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Stealing Signals Week 6: AFC Advanced Stats

Stealing Signals is your Week 6 look at snaps, touches, game flow, efficiency, and everything in between. Also check out the NFC.

We’re almost a third of the way through the season. If I don’t touch on a specific player you’re looking for information about, check the archives of this series.1

New England Patriots

Snap Notes: Chris Hogan – 100% in Week 5 (seasonal average now 93%)

Key Stat: Team – five consecutive 300-yard passers against

The Patriots looked a bit out of sync on Thursday night, settling for four field goals en route to posting just 19 points. It was the first time I can remember genuinely feeling like Tom Brady’s age showed in his play – or at least in his ability to get up after being knocked down – which makes sense for a 40-year-old playing his second NFL game in five days. I’m not assigning much weight to the scoring inefficiency, and I don’t even necessarily think Rob Gronkowski’s absence was the cause.

The defense is still in bad shape, and Jameis Winston missed some throws that could have further exposed that. The Patriots are now 3-2 after winning both this close game and a close game two weeks ago when Brandin Cooks scored the game winner with 23 seconds left. From a real football perspective, the offense needs to continue its torrid pace. That’s great for fantasy.

In the pre-Week 1 post where I highlighted what to watch for early in the season, I had this to say about the Patriots:

“It’s all about Chris Hogan. Wes Welker burst onto the scene with 112 catches for 1,175 yards and 8 TDs in 2007, after being drafted as the WR43 in the 11th roundDion Lewis was undrafted in tons of fantasy leagues in 2015 but posted 17.5 PPR points per game before being lost for the season in Week 9.

An efficiency dynamo, Hogan has this type of upside if the Patriots choose to feature him heavily. It’s not likely, but there’s a precedent. If he has a big Week 1 — specifically in terms of snaps and targets, rather than a spike of efficiency — I’d be looking to buy high.”

We’ve more than arrived at this station. Hogan now leads the team in targets, and he’s played the most wide receiver snaps in each game. Danny Amendola saw an uptick in snaps to 74 percent with Gronkowski out, and Gronkowski played 100 percent of the Week 4 snaps, but Hogan was still on the field for 97 and 100 percent the last two weeks. His role is secure.

He’s caught five of Brady’s 11 TD passes, which might make him a difficult acquisition target in most leagues. It’s also unlikely he finishes the season averaging a TD per game, and the scoring efficiency could be argued as a reason to sell.

On the flip side, he has two traits that can often make guys acquirable – significant target competition and a dramatic change in value. I’m not selling, and if someone is willing to “sell high,” I’m happy to give WR2 value.

Signal: Chris Hogan – snaps, usage

Noise: Four FGs, one TD in Week 5

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Snap Notes: JuJu Smith-Schuster – 82% (season high)

Key Stat: Antonio Brown – 19 targets, 275 Air Yards (both single-game NFL highs for the season)

Facing perhaps the best secondary in the NFL, the Steelers inexplicably went pass heavy. While they wound up losing 30-9, the score was 9-7 Pittsburgh until Ben Roethlisberger threw his first of two third-quarter pick-sixes with 6:38 left in the frame.

Given that, a 43/17 pass/run split in the first three quarters is wild. Le’Veon Bell racked up nine receptions in that span, and five were on designed plays (one RB screen, one shovel pass, and three quick hits with him split out or motioning out to a WR alignment). Two things: 1) the Steelers gameplan was still crazy; 2) shifting some of Bell’s heavy rushing workload to designed passes is a good sign for fantasy owners.

Coming into the game, Bell had 17 receptions over the first four weeks, which accounted for 16 percent of his total touches. In 2016, 22 percent of his total touches were receptions. After this 10-catch, 15-carry game, the 2017 rate is 21 percent.

Martavis Bryant saw eight targets but a season low 58 Air Yards. While he’s carried the fourth or fifth highest snap percentage among Steelers skill position players for a month now, he did play his highest snap share since Week 1 at 78 percent. Part of his early-season struggles may be due to the illness that has landed him on the injury report over the past couple weeks, and he still sports a 0.45 WOPR2 that is easily second on the team behind Antonio Brown.

Signal: Le’Veon Bell – five designed receptions; receiving workload looked a lot more like 2016 than we’ve seen in 2017

Noise: Ben Roethlisberger – (-13.9) paFPOE3 (sixth worst in the NFL for the season); too many weapons to keep that up

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Snap Notes: Leonard Fournette – 72% (+11% over previous season high)

Key Stat: Leonard Fournette – 93.7 total EP4 (fourth most in the NFL for the season)

Back in June, head coach Doug Marrone had “a number in mind for how many passes he wants quarterback Blake Bortles throwing each week. Zero.”

In Week 1 we saw Bortles throw just 21 passes, which is remarkably low volume in the modern NFL, no matter the game script. The Jaguars took it to a new level in Week 5, throwing 14 passes and completing just eight. While they won by 21 points, they didn’t run an offensive snap with more than a four-point lead until the fourth quarter.

Part of this was due to the pick-sixes noted in the Steelers section. Because both came in the third quarter on consecutive drives, the Jaguars offense had a single three-and-out the entire period. That included one pass attempt and a sack, and by the time they took over in the fourth, they were happy to hand the ball off for 18 consecutive offensive plays to close out the game.

Leonard Fournette smashed, and his workload is massive, but note that his 90-yard TD run with 1:47 left dramatically boosted his final rushing line for a week-leading 181 yards on 28 carries. If we look at a stat like Success Rate, his 36 percent was 12th of 15 backs with at least 15 carries in Week 5. For the season, his Success Rate is solid at 47 percent.

He’s still seeing a ton of touches and has scored six of the Jaguars’ 12 offensive TDs, so consider it more of a minor note than a concern.

Signal: Leonard Fournette – massive workload

Noise: Leonard Fournette – elevated Week 5 efficiency due to late 90-yard TD run

 

Miami Dolphins

Snap Notes: Anthony Fasano – 75% (+29% over previous season high); Jakeem Grant – 56% (+46% over previous season high)

Key Stat: Jay Cutler – 12-26, 92 passing yards

Honestly, don’t even read this one or the Titans one following. Their Week 5 game sucked.

Jay Cutler entered the fourth quarter with 33 passing yards. Fans started chanting, “We want Moore” — in reference to backup QB Matt Moore — early in the first half.

The Dolphins got a first-quarter fumble return TD, then did the absolute bare minimum offensively to secure a win over a team led by Matt Cassel. And it worked, but it was awful football to watch.

Jay Ajayi got 25 carries, but the team had essentially no passing offense, which couldn’t have helped his rushing efficiency. He totaled 77 yards.

DeVante Parker was hurt early and missed the rest of the game, but it doesn’t sound too serious. Jakeem Grant and Anthony Fasano picked up the additional playing time, with 2016 third-round pick Leonte Carroo playing just four offensive snaps. A RotoViz favorite, he appears buried.

The telecast’s post-halftime report from the field quoted Adam Gase as saying there was a “zero percent chance” Moore would enter the game, and he didn’t. But this type of offensive output won’t cut it, and going forward Cutler has to be considered a mid-game benching risk.

Overall, I’m not reading too much into this game. There’s something to be said for the Dolphins not being pushed at all by their opponents.

Signal: Jay Cutler – potential mid-game bench risk going forward

Noise: Team – 178 total yards

 

Tennessee Titans

Snap Notes: DeMarco Murray – 83% (+10% over previous season high); Derrick Henry – 19% (season low)

Key Stat: DeMarco Murray – 18 touches (Derrick Henry – 4)

Take everything I just said in that Dolphins’ blurb and imagine the team that actually lost to that. Marcus Mariota can’t return soon enough.

Matt Cassel threw for just 141 yards, and no player had more than 35 receiving yards. DeMarco Murray was the most notable figure, recording his third straight game with a YPC over four. He’s averaged 5.83 per rush over that span.

He also out-snapped Derrick Henry by the largest margin this season and out-touched him substantially. It would take a huge leap of faith to trust Henry any time soon.

This team lost to Jay Cutler at his worst, so they get Jay Cutler effort from my analysis.

Signal: DeMarco Murray – snaps, usage

Noise: Team – 188 total yards

 

Cleveland Browns

Snap Notes: Bryce Treggs – 55% (second most skill position snaps; first game with team)

Key Stat: Duke Johnson – 41-yard TD reception with 1:49 left (64 percent of his weekly output)

A team that came into the year with Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt as the starting WRs – and the prospect of Josh Gordon potentially applying for reinstatement in September – has been led in snaps for two consecutive weeks by Ricardo Louis. They’re led in targets by a RB (Duke Johnson) and played a guy they signed off the Eagles practice squad four days before their Week 5 game the second most snaps of any skill position player (Bryce Treggs).

There’s a discussion to be had about current value, but we covered most of that last week. Johnson scored late again and was at 6.2 PPR points before the 41-yard TD on a screen pass that was ultimately the Browns’ last offensive snap. David Njoku made a ridiculous TD catch…

…but still split snaps and TE targets with Seth DeValve. Louis did a pretty good WR1 impression all things considered and was the only skill position player to play more than 55 percent of the snaps, continuing a trend of rotational offensive playing time that’s not great for fantasy production.

Let’s focus on the future: Coleman — or perhaps Gordon — has fantasy playoff difference-making potential.

The situation in Cleveland has become one where conditions are very favorable for a wide receiver to step in and earn a big share of the targets. Expectations for Britt have to be lower than ever, and the Treggs note details the team’s positional need.

The Browns have what projects right now to be the most favorable fantasy playoff schedule for WRs.

CLE WR buy low

If Coleman truly has the breakout potential Shawn Siegele wrote about in the preseason, we could see an impressive run. He was placed on IR after Week 2, so he’s eligible to return Week 11. We’re still five weeks off from that.

He’d have a couple difficult matchups upon returning, Jacksonville and Cincinnati, but the practical reality is no one would use him right away. The key here is he potentially has a couple games to establish his health and get you comfortable with the idea of starting him.

It’s not clear what will happen with Gordon, though a fantastic short documentary on his situation, in his own words, has circulated this week. If he’s reinstated in the coming weeks, much of the same applies. It’s hard to know what to expect here, but it bears monitoring.

Particularly for fantasy teams with 4-1 or 5-0 records already making postseason plans (or just those with deep benches that have the room), these guys have the playoff schedules where it makes some sense to consider them as stashes.

Signal: Nine skill position players playing 40-plus percent snaps (not good for fantasy, too spread out)

Noise: Duke Johnson – 21.20 total FPOE (8th most in NFL for the year; targets have provided an impressive expected point total, but he’s playing over his head right now)

 

New York Jets

Snap Notes: Elijah McGuire – 68% (season high)

Key Stat: Austin Seferian-Jenkins – two end zone targets on plays that began inside the 5 in three games

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Jets get the luxury of facing off with the best defense to target for fantasy in Week 6, the Patriots. Unfortunately, it’s not clear which WRs are usable.

In the three weeks since Austin Seferian-Jenkins‘ return, he’s led a Jets offense that has spread the ball around pretty evenly.

Jets Targets Weeks 3-5

In Week 5, Seferian-Jenkins led with eight targets, and all of Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Kerley, and Bilal Powell had either four or five targets.

Seferian-Jenkins is establishing himself as a solid TE option, but the rest are hard to trust. If you need someone, it’s Anderson, who leads the team with a 0.61 WOPR over the past three games on account of a massive Air Yards lead. Seferian-Jenkins’ 0.40 WOPR is second on the team over the same span.

As for the running game, Powell left Week 5 early with a calf strain, and Elijah McGuire got his largest snap share of the year. No other RB touched the ball, though WR ArDarius Stewart took two carries.

Early reports have McGuire as the lead back for Week 6 with both Matt Forte and Powell potentially sitting. McGuire wasn’t very productive in Week 5 but would be a strong start if slated for a feature workload.

Signal: Elijah McGuire – all the RB touches with Forte, Powell out

Noise: Elijah McGuire – rushing efficiency in Week 5 (11 for 20, still 5.2 YPC for the season)

 

Cincinnati Bengals

Snap Notes: Joe Mixon – 55% (right in line with normal share since Bill Lazor took over)

Key Stat: A.J. Green – 100.8 receiving yards per game (second in NFL)

After a close win over the Bills at home, the Bengals head on their Week 6 bye with a two-game winning streak but in need of a boost. Probably the most actionable thing to consider for the Bengals is the impending returns of John Ross and Tyler Eifert.

Tyler Boyd went down with a sprained MCL in Week 5, which led to Alex Erickson playing his second most snaps of the year. Ross appears to have a spot open, and it seems likely he was held out this long for precautionary reasons,5 as initial reports didn’t indicate a severe injury.

Ross doesn’t have quite the same beneficial future schedule as the Browns WRs but has the potential to pay off quicker. If you missed out on Will Fuller, you’re probably with me that the time to act on Ross is before the bye.

The Bengals’ rest-of-season schedule looks better for TEs, making Eifert a plus acquisition target as well.

Bengals TE Buy Low

The RB snap shares and touches continued to lean heavily toward Joe Mixon, a three-week trend since Bill Lazor took over coordinating duties. Mixon scored for the first time in Week 5 and saw 15 touches (all rush attempts) to Giovani Bernard’s and Jeremy Hill’s four each.

Signal: Joe Mixon – lead RB usage

Noise: The Bengals have been pretty consistent the past three weeks, so the main noise is their season-to-date, which includes awful Week 1 and 2 performances they seem to have moved past with the coordinator change

 

Buffalo Bills

Snap Notes: Zay Jones – 94% (season high); Nick O’Leary – 84% (season high)

Key Stat: LeSean McCoy – 9 targets, 6 receptions (both led team in Week 5)

The Bills also head on their bye in Week 6, with pass-catchers dropping like flies. Week 5 saw Charles Clay go down with a knee injury that will require surgery and force him to miss multiple weeks. Of course, Jordan Matthews suffered a Week 4 thumb injury that also reportedly required surgery.

Nick O’Leary was the replacement TE and posted a solid 6-5-54 receiving line while playing 84 percent of the snaps. This passing offense features such incredibly low volume that he’s not a priority add outside the deepest leagues where you’re just trying to find a TE who will see snaps.

Zay Jones caught one of six targets, which is somehow not that much worse than his Weeks 1-4 catch rate. Usage wise, he got an end zone target, plus two more targets in the red zone. He’s just a wait-and-see right now, having hauled in just five of 23 targets on the season. The efficiency should be expected to rebound, but it’s also possible he starts losing snaps.

Outside of those two, no other pass-catcher saw more than four targets, save LeSean McCoy, who led the team with nine. McCoy continues to be an excellent buy low candidate and heading into the bye is a good time to seek out that move.

Bills RB Buy Low

McCoy has seen the seventh most total EP in the NFL behind just four RBs6 and two WRs,7 but has been inefficient due to failing to find the end zone thus far in 2017.

Signal: LeSean McCoy – 25 touches, heavy receiving workload; should continue after the bye

Noise: Zay Jones – (-25.7) reFPOE; LeSean McCoy lack of TDs

 

Los Angeles Chargers

Snap Notes: Hunter Henry – 76% (+15% over previous season high)

Key Stat: Hunter Henry – 11 targets over last two weeks

Hunter Henry‘s snaps are trending up, with the 76 percent he saw in Week 5 representing the second straight week he’s set a season high. He’s scored in both games, and is tied with Melvin Gordon over the two-week span for second on the team in targets (11). After not being targeted in either Week 1 or Week 3, it’ll take a little more than this to call everything good with his usage, but it’s an obvious step in the right direction.

The discussion with Gordon is always one of workload and efficiency, and how the former matters more than the latter. He was exceptionally efficient in Week 5, and his receiving and red zone work continue to give him massive upside.

Keenan Allen was uncharacteristically inefficient on 12 targets, but the volume is still there, and ESPN’s Mike Clay chalked the struggles up to cornerback matchups:

An update on the Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin usage: Williams saw just two targets for a total of 1 Air Yard, while Benjamin saw just three for 34 Air Yards and got open deep for what should have been a TD. Philip Rivers just overthrew him.

Austin Ekeler saw six targets and four rush attempts with Branden Oliver out, but played just 13 snaps. Oliver was ruled out on Friday and isn’t a lock to be ready for Week 6, but it’s hard to see Ekeler as rosterable outside deep leagues. He did have an impressive TD back in Week 4.

Signal: Hunter Henry – increasing snaps, usage

Noise: Austin Ekeler – 10 opportunities but just 13 snaps

 

Indianapolis Colts

Snap Notes: Kamar Aiken (88%) still way ahead of Donte Moncrief (70%)

Key Stat: Marlon Mack – 9-91-1 rushing line

I keep talking about Andrew Luck, and I keep underestimating his potential return.

“They get San Francisco at home in Week 5 and then go to Tennessee on Monday night in Week 6 for their first division game of the season. We’ll see if the extra day next week makes that game a possibility, but if his practicing indicates he’s within a few weeks of returning, the fact that the Colts are only a game back right now with all their divisional games to play is certainly a good sign relative to the fear he’d miss the whole year.”

He’s already ruled out for Week 6, but the positive is the Colts won and got to 2-3. With the Titans and Texans losing, the Jaguars have sole possession of first place at 3-2 and will likely stay in decent position for the next couple weeks. This probably goes without saying, but I keep updating this discussion because the ramifications for the whole offense are massive.

Other than T.Y. Hilton still being awesome, the big story in the Colts’ Week 5 win was Marlon Mack. Mack was subpar in Weeks 1 and 2, missed Weeks 3 and 4, and then returned this week to look like a certified difference-maker.

He had an impressive nine-yard sprint on the first drive but was stuffed on his other two first-half carries. In the third quarter, he took back-to-back carries for 11 and 22 yards, the latter of which was a TD. He added a 16-yard run in the fourth before his biggest play of the day, a 35-yard overtime run that set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal.

On the day, Mack finished with a 9-91-1 rushing line, plus a two-yard catch on his only target. Frank Gore had 14 carries and four targets, while Robert Turbin also stayed involved with four rushes and two targets.

Gore saw 51 percent of the snaps, which is normal for him, and Turbin’s 28 percent exceeded Mack’s 22. That’s not promising for Mack and is cause to pump the brakes a bit. He’s not startable just yet, but he’s definitely worth a stash, and the hope is they start to utilize him more going forward.

Signal: Kamar Aiken – significantly more snaps, targets than Donte Moncrief (seven to three on targets)

Noise: Marlon Mack – efficiency, which was through the roof (needs more playing time to be viable, which is a fair bet to make)

 

Baltimore Ravens

Snap Notes: Javorius Allen – 71% (season high)

Key Stat: Mike Wallace – 3 targets, 115 Air Yards, 38.3 aDOT, 3 receptions, 133 receiving yards

For the first time in 2017, the Ravens ran a second-half play with the score inside double digits. It was one drive. And they were also up double digits for almost the entire first half before the Raiders made it mildly interesting in the third. We honestly cannot get anything approaching decent game script from this team.

Last week, I had this to say about the backs:

“The biggest trend we’re seeing here is Alex Collins, who repeated his Week 3 rushing line (9-82) again in Week 4. Last week, six of his carries came in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss, and the other backs got decent run.8 This week, he started, ran on the first two plays of the game, and his carries were split pretty evenly by quarter, with five coming in the first half and four in the second. While both Terrance West and Javorius Allen got carries on the first drive, they combined for just six carries on the day.

Over the past two weeks, there’s no question who has been the most effective RB. I’ve steadfastly defended West, but even I can admit it would be coaching malpractice if they didn’t give Collins more touches going forward.

But while I can’t make a case for holding West right now, I’m also sort of “meh” on Collins. He hasn’t caught a pass, is in a committee, and is still returning kicks and playing on the punt team.9 His 8.2 YPC is exciting, but hardly sustainable on a 25-carry sample. Oh, and he lost a fumble, which we know can drive coaches to be irrational.”

In Week 6, West started and got the first two carries. What.

I’ve been yelling into the wind about the team liking West and wanting him to be the starter, and even I don’t get it. But then he got hurt after just three snaps, and didn’t return. Enter Collins, right?

Not so fast.

The Ravens, in plus game script, gave Allen 21 carries, and he did what Javorius Allen does, posting a 3.5 YPC. Collins saw 12 carries and posted 4.6.

Ravens RB Wk 5

The conclusion to draw here is John Harbaugh really hates fumbles. Or maybe it’s that I should stop trying to figure out Ravens RBs. I’m the guy who said to draft Justin Forsett last year, after all.

Yeah, this is not my cup of tea.10

But seriously, Allen is the guy to own. I’m sure of it this time.

Except, also, West isn’t expected to miss extended time.

Come to think of it, maybe Collins not fumbling while again being the most effective rusher will help his cause? He definitely deserves the snaps, right?

Damnit.

Mike Wallace caught three deep targets, which was all the volume he saw on the day with the Ravens throwing just 26 passes. Charlie Kleinheksel noted his Air Yards have been rising and he has plus matchups on the way, and we previously covered how the early game scripts basically took him out of games in the first three weeks. He’s definitely still worth rostering.

Signal: Mike Wallace – 0.36 MS Air

Noise: Mike Wallace – 0.14 target share (team has so rarely needed his skill set due to game script)

 

Oakland Raiders

Snap Notes: Jalen Richard – 45% (season high; DeAndre Washington did not play)

Key Stat: Team – 54.6 offensive plays per game (last in NFL by 2.8 per game)

I’ve covered a lot of Amari Cooper so far this year, so I’m sure for some they don’t want to hear anymore. But I do feel obligated to update my stance for those interested, as Cooper has been so bad as to make himself the talk of the FF community this week.

I actually went back and watched all of Cooper’s targets so far this year (twice), mostly because I’ve stared at his stats enough to know they aren’t changing.11 Here are the takeaways from my untrained eye:

  1. He isn’t creating a lot of separation.
  2. In part because of 1., but also just because of variance in throwaways going nearest to him, a really high percentage of the “targets” he’s seen aren’t good targets.
  3. I didn’t see seven “drops,” as Jim Nantz said on the broadcast in the Denver game, when he clearly dropped a pass.

To the point about drops, that number seems to come from PFF, and there’s important context that needs to be added about their process. PFF charts targets, then they chart “catchable” targets, and then they call the difference between catchable targets and actual catches, “drops.”

That’s fine as far as I’m concerned, as everything needs classification, but I’m also of the opinion that there’s a material difference between failing to catch a catchable target and dropping a pass. (To be clear, Cooper has definitely flat dropped three or four easy ones, and seems to struggle with high throws specifically, which he’s seen a lot of.)

Those semantics don’t really matter because drops don’t actually hinder fantasy scoring. The linked post is called “Will Fuller Drops the Ball and I Don’t Care,” because he was once a poster boy for drops, as was Mike Evans. Clear drops obviously leave fantasy points on the table, but guys like these have proven being productive despite them is easier than is suggested when so much weight is given to the stat.

Points 1 and 2 are bigger problems if they mean Cooper is a fundamentally different player for some reason. We had a discussion in RotoViz Slack on Tuesday, and Jeremy Marin shared this screenshot from the NFL’s NextGen Stats database.

Amari Cooper

In the interest of disclosure, I’d watched and shared my thoughts that Cooper wasn’t getting enough easy targets before seeing this. So the data backs up what I think is pretty clear if you watch the plays, rather than a potential confirmation bias situation.

Hasan Rahim later noted Cooper has been on every Wednesday injury report with a knee issue, per Rotoworld, but has been upgraded to full for every Thursday practice. He also missed a lot of practice time in August. He might not be fully healthy.

There’s also the report he put on about seven pounds in the offseason.

So maybe something has changed with Cooper. I can’t say it’s promising he’s not creating separation, when his calling card is, I think, generally believed to be winning with the agility and speed that showed up in combine testing.

But there’s also the possibility it’s just a bad run. Cooper was okay statistically in Week 1, though that’s where the drops discussion started. In Week 2, he caught four of five passes for 33 yards while Michael Crabtree posted a three-TD game. Crabtree’s third TD in that game came one play after Cooper drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone, still made the catch, and got his feet down about as quick as you could hope for, but just caught the line.

Week 3 saw the Raiders melt down across the board, failing to get anything going while running just 51 offensive snaps and generating 128 total yards. Week 4 was a matchup with the Broncos secondary that Derek Carr left early due to injury, and Week 5 had E.J. Manuel under center and just 26 pass attempts. Crabtree still posted a strong 8-6-82-1 line in Week 5.

So is he a buy or a sell while he still has value? I’ve been in his corner from the jump, but being as objective as I can, I think there are enough mitigating factors here that you have to believe this is going to turn around in the near term. It’s too extreme and bizarre of a slump, and the team factors aren’t doing him any favors. He’s dead last among WRs in metrics we should expect to regress. Hopefully that starts with a plus matchup against the Chargers in Week 6.

Signal: Michael Crabtree – 64 percent of snaps showed he’s healthy, 8-6-82-1 line showed he’s still really good

Noise: Team – 874-play pace (no NFL team has run fewer than 900 offensive plays since 2006)

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Snap Notes: Tyreek Hill – 60% (-14% against previous season low)

Key Stat: Kareem Hunt – 32 touches

The Chiefs are 5-0 and rolling. You know they’re rolling because Charcandrick West and De’Anthony Thomas combined for three receiving TDs. Andy Reid is living his best life.

There’s a note to be made about Tyreek Hill playing a substantially smaller snap share than he had all year, despite Travis Kelce leaving the game early. But Chris Conley led the WRs in snaps, as he has nearly all season, and ruptured his Achilles recovering an onside kick late in the game. Looking at snap shares, Demarcus Robinson is likely the next WR up on the outside and best bet to take over some of Conley’s role. Hill should probably be expected to jump back up in snap share, as well.

Kelce posted an impressive line despite playing just 51 percent of the snaps. He’s been over 90 percent in every game this year and was on his way to a monster night. Albert Wilson also left the game with a leg injury, so the injury report will be important to monitor in advance of their home game with Pittsburgh.

Oh, and Kareem Hunt has slowed down his torrid pace of splash plays, but has received 50 carries and eight targets over the past two weeks instead. He continues to be an RB1 lock, and there’s nothing to sweat with the lack of TDs the past two weeks.

Signal: Kareem Hunt – monster workload

Noise: Charcandrick West and De’Anthony Thomas – three combined TDs on four combined touches

 

Houston Texans

Snap Notes: Lamar Miller – 88% (season high)

Key Stat: Will Fuller – 23.9 reFPOE (fourth most in the NFL for the season)

Two things can be true:

  1. Deshaun Watson is the real deal.
  2. Deshaun Watson is unlikely to keep up this pace.

For example, Sunday night’s game against Kansas City featured a furious comeback attempt that was probably always going to fall short. His splits comparing the first three quarters to the fourth are pretty telling.

Deshaun Watson Wk 5 Q1-3

Deshaun Watson Wk 5 Q4There’s no way to slice that other than to say that’s a helluva lot of garbage time production. He definitely played well, but there was an insane amount of plus fantasy variance here. Deep shots to DeAndre Hopkins and Stephen Anderson were both completed. The Chiefs had a three-minute TD drive and a punt return TD that both quickly gave the ball back to the Texans. Watson’s fifth TD came on a meaningless final play in the game.12

I still don’t think we throw out the baby with the bathwater here. Watson’s rushing boosts his floor, and he has displayed the ability to put up big numbers early in a young career. I don’t expect him to be a top-five QB going forward, but I think he has low-end QB1 upside.

Also, Will Fuller is smashing, but as good as he is — and he was also featured on Shawn Siegele’s short list of WR breakouts for 2017 — he’s playing way over his head right now efficiency-wise, with 23.9 reFPOE on an workload of 15.3 reEP.

Signal: Lamar Miller – clear No. 1

Noise: Deshaun Watson – first three quarters and fourth quarter splits; Will Fuller’s efficiency

 

Denver Broncos

The Broncos are coming off a bye, but their writeup in last week’s article included commentary on Devontae Booker’s return eating into Jamaal Charles‘ snaps more than C.J. Anderson’s.

 

Most Notable Signals

Hunter Henry increasing snaps, usage; Kamar Aiken the Colts’ WR2 over Donte Moncrief; Cleveland’s unconcentrated skill position snap shares; LeSean McCoy’s workload (buy low); Lamar Miller – clear No. 1

Loudest Noise

Oakland’s offensive pace; Duke Johnson’s TD scoring efficiency; Zay Jones’ efficiency; LeSean McCoy’s lack of TDs; Deshaun Watson’s first three quarters and fourth quarter splits; Will Fuller’s efficiency

  1. I touch on a large number of players every week. If I left a player out, his Week 5 results didn’t significantly alter my previous analysis.  (back)
  2. Weighted Opportunity Rating  (back)
  3. Passing Fantasy Points Over Expectation  (back)
  4. Expected Points, based on the historical fantasy production of rushes and targets for that line of scrimmage.  (back)
  5. i.e. teams often hold injured players out through the bye for extra rest rather than bring them back right before it  (back)
  6. Gurley, Bell, Fournette, Hyde  (back)
  7. Brown, Hopkins  (back)
  8. 25 team carries.  (back)
  9. He was flagged for holding on a punt return in Week 4.  (back)
  10. For the record, Ian and I have chatted about this before, and I got a kick out of his tweet.  (back)
  11. If you’re wondering, he’s still last in the NFL in reFPOE.  (back)
  12. And then he ran for the two-point conversion on top of it.  (back)

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