The 3 and Out uses the Weekly Stat Explorer to uncover significant workload changes, league, team, and player-specific trends, and hidden but powerful statistics. Note that metrics and statistics referenced in this article are sourced from the Weekly Stat Explorer. As a result, offensive rankings, for example, are based on tool specific calculations and may not agree with rankings from other sources.
1. Opportunity on the Rise
We’ve talked about Baltimore’s receiving corps multiple times this season, and Willie Snead again enters the conversation. He’s averaged nine targets per game since Week 6, scoring 11 points per game (PPG) compared to an expectation of 14. While one could find it troubling that Snead is underperforming expectations, it’s more important to recognize how significant this opportunity is. The man is garnering nine targets and 11 points every week but is owned in just 21 percent of ESPN leagues.
Additionally, Snead has moved ahead of John Brown as Joe Flacco’s second option in the passing game. As the Ravens air it out more than any other team and rank 10th in weekly passing yards, his ownership percentage should already sit well above the 20 percent mark.
Adam Humphries is less talented than Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Desean Jackson, and O.J. Howard. While that may be the case, he’s managed to earn a significant opportunity and be utilized in a way that’s conducive to scoring fantasy points.
After seeing less than five targets per game through the first five weeks of the season, Humphries’ weekly workload has sky-rocketed to nearly eight targets. In fact, he’s seen the second highest target volume of all Buccanneers, and trails only Evans and Jackson in weighted opportunity rating (WOPR).
Humphries has seen more targets than both Jackson and Godwin four times this season (Weeks 1, 7, 8 and 9). Ryan Fitzpatrick played in three of these four games. While another 29-point two-touchdown performance is likely not in the cards, it sure looks like his average of 11 PPG can be reliably counted on and has the potential to improve by a couple of points.
The Chiefs’ used Spencer Ware sparingly through the first half of the season. However, his usage has been on the rise and if it continues to creep up, Ware will become a viable fantasy option.
With eight rushes and three targets in Week 7, Ware was able to accrue 12 fantasy points. In Week 9, Ware drew five targets, his highest total of the season, and was again able to reach the 12 point mark. His production is capped and his opportunity will need to continue trending up for him to be a trustable option. Still, he has the potential of becoming the rare handcuff running back with standalone value.
2. Opportunity Per Touchdown
Opportunity per touchdown captures the number of rushing attempts or receiving targets, on average, that a player records between touchdowns. It’s an especially important metric in standard leagues, as the percentage of production that touchdowns account for is larger in these leagues. The RB opportunity per touchdown leaderboard is interesting for a number of reasons.
At the top of the list sit James White and Todd Gurley. What White is doing this season is unbelievable. He’s a receiving back that leads his team in total and red-zone targets and is garnering nearly 40 air yards per game on nine looks while also rushing seven times each week. Only a handful of WRs have seen more targets. White’s penchant for the end zone may speak to a trend that will reshape how we view standard leagues. The significant passing volume that White and other backs are seeing is presenting increasing opportunities for touchdowns.
In 2012, only two players, Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy, averaged more than 0.25 receiving touchdowns per game. In 2018, 14 players are on that impressive pace.
This significantly increases the number of RBs that can be considered viable weekly options. RB involvement in the passing will likely continue to trend positively as players like Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey damage defenses through the air.
It’s also impressive to see that players such as Gurley, Alvin Kamara, and Melvin Gordon are finding the end zone so frequently. In addition to having more opportunity to score points than nearly every other player in the league, the trio is scoring at a much faster rate. It’s hard to downplay how impressive the top backs, especially Gurley, have been in 2018. While the WR position has recovered, in comparison to 2017, it won’t be shocking if the narrative surrounding 2018, post-mortem, is one centered around RBs.
3. A Changing of the Guard at Quarterback
Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best passers to ever play quarterback, met last Sunday in what will likely be their last face-off. For a game that promised a historic duel, it played out in lackluster fashion. Brady secured the win but passed for less than 300 yards, throwing just one touchdown pass. Rodgers accumulated just 259 yards while managing to throw two touchdown passes.
Surprisingly, these performances were not out of 2018 character for either signal caller. Brady is averaging 277 yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 18 PPG. Rodgers has outproduced Brady throwing for 318 yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 21 PPG. While these numbers aren’t terrible, they don’t scream GOAT and certainly don’t align with either passers ADP heading into the season. Both were top-three QB selections in the overwhelming majority of leagues.
Perhaps more surprising than the delta between their ADPs and PPG rankings — Brady ranks 16th and Rodgers 10th — is the QBR that each has managed in 2018. Brady’s QBR of 98 ranks just 14th among passers with significant attempts. Rodgers has been slightly better with a QBR of 99, good for a ranking of 14th. Since 2007, Brady has averaged a QBR of 101 and Rodgers a QBR of 104.
This is not to suggest that either has “fallen-off” but it is worth noting in a season when players like Patrick Mahomes, Mitchell Trubisky, and Jared Goff are establishing themselves as reliable week-to-week starters. Rodgers has gone for 25 or more points in just 25 percent of games. Brady has been even worse, doing so in just 11 percent. In contrast, Mahomes is doing so in 78 percent of games, Trubisky 38 percent, and Goff 44 percent.
The season is far from over and things could certainly change but it’s worth keeping in mind as we move into next season. Especially when one considers the slow decline in PPG at the position.