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Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: De’Von Achane, Travis Etienne, Jonathan Mingo (Week 14)

Fantasy Football Trends & Takeaways: De’Von Achane, Travis Etienne, Jonathan Mingo (Week 14)

Hello and welcome to the Week 14 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

  • In seasons past, a 39-point game total would seem grossly low for a game with no weather concerns or backup quarterback implications. But in 2023, it’s exactly what we’re getting when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit their division rival Atlanta Falcons. These teams are among some of the slowest in the league when you dig deeper into the data. Relative to expectation, the Buccaneers rank in the bottom ten, and they’re getting slower and slower with each passing week. Additionally, Tampa Bay snaps the ball with less than 10 seconds on the game clock at a 69% rate, the 8th-highest rate in the league. A couple of weeks ago I noted the splits in pace between Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder, and that trend has persisted as Ridder continues to be the quarterback. The other problem with Atlanta is that they are the league’s most run-heavy team by a long shot. Atlanta’s -10.2% PROE and 45.4% neutral-script pass rate are both league-low numbers this season, but recently it’s become more extreme with a -18% PROE and 38.9% neutral-script pass rate in the last four weeks. Atlanta will continue to run the ball, which will keep the clock moving throughout this game. Finally, neither team has used a no-huddle rate in neutral scripts more than 6% of the time since Week 9. These teams want to take their time and move at their own speed.
    • Action: bet under 39 points

Team Pass Rates

  • In the past two weeks, the Indianapolis Colts have returned two of their highest PROE marks of the season at 6.2% and 8.3%. But, this is likely a function of the two teams that they’ve faced in the Buccaneers and Titans, who have the 26th and 30th ranked defenses in terms of passing EPA per play allowed, respectively. These teams have been known to be pass-funnel defenses, but for the rest of this season the Colts face only one team (Pittsburgh is ranked 7th) that is in the top half of the league in passing EPA per play allowed. Michael Pittman has solidified himself as Indy’s WR1 with five straight games with a target share of at least 30%. Behind him, though, more opportunities have opened up for rookie Josh Downs and, now, Alec Pierce. Downs’ production has not fully matched his usage, unfortunately, as he’s returned four straight single-digit Half-PPR performances after four straight double-digit performances (though some of that has been due to the injury he suffered in Week 9). Pierce, on the other hand, just had his best game of the season with three catches for 100 yards and a score. Pierce’s 15.4-yard aDOT leads the team by a long shot, so it was only a matter of time before he had a big game. I’m still inclined to buy these guys despite the inconsistency because I think the pass volume will continue to be there, it’ll just be tough to trust them as more than a boom-or-bust flex option.

Running Back Usage

  • This past Sunday was De’Von Achane‘s first full game back after his stint on IR (he returned in Week 11 but his day was cut short by another injury). While his box score made fantasy managers happy (20 touches 103 total yards and two touchdowns), there’s some slight cause for concern about when those touches came. It was a tale of two halves for Achane as he had just a 41% snap share and four total opportunities in the first half with a 73% snap share and 16 opportunities in the second half when the game was in control for the Dolphins. Compare that to Raheem Mostert who played just four second-half snaps and we see that Mostert is still clearly the RB1 in this offense. I would say this is a case of Miami ramping up Achane’s work, but if that were the case then he wouldn’t have seen as much second-half work and that would have been filtered to Jeff Wilson who saw just six snaps, all in the fourth quarter. You’re still going to start Achane, especially with Miami as heavy favorites against their next two opponents, but they face a very difficult fantasy playoff schedule that could cause some concern if the usage doesn’t change before then.
  • Jacksonville suffered two losses on Monday night, one to the Cincinnati Bengals and one to the injury gods. But what has me concerned for now is Travis Etienne‘s usage as we’ve seen some movement in his usage since Jacksonville’s bye. Prior to the bye, Etienne was averaging 23.3 opportunities for an 83% running back touch share on an 81% snap share. His snap share hadn’t dipped below 70% in any of the eight games he’s played, but now he’s had four straight games without a snap share above 65% and his touch share has been reduced to 63% since their Week 9 bye. D’Ernest Johnson has now emerged as Etienne’s primary handcuff with a 31% snap share and 22% rush share over the last four weeks. Fortunately for Etienne, it seems as though the low-value rushing work is all that Johnson is pilfering because his target share and HVT usage have both held steady.
  • On the other side of the Monday night game, the Cincinnati Bengals also gave us a slight shift in their backfield usage. Joe Mixon‘s usage stayed relatively the same, it’s what happened behind him on the depth chart that caught my attention. Rookie running back Chase Brown got his first snaps since going on injured reserve in late October. He played on 11 snaps this week, more than double the five snaps that Trayveon Williams got. That’s just a 15% share, but the eye-opening part was that he was given a carry on nine of his 11 snaps in the game. He was also extremely efficient, running for 61 yards (6.8 yards per carry average). Just last week, Zac Taylor said that he wanted to get Brown more involved on offense, and we saw that manifest on Monday night. Since we’re at the point where handcuffs become ever more important, Brown is on my radar as a priority add.

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Wide Receiver Usage

  • We may finally be seeing the end of the Adam Thielen sun run this season as he’s recorded just four receptions on nine targets for 27 yards in his last two games combined. This has coincided with the recent emergence of rookie Jonathan Mingo, whose consistent route-running is now being met with targets and more consistent production. Mingo has seen at least six targets in each of the last four games, earning a season-high 10 targets this past Sunday. It was the first time since Week 3 that Mingo had a targets per route run rate over 20% (it was a season-high 31%) and his target share over the last four weeks is just 1% behind Thielen at 26%. Unfortunately, Mingo has yet to find pay dirt this season, but when he does the payoff will be that much sweeter.
  • The Washington Commanders continue to be passing fanatics, but that volume hasn’t translated to fantasy football success for their wide receivers. Since Week 9, there have been just three recorded instances of a Commanders wide receiver recording double-digit Half-PPR points (Jahan Dotson in Week 9, Dyami Brown in Week 10, and Curtis Samuel in Week 12). You’ll notice that star receiver Terry McLaurin isn’t on this list. Hell, he hasn’t even topped 15 Half-PPR points in a single game this season! All season long, Washington has been one of the least-concentrated passing attacks in the league. So concentrated that Washington doesn’t have a single player in the top 20 in targets per game (McLaurin’s 7.7 per game is ranked 24th). Hopefully, as Washington goes into its bye they realize that targeting their best players is a smart move.
    • Action: sell Washington wide receivers as anything more than a flex option
  • New Orleans’ wide receiver room has been through a lot of turbulence lately. From putting Michael Thomas on injured reserve to Rashid Shaheed suffering a thigh injury, the only consistent member has been Chris Olave (who got a concussion but only missed the back half of Week 12’s game). With both Shaheed and Thomas out in Week 13, the Saints resorted to a committee approach to fill the WR2 and WR3 roles. Rookie AT Perry and Lynn Bowden ran routes on 58% and 61% of the team’s dropbacks, respectively. while Keith Kirkwood and Marquez Callaway were both below 25%. But, instead of funneling targets to them, the combination of Derek Carr and Jameis Winston sent 55% of their attempts to running backs and tight ends. With the Saints’ pass rates also plummeting lately (I’m guessing largely due to the aforementioned injuries), Olave is the only Saints pass catcher I want to put in my lineups.
    • Action: sell all Saints wide receivers not named Chris Olave

Tight End Usage

  • This past week, Chigoziem Okonkwo had his best fantasy performance of the season with a whopping 7.9 Half PPR fantasy points. This is thanks to a season-high 62 receiving yards on six targets. But I’m here you not to go chasing waterfalls, or Okonkwo’s performance, either. Okonkwo has run a route on more than 75% of the team’s dropbacks just twice this season and Tennessee continues to operate a run-heavy offensive approach with the fifth-lowest neutral-script pass rate this season. Production at tight end is always sparse, but I know you can find better options with a higher likelihood of falling into the end zone than Okonkwo.

Quick Hops

  • Zack Moss had a disappointing fantasy performance with just 6.7 Half PPR points, but his workload remains as strong as ever. He was up to a whopping 23 total opportunities and a season-high nine HVTs. He should continue to be in your starting lineup as long as Jonathan Taylor is out.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson has started to wiggle his way into a slightly larger role with 15 total opportunities over the past two weeks combined. This has come at the expense of Tyler Allgeier who has been above 10 opportunities just once since Week 8 (had gone over that in five of seven games previously). With how much Atlanta feeds their running backs as a whole, both Allgeier and Patterson should be rostered through the fantasy playoffs.
  • Even with Tank Dell missing a large portion of Sunday’s game, Robert Woods ran a route on a season-low 44% of the team’s dropbacks. Instead, John Metchie ran a route on 37% of Houston’s dropbacks (his second-highest of the year). I would also expect Noah Brown to become CJ Stroud’s primary deep threat to replace Dell (though he can never truly be replaced).
  • Mike Evans recorded a 40% targets per route run rate for the second time this season on Sunday. While you already know he’s a starter, I just want to take a second to recognize him for passing 1,000 receiving yards for the 10th straight season this past week. He’s a Hall of Famer in my books.

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