- Zero RB/Bellcow Report
It’s interesting how a year ago this talking point could be an article on its own for you guys while so far in 2018 the passing numbers are so high it’s almost as if we have forgotten about the impact of RBs. We start at the top currently five RBs average over 20 fantasy points per game ( Kamara, Gurley, Barkley, Gordon, and Zeke). Through the first quarter of the season zero Rb truthers have to be satisfied with four RBs in the top 12 classified as backup or complimentary RBs ( Conner, James White, Yeldon, and Ekeler). The Chargers in one of the most surprising stats through four weeks have two RBs in the top 12 overall. Austin Ekeler sits as the RB12 on only forty-one total touches while Gordon who ranks as the RB5 with only two fewer targets than Keenan Allen. Gordon is averaging over eight targets per game compared to the five he averaged in 2017. While injuries and ineffective run offenses have affected this next stat is still shocking to me. Derrick Henry, LeSean McCoy, Peyton Barber, Devonta Freeman, and Leonard Fournette all rank outside the top 50 RBs. Now while every backup or RB that is splitting carries with these players is ranked in the top 50 this likely changes when they are healthy. Henry, McCoy, and Barber are the outliers they should do more with the opportunities they have been given. An even crazier stat is Aaron Jones who just played his first game of the season in week four now has more FP than Henry, McCoy, and Barber. Major concerns with these RBs going forward there’s an excuse to be made for McCoy and Henry playing in bad offenses although not a free pass there’s some hope left. Peyton Barber is just bad at football there’s no debating that he has fifty carries in the first four weeks and two total receptions while averaging three yards per carry with zero touchdowns. This might say more about Ronald Jones being terrible than Barber being awful or maybe just a stubborn offensive coaching staff in Tampa Bay. Ronald Jones should see more playing time going forward with Jameis Winston taking back control of the offense in week six after the bye. Alright, some exciting news, while he is only the RB5 Zeke Elliott, is the only player in the NFL with more than 50% of his team’s total touches. If this continues I see no way that Zeke doesn’t find a way to finish as the overall RB1 at worst top three by the end of the season. Although we often complain about the usage of Patriots RBs the 2018 season seems to be the clearest picture we’ve had as dynasty owners in years of this offense. Now obviously the injuries to Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead have helped tremendously we assess this situation as it is. Sony Michel had his breakout game in week four with 25 carries 112 yards and a touchdown. Although he seemed to be the feature back which we had hoped he only ran three routes while James White ran twenty-nine routes on forty total snaps. It’s clear Michel will be featured in the run game and goal line while White takes a majority of the pass game work. White remains a hero for the zero RB crowd sitting at RB7 heading into week five. As my readers are aware this could go on for another five hundred words or so but I’m actually going to cover some RBBC backfields so I won’t overload you with RB content. We move on for now.
- The Return
So, I thought this was relevant because it’s rare that we have two dominant fantasy producers suspended and returning the same week. In week five both Mark Ingram and Julian Edelman return to their teams following a four-game suspension for PED use. We start with Julian Edelman who returns at the perfect time for a struggling New England offense by their standards. Tom Brady currently sits as the QB19 while the best Patriots WR ranks as WR38 and the best TE in the game Rob Gronkowski sits as the TE11. These numbers seem like a nightmare for those who are heavily invested in this New England offense. Through week four in 2017 Gronk was the TE1 while two Patriots WRs were ranked in the top five ( Hogan, Cooks). This Patriots offense ranks 15th in PPG and 22nd in pass yards per game this seems almost instantly to change with the return of one of the games best slot WR Julian Edelman as well as the trade for Josh Gordon. Without looking up the exact numbers I believe Gronk is being doubled on an absurd number of his routes run that changes this week. There’s no forgetting the damage Edelman has done to opposing defenses since the 2013 season. Edelman has grabbed 356 receptions for 3,856 yards and 20 touchdowns in four seasons with Tom Brady. The addition of Edelman and Gordon being healthy instantly increase Brady’s value while it should free up Gronk to rise to the top of the TE ranks where he has finished every year that he stays healthy. Huge boost to the Patriots offense for dynasty owners the buy low window likely closes on all their playmakers after Thursday night against the Colts. Now we shift to the other end of the earth for NFL offensive production the New Orleans Saints. The Saints rank 3rd in the NFL in PPG and rank 4th in yards per game get back RB Mark Ingram. Now while the Saints are still moving the ball and scoring points at will the one area they do struggle in is running the ball. While they only rank 18th this season in rush yards per game that’s a far fall from 5th in 2017. Mark Ingram should change this upon his return in the past two seasons Ingram has carried the ball 435 times for 2,167 yards and 18 touchdowns. Ingram also contributes to the passing game with 104 catches, 735 yards and 4 touchdowns in that time. Alvin Kamara is a cheat code in fantasy football these days and while Ingram is likely to cut into his touches it shouldn’t change much. Kamara has six touchdowns in four games and even with Ingram healthy late last season he dominated the red zone snaps for the Saints. Ingram takes control of the early down runs that Kamara isn’t very effective on and even with Ingram back I don’t see Kamara falling from the RB1 spot for quite some time. It’s likely the Saints passing game takes a step back from the pace they are on and I can easily see Ingram climbing the ranks and finishing as a top 12 RB by seasons end depending on his ability to score touchdowns. Eighteen touchdowns on the ground the last two years has cemented his dynasty value as a must-start in this offense.
- NFL Offenses – The Breakdown
When you watch every game on Sunday why not have a take on NFL offenses right? I find these stats all over Twitter and there are too many accounts to credit for them plus I like to put my own spin on them but I do appreciate those who tweet out this information to make it easier for us dynasty and stat nerds. The pace of NFL offenses is on a crazy pace while this is likely to slow down with weather concerns as the winter hits for the outdoor teams it’s still mind-blowing. Twenty-five NFL teams are on pace to run almost 1,000 plays this season, of the thirty-two teams in the NFL only the Dolphins and Cardinals are on pace to not run at least 900 plays. The simple philosophy here more plays equal more chances for fantasy points. This is the part where as a dynasty owner you are smiling from ear to ear. What’s the biggest equalizer in fantasy football? Touchdowns and here’s more good news in 2018 touchdowns are up 18% from 2017, again more touchdowns equals way more fantasy points for our dynasty teams. I’ve touched on the ridiculous pace of NFL QBs this year and that continues here. The top twelve QBs in dynasty right now are all averaging over 20 FP per game at this time last year only four of the top twelve averaged over 20 FPPG and more shockingly none of those four are in the top twelve this season. We currently have seven QBs on pace to throw for 40+ touchdowns since 2012 there hasn’t been more than one QB to do this in any of those seasons. While the league seems heavily favored to the passing game I found some target numbers I’ll leave you with before we keep it moving on here. The league average for teams targeting WRs is roughly 56% there are currently four teams targeting WRs 70% of the time or more (Bucs, Texans, Rams, and Dolphins). NFL league average for targeting RBs is 24% through the first quarter of the season seven teams target RBs over 30% of the time (Cardinals, Chargers, Panthers, Lions, Patriots, Saints and Redskins). No coincidence that of those seven teams six RBs are currently RB1’s in full PPR. Finally, we finish up with TEs the league average is 20% while currently, eight teams target TEs over 25% of throws (Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Raiders, Chiefs,49ers, and Redskins). The Eagles lead the NFL with a shocking 41% of targets going to TEs or Zach Ertz. No surprise here Ertz is one of only three players with 10+ targets in every game joining Nuk Hopkins and Adam Thielen.
- Cleaning up RBBC
I know you’re sick of reading about RBs but It’s what’s on my mind. I apologize for this being so long well in advance. I looked into five RBBC backfields and found a few stats that can help dynasty players hopefully going forward. RBBC is beyond aggravating for the most part for a dynasty player but for those players who are part of the zero RB movement, it’s right up your alley. First up is the 49ers with Matt Breida and Alfred Morris splitting the workload when Jerick McKinnon went down in the preseason this backfield has been frustrating. Matt Breida while never seeing more than eleven carries in any of the first four games ranks third in the NFL in rushing. Alfred Morris has seen his snap shares go from 51.5% in week one all the way down to 23.3% in week four as they have decreased every week. The injury to Jimmy Garoppolo seems to point to an increased value for Breida as C.J Beathard has targeted RBs on 25% of his dropbacks going back to last season. Brieda should see a spike in the passing game he has at least three receptions in all but one game this season I bet on those numbers increasing. Next up is the mess that is the Seattle Seahawks and mess is the understatement of the year. We all knew Rashaad Penny pick was bad in the NFL draft and the injury to Chris Carson at the end of week three going into week four proved that. Mike Davis took over as the feature back and had 124 yards on 25 touches with two touchdowns. This rotation of RBs is just a nightmare for dynasty owners and a slap in the face for those who spent the 1.02 or 1.03 on Penny in rookie drafts. Penny has 92 rushing yards through four weeks and 49 of those came last week in a game the Seahawks just continued to run the ball. The only thing I can say for certain going forward is it seems Mike Davis or Carson will be the goalline back. This is truly a, ride the hot hand committee, with an offensive coordinator who only wants to run the ball. There’s value here but where it is honestly is anyone’s guess. Wrapping up the NFC we dive into the Packers with the trio of Jones, Williams, and Montgomery. Aaron Jones return in week four has proven he is the best runner in this backfield even Aaron Rodgers admitted that prior to week four regardless of Mike McCarthy’s RBBC approach. Going back to last season Jones is averaging over five YPC on 43% of his runs which is the best in the NFL during that time. Williams averaging 3.4 YPC this season as the GB top back in the first three weeks. Ty Montgomery is a true third down back and has changed many games with how dynamic he is. It’s far to think Montgomery could slide back to a WR role with all the injuries the Packers are facing at WR right now. Jones is the far superior back in this offense and the back to own in Green Bay but it’s fair to say Williams will see his share of carries until Jones proves he can handle a larger workload. We shift to the AFC for two teams first being the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are a team I warned dynasty owners about prior to the season. The Kenyan Drake hype became too much for me and with the addition of Frank Gore and drafting Kalen Ballage it confirmed my concerns that Drake had no easy path to dominating that backfield. Drake currently with forty-three touches in the Dolphins sits as the RB35 while Gore has been cutting into his carries the past two weeks sits as the RB46. Gore is averaging a higher YPC and has outrushed Drake 139 to 107 this season. More concerning is Drake has a total of eight carries for six yards in the last two games. This is a true guessing game in South Beach it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Kalen Ballage starts getting worked in and takes some early down work. Drake may be the safest pick long term because of his upside in the passing game, unfortunately, I feel that’s who he is on the NFL level. His ADP preseason didn’t tell us that though which likely makes you a disappointed owner if you drafted or acquired him this offseason. Lastly, I take a look at the Cleveland Browns. This is one of the more difficult offenses to figure out because of all the RBBC in the NFL this to me is the most talented. Carlos Hyde is leading the way with over twenty carries in every game and scoring at least one touchdown in all four games. Nick Chubb who I complained about a few weeks back is still not seeing many snaps but boy is he making the most out of what he is given. Chubb has played an absurdly low fifteen snaps in four games but has ten carries and exploded in a favorable week four matchup with the Raiders taking three attempts for 105 yards and two touchdowns. I don’t really see how Todd Haley doesn’t incorporate him more going forward especially with Carlos Hyde averaging a mediocre 3.4 YPC. Duke Johnson who has been the forgotten man to start the season saw some passing game work against the Raiders with four of his nine total catches on the year coming in that game. Duke Johnson has 188 receptions in his first three years with the Browns with Baker Mayfield taking over this offense he should see more pass game targets going forward. Duke is nowhere near as reliable as last season it’s still Carlos Hyde as the low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 every week. I look for Chubb to cut into his workload quite a bit especially late in the season as Hyde is a prime cut candidate for the Browns at the end of the season. Alright, I promise for the remainder of this article no more RB data!
- WR Stats To Know
- Jarvis Landry (WR23) has 19 targets on 64 thrown passes from Baker Mayfield.
- Dede Westbrook (WR33) has more targets and catches than Keelan Cole (WR42).
- John Brown (WR21) has 3 touchdowns in four games. 3+ TDs in 2/4 years with Arizona.
- Corey Davis(WR29) averaging 10 targets per game. Leads NFL in target share (33%).
- A.B (WR17) and Juju Smith-Schuster (WR11) are 2nd and 3rd in NFL in targets.
- Adam Thielen (WR2) is on pace to set targets record for a single season.
- Michael Thomas (WR1) has caught an insane 42 of 44 targets. 95% catch rate!
- Julio Jones (WR7) leads the NFL in receiving yards and has scored zero touchdowns.
- Calvin Ridley (WR10) has 6 touchdowns in four games.
- Rams WRs playing 96% of snaps and all rank as top 15 WRs (Kupp WR6, Cooks WR9, Woods WR15).