Huge Performances from Out-of-Fashion RBs and T.J. Hockenson Breaks Fantasy Football
Image Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: T.J. Hockenson.

Shawn Siegele breaks down the RB Revival, T.J. Hockenson’s epic performance, and the best and worst of a rain-marred Week 4.

Week 4 continued a spate of wild and crazy fantasy outcomes. After an offseason of unprecedented turnover, each additional week gives us new and surprising information. It was a big week for Dead Zone and dead zone adjacent running backs, with Miles Sanders and Josh Jacobs combining for 178 rushing yards, four rushing scores, and 64 fantasy points. J.K. Dobbins announced his presence with two scores, Clyde Edwards-Helaire continued his Patrick Mahomes-induced fireworks, and Rashaad Penny sliced through the Detroit defense like the whole game was a non-contact drill.

The RotoViz matchup tools had a big week, as well.

Seven RBs scored multiple TDs in Week 4, and five of those outbursts came from the seven best RB matchups. Jamaal Williams was a liability in the passing game once Detroit fell down by multiple scores in the second half, but he showed unusual burst (for him) on the 51-yard TD run. Despite the highlights from D’Andre Swift over the first two weeks, Williams’ nose for the end zone has him at RB6 overall.

Derrick Henry was an RB value play and intriguing option for drafters at the back end of the first round. He got off to a slow start, averaging just 8.3 PPG over the first two and opening the door to those whispers, but roared back with more than 25 PPG in Weeks 3 and 4. He’s even caught nine passes for 103 yards in that span.

On the final episode of Stealing Bananas last week, we talked at length about some of the top picks from the new Passing Game Matchup Rater. Dave Caban’s tool unleashes an absurd amount of matchup and charting information from Sports Info Solutions, but it also boils that down to a simple matchup rating for quick analysis. The top fantasy-relevant non-Buccaneer for Week 4 was D.K. Metcalf, who continued to build chemistry with Geno Smith to the tune of a 7-149-0 line, and the top (non-rain game) TE matchup went to Pat Freiermuth, who posted a strong 7-85-0 performance, good for 19 points in TE Premium.

Using these tools in combination with the insights from the Matchups Analysis tab in the NFL Player Explorer gives you a feel for the game context from a variety of different angles. For example, here are the recent results for Austin Ekeler’s matchup, an opportunity he exploited for 34.9 fantasy points.

T.J. Hockenson Destroys Fantasy

As big as Hockenson’s crazy 8-179-2 line was, it could have been even bigger. Jared Goff sailed a short target over his head when he was wide open in the end zone at the end of the first half, and he was tackled just outside the 1-yard line on a 24-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter. This was the game where Hockenson showed off the full Kelce package, elevating over smaller defenders to pluck balls out of the air, settling down in the soft spots against zone coverage, and ripping off an 81-yard run that underlined his underrated athleticism.

A few times this offseason I had readers and listeners tell me that RotoViz Overtime was the only source pushing Hockenson. That’s the kind of statement that is a) assuredly not true as it’s a big fantasy world out there, and b) a little unnerving.

But Hockenson’s profile made him the easy TE6 in fantasy and the most likely player to jump Darren Waller or George Kittle if either of them faltered. Using the Stealing Signals tool, we can pull up the full list of TEs who earned a 75% route percentage and a 20% target rate on those routes in 2021.

Player Routes Route% YPRR TPRR YPT
George Kittle 352 74.6 2.59 0.27 9.7
Mark Andrews 582 78.3 2.34 0.26 8.9
Darren Waller 361 79.3 1.84 0.26 7.1
Travis Kelce 564 78.3 1.99 0.24 8.4
T.J. Hockenson 364 78.3 1.60 0.23 6.9
Kyle Pitts 489 77.6 2.10 0.22 9.3

I rounded up on route percentage for Kittle, who obviously would have made the cut if not for injuries. Pat Freiermuth and Dallas Goedert were the other two players with elite target per route (TPRR) numbers, and they made good bets for increased opportunity in 2022, but this is the group of six that separated from a usage perspective.

The problem for Hockenson has been efficiency, and this is where it’s helpful to keep the big picture in mind. To be clear, we’re not selling efficiency. Our approach is to strongly emphasize elite talents in drafts, and Blair Andrews has written a host of foundational Wrong Read articles on the importance of chasing full-year efficiency numbers. But this is where a broader context helps.

Hockenson is a 25-year-old former No. 8 overall pick who already posted an overall TE3 finish in his second professional campaign. That last bit overstates his performance (the gap from Kelce and Waller down to third was the size of the Grand Canyon), but the high expectations for Hockenson have led to an overreaction on his perceived talent. In 2021, Hockenson drew targets on 23% of his routes even though he frequently dealt with double and triple teams while playing through shoulder and ankle injuries.

If there’s a talent issue, it’s almost certainly on the other side of the connection. Going into his Week 4 eruption, the adjusted yards per attempt for quarterbacks targeting Hockenson was 2.4 AYA higher for Matthew Stafford than Jared Goff. If Goff is going to play at the level he’s flashed for Detroit in 2022, Hockenson should continue to challenge for TE3 status.

Hockenson alone doesn’t cover all possible issues. Ben and I managed to lose with a previously unbeaten first-place squad despite playing the Lions TE, but when it all hits, you get fantasy moments to remember. Zachary Krueger and I had one such mix in a Never-Too-Early best ball tournament team in the FFPC.

* Many of the lineups in never-too-early contests are fun simply because you’ll never get players at those ADPs in August. Sometimes you even stumble into a random Edwards-Helaire share and get to celebrate the short-term scoring.

Everything Changes Again

I won’t be discussing RB injuries until later in the week, but make sure to check out Bjorn Yang-Vaernet’s Monday edition of Winning the Waiver Wire.

Please subscribe For Full Access to all RotoViz content and tools!

 

What’s included in your subscription??

  • Exclusive Access to RotoViz Study Hall
    • A treasure trove of our most insightful articles that will teach you the metrics that matter, time-tested winning strategies, the approaches that will give you an edge, and teach you how to be an effective fantasy manager.
  • Revolutionary Tools
    • Including the NFL Stat Explorer, Weekly GLSP Projections, NCAA Prospect Box Score Scout, Combine Explorer, Range of Outcomes App, DFS Lineup Optimizer, Best Ball Suite,and many, many, more.
  • Groundbreaking Articles
    • RotoViz is home of the original Zero-RB article and continues to push fantasy gamers forward as the go-to destination for evidence-based analysis and strategic advantages.
  • Weekly Projections
    • Built using RotoViz’s unique GLSP approach.
  • Expert Rankings
  • And a whole lot more…

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.

Travis Kelce Is Finally Slowed But Star WRs and Zero RB Options Give Us Scoring Aplenty

Travis Kelce finally grants a reprieve to the rest of the fantasy universe, as young WRs blow up in Week 13. In a fully free article to celebrate the most fun week of the fantasy season, Shawn Siegele dives into some of the biggest storylines from a scintillating Sunday. Running backs from the first two rounds have performed admirably through the first 12 weeks of…...

Zero RB Playbook: Finally Some Hot Pickups and Why James Cook Won’t Be the Only RB Sleeper Hit in Week 13

Shawn Siegele tells you how to play the hot RB pickups in Week 13 and explains why James Cook won’t be the only sleeper to hit. While Week 12 belonged to Josh Jacobs, plenty of additional moves shook up the fantasy landscape, none bigger than the injury to Travis Etienne. After back-to-back RB2 performances in Weeks 5 and 6, Etienne finally jumped to a full…...

On to the FFPC Playoffs – The Highs, the Lows, and a Shot at $1 Million

Shawn Siegele chronicles the highs and lows of an FFPC Main Event team that had to fight for its playoff life all the way to the very end of Monday Night Football in Week 12. Does it have the upside to win twice and force entry into the race for the $1 million? Injuries to a lot of our favorite young players and priority targets…...

Travis Kelce Is Finally Slowed But Star WRs and Zero RB Options Give Us Scoring Aplenty

Travis Kelce finally grants a reprieve to the rest of the fantasy universe, as young WRs blow up in Week 13. In a fully free article to celebrate the most fun week of the fantasy season, Shawn Siegele dives into some of the biggest storylines from a scintillating Sunday. Running backs from the first two rounds have performed admirably through the first 12 weeks of…...

Zero RB Playbook: Finally Some Hot Pickups and Why James Cook Won’t Be the Only RB Sleeper Hit in Week 13

Shawn Siegele tells you how to play the hot RB pickups in Week 13 and explains why James Cook won’t be the only sleeper to hit. While Week 12 belonged to Josh Jacobs, plenty of additional moves shook up the fantasy landscape, none bigger than the injury to Travis Etienne. After back-to-back RB2 performances in Weeks 5 and 6, Etienne finally jumped to a full…...

On to the FFPC Playoffs – The Highs, the Lows, and a Shot at $1 Million

Shawn Siegele chronicles the highs and lows of an FFPC Main Event team that had to fight for its playoff life all the way to the very end of Monday Night Football in Week 12. Does it have the upside to win twice and force entry into the race for the $1 million? Injuries to a lot of our favorite young players and priority targets…...

The Blitz

Connect
Support

rotovizmain@gmail.com

Sign-up today for our free Premium Email subscription!

Data provided by

© 2021 RotoViz. All rights Reserved.

Welcome Back to RotoViz...

– IF YOU HAVE ISSUES LOGGING IN PLEASE CONTACT ROTOVIZMAIN@GMAIL.COM

– PLEASE NOTE THAT ROTOVIZ USES WORDPRESS FOR ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT. IF RESETTING YOUR PASSWORD YOU MAY BE FOWARDED TO A WORDPRESS PAGE.