didn’t practice on both Wednesday and Thursday of last week with a calf injury, yet was removed from the injury report and played on Sunday. I did find Seattle’s game plan to be a little confusing as they dropped back to pass nearly 40 times and rushed it just 13 times with Walker and Charbonnet despite them both averaging over 8 yards per carry in the game. Now, Seattle visits Baltimore as 5.5-point underdogs in a game that could see them passing more, so if Charbonnet is favored as the pass-catching back for that game I’ll start to become more concerned about Walker’s ceiling.
  • Last week on Thursday Night Football Chase Edmonds made his triumphant return after a stint on injured reserve. Okay, maybe it wasn’t triumphant, but he was still back on the field. While he didn’t steal much work from starter Rachaad White, who had a 73% running back touch share, Edmonds was given six opportunities (three carries and three targets) on just eight snaps played, so when he was on the field the Buccaneers were keen on using him. White is still fine for fantasy, especially if his receiving workload (he’s averaging 4.3 targets per game) holds steady. But, per NextGenStats, White’s -1.08 rushing yards over expected per carry is the third-worst among qualifying running backs. I’m not confident that Tampa Bay is looking for a reason to give White less work, but he also hasn’t been good enough to warrant them increasing his workload. Edmonds is worth a stash for now.

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Wide Receiver Usage

  • Diontae Johnson has been back in the Steelers lineup for two games and is back to being a target monster once again. After a six-target outing in his first game back, Johnson earned a massive 14 targets in his second game while running a route on every dropback. Teammate George Pickens was the biggest casualty to Johnson’s increased usage as he had just five targets, a season-low mark for him. While he did run a route on all but one dropback (he’s been above a 90% route rate in every game this season), the types of routes that he ran are not ideal for someone you might be hoping for more consistency from. Pickens still flashes big-play ability, so I’m inclined to believe that Pittsburgh will work to get him more involved in the future.
  • Jameson Williams‘ return to action has been a rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least. The Lions have eased Williams back to the tune of a 37% routes run rate in the four games that he’s played. He’s had three targets in all but one game in which he was targeted six times but failed to record a catch. Williams has been a fixture as Detroit’s deep threat with a 15.7-yard aDOT and a 24% air yards share (second on the team in the last four weeks). Overall, he still has yet to break into 2WR sets though, as that role has been held onto by Josh Reynolds (has run a route on over 70% of dropbacks in all but one game). As long as he continues to operate as a field stretcher, I find it difficult to see how Williams can provide any meaningful fantasy value. Then, on Tuesday, the Lions traded for noted deep-threat Donovan Peoples-Jones, so it’ll be even more difficult for Williams to earn a sustainable share of targets, especially as the Lions veer toward a run-heavy team.
  • The Carolina Panthers won their first game of the season on Sunday. It was a game in which rookie Jonathan Mingo had one of his best games of the season, recording four receptions for 62 yards. I would like to think this may be a sign of things to come, and we’ve certainly seen rookies breakout after their bye, but I struggle to find any bright spots. In the five games Mingo has started and finished, he’s run a route on 90% of dropbacks in all but one (was at 84% that week), so he’s seeing the field plenty. But, the issues remain twofold. One, Adam Thielen is dominating targets — since Week 2, Thielen is averaging an outrageous 11.3 targets per game for a whopping 31% target share. Mingo’s 5.8 targets per game over that span is second on the team, but his 0.17 targets per route run rate leaves a bit to be desired. At this point, Mingo’s main competition for targets is DJ Chark (87% routes run rate), as they both operate primarily from the outside while Thielen is in the slot. What has me pessimistic is that Chark’s 14.7-yard aDOT is much higher than Mingo’s 9.7-yard aDOT. With them being used in two more distinct roles, I struggle to see how Mingo will be able to work into more 2WR sets and earn more targets over Chark.

Tight End Usage

  • A couple of weeks ago I said that I was out on David Njoku and here I am again to tell you that his production this past week may have been a mirage. This past week Njoku had his best game of the season in Week 8 with 15.7 Half-PPR points, thanks to a season-high 77 receiving yards and his first touchdown of the season. But how he got there is not necessarily sustainable. Of Njoku’s 77 receiving yards, an astounding 74 of them came after the catch. Cleveland did a great job of scheming up screen passes for PJ Walker not only to Njoku, but also to Cleveland’s running backs. Njoku has yet to record an aDOT higher than six yards in a single game this year. His 79% routes run rate is still encouraging, but as Cleveland continues to operate as a run-heavy team (they’ve had a neutral-script pass rate below 50% in each of the last three games) targets are going to be hard to come by.
  • Trey McBride got one game without Zach Ertz this year and instantly became a star (relatively speaking). On Sunday, McBride set season-high and career-high marks in targets (14), receptions (10), and receiving yards (95) while scoring the second touchdown of his career. McBride’s 86% routes run rate was also a season-high and the first time that it eclipsed 55%. While the Cardinals, like the aforementioned Browns, don’t care to pass the ball a ton, that could change with Kyler Murray‘s return getting seemingly closer (though he won’t play next week). Not to mention, Arizona’s target tree is much narrower as Marquise Brown is the only Cardinals player with a target share over 15%, so the opportunity to continue to earn targets for McBride is wide open.

Quick Hops

  • Chuba Hubbard now seems like the RB1 in Carolina. Coming off of a bye (and missing the previous game due to a shoulder injury), Miles Sanders was demoted to backup duties with just two carries on 12 snaps. Meanwhile, Hubbard saw all three of Carolina’s green-zone touches and tied his season high with five HVTs.
  • James Cook‘s 68% snap share in Week 8 was a season high and just the fifth time he’s been over a 60% rate this season. But, the addition of Leonard Fournette could muddy the waters even more for this backfield.
  • Javonte Williams saw a season-high 30 opportunities in their upset win over the Chiefs after failing to record more than 20 in a game all season. He seems like the clear number one option in that backfield with Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine now splitting backup duties.
  • From Kyle Dvorchak, Week 8 was the first time that a Buffalo wide receiver not named Gabe Davis or Stefon Diggs ran a route on over half of Josh Allen‘s dropbacks as Khalil Shakir ran a route on 72% of dropbacks.
  • Jahan Dotson has suddenly gotten really good again. He’s had 8+ targets in back-to-back games and eclipsed 100 receiving yards for the first time this past week.
  • Michael Mayer has now run a route on over 50% of dropbacks in each of the last three games after failing to do so in his first five games. While he’s still struggling to get targets (averaging just four targets per game in that three-game span), it’s encouraging to see the Raiders are starting to favor him over veteran Austin Hooper.

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